A Kimber representative wanted to tell me about their new handgun, but he said I’d need to sign a non-disclosure agreement so I wouldn’t spill the top-secret news before Kimber was ready. Once I’d signed, he said something like: “Now for the big news!” and told me Kimber planned to release—get this—a micro-compact, polymer-framed, double-stack 9 mm carry gun. If you’re wondering what the big deal is, well, so was I.
“You mean, like the SIG P365, Springfield Hellcat, S&W Shield Plus, Taurus GX4, Ruger MAX-9 and about a dozen others?” I said, oozing sarcasm. The only real question here is why Kimber waited so long to hop on the bandwagon.
“You tell me what the big deal is after you shoot it,” the rep responded. So, I did, and I had to eat my sarcastic words.
Kimber’s R7 Mako polymer 9 mm is indeed surprising. The company used existing concepts and took its time refining them. The result is a 19-ounce, 1-inch-thick carry gun that holds 14 rounds, conceals well and handles and shoots even better.
What features differentiate it from the pack? Internally, the Mako mimics Glock’s oft-copied pattern, with a few differences. For one, the ejector is beefier and higher profile. Second, the frame doesn’t feature aluminum-reinforced polymer guides for the slide to engage, using machined steel rails instead. These are not full length, though; they have a gap in the channel to allow the slide to be removed with ⅛-inch forward movement. Whether this represents much advantage is questionable, but it’s different.
The ejection port on the R7 Mako’s beveled, machined-steel slide is open only on the right, not on the top. Kimber claims this design helps to keep gases and brass away from the gun’s optic, thereby prolonging the optic’s usage before cleaning, as well as its overall life. Makes sense. It also claims it mitigates dust and debris from falling into the action when carried, but I’ve never had this problem with open-top carry guns, and, in fact, the open top was made to increase reliability by reducing the chance of stove-piping. What is undeniable is that this design allows one-handed re-cocking/jam-clearing without worry of your thumb getting pinched in the action.
If this advantage came at the expense of decreased reliability, it wouldn’t be worth it, but that wasn’t the case. My testing proved it is as reliable as any comparable carry gun available—I experienced one jam in 500 rounds.
Four more features separate the Mako from the other players. First, it features an aggressive 360-degree grip stippling with a slight palm swell that continues forward on both sides all the way to the support-thumb rest. As such, it’s the factory’s best stippling to date and lends outstanding grip that, in conjunction with an ultra-thin beavertail that places the hand very high in relation to the bore, makes this 3-inch-barreled carry gun easier to control.
I also love its grip angle. It sits somewhere between a Glock and a 1911. An optional 13-round, extended magazine greatly enhances its grip by providing room for a pinkie. The Mako also comes with a flush-fitting 11-round magazine. “Feel” is naturally subjective, but it feels good to me.
Second, its ambidextrous slide release sits flush within a molded “brow” that runs parallel under the slide; it is prominent enough to be intuitive, but streamlined enough to prevent accidental depression. The gun’s magazine-release button is ambidextrous and oversized, so it’s easy to find; it is also in a crater so that its depression must be purposeful.
Third, Kimber solved a common sighting dilemma. They cut out the slide for a mini-reflex optic, but also installed factory TruGlo tritium tall sights that can be used through the optic’s glass if the batteries fail. This is how all optic-ready carry guns should be set up, in my opinion. If everything goes right, the shooter can quickly choose the precision of the red dot; if things go wrong, he or she can rapidly switch to the iron sights.
The gun is offered very simply and practically in two vesions: Optic-ready with a cover plate, or optic-installed, which comes from the factory with Crimson Trace’s CTS-1500 bolted on top. After first shooting the R7 Mako, I began carrying it for my personal safety. I unfortunately got it tangled in my shirt one day as I was adjusting its holster; the gun fell and shattered the optic’s glass. But even though the view wasn’t crystal clear, the red-dot optic still worked. By keeping both eyes open, I could still use both the red-dot and the sights. This gave me great assurance moving forward with the design.
Finally, the Mako’s shining improvement is its trigger. Like most others, notably Taurus’ excellent GX4, it features a blade-style safety, a short reset and a consistent pull, but what is significant about this trigger is that it averaged 4.5 pounds with very little creep. It is easily one of the best factory-offered, striker-fired triggers I’ve felt, and, no doubt, this contributes to the gun’s stellar accuracy.
Concerning accuracy, this gun loved premium ammo. With the red-dot, I averaged 0.90 groups at 10 yards, which I consider outstanding for a 20-ounce, 3-inch-barreled carry gun. Tactical speed reloads were easy thanks to great controls and a slide that remained rearward until I closed it.
Makos, by the way, are the fastest sharks in the water. And, while Kimber took their time getting these to the market, I can see that they may easily out-swim the micro-compact double-stack competition. This makes sense, as the company had the benefit of seeing the others and improving on them. The gun itself is as solid as handguns get. But, let’s consider a common problem with Kimbers—they’re pretty proud of their guns, so it’s a lot more expensive, right? This is, perhaps, the Mako’s best surprise: It’s not $1,200 or even $1,000, as I anticipated. The optic-ready model costs around $600. A big deal, indeed.