Listing all of the possible variations available today for a concealed carry handgun would take hours, and many sheets of paper. Deciding which one is for you starts with deciding what size you want, then the action type… later, we are influenced by things like capacity, ergonomics, trigger qualities, sights, and… well you get the idea! But I think we have to add to that list – color. How high on the list that option might go is up to the buyer, but for a lot of folks, pretty colors are the new black. Enter Kimber’s Micro 9 Special Editions, available in a rainbow of bright metallic finishes that are – if nothing else – very eye-catching!
Kimber is well known for offering their products in plentiful variety, and the new Special Editions of the Micro 9 is one of the newest examples. Available in five different configurations, these little pistols bring jewelry store elegance to your everyday carry. The choices are Sapphire, Black Ice, Rose Gold, Bel Air, and Amethyst. Each pistol has its own color-coordinated look, involving treatments to the slides, frames, and grips as well as the small parts, such as safety switches, hammer, slide stop, etc. The Micro 9, already available in a wide variety of colors and finishes, now has these new models that are guaranteed to turn some heads. It takes little imagination to see that many of these colors were designed with the female gun buyer in mind.
For our testing and review here at GunsAmerica, Kimber sent along a pretty pair of Micro 9’s in Sapphire and Amethyst. That’s pronounced “blue” and “purple” to us macho gun guys. I hadn’t handled the Micro 9 model before receiving these, so I was of course struck by the bright colors of the pistols and simultaneously their size. Or the lack of size, perhaps. These babies are tiny. Did I mention they are chambered for 9mm Luger? Many a .380 handgun would dwarf these pistols. The name “Micro” is very appropriate here. This immediately causes one to wonder what they will feel like during live fire… more on that in a bit. But first, let’s look at the aesthetics and construction of these diminutive weapons.
The Micro 9 is essentially a “Honey, I shrunk the 1911” design, with a few subtle changes. That John Moses Browning epiphany is Kimber’s bread and butter, so I figured if anyone can make one this small and avoid the inherent challenges involved, it should be Kimber. For starters, these are full-featured pistols, equipped with ambidextrous manual safety, Tritium® night sights, color-matched G10 grips, and a finish that you really have to see with your own eyes to appreciate. But all that means little if you can’t rely on this gun to go bang each and every time it needs to. Fashion and fun aside – this is a self-defense pistol that you need to rely on to protect your life and the lives of your family. That’s where the cuteness stops.
Pretty colors on tiny handguns may or may not be your thing. And I’ll admit, that is usually not the display case that I run to first when I visit the gun store. But if you’re interested in quality finishing and eye-catching beauty, it is hard not to take a long look at these Special Edition Micro 9 pistols. The finish is a PVD coating over a highly polished stainless-steel slide, and then polished again to a mirror shine. The quality of the color finish is that of a fine metallic that appears to have endless depth. Setting it off nicely is a tasteful gold scrollwork around the flats of the slide and very tasteful branding, denoting the Kimber name and announcing that this is indeed a special edition. The small parts bear the same colored finish, and that color is matched by the G10 grip panels which are visually enhanced with black striping. This is all in contrast to a satin-finished aluminum frame that Kimber calls KimPro II Silver. The result is a fine-looking pistol that would not be out of place in the best curio cabinet.
Speaking of KimPro – meet Kim Petters. Kim is a local friend who is emersed in the Second Amendment fight, a member of The Well Armed Woman, and a delegate to the DC Project. Her opinions about how well these Micro 9s are suited for women are far more credible than mine. Kim’s favorite qualities of the Kimber Micro 9 are that it is small and lightweight (important for fitting into everyday life and a woman’s wardrobe); it is easy to shoot; and easy to maintain a strong grip. Note that she didn’t say, “because it’s pretty” – even though she definitely thinks they are pretty. Kimber has taken a well designed and built handgun and simply added cosmetic options. I’m not sure all manufacturers understand that distinction.
SHOOTING THE MICRO 9
When I set out to the range with these pistols, I was primarily interested in two key things: How many rounds can you shoot between jams, and how violent is the recoil going to be? The first question is related to my earlier comment about the challenges of shrinking the 1911 design and chambering it for 9mm – and my pre-existing bias. The second is simply a matter of physics. The same amount of energy that is present when you shoot 9mm from your large, heavy match pistol is present when the firing pin ignites that same round inside this tiny little gun that weighs less than a pound.
Starting with concern number one – there were no malfunctions of any kind with either of these guns, and I put hundreds of rounds through them, alternating pretty equally back and forth. The action is smooth and very reliable. The trigger is tuned for a self-defense gun, which I measured at about 6 ½ lbs. consistently. I shot everything from premium defense loads to the formerly cheap stuff that we’re now lucky to find for 60 cents a round… and I even snuck in some reloads and steel cased stuff. Zero problems. Looks like the engineers at Kimber did their homework.
Unless you’re just interested in a pretty little gun to show your friends on scrapbooking night, all of the fancy details don’t mean much if the gun doesn’t perform. After all, this is intended to be a piece of emergency rescue equipment – a self-defense handgun on which your life may someday depend. To pass that test, it has to be accurate and reliable.
Loading the 7-round magazine is straight-forward and it’s not too difficult to get that final round inserted. Kimber provides only one magazine with the pistol, but I would strongly advise getting at least one more when you buy the gun. The magazine is extended to accommodate the 7-rounds, and the black polymer baseplate provides a nice addition to the size of the grip. I found it quite comfortable to shoot. An 8-round magazine is also available, which adds not only capacity but additional grip length.
Although all the controls on the Micro 9 are somewhat miniaturized, they are all very accessible and well-functioning. The safety selector is ambidextrous and operates smoothly with a swipe of the thumb in either direction, with just the right amount of resistance. The mag catch is smooth and the magazine drops free – aside from the occasional interference with the heel of the shooter’s hand – a common occurrence for micro-sized handguns.
Despite its size, the Micro 9 is comfortable to hold and maintain a good grip. I alternated between a thumbs-forward and thumb-over-thumb grip with no issues. Recoil is easily managed, thanks to the grip angle and 16 lb. spring. The sight picture is very good with the combat style Tritium® night sights, allowing fast acquisition.
Testing the accuracy of a gun with a barrel in the 3” range is something I generally do at fairly short range. I tested the Micro 9 from ten yards with a variety of four top-shelf defense loads. The performance was consistently good, with the best three-shot group of each covering less than one inch. The top honors of the day belonged to the SIG Sauer 365 115 gr. hollow points – which are formulated for exactly this type of handgun, with the best three-shot group under ½ inch.
As far as recoil, I was pleasantly surprised just how well the Micro 9 manages it. Kimber uses a non-captured 16 lb. flat-wire recoil spring that seems to have been well selected for the job of taming the energy and the excellent ergonomics of miniature 1911 help with the rest. The generous beavertail not only prevents the hammer from taking bites of your skin, but it acts to stabilize the rising muzzle by allowing the softer meaty tissue between the shooter’s thumb and forefinger to absorb energy and limit lift. Now, don’t think I’m blowing smoke here – there is still a snappy cycle with each trigger pull, but I found it to be quite manageable and much tamer than expected. The ladies that shot the Micro 9 during my testing sessions were also able to easily manage the recoil.
THE 1911-ish DESIGN
Obvious to the observer is the miniaturized 1911 design of the Micro 9, as described above. However, there are a few differences that not only make the gun reliable but also a good deal easier to maintain. For starters, it is a bushing-less barrel design. The barrel swells toward the end to become a sort of bull barrel with a taper that provides a snug lockup but will not bind during cycling. Additionally, the barrel lug does not have a pivoting link, but rather a solid construction that is better suited to very small barrels. The guide rod is full-length and solid steel. The barrel design (without bushing) and simple guide rod assembly make the takedown for routine cleaning and maintenance much more similar to a modern design than traditional 1911. And because all the parts are extra small – you’ll appreciate that.
The aluminum trigger looks and feels like a regular 1911 trigger, but rather than a true 1911 trigger bow the Micro 9 trigger pivots from the top and uses a single trigger bar. But if you don’t mention this to your trigger finger, it will be none the wiser.
But don’t fret about these small and nearly invisible differences. The familiar profile, grip angle, beavertail, and controls are all pure miniaturized 1911. One more distinction that you may notice – there is no grip safety on the Micro 9, for good reason. To add a large enough grip safety to be reliably effective would be significantly out of scale for this pistol. But there is an internal firing pin block safety that ensures that the gun cannot be fired unless the trigger is pulled.
The fit and finish of the Micro 9 Special Editions is impeccable. The closer you look, the more subtle details you’ll notice, such as the beveled edge of the extractor, the way the magazine baseplate becomes a nearly seamless extension of the grip, and the blending of the mainspring cover to the backstrap.
JUST MY OPINION
We are living in a time of plenty in the firearms market, especially when it comes to options for personal protection, concealed carry handguns. In years gone by, a small concealed handgun was often an elegant device, that looked quite a home in the vest pocket of a gentleman or the silk purse of a lady. It is nice to see that, while we have become far more sophisticated in our understanding and practice of good tactics, we have not abandoned all semblance of that former sophistication and elegance. These two beautiful pistols from Kimber’s Special Edition line are excellent examples of our ability to have the best of both worlds. The Micro 9 certainly appears to be a very reliable and accurate handgun, with a size that makes it viable for deep concealment. Because it is chambered in 9mm, it is a legitimate threat stopper. Allowing people to express a little individual style, or just take some personal pleasure in a gun that is nice to look at as it is to shoot is commendable. It looks like Kimber has engineered a good quality 9mm micro version of the 1911 with the Micro 9 – and the designers have added some terrific bling options.
I penciled in the title of this review the same day I received these two lively colored handguns from Kimber – long before I shot the photos of Kim that illustrate the concept so perfectly. And while the beautiful finishes are a key talking point, I ensured I was evaluating these guns as I would any slab-sided workhorse as far as performance. And they passed with flying… um… colors. Pretty pistols might not be for everyone but they are certainly for some people. And unless you own no guns or gear in FDE, OD Green, polished stainless steel, or Kryptek – you don’t have any room to criticize.