The Kimber brand has been built on single action 1911s. As they’ve expanded into rifles and .380s, the quality has carried through. As such, fans of the brand were stoked about news of a high-end carry pistol: the Kimber Solo. These 9mm guns were supposed to offer something that wasn’t available at the time–Kimber quality in a sturdy 9mm pocket pistol. The guns were supposed to rival the external dimensions of the average .380, shoot with uncompromising accuracy, and be made of aluminum and steel instead of plastic.
And Kimber delivered. But there was a catch–the Solo came with specific instructions about the types of ammunition it was designed to shoot. Many shooters who purchased Solos immediately took to the forums and blasted the company for putting out a gun that wouldn’t shoot any run-of-the-mill 9mm.
Kimber was unapologetic. With the right ammo, they assured everyone, the guns run reliably and perform well. And Kimber was quick to remind users of the Solo’s intended purpose. It is a gun meant for self defense. It is designed to perform perfectly under that scenario–when you would be shooting heavier, hotter ammo (in the 124-147 grain range). Even though the Solo isn’t a range toy, shooters still wanted reliability on the range, when they’d be shooting bulk junk.
I can personally see the logic in both approaches. There are plenty of 9mm options that will shoot anything. Why can’t Kimber develop a pistol that can shoot anything it is fed? Watching from the sidelines, I was more than amused. The Solo was shaping up to be a great topic of conversation. For me, personally, that was enough. Then Kimber sent us this one, their new Solo Carry DC, and I had to take sides. My days of armchair quarterbacking are over, and it is time to weigh in.
- Caliber: 9mm
- Height (inches) 90° to barrel: 3.9
- Weight (ounces) with empty magazine: 17
- Length (inches): 5.5
- Magazine capacity: 6 rounds
- Frame Material: Aluminum
- Finish: Matte Black KimPro II
- Width (inches): 1.14
- Slide Material: Stainless steel
- Finish: Matte Black DLC
- Barrel Length (inches): 2.7
- Material: Stainless steel
- Twist rate (left hand): 10
- Sights: Meprolight Tritium 3-dot night sight, fixed
- Radius (inches): 4.4
- Grips: Checkered Micarta
- Trigger: Double action striker- fired
- Factory setting (approximate pounds): 7
- MSRP: $904.00
Let’s get the basics out of the way before we continue with the philosophical musings. How does the Solo DC stack up as a carry gun? The size is slightly larger than I’d want for pocket carry. As micro .380s continue to shrink, the larger framed guns (like the PPK, and GLOCK 42) seem over-sized. The Solo is small for a 9mm, but won’t disappear in a pants pocket without printing a bit. It is ideally sized for IWB carry, though, and is great in the appendix or small of the back position.
The gun is slick. There’s nothing on the frame to drag or snag. Even the sights are optimized for a draw from cover. So no complaints there. And the frame is textured in a way that grips skin but not clothing. The lines around the backstrap, for example, act like fingerprints. They’re smooth in one direction, but add extra surface area and aggressive texture when you clamp down on them. I like it better than checkering for a gun meant to be carried like this.
As for the controls…. Kimber is walking a fine line between functionality and compromise. The safety is fine. If you like external safeties on carry pistols, you will like this one. It offers 1911 familiarity, and is ambidextrous. The mag release, though, is a bit too slick for my taste. The only problem I had with the controls was getting the mags to drop free like I would like. Stay with me here–I’m putting forth an opinion, and I’m going to qualify it. The mags drop free. The button drops the mags, like it should. I would prefer there to be a bit more height to the button, so I could push on it harder, and for the actual button to have more texture. In short, I would like for this gun to kick out mags as easily as my full sized pistols do. It doesn’t. That, too, is a compromise. The mags aren’t as heavy. And the small size means big handed people may fumble around with the compact grip and tightly spaced controls. And there is an outside chance that you may have more hand than the solo has grip–which means the mag may pop loose from the grip and wedge into your hand.
I found myself performing mag changes in a more combative style. I’d put my left hand below the grip, push the button, and pull the mag free of the gun. There is a swell at the base of the mag well that allows the magazine’s foot to protrude slightly, which makes ripping these mags free very easy. This is important for reliability. It is also important because of the limited capacity.
The steel mags each hold six rounds. Is that a short coming, or a compromise? I’d say compromise. If you want something small, you don’t get magazine capacity. This is the type of gun that is best carried in the waistband with a spare magazine or two in your front pocket.
So now we’ve arrived at the most important section. With all of the talk about the Solo after its launch, I couldn’t wait to see how it did on the range. And I wasn’t disappointed. We’ve got more than 1,000 rounds through the Solo at this point. How is it running?
You can look at the results in the pictures here and get a good sense of accuracy. The gun shoots straight. The kick from the small-framed-Solo is lighter than most pocket .380s. There is some noticeable muzzle flip. And after four or five magazines of hard hitting 9mm, the web of your hand (and maybe your wrist) will feel the recoil. It isn’t as much fun on the range as some other 9mms on the market, but it is easier on the hands than any of the polymer framed 9s of similar size.
And that’s important. After 1,000 rounds, I feel qualified to make some sweeping pronouncements about the pistol. But I want to back it up a minute and offer this first: you have to train. No matter what gun you choose, you have to train with it. 1,000 rounds is a good start, but it is only a start. You will need a gun that can get you through anything you may face, even a day at the range.
So let’s talk about what the Solo does and doesn’t shoot. We put together an impressive list of brands, types, bullet shapes, grain weights, and powder loads. I’d intended to test all of the potential pitfalls the Solo might encounter. There wasn’t a single brand, grain weight, or bullet shape that the Solo couldn’t digest. It shot everything. We’ve had no significant failures of any sort. Even when I try to simulate a limp-wristed shot, the Solo won’t stovepipe. We had no double feeds, no failures to extract, nothing. We did get one failure to fire with a steel cased Tula round, but a quick half-rack reset the hammer, and the round fired.
So where does that leave me in all of my bar-room musing and armchair quarterbacking? I’m a believer. Steel cased bulk ammo? Check. Hornady Critical Defense (my spring and summer carry preference)? Check. Hornady Critical Duty (like Critical Defense, but hotter–ideal for winter carry when clothing is much thicker)? Check. 115 grain ball. Sub sonic. Light range loads. Everything. And the speeds of the bullets still demand respect. At one session, not pictured, we chronographed some 9mm, and only the 147 grain Federal Hydrashok rounds were consistently below the 900 FPS mark. Most rounds still broke 1,000 FPS.
Two more things to add. During the course of this review, I took the Solo to a family gathering. I’d offered to help a cousin with some basic shooting skills, and it turned into a family event. I watched six different shooters with varying ranges of experience (from active an active L.E.O. to complete novices) work out the Solo with no difficulty whatsoever. The second caveat I’d add is that we’ve yet to clean the gun. The functionality and reliability is beyond reproach, even with a filthy pistol.
How practical is the Solo Carry DC? I’m going to call it 90%. This, too, is an opinion based solely on the presence of the external safety. But maybe the 90% judgement is too harsh. I have yet to draw the Solo and forget to disengage the safety. In fact, my thumb sweeps down over that part of the frame as I’m gripping the gun. It is far from a problem.
The rest comes down to balance. The pistol has adequate texture. It has adequate sights. The magazine is adequate. There has to be a better adjective. To say that the component parts of the Solo are adequate is true enough, but the sum of its parts is ideal. If you are looking for a compact pistol, one that delivers extraordinary accuracy from a substantial frame, one that brings 1911 familiarity to a stylish 9mm gun specifically designed for the challenges of concealed carry, then the Solo Carry DC is it. I can’t think of a single competitor that brings all of that to the equation.
Like most of the Kimber guns, the Solo isn’t inexpensive. When most of the compact polymer 9s are coming in at or under $500, the Solo will seem expensive. So it is. With an MSRP of $904, though, it isn’t out of reach. You can get out the door with a gun, a holster, and ammo for under $1k.