Proceeded to the range after work yesterday, with the following rounds and weapons in tow:
- Kimber Solo STS --- purchased 3/28/12
- M&P Shield --- purchased 4/15/12
- 100 rounds Gold Dot 147gr
- 100 rounds Lawman 147gr FMJ (same velocity and charge as Gold Dot, just w/FMJ bullet)
- 100 rounds American Eagle 124gr FMJ
- 50 rounds Blazer Brass 115gr FMJ
- 50 rounds Double Tap TACXP 115gr +P
- 25 rounds Hornady Critical DUTY 135gr+P
- 25 rounds Golden Saber 124gr
Forwarded the target out to 7 yards, and let the games begin!
Started first with the Shield. It fired 13 rounds Golden Saber, no malfs. Fired 13 rounds Critical Duty, no malfs. Fired 25 rounds Double TAP with one FTF; round was ejected, reloaded, and shot fine. Fired 50 rapid-fire rounds of AE 124gr with no malfs. Fired 50 rapid-fire shots of Gold Dot 147gr and Lawman 147gr FMJ with no malfs. Was boringly reliable. Recoil-wise, I was very surprised. The recoil felt very similar to a friend's M&P9C that I have fired in the past. I thought for a small gun, recoil would be stronger. Pleasant surprise. The Shield was also very accurate. With the Gold Dots, Critical Duty, and Golden Saber, I was shooting ragged 2-3" holes at 7 yards (one slow-fire mag of each). Accuracy was less with other loads, but still within my 6" shoot and see targets, and for cheap practice FMJ, that's not too bad. Ergonomically, the gun felt good, expect I have larger hands, and it has a little hard to hold on to during some of the rapid fire strings due to it's .94" grip width. The slide stop lever was also nearly impossible to operate one-handed. This did improve throughout the session, but was still stiff at the end. Safety was easy to engage/disengage with the thumb of my strong hand. Shield fired all of the above rounds consecutively, without cleaning. Got hot, and dirty with powder residue near the muzzle, but worked fine!
Then I moved on to the Solo. It fired 11 rounds of Golden Saber, and had one failure to feed. After tap, rack the round went bang! Fired 12 rounds Critical Duty, no malfs. Moved on to Double Tap, had one stovepipe with a live round, like the mag ejected the round straight up instead of forward against the feed ramp. Also had 1 FTE and 1 failure to lock the slide back on last round. Given that it was 115gr ammo, I wasn't worried, since the Solo is designed to operate on 124 to 147gr. Then moved on to Lawman. Had one double feed, but the remaining 49 rounds fired flawlessly. All 50 Gold Dots shot perfectly. All 50 American Eagles fired fine, no malfs. Surprisingly, even 25 rounds of 115gr Blazer Brass fired fine. Overall, the Solo was pretty reliable. Recoil was what you would expect from a 17 oz handgun with a grip that only allows the middle and ring fingers to hold on. Not terrible recoil, and I even thought it pleasant to shoot. But I'd say it's about even with the recoil of the LC9 (which I had and sold, because I hated the trigger, but that's another story). Accuracy was spot-on with the Gold Dots, Golden Saber and Critical Duty. I was shooting slightly larger groups than with the shield, but still was able to keep 3-4" groupings at 7 yards, when slow firing. Ergonomically, I did have a problem with this gun when I first bought it. The cheapo plastic grips it ships with offer no purchase on the weapon, so I upgraded to a set of Rosewood grips from SGM Grips (sgmgrips.com). This made the grip slightly thicker, and the textured surface of the Rosewood allowed better purchase. Safety is ambidextrous, and is easy to flip on and off with either thumb, but strong enough to not be accidentally engaged or disengaged. As with the Shield, the weapon got hot and dirty, since I didn't clean it, but still functioned.
At this point, I wanted to keep going! So I went to the range counter, and bought 2 boxes of 124gr Gold Dot (2 of the 20 rnd boxes). I decided to try my luck at ~17 yards (roughly 1/2 way between the 15 and 20 yd lines). I used an 8" Shoot-N-C for this purpose. Both guns fired 20 of the 124gr Gold Dots just fine, but it was definitely harder to hit the target. With a longer slide and sight radius, the Shield had the edge here, but my groups still weren't fantasic; with both guns, all rounds landed inside the 8" Shoot-N-C, but the Shield's groupings were slightly closer together.
So, both were boringly reliable and accurate enough for SD purposes; I wouldn't want to shoot them IDPA or at 25 yards, but for up to I'd say 10-15 yards, both would serve you well. Now, let's crown the winner:
At SD Distances, I'd say it's a toss up. Maybe a slight advantage for the Shield.
Including ease of operation. I'd have to say that the slide stop and safety are easier to operate on the Solo, but are still workable on the Shield. However, the mag release on the Solo is exceedingly stiff, whereas it's smooth as butter on the Shield. The shield is much easier to hang on to during firing, due to taller grip with stippling, versus the Solo's shorter grip and crappy grip panels. Overall, I'd give the advantage to the Solo, but by no means was the Shield impossible or difficult; it's like trying to compare beef tenderloin to prime rib.
Again, it's a toss-up. The Solo did have some malfs as per above, however in previous testing (not reported here) I fired 150 124gr American Eagles through the Solo (on day of purchase) without issue. However, I feel that the edge goes to the Shield for only having one malf on this one. The solo malf'd with 115 HP, 124 HP, and 147gr FMJ; however, it did shoot my preferred carry loads (124gr and 147gr Gold Dot) without any hiccups. Read above firing reports for details.
Solo. It's easily pocket carried, or IWB carried with a good holster (I currently use the High Noon Tailgunner). The Shield CAN be pocket carried, but at least in most of my pants, the very end of the grip sticks out very slightly. The Shield is also fairly easy to conceal too though, much more so than my XD40 or a friend's G27. If you want pocket carry, go Solo.
Clearly, the Shield is the winner here. At $459 compared to $669, it's 31% cheaper than the Solo. The Solo is all-metal, whereas the Shield is stainless slide with Zytel polymer frame, so that probably accounts for some of the difference.
Personally, I will keep them both! I plan to head back to the range tomorrow with another 50 rounds each of Gold Dot, and see how they do.
One caveat, about Double Tap ammo. As both guns had malfs with ammo, I believe it is a QC issue on their part. I think I'll stick to the big-name companies for my needs.
Hope you enjoyed!