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Kimber is a company that has had a rather rocky past. Known today for high-quality 1911 and other types of pistols and rifles, the company has struggled to achieve the reputation it now enjoys. We’re going to examine the Micro 9 pistol in some detail, but first let’s look at the company that makes it.
The following may be more information than you bargained for, but it does help us to see just what struggles Kimber has come through in order to become the manufacturer of quality firearms it is today. My research turned up some interesting facts.
The company was founded in 1979 as Kimber of Oregon by Jack Warne and son Greg and located in Clackamas, Oregon. A native Australian, Jack Warne had worked in the sporting goods industry in that country until Portland, Oregon-based Omark bought his company out. Jack emigrated to America, specifically Oregon.
Kimber of Oregon quickly made a reputation for manufacturing quality .22 LR rifles – I remember when they first appeared on the market. They created quite a stir and commanded more than the average price that .22 rifles were selling for at that time. The metal was beautifully polished and the stocks were made of some of the finest-figured hardwood I’d ever seen on any .22. Kimber then acquired the Brownell quick-detachable rifle scope mount to sell with its rifles. It was at about this time they opened a second manufacturing facility in Oregon.
The Troubles Begin
In the late 1980s, the company wanted to introduce a big game rifle, the model M89 BG. In order to finance the new offering, a stock option was issued. It fell short of covering the costs generated by the introduction of the rifle. So, in 1989 the company was sold to a man who was a very big player in the lumber industry, Bruce Engel. He was the founder of WTD Industries, Inc. Mr. Engel experienced some trouble running Kimber, and soon it sought bankruptcy protection. Kimber of Oregon’s assets were liquidated.
In 1990, several Kimber employees left to start a company called Cooper Firearms of Montana. It was headed by former Kimber employee Dan Cooper. Co-founder Jack Warne next left in February of 1991 in order to start a new company, Warne Manufacturing Company which made a rifle scout mounting system that seems to have been very well-made, from what I can tell.
Kimber Of Oregon Is Re-Born
Greg Warne tried to revive Kimber, but much of the tooling and machines needed had been discarded (they were found in a refuse area north of Portland) and were in pretty bad shape. Enter an angel of sorts: Nationwide Sports Distributors owner Les Edelman. With Edelman’s financial backing, he and Greg put together a new company called Kimber of Oregon. In yet another twist, Edelman forced Greg Warne out of the company after he had acquired a majority interest. It seems that the Warnes could not catch a break. Greg, after being separated from Kimber, moved to San Pedro, Costa Rica where he built custom handgun grips from local exotic hardwoods. He died in 2006. Meanwhile…
New York, New York…
Another investment that Edelman had made (in addition to Kimber) was with the Yonkers, New York-based company Jericho Precision Manufacturing. They were largely building tools and items for the military. Edelman evidently owned enough of that company that he was able to move Kimber from Oregon to New York state, thereby utilizing both Jericho’s manufacturing expertise and the Kimber reputation and dealer network to start making 1911 pistols. The company at present has facilities in both New York and New Jersey.
Yet Another Setback…
In December of 2004, Kimber Manufacturing/Nationwide Sports Distributors chief financial officer Denis Shusterman was indicted by a Federal grand jury of embezzling $10 million from the two companies. He pled guilty, was convicted, and was ordered to pay damages and back taxes. In addition, he was sentenced to more than ten years in prison. So, Kimber’s troubles continued.
Kimber has weathered all these storms and is back, stronger than ever. It had plans to expand manufacturing capabilities at its Ridgefield, NJ facility and had considered expanding the Yonkers plant but later decided to leave it as it is, for the most part. Their 1911s are highly respected, as are their rifles. In addition to 1911-style pistols, Kimber also makes a slick little striker-fired, metal-framed 9mm called the EVO SP and a six-shot snub-nosed .357 Magnum revolver, the K6S. They make several variations of each of those guns – they seem to be very popular, at least around here. I learned an awful lot as I researched Kimber’s history. I had no idea that they have had such an “interesting” history. I am impressed with the fact that, like the Phoenix, the company kept rising and rebuilding. Not from ashes, but from legal entanglements, buy-outs, machinery dumped in a landfill, etc. Another thing that impresses me is the fact that their products have a reputation for being of very good quality. That speaks volumes in itself. Whether or not you’re a Kimber fan, the brand’s products seem to carry prestige.
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Now…The Micro 9
We are here to look at the Micro 9 in some detail, so let’s get to it. I borrowed one from my friend Duane’s gun shop – he has a very-gently-used two-tone Micro 9 that he loaned me. This particular sample is an NRA special edition – the serial number starts with “NRA.” The aluminum slide contrasts nicely with the blued slide, and the rosewood grips just set it off, to my eye. We will look at other variations later. Here is the one I shot:
First, let’s get a few facts and figures out of the way. The Micro 9 is a small 1911-style single action, single-stack sub-compact 9mm. It does differ from a traditional 1911 in that it has no grip safety, no barrel bushing, and uses a non-swinging-link barrel but in most other aspects it is similar to that type of pistol. If you are a 1911 fan, you should like this handgun. Let’s look at its specifications.
|Weight:||15.6 ounces (with empty magazine)|
|Recoil Spring:||11.5 pounds with full-length guide rod|
|Barrel:||3.15 inches, stainless steel|
|Sights:||Three-dot metal sights, dovetailed (night sights available from Kimber)|
|Safety:||Thumb, left side only – not ambidextrous|
|Capacity:||one 7-round magazine (flush fit 6- and extended 8-round magazines available)|
|Grips:||Rosewood (Crimson Trace available from Kimber)|
|Trigger:||Solid aluminum, approx. 7-pound pull weight|
Micro 9’s Predecessor
When you pick up the Micro 9, you can tell pretty quickly that it was derived from a similar gun, if you are familiar with Kimber’s products at all. That first gun is the Kimber Micro .380. The .380 is almost a twin of the Micro 9, except for the obvious difference that it is a gun chambered for the .380 ACP cartridge. The Micro .380 has been around since 2014 and is pretty much identical to the Micro 9 except that it weighs about 3 ounces less than the Micro 9. The other dimensions are really close to those of the Micro 9. Kimber wanted to jump on the single-stack sub-compact 9mm pistol bandwagon, so they reworked a few things and brought the 9mm version of the gun out in 2016.
An interesting thing to mention is that the Micro .380 comes with two magazines, a 6-round and a 7-round. The Micro 9 comes with one magazine, a 7-round. A lot of concealed carriers (Best CCW insurance comparison) are OK with buying a second or second-and-third mag for the Micro 9 since (at least one of) the magazines included with each gun can hold an equal number of rounds (7) They figure that the 7 rounds of 9mm is more powerful than 7 rounds of .380 ammo, so why not buy the Micro 9? You can buy 6- and 8-round mags for the Micro 9, as well. I would think that the popularity of the 9mm cartridge for concealed carry would just about spell the end of sales for a less-powerful gun so similar that you can’t really tell them apart side-by-side, but I would be wrong. At last check of Kimber’s web site, the different-finish-or-other-variation count for the Micro 380 is eleven, while the Micro 9’s count is sixteen. It would seem that BOTH pistols sell well for Kimber, or there wouldn’t be so many variations.
Let’s look at the individual components of the Micro 9 and then we’ll talk about shooting it and other factors.
The Micro 9 Up Close & Personal
You can see the entire gun in the photos above, so what it looks like no mystery. I will get to what it looks like when it’s been taken apart (field stripped) for cleaning below. But first…what kind of container does it come in? How do you carry it around (Best Concealed Carry Holsters)? Kimber ships the Micro 9 in a cardboard box. Now, I hear a lot of YouTube “experts” bemoan cardboard boxes for pistol shipment, but some of them actually get it right – they say that the company that ships in a cardboard box instead of a fancy plastic foam-lined case can put the money they save on shipping boxes back into the gun, where it counts. I agree with that. I do like the hard plastic cases that I got with several of my guns, but my 1980s-vintage Smith and Wesson Model 629 with an 8 3/8-inch barrel came in a cardboard box, which I still have. This was at a time when they made wooden presentation boxes for their prestige line of Magnums. I guess all those deer it’s harvested over the years wouldn’t really care that it was shipped in a cardboard box. Kimber does, at least, include a spiffy double-zippered pistol rug that will protect the gun from scratches during transport and storage. I assume they figure that, if you can buy one of their pistols, a hard plastic or metal pistol case from your local box store is not beyond your means. Again, I agree with this philosophy as well. Here is the box and the double-zippered soft carry case…
Now…on to the gun…
Frame, right side. Notice the engraving over the trigger and the serial number. This is an NRA special edition. The solid aluminum trigger pivots on a pin (above it) – it does not go straight back like that of a traditional 1911.
Frame, left side. Note the extended thumb safety and the ejector – more on this later. There is a spring that holds the slide stop when it’s inserted…it is visible right above the trigger.
A close-up of the hammer, beavertail and ejector. No slide- or hammer-bite for me with this gun.
Slide with laser engraving and serrations.
Barrel, recoil spring and feed ramp (below)
OK, you get the idea. Let’s look at some things that I really like about this gun, and two areas that I think could be improved upon.
I Like The…
I really like the sights on the gun. They are metal, in dovetails, so that if you don’t like them, you can replace them. Kimber, on its website, sells Tru-Glo TFX Pro sights for about $185. So, you know they’re out there and available from other sources. What I like about the ones on the gun is that you can see the white dots. This statement pre-supposes that you LIKE white dots…if not, there’s always my “sight-white-dot-fixer-tool”, a Sharpie…
Grip and Grip Panels
I like the rosewood grip panels. I guess I’m just old-school… I started my shooting days when you could remove the grip (or grip panels) from a pistol or revolver and replace them with something made from another type of wood or other substance. Today’s polymer-framed pistols mostly all have grip texturing built in, so exotic hardwood is out. These panels are handsome, and are meticulously laser- etched. Very nice looking and functional! There are other options if you like.
Grip close-up. Note laser engraving and hex-head screws.
I liked the 7-round magazine that came with the gun. It was fairly easy to load, yet I suffered no failures of any kind because of it. The numbers on the side are easy to see, unlike the logo at the bottom above the base pad…I couldn’t get a decent shot of it due to the reflectiveness of the steel magazine. It says “Kimber” on it, so no mistaking it for something else! The base pad gave my little finger a place to grip during shooting and helped ensure that the magazine seated firmly in the well when I tapped it home. It’s a nice magazine and very functional.
OK…what’s not to like? There were only two things that I noticed about this gun that, if I were Kimber, I might take a look at. The first thing? The magazine well. Take a look at this photo:
See the front two “points”? I just about sliced my thumb open trying to retrieve the magazine from the well once when I needed to remove it using fingers and not the mag release button. Those two areas are very sharp, sharper than the photo shows. Kimber may want to re-think these edges. I get it – nice, sharp execution of lines and angles is good in a pistol (especially in one of the 1911 variety), but there is such a thing as too much of a good thing. Just a touch of polishing on those points wouldn’t affect the functioning of the well but might save someone a trip to the Band-Aid box.
The second thing that Kimber needs to address is the magazine. Yes, I wrote above that I really liked the ONE that came with the gun – for an MSRP of over $650, you should get THREE magazines – one each 6-shot, 7-shot and 8-shot. There is no excuse for not doing that. Even lesser-expensive guns from makers like Glock, Springfield Armory, Ruger, Smith & Wesson and Taurus come with two or three magazines. Kimber makes and sells (on their “Shop” page) four different mags for the Micro 9 – a 6-shot, 7-shot, 8-shot and a 7-shot with a Hogue grip extender for an average price of about $36 each…Kimber, get with the program!
Other than those two items, I like the gun. It feels solid in the hand and generally shoots where it looks (except that my shots all went to the right as you will see, but that’s me and not the gun as I’ve found out from shooting several other guns. The gun itself was great).
Speaking of how it feels in the hand, what about the “ergo factor” of this gun? It’s a 1911 that just about fits in one hand, for Pete’s sake, so how does it handle?
When held in a two-hand, thumbs-forward grip, the gun just fits. Being left-handed, I had no issues of “riding the slide stop” that some of you other 90% of shooters (righties) experience at times when shooting 1911s. My right thumb indexed every time on the slide stop pin’s protrusion from the right side of the frame. (The pin’s protrusion was very minor and was not in the way at all). This created a consistent grip for my style of shooting. Add in the checkering on the grip panels and back strap, and the gun pretty well locked itself into my hands. The sights were highly visible, even to my aging eyes and I truly enjoyed shooting it. No hammer bite, nothing bad…just a “baby” 1911 with no grip safety and a great beavertail shooting an effective cartridge. Speaking of shooting, how did it do?
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Shooting The Micro 9
I tried three different types of ammo in my shooting sessions with the Kimber. I used two (what would be) practice loads with FMJ bullets, and a self-defense JHP load just to see if there might be any hesitation at all on the Micro 9’s part to feed such ammo. I shot 5-shot groups at a measured seven yards. I later shot over my Caldwell chronograph to determine velocities. I put the front sight directly in the center of the white square for all shots – no 6 o’clock hold here. Here’s how it came out, with representative targets for each load…
The Ubiquitous “Winchester White Box” 115-Grain FMJ; 1032 fps
As you can see, my 5-shot group is looking a bit like the Big Dipper, but without that constellation’s orderliness. I did not have much luck with this round in terms of accuracy. As I said before, I didn’t expect it to shoot to point-of-aim (which it did not) but I was sort of hoping for a little more “togetherness” in the groups.
As disappointed as I was with the groups, I was fairly happy with the velocities that the WWB ammo turned in. As you see, it averaged 1032 fps, which was faster than either of the other two types of ammo I tried. We have to remember that these bullets are emerging from a 3-plus-a-fraction-of-an-inch barrel, not a five-inch service pistol tube, so I was happy with this velocity.
My second practice load was from Perfecta.
Perfecta 115-Grain FMJ; 986 fps
The Perfecta ammo did a little better than the WWB, but (considering that the range was 7 yards) did not turn in the accuracy that I had hoped. I chose these two practice rounds because they are what a lot of shooters buy in copious amounts from the big box stores that sell ammo-it’s cheap. These are two of the more popular practice loads out there, so I tried them in the Kimber. Each grid area is an inch on my home-made target, so you can get an idea of group size.
As far as group size goes, I figured that the accuracy shown by the Micro 9 and this load was good enough for range/practice sessions, and should roughly approximate both point of impact and recoil of the carrier’s JHP of choice. (It did recoil a bit). I found this to be true, at least in the case of the JHP I shot (below)-the Perfecta wasn’t that far off in terms of target impact or recoil when compared with the Remington load below. I had no troubles feeding or shooting either of these loads. Which leads us to the self-defense load I chose…
Remington 115-Grain HTP; 1006 fps
In my article on the best 9mm defense ammo, I mentioned at least one Remington load. I had some of their excellent HTP rounds in my ammo box so I thought I’d try that and see what might happen. As you can see, the group is not great, but it’s not terrible, either…with a little sight adjustment and practice I believe I could have all the shots in or at least touching the center square from 7 yards or more. We have to remember that I had never shot this gun before these tests were fired, so I do think I could do better. This load tested well in ballistics gel – here’s a screenshot of the Lucky Gunner.com gel test:
As you can see, the penetration is deep and the bullet’s expansion is sufficient. I would not feel under-armed with this ammunition. The Kimber liked it as well – no failures to feed or eject with this or any of the other loads. You can read more about this particular gel test here. After looking at the long, polished feed ramp connected to the Micro 9’s barrel, it’s no wonder I didn’t have any function problems with it. I wanted to try a handload or two with different types of bullets, but since I didn’t own the gun, I did not test my home-made loads. For practice, almost any RN (round nose) FMJ or TC (truncated cone) FMJ bullet load should work fine. But – what type of practice ammo, let alone defense ammo, should you buy?
How To Select Ammo For The Micro 9 – A Quick Primer
I’ve found that there are two basic criteria for selecting practice ammo – this assumes you’ve already tried, bought and practiced with your defense ammo of choice. Again, my article on the best 9mm ammo (link above) might help you there. Once you’ve decided on your carry ammo, the two criteria that your practice ammo must exhibit are:
- Similar point of impact on the target as your carry ammo – remember that the shorter the barrel, the greater the variance in terms of point of impact between guns and loads. The Micro 9 has a 3.15-inch barrel, pretty short for a 9mm.
- Similar velocity.
Why? What’s so special about these two points? Well, if your practice ammo hits the target 4-5 inches above, below, right or left of where your favorite Gold Dot, Black Saber, XTP, etc. rounds hit, you need to adapt. What will most likely happen is that, if you are the practicing sort (and you’d darn well better be if you’re carrying a concealed, loaded gun) and you shoot a lot, you could just get used to “holding _____” (over, under, right, left) the 4-5 inches in practice. The trouble with this is that should you ever have to use your gun to defend a life, you’ll forget about the holdover/under etc. in the heat of the moment and likely miss your target. If your gun has adjustable sights, set them for your carry load and then don’t worry about your practice ammo being off a bit. ALWAYS finish a practice session by firing a mag or two of your carry ammo…you won’t like surprises if you are ever literally “under the gun”.
The Kimber Micro 9 has excellent sights, with more available. The rear is drift-adjustable or replaceable via a sight pusher (please, don’t whack it with a mallet), so you should be at least able to get the windage right. There are, as mentioned, other sights out there. Set it up for your carry load and then let the practice FMJ rounds fall as they may.
There is a factory-ammo solution out there now – it’s relatively new but looks promising. Federal makes a 9mm (and other calibers) round called “Train + Protect.” It is a 115-grain JHP VHP bullet at over 1100 fps, and is supposedly affordable and effective enough to be used in both the practice and carry roles. You can read about it here. Other makers make practice and carry ammo with the same powder charge and bullet weight – the only difference is the bullet (FMJ, practice and JHP, defense). This way they both impact the target in roughly the same place, and the recoil/velocity should be very similar.
OK, the ammo selection lecture is over – class dismissed. I just feel strongly about using ammo that hits the same place on the target and feels the same in recoil, whether you are practicing or defending a life. Also, being a handloader, I know just how big a difference a tiny change in powder charge or bullet weight can make. These can cause your bullet to go who-knows-where on a target, trust me on that.
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Cleaning/Reassembling The Micro 9
Before I end this little discussion of the Micro 9, I feel that I need to mention a point that is brought out in the owner’s manual about cleaning the gun. It takes down like many 1911s out there – empty the chamber, drop the mag and line up the rounded slot with the slide stop pin by pulling the slide back an inch or so. (There is no barrel bushing to mess with). Press the pin out from right to left, and remove it. Pull the slide off the front of the frame. Take apart as usual, but remember that the recoil spring is not captive. There is no difference in reassembly except for one thing you have to do differently – when you are putting the slide back on the frame and are moving it to the rear, press the ejector down until the slide passes over it. It is spring-loaded. Kimber warns of dire consequences if you don’t do this. Once down, pull the slide back until you can re-insert the slide stop all the way, past its keeper spring. That’s it…that’s all there is to it. Rack the slide and test-fire. I needed to mention that because if you are like me, you ‘know how every pistol operates and don’t need any stupid owner’s manual to tell you how to put this thing back together, I’ve been doing this for 87 years….’ Moral of the story: read the owner’s manual first or possibly suffer the consequences.
And, In The End…
The advantage of the Micro 9 is that, pretty much no matter what ammo you use, it should function well. The gun ran with whatever I fed it and never once had a bobble (technical term for failure to feed or eject…). It can have a pretty decent recoil impulse with certain ammo, but it wasn’t unmanageable. After all, it’s one-pound gun shooting ammo in the 35,000 psi pressure range neighborhood. I would love to try it with some of my more-accurate handloads. If you love the 1911 platform and are a 9mm fan, this is one gun you should look at. They are not inexpensive, but as I’ve written many times before, usually nothing of quality is. There are exceptions, but generally you get what you pay for. The price tag on this particular very-slightly-used NRA special edition is $569.95 and is worth it.
So…looking for a single-stack, single-action cocked-and-locked type of carry gun that just about fits in a pocket? Check out the Micro 9. Out of the sixteen different variations of finish, grips, sights, etc. displayed on their website, surely you can find one that does it for you. As for me, I really like this two-tone aluminum and steel job with the rosewood grips that I tested. Let me know which one you prefer below, and also if you own one of these great little pistols. Leave a comment below. Get out, go shoot, and be safe!