Podcast review of the Kimber Solo:
The Kimber Solo is causing quite a buzz amongst the internet and at the SHOT Show this past week. Now hearing that the pistol was called the "Solo" I had to wonder if Kimber was marketing their version of Hans Solo's Blaster:
Or if they had reached back to the 1960's to bring us Napoleon Solo's pistol from "The Man From U.N.C.L.E.":
No, the good folks at Kimber have brought us a micro compact 6 + 1 round 9mm deep concealment pistol.
It has more than a passing resemblance to one of my favorite designs, the Colt Model 1903/1908 Pocket Hammerless:
The best description I can give the pistol is that is is a cross between the Colt Pocket Hammerless, and 1911, and a Kahr 9mm. The grip frame, mag release, and slide stop is 1911, the slide profile is Colt Pocket Hammerless, and the firing system and barrel are Kahr.
While surfing the web forums this weekend there were a few people who are eagerly awaiting one of these pistols and a remarkable amount of people who are bashing them without having the advantage of even holding one in their hand, no less actually having fired one. Most of the curmudgeons spouted the same rhetoric that has been passed along so many times before:
- Kimber produces poor quality pistols. I have owned their basic target model, the CDP Pro, CDP Ultra, Diamond Grade, the RCP, and the new Super Carry. All top grade in terms of reliability and accuracy.
- Kimber's customer service is poor. I don't have a whole lot of experience with that since, as I said above, the six Kimber's that I have owned have all been top notch right out of the box. When I owned the CDP Pro I did email them about tips on moving the rear sight. A Kimber gunsmith suggested that I send them the slide along with a representative target and let them do it. He even offered to send a UPS call tag so the shipping would be free.
- Kimber uses small part made by the MIM process (metal injection molding). Yes, and I clearly remember that the Book of Revelations frequently states that the use of MIM parts is a sign of the pending Apocalypse. This to me is kind of like people who refuse to buy a Smith & Wesson revolver because they fear that the side frame mounted lock will inadvertently lock on them. Never seen a documented case of that happening and never seen a documented case of MIM part failures beyond the failure rate of forged parts. (Now, you want to start a petition to S&W because the side lock is UGLY and useless? Tell me where to sign!)
The video listed above is an interview with a Kimber engineer. The second one listed below is a review, including video of shots fired by the Kentucky Gun Company.
The guy stating he had failures used PMC, UMC, and WWB which are all 115 grain full metal jacket rounds. The interviewer and the Kimber engineer both stated that the Solo should be fired with a minimum of 124 grain premium hollowpoint ammo. Supposedly this is in the literature that comes with the pistol.
The guy in the Kentucky Gun Company video used Hornady Critical Defense ammo which is still 115 grains but it is loaded to a higher velocity than regular FMJ 115 grain ammo. If you go back to the video with the Kimber engineer he mentioned that they had to make the slide as heavy as possible of the slide's abbreviated length. With a heavy slide they are going to need a higher velocity round to make it cycle properly. A slide that is too light will cycle before the bullet has left the barrel allowing the pressure and energy to escape out of the ejector port rather than using the pressure and energy to project the bullet at the proper speed. in 2003 I bought a Springfield Micro Compact 1911 chambered in .40 S&W and it had this problem; the slide cycled too quickly. The report and recoil were like I was shooting a .22 rather than a .40 because all of the energy was escaping out of the back of the pistol instead of the front. The bullet also keyholded the target meaning that it was tumbling end over end rather than spiraling which was another indication that there was not enough velocity to stabilize the bullet. The weight of the slide is critically important in short barreled semi-automatic pistols. If they just cut a full size slide back to the shorter barrel length it will cycle too quickly.
The guy in the review is having the opposite problem that I had with the Springfield. I suspect that because he is using ammo that is not powerful enough it does not produce enough energy to cycle the slide causing his jams. He did not mention seeing the list of ammo that is recommended for the pistol.
Now, on the other had I have not shot one either! We need to remember a couple of thing:
- Some pistols (and all Kimbers) need a break-in period.
- Sometimes new models are released before all the bugs are worked out. This happened to Ruger when they introduced the SR9 and then had to recall them and it happened the very next year with the introduction of the LCP.
- On any given day a specimen will slip through quality control that shouldn't make it to the public. Makes not difference if it is a pistol, luxury automobile, or toaster. SIG makes high quality pistols but I have two of mine had to go back to the factory after I purchased them. On round 35 of shooting my brand new Para Ordnance PDA their massive (forged) power extractor broke off. It happens. It is extremely disappointing but you send it back and keep going.
The fact that the Solo should only be fed premium ammunition is a drawback in my opinion. It is meant to be a deep concealment pistol but we should practice with our carry pieces as much as we can. That will be difficult for most of us to do if we are shooting ammo that costs a buck a round. Extreme ammo sensitivity is not a new thing however; for many years the ultra micro small Seacamp .32 ACP would only fire with Winchester Silvertip ammunition.
Rest assured that Average Joe will get his hands on one of these pistols as soon as possible and get the straight dope to you right away!
In the meantime I have copied some photos from the Kimber1911.com website to give you more perspective on the size of the Solo: