Kimber Solo DC (courtesy The Truth About Guns)

Ralph’s review of the Kimber Solo Carry was exhaustive. (But not exhausting; his usual blend of useful information and borscht belt humor.) It’s been four years since our man had his Hans on the Solo. Since then, Kimber’s first striker-fired firearm has failed to shrug off its rep as an overly expensive unreliable gun from a company that should stick to making high-end 1911s. (First impressions last.) But is Kimber’s original claim – “what sets the Solo apart is quality, dependability and 1911 ergonomics that ensure comfortable shootability regardless of hand size” – now true? I recently got the chance to put a top-of-the-line Kimber Solo DC to the test . . .

A friend of a friend purchased the pistol without her partner knowing it. When my friend’s friend discovered that her pre-owned nearasdammit $1000 gun wouldn’t feed, her guilt turned to shame, anger and frustration. She sidelined the Solo.

When I heard about the secret shelvation I assumed responsibility for the Kimber’s resurrection. Knowing the gun’s meta history, recognizing that it probably needed a new recoil spring (recommended after just 1000 rounds), I shipped it to Kimber without so much as firing it. Three weeks later it returned to Sportsman’s Finest.

Repair order for Kimber Solo (courtesy The Truth About Guns)

As the above document attests, Kimber reamed and polished the barrel chamber, refinished the barrel, adjusted the extractor and replaced the recoil spring. The company threw in a dopey-loooking but extremely effective extended magazine for our trouble. More on that later. Suffice it to say, welcome home! And off to the range we go, loading up with the recommended high-zoot ammunition (premium ammo, nothing less than 124-grain).

Kimber Solo DC 124 grain Hydra-Shok 7 yards

I’m a pretty dab hand with a handgun. At least I was before I chained myself to this poker table in order to feed your insatiable need for firearms-related news, reviews and editorials. I’m also completely attuned to my awesomely awesome Wilson Combat X-TAC Commander, working on running it up to 1000 rounds for its first major clean and parts check. The light was bad. No warm-up whatsoever. Those are my excuses. That’s my target (above). Minute-of-bad-guy it was, shooting 124-grain Federal Premium Hydra-Shoks. Here’s the Federal Premium 147-grain Hydra-Shok version:

Kimber Solo DC 7 yards, 6 rounds, Federal Premium 147-grain Hyrda-Shok

More than merely adequate, eh? Credit the DC’s weight [17.2 ounces empty], its smooth double-action trigger and the over-sized (for its size) three-dot sights. That said, I was shooting slow fire. As you might imagine – given the grain count and the pocket rocket’s 2.5″ barrel – the Solo is snappy little mofo. Rapid firing or firing under pressure (i.e., with the entire world watching) yields a dramatically different result. Not to mention the possibility of short-stroking the trigger. Like this:

That’s slightly worrying for a fighting gun, indicating that the Solo’s best deployed at bad breath distance. There are other, more vexing problems. The Solo’s magazine release button requires way too much force and precision. Pushing it properly requires radical grip adjustment, which places the meat of your palm over the magazine, which inhibits the mag’s fall. Under stress…. To be sure of ejection, it’s best to use your off-hand to dump the spent mag. Which is hardly ideal.

The standard issue five-round magazine is also as stiff as five-day-old pig corpse. It is all-too-easy to insert the final round incorrectly, with the obvious danger of a first-round failure-to-feed. Comme ca:

Kimber Solo DC magazine (courtesy The Truth About Guns)

You have to deliberately push the cartridge backwards to seat it properly. A surmountable quirk, but one which requires conscious attention. I assume the mag’ll loosen-up with use. At this price, this being a carry gun and all, you’d expect the magazine’s ergonomics to perform flawlessly straight out of the box.

The same issue bedevils the extended mag. That said, shooting the Solo with the extra grip afforded by the eight-rounder increases shootability – and ugliness – by a factor of ten. If you carry the second mag, you’ll be a lot more accurate when you reload – provided you can work the mag release.

Kimber Solo DC with extended mag (courtesy The Truth About Guns)

Speaking of combat ergos, Ralph put it best (of course): “After trying to shoot this gun with one hand, I can state without fear of contradiction that the Kimber Solo is to rapid one-handed shooting what a bowling ball is to water polo.” Our Bay State reviewer made many other points about the Solo, all verified at the range. Neither of us had any failure-to-feed or extract problems, despite using factory no-no lower-grain ammo. Both of us think the Solo is a dead sexy little beast. But I’m not down with Kimber’s claim or Ralph’s four-star assessment.

The Solo’s reliability problems were notable by their absence – albeit after the factory fix. The pocket pistol reeks of quality manufacture. But the gun’s shooting comfort is only excellent relative to its size and the fact that you’re feeding it powerful pills. [Note: I have medium-sized hands.] More than that, the difficulty of performing a rapid mag swap removes the gun from my acceptable carry list. Especially when you consider the excellent ergos of the equally diminutive and lower-cost (but still far from cheap) SIG SAUER P238 or P938 and the Kahr PM9.

I’m returning the Kimber Solo DC to its owner with this review, hoping she’ll take note of the semi-automatic pistol’s limitations. If she pockets the pocket pistol, she’ll be carrying a gorgeous gun that works if and when she needs it. As she’s already bought the DC and can’t afford to replace it, that should be more than enough.

But anyone who wants a small-sized Kimber carry gun – and who wouldn’t? – is advised to buy the $600-ish Kimber Micro Carry .380 or the $900-ish Ultra Carry II .45 1911. As far as I’m concerned, the Solo is on its own.

44 Responses to Gun Review: Kimber Solo – Take Two [VIDEO]

  1. I have a Kimber ultra covert in .45acp. I should say I own one, not that I have one, as it has been in a constant state of repair. I would never buy another one.

    • My EDC is a Kimber Super Carry Pro and I love it. Never any problems with factory stuff and I reload with a number of cast bullets, some of which can be pretty ugly for a 1911. Everybody beats up on Kimber but it fits my hand wonderfully, jumps to my eye, is light as can be for a 1911 with 9 rounds, shoots very accurately and runs all the time. Besides all that it’s beautiful.

      • I’m not beating up on Kimber at all. I know they make some nice guns. I have a friend of mine who has carried one all over the world, most recently in Africa, and he swears by it.
        Mine, mine sucks, and that’s the experience I’ve had. I’ll see what it’s like after it gets back to me again this time. I’ve bought 3 other 1911’s in the time this one has been in the shop, and the next 1911 I buy won’t be a Kimber.

  2. I loved staring at the Kimber’s in the gun mags growing up. So purdy.

    I gotta say, the alternatives you posted are mighty tempting. More so than the solo methinks.

  3. “…had his Hans on the Solo…”
    Thanks ! Major chuckles !
    But as for the review, who would spend that kind of cash on the Solo when there are far cheaper, reliable out of the box 9mm’s like the G43, S&W Shield, Beretta Nano, and the tiny Ruger 9’s?
    And 5 rounds in the mag ? Why not a cheaper Smith snubbie that always goes bang when you need it? Kimber, like Colt, needs to get off its high-horse and get its pricing in the real world.

    • Carried a Nano for a couple years. Wouldnt recommend it, over a Shield or a G43 (similar class). Top heavy, imbalanced, slippery, snappy and the mag baseplate would work its way loose regularly. Oh and the trigger was pretty bad. Sold it to a guy at work.

  4. “As far as I’m concerned, the Solo is on its own.” Hence the name SOLO I suppose. Maybe Kimber’s follow-on pistol should be named the ‘Napoleon’. If it turns out to be a flop, perhaps they should cry U.N.C.L.E.

  5. Well it LOOKS nice. And for not much more than $200 I can get a Taurus 709 that actually works. SEE: Guns & Ammo 9mm single stack shootout(not that I consider G&A the last word). For that $ there are a dozen better options if you won’t consider the lowly Taurus…the stainless looks purty to me…

  6. Never will I own another Kimber. My Custom II was pretty, but a jam-o-matic. Calls to Kimber resulted in rude, abusive responses and a new slide stop that did nothing to fix the problems.

  7. A gun should not be that quirky. If it won’t go bang every time one pulls the trigger, get rid of it.
    Another great review, and sadly, a gun I’ll stay away from.

  8. For several years there have been stories leaked about problems with some Kimber pistols. Never having owned a Kimber, I’m still surprised to hear the unfavorable reports because the company’s firearms appeared, at least to me, to be of higher-than-normal quality. It could be that Kimber is suffering the same troubles (loss of skilled employees, poor quality control, production shortcuts, etc.) that all the other American firearms companies seem to experience. Am I wrong?

    • Just the recoil spring, $7 from Wolff. imber recommends it for all of its pistols. Actually, my Kimber Pro Carry II (4″) was unreliable until I replaced the recoil spring with a Wolff (from Wolff, not from Kimber), and it has been flawless since, operator error aside.

      • did Kimber ever say why you have to replace the spring after such a small amount of rounds? I don’t know of any other pistols with that requirement.

        Thanks

        Bill

        • There are three primary reasons people experience FTF/FTE with the Kimber SOLO:

          1) limp wristing
          2) not paying attention, on reassembly, that the slide stop properly catches the retention spring. See SOLO Reassembly video here http://www.kimberamerica.com/videos
          3) wrong ammo

          The SOLO is quite polarizing. You either have people that love it and have never had a problem with it or you have the people who hate it. The latter tends to be those who are doing one of the three “do nots” mentioned above. Others falling into this latter category are those that have never actually fired it, but have read a lot of bad things about it or know someone who does one of the three above “do nots” and just want to be part of the Kimber bashing, which gives them a chance to tout their own favorite EDC.

          Perfect example, watch this video of hickok45 (see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SHjox9mW4Aw ). He talks about getting the SOLO he’s using from a guy who had nothing but trouble with it. But, Hickok and his friend both had no problems with it. To me, that’s a good indications that most of the SOLO problems are operator error.

  9. I have a kimber 1911 Custom stainless – it is an oddball caliber for a 1911 (.40) but I have had it since Kimber was just a young company (Serial 1085).

    I have shot the living daylights out of that gun. Carried it every day for years and years, and still it is perfectly functioning, perfectly accurate, and perfectly beautiful.

    My wifes Ultra Carry Kimber 1911 in 9mm stainless (hey, she wanted my gun but I wouldn’t give it to her) has been the same. The ONLY exception I can think of is the tighter spring and her tendency to limp wrist and cause a malfunction. She figured it out and hasn’t had a problem since (I never could replicate her malfunctions) but is extremely good at clearing malfunction drills!

    Is there a possibility that there are Kimber lemons? Probably. But I have never had the chance to fire one. Every Kimber I have had my hands on has worked like a charm.

    To each his/her own – that is what makes this world so interesting… but my Kimber is and always will be my choice.

  10. A $1000.00 rock. Thats what it is. When it jams up you can throw it at the bad guys. $1000.00 buys 2 Glocks that will go bang everytime.

  11. Two glocks, two Walters and a beretta 92a1. Thousands of rounds thru those guns and no malfunctions attributable to guns or magazines and cheaper than kimber. Picking up walther PPq 45 as soon as available.

  12. I really want to like the Solo, but the limitations and issues (that this article only reinforced, not dispelled) and my very good friend’s issues with his sexy Solo keep my cold on the subject.

    My P238 and Shield9 both work, all the time and are not picky about what they eat (which, blessedly, make range time affordable, if making pistol malfunction drills something you have to ‘make’ happen rather than having a ‘feature’ of being able to practice more often with the Solo).

    Still, I’d really like to have one.

  13. Well, I dunno, it sounds to me like you can spend $1000 for a Kimber that may or may not work, or about a third of that for a Taurus that may or may not work. Guess I’ll just stick with the one-quarter-of-that comblock milsurp that works.

  14. So an overly priced pistol that doesn’t work properly without being sent back to the factory, only holds 5 rounds and needs a new recoil spring every 1000 rounds? No thanks. I’ll take my LCR .357 over that any day and I only paid 465 for it.
    My Gen 4 Glock 17 has 7000 rounds through it and shoots tighter groups at 7 yards than the Kimber. No part has been replaced and it’s never had one malfunction.

  15. Well over 1000 rounds through my LC9. Not one jam, reliable as a hammer. Kimber… Gun Gods saying you make too much coin.

  16. A good contender for the Solo might be a Sig 938, in 9MM. It is an exposed hammer, single action. The available extension mag only holds 7 rounds, to the Solo’s 8, so that might deter some folks, but it looks a lot better.
    I’ve only put a couple hundred rounds through mine (938). Accuracy is not great, but this is not a target pistol.

  17. My wife loves her Kimber 1911 full size 45’s. I tried to convert her to Glock with no avail. Until she bought a solo for EDC. Failure t o feed and fire got it a trip back to Kimber. It was returned with the same problems. Now she carries a Sig 938 everyday. I still can’t get her on team Glock though.

  18. I guess I am a lucky Solo owner. I have fired over 200 rounds without a hitch. The gun has been very accurate and swallows 115 grain as well as 124 grain shells with no jams. One handed shooting is not bad at all.

    • Two hundred rounds is just a warm-up. Anyway, later edition Solo’s are said to be better tuned than the first guns out of the gate. YMMV.

      • Yeah, but if you are going to have a FTF or jam it should show up in the first couple of hundred rounds. My gun is newer, about 6 months old. Maybe they have worked out the problems.

    • Mark – Do you have or did you find a wolff spring that works for the kimber solo or did you use it for just your other kimber firearm?

  19. “what sets the Solo apart is quality, dependability and 1911 ergonomics that ensure comfortable shootability regardless of hand size”

    1911 ergonomics do NOT set it apart. Sig has plenty of them, and there are several others as well. I sure wish people who gushed over stuff when reviewing it would say things that are actually logical.

  20. What’s sexy about a staggeringly overpriced gun that’s only marginally effective in defensive use and doesn’t work often enough (without major overhauls and refurbishment)?
    Sig 938. And then you’ll hit what you’re shooting at, too.

  21. My Solo has been rebuilt twice by Kimber to no avail. It still cannot get through 2 mags without FTE/FTF using their recommended ammo. When it does manage to throw lead down range it’s accuracy is impressive for a small pistol. Less than 50 rounds through it. It’s become a safe queen. Too unreliable for carry.

  22. A couple of comments. I am on my third solo. I purchased a two tone when they first came out. Sold it because the finish scratched off too easily. I bought a solo DC when they first came out. Sold it because I needed the money quickly. I had no problems with either functioning properly. Two weeks ago I bought another DC. I have 300 rounds of HST through it with ZERO malfunctions. None. I can also fire follow-up shots quickly. The reviewer is a 1911 guy. The solo trigger feels like a short double-action trigger. If you are used to a 1911 trigger it does feel different. I’m not so I have no problems with it. Finally, it’s 6+1 (six round mag), not a 5 round mag. It’s an excellent gun. It’s my EDC and I’m completely confident in it.

  23. Bought a Solo when it came out. At the time they listed some 16 types of approved ammunition. I quickly discovered that none of the brands worked in the gun. I could not get through a magazine without a jam. It went back twice. The last time, the slide was having metal knocked off by the barrel. It also would not lock back. Just a shake and it went forward. Kimber finally replaced it. I took one look, then used it as a trade in for an EMP. Now that gun always shoots.

  24. Dont get a solo – and no, its not operator error – I purchased one because I’m cocky, I had read all the bad reports but over the last 35 years I’ve been able to get any firearm to function. Not this one, after a jam every clip on factory ammo I went reloading, got better but still not reliable at all. Then bit the bullet and sent it back to Kimber, two trips, 6 months of waiting time, still no worky. Now I have to admit someone made a firearm that I cannot get to function. Based on my experience, this was the worst new firearm purchase I’ve ever made.

  25. I just purchased a Solo DC, same as the one pictured in the post above. I’m completely satisfied with mine! At the range last week I had one jam halfway through the very first mag, but no problems for the rest of the 24 round break-in. Then I ran another 200 rounds (124 and 147 grain FMJ and JHP) to be sure it was trouble-free, no concerns at all. Two years ago I had a Solo STS that I carried for a year and put over 500 rounds through with zero issues, I traded it off but regretted it. So when I saw a new DC in the shop, I handled it and I immediately knew it was another good one. The mag release is perfect, and the trigger feels very light. Some people have had problems but I’m 2 for 2 so far.

  26. I respect anyone’s good or bad experiences, but the extreme comments speak volumes. Compare to an LCR? A Gen4 Glock 17? They are great, but those comparisons are hilarious. Initial Reliability: agreed: factories should WAIT until all issues are identified and resolved before releasing new models, but EVERY manufacturer has been guilty of this. Quickly forgotten though, if some posters here ever knew, Kimber set out to tackle the ALREADY UNDERSTOOD CHALLENGES to making the SMALLEST, ACCURATE, 9MM pocket pistol…and they eventually succeeded. The SOLO is smaller than a P238, XDS, Shield, Glock 43 and even the Glock 42 .380, and btw, ALL came out after the SOLO led the way. Mag Capacity: is 6 +1 (not 5, as several, even the reviewer state) and is not only perfectly acceptable, it’s impressive in this size, and the 8-round mag feeds flawlessly as well. Mag release is WAY too stiff for easy release, yet as a backup or pocket gun, that isn’t always a bad thing; and if you are in an environment where you are reloading after 7 rounds of 9mm from a gun like this, there are many other issues that merit at least equal consideration. Recoil Spring Replacement of 1K rounds? Newsflash: the factory recommended replacement for ANY BRAND 3″ 1911 is only 800 rounds…few “expert Owners” even know that, hence the myriad of geniuses cursing the “reliability” of Kimber Ultra 1911s. MOST first-time 1911 owners don’t even replace the recoil springs as recommended for the 5″ Government length either, nor do they understand the unique lubrication REQUIREMENTS for a reliable 1911, and Kimber probably outsold most manufacturers in the late 90’s early 2000’s, hence the plethora of BS from dissatisfied owners who don’t know what they are talking about. I own MOST brands, including Glock, and like them all. I own, carried, MAINTAINED and shot the hell out of a Kimber TLE/RL II for 7 years on a SWAT Team, and ditto off-duty with a Kimber Tactical Custom II for the lightweight frame. BTW, LAPD SWAT tested FIVE Manufacturers BEFORE buying Kimbers, ditto LAPD SIS. I, like many, waited for issues to surface and get resolved, but my new SOLO DC runs like a sewing machine with 6- and 8-round mags with junk ammo; my recent, timed qual score, to 25 yards with this Pocket gun:100 Day/99.6 Night. Understand what this gun is, and what it isn’t, and why it was made, and how to maintain it, or carry a BIGGER gun, because you’ll have to if you want a 7-shot 9mm.

  27. I have 300+ rounds through my Solo.
    Only issue is initial load of first round in a magazine – it sometimes “dives” when the slide is pulled and released manually. I haven’t had the issue, but 2 others have who shot my gun. I’ve solved it by using the slide release to jack the first round.
    It is ergonomically perfect for front pocket carry, which is the only carry that works for me. The stiff mag release is an advantage for me because of that. I shoot it much better than the 938, which did not reliably draw from the pocket holster.
    I got it second hand for $600 from a guy who claimed FTEs and sold it after 50 rounds using bulk range ammo (and, I suspect, an insufficiently firm wrist).
    So far, so good. I carry it because it meets all of my requirements. If I could use an IWB gun, I’d pick something else, probably an XDS.

  28. If you want a POS run of the mill ccw buy one of the many available, if you want a hand gun that is a great ccw that will go up in value over time buy the solo and love it run the right ammo and have perfect results, I cannot stand people that knock something that requires premium to run right, if you cannot afford a BMW, Mercedes, Nissan GTR, Lexus, Porsche or any other medium to high end don’t bitch about how crappy they are when you run your POS Honda, focus, tercel, 1500 pickup or any other low end stuff, don’t get me wrong I own a dodge, I invest in high end firearms, and never sell anything, guns are art, investments, and tools, a wise man once told me spend $2,000. On one firearm not $400 on five he bought a gun for $500 that he sold for $55,000, if you want plastic and foreign junk by all means don’t let me stop you from buying it I’m not going to complain, just stop complaining about ones you cannot afford or afford to feed properly, I have been in the firearms Industry for 25 years, I know the pistolsmith who created the very first line of kimbers and he has been the president of the guild for many years and made them a wonderful product, and since Kimber no longer makes the solo yes you heard that right all your complaining has made them stop because of profit margens they are now going to focus on the less disirAble micro just another compact 1911 p238 wanna be but if that’s what the market wantsssssss, anybody ever hear of the Mateba yeah didn’t think so, wierd, ahead of its time expensive oh and yeah if fired premium ammo and is now worth $4,500 hahahahaha you keep driving your Honda I’ll take the Ferrari any day, sorry for venting I’m just tired of all the bickering, almost all close quarters problems envolve less than 4 shots even a good revolver fits the bill, oh and by the way I don’t own any kimbers but tomorrow I’m going to buy as many uses solos as I can

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