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.
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.
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.