Guns Handguns

Kimber R7 Mako 9mm Micro-Compact

Kimber makes a strong debut in the largest and most competitive handgun market with this full-featured, optics-ready, striker-fired, micro-compact 9mm pistol.
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The Kimber R7 Mako is an optics-ready micro-compact 9mm from the Troy, Alabama, company. John B. Snow

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At first blush, the Kimber R7 Mako might not catch your eye, but don’t be fooled. Yes, it has a molded polymer frame. Yes, it is striker fired. Yes, it is a micro compact. Yes, it stuffs 9mm rounds into its double-stack magazines like a chipmunk filling its cheeks with nuts for winter. And, yes, the Kimber R7 is optics-ready, with one model shipping from the factory with a Crimson Trace CTS-1500 reflex sight. So is it just a “me too” pistol in an already crowded field? That’s what I suspected until I put the first round through it. I don’t say this often, but I’m happy to report I was wrong.

What surprised me most about the R7 Mako is how refined it is, which is a pretty odd way to describe a plastic micro-compact nine. Specifically, the pistol’s balance and handling elevates it above many other handguns in its competitive set. Here are the bare bones of the R7:

Kimber R7 Mako Specifications

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  • Caliber: 9mm
  • Magazine Capacity: 11+1 (flush), 13+1 (extended)
  • Dimensions: 4.3 in. (h) x 6.2 in. (l) x 1 in. (w)
  • Weight: 23 oz. (with included optic, empty extended magazine)
  • Frame: Glass-filled nylon grip and stainless steel central block
  • Slide: Stainless steel with FNC finish
  • Barrel: 3.37 in. with 1:10 LH twist
  • Sights: Tritium Pro Night Sights with orange front ring and dual white rear dots.
  • Optic: Crimson Trace CTS-1500 reflex sight
  • Trigger: 4 pounds, 4 ounces (tested)
  • Price: $799 (with optic); $599 (base model)
9mm pistol with magazines
The Kimber R7 Mako ships with two magazines—one that holds 11 rounds and another with an extended base pad that holds 13. John B. Snow

Kimber’s Recipe for Success

Kimber’s approach to building handguns has followed a clear formula. Take a popular platform, improve it by adding custom features that shooters want, and give them the complete package right out the box—no add-ons required.

Kimber did this most notably with their 1911s, offering a bewildering array of configurations for nearly every conceivable use. Whether a shooter wanted an ambi-safety, forward slide serrations, a rounded grip, beveling removed from the edges, night sights, two-tone finishes—you name it—Kimber built a 1911 to suit.

Refined Ergonomics

The Kimber Mako R7 takes a page from this playbook. Many of these upgrades come in the form of ergonomic enhancements. One that jumped out at me right away was the quality and quantity of stippling on the frame. The medium-rough texturing Kimber employs strikes a smart balance between comfort and grippy-ness. Even when wet, the pistol stays firmly secured in the hand, yet the texture remains comfortable when shooting for extended periods of time. The pattern wraps 360 degrees around the grip and extends up the sides of the frame creating a nice pad for the thumb of the support hand to bear against, which is one reason the pistol shoots so well for its size.

Kimber R7 Mako Models

The pistol comes in two versions—one optics-ready and the other with the optic installed, which is what I tested. The cutout for the optic is recessed into the frame so the shooter can see the pistol’s normal-profile iron sights through the window of the reflex sight. That’s a comfort in case the reflex sight should go down. The sights have tritium inserts and are arranged in a three-dot pattern, with two white dots on the rear sight and an orange circle up front. The inserts themselves glow with the same greenish hue, so there’s no way to differentiate between the front and rear dots in the dark. The rear sight uses a Glock-type dovetail so should you want to put different irons on the Mako you’ll have plenty of choices.

Kimber R7 at the range
The author is all smiles after evaluating the Kimber R7 Mako. He found the pistol to be remarkably refined and easy to shoot for a micro-compact 9mm. John B. Snow

Crimson Trace Reflex Sight

Kimber pairs its Mako with a Crimson Trace CTS-1500. It’s a low-profile sight that has a metal frame protecting the glass. The housing doesn’t extend beyond the sides of the slide, keeping the profile sleek, which is what you want in an optics-equipped concealed-carry gun.

While one can’t make definitive statements on the durability of a sight like this without deliberately beating the hell out of the pistol, I did subject it to some rough use. It isn’t any worse for the wear. In particular, I made a point of using the front edge of the sight to rack the pistol against tables, counter tops, and other hard surfaces. Though the housing got a bit scuffed in the process—concrete shooting benches will do that—the sight didn’t suffer any meaningful damage.

Establishing my zero with the reflex sight couldn’t have been simpler. I shot a couple magazines with the iron sights at 15 yards, noted where the rounds were impacting compared to the alignment of the fixed sights, and then moved the red dot to correspond to that spot. The CTS-1500’s windage and elevation adjusts with an included hex key wrench.

Getting the pistol with the sight is a $200 upgrade ($799 versus $599) and unless you have another sight to stick on the pistol, it is 100 percent worth it. (Any sight with a Shield pattern RMSc footprint will fit on the Mako. That includes the Leopold Delta Point Pro, Sig Sauer Romeo Zero, JP Enterprises JPoint, Vector Optics FrenzyS, and the Shield sights, among others.)

Kimber R7 Mako At The Range

With the zero dialed in, I got down to some serious shooting. I shot the Mako head-to-head with a number of other handguns—some micro-compacts and some larger-framed guns.

From the first trigger presses, I could tell the Mako was a shooter. The pistol handles recoil extremely well for a sub-compact, with minimal muzzle flip and quick recovery times between shots. The grip texture, which I mentioned above, is one contributing factor but far from the only one.

See How the Kimber R7 Mako did in Outdoor Life’s Best Handguns of 2022

One visually notable feature on the R7 Mako is the enclosed ejection port. I like the way it looks—it is reminiscent of some of the earliest Colt and Browning designs—but from an engineering perspective it, too, has a positive impact on how the gun shoots. The way the barrel locks into the top part of the slide reduces the angle of the barrel tilt under recoil, driving the gun straight back into the shooter’s hand. That minimal tilt also helps the rounds feed straighter into the barrel, enhancing reliability. (Speaking of reliability, I had zero malfunctions with the pistol during my evaluation. All told, I put about 300 rounds through the pistol and used several different makes and types of 9mm ammo, from cheap practice stuff to top-shelf defensive loads.)

One consequence of the ejection port’s design is that it is a little more difficult to visually confirm whether the Mako has a round in the chamber. There’s no raised bit of extractor or port that gives a peek into the chamber. You’re going to want to practice your press check to verify the status of this gun.

9mm pistol and grip
Like many striker-fired pistols, the Mako comes with a trigger safety tab. You can also see the pistol's ambidextrous magazine release and broad stippling coverage. John B. Snow

Crisp Trigger

The trigger on the R7 is fairly light and crisp, especially for this type of defensive pistol. On my sample the trigger broke at 4 pounds, 4 ounces, and has minimal creep and a quick reset. The face of the trigger is flat and even though it sits at a slight angle when the pistol is cocked, it comes back nearly straight during the trigger press and helps with the gun’s controllability.

Grip geometry is another major factor that dictates how a pistol shoots. The Mako’s beavertail puts the web of the hand relatively close to the axis of the bore, which is a good thing. And Kimber added slight palm swells on either side of the stock, which fills the shooter’s hand and makes the pistol easier to control. (Kimber did something sneaky here. In their published specs of the Mako they say the grip is 1 inch wide, but with the swells the pistol actually measures 1.17 inches at its thickest point.)

Two Magazines

The Mako ships with two magazines, one that holds 11 rounds and sits nearly flush in the grip, and an extended magazine that holds 13 rounds. The extended magazine only adds about a ¼ inch to the depth of the grip, but it makes a big difference. The pistol shoots fine with the 11-rounder, but having just a bit more purchase for my pinky finger with the extended magazine had an outsized positive effect on the gun’s shootability. It’s difficult to imagine a circumstance where one would opt to use the shorter mag in lieu of the 13-rounder as the primary magazine for the Mako.

Properly designing a magazine is a complex affair and far more difficult than most people realize. But Kimber got it right. One indication of this is how easy the magazines are to load to capacity. Stuffing the final round into the magazine takes only normal human effort, rather than the thumb-breaking force that a poorly designed magazine requires.

The metal-bodied magazines drop free from the mag well without hesitation, whether full or empty, at a press of the magazine release. The Mako has mag-release controls on both sides of the frame for ambidextrous use, though because of the design the release on the right side of the frame (which a lefty like me would use) requires a slightly deeper push to activate.

The mag well on the Mako doesn’t flair at all—it is meant for concealed carry after all—but I didn’t have any issues with reloads at the range. The taper at the top of the magazine is narrow enough that I had no trouble guiding the magazine home during my shooting drills.

stripped 9mm pistol
Field stripping the Kimber R7 Mako takes only a few seconds. The components include the frame, slide, barrel and recoil rod/recoil spring assembly. John B. Snow

Accuracy and Field Stripping

As far as accuracy goes, the Kimber R7 Mako is more than adequate for the task. I was able to maintain center of mass hits on IDPA-style targets at 15 yards with a brisk rate of fire. At closer ranges—7 yards and in—keeping the shots within the eyebox was a simple task.

The Mako can be field stripped in a matter of seconds. After clearing the pistol and depressing the trigger, the shooter pulls the slide slightly to the rear and at the same time pulls down on the two tabs on the frame, which are located between the trigger and ejection port. That done, you just push the slide forward about a quarter inch and lift it off the frame.

The recoil rod has a captured spring. Just pull the rod and spring free of the barrel and the pistol is now field stripped. Idiot proof.

Most of the metal components on the Mako are FNC coated. That includes the barrel, breech block, slide and the central block. The FNC process basically gives the metal a hard coating that is resistant to corrosion and dings. It also helps reduce friction for smoother operation and improved durability.

The muzzle on the Kimber R7 Mako has been machined to smooth out the edges, making it less likely to snag and hang up when carried. John B. Snow

Kimber R7 Mako For Daily Carry

The overall dimensions of the Mako place it squarely in the high-capacity sub-compact 9mm niche. It’s just a touch larger than my Springfield Armory Hellcat, but barely. Kimber made some aggressive cuts to the slide and muzzle to round-off the Mako and minimize the chance of it snagging on anything. I also think the scalloped edges give the Mako a refined look too.

A gun that’s carried daily tends to collect gunk and while there’s no way to totally prevent dust, lint, and dirt from getting into a pistol’s works, the Mako is sealed tighter than most guns. There’s the enclosed ejection port, of course, but the slide on the Mako sits tighter to the frame compared to most similar pistols. When the gun is stripped, you can take note of the height of the rails on the frame. They sit taller than you’ll see on a typical polymer-framed pistol. Because of this the slide sits lower on the frame. Viewed from the side you can’t see any light in the space between the slide and frame. Do the same with any Glock and the light pours through.

Like most modern sub-compacts, the Mako has a short section of rail in front of the trigger guard to mount a light or laser.

Final Thoughts

Pistols in the sub-compact category are utilitarian objects. They need to function without fail when their use is required and be able to do so despite being subjected to benign neglect, which is the lot of a carry gun.

One doesn’t expect any frills from these guns—so when they exhibit smart and thoughtful touches that’s a big bonus. And that’s exactly what the Kimber R7 Mako has accomplished. It checks all the boxes that a savvy shooter looks for in a carry gun and is pleasant to shoot as well.

Read Next: The Top 10 Best Handguns for Carrying (Plus Two Extras, Just in Case)

Kimber spent the better part of three years bringing the Mako to market and this pistol is the first new product that Kimber 100 percent designed and built in their Troy, Alabama factory. Based on this strong debut, it seems that Kimber has survived the transition from New York to the heart of Old Dixie. I can’t wait to see what they roll out next.