Gun Review: Kimber Micro 9 Bel Air

I spend a lot of time wondering why Cartier and Chanel don’t team-up with a gunmaker to produce fashionable pocket pistols. Actually, that’s not true. I spend most of my time worrying about paying off a mortgage the size of Argentina’s national debt. But I’m not surprised that Kimber has stepped into the upmarket breach, offering the first truly chi-chi pocket pistol: the Kimber Micro Bel Air.

Fresh Prince and Beverly Hills Hillbillies be damned, Kimber’s Micro 9 variant was inspired by Chevrolet’s long-running Bel Air series of automobiles. It’s all about the finish. Kimber’s 1911-style mouse gun marries a glassine Bel Air Blue™ frame to a mirror-polished slide, accented with ivory-colored Micarta grips. It couldn’t be more American Graffiti if it tried. Not to put too fine a point (or tail fins) on it, the Bel Air is one cool cookie.

As someone in touch with his feminine side — a man who’s not afraid to parade a brace of miniature schnauzers past lunching roofers — I welcome the pastel blue Kimber Bel Air into the pantheon of pocket pistols. But getting to grips with the Miami Vice color scheme-compatible gun reveals an immediate problem: it’s slicker than a greased pig hurtling down a Slip ‘N Slide.

Skipping ahead to the shooting part of the program, my first shots at five yards all landed above the bull to the left. As did all subsequent shots. Suspecting a lack of marksmanship, I proffered the pistol to one of Red’s RSOs. Despite the Kimber Bel Air’s dainty, gleaming, barely-checkered aluminum backstrap, same result.

The combination of slippery surfaces and stout recoil makes the slick n’ snappy little Kimber Bel Air corkscrew in the hand. Hence the shots landing northwest of the bull. The resulting minute-of-bad-guy group would be more than welcome in a defensive gun use, of course. But I’d be loathe to rely on the Bel Air at anything other than bad breath distances.

To be fair, that’s true for the majority of mouse guns (although I’ve seen Jerry Miculek knock the antenna off a grasshopper at 50 yards using a Smith & Wesson snubbie). In that sense, the Bel Air is like all its competitors, only more so.

Practicing with this pistol takes it toll. The Bel Air’s frame-mounted safety dug into my thumb and gouged out a bloody keepsake. At the same time, my hand slipped down the two-finger Bel Air’s smooth ‘n shiny micro handle. After the first shot, my middle finger was holding on for dear life underneath the grip — right on a sharp edge at the bottom of the mag well. Although it wasn’t a bloody encounter, it was neither pleasant nor productive.

Switching from 147-grain ammo of various stripes to 115-grain rounds made no discernible difference to the Bel Air’s accuracy. When I placed my thumb over the safety — as I do with a full- or Commander-sized 1911 — accuracy didn’t improve. Nor did comfort. There was only way to hit the bull: aim down and to the right and let the ballistic horse have its head.

In case the Bel Air’s jumpiness wasn’t enough to put me off the idea of carrying the nostalgia-themed firearm as a primary weapon, it was entirely possible to insert the six-round micro magazine into the gun without seating it properly — a problem I discovered when I racked the slide and came up empty. Not that a Bel Air owner is likely to practice or use combat reloads. But still . . .

While I’m willing to shed a bit of epidermis for the team, I gave up firing the Bel Air after 350 rounds. Unlike early high-test-ammo-only Kimber Solos, the 9mm Bel Air cycled everything I fed it — from jewel-like Cap Arms brass to budget-minded Blaser aluminum ammo to Federal Premium hollow-points. Also on the positive side: the Bel Air’s tight tolerances made racking the gun a genuine pleasure.

Ignoring the tragedy of the Lincoln assassination, our man Foghorn dubbed the Bel Air an “opera gun.” (A Bel Air is to a “real gun” as opera glasses are to proper binoculars.) Setting aside its utility vs. cheaper 9mm mouse guns, the Kimber Bel Air is beautiful. Unlike the pink versions of born-black striker-fired pistols, the Bel Air is a female-oriented firearm that begs to be carried (holstered) in a $1225 Balenziaga Giant 12 Envelope leather clutch.

By the same token, the Kimber Bel Air is a gun. Tough guys may smirk, but if I was a sleek supermodel making my way from a Michelin three-star restaurant to my Jaguar F-Type, facing a déclassé lowlife intent on stripping my Bulgari diamond necklace off my San Tropez-bronzed skin, a Bel Air would offer a far superior form of self-defense than, say, an arched eyebrow.

In short, the Kimber Micro 9 Bel Air is a looker not a shooter. Would a less slick frame and aggressive front strap checkering have ruined the Bel Air’s je ne sais quoi? Je ne sais pas. As a harbinger of stylish firearms to follow, no question, the Kimber Bel Air is a bellwether ballistic bauble. Whether that’s worth $864 is entirely up to you.

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SPECIFICATIONS:

Materials: Aluminum frame, stainless steel barrel, ivory Micarta grips
Finish: Bel Air Blue™
Height: 4.0″
Length: 5.6″
Width: 1.08″
Caliber: 9mm
Capacity: 6 + 1
Weight empty: 13.4 ounces
Recoil spring (pounds): 8.0
Barrel Length: 2.75″
Twist rate (left hand): 16
Sights: Fixed low-profile
Sight Radius: 3.9″
Trigger weight: 7.0 pounds
Price: $864.00

RATINGS (out of five stars):

Style * * * * *
This gun is a serious babe.

Concealability * * * * *
It’s called a Micro for a reason.

Customize This
You can’t be serious, darling!

Ergonomics *
Bereft of any effective grip checkering, the Bel Air’s mirror-smooth frame is slip sliding away.

Accuracy *  
The sexy, snappy, slippery little 9mm defies attempts at accurate shooting at anything but close range. (The .380 version — not tested here — should offer greater accuracy.)

Reliability * * * * *
It goes bang. No failures with FMJ practice ammo or JHP personal defense rounds.

Overall * * *
The Bel Air is a bad choice for blowing away bad guys stopping a lethal threat at anything other than bad breath distance. But it’s a superb choice for fashion-forward firearmistas who’d rather be seen dead than carry a traditional pocket pistol. Literally.

comments

  1. avatar Curtis in IL says:

    If I could afford a Kimber, I would buy one because it’s pretty, it’s accurate and it’s fun to shoot.

    This gun lacks two of the three reasons someone would buy a Kimber in the first place.

    1. avatar Dave M says:

      I think it’s a BFU POS. Why would someone want an expensive troublesome gun. Kimber’s are like high maintenance women; OK to look at, a bitch to own.

    2. avatar Don Russell says:

      so put some tennis racket tape on the front strap. It needs a trigger job badly, along with a trigger stop screw. it also needs an extended thumbsafety and luminous sights. It badly needs to have a spare barrel re-chambered for the 9x21mm rd, loaded with the 45 gr Split Nose hollowpoint (2 segment) bullet, at 2200 fps.Same 500 ft lbs of power as a 4″ 357, but no more recoil than a Makarov. Most of my practice is with an alloy framed 9mm commander or the Sig P938 .22lr conversion unit on my (blued) Micro 9. I use 160 gr lrn at 800 fps in the Commander, or 125 gr lrn at 800 fps in the little Kimber. Same 10-factor momentum/recoil as the 45 gr carry load.

  2. avatar Defens says:

    Perhaps some nicely textured white G10 grips are in order? But then, there’s the eternal question – better grip or risk the manicure?

    1. avatar Docduracoat says:

      You could always just paint a Sig 938 with cerakote
      Mine is rugged reliable and plenty accurate
      2 to 3 inch groups at 24 feet depending on ammo brand

      1. avatar Luke Yarasheski says:

        They made a rainbow finish p238 for a while

      2. avatar Don Russell says:

        you call that “accurate”? My kimber delivers such groups at 50 ft, no problems

  3. avatar Leonard T Schmandt says:

    Chevrolet Bel Air

  4. avatar jwtaylor says:

    “No one is going to actually shoot this gun.” And more or less, “The front strap is too slick, you aren’t going to be able to hold the gun in recoil” – JWT on TTAG Shot Talk

    http://www.thetruthaboutguns.com/2016/12/foghorn/shot-talk-nick-robert-dan-jon-wayne-taylor/

    You’ve proved me both right and wrong. Nice taking one for the team. Glad Dan singled you out for the review.

  5. avatar Pete Zaitcev says:

    This would be a much better gun in .380.

    1. avatar Jeremy S. says:

      Agreed. Was thinking that same thing. Exact same gun — not a smaller version; identical — but chambered in .380.

      1. avatar Don Russell says:

        no it woudn’t. The 380 can’t be handloaded to have more than half the power that you can load the 9×21 mm to and any 9×19 barrel can be re-chambered to 9×21. If you load the hollowbased, solid copper 45 hollowpoint to 2200 fps in the little Kimber, you get Makorov type recoil and 500 ft lbs of power.

  6. avatar Geoff PR says:

    “I spend most of my time worrying about paying off a mortgage the size of Argentina’s national debt.”

    A mortgage gets paid down a whole lot faster when one isn’t buying designer ‘Giant 12 Envelope leather clutches’ at $ 1,255 a pop.

    Just say’n.

    If that Kimber 9 is that painful to shoot, I imagine the .380 version is as much fun to fire as that slide-bite o-matic AMT.380 I had years back.

    (In fairness to the AMT .380, it fired Every. Single. Time. it was asked to. Sliced open palm webbing heals. Eventually…)

  7. avatar Sam I Am says:

    GLOCK tape in the right places can help tame the movement in the hand. Yeah, it will look bad to have grip tape on front and back strap, but who is going to see that while the pistol is in use?

    Of course, it IS a Kimber…..

    1. avatar Curtis in IL says:

      Grip tape on this thing is like having your trophy wife wear a welding helmet. She may be more useful that way, but it sort of negates the purpose.

      1. avatar Sam I Am says:

        I’m thinking the bad guy will not actually see the tape, but will be mesmerized by the blue frame. He won’t be able to see the tape under your fingers and heel of your shooting hand.

        Life is a compromise, old friend, life is a compromise.

  8. avatar Binder says:

    I’m sick of these reviews saying that pocket pistols are not accurate. I can clover a cw9 cw380 LP9 and a PF-9 at 7 yards. (The Khars are the only ones I can put hundreds of round down range in a session). Yes it is harder to shoot them fast, but if you are taking your time they are really accurate.

    1. avatar sagebrushracer says:

      read the review again. It is noted more than once that this slippery lil gem is hard to hang onto.

      Being a Kimber, I bet it COULD put out a nice little clover leave group, IF you can hang onto it.

      TTAG needs to buy a ransom rest, test guns for mechanical accuracy potential as well as the user accuracy they test already. No use in having a gun that shoots like a laser if you can’t translate some of that into down range accuracy when you are holding on to it.

  9. avatar Sam I Am says:

    BTW….Chevy produced the Bel Air

  10. avatar Mr. AR says:

    I’ll wait for the Liberace version. Candelite frame, diamond encrusted slide, gold controls, whale foreskin holster, champagne ammo.

    1. avatar ActionPhysicalMan says:

      Stop! You’re giving me goosebumps!
      Still, the current incarnation is pretty and has a nice name.

  11. avatar Lew says:

    Will Smith’s gun.

    1. avatar Hannibal says:

      It might be a closer approximation to the cricket if it was .45

      1. avatar Lew says:

        I was thinking “fresh Prince of Bel air”….but the cricket reference works as well.

  12. The coloring reminds me of my dad’s 55 Chevy Bel Air 🙂

  13. avatar MLee says:

    Snap-On had tool boxes with the same Bel Air color and 57 Chevy theme. You could buy 4 or 5 Kimbers for what those things cost.
    http://img0122.popscreencdn.com/180906833_snap-on-belair-40th-anniversary-edition-tool-box-full-.jpg

    That would remind you of your dads 55!

  14. avatar KCK says:

    In high school (68-72), the car that we used to “tool” around was the cheap version of the Impala which was a 1964 Bel Air.
    I swear the color of this pistol nails the color of our Bel Air

  15. avatar soccerchainsaw says:

    In my best ‘Deliverance’ impression: “You sure got a pretty gun…”

  16. avatar ActionPhysicalMan says:

    Maybe use one of those grip exercisers. I don’t need to because… well, I just don’t. I got a naturally strong right hand.

    1. avatar AdamTA1 says:

      Well used =/= naturally strong

  17. avatar DaveR says:

    “it was entirely possible to insert the six-round micro magazine into the gun without seating it properly”

    Irrelevant. This is true when seating a full mag into pretty much any semi-auto with the bolt/slide closed.

    1. avatar c4v3man says:

      Seeing as there’s no baseplate sticking out of the grip while seated, I’d imagine the statement was meant to convey that having the magazine inserted into the gun to a “flush” level doesn’t engage the magazine catch, that you need to go past flush to have it lock reliably… but I could be wrong. A gun with a protruding baseplate gives you far more leverage to insert the magazine rather than a flush bottom’d mag.

  18. avatar Ralph says:

    “the Kimber Micro 9 Bel Air is a looker not a shooter.”

    The same can be said about many Kimber pistols.

    1. avatar Mark N. says:

      Well, mine’s black and not all that much of a looker, and to be sure, for a long time it wasn’t much of a shooter either. It is now, though, just took a Wolff spring to cure what ailed it.

  19. avatar Mark N. says:

    Kimber seems to have a thing for smooth front straps on its lower cost pistols, checkering the front strap only if you pay a few hundred more. What this pistol could use is checkering on the Micarta side panels, which not only would look good, it would likely solve the issue identified.

    1. avatar Stuki Moi says:

      Checkering eats cashmere…

  20. avatar Randy in Indiana says:

    I glimpsed one of these through the glass the other day. It looked like the mainspring housing was “chromed” plastic?? If so, that’s a pretty cheesy addition to an enhanced finish package. If not, they managed to make it look like a cheesy finish!

  21. avatar Holdfast says:

    You ask the right questions- why don’t we have more “design” aesthetic with guns? Engraved Shotguns are about as prettied up as they come, and there is no reason why everything has to be black. (And I”m saying this even though pretty much every pistol I have is black, w a couple of blued, and one with Nitre Blue Controls on a blued frame and black slide…looks awesome).

    I would buy this for my wife in a heartbeat if Kimber added some checkering- there is no excuse for a manufacturer to produce a gun in todays market that you can’t control.

  22. avatar bobby b says:

    I think we can all agree that the readership of TTAG isn’t the target market for these things.

    But I ran it by a bunch of lady lawyers, and they were in love with it.

  23. avatar Daniel S, says:

    Well, the Bel Air version may not be your CC choice, but Micro 9 CSE(Cabela’s Special Edition) version could be. It has big white sights, and great G10 grips. With the 7 round extended mag (not included) there is no magazine malfunction. You can also use the 7 round Sig P938 mags if you modify the thickness of the finger extension. These mags are identical except for the extensions and Sigs say Sig on the bottom. The Micro 9 CSE is extremely accurate for a small lightweight 9mm and has a longer sight radius than the P938. Other items of note: the CSE had a 1 pc guide rod, so there is no need to be concerned about it unscrewing and flying out or having to sue Loctite to prevent that, it also has a smoother operating trigger. Price wise, on sale my CSE was about $50 more than the P938 which I bought about 2 years ago. The only missing item, night sights. I picked some up from Kimber at Xmas sale price just under $100.

  24. avatar Dan T. says:

    Well, all I can say is my Micro9 two tone (Olive drab and black) with its Crimson Trace grips does just fine. My paws make it a problem for quick mag changes, and blocks the laser if Im not careful. (Which in a “situation” I wont be, but I rely of the good three dot sights even if the laser isnt blocked.)
    Hate to say it, but this “review” is about wrothless and a waste of time reading. Hope others are better.

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