Kimber Micro 1911: 9mm or .380 For Self-Defense?

Not everyone appreciates Browning’s classic 1911 design, but those who do develop something of a devotion to the infamous handgun. But there is always that one big drawback with 1911 handguns. They are big and heavy! Some don’t mind this and carry full-size size variants around all the time. But others look for smaller, more compact models that don’t feel like brick strapped to our sides. I will admit, I love 1911s and want to carry one around all the time, but I don’t. They are just too big and heavy for me to pull off. This brings me to the alternative, a compact 1911 by Kimber.

Kimber Micro 1911's
Kimber offers an entire line of compact 1911s in 9mm and .380 with custom finishes.

Kimber’s line of Micro 1911s is where many of us turn. They have just about the largest selection of compact 1911s on the market under their micro and special edition brands. But they also offer variations in multiple calibers including 9mm and .380, the most common for self-defense. Some people know exactly what they want, but others are left wondering which caliber is better. There are some things to consider with both calibers when it comes to concealed carry. So pour some coffee (or tea) and let’s talk guns.

First Glance at the Kimber Micro 9 vs Micro .380

Kimber has done a great job at bringing us a full line of compact 1911s. The Micro series alone has around 35 options to choose from between 9mm (micro 9) and .380 (micro). Of those 35 guns, 24 of them are Micro 9 models so there are nearly twice as many 9s to choose from than Micro .380 guns. All of the Micros are modeled after the Micro 9 series so you can find some of the same custom finishes but without as many options. The Micro series of guns are just a little smaller than the Micro 9, so we will discuss that a little more when we talk about recoil.

Kimber Micro 9 and 380
The Kimber Micro 9 and Micro 380 are both reliable perfect CCW weapons for those wanting a 1911 platform.

From browsing their website, Kimber split their 24 Micro 9 guns into 12 categories with some categories having only one or two guns and the others, like the Special Edition line having five models to choose from. In the Micro (.380) line, Kimber has 11 guns listed under seven categories. This gives you four from the Special Edition to pick from and one or two from some of the other categories. Both series of guns are made from aluminum frames and have stainless barrels. Each caliber of gun also comes with one extended magazine that holds seven rounds.

Shooting the 9mm vs the .380

There are some considerations and strong opinions with the 9mm vs .380 debate. There is no question a 9mm has much more power and speed. The debate usually falls more around the .380 and its ability to work as a self-defense round. Some will not consider it and others see value in a .380. I fall somewhere in the middle where I prefer a 9mm, but still think a .380 has some benefits. When debating this topic, I like to look at it from two viewpoints. The first viewpoint is the impact on the target, while the second is the difference in control and recoil for the shooter.

A 9mm is a fast bullet and requires a good self-defense round to keep it from over-penetrating. Modern hollow-point ammunition is great at expanding to increase the impacted area while decreasing over-penetration. But a 9mm can still be a little bit hard for some people to handle from a small frame gun, especially while trying to shoot fast. Today’s world of micro guns makes concealing easy, but smaller guns make recoil worse. A .380 on the other hand is much easier to handle for some shooters because of the lower recoil, but the target impact is not as good as the 9mm. But again, with today’s advancements in ammo, a .380 can be effective at close ranges.

It Depends on the Shooter

Here are the two things I notice when giving classes on the range. If someone has trouble shooting a 9mm from a compact gun, the superior bullet will not be as accurate or fast. This defeats the purpose of a better bullet if it’s not hitting its target. A less powerful bullet may not have as much stopping power, but if the shooter can fire faster and more accurately, it’s more effective overall. Ultimately, it comes down to the shooter and what caliber they can handle.

Kimber Micro 380
The micro stainless .380 has less recoil than the 9mm, making it easier for some to shoot.

When shooting the Micro 9, it was comfortable and didn’t hurt my hands to shoot, but it definitely has much more recoil than a larger full-size 9mm. Facing a target, though, and shooting at my own pace is not the same as defensive shooting. So, I ran some drills with the Micro 9 and Micro .380. When shooting the Micro .380, the lower recoil was much more noticeable. After running drills with both, I was more accurate and faster with the Micro .380. Both are smooth shooting guns, but the .380 handles just a little better in the compact size frame.

Kimber Micro 9 Belair
The Kimber Micro-9 Belair is from the special edition line of Kimber’s Micro-9 line of 1911s.


The Micro 9 does have a slightly larger frame, giving the shooter a little more gun to hang on to. The .380 slide is about a half-inch shorter, and the slide is thicker on the Micro 9. Each gun holds seven rounds in the extended mag so there is no benefit to a smaller bullet when it comes to capacity. For concealed carry, the Micro .380 has a little better concealment because it is smaller. One noticeable difference I found when loading both guns is the recoil spring. The Micro 9 is harder to chamber than the .380, which can make a difference on a slide that is so small only a few fingers can be used to rack it.

Both guns were accurate and fired without any issues. So, determining which one is better depends on the size of gun you want to carry, how well you handle it when shooting, and how important a larger bullet is to you.

After shooting the Micro 9 and Micro .380, I would opt for the .380 between these two. But that is just my preference based on how I shot with them. The .380 is a smaller round, and shot placement and bullet selection would need to be a factor in using a small bullet like this for self-defense. A bigger bullet will work much better, but then you get a heavier gun with more recoil. Shoot a few and select the one that works for you.

Sheriff Jason Mosher is a law enforcement generalist instructor as well as a firearms and tactical weapons trainer. Jason graduated from the FBI-LEEDA (Law Enforcement Executive Development Association) and serves as a Sheriff for his day job. When he’s not working, he’s on the range, eating steak, or watching Yellowstone.

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