by Bob Campbell,
For many years I carried the most powerful and reliable handgun I could conceal. Not necessarily comfortably conceal, but effectively conceal.
I have carried backup handguns in small calibers including the JP Sauer 38H in .32 ACP, several small .38 revolvers, and the SIG P series .380.
I have also carried compact large caliber handguns such as the STAR PD .45. I prefer the 1911 handgun and its handling. I also test a lot of guns from both personal interest and professional requirements. I was interested to see a list of the top 12 concealed carry handguns as far as sales and popularity published recently, and quite frankly I would never trust my life to most of them.
Quality, reliability and power mean much. A handgun isn’t simply another accessory. That being said, for the better part of three months I have been testing a new offering from Kimber America that has grown on me and impressed at every turn. In fact the pistol is so accurate and so easy to use well that I have enjoyed quite a bit of recreational firing with it.
No, I am not going to retire the Commander .45, but when the utmost discretion is required and on those few occasions when I carry a backup handgun, the Kimber .380 ACP Advocate gets the nod of approval.
The problems with pocket pistols have been many. Many have survived based more upon their ability to be effectively concealed than reliability. Some cut the hand when held tightly, others are inaccurate, and, more simply, are not service grade reliable. If you do not enjoy firing the pistol, it isn’t going to be used at the range and this isn’t a good program.
The Kimber Micro pistols solve these problems. When examining the Kimber .380 ACP pistols the first impression is of a downsized 1911-type handgun. This is true to an extent. The low bore axis, a grip that fits most hands well, and the single-action, straight to the rear trigger compression are maintained. The grip safety of a true 1911 is deleted. That is just as well as the grip safety doesn’t come out as well on a downsized 1911 handgun. There are also differences in handling. The slide lock and the magazine release are pure 1911. The Kimber Micro is a great backup for a full size 1911 but also makes for a good stand-alone pocket gun.
The Kimber is a single-action design. This means that the trigger press does only one thing—drop the hammer. The pistol may be carried one of three ways. Chamber empty requires the slide to be racked before the pistol may be fired. I am surprised at the number of shooters that carry their self-loading pistols in this manner. This is slow, requires two hands to execute, and simply abrogates the advantage of the self-loader. If you are uncomfortable with a self-loader then choose a revolver!
The second and proper method is hammer to the rear, cocked and locked and safety applied. This is an effective carry when the single-action pistol is properly carried in a well fitted holster.
In the case of full size 1911 handguns the third carry is to keep the hammer down on a live chamber. This is more fumble prone, and cocked and locked should be adopted. However, in the case of the Kimber .380, if carried in the pocket or deep concealment, I feel that hammer down on a live round is acceptable. The handgun is small and leverage is good, so cocking the handgun on the draw isn’t a huge drawback. But the piece should be carried in a good holster!
The Kimber also offers an odd combination, carrying the hammer down and the safety on. I would avoid this carry. The safety does not lock the slide so loading the pistol with the safety on is an option.
The Kimber features an aluminum frame. This reduces the weight of the pistol to 13 ounces. This is acceptable in a handgun with such low recoil. The handgun features excellent grips that give good adhesion when firing. The backstrap is also nicely checkered. This adds up to a handgun with good abrasion and good control when firing. The Kimber attention to detail shows in what they call a Carry Melt—there simply are no sharp edges.
The pistol features good high visibility sights with self-luminous Tritium inserts. These inserts give the pistol a true 24 hour capability. A pocket pistol should have good sights. It is more difficult to hold the pistol properly when the handgun is small, and the trigger action sometimes isn’t the best. Rather than outfitting a pocket pistol with bumps for sighting equipment the sights should be visible. This is the case with the Kimber; the sights are excellent examples of combat sights.
These sights really paid off during accuracy testing. The pistol is small with a height of around 4 inches and a length just short of 5.5 inches. The pistol is supplied with two magazines. One is a flush fit magazine that holds 6 rounds. An extended butt plate on the other magazine allows a seventh round to be carried. For most of the test period I carried the piece with the extended magazine in place and the spare in my pocket. Due to the light recoil there really isn’t much difference when firing the pistol as far as comfort between the two magazines.
The overwhelming impression of this pistol is of high quality fit and finish. The trigger action is also smooth with a compression of over eight pounds. This seems heavy but the trigger is also very smooth. The pistol is supplied with a zippered cloth case that features a pocket for the spare magazine. The take down of the Micro .380 is similar to the full size 1911 but not quite the same. There is a wire spring under the slide lock that helps hold the slide lock in place. When reassembling the slide, the small wire ejector must be pressed into place. Also, do not move the slide lock to the on position when the slide is removed or the thumb safety may be removed from the frame. The field strip is easier that most compact .380 ACP pistols.
Before initial firing the pistol was lubricated on the long bearing surfaces. Initial firing was done with the Black Hills Ammunition 100-grain FMJ load. Function was good and recoil mild. It isn’t difficult to produce X-ring hits on silhouette targets at 5-, 7- and 10-yards.
Quite frankly, the pistol is a joy to use and fire. Recoil is inconsequential, not just to seasoned shooters, but the novice as well. Accuracy is surprising. It isn’t difficult to fire at small targets and get hits well past 15 yards.
I have continued to use the Kimber Advocate with various loads and have never suffered a failure to feed, chamber, fire or eject in firing some 400 cartridges to date. I have chosen the Black Hills Ammunition 90-grain JHP as the carry load. This load shows good penetration and some expansion, all we can hope for from a 2.75 inch barrel handgun.
Shot placement will count for everything. I am not advocating the .380 ACP as a primary hand-gun, but it is better than tooth and nail. If you carry a .380, in my estimation, this is the very best of the breed. Firing the pistol from a solid benchrest position has produced groups comparable to a service pistol. At 15 yards a five-shot group with the two Black Hills Ammunition loads produce groups of 2.5 to 3.0 inches. I have achieved comparable groups with other quality ammunition. As far as reliability, control, and accuracy the Kimber Advocate makes the grade.
An inside the waistband holster remains the single best choice for carrying a concealed carry handgun. The IWB rides nicely inside the waistband and a minimal garment may be used to conceal the handgun. The Wright Leatherworks leather inside the waistband holster for the Kimber .380 offers several advantages. The first is excellent stitching. The holster also features a sweat-guard that protects the body from the handgun and the handgun from perspiration. The holster will not collapse after the pistol is drawn, there is a solid holstering welt. The strong steel belt clip keeps the holster firmly attached to the belt.
An option that works well when a covering garment cannot be worn is the 3 Speed Holster. This holster is specifically molded for each individual handgun, it is not a fit-them-all holster. (Those types fit nothing well.) The 3 Speed Holster features a well-designed and comfortable belt that offers a good degree of adjustment (specific sizes are ordered) to allow carrying under the pants in a behind the hip, appendix draw or even crossdraw attitude. The handgun is worn just under the beltline. While concealed, this position allows a rapid draw by reaching into the trousers. Also, when wearing a covering garment, a more convention draw angle may be adopted. The 3 Speed Holster is a credible option for modern conditions.