For our subcompact 9MM shootoff, we chose the Ruger LCP and Kahr PM9, along with the Springfield EMP, Kimber Solo and SIG P290. While the EMP and PM9 have been around for several years, the other three are new on the market.
All five have machined-steel slides. Those on the EMP, Solo and PM9 are made from stainless steel while the P290 and LC9 have high tech finishes to protect them from the elements. Both the EMP and Solo are more traditional in that their frames are made from lightweight alloy while the other three make use of polymer.
The five pistols feature a variety of trigger types. Being a miniature 1911, the EMP has a traditional single-action trigger with an exposed hammer, which allows it to be carried cocked and locked.
The LC9, PM9 and P290 are all of the double-action-only persuasion, but they differ in detail. The LC9 and P290 are both hammer fired whereas the PM9 is striker fired. The hammers on the LC9 and P290 are bobbed so they won’t snag and therefore cannot be cocked manually. None of the three have double-strike capability.
The Solo is a single-action, striker-fired pistol that sort of splits the difference when it comes to triggers. Chambering a round cocks the striker and holds it in place until a full stroke (which is rather short and light) of the trigger releases it. For this reason the pistol features ambidextrous safety levers that must be engaged once a round is chambered. Like the PM9, P290 and LC9 it does not have double-strike capability.
The five pistols are all locked-breech designs. The EMP functions just like a 1911–’nuff said–while the Solo’s locking system has features of both the Browning Hi Power and Polish Radom.
The remaining three use a system that is common to many of today’s semiauto pistols: The barrel hood moves up into and bears on the front edge of the ejection port, locking the two units together. The slide and barrel move rearward a short distance until the barrel is cammed down, allowing the slide to continue to the rear, extracting and ejecting the spent cartridge case.
Four of the pistols feature manual safeties. The EMP and Solo both have ambidextrous thumb safeties while the former, as befits a 1911, also has a grip safety.
The LC9 and PM9 have thumb safeties, although the latter’s is moved backwards: down for Safe and up for Fire. Both sport loaded-chamber indicators, and the LC9 has a magazine disconnect safety. The P290 is the odd man out in this area: Its “safety” is a long, revolver-like double-action trigger pull. Last, the EMP and LC9 both have key-operated security systems that prevent unauthorized firing.
Magazine capacity ranges from six rounds for the P290, Solo and PM9; seven for the LC9; and nine for the EMP. The PM9 came with a spare, seven-round magazine that provided a more substantial grip, and I have been informed by both Kimber and SIG Sauer that such magazines will be available for the Solo and P290 later this year.