I first heard about the Kimber Solo from the new gun reports coming out of the 2011 SHOT show. At the time it was big news and I was really intrigued to hear that a major manufacturer, which I only knew from its reputation in building high grade .22 rifles in the 1990’s and high end 1911-pattern pistols, was jumping into the increasingly crowded pocket pistol market. I was even more interested when I learned more about the Solo and discovered it was a single action striker-fired pistol with a good set of sights, ambidextrous manual safety and magazine release. As a fan of all pocket 9mm pistols, I made a mental note to watch my local shops and check one out as quickly as possible.Eventually, one of the largest Kimber dealers in our area received a Solo demonstration pistol. I had a chance to handle the pistol and really liked the way it felt in my hand. Constructed from stainless steel and aluminum, the all metal pistol had a good weight and balance even with an empty magazine. The build quality looked outstanding. What really sold me on the pistol was its size. As far as pocket 9mm pistols go, only a select few can ride comfortably in my front pocket for all day carry. Visually the Solo appeared to be just a shade smaller than my old-style bullnose Kahr PM9, and the weight felt about the same. For me, it would definitely work as a pocket pistol.
Kimber Solo Specifications
Caliber: 9mm Luger
Height (inches) 90° to barrel: 3.9
Weight (ounces) with empty magazine: 17
Length (inches): 5.5
Magazine capacity: 6 rounds – 8 rounds optional magazine
Finish: KimPro II
Width (inches): .995 not including safety. 1.15 including safety.
Magazine Release and Manual Safety are ambidextrous
Material: Stainless steel
Finish: Satin silver
Length (inches): 2.7Material: Stainless steel
Twist rate (left hand): 10
Fixed low profile
Radius (inches): 4.4
Checkered / smooth
Single action striker-fired
Factory setting (approximate pounds): 7
Included with Pistol
One 6 round flush-fit stainless steel magazine
Kimber logo padded carry case
The Solo I handled that day was a non-firing demonstrator, and there was a waiting list to get the pistol. However, one of the unexpected benefits of the most recent ammunition shortage has been greater availability of some gun models. Every Solo ships with a very specific list of recommended ammunition that Kimber has determined will allow the Solo to function reliably. The approved ammunition short list includes selected loads from the Hornady TAP, Remington Golden Saber, and Federal Hydra-Shok lines. All loads must have a bullet weighing 124 grains or more. At the peak of the ammunition shortage, my local dealer was now flush with Kimber Solos. I’m assuming the folks on the waiting list decided to pass on their chance to buy when they couldn’t purchase the recommended ammunition. I handled one again, and purchased it last April.
The Solo ships with one six-round magazine. I typically don’t even test fire a pistol until I have a few extra magazines, so the Solo sat on the shelf for months waiting for magazine supply to catch up with demand. Recently, Kimber started offering magazines again from their web store. I picked up a few extra six and eight-round magazines. I will comment that Kimber spare magazines are very well priced. In some cases $10 to $20 less than spares for other popular 9mm pocket pistols. Spare magazines are currently available from many sources, so the shortage appears to be a thing of the past.
The manual supplied with the Solo is a quick read. It’s mercifully short for those who hate reading manuals, It’s also free of any big surprises. I did pick up on some noteworthy points I want to mention. The first is ammunition selection. Like other similar sized micro 9mm pistols, the Solo works best when fed a steady diet of full power defensive ammunition in bullet weights of 124 grains or larger. If you chose to run lighter bullets or lower velocity practice ammunition through the pistol, you can expect some failures with extraction and feeding.
Kimber defines the Solo as a single action striker-fired pistol. This may seem confusing at first since most other striker-fired pistols are labeled as double action or double action only. What makes the Solo a single action is that the striker is partially pre-cocked as the slide draws back to eject the fired case and moves forward to insert a fresh cartridge from the magazine. The physical act of pulling the trigger lifts the firing pin block plunger and cocks the striker the remaining 10% necessary to release it from the sear. What your trigger finger feels is a long smooth pull that’s free of any grittiness or spring stacking. It actually feels like the trigger pull of a double action revolver that’s been treated to a well done trigger job. Kimber publishes a 7 lb. trigger pull weight for the Solo. I could immediately tell that my trigger was lighter than that. I measured my trigger pull weight with a Lyman Digital Trigger pull gauge and the Solo clamped in a vise. With very minor variation, my trigger pull weight averaged 5 lb. 6 oz.
My personal observation is that almost every other spring in the Solo is as heavy as it can possibly be without causing a malfunction. That’s good for the gun and reliability, but may present a challenge for folks new to semi-auto pistols. Retracting the slide can be a challenge if you aren’t accustomed to the small gripping surface on the slide and very heavy dual recoil spring assembly. I’ve found that pushing forward on the grip frame while pulling back on the slide makes retracting the slide much easier.
The magazine springs are also very stiff and may require the aid of a magazine loader to fully top off the 6 and 8-round magazines. Removing unfired rounds from full magazines is also a challenge as they will tend to nose dive into the magazine instead of following the angle of the feed lips out of the magazine. The magazines work great in the pistol and that’s all the really matters so these minor annoyances are easily tolerated. I found that leaving the magazines fully loaded for several days helped the springs take a set and made magazine loading easier.
Another spring powered operating point worth mentioning is the magazine release. Micro pistols, like the Solo, don’t have large grip frames, and you will find that gripping the pistol with two hands covers every square inch of the grip area. Under recoil, it’s not uncommon to bump the slide stop or magazine release without even knowing it. Kimber took a proactive step and installed a heavy magazine release spring. Couple this with the very strong magazine springs and it is virtually impossible for me to thumb the magazine release and drop a full magazine. I have to push up on the magazine base, while thumbing the magazine release to drop a full magazine. Dropping an empty magazine isn’t as difficult, but the magazine release is still very stiff. I checked with some other Solo owners and this is a common complaint we all share. I believe Kimber did this by design since the last thing you ever want to do is accidentally drop your magazine during the draw or when firing. I’ve never had a magazine release while holstered in my pocket, but I have high confidence that will never happen with the Solo. It’s a design consideration I’m willing to work with.
The Kimber Solo is a premium priced pocket pistol. For the money, you should expect flawless execution of fit and finish. This is my first Kimber-produced pistol and I was exceedingly pleased by how well the pistol was finished and fitted. The slide is rounded off in all the right areas to facilitate a snag-free draw. The frame features a relief cut trigger guard and high beavertail to increase gripping surface area on the front and back straps. If I had one thing I would change on this model, it would be texturing or checkering on the front and back straps. You will have to step up to the more expensive Solo CDP model for the additional grip treatment.
On the Range:
I was full of new gun jitters as I took the Solo to the range for the first time. Kimber suggests a modest 24 round break-in shooting cycle with one of their three recommended 9mm loadings. I had the 124 grain Federal Hydra-Shok on hand, so I used that for my initial break-in. Using three 6-round magazines and one 8-round magazine loaded to 7 capacity, my 25 initial shots fed, fired, and extracted perfectly. At 10 yards, the pistol shot close to point of aim with all shots centered. I did notice a bit of vertical stringing as I got accustomed to the trigger. I was now past the break-in point and my confidence in the Solo was building.
Earlier in the review I mentioned the heavy dual recoil spring assembly. The springs really helped make the small Solo an enjoyable shooting experience by taming some of the sharp recoil present in many of the small pocket 9mm pistols. I didn’t feel compelled to re-grip the pistol between shots even when using the flush fit 6-round magazine. My trigger finger was definitely getting slapped by the trigger guard during recoil, but it was a small discomfort I’ve come to expect from 9mm pistols in this size class. Ejection was weak with the Hydra-Shok. A few of the brass cases were ejected into my shoulder and were found at my feet at the end of the break-in shoot. As the recoil springs loosen up with use, I expect ejection to be more energetic.
On my second trip to the range, I took the opportunity to chronograph a variety of premium 12- grain self-defense loads in both standard pressure and +P loadings. As I expected, the velocity test results showed the short barrel of the Solo was having a significant impact on velocity. Expansion with any load is never guaranteed, especially when clothing barriers are involved, but velocity helps expansion so my choice of carry ammunition will probably be one of the +P loads tested. The Solo may be an ideal candidate for the Speer Gold Dot Short Barrel 124 grain +P load, but I couldn’t track down a box in time for testing. The accompanying table has the velocity test data captured during testing.
The use of +P ammunition in the Solo is neither endorsed nor forbidden by Kimber. The manual simply states that high-quality, factory fresh, premium personal defense ammunition that complies with SAAMI specification be used in the Solo. +P ammunition is a recognized SAAMI ammunition classification. Kimber acknowledges the working life of their recoil spring assembly is 1,000 rounds and suggests replacement at that interval. Frequent recoil spring replacement is not uncommon with pistols of this caliber and size. I’ve seen replacement intervals as low as 200 rounds and as high as 1,500 suggested by other manufacturers.
After completing the chronographing, I set up a target at 7 yards and started practicing with the Solo. With some practice, I found it quite easy to draw from the pocket and sweep off the thumb safety while bringing the sights to eye level. The large white 3 dot sights were easy to pick up and aligned with only minor adjustment. With more draw practice, I’m sure the Solo would point more naturally for me. Shooting controlled singles, doubles, and triples yielded satisfactory results with shots landing in fist sized groups at point of aim. During this practice session, I shot a few strings with Winchester 124 grain NATO FMJ. I did experience two failures to eject using this ammunition. These failures were classic stove pipe ejection faults that were easily cleared. I had no other failures to feed or fire with the Solo through the 250 rounds fired during the review.
While working on the review I carried the Solo in the front pocket and also in waist band. Pocket carry in the Remora pocket holster was comfortable and discreet. This was my preferred carry preference. I appreciated the ambidextrous controls of the Solo and holster as I alternated right pocket and left pocket carry. I also tried the Solo carried in the waistband at 2 o’clock with the extended 8 round magazine installed. This also worked well and was comfortable for all day carry. The extended magazine really helped keep the pistol from “disappearing” below the waistband and provided plenty of grip area for the draw.
Currently available options to trick out your Solo include Meprolight fixed night sights, Crimson Trace Laser Grips, and a multitude of holsters for nearly any carry preference. I’m a fan of aggressive texture G-10 aftermarket grips for my 1911 style pistols. My usual provider of such grips has not started making them for the Solo, but I was told to keep checking back for availability. I’m assuming that means they will eventually be available. I did see several sets of beautiful exotic hardwood grips available at a popular on-line auction site.
The Solo micro 9mm has all the features you would expect on a full size 9mm pistol, yet it still fits in your pocket. The engineers at Kimber have designed a pistol that allows the buyer to downsize their firearm for easier concealed carry without sacrificing or compromising function. The small size, ambidextrous controls, large sights, slide lock, excellent trigger, and +P ammunition capability set it apart from most other pocket 9mm pistols in the marketplace. It will be equally useful as a weak side backup or strong side primary and I have no reservations utilizing it in either capacity. If you replace your recoil spring assembly at the suggested interval and check your grip screws when you clean the pistol (they will loosen with shooting) the Solo should serve you well with many years of service.
About the Author:
Bruce F. is the Owner and Author of the Pocket Guns and Gear Blog. http://mousegunaddict.blogspot.com He’s a multi-decade concealed carry license holder with a passion for small pistols and the ammunition that feeds them. A self- proclaimed ballistics geek, his terminal ballistics tests have been cited by Wikipedia. While not a serious competitive shooter, you may see him competing at ATA, IDPA, NRA, and Ruger Rimfire Challenge shoots.