Kimber has risen to the top of the ultra-competitive 1911 market, and that's no mean feat. There are dozens of 1911 manufacturers and an army of 1911 fans who will take any company to task if its product doesn't live up to expectations. But there's an even larger pool of shooters, who are joining the growing wave of concealed-carry permit holders, and for many of those new shooters a full-size 1911 chambered in .45 ACP is simply more gun than they want. The trend has been to develop lighter, smaller carry pistols that are simple to operate easy to hide under light clothing.
To that end, Kimber America launched its svelte single-action Micro in 2012. Chambered in .380, the Micro was like a shrunken 1911, with the same grip angle and controls. But functional as the .380 is in terms of sheer numbers of guns sold, the 9mm Luger is the undisputed king of self-defense cartridges. Kimber launched a 9mm version of the Micro line of firearms this year.
The Micro 9 is much like the older Micro in many regards — an aluminum frame, single-action pistol with a steel slide and a six-round magazine — but it is roughly 10 percent larger than its cousin. The .380 Micro measures 5.6 inches long, has a 2.75-inch barrel
and an unloaded weight of 13.4 ounces. The new 9mm version is 6.1 inches long, has a 3.15 inch barrel and weighs 15.6 ounces. In practical terms the two guns are almost identical.
What's not identical is the chambering. The 9mm is a significant step above the .380 in terms of power, and that will lead some to choose the Micro 9 over the Micro. It's also a gun that's smaller than its ancestral 1911 cousin, too. Even Kimber's Super Carry Ultra Plus with a three-inch pipe weighs 27 ounces and you have .45 recoil with which to contend. The Micro 9 plays the middle ground between the less powerful .380 and the bigbore .45.
The version I tested was the Micro 9 Crimson Carry, which comes equipped with a pair of rosewood Crimson Trace Lasergrips with a red laser.
The power switch is small and is tucked into the lower portion of the left grip panel; the activation pad is on the frontstrap just below the trigger guard, an intuitive position that provides instant-on laser power when you draw the pistol to shoot. The addition of the laser grip doesn't add weight and allows the shooter to enjoy the advantages of a laser without having to mount anything on an under-barrel accessory rail.
The gun comes with a two-tone finish: matte black on the steel slide, satin silver for the frame. The barrel is also stainless steel, and the spring weight is 16 pounds.
The sights are steel, too, and they are dovetailed into the slide. There's a post front and notch rear sight that are high enough to be easily visible, but the contoured shape helps draw the gun without the fear of hanging up on clothing when doing so. The solid aluminum trigger has a factory weight of around seven pounds.
The Micro 9 faces stiff competition from the array of striker-fired, polymer-frame 9mms designed specifically for concealed carry, but this gun stacks up well against those competitors. For one thing, the aluminum frame helps keep weight low enough that you aren't adding a bunch of bulk.
The Micro 9 doesn't have a barrel bushing, and disassembly is a snap. With the gun emptied, the hammer cocked and the magazine removed, simply retract the slide until the semicircular tab on the rear of the slide stop aligns with the disassembly notch on the bottom of the slide and, with the slide held in that position, push on the slide stop pin from the right side.
With the stop out of the way, the slide can be moved forward and removed from the gun. The spring, guide rod and barrel are accessible for basic cleaning and lubrication. Precise machining and tight tolerances make the process smooth, and it becomes intuitive after a few cleaning sessions.
The standard magazine holds six rounds, but there's an optional seven-round version. For safety features there's a manual thumb safety that mimics what you'll find on a standard 1911 but no grip safety.
The Micro 9 has a firing pin block and a disconnector. Its ejection port is flared and lowered, and the cuts in the frame offer a comfortable hold on the gun when shooting, and the rear strap has a checkered insert. The frame itself is 1.06 inches wide, which offers a firm hold when firing yet remains trim enough so that you can easily conceal the gun under fairly light clothing.
The overall fit and finish and build quality of the Micro 9 are excellent, from the slide finish to the checkering to the robust magazine construction. The tolerances are tight and the machine work is excellent, befitting a carry gun with a suggested retail price just under $900.
Before I perform standard 15-yard accuracy tests with a pistol like this, I spend time on the range shooting offhand from more intimate distances to familiarize myself with the trigger and overall feel of the gun. This makes the accuracy test more valid and provides an opportunity to examine how the gun handles while drawing from a holster, delivering doubletaps, practicing reloads and moving while firing.
The Micro 9 performed well during these exercises. The safety is not so large that it will hang up during a draw, yet it's easy to find and manipulate — especially if you've ever handled a full-size 1911 or any gun with similar controls. The same can be said of the slide stop. It's easy to find without fumbling or taking a timeout to hunt for a minuscule release like those you'll find on some other carry guns.
The magazine release button is tucked away, but the position is intuitive, and the small mags drop out without any hiccups or hassles. This may not seem like a big deal, but if the gun runs dry and someone is trying to kill you, it's a blessing to know your pistol is a snap to reload.
The 16-pound spring slams the slide with authority, and the trigger pull is smoother and shorter than on competing striker-fired guns, always a bonus when carrying a single-action. Though you likely won't touch the hammer in most shooting situations, the compact design, with its serrated top, is easy to manipulate.
The slide isn't the lightest you'll find on a carry gun, but it's quite smooth, and the spring is robust enough that it should last for a long
time. Recoil is stiff but certainly manageable, and with plenty of grip surface with ample checkering and a beavertail, you can comfortably handle this gun even with the hotter 9mm defensive loads.
The all-black sights aren't as visible as other configurations, but they're functional under most lighting conditions. And with the Crimson Carry version that's not as much of an issue because the laser is great for low-light conditions or if you find yourself in a compromised position where raising the gun, aiming and firing is an impossibility.
For the accuracy portion of the test, I chose four hollowpoint defensive loads and a full metal jacket target load, all of which weighed either 115 or 124 grains. Despite rather basic sights and a stubby barrel, the Micro 9 performed quite well in those accuracy tests. It managed a few groups under 1.5 inches, although the average was more like two to three inches—perfectly good for a 15-ounce carry 9mm at 45 feet.
Toward the end of the test, there were two different failures to feed with two different ammo brands, but the problem in both cases
seemed apparent and was easily remedied: The noses of those two bullets hung up on the polished feed ramp that, after a couple hundred rounds of ammo, had become fouled.
After the test was complete, I cleaned and lubricated the internals and sent two more boxes of ammo downrange. There were no problems after that cleaning, and those same problem loads ran unimpeded.
Compact dimensions make this gun easy to carry, but the short grip and the six-round magazine in place means your last digit will be left out in space. On some guns that means you'd better hang on for a wild ride when touching off a powerful defensive load, but that's not an issue with this gun.
If you're a right-handed shooter and your trigger finger rides a little high, there's a chance you'll block the laser unit, too. The factory sights on the test gun were about three inches high at 15 yards, but as the test shows, overall accuracy was good.
I carried the Micro 9 in a Galco Underwraps belly band and found it to be comfortable and easy to conceal. For light summer clothing — say a light T-shirt and athletic shorts — it's about as big a gun as a person of average build can expect to keep hidden during the warmer months, but it's not nearly as difficult to hide as guns that are just 10 percent larger.
The durable finish on the slide seemed to hold up well, even against perspiration and the constant shuffling and friction of all-day carry.
The $900 price tag might scare away shooters on a limited budget, but those who are willing to fork over that kind of money for a concealed carry weapon want to know that the product they're purchasing is built to a lofty standard. You get that with the Micro 9, and I don't think its price tag is out of line for a pistol of this ilk, especially with the added versatility of the Lasergrips. If you elect to purchase the Micro 9 sans laser, the price tag drops to $654.
Kimber has a pretty good handle on what shooters like, and there's no doubt the Micro 9 will appeal to the concealed-carry crowd. Not too big, not too small, it's an ideal personal defense gun for those who like everything about the 1911 except its size and traditional chambering. And who knows? With its compact design, easy takedown and stylish looks, this gun might even win over a few polymer pistol fans.