January 10, 2020
By James Tarr
Handguns specifically meant for the concealed-carry market continue to be where the sales are in our current down market. While perhaps best known for its full-size 1911s, Kimber is seeing the most sales with its small guns: its newer K6S revolver and its very popular Micro 9.
Kimber first introduced the Micro in .380 ACP, but it wasn’t long before the success of that pistol convinced it to slightly upsize the gun for the 9mm cartridge. As of right now, between models straight from Kimber and a few distributor exclusives, Kimber is now offering 22 different variations of the Micro 9. The pistols all have the same dimensions; the differences are in their finishes, grips and sights. For this article, I secured one of Kimber’s newer models, the Micro 9 Woodland Night, which comes from the factory equipped with Crimson Trace red laser grips. Let’s look at the specs of these pistols before we get into the specifics of my specific model specifically (see what I did there?).
The Micro 9 is a single-action-only semi-auto, a 1911 downsized as much as possible to fit the 9mm cartridge. It sports a 3.15-inch barrel and an aluminum frame, so unloaded with no magazine it weighs just 14 ounces. Overall, it measures 6.1 inches long by just over four inches tall with a flush magazine, so it is small enough to fit into a pocket. It is significantly smaller than an S&W M&P Shield, which should tell you just how small it is.
The slide is stainless steel, as is the barrel. For that matter, the full-length recoil spring guide rod is stainless steel as well. Between the steel being all stainless and the frame aluminum, this is about as rust-proof a gun as you’re going to find, even before you add a finish. On this model, the slide has what Kimber calls a matte black coating, but it looks more like semi-gloss to me. The frame is gray. The finish on both slide and frame is Kimber’s KimPro II corrosion-resistant, slightly lubricious finish, which I believe is similar to Cerakote.
The Micro 9 is not an exact reproduction of the .45 ACP 1911 sized down. The Micro 9 features a supported, ramped barrel, and does not use a barrel bushing. It has a manual thumb safety, but no grip safety. It has a firing-pin safety, but does not use the same design as the Colt Series ’80, and so the trigger pull stays crisp.
The sights, proportionately, are very large on the slide, but that is because Kimber put full-size sights on a subcompact gun. They’re just as tall as the sights on Kimber’s full-size 1911s; they’ve only been narrowed to fit the Micro 9’s slide. The white dots on the sights are so big you should be able to see them even in low light, even though they are not technically “night sights.” I like this very much, as the sights on most guns this size seem like they were designed as afterthoughts.
The thumb safety is single-sided. Unlike a traditional 1911, you can engage the thumb safety with the hammer down, and with the safety on, you can’t cock the hammer.
My biggest issue with the thumb safety of the Micro 9 isn’t restricted to this gun, it seems to be shared by a lot of the subcompact 1911-pattern guns on the market (including the SIG P238 and the new Springfield 911). The issue is that with the thumb safety of the Micro 9 up (ON), the lever is positioned right where the safety on a standard 1911 would be when it is down (OFF). To disengage it, you have to push it down even farther. If you’ve spent any time behind a 1911, the muscle memory feel of the Micro 9’s safety under your thumb will be telling your brain it is off, when in reality it is still on. This happened to me several times.
Why you would make a 1911 and give the familiar thumb safety unfamiliar activation positions is beyond me, but everyone seems to be doing it.
On my sample pistol, the thumb safety was easy to deactivate while acquiring a firing grip, but so stiff I couldn’t flip it up with the side of my thumb. I don’t consider that much of an issue; it’s getting the safety off in a hurry that is the big deal in a carry pistol. And by that I mean this pistol should be carried cocked-and-locked or not at all.
Stand by for the rant. In 3… 2… 1…
As this is a single-action-only semi-auto, if the hammer is down on the pistol, it will not fire. It is just an expensive paperweight. I understand the impulse that a lot of people will have with this pistol, wanting to carry it with the hammer down. However, I would caution against that, unless you’re talking about carrying the gun in Condition Three inside a backpack or briefcase or some other sort of off-body carry where you can’t guarantee the thumb safety hasn’t been bumped off.
Carrying on your body any kind of pistol that you can’t draw and fire with one hand in one smooth motion is a bad idea. And don’t tell me you’ve practiced cocking the hammer or racking the slide as you draw the pistol from concealment, you’ll make my brain hurt from the stupid. If you don’t want to carry this pistol cocked-and-locked, fine—buy a Kimber K6S revolver. Buy a DAO semi-auto. Buy whatever pistol you want, as long as when you get your hand on it and acquire a firing grip, you can actually fire the gun. Here endeth the rant.
The mainspring housing is polymer, and checkered. The magazine well opening in the frame has a slight bevel. This and every other Micro 9 pistol comes from the factory with one flush six-round magazine and one extended seven-round magazine. I’m guessing because my pistol was heading to a “gun writer,” my sample came with three extended-round magazines.
Even with the extended magazine in place, all of my fingers barely fit on the gun, and I have skinny fingers. With a flush magazine in place, my pinkie would have been hanging out in space, and I know from experience that it’s a lot harder to shoot guns like that. Still, for the sake of the article, I spent some time at the range, racking a round into the chamber and then removing the magazine before firing, to see what the pistol was like to shoot with a flush magazine in place. The experience was interesting.
Shooting this pistol with no magazine in place, I found it was just as easy to control as with the extended magazine inserted. And I attribute this entirely to the Crimson Trace laser grips. While I feel lasers on carry guns do have a very valid purpose, within a narrow window of use, that’s not what I’m talking about here; in this case, I found their utility to be in improving my grip.
The front strap of the Micro 9 is smooth aluminum with an almost slick coating. I’ve shot Micro 9s before with standard grips, and they can get a bit twisty in the hand. That front strap is slick. I did not have that experience with this gun, because of the rubber bridge containing the activation button for the Crimson Trace laser stretching between the two grip panels. That raised rubber bridge runs right across the front strap below the trigger guard, right under my middle finger as I was shooting. I found it kept my hand locked in place on the gun as well as aggressive checkering, whether or not the extended magazine was inserted.
The laser grips have two OD green polymer grip panels with double diamond checkering. The laser is positioned at the top of the right grip panel, and is activated by a pressure button just underneath the trigger guard on the rubber bridge between the two grip panels. If your finger is on the trigger the laser beam will not be blocked; however, if you’ve laid your trigger finger along the frame, depending on how big your finger is and how high up on the frame it is laid, you might find it blocks the laser beam. If you decide you don’t want the laser to activate at all, there is a small switch at the bottom of the left grip panel.
Crimson Trace makes good stuff. Quality-wise, there isn’t a company on the market that makes better laser products, and like any company that makes a consumer product, Crimson Trace thinks its stuff should be used everywhere by everyone all the time. It probably mounts laser grips on the toasters in its employee lunch room.
I do feel handgun lasers have a place and a purpose. However, where I feel they shine is more as threat projection than as an aiming aid in low light.
To my way of thinking if it’s so dark that you can’t see your sights, how well can you see the potential threat to determine if you need to shoot? If it’s so dark you can’t see your sights, you need a weapon light more than you need a laser. Weapon lights silhouette your sights against the foreground and also illuminate the target, letting you know whether or not it’s a bad guy in need of projectile therapy.
But lasers are great for certain things. Lasers are great for letting someone with possible evil intent in a poorly lit area know that the small, dark object in your hand is not a cell phone or wallet or car keys, but indeed the gun that you say it is, in case they were unsure. Running that red dot across the pavement and up onto the chest of the person headed your way seems like a pretty clear message. If they choose to keep coming…then it will be a well-informed (if stupid) decision on their part.
If I would have had to guess, I would have said the trigger pull on the Micro 9 was maybe five and a half or six pounds. So I was shocked when my trigger pull weight set showed me the trigger pull on my sample was 8¼ pounds. There is a tiny bit of take up, but the break is so short and crisp that the pull seems lighter than it is. Reset is just as miniscule. FYI, the specs call for the trigger pull on the Micro 9 to be approximately seven pounds.
Thirty years ago, guns the size of the Micro 9 were all chambered in .380 ACP. They didn’t have nearly the quality of features and controls that the Micro 9 does, but that’s not my point—my point is that because of improved materials and design, we now have 9mms that are the size of your father’s .380.
While both cartridges (heck, any cartridge) really lose a lot of oomph when fired out of such a short barrel, you still get more from a 9mm. How much? Between 50 and 100 more fps, with bullets weighing roughly 20–30 grains more.
There is now a much wider range of ammo in just about every caliber, but especially in 9mm, because it is the most popular handgun caliber in America. There is ammo ranging from the deliberately light-recoiling Hornady Critical Defense Lite to the Winchester Ranger +P+ load only sold to law enforcement. This is my way of saying that recoil in the Kimber Micro 9 can be as tame or as snappy as you want, depending on your ammo selection.
While I personally carry a big handgun that holds a lot of bullets, I truly believe that shot placement is much more important than caliber or even bullet choice. Which is why I think short, light trigger pulls are the way to go (to keep your sights on the target), and softer-recoiling rounds (even though they might lack in ‘terminal performance’) might be a better choice for most people—so you can put more bullets into the bad guy quicker. Seriously, my personal carry ammunition is the Hornady Critical Duty +P, and I chose it because out of the three top-performing +P loads in the FBI Protocol ballistic tests, it had the softest recoil.
If it had been introduced 30 years ago, the Kimber Micro 9 would have won everybody’s “Handgun of the Year” award. It’s small, has great sights, a good trigger, is more than accurate enough for defensive work, and looks sexy. The fact that today it’s just one great option among many shows just how lucky (spoiled?) modern American gun owners are.
Kimber Micro 9 Woodland Night Specs
- Type: Single action semi-auto
- Caliber: 9mm Luger
- Capacity: 6+1; 7+1 with extended magazine
- Barrel Length: 3.15"
- Overall Length: 6.1"
- Height: 4.0"
- Width: 1.2"
- Weight: 15.6 oz. (with empty magazine)
- Slide Material: Stainless steel
- Frame Material: Aluminum
- Finish: KimPro II
- Grips: OD Green Crimson Trace laser grips
- Safeties: Manual safety, firing pin safety
- Sights: Three-dot, steel
- Trigger: 8.25 lbs. (as tested)
- Accessories: One six-round and one seven-round magazine, soft case
- MSRP: $790
- Manufacturer: Kimber, www.kimberamerica.com
James Tarr is a longtime contributor to Firearms News and other firearms publications. He is also the author of several books, including CARNIVORE, which was featured on The O’Reilly Factor. His current novel, Bestiarii, is available now through Amazon and Barnes & Noble.