February 25, 2021
In the military system of the ancient Roman republic, citizen-soldiers comprising the infantry corps were divided into three lines, the triplex acies, based on their experience and the quality of their equipment. The hastati of the first rank were generally the youngest soldiers, strong and eager but lacking in experience. Principes formed the second line, and these were men in their prime, well-equipped with some experience, and they could be relied upon to shoulder the weight of combat and campaign. Finally, the last line was comprised of the triarii. Well-versed in war and utilizing the best in arms and armor, the triarii served as a strategic reserve and were relied upon to stand firm if the first lines faltered. In recounting desperate military struggles, the Roman historian Livy left us the phrase, “Rem ad triarios redisse,” which translates “going to the triarii,” and speaks to the decisive nature of calling in the elite last line.
Few monikers are more fitting than Kimber’s Micro 9 Triari. It is a pistol designed for that last desperate action, a final option to be relied on when other safeguards have failed. Fittingly, it is also equipped with high-quality components and purpose-driven features that, above all else, are suited to the task of self-protection.
Formation Originally released in 2017, with line extensions in each year since, the hammer-fired, 9mm Micro 9 has been a popular and successful series for Kimber. Notably, its achievement extends beyond units sold, since it also played an important role in righting the ship for Kimber subcompacts after the lackluster performance of the striker-fired Solo. In fact, without the Micro 9, Kimber probably could not have launched its newest striker-based platform, the EVO SP, which has garnered acclaim from Guns & Ammo and the public, although that’s a story for another time.
Returning to the subject at hand, the Micro 9 Triari is immediately identifiable as a scaled-down version of the Model 1911, though not without notable operational differences. It is a single-action, recoil-operated semiauto with a hammer and a manual thumb safety on the left side of the frame intended to facilitate Condition One, cocked-and-locked carry. The barrel is a 3.15-inch stainless steel pipe with left-hand rifling at a rate of one twist in 16 inches. The barrel includes an integral feed ramp and, rather than the swinging link of the 1911, features a cam lug with a kidney-shaped cutout to initiate the barrel tilt required during the loading cycle.
In terms of dimensions, the Triari with an empty magazine stands 4.6 inches tall, has an overall length of 6.1 inches, and weighs 1 pound, 11/2 ounces. The magazine is a stainless steel, single-column detachable box with an extended polymer base pad. The extension not only allows the magazine to hold seven rounds of 9mm — one more than the Micro 9’s closest competitors — it also provides enough real estate for shooters to achieve a full firing grip.
The Triari’s aluminum frame and stainless steel slide both feature corrosion- and wear-resistant black finishes, They also incorporate full-diameter texturing to improve purchase and aid manipulation. A geometric pattern is cut into the slide, fore and aft, in lieu of traditional cocking serrations, and the pattern is repeated in the Micarta stocks and mainspring housing. It’s a smart design that precludes some of the snagging issues associated with forward cocking cuts and aggressive checkering patterns. The frontstrap wears smaller hexagonal dimples that are similarly subtle, but provide a sure anchor for two of the shooting hand’s support fingers.
Sights are a dual-color, fiber-optic arrangement, with a red pipe in front and two green fibers at the rear. All the sights are encased in robust steel housings, and the rear unit features a flat forward edge to aid in one-hand operation. Extra pipes are included with the gun and are easy to install if (or when) necessary.
Finally, in terms of controls, the Triari’s single-action trigger exhibited an average pull weight of 6 pounds, 5 ounces. Despite having a straight trigger bar similar to a 1911, the Micro 9’s trigger pad does hinge slightly before moving rearward, which results in a little take up before a clean break. There is no overtravel, and reset is short, tactile and audible. Present on the left side only are a slide stop, checkered magazine release and a small manual thumb safety. Additional safety features include the internal disconnector and firing pin block, as well as a safety notch in the hammer.
As the Micro 9 is a bushingless design, disassembly is somewhat simplified. With an unloaded gun, the slide is pulled rearward to align its disassembly notch with the tab on the slide stop. Once aligned, the slide-stop pin can be pressed out, and the slide assembly can be pulled forward off of the frame. From there, the recoil spring and barrel can be removed from the slide. Reassembly is the reverse, but, mind the frame-mounted ejector which must be depressed as the slide is mated to the frame.
Maneuvers Testing of the Triari included both accuracy work as well as practical shooting drills to evaluate its mechanical function and its utility as a defensive firearm for concealed carry. If I’m honest, my expectations at the bench were limited. To my mind, the Triari had an uphill battle when engaging 25-yard targets: Small grip; short barrel; short sight radius; and larger, defense-style sights. I was shocked (and delighted)when the little pistol began printing beautiful groups at that distance. While individual five-shot groups ranged in size from 1.14 inches to 3.56 inches, the five-shot averages for two of the loads — Hornady’s Critical Defense 115-grain FTX and Winchester’s Defend 147-grain JHP — measured less than 2 inches, and Federal’s Punch 124-grain JHP was close behind with a 2.24-inch average. Only one group measured larger than 3 inches, and the average of all 15 five-shot groups was just 2.06 inches. These would be excellent results from a tuned full-size pistol, and are remarkable from a subcompact with iron sights. On this count, the Triari answered the call and accorded itself with distinction.
With benchwork complete, my next priorities were to test reliability and utility. In addition to the previously mentioned ammunition, I also had on hand various and sundry leftovers from previous tests, everything from ball ammo to various hollow points. I find it useful to test firearms, especially defensive pistols, with a variety of loads in order to detect any preferences or problems with regard to the gun’s ability to feed, fire and eject. The Triari digested everything I had on hand; it is not a picky eater.
I also conducted a number of defensive shooting drills and came away with some observations that are worth sharing. Starting with draw, using a soft-leather pocket holster, I found the Triari was ideal for this method of concealed carry. Its thin, snag-free design and dehorned edges allowed for a surprisingly fast and smooth presentation. Once the gun was pivoted toward the target, the thumb safety could be disengaged with positive pressure, resulting in an audible click. I found the safety to be secure, ergonomically designed and quick to deactivate; the lever never felt too small. Reactivating was a bit trickier, but for defensive use, the former operation is far more critical than the latter.
Punching the gun out, I was able to find and maintain a high, thumbs-forward grip despite the Triari’s reduced dimensions. And, although I typically prefer a plain black rear sight with a bright front, the red and green fiber-optic dots were fast and easy to pick up. Despite being a three-dot array, they did not feel busy or crowded in the way that some white-dot arrangements do. The contrasting colors work. I was also concerned that the sights were a touch too wide for targets beyond 10 or 15 yards, but the accuracy results clearly say otherwise.
Perhaps the most surprising characteristic of the Triari was its mild recoil. In operation it feels like a bigger gun, cycles smoothly with minimal muzzle rise, and proves that even in subcompact platforms, all-metal guns hold an advantage in recoil mitigation over polymer-frame pistols. Micro 9s are rated for use with +P ammunition, and I included some in my testing without issue. It’s worth mentioning, though, the owner’s guide states that a steady diet of +P could increase wear.
The last item I wanted to touch on was reloads. Empty magazines drop free without issue, but during drills I found that they occasionally get hung up on the shooting hand and require a little help to fully evacuate the frame. I’ve found this to be a common occurrence with small guns. The slide stop lever, which seems to be a full-size component, offers ample engagement surface, and I had no issues releasing the slide on a fresh magazine using this method.
Triumph In an age of micro-compact, double-stack, polymer-frame pistols, it is easy to dismiss the utility of an all-metal hammer gun that bears resemblance to a century-old platform. I know I did. Those guns have their advantages, but there is simply no replicating the polished feel and rhythmic cycle of guns like the Model 1911 or the new Micro 9 Triari. That rhythm is an advantage. Like a drummer marking time on the parade field, it is constant, reliable, and a foundation on which speed and precision can be built. Despite the size and weight limitations imposed by the realities of everyday concealed carry, Kimber still managed to incorporate good sights, a clean trigger and proven ergonomics into the Triari, and it gives no quarter when considering its accuracy and shootability. Intended to be a constant companion and protector, the Micro 9 Triari stands ready should awareness and avoidance fail.
Kimber Micro 9 Triari Specs
Type: Recoil operated, semiautomatic
Capacity: 7+1 rds.
Barrel: 3.15 in.
Overall Length: 6.1 in.
Width: 1.08 in.
Height: 4.6 in.
Weight: 1 lb., 1.5 oz.
Finish: Kimpro II, black (aluminum); black oxide (stainless steel)
Sights: Red fiber-optic post (front); green fiber optic, U-notch (rear)
Trigger: 6 lbs., 5 oz. (tested)
Manufacturer: Kimber Mfg. Inc., kimberamerica.com
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