November 13, 2013

Kimber Solo Carry No. 3900001 9mm Luger

We mixed apples and oranges, that is, pistols and revolvers, in the July 2012 issue to see which design worked best for self-protection at close range. The three test guns were the $747 9mm Kimber Solo Carry, the $299 9mm SCCY Industries CPX-2, and the $523 Taurus 40 S&W M405 stainless-steel revolver. Here’s an excerpt of that test.

When it comes to concealing a handgun, there is only so much space available on the hip, inside a handbag, or somewhere else on the body or in clothing. That’s why there are snubnosed revolvers and subcompact pistols. Choosing a handgun, then, becomes a balance of firepower versus weight and overall structural dimensions. In this test, we will limit the size of our test guns to three guns that will fit into a box approximately 5-by-7 inches in size — which represents a handgun that can be carried easily in just about any manner of traditional concealment.

For our tests, we began by shooting five-shot groups (the capacity of the Taurus) from the 15-yard bench. Then, we applied what we think was a more realistic test. Each gun was fired from a distance of 5 yards at a humanoid paper target. Start position was with the gun lowered to rest on a oil-barrel top about waist high. We used a CED8000 shot-activated timer to provide a start signal and record elapsed time of each shot. We took note of the first shot to see how fast we could get the gun into action and the last shot to see how long it took to deliver two shots to center mass and one shot to the head area. Altogether we recorded five separate strings of fire. We scored the hits A, B, C, or D, looking for ten hits to the preferred 5.9-inch by 11.2-inch A-zone at center mass and five hits to the A-zone in the head, which measured 4 inches long by 2 inches high.

The catch was that the test was performed strong hand only. (By a right-handed shooter holding the gun with only his right hand). We weren’t trying to be cowboys or go Hollywood. It’s just that in close-range fighting where guns such as these would most likely be used, applying a support hand may not be possible. On the semiautos, there wasn’t much room for a support hand in the first place.

For testing the Taurus revolver, we chose Winchester 165-grain FMJ ammunition sold in a value pack, Federal Premium 135-grain Hydra Shok JHP ammunition, and Hornady Custom 180-grain XTP jacketed hollowpoint rounds. The 165-grain rounds were also used in our action shooting test. For testing the semi-automatics, we ended up using four test rounds. After testing with 115-grain FMJ, 115-grain JHP EXP hollowpoints, and 124-grain JHP rounds from Black Hills Ammunition, we learned that Kimber had declared that the Solo should only be used with 124-grain and 147-grain bullets.

So, we went back to the test range with a supply of Federal 147-grain Federal Hydra Shok ammunition and resumed our bench session. Naturally, we retested the SCCY pistol with the 147-grain ammunition as well. All test rounds were standard pressure, including the Black Hills EXP ammunition, which was designed for maximum performance in firearms not recommended for +P ammunition. Here is how the winner of that test performed in more detail.

Kimber Solo Carry No. 3900001 9mm, $747

The Kimber Solo Pistol is an alloy-framed single-action striker-fired pistol feeding a 2.7-inch barrel from a six-shot single-column magazine. An eight-round magazine with finger extension ($40) is also available from the www.KimberAmerica.com online shop. Movement of the slide loads the striker spring and resets the trigger. The single-action trigger was hinged from above, and the action, though well defined, could be mistaken for a double-action mechanism.

Gun Tests July 2012

What the Kimber Solo lacks in capacity, it makes up for in terms of control, shot placement, and ease of concealment.

But the intent of the Solo’s design is to afford the ergonomics of the 1911 pistol in a miniaturized product. Another key 1911 feature was the ambidextrous thumb safeties that were held close to the frame and out of the way. Despite their low profile, they were easily operated by the inside knuckle and effectively provided an on/off switch for the pistol. However, the longer swing and aforementioned appearance of being a double-action-only pistol may lead some users to ignore the thumb safeties. Whatever insulation from unintentional discharge there may be, we recommend training to use the thumb safeties.

The visual impact of the Solo was magnetic. Some say it is a reworking of the Colt Mustang, but it could also be considered reminiscent of the Colt Pocket Hammerless pistols. The key is that the Solo was sleek and snag free at every corner and edge. The grip panels were flat and frankly unnoticeable once in the hand. We think the dark KimPro II-treated frame was stealthier than the icy finish of the all-stainless model tested in our May 2011 issue. Indeed, the Solo reportedly has been refined since its initial run.

The stainless-steel slide was topped with a robust set of three dot sights that we found surprisingly visible. The slide offered rear cocking serrations only and an externally mounted extractor. The ejection port was not just generously flared and lowered, but scalloped front and rear along the right side.

Field stripping was simple. Pull back the slide to match the slide-stop lugs with the takedown notch and pull the stop pin free. But unlike on a 1911, the slide was still locked on the frame until we pressed the trigger. With the top end removed, we saw a plunger-style guide rod with the larger forward spring free to butt against the front or yoke of the slide. Kimber probably chose not to capture the front spring so it could be changed regularly without special tools to ensure reliability. Barrel lockup was at the front of the slide, (bushingless) and by a single lug just ahead of the barrel hood. The barrel link was a fixed loop such as found in the CZ design. Once out of battery, the barrel was free to move around quite a bit. The barrel was contoured to save weight. Its low mass helped reliability by requiring less energy to move the barrel in and out of battery.

The bottom side of the slide also revealed a stop lug at the base of the breech face and a heavily made striker stop capping the rear of the slide. We could also see the striker and surrounding spring plus a striker block. Kimber refers to this component, in a mix and match of words, as the firing-pin stop.

We couldn’t help but notice the liberal use of hollow roll pins throughout, including utilization at the ambidextrous magazine release buttons and the trigger hinge. After our first round of tests consisting of about 200 rounds of mostly 115-grain ammunition, we noticed the roll pin above the trigger traveling off center and protruding through the right side of the frame. There was still plenty of pin left in place, and no malfunction occurred. Perhaps this is why Kimber, after initially warning to use only “high quality, factory-fresh, premium personal defense ammunition in the Solo” added a letter of congratulations. This extra page inserted into the shipping box, along with a very nice Kimber logo-emblazed pistol rug and an extra six-round magazine, strongly recommends the use of 124-grain and 147-grain ammunition.

Gun Tests July 2012

When it came to the ability to draw and fire strong-hand only, the $747 Kimber Solo Carry was our top choice. By the numbers it was the fastest and most controllable gun to point and shoot. In a quest for hits inside the two A-zones located in the head area and inside the center mass of our paper target, we scored the most points with the Solo. Built to fight at short distances, it was also the easiest gun in the test to conceal, our testers concluded.

The 115-grain rounds rattled the gun pretty good, and the extra vibration may threaten the ability of the pins to stay in place. The letter also states that the Solo was designed to operate with “minimal lubrication.” For our tests, we used a liberal dose of Wilson Combat Ultima-Lube II oil to protect the gun. Based on the amount that ran off and how little wear was detected, we would be comfortable using much less when not involved in long sessions at the range.

The magazines were well made with “feet” that made contact with both the front and rear walls of the magazine. Initially, the magazine release was difficult to operate from either side, but became easier with use. The buttons are big, and you wouldn’t want them to work too easily and suddenly drop the magazine. Empty magazines with the slide locked back dropped freer than loaded ones with the slide closed. We noticed that once a mag was inserted, we were not able to load the chamber unless the slide was already locked back. But from lock back, we were able to use the pinch-pull method or press the slide stop with equal success. Due to the heavy recoil unit and short stroke, it was also difficult to eject a round from the chamber with enough gusto to flip it out of the ejection port. With the magazine removed, most of our rounds fell through the magazine well. Ejecting a round in the event of a malfunction might be a problem. For this reason alone we might shy away from using the 147-grain JHP rounds, as they tend to be longer overall than 124-grain hollow point ammunition. (By about 0.020 inches, according to the Hodgdon Powder No. 27 Data Manual.)

From the bench the Solo did transfer a fair amount of shock but not a lot of muzzle flip. The Solo’s trigger made shooting easier, and we found that our best groups were shot when we used a neutral rather than a vise-like grip. Another trick was to not put too much finger on the trigger. The pad rather than first joint of the index finger was the best point of contact. The Solo displayed equal performance with each test round. Average group size measured about 1.7 inches across with every one of our test rounds, save the 147-grain ammunition. Firing the Federal 147s, average size group was 2.1 inches across, but they were arguably the most comfortable to shoot.

Compared to our best shots with the SCCY pistol, we didn’t necessarily find that the Solo was vastly superior in terms of accuracy. But optimum accuracy was easier to achieve with the Solo. In fact, we thought shooting good groups was hard to avoid. In our action test, we would rate the Solo number one. First shots were gone at little more than 0.80 seconds. Our first total elapsed time was 2.03 seconds, but our last two were 1.95 seconds and 1.90 seconds, respectively. Shots to the midsection scored nine A’s and 1 C (the zone immediately surrounding the lower A-zone). The head showed two A’s and three B’s, with the B-zone being the secondary zone in the head area of the target.

Our Team Said: Other than excess vibration that could loosen roll pins, we’re not sure what all the fuss is regarding bullet weight. It had just about everything you could ask for in a hide-out gun. The Solo indexed quickly into the hand and onto the target. A natural point, sights that you could use when you need them, and a trigger that didn‘t demand a perfect grip for effective control made it easy for us to excel in our close quarters test.

 

Comments (23)

I am a big Sig fan and have carried a 290RS in a pocket holster for awhile. Only complaint is soft pocket holster apparently kept turning on the laser, which I eventually removed.

I also have an SR9c (with laser), which I like but is not as small as the 290RS and not nearly as small as the Kimber Solo.

Bought a slightly used Kimber Solo earlier this month. Kimber has a great reputation for .45s, and the Solo is a beautiful piece. Came with laser, fits my hand well, and I loved the trigger pull and general feel of the pistol. Then I took it to the range and in numerous attempts with heavy bullets (including 147 Ranger and Hornaday) I could never get more than 3 rounds to fire in a row without a malfunction (mostly FTE). Very disappointing.

Before buying it I called Kimber and after a very brief wait got a very polite and knowledgeable rep. I told him I was concerned about buying a used Solo because of their one-year, original purchaser warranty and the many criticisms I had reads on the Web. (As a general rule, people who have problems are more likely to leave feedback than those who don't have problems--so the large number of negative comments on the Solo may not mean that a large number of Solos sold have problems.) The Kimber rep told me they care greatly about their reputation, and if an owner who was not the original purchaser contacts them with a complaint after the year-long warranty period, they are happy to fix problems that are a consequence of manufacturing defects/quality control. (I don't recall his precise language.) On that basis I bought it, and I shall send it back to them to see if they can fix it.

If Kimber can fix it, it will return to being my favorite carry piece. Until then, I'll stick with the Sig 290RS as my pocket pistol.

Posted by: Prof Bob | January 24, 2016 3:49 PM    Report this comment

What is meant by "repeat strike capability" ? (Posted by canovack).

Posted by: Sunburst | March 20, 2015 3:55 PM    Report this comment

It's not unusual for small pistols to have a preference for a specific ammo type. Sometimes even specific brands are recommended by the manufacturer (see Seecamp .380) . The small size means a smaller selection of reliably functioning ammo.

Posted by: Mr. Brett | January 23, 2015 10:45 PM    Report this comment

i have a kimber 9 it has no problems . ialso have a sccy 9 for less than 1/2 the price &twice the dependability . what happened to your comparison test ?

Posted by: toolanddie1 | January 23, 2015 9:09 PM    Report this comment

I was pleased to see Remington admit that their new carry gun had problems and that they would make everything good with both the gun and the customer. Kimber would not do this. I have three Kimbers that are great, so don't get me wrong here. It is just that the Solo had many faults. I did get a Kimber rep. to admit this to me on a face to face basis. As I said before, perhaps these faults have finally been addressed and fixed. I hope so. Massad Ayoob was the only reviewer that mentioned this. Too many reviews of this gun focus on the aesthetics of the gun and not how well it actually works. Look at the comments above. The gun had problems and would not work with most ammo. The ammo it is said to work with is expensive and not commonly used in practice. It is NOT a gun to bet one's life on. Kimber should have been more open about the trouble this gun was known for like Remington is doing. My respect is with Remington and Mas Ayoob.
And finally, Gun Tests should have addressed this issue.

Posted by: Cliffdropover1 | January 22, 2015 4:24 PM    Report this comment

Tried a friend's Kimber Solo. Really nice looking pistol. Jammed twice on me with S&B 115gr FMJ.

Hollow roll pins working out, frequent jams, ammunition sensitivity? Paaleese!

I have a Walther PPS produced before they cheapened it to a price point and started importing it themselves. My pistol has their importation partner, Smith & Wesson, roll stamped into the right front of the slide. The renown pistolsmith Teddy Jacobson liked it the way it was and said that it needed no trigger work (3.5lbs. out of the box) just a little Mil-S lubrication on the trigger bar to smooth it out. I further appreciate that the gun is striker fired and works just like a Glock for EVERYTHING including take-down and field stripping. NEVER a malfunction with any practice or carry ammo and I carry Speer Gold Dot +p+ 115 gr. ammo in it as it is a VERY short barreled weapon.

I prefer a small carry pistol that I can count on EVERY TIME.

Posted by: mwp2634 | January 22, 2015 4:20 PM    Report this comment

I bought a Solo when the first came out. Took it to the range where I fired a full box of standard pressure 124gr through it. When I go home, I field stripped it and started cleaning. When I got to the slide I noticed a mark on the locking lug recesses in the slide. Upon closer inspection the "mark" was peening on the rear of the cut-out. I contacted Kimber and they told me to send the gun in for a check. Turnaround was fine. In the return box was a letter from Kimber that they had replaced the slide.

I'm a BIG stickler for functional reliability. And while I did like the Solo and had no other issues (I didn't shoot it after the above problem.), I traded it off. I thought that if the slide showed peening after shooting 50 rounds of standard pressure cartridges, what other functional problems show up in the future?

Posted by: MountieFan16 | January 22, 2015 3:00 PM    Report this comment

This article arrived in email today, January 22, 2015. The article mentions a Kimber, SCCY and a Taurus. The article is almost exclusively about the Kimber. Is something missing?

Posted by: meeester | January 22, 2015 1:19 PM    Report this comment

I owned a Solo CDP. The gun had several misfires the firts time I ran it. The left grip panel shot lose. I tightned it and the bushing pulled out of the frame. I returned the gun to Kimber for repair. They advised the frame had to be replaced. This caused a return to the FFL, another 4473, as the frame serial number differed. New frame, more malfunctions. The gun is gone, no more Kimbers for me. A gun that does not function correctly should not be sold to the public. And anyone with any sense should not carry such a firearm to protect themself. If you have to say to yourself, maybe it shoots, or maybe it won't, might as well carry a big stick.

Posted by: xb40 | January 22, 2015 9:47 AM    Report this comment

I have owned a Kimber Solo for about a year and a half. I bought it to be my primary carry pistol. What a disappointment it has been. I started out with failures to feed/extract. Tried many different types of ammo, all with the same result. Sent it back to the factory where they reported that they refinished, reamed and polished the barrel and chamber to solve the problem. They said all was OK after that using American Eagle 124gr FMJ (2 mags worth) and Federal Hydrashok 147gr JHP (3 mags worth). I bought the same ammo and did not enjoy the same results that they said they did. I still experienced random failures to feed/extract. Now, since getting the pistol back from the factory, a new anomaly has been introduced into the equation. When the pistol does fire and extract the spent brass properly, the slide doesn't "close" completely when moving forward to chamber the round. It sticks/stops about 1/8 of an inch from being closed properly in order to fire the next round. Now, I have to push the slide with my left thumb to "close" it and then it will fire the next round. Then the cycle repeats itself. I will never carry this pistol as my primary or secondary concealed carry weapon. And ethically, I can't see trading it in for another pistol since it is a seriously flawed pistol and could end up costing someone their life. So, I have resolved to keep it as a rather expensive desk weight. I'll ever buy another Kimber product after this experience.

Posted by: lomac06 | September 21, 2014 3:44 PM    Report this comment

I have owned a Solo since it's inception. It has digested everything I feed it (115, 124 and not the expensive ammo) I had one failure to fire from a Hornady critical defense round. The primer was was contacted well with the firing pin, I gave it to someone shoot a Kahr and it did the same thing. So much for quality control. I love my solo!

Posted by: Navyseadog | September 19, 2014 8:17 AM    Report this comment

I am disappointed with GT not putting emphasis of the failures of the Kimber. I was so happy to receive my Solo at first. It is very accurate but not reliable to be considered a carry gun. GT should make this abundantly clear as someone's life may depend on the gun being able to cycle a full magazine, this was not the case with my Solo and with many of others base on a search of the internet. I sent my Solo back to the factory with no improvement of the consistent ability to cycle a one compete magazine. I was forced to sell the Solo for a bit larger but extremely consistent option. This was very disappointing as I was looking at the Kimber 1911 line and have chosen to look at other options due to this experience.

Posted by: ddickinson | September 18, 2014 10:55 AM    Report this comment

I own a Kimber Solo. It is not sensitive to ammo - it shoots anything I throw at it. The ammo sensitivity is about the long-term maintenance of the pistol. Given the extraordinary engineering compromises required to build a tiny, relatively powerful concealement semi-auto pistol, this is a minor matter that in no way compromises safety, reliability, performance or effectiveness. And this is NOT a combat pistol. It IS a tiny concealed self defense pistol. If you don't see the difference you don't know pistols very well. For defensive use, you don't use whatever ammo is available, you carefully plan, purchase and use defensive ammo. You do that for any and all defensive pistols.


The greatest combat pistol ever designed was the Colt 1911. It was designed to shoot only ball ammo and a specific weight at that. It was decades before minor adaptations eliminated this 'weakness'. So, armchair critics, care to say that the 1911 was not a competent combat pistol?

Posted by: usabilityfirst | September 18, 2014 10:40 AM    Report this comment

'Agree with your comment, JPKirkpatrick. A true fighting handgun should be one that is not so demanding that it requires a specific brand and/or bullet weight in order to function properly. I will concede that firearms intended for competition shooting can be made to tight tolerances and require specific ammo, but this little pistol is a combat handgun. As such, it should eat everything it is fed, and should function reliably all the time.....

Posted by: canovack | November 15, 2013 7:16 PM    Report this comment

Any 9mm pistol manufactured should be able to handle 'standard velocity 115g FMJ' ammo! It is a design flaw in the "Kimber Precision Machined Pistol" that keeps it from functioning properly. Hence Kimber's change in their owners manual that now states ONLY 124g & 147g Personal Defense ammo should be used.
The pistol IMHO is overpriced for what it is... a flawed pistol!

Posted by: JPKirkpatrick | November 15, 2013 7:00 PM    Report this comment


This gun started out with a very bad reputation of failures to feed or extract, which you never mentioned. Mine was one of the first and would not function with standard factory ammo. One of the articles I have referred to states "Indeed, the Solo reportedly has been refined since its initial run." I have heard ones sent back are having the chamber reamed a bit larger to solve the chambering/extraction problem and am wondering if you have any similar information? I got rid of the Solo and purchased the Ruger LC9 for about half what the Solo costs. It will shoot the ammo that the Solo would not, is very accurate and costs about half that of the Solo. Thanks for taking the time to read my letter.

Posted by: Cliffdropover1 | November 14, 2013 5:49 PM    Report this comment

I agree with all of your comments as regards the SIG Sauer p290RS, vlasfarg. While mine did not come with the laser, it did come with a six and an eight round magazine. When I went to the SIG Store website, I was able to get the laser at a reasonable cost, and it is about the laser that I'd like to make a further comment. The SIG-TAC laser that fits the P290 is about the best mounted laser I have seen, outside of a guide rod lazer. The attachment and locking device on the SIG-TAC is like I have never seen before. It is almost as if the laser is integral to the gun, as it locks on very tightly while the activator button is right where the trigger finger instinctively goes when drawing the pistol from its holster. The holster, by-the-way, comes with the pistol and is molded to allow the laser and pistol to slide securely into it. This combination of P290RS, the SIG-TAC laser, and its own custom holster provides an extremely light, compact, combination for hip carry under virtually any conditions of climate or clothing. It's a real winner!

Posted by: canovack | November 14, 2013 5:27 PM    Report this comment

As a follow-up to my previous comment, I also wanted to mention that I've shot all manner of 9mm ammo through the Solo and have not experienced any problems with any ammo. 115 grain range ammo works just fine in my pistol. Still, given Kimber's insistance on 124 and 147 grain loads, I only carry recommended ammunition. The recoil is more pronounced, but it is not intimidating and the reliability is excellent.

Posted by: usabilityfirst | November 14, 2013 2:47 PM    Report this comment

From everything I've read, and from all I've heard from friends who've had experience with them, these guns are very ammo-finnicky. You must find out what ammo your gun prefers and use only that ammo. That should have been pointed out more clearly in your report.

Posted by: dzrtram | November 14, 2013 2:42 PM    Report this comment

I have owned a Solo CDP for almost 2 years. I agree with the points made in the review. I too experienced difficulty ejecting magazines from the pistol, especially when loaded to full capacity. After hundreds of rounds, the ejection is much better with fully loaded mags but empty mags eject quickly and easily. I really like the compact dimensions of the pistol. I'm a 1911 enthusiast and to my tastes the trigger travel is uncomfortably long and without practice can lead to inaccuracy. It takes time getting used to it if you are accustomed to single-action pistols. I do not like the Kimbro II finish on the pistol; in a short time it has wear marks, which I find unacceptable for a top of the line pistol. Still, I find the pistol to be highly accurate, easily concealed, easily deployed, and with good stopping power for its size. I paid a premium for the CDP version, but the night sights, checkering and built-in laser are excellent, particularly the checkering. I carry it both IWB behind the hip and in a pocket holster. It is a go anywhere, anytime pistol that inspires confidence. IMHO the Solo in any variation is worth the premium cost.

Posted by: usabilityfirst | November 14, 2013 2:36 PM    Report this comment

+1 on the P290 (mine is pre-RS). This is my summer carry. It came with a laser and 2 mags (6 and 8 rounds) for $500. The trigger took time to get nice and it requires to be used to its pull weight (it is its only safety, it is heavy enough to be safely carried with 1 round in the chamber). Very tight groups at 7 yards. It never failed to go bang and not even 1 issue with any kind of ammo (2000+ rounds so far) I fed it with. There are lighter sub-compacts, but they beat your hands up much more than the P290, which might discourage to train with them.

Posted by: vlasfarg | November 14, 2013 2:15 PM    Report this comment

A nicely made firearm as are all Kimber pistols. But using max loads this is not a gun you'd want to shoot "all day" at the range.

Posted by: SANFORD R | November 14, 2013 2:10 PM    Report this comment

These are very nice little pistols, but I have a SIG Sauer P290RS that is equally small and easy to carry.....and it has a repeat strike capability.....

Posted by: canovack | November 13, 2013 4:28 PM    Report this comment

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