Gun Review: Kimber EVO SP (TLE) 9mm

Kimber EVO SP TLE

Kimber is a company best known for its 1911-format pistols, both large and small. So when I heard they were dipping their toe [back] into the striker-fired sub-compact world, I admit to having some reservations. After all, the Kimber Solo didn’t exactly earn a good reputation, going from shiny new object of affection to discredited, unreliable shame faster than Michael Avenatti.

Thankfully, I don’t see Kimber’s new EVO SP series suffering that same fate . . .

Visually, the EVO SP (Striker Pistol) has obvious similarities to the much-maligned Solo, but pulls off a more modern, more aggressive, more serious sort of a look. It’s available in four flavors — the TLE reviewed here, the Two Tone, the CDP, and the Custom Shop — offering different frame and grip colors and, in the case of the Custom Shop, slide serration textures and sights.

Kimber states that the CDP (Custom Defense Package) has added carry melt treatment, but I can’t identify any difference of that sort based on photos of it and the other models.

Which is definitely not to say that the EVO SP needs more “carry melt” and doesn’t have it. The thing is more snag-free than most pistols, with nary an edge or a corner in sight. Excepting the sights. It even has what you would call a bobtail in the 1911 world.

Though the bobtail design is wonderful for reducing printing right where a sharp corner tends to print the most, this sparked a question. Kimber advertises the EVO SP line as having a “7-round extended magazine” (two with each gun). And, no doubt, the tall baseplate qualifies this magazine as “extended.” But where’s the flush-fitting one?

Two extended mags and no flush-fit mag(s) is a bit strange for a sub-compact carry gun. It isn’t a matter of included-in-the-box versus available-separately, either, as the accessories store lists the extended 7-round magazine as the only choice. Shrug.

It’s the right choice ergonomically, though, that’s for sure. The EVO SP feels great in the hand with some 1911-like familiarity and room for all three fingers.

Seen in the two photos above, the attractive G10 grip panels offer excellent purchase with checkering plus angled serrations designed to prevent the pistol from rotating in the shooter’s grip. The Two Tone (polymer panels) and CDP (G10 panels) models rock a standard checkering pattern while the Custom Shop has “Stiplex” or what VZ Grips calls their Recon or Ripper texture.

30 lpi checkering adorns much of the front strap. It’s crisp and clean and I found it extremely helpful in fully controlling this little pistol.

The EVO SP’s magazine release is also checkered for positive grip. Its size and placement are perfect and it functioned easily, dropping every magazine free. Despite the gun’s small size, the mag release was never depressed by accident; its height is spot-on.

Likewise, the slide stop was easy to manipulate whether catching or releasing. It was never in the way of my thumbs and the EVO SP locked back for me every single time she ran empty.

Trigger pull is good, at least for the sub-compact carry pistol genre. My sample breaks at about 6.25 pounds after some smooth travel — about 3/16″ — to finish cocking the striker spring.

Oddly enough my only real complaint is that I find the trigger spring to be too soft. It feels like the trigger barely wants to return forward; like it may just decide not to follow my finger as I release it. This is one of those things that gives me the willies even if it never leads to any sort of issue. And, as a distant second concern, if I’m going for speed I can shoot a bit faster with a little more return help from the trigger spring.

TRUGLO Tritium PRO sights adorn the EVO SP front and rear. They make for a perfect sight picture balance between fast and precise, and I very much like the more-or-less blacked-out rear with the brighter, more eye-catching front sight with its white outline.

I’d like the tritium night sights even more if the entire rear sight were serrated instead of only the bottom third or so. Not exactly bothersome but it’s a weird choice. In fact, if the entire rear face of the EVO SP from the back of the beavertail up through the rear sight were serrated, I’d be quite pleased. It’s like the striker plate (note the visual and tactile striker indicator, by the way) started down the road to serrationville, the rear sight said he’d join but then got distracted by a squirrel, and the rear of the slide and frame never got the invite.

I got the invite, though, and I hit the range. The Range (at Austin), that is, with 400 rounds of mixed Armscor 115 grain and 147 grain FMJs and a few boxes of mixed hollow point self-defense ammo from which to shoot another 100 rounds.

The grip texture and feel of the EVO SP is fantastic. Comfortable, yet impossible for the pistol to slip in my grip. It begged to be held firmly and I was rewarded with a rock-solid purchase like from skateboard grip tape, but without the chafing.

However, it should be mentioned that this little pistol packs a kick. Despite the aluminum frame and 19 oz. dry weight, the EVO SP has some punch and wants to flip that muzzle up. With my manly, muscular arms and wrists and that great grip texture I was able to keep this thing flat and on target, but darn if my support hand didn’t slide and rotate while shooting.

I just couldn’t seem to keep my unholy left hand in place. The small EVO SP doesn’t exactly offer the real estate needed to touch support hand to gun, and its punchy recoil caused my hand to move around.

And it wasn’t just me. Watching Liberte Austin shoot the Kimber EVO SP TLE back-to-back with her GLOCK 43 and my SIG P365, the difference was obvious.

The little Kimber not only flipped much harder, but twisted. I could see it going up and fighting hard to turn left on her; something the other guns didn’t do. She reset her left hand after nearly every shot. It’s a snappy bugger.

It also has a very stiff recoil spring. Manipulating the EVO SP’s slide is noticeably more difficult than with similarly-sized guns such as the aforementioned Teutonic wünder 9s.

While that was, in these dry and favorable conditions, a complete non-issue for me on the range, it made takedown difficult. The Kimber’s slide must be pulled back until the takedown notch aligns with the slide stop, much like a 1911. But, unlike a 1911, there’s no way to disable the spring tension first and the spring tension feels much higher. Plus the slide and frame are much smaller. So it was a trick trying to hold the slide back about 3/4 of the way to the rear with one hand while attempting to pop out the slide stop with the other.

But it happened, and the EVO SP looked much like what you’d expect on the inside. Though the little locking lug piece at the rear of the recoil spring is unique these days.

Overall quality of the Kimber is very high. Fit, finish, and machining were all great. Definitely on-point for the price. So I put it back together, shot another box of ammo, and then did some accuracy testing . . .

Slow fire standing off-hand, 7 yards, accuracy was solid. That’s five shots in the blue circle above followed by one shot aimed at the “YES” on The Range’s “Do You Need Training?” target. The Kimber clearly shoots straight.

Speeding things up I dumped a few magazines rapid-fire into the center circle and the top circle, also at 7 yards. At the end of each mag dump my left hand had rotated and migrated a bit, but the shots were solidly on-target. I then finished things up with a 5-shot group fired at the “R” in RANGE at top left.

With 500 total rounds down the pipe the Kimber never had a hiccup. It fed, fired, and ejected everything thrown at it by three people, including multiple brands and weights of hollow points.

The EVO SP is a solid, well-built, high-quality, reliable little CCW piece. It ain’t cheap, but the quality is fully apparent in its look and feel. It’s an accurate sub-compact with a good trigger and great sights. Snappy, though.

Which brings me to one final comparison. Since I was carrying my P365 while testing out the Kimber . . .

The diminutive SIG is shorter in height (Kimber’s published EVO SP height stat does not include an inserted magazine, which seems somewhat disingenuous), shorter in length by 0.3 inches, and nearly 11 percent lighter.

It’s also just a hair — 0.06 inches — skinnier.

The real kicker, though, is that the SIG holds 10+1 with its flush magazine and 12+1 with its extended mag against the Kimber’s 7+1 rounds extended. And the American-made German SIG carries an MSRP of $599 to the also American-made New Yorker Kimber’s $925.

I know, I know, apples to oranges here, considering the Kimber has an aluminum frame and is undoubtedly more expensive to manufacture. It certainly, unquestionably looks and feels nicer. But for those of you who believe metal construction means softer shooting, think again. All three shooters who ran them both said the SIG provided the best shooting experience — flatter, softer, easier to shoot more accurately, better trigger, etc.

At the end of the day, the Kimber EVO SP is a very nice gun and it does exactly what a gun should do. It even looks good doing it.

But in this writer’s opinion it trails behind modern technology that’s providing us with smaller, lighter, better-shooting concealed carry pistols with higher magazine capacity. All at a lower price. It’s hard to argue that the Kimber is the ideal choice.

Specifications: Kimber EVO SP (TLE)

Caliber: 9mm
Capacity: 7+1 rounds (2 magazines included)
Slide: Stainless steel, FNC (ferritic nitrocarburizing) black
Frame: Aluminum finished KimPro black
Grips: Green/Black G10 with TLE slant-checkered pattern
Weight: 19 ounces (Kimber says this includes an empty mag, but my kitchen scale nailed 19 oz on the nose without a mag and 20.875 oz with)
Length: 6.1 inches
Height: 4.03 inches without a magazine inserted, approx 4.62 inches with a magazine.
Barrel Length: 3.16 inches
Sights: TRUGLO Tritium PRO
MSRP: $925 (TLE as-tested. EVO SPs range from $856 to $1,047)

Ratings (out of five stars):

Reliability * * * * *
Unlike the Solo, the EVO SP didn’t much care what we fed it. It ate it all and spat it out with aplomb.

Accuracy * * * *
Solid for a sub-compact semi-auto 9mm pistol. Good sights, good trigger, good quality.

Ergonomics * * * *
The EVO SP TLE felt great in my hands. The front strap checkering and G10 grip texture was spot-in everywhere and the controls are in the right places. The slide is really heavy to rack, though, and it’s hard to hold in place for disassembly. Not all users would find this gun easy to manipulate or field strip.

Customize This * *
As far as I can tell, different grip panels, back strap panels, and holsters are the extent of the customizing options available for the EVO SP line.

On The Range * * *
I enjoyed shooting the EVO SP thanks to ergonomics that worked well for me and grip texture that kept it firmly stuck in my mitt. I like the feel of the aluminum frame. The recoil was snappy, though, and while not an obvious problem for me, it was more apparent for other shooters who found it a turnoff compared to other pistols in the same size category.

Overall * * *
Kimber’s EVO SP is a hell of a high-quality micro concealed carry gun and it’s reliable and accurate to boot. But it’s behind the times in some ways and a bit of a handful.

comments

  1. avatar MB says:

    Based on Kimber’s past reputation for nice to look at but no so nice to shoot I would most likely give this a ” no thanks” until it develops a solid reputation. I held off on Sig P365 for a year. Now my Dec 2018 production has been stellar for about 600 rounds with zero issue of any type.

    1. avatar Polygon says:

      Does the Kimber take Glock mags?

      1. avatar MB says:

        @Polygon Why would YOU think a 1911 style gun take Glock mags? LOL

        1. avatar Dr. No says:

          @Polygon; seems you should have asked if the Kimber came in 6.5 Creedmoor. Then you wouldn’t have to deal with the likes of MB.

          @MB, do try and keep up.

        2. avatar MB says:

          @Dr. No, when you talk in riddles, why would you expect anyone to follow your conversation when there is no logic to the statements?

  2. avatar Gadsden Flag says:

    I own several Kimbers. A rifle and couple of 1911s. Great firearms. Don’t think I’m interested in this one. First thing I wondered when I saw the VZ grips; no polymer frame? Not that I prefer polymer. It’s just the way the industry seems to be headed. As an aside. VZ grips are a nice touch. I’ve hosted John Van Zyke on the farm for a couple of hunts. Nice guy. Quality products.

  3. avatar LibertyToad says:

    They always make good looking guns but after my friend’s experience with Kimber I’d never buy one from them. The frame on his .45 cracked after only a few thousands rounds. Kimber were not good about the fix. It was his concealed carry weapon. He’s probably going to buy a SIG.

  4. avatar D says:

    The Shield is a pleasure to shoot, is very accurate and does not suffer Kimber’s reputation.

    The P365 offers 12 rounds in basically the same size, and is easy to shoot.

    1. avatar Nigel the expat says:

      Owning both of those I agree with both statements.

  5. avatar Gadsden Flag says:

    Forgot to say. I think the mag extension is there for the same reason I believe Glock put one on the 36. They measure deminsions from the bottom of the grip frame to the top of slide. Gives the pistol an overall smaller size. On paper. Then you load it. Confronted a Glock rep about that at SHOT years ago. Doublespeak was all I got.

  6. avatar Bing Crosshair says:

    I’ve handled one at my LGS and it feels great in the hand. I’m waiting for the store to put one in the rental case to see how it holds up under multiple uses. Until then I can wait.

  7. avatar Darkman says:

    1000 dollars No Thanks.

    1. avatar Ranger Rick says:

      You can get 3 very nice and reliable Walther PPS M2’s with 3 mags each for that amount.

      1. avatar Gadsden Flag says:

        Yeah, but if you like the Walther; what’s it worth then?

  8. avatar Mark N. says:

    Seems to me that the Sig is preferable in terms of capacity and cost. But what do I care; California won’t allow us to buy either one. Ruger LC9 and Shield yes, others need not apply until they contain microstamping technology.

    1. avatar Patriot2G says:

      California won’t “allow” you to buy either one?? Has the state seceded yet?

  9. avatar strych9 says:

    Overall I guess I’m not surprised. Kimber has a reasonable reputation and this would appear to be “…dipping their toe [back] into…” such a class of gun.

    If this is all they do that might disappoint some. If however they’re doing this to “test the waters” of what people truly “want”, then it makes a certain amount of sense. The price tag seems a bit high but Kimber aficionados will pay the likely street price in a heartbeat so it’s a reasonably low-risk way for them to iron out what they’re doing and see if they sell.

  10. avatar No_Ones_Home says:

    Thanks for the review. Think I’ll pass on the EVO SP.

    This recently showed up on Ruger’s website a while ago: Security 9 compact. Hoping someone can do a review of it soon.

    https://ruger.com/products/security9/specSheets/3818.html

    1. avatar Jeremy D. says:

      Looks like the LCP2s dad, LCP2 Sr.

      1. avatar Phil in TX says:

        It does resemble the LCPII somewhat. It does have adjustable sights, tho, something the LCPII sorely needs

        Phil in TX

        1. avatar Jeremy D. says:

          Hell the LCP2 barely has sights to begin with. Painting the front post blaze orange has helped mine

  11. avatar kahlil says:

    I gotta say I like this trend of smaller striker fired guns in frames other than plastic. Give me hope for the world. Perhaps one day I’ll get a striker fired gun, but never in plastic and not anytime soon.

  12. avatar GlockMeAmadeus says:

    The gender neutral police will look forward to confiscating those snazzy guns.

  13. avatar coyote hunter says:

    Kinda pricey, but nice looking….if they’d take the name off the gun the price could probably be lowered about 400 bucks….

  14. avatar WI Patriot says:

    Like their revolvers, way overpriced…

    1. avatar Jeremy S. says:

      The revolvers are really nice. I’ve put hundreds of rounds through them and I like them a lot.

  15. avatar Aquestor says:

    Always liked Kimber, but $500 more than the Glock 43 or the Sig 365 is really pushing the envelope for a pretty face. It’s a good looking carry gun and appears to be reliable as well, but my Glock 43 with Trijicon HDs & Pierce + 1’s is really hard to beat as an EDC. I also switch to another 8 shot old reliable, the S&W Pro Series 3″ 1911 inch .45. With 165-grain HPs it snaps softly like a 9mm and costs less than the little Kimber. Though I got to admit: a pretty face always got my attention.

    1. avatar steven j jolly says:

      SW Pro series less than an EVO? I found a USED Pro series for $900. Nice guns but high also as are all SW products these days

  16. avatar Jean-Claude says:

    For less money, you can buy a Kahr MK9, which is all stainless, has a butter smooth trigger, looks better,and recoils less.

    Steel is real.

  17. avatar WI Patriot says:

    It would seem that the SCCY CPX-2 did better(overall 4 stars) on it’s review than this Kimber(overall 3 stars)…and at a 5th to a quarter of the price, it’d be a better alternative…

    And yes, I’ve owned a SCCY CPX-2…The only reason I parted with it, it was lowest on the totem pole, and I needed something to trade with…

    SCCY CPX-2 Review…

    https://www.thetruthaboutguns.com/2013/06/foghorn/gun-review-sccy-cpx-2/

  18. avatar Jeremy D. says:

    Can someone explain the target with the offset “no” circle? You dont need training if you shoot high and right?

    1. avatar Jeff the Griz says:

      It’s to trick your brain and force you to make a decision where to shoot. A trainer will call out blue, no, yes, etc and you shoot that area.

    2. avatar tsbhoa.p.jr says:

      that’s blood pump neighborhood; if the holes land there then no, you don’t need training.

  19. avatar Joe Matafome says:

    I own 4 Kimbers and i’ll buy this one just for fun at the range. I carry two 365’s everyday and i’ll stick with them for daily carry.

    1. avatar Lolcow says:

      Mr. Moneybags over here

      1. avatar Joe Matafome says:

        The 365’s only cost me 480 each, so it’s very affordable.

        1. avatar MB says:

          You carry both at same time??… Gee it took me a while to trust my P365, but I’m not that paranoid that I carry 2, if I was I would just carry my FNX and be done with worrying… LOL

        2. avatar Joe Matafome says:

          The second is my back up gun. I bet you never heard anyone say they had less firepower. It’s also easier if the back up is the same as the primary.

  20. avatar Joe Matafome says:

    I missed the word WISH in the sentence. I’m not worried they will fail and i have 3000 rounds through the first and over 1000 with the second. Nothing paranoid about a back up gun.

  21. avatar Harvey Lane says:

    Let’s see, 900+ for a nice looking pistol that has limited capacity and twists in the hand during recoil……or I could buy a Sig P365 and a Glock 43……or one and a bunch of ammo? Yeah, no thanks……looks more like the new $300 Mossberg…….

  22. avatar Geoff "I'm getting to old for this shit" PR says:

    “Watching Liberte Austin shoot the Kimber EVO SP TLE back-to-back…”

    Please pass along best regards to Ms. Austin.

    I, for one, miss her writing here in TTAG…

    1. avatar tsbhoa.p.jr says:

      writing < profile.

  23. avatar Paul says:

    Sig P-320 sub -compact, 12+1 all the time, 15+1, if needed. Night sights, changeable grip frames, accurate, 3000 rd zero failures. $485.00 …. I’ll pass on the $$$$$ Kimber with it’s little mags.

  24. avatar Mac says:

    Might as well print “I’m a fudd” on your forehead

  25. avatar raptor jesus says:

    I can get a Taurus G2S for $179.99 SHIPPED from Palmetto State Armory.

    It is every bit as good as this gun (I’ve fondled both and I bought the Taurus, which has been flawlessly reliable) for 19% of the cost.

    1. avatar MB says:

      RK Guns (Rural King) has Taurus G2C for $154.99. ( $179.99 with $25 Rebate limited to one ). I won’t carry it but might make a good house stash gun, backup truck gun, range toy, etc.

  26. avatar Gregolas says:

    Kimber=Taurus autos.
    They work, until they don’t.
    And cost a LOT more to find that out.
    No thanks

  27. avatar Ted Unlis says:

    If I’m ever in the market for a 7+1 capacity exorbitantly overpriced pocket 9mm with excessive recoil and muzzle flip, I’ll certainly consider the Kimber EVO SP.

  28. avatar Reg says:

    I just got an EVO SP. I have fairly strong hands and I am handy, but this damn thing is nearly impossible to strip. Never saw such a stupid stripping procedure! Manual says line up notches and use a pin to drive it out!! So you need 4 hands!!!

  29. avatar Daniel S. says:

    My question to the writer, is the EVO experience the same as a Kimber Micro 9? Based on my experience with the Micro 9, I would say no, it’s not the same. My Micro 9 is very nice to shoot, not difficult to control, and accurate.

  30. avatar ricardo dominguez says:

    Gents, I enjoyed this site’s conversations. Other sites gave the Kimber great reviews and considered buying one BUT the price kept me away. I have read good reviews on SIG’s but my question to this forum is should I buy a 10 mm or 9 mm. A 10 mm will stop a drugged up intruder fast but when I miss and the bullet goes through the window, where is the bullet going to land? The 9 mm doesn’t have that concern but will it stop an intruder as well as the 10 mm? RDHorse

  31. avatar James Anspaugh says:

    No one said anything about a hand safety does it have one or not?

    1. avatar MB says:

      @james New to guns? No thumb safety , has trigger safety, drop safety. Similar to a Glock

  32. avatar Joe Fortune says:

    Too much money for a gun that kicks and needs an extended mag. I’ll pass.

  33. avatar Early out says:

    I’ve owned the Kimber Solo, that gun was a disaster, Kimber wouldn’t and didn’t ever accept responsibility for a terrible striker fired weapon. I sent it back twice and got back a terrible polish job inside. It had problems no matter what ammo you used, higher grains/etc. Let’s not forget the pinning effect the Solo had on both the barrel and the upper part of the slide, it was and still is a horrible gun. Bought a Glock 19 Gen 4 and kept that until recently, now owning a Glock 43. You can’t beat that ugly gun. It fires/works no matter what, zero problems/issues and shoots all kinds of 9mm rounds. It’s also easy to disassemble and make all kinds of trigger improvements, or other small improvements to your liking.

  34. avatar Early out says:

    Correction for my previous comment/post, “Glock 43X” not just Glock 43. Great ugly gun, just great.

  35. avatar George Mason says:

    Sig P365 $499.00 with two ten round mags, 12 and 15 available. Smaller, lighter, less than 1/2 the price and it’s a SIG. I have owned a few Sigs (938, 238, and 1911 .45) and nary a problem. The EVO is prettier, but can she cook?

Leave a Reply to GlockMeAmadeus Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

button to share on facebook
button to tweet
button to share via email