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Review: Kimber Micro 9 ESV (MC)(TP)

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Although there are many ways to reduce muzzle flip, none will likely ever be as effective as a compensator. Such a device harnesses and re-directs excess gas from a fired cartridge and uses it to drive the firearm’s nose downward. While wildly popular on the competitive circuit, pistols wearing compensators are seldom seen on the hips of armed defenders. Kimber America sees no reason for that to remain true and, as a result, created a compensated version of the Micro 9 ESV to give CCW holders a concealable package that is also pleasant to shoot at the range.

The Micro 9 ESV (MC)(TP) is a compact, recoil-operated, semi-automatic, centerfire pistol patterned after the time-tested M1911 design, albeit much smaller. When fired, the slide and barrel recoil as a single unit until the barrel tips away and the two separate. This function provides the required delay that allows chamber pressures to drop to a safe level. As the gun is destined for concealed carry, aluminum was the material of choice for its frame, allowing the barrel and slide to be made from stainless steel while keeping the pistol’s overall weight below 20 ozs.

The Kimber’s most obvious feature is its three-port compensator, which is threaded onto the barrel before being locked in place with a pair of screws that provide a clamping function. If we work back to the slide, we’ll notice TruGlo Tritium Pro night sights—a U-notch rear and square-post front featuring tritium lamps—which should allow the user to find a sight picture in the dead of night with little hesitation. To assist in reliability, the Micro 9 ESV series is built with a lowered and flared ejection port, giving exiting cases extra room as they leave the gun. Finally, lightening cuts and cocking serrations are machined into the slide before it receives a bead-blasted finish that contrasts with the frame’s black finish.

Kimber’s TruGlo Tritium Pro night sights

The Kimber’s TruGlo Tritium Pro night sights consist of a U-notch rear with green lamps and a square-post front with an orange lamp, making for quick acquisition in low light.

The frame incorporates a suite of features that enhance controllability. The undercut trigger guard, coupled with an extended beavertail, promotes a higher grip that is closer to the bore axis, helping to further counteract recoil forces. Comfort features include the Hogue wraparound rubber stocks, which ensure the overall shooting experience is pleasurable through its soft texturing and individual finger reliefs. At the same time, mild checkering on the backstrap is gentle on the shooter’s palm. A skeletonized hammer reduces lock time and adds a certain aesthetic value. This is paired with a solid trigger bow, most likely to safeguard against the accumulation of lint or other debris commonly associated with everyday carry.

As the effectiveness of a compensator is largely determined by the ammunition being used, we brought out a wide variety of loads for our range day. During the benchrest accuracy portion, we noticed that this pistol was a bit ammunition-sensitive, concerning accuracy at least. When fed what it likes, it turned out to be one heck of a little shooter, but even the less-impressive groups were better than would be required for practical self-defense. Additionally, the sights were perfectly dialed-in from the factory, so no adjustment was necessary.

serrated-faced trigger, checkered magazine release

Contrasting controls include the solid, serrated-faced trigger, checkered magazine release and serrated slide lock/release. The latter are low-profile for snag-free carry.

After shooting for groups, all testers took the opportunity to fire the Kimber in the standing position with both a two-handed and one-handed grip. Each tester agreed that it was one of the softest-recoiling 9 mm Luger pistols in this size category that he had ever fired, particularly with the higher-pressure ammunition that best activated the compensator. We found the 6-lb., 4-oz., trigger pull weight to be well-suited for concealed carry, as it required deliberate pressure to break but wasn’t so heavy that it couldn’t be pulled straight back under stress. Lastly, our 300-round test proved the pistol to be entirely reliable, without any issues regarding feeding, firing or ejection. This carried over to all of the controls as well, and we enjoyed smooth, snag-free drops from the included seven-round magazine.

Kimber Micro 9 ESV (MC)(TP) shooting results

Disassembly of the Micro 9 ESV (MC)(TP) is similar to most bushing-less M1911s, in that they are harder to take apart but easier to put back together. The process starts with removing the magazine and ensuring the chamber is devoid of ammunition, and then detaching the compensator. From here, the slide must be retracted to the takedown notch, where the slide stop can be pressed out of the frame. Next, the slide assembly can be slid off the front, revealing the underside of the barrel, recoil spring and guide rod. With these parts now accessible, they can be removed, one by one, for cleaning and lubrication. Re-assembly allows for the slide to be completely rebuilt when it is off of the frame, eliminating the “ship in a bottle” step of slipping the slide stop through the barrel link.

Overall, we found Kimber’s compensated carry pistol to offer a level of functionality beyond a mere gimmick, and the Micro 9 ESV (MC)(TP) provided the accuracy and reliability that we associate with this brand. Well-executed ergonomics (particularly the cushy rubber stocks) made it a pleasure to fire, despite its small size, and it occupied minimal space on the waistline as well. It’s a great candidate for inside-the-waistband carry while still being an enjoyable range gun—two applications that are often at odds with one another.


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