Whether we commit it to paper or not, most gun enthusiasts maintain a running list of guns we’d like to own. Some may be military arms, hunting rifles, raceguns, historical pieces, target pistols, prepper guns or examples of museum-quality artistry. I’ve always had an appreciation for—and an impulse to purchase—carry guns. As soon as I check one off my list, I’m shopping around for another. Some of this is due to acquisitiveness; some to self-doubt. Is this really the best gun to carry in such-and-such situation? Well, what if this happens—or that?
A handgun that was on my list for a very long time was the Colt Mustang Pocketlite. (OK, it’s still on there, but has moved down a rung or two.) The reason was, as Tamara Keel reminded us last month, there was a time when any self-respecting pistol aficionado had to have a 1911-based pistol and was obligated to issue a disdainful “harrumph” any time someone mentioned that faddish plastic pistol from Austria.
The rule about backup pistols has always been that they should essentially operate similarly to your primary carry gun, so you’re not trying to recall a different manual-of-arms in the midst of a gunfight (when you are very likely to go stupid). If your primary was a bobbed-hammer Smith & Wesson Model 13, then a Smith & Wesson Model 38 Airweight Bodyguard was the ideal second gun, it too being a double-action revolver. Carry a Glock G19? The Kel-Tec P3AT (or now the Ruger LCP) was the “double-action-only” gun with which to back it up. (Yes, we can argue terminology all day, Capt. Nitpick. “Striker-fired” “Safe-action.” “Double-action-only.” Hell, Ruger calls the new LCP II a “single-action.” For our purposes, we broadly mean groups of handguns that require similar manipulations to operate.)
Getting back to the 1911, if some form (say a Lightweight Commander) were your primary carry gun, you had few options in a similarly functioning pocket pistol. For many, the preferred option was the Mustang Pocketlite, an aluminum-frame, 12.5-ounce single-action. It was and is light, incorporated a thumb safety and had a single-action trigger. Inside a holster and with a little training for the owner, it was safe to carry in a pocket, however, it was “only” a .380 ACP.
It pretty much had the single-action pocket pistol market to itself until SIG Sauer debuted its P238. More recently, Kimber—which two decades ago revolutionized the 1911 market—introduced the Micro 380. Was the new gun unique or just a stylishly reinvented wheel?
Who knows? Before anybody had time to decide, Kimber introduced the Micro 9. If the Micro 380 was a jab to the market, the Micro 9 was the overhand right.
Kimber’s timing with the 9 mm couldn’t have been better, as the caliber had just been newly embraced by the tactical firearms world. Advances in ballistics and cartridge manufacturing had tweaked premium 9 mm ammunition into the same performance area as .40 S&W and .45 ACP (in terms of expansion and penetration). It is accurate and manageable, while still fitting into moderate-size frames. The FBI’s adoption of the cartridge rippled through the tactical market. Ammunition created to meet the FBI’s testing protocol carried over to state and local law enforcement and the civilian market and, suddenly, 9 mm was once again the chambering to have.
While the Micro is chambered in both .380 ACP and 9 mm, for most armed citizens, the perception of the two chamberings is vastly different, despite recent improvements to the smaller cartridge. When facing a potentially dangerous situation, only the most hardcore .45 ACP fan would lament having “only” a 9 mm.
Doing Real Gun Stuff
My first experience with the Micro 9 was while attending a Kimber-sponsored event at the famed Gunsite Academy in Paulden, AZ. It resembled a miniaturized 1911 in some ways, but not in others. There was a beavertail, but no grip safety. There was a slim, single-stack grip, but no barrel bushing.
As the event progressed, I had the opportunity to shoot some drills with it. That’s where the little pistol really began to impress. You see, it wasn’t just used as a pocket pistol doing speed rocks at 3 yards. No, the Micro performed the tasks of a bona fide 9 mm. With it, I dropped steel plates along a Hogan’s Alley dirt road and cleared a shoot house twice.