August 19, 2021
The micro-compact field is thriving. Popularized by pistols such as the SIG Sauer P365 in 2018, these sub-compacts are often polymer-framed, striker-fired handguns possessing less than a 3 1/2-inch barrel, and measuring less than 4 inches in height and 1 inch in width. They hold a double-stack magazine of at least 10 rounds of 9mm and, without a doubt, they are the hottest trend in handgunning.
Kimber already has several handguns that come close to the micro-compact in size, including the Micro-9 ($706 to $1,155), the Evo SP ($638 to $965), and the venerable Officer’s Model 1911s, known as “Ultra Carry” models ($931-$1,828) in the lineup. However, none of Kimber’s existing products checked all of the boxes, and that’s why we now have the R7 Mako. While it’s fair to say that some consumer fads are worth ignoring (i.e., social media challenges, seltzer water, at-home DNA tests, the Instant Pot) the micro-compact pistol is transcending trends and becoming omnipresent. Kimber’s engineers took note.
The pistol’s namesake, the mako shark, is named for the Maori “Mako Mako,” or “maneater.” If you consider the mini red-dot lens frame as a fin and its front slide serrations as gills, Kimber’s little pistol really does have a sleek, shark-like look to it. The R7 Mako also has a number of deviations from what we’re used to seeing on micro pistols. The first and most glaring difference is that the R7 Mako uses what Kimber calls a “shrouded slide” design. This means that the pistol has an ejection “port” rather than an open-top design. Unlike the familiar barrel-hood-to-slide lockup, the R7 Mako’s barrel has a lug on the top-rear of the assembly that locks into a corresponding recess notched into the slide. The bottom of the barrel has the more common cam-type lugs borrowed from the Browning Hi-Power and used by virtually every striker-fired pistol on the market.
Kimber advertises that the bottom lugs have been optimized to tilt the barrel less and provide lower felt recoil. While it looks different and Kimber has tweaked the concept for the R7 Mako, it is still a short-recoil operating system.
The slide design, with its smaller port, offers greater rigidity than open-top pistols, but a pessimistic response would be that there is less room for ejecting spent cases. Kimber was concerned that by removing material for the optic cut — yes, the R7 Mako is red-dot ready — the slide assembly may lose some long-term durability. I’m not sure how many open-top slides are failing out there, but I’m also not a materials engineer; time will tell if this was a worthy trade-off.
Another deviation from the norm is the use of an internal extractor, a part that’s more akin to an M1911. The extractor is a beefy claw, however, located in a sub-assembly that is held in place by a roll-pin. I actually don’t doubt its effectiveness or durability, but the fact that Kimber went with an internal extractor is unusual enough that it deserves mentioning.
Differences aside, the slide is expertly machined. It has attractive and useful serrations at the front and rear. The front of the slide and the top edge of each side is tastefully beveled, too, and the entire stainless steel slide is finished with ferritic nitrocarburizing (FNC) for a clean, matte-black appearance.
Internally, the slide contains a drop-safety plunger, the striker and the striker spring assemblies. The striker spring fits into the hollow body of the striker and is anchored on the back end by a plunger that fits into the rear plate of the pistol. Depressing this also allows the shooter to disassemble the slide. It’s a straightforward system. As alluded, every R7 Mako is optics ready, however, a standard model is available without an optic attached while the upgraded R7 Mako (OI) model includes a Crimson Trace CTS-1500 3-MOA red dot installed ($180, crimsontrace.com). To facilitate an optic, the slide was deeply machined for Shield Sights’ RMSc-pattern mount.
The metallic sights are, well, metal. These pistols are equipped with TruGlo’s Tritium Pro ($96, truglo.com). Kimber went with TruGlo’s option for an orange-color front focus ring and white outlines for the rear dots. The rear sight features a deep rear U-notch that is easy to align and horizontal serrations to eliminate glare. Because the optic cuts are machined so deeply into the slide, this pistol allows the use of standard-height sights. (Nice!)
As for the more accepted features of a micro-compact, they’re all here: 3-inch barrel, 4-inch height, a length of 6.2 inches, and a 1-inch width. Kimber, you nailed the numbers.
The Mako does have clean lines and excellent grip texture that includes the 11- and 13-round magazines’ basepads, which give the gun a high-end appearance. The texturing is formed from irregular and unevenly raised ridges and dots that are arranged wherever the hands make contact. The texturing is tastefully bordered by clean edges. The result is very positive grip that’s not so rough that it catches on cover garments.
The magazine release buttons are unique and ambidextrous. They’re smooth and positioned above recessed scoops.
At the front, there is a proprietary equipment rail molded into the dust cover that allows the shooter to attach a micro pistol light.
Takedown is achieved in the same manner as a Glock, however, once the crossbar is pulled down, the slide simply lifts slightly forward and off the frame.
The triggerguard is large enough and features an undercut, which allows the shooter’s hand to get high on the grip. The trigger is flat faced and has a blade-type safety, though it sits back a little further than many. This allows the trigger to move a short distance before releasing the striker. The advertised trigger-pull weight is “5 to 6-3/4 pounds.” Guns & Ammo’s sample pistol’s trigger averaged 6 pounds, 2 ounces on a Wheeler Engineering digital trigger-pull scale. Overall, I was impressed with the trigger. The wall was firm and it offered a clean break as I pressed through. Overtravel was minimal, too.
I also think the Kimber R7 Mako feels good in the hands. Between the texture, the undercut, and the fact that the grip subtly tapers towards the top, it hits all of the right notes. Interestingly, during recoil the gun was reminiscent of some earlier compact pistols, rather than its contemporary competitors. The Glock 26, in particular, comes to mind. So, for those who haven’t found the right micro-compact fit yet, the Mako may be for you.
The gun ships with 11- and 13-round magazines, with the 13-round option providing much better control. The pistol tracked well out of recoil, with the sights and dot settling back on target quickly. Twenty-five-yard accuracy was just about where I expected it, with Speer G2 and Hornady Critical Defense both shooting close to 3 inches. Norma’s 108-grain MHP load followed right behind at just less than 4 inches.
The micro-compact category is here to stay. Will the R7 Mako rule the deep end of these waters? Time will tell, but it looks like a strong swimmer.
Kimber R7 Mako Micro-Compact 9mm Pistol Specs
- Type: Recoil operated, striker-fired, semiautomatic
- Cartridge: 9mm
- Capacity: 11+1 rds.; 13+1 rds.
- Barrel: 3.37 in., stainless steel, 1:10-in. LH twist
- Overall Length: 6.2 in.
- Height: 4.3 in.
- Weight: 1 lb., 3.5 oz.
- Width: 1 in.
- Grip: Stippling and palm swell
- Trigger: 5 lbs., 2 oz.
- Sights: TruGlo Tritium Pro, 3-dot; orange (front), white (rear)
- Finish: Ferritic nitrocarburizing (FNC) (stainless steel)
- Safety: Trigger, striker block
- MSRP: $600 (no optic); $800 (optic incl.)
- Manufacturer: Kimber, 888-243-4522, kimberamerica.com
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