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.
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).
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:
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:
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.
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.