Kimber Micro Raptor .380 Review

Kimber Micro Raptor .380 Review

Kimber's new Micro is an honest pocket pistol, a .380 that shares a lot of DNA with the Colt Mustang and SIG Sauer P238. It's somewhat like a tiny 1911 in appearance and handling but different in engineering, and it feels like it was born in your hand. First announced in 2013, Kimber began shipping Micros last year in black, stainless and CDP configurations. For 2015 six souped-up models were added, including the Raptor tested for this article.

When people consider a new carry gun, the first things they usually want to know are caliber, size and capacity. I've long considered the .380 Auto cartridge to be the bottom of the barrel in terms of adequate personal protection, but at least it's in the barrel. To give it its due, I've seen modern .380 ammo produce some pretty impressive results when put through the FBI's performance protocol.

In terms of size, the Micro is just about right for a pocket pistol. There are smaller .380s, but few are comfortable to shoot, and accurate rapid-fire is pretty much unachievable. I can drop the Micro into a back or a hip pocket or in the pocket of a jacket, and while I know it's there, it's not easy to see and it's not particularly uncomfortable.

Width is more important to me than length or height. The full width of the Micro- measured across the ambidextrous safeties- is 1.1 inches, and functional width is less. Across the grip it's just a shade over one inch, and the widest point on the slide is only three-quarters of an inch. Stuck into a Galco Stow-N-Go holster in the appendix position, it just disappears.

As for capacity, the Micro is a 6+1. I love Smith & Wesson's Airweight compact revolvers, which are similar in size and weight, but I've got to admit I'd rather have seven rounds of .380 Auto onboard than the five rounds of .38 Special the revolver holds.

Of single-action design, the Micro must be carried cocked and locked. Unlike many tiny guns, it feels good in the hand. It also points naturally, which is high on the list of characteristics I look for in a tiny pocket gun. Even the abbreviated grip doesn't bother me; the little finger on my shooting hand naturally rests beneath the grip, against the bottom of the magazine, and the scale-like texture on the frontstrap of the satin-finished aluminum frame offers a secure grip.

Robust, low-profile, three-dot tritium night sights come standard and are dovetailed into the top of the stainless-steel slide. Between the front and rear sights the top of the slide is scalloped, in keeping with the Raptor theme. The scallops perform the dual duty of lending aesthetics and serving to reduce top-side glare.

The combat-style hammer has a half-cock notch, but the included manual cautions against using it as a safety. The ambidextrous safety itself will be intuitive to 1911 shooters, but it has some idiosyncrasies. Flipping it up engages the safety, which activates, the company says, "an internal cam surface that prevents the hammer from moving forward."

Unlike on a 1911, the safety does not lock the slide into battery. That's arguably good and bad. You can work the slide to empty the chamber with the gun on Safe, but on the flip side, the engaged safety doesn't keep the slide from moving rearward when the gun is holstered. And the light recoil spring doesn't provide much support, either. I found I had to holster the Micro with my thumb firmly on the rear of the slide to prevent it from going out of battery.

The safety also can be engaged with the hammer lowered. Positioned this way, the slide is locked and the hammer can't be cocked. Frankly, this is my least-favorite design aspect of the Micro. If you inadvertently engaged the safety with the hammer down on an empty chamber and then needed the gun in a hurry, you'd likely fumble your way through an attempt to function the locked slide before realizing you had to disengage the safety. And while we hope all folks who carry concealed take the time to become intimately familiar with their chosen sidearm, many don't. A panicked victim might fight the slide- without figuring out the safety had it locked up- until it was too late.

A disconnector prevents the hammer from falling unless the slide and barrel are fully into battery. Additionally, there's a firing pin block that prevents the pin from contacting the primer in a chambered cartridge until the hammer falls.

The well-knurled slide lock is easily accessed, and dropping the locked-back slide on a fresh magazine of cartridges is intuitive. The magazine release button is checkered and protrudes just enough to be easily activated, yet not so much it's likely to be accidentally depressed- allowing the magazine to disengage- while holstered or while shooting.

A small bevel around the bottom of the magazine well facilitates inserting a fresh magazine. Even when full with six cartridges, magazines are not difficult to press into position, and once inserted, they're held securely and quietly in place.

Four broad scallops are cut into the backstrap and contribute to a secure grip on the little pistol. Zebrawood stocks have a full pattern of feathers or scales except for an oval with the company's name in the center. I've never been a fan of Kimber's Raptor treatment on its full-size 1911s. To my conservative eye it makes them gaudy. However, when judiciously applied to this sleek little pistol, it makes a particularly good-looking piece.

Plus, the scale pattern on the grips, frontstrap and rear of the slide provide an outstanding non-slip surface. When you consider the little gun is in fact designed for use when things have really, really gone south and blood, sweat and adrenaline will potentially compromise your ability to hold your sidearm securely and control it well, that's important.

Disassembly is simple. Remove the magazine and make sure the Micro is unloaded, then cock the hammer. Press the slide rearward until the half-round cutout in the bottom left of the slide lines up with the tab at the top of the slide lock and start the slide lock out by pressing on its opposite end. Pull it out and allow the slide to move forward. Then just draw the slide the rest of the way off the frame. Lift the recoil spring guide and recoil spring out, and then lift the barrel out of the slide. It's as simple as that.

Don't flick the safety into the engaged position with the slide off. Apparently, it can rotate past where it's supposed to, allowing the detent plunger held captive beneath it to spring out. Not only is that a recipe for lost-detent disaster, it allegedly comes out with enough force to damage an eye (which is why we really should wear safety glasses whenever we're working on anything containing a spring). The manual also notes pulling the trigger and dropping the hammer without the slide installed can damage the aluminum frame.

When reassembling, reverse the order and return the barrel, recoil guide and recoil spring. Be sure to put the spring's "closed" end on the guide. Kimber says installing the spring backward could cause scarring of other internal parts while firing. Place the assembled barrel/guide/spring back into the slide, align it with the rails on the frame and push it rearward. The ejector- a little black arm protruding upward from the guts of the frame- must be depressed with a fingertip to allow the slide to come far enough rearward to replace the slide lock.

I packed the Micro Raptor Stainless around for a weekend before I managed to get to the range with it. Because my back gripes a lot, I like to carry in the appendix position, but most guns are just a bit too big to be comfortable there when you spend as much time writing at a desk as I do. Plus, I'm uncomfortable sticking anything without a safety on it into a place where it regularly threatens my femoral artery and, well, other vitals. Kimber's Micro is perfect, since it's not too large and it has a safety. However, for appendix carry I do wish it had its 1911 ancestor's grip safety in addition to the thumb safety.

When I finally made it to the range, I felt like the Micro and I were already old friends. Fifteen-yard groups averaged in the neighborhood of two inches with a variety of ammunition, which is pretty good considering the handgun's tiny size and the fact my middle-aged eyes don't resolve iron sights the way they used to. All ammo impacted a couple of inches to the right, but that's an issue easily resolved by drifting one of the sights in its dovetail, and I was impressed at the way all the loads seemed to have the same point of impact.

Of course, all were loaded with 90-grain bullets, which surely contributed to point-of-impact consistency. On the subject of bullets, shooters sometimes refer to the .380 Auto as a short 9mm. In terms of diameter and size, that's accurate, but in terms of authority, the .380 gives up a lot of performance. Out of the Micro's short barrel, those 90-grain bullets averaged about 900 fps, which translates to about 160 ft.-lbs. of energy. Compare that to a common 124-grain 9mm bullet traveling at 1,110 fps and impacting with more than 330 ft.-lbs.- literally double the performance on the business end.

In terms of reliability, the Micro had a couple of failures to chamber when dropping the slide on a full magazine. In both cases it appeared the gaping maw of a large hollowpoint bullet was the culprit. Still, this is the type of ammo one should be shooting through a .380 designed for personal protection. Since the feed ramp appears to have a decent polish, I'd like to try a new recoil spring, which I believe would eliminate the problem.

With accuracy testing completed, I did some point shooting and ran a few informal drills on a steel plate. To my delight, I found it easy to achieve fast, accurate double-taps with the Micro, even at 10 yards and farther.

The trigger is clean and crisp but a little heavy at seven pounds, five ounces. While I had to concentrate to get a good clean trigger release while accuracy testing, the weight of the trigger didn't bother me at all while running drills, and for a carry gun that will be stuck loaded in one's pants and potentially fired by nervous hands, it's just about perfect.

With a full magazine in its all-metal frame, the Micro balances and points superbly, and recoil is far milder than I expected. Gaining a clean, solid grip is easier than I anticipated as well. I never had to pause and shift my grip before firing.

As a 1911 shooter, I struggled a bit with whether to keep my firing-hand thumb atop the safety while shooting or to clench the grip with my thumb down by the magazine release. The safety isn't large, and keeping the thumb atop it isn't as comfortable as with an extended safety on a full-size 1911. In the end I decided it doesn't really matter, but I did find that with my thumb atop the safety my sights came on target perfectly when I pointed quickly; with the thumb lower my sights tended to fall lower on the target.

At only 13.4 ounces empty, the Micro is the lightest handgun I've ever carried. It's also the smallest. I typically carry a bobtailed 1911 Commander .45 Auto with an aluminum frame or a small, single-stack 9mm. The Micro is a full five ounces lighter than the 9mm and literally less than half the weight of the 1911. It carries comfortably, points well, shoots accurately and recoils politely. What more could you ask?


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