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Review: Kimber Solo vs. Kahr PM9 (He Said/ She Said)

Last Updated: 5/4/2011

Kimber Solo Vs. Kahr PM9
He Said / She Said
(Mike Jackson / Tara Dixon Engel)

The Kimber Solo is the new “gun to get” (assuming you can get it, which, at the moment, requires an act of God and the patience of Job). Some reviewers are hailing this microcompact semi-automatic as the newest variation on the 1911 theme, which isn't entirely accurate. Kimber is being a little more cautious when comparing its 9 mm Solo to the venerable workhorse .45 that has earned its spot among the most popular pistols ever made. The manufacturer's promotional materials describe the sturdy new concealed carry gun as having “1911 ergonomics.” And the Solo does settle comfortably into your hand in a manner reminiscent of the snug fit made possible by the 1911's beavertail design.

We were fortunate to get one of the early Solos to test. With a barrel length of 2.7 inches, a durable stainless steel slide and barrel, and a premium aluminum frame, the solo offers many advantages over its concealable competitors. Plus, it just looks cool.

At the same time, we compared this much-heralded new firearm to the Kahr PM9, a gun of similar size, weight, and function. The Kahr we test-fired featured a 3 inch barrel, a blackened stainless slide and polymer frame, and weighed in at 15.9 ounces (magazine empty), compared to the Solo's 17 ounces. The PM9 also offers an assortment of “options” that we will discuss later in this article. 

In an “eyes closed,” hand-to-hand test, the weight difference between  the Solo and the PM9 is negligible. Both guns are heavier than a pocket pistol such as Kel-Tec's P-3AT, which weighs in at 8.3 ounces, or the Ruger LCP, only slightly heavier at 9.4 ounces.

Loading:
She said:
Fortunately, I don't have much in the way of fingernails to break or the Solo would have splintered them all and the PM9 would have destroyed whatever was left. The spring in the Solo's 6 capacity (plus one in the chamber) magazine was as tense as any I've seen, and the cartridges did not want to seat properly against the back of the magazine. As a result, we had two instances when we wracked the slide and it did not snap completely back. Frustrating, but perhaps a function of newness and not a specific design flaw. The PM9, with its seven round magazine, was a bit easier to load and exhibited no issues with seating or wracking.

He said:
With age comes wisdom...and arthritis. As a result, loading the Solo was not easy for me. I got about three bullets on the follower before I had to either wrestle with the magazine for 5 minutes or hand it to “the girl” to load. I like to think I'm as macho as the next guy (if the next guy has arthritic thumbs) but I spent two days unable to move my thumbs after loading the Solo. The up side to this adventure is that I immediately purchased a universal speed loader to eliminate future issues. When it came to loading the Kahr, the process was a little easier. I think I managed to squeeze four or five rounds into the magazine before the girl had to take over.

Sights:
She said:
One of the more appealing aspects of both the Solo and the PM9 are their very visible fixed sights. As an aging – not aged – female, I prefer that my concealed carry pistols have decent sights so I can practice with the gun and become reasonably proficient. A pimple-sized front sight does me no good at this stage of my life and ocular deterioration! Both the PM9 and the Solo allowed me to get a good sight picture, which means I'll be more likely to practice regularly and develop a certain level of skill and confidence with the gun. It's always nice when the gun you'll be firing in a panic-stricken emergency is one you use almost instinctively. That only comes with practice.

He said:
Yeah, what she said. The fixed three-dot sights on the Solo are described as “low profile,” but, compared to other concealed carry guns, they jump right out at you. They were marginally more visible than our PM9's night sights, but even those were preferable to the tiny nubbins perched on my LCP. 

Recoil:
She said:
Having used the pocket-sized .380 belonging to “he,” I was prepared for any concealed carry gun to dislocate my thumbs each time I fired it. It was a pleasant surprise to discover not one, but two, petite 9 mms that didn't kick like a Texas mule. I have read the Solo's recoil described as “sharp” and even “powerful.” While it kicked a bit more than the PM9 – and certainly more than a full-sized 9mm like a Springfield XD – the fit of the gun is so comfortable that it smoothly disburses the energy of the recoil. And the PM9 is even better, offering about the same kick that you'd experience from a heavy 1911. Given the choice, I'd pick the PM9, but the Solo wasn't hateful.

He said:
After owning a pocket .380 for a couple years, I, too, was happily surprised by the more subtle recoil of both the Solo and the PM9. A concealed carry gun is not something you plink with, but, by the same token, regular proficiency practice would be nice. When I first bought my .380, I shot it a few times and resigned myself to the fact it was a “one use” gun that I would fire when it counted and then hand over to the police as evidence. And there's nothing wrong with that, I just like to have total confidence in my weapons and in my ability to use them under any circumstances. The reasonable kick of the Solo and the Kahr make that more likely.

Fit:
She said:
This is an important consideration in selecting a gun. Arguably, it is not quite as important with a concealed carry weapon because the gun has a very narrow purpose. For my slender girl hands, the Solo was a perfect fit. Most men and many women resign themselves to “good enough” when it comes to finding the right fit with a concealed carry pistol, but the Solo has such a classic design, modeled on the 1911 beavertail, that it just feels “cozy” in your hand. That, in turn, helps absorb the kick. The PM9 we used had a Crimson Trace laser attached below the trigger guard, so there was less of a sense that the gun was one with your hand. Even without the laser, I don't think the PM9 would have had quite the sleek luxury fit of the Solo, which gets my nod on pure comfort.

He said:
I don't exactly have ham hands but they are bigger than the girl's. Most concealed carry guns demand that a guy corrupt his natural grip a bit in order to hold and fire effectively. And, while I probably wouldn't describe the Solo as “cozy” (what a girly term), I would say that it fit my hand far better than most pocket pistols. I wasn't quite as pleased with the Kahr's fit but I think the Crimson Trace was partially to blame. Both guns met my “fun factor” criteria when it came to shooting, which means that any inconveniences caused by their smaller size were negligible.

 

Accuracy:
She said:
Okay, I admit it. It took me several attempts to get a good grouping with the Solo. I would love to blame the gun but “he” picked it up and put a nice group on his target within about 3 inches. Despite everything I liked about the Solo, it never quite clicked in my hands. In fact, I got a better grouping much faster using the Kahr. Shouldn't have happened that way. The Solo is heavier and has a lighter trigger pull. Should have been a breeze. In the end, I think the Kahr's polymer frame did a better job absorbing the recoil. I could see myself shooting the Kahr on a regular basis and being consistent and comfortable with it.

He said:
We shot 100 rounds of PMC 115 gr. FMJ ammunition interspersed with 50 rounds of Federal's American Eagle 124 gr FMJ ammunition. We tried to trick each other by mixing them up in the magazine, but we couldn't tell a bit of difference. Took me a few shots to get comfortable with both guns, but, once I got into the rhythm, they both proved very accurate and enjoyable to shoot.

Conclusions:
She said:
 The Solo gave us two malfunctions out of 75 shots – one with the 124 gr. ammunition and one with 115 gr.  There were some initial feed issues, once when we loaded the magazine with the breech open and once when we loaded it breech-closed. Another issue occurred when we packed up our range gear and discovered that two screws from the Solo's adjustable grips had worked their way out during firing. Never found them. We had no malfunctions with the Kahr...and no loose screws, either.

I loved the look and feel of the Solo, more so than the Kahr, but I preferred shooting the Kahr and genuinely hated to call it quits.  Another plus for the Kahr came when “he” went on-line and downloaded all the great PM9 variations that Kahr offers.  I have to admit, I love the fact that you can get the PM9 in stainless or all black, with or without night sights, with or without an external safety and loaded chamber indicator, and a couple other variations – eight in all. I have penciled the Kahr onto my wish list...but there are still a few more new pocket pistols that I have to test before converting pencil to ink.

He said: The magazine release on the Solo didn't drop as easily as the ambidextrous button should have allowed. We actually had to pry it out a couple times. I'm not sure that would stop me from buying the gun, but it was a distraction on the range and, if it is an ongoing issue, could pose a real threat in an emergency situation. The Solo's ambi safety didn't create any issues one way or the other – some have implied that it is easy to flip on inadvertently. Didn't happen; then again, we never had it pocketed. I shot well with the Solo, but not great. I really wanted to love this gun. I just knew it was everything I was looking for...but it's like that snazzy sports car that I just “had to have:” it's sleek and fun and everyone oohs and ahhhs over it, but, in the end, the four-door sedan just offers more useful options and fits my style better. When all is said and done, I think I'll drive the Kahr.

(Mike Jackson is a retired Air Force command pilot and Vietnam veteran. Tara Dixon Engel is a veterans' advocate and gun enthusiast. The two have authored three books and are certified NRA pistol, rifle and shotgun instructors.)


*Editors Note: The Kimber Solo is still currently unavailable due to its high demand and current manufacturing back log*   

 

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Your Comments

Great review on the solo vs kahr, it helped me decide.
Submitted by David McCance - 5/8/2011
Your review has reinforced my decision to get the PM9. Excellent review!
Submitted by Noel Dennis - 8/29/2011
My friend just got the solo yesterday and I will get to shoot it soon, after reading this article I want to shoot the Kahr PM9 before I purchase my pocket 9MM...
Submitted by Billy Boost - 9/22/2011
Excellent information to help me decide between the two! Thank you.
Submitted by Marty - 10/30/2011
My dad just bought the solo (from Olde English) and has yet to try it out. I have the pm9 and love it! After all the hype and waiting almost a year to get a solo it has a lot to live up to. I like the way the solo fits in my hand better than my Kahr. I've owned a Kimber in the past and was very happy with it. My dad is older and he could only load 5 rounds in the magazine because of the stiffness of the spring. The magazine did not want to release easily either. I think for a pocket semi auto he would have been better to choose the Sig 238. But that was his choice. Thanks for another great review. We'll see if the solo was worth the wait.
Submitted by Jeff - 1/21/2012
The .380 is fine. The P380 fills that role better than any I have seen in all pocket pistols. But, I just feel more more secure carrying 9 x19mm. The PM9 fills this role. Your piece should be DAO (no safeties to deactivate when the adrenaline rushes). More important than action or caliber is finding the carry method that fits your needs so it's always with you. It's usually 2 -3 ways.
Submitted by Derek M - 2/4/2012
Nice review. I have owned my PM9 for over a year and feel that it is a great IWB carry gun and a good pcket pistol (a little large in the pocket but carryable). During my initial 200 round break-in period I had 3 malfunctions during the first magazine and none since that time. I have fed the gun FMJ from CCI (blazer and lawman) Fed, Win, and JHP from CCI (Gold Dot),Fed (Hydrashock),Corbon (+P 115 JHP - a bit hot), and Powerball (very mild recoil) without any malfunctions.
Submitted by Bill - 2/11/2012
1st: Glad to see Olde English Blog featured in the Gun Test e mail news letter.
As a trap shooter/gun nut spent many hrs in house - a good place!
2nd: Well writen evaluation - relates to the PM 40 also, my choice.
Submitted by Bill Duncanson - 2/17/2012
Love my MK9, it's like a Rolex. Actively looking for a lighter Edc, like the PM9!
Submitted by Rob Mayville - 2/25/2012
The kahr pistols are all very accurate. I've owned 3 of them and have a PM9 with crimson trace on it for carry with a custom belt holster made by TT leather.. I would like to try the .380 cause it is some smaller then the .9m. Might be better for summer carry when not wearing much street clothes.. anyway I haven't found any other brand of pocket pistol that is as good as the kahr. Down side to the kahr is the revoler like trigger with that long pull. But very reliable, never had a miss fire or jam or anything. Hard to say that about some other brands on the market.
Submitted by Carl Moss - 3/4/2012
I'm presently in the market for a pocket pistol. My first choice has been the Walter PPK as I like the SA/DO action. After viewing a Kahr PM9 videro review by HICKIK45 on Youtube I was surprided to find a 9mm smaller that the PPK. His description of the smoothnes of the Khar's DO only action has me reconsidering my choice. More reserch is in order but I am liking the Khar PM9 more and more.
Submitted by Terry McElrath - 4/10/2012
I am a police sergeant. I have carried a S&W J frame as a back-up gun for over 35 years. I recently replaced my S&W442 with a PM9.I do not regret it.
Submitted by A.Shear - 4/11/2012
I read the review with joy. I have never shot the Solo, but after owning other Kimber products (I now have sold all of them!) I was joyfully pulling for the PM9 to top the Solo in every category. I presently own 9 Kahr pistols, and my personal carry gun is the MK9. Keep up the good work, and let the results speak for themselves.
Submitted by Roger Hardin - 4/15/2012
Getting Old. I want to carry a sexy and cool gun. Q: What do you do with a carry gun? A: you carry it, (a lot). When you carry a gun a lot, it is fun to carry a sexy and cool gun. I want to carry the Sig P238 or the Solo... those are sexy and cool guns. I love to hold them and look at them. With age comes wisdom... God help me if I ever had to use my carry gun.... but if and when I ever do, you can bet your bottom dollar that I'll have my Un-sexy, Un-cool PM9 in my hand. I stinks getting old and practical.
Submitted by Tony Szuminski - 4/29/2012
I currently own a Kimber Solo and have 60 rounds of 124 grain through it which is what the manufacturer recommends. First I would like to say that this pistol has never malfunctioned on me. It is very easy to IWB carry it and it's comforting and comfortable to carry. The one problem that I have seen so far is with the paint job. The black paint rubs off under the thumb safety and under the pin. Disappointing considering the money I paid for a Kimber product. I called Kimber regarding the black paint and they stated it is typical and common for this to happen. I am not worried about the metal corroding because it is anodized aluminum but nonetheless, it is a disappointment that the paint is easily rubbd off. I am considering trading this weapon for another 9mm and since I am an absolute stickler for quality a Kahr PM9 may be my next purchase. I am also considering Rohrbaugh even though they are hugely expensive.
Submitted by Kent - 5/9/2012
I just read your PM9 vs. Solo article. You talk about the Solo mag being hard to load. I have a Kahr CM9, recently purchased, that is pretty hard to load, but my problem is the mags don't stay loaded. The spare mags in my pocket will unload themselves. The cartridges work forward and when they reach a certain point, pop out. This happens on all factory mags, 6 or 7 round. I just found out today that it's happening in the gun, also. I dropped the clip and a loose cartridge fell out. I wonder what will happen if I have to defend myself, pull the gun and get one shot, then click. Not good for a carry gun.
Submitted by Neal Caldwell - 5/16/2012
I have a p9 that I have owned for a couple of years with zero malfunctions. Yes the mag is hard to load the last two rounds but I can do it at age 76 and I have arthritis in my hands. But I am going to purchase a loader. I have spent my life shooting accurate rifles so a dao pistol has been humbling to say the least. I don't like the trigger, but it is getting better and so am I. At first I could not hit a 24 target at 21 feet bad!! This week I shot several 3 groups at 30 feet and I shot one group of one inch. All five round groups. I shot from five feet to 30 feet, some slow fire and some rapid fire, and all stayed in center mass. My P9 is consistently very accurate when I loan it to experienced shooters, maybe some day I'll be accurate also. A new 380 kahr is on my buy list for this summer.
Submitted by coy e jones - 5/21/2012
I own a P9 and it shoots great but with Winchester and Remington jacketed hollow points I have to whack the slide in order for the bullet to slide up the ramp, any suggestions?

Submitted by Alfred - 5/27/2012
I waited for 8 months to receive my Solo. I have shot 100 rounds through it without issue with varying bullet weights and types. The gun is 100% solid and I believe the finest 9mm carry made. I am done looking for the perfect 9mm carry gun as Kimber has made my dreams come true.
Submitted by Tim Slowey - 6/29/2012
I own a Kahr PM9 and love it. I am a retired Sheriff with 41 years in Law Enforcement and have carried a J-frame Smith and Wesson model 60 for years. The Kahr shoots, carries and conceals well. I also own a Kimber solo, but for everyday carry it's the Kahr.
Submitted by steve clark - 7/2/2012
I carry a Kahr P9 daily concealed with just a T shirt in a belt slide open top holster. I have fired 300 rounds at the range with 0 failures. My wife carries a Kahr P 380 and has no failures. Yes they have long trigger pulls, but that is the safety. It will not go off unintentionally. The weight is comfortable for all day carry. I have tried several carry guns, Kimberly Ultra TLE, Springfield XD compact, but go back to the Kahr. I will occasionaly carry a Sig P 238, but prefer the P9.
Submitted by Rich Kuebler - 8/14/2012
Have had a PM9 for about five years and love it. Never let me down. I added Decal grip and mag extension and get a very good full hand grip. I just bought a Solo and we will see when I shoot it. Just racking the slide back is very hard compared to my PM9. I may change my mind but I think the Kahr will still my number one carry gun.
Submitted by Erenest Hercher - 9/3/2012
In my 40+ years of carrying a firearm the Kahr PM9 seems to fit me better than any of the dozens of other revolvers and pistols I've owned and carried over the years. I'm having a Big Dot XS Sight system installed on the PM9, as I plan to carry this pistol for as long as I feel the need. The PM9 has functioned flawlessly with a every type of ammo I've run through it including some hollow points I've had for more than 35 years.
Submitted by Robert Dickerson - 9/6/2012