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Top Three 1911 Pistols from Kimber

by Patrick Sweeney   |  October 24th, 2010 5

Kimber-1911sOK, for some of us, at various times in our lives, the question was not “what gun do I wear?” but “How many?” The gun shops at which I worked were not in a bad part of town, nor in a high-crime town. But, we were close (sometimes perilously close) to a very bad town, indeed. More than once I arrived at work, or left for the day, packing two or three guns. Was I expecting trouble? No, had I been, my ensemble would have begun with a Winchester ‘97 or Remington 870 shotgun.

No, it was simply “normal” at that time and place to be packing heavy. And lest you think I am an anomaly, I know people who regularly pack two or three guns all the time. Now, my setup, selected in the “old days” had a few things wrong with it. My main gun was a lightweight Commander in .45 ACP, with spare mags. My second gun was an S&W M-65 in a shoulder holster. And the third gun was (early on) an M-60 or (later) a custom Colt Agent. Three guns, three calibers, and two different operating systems. The only saving grace was that I regularly practiced with both single action pistols and double action revolvers, and switched back and forth in practice. Due to that practice, I was unlikely to have a problem transitioning from one to the next.

However, I would not recommend such a defensive battery today. Unless you are going to invest inordinate amounts of transition practice, you should select main and backups that all work the same.

Hence our Kimbers this month. For a modern heavy carry ensemble, I have a Kimber Custom II, a Super Carry Pro, and an Ultra RCP II. All three in .45 ACP, all three using identical magazines, and all three functioning in the same way, so no need to worry about transition training. Just “where’s the next one?” practice.

The Custom II is a full-sized, matte-black pistol that would be the main gun for many, but if you need greater compactness, you’d opt for the Super Carry Pro, of which we’ll talk in a bit. Me, I have a problem with a lot of ambi safeties. My rather peculiar grip puts my trigger finger knuckle quite high on the frame, and many ambi safeties won’t work. They stop at the knuckle. If you do not have this problem, then get an ambi if it floats your boat. Me, I’ll opt out, and so the Custom II comes to me lacking an ambi safety. No problem, as I’ll also have the Super Carry Pro if I need left-handed big-bore work.

The Custom II comes with a full-length guide rod, and there I have to go old-school. For me, the original design is the best, and I’ll be re-building any carry gun that comes with a guide rod, unless it won’t take one. Most Kimbers come with a full-length rod, but swapping it out for a GI-style setup is child’s play. To pack the Custom II, I went with a Galco Concealable, right-handed in Havana Brown. Now, were I packing openly I’d want something with a thumbstrap or retention. But, since my days of wearing a star are over, open carry is not something I have to worry about. The belt loops fore and aft snug the Kimber right into my side, and angle it so the grip doesn’t dig in or stick out.

As a second gun, I went with the Kimber Super Carry pro, a commander-sized pistol with some very nice bling on it. The four-inch barrel makes for easier packing, and the rounded butt ensures it will not drape on a jacket or other cover garment, and print on me. Since it is the second gun, it goes on the left side, behind the spare magazines. Someone is asking right now “spare magazines? But you have a spare gun?” If things go to hell, and I need a gun, I plan to use the big one on the right side for as long as possible. Once I’m out of ammo for it, or my right hand/arm doesn’t work, then I go the second gun, and not before. And yes, I’m conversant with reloading and with spare guns, having spent many a session in LEO classes and for bowling pin shooting practicing my “New York Reload.”

Since it will be drawn left-handed, the Super Carry Pro has an ambi safety, but I made sure the rightside paddle is trim enough to clear my hand, should I need/desire to use it right-handedly. It also uses a no-bushing barrel design, which necessitates a guide rod on the recoil spring. So I’ll leave the guide rod alone.

On the left side, the Super Carry Pro goes into a Galco Concealable, left-handed and trimmed for a 4” barrel. In front of it is the Galco DMC, double mag carrier.

Now, I have to warn you, if you plan to go with a setup like this, you will have to make some changes in your life. First of all, your current belt won’t fit. Yes, you may have a belt long enough to fit your waist now, but once you’ve looped it through two holsters and a double mag pouch, it will arrive at your front some six inches shorter than it was previously. Also, you really should accept the edict of time, and wear trousers that are your actual size, and not your aspirational size. If you don’t, on either belt or ttrousers, you will find the wearing of a carry gun to be most uncomfortable.

Also, once you’ve put on a rig like this, it will be like wearing a steel corset. It will take some time to become comfortable walking, sitting, driving and moving. If you drop something while in line for your favorite flavored coffee beverage, you’ll have to plan how you’re going to reach down and pick it up.

As the third gun, I opted for the ultra-compact Ultra RCP II. This is a 1911 with everything pared to the minimum the barrel is a stubby three inches with slide to match, and the sights have also been reduced to a gutter along the slide top. Like the Super Carry Pro, the frame of the Ultra is aluminum. (Yes, I could have gone with all-aluminum framed guns, but for the main gun I still prefer steel. At least, for as long as I can pack the weight.) Now, since I am lacking in waistline on which to perch this pistol, and I really do not like a middle-of-the-back carry method (also known as “Small of the back” or SOB) I looked into ankle carry. At first glance this was a no-go. But the folks at Galco insisted, so I tried the Ankle glove. Hmmm. The grip of the Ultra was canted in, to nestle against the calf of my leg, and the whole thing was actually wearable.

It does take some getting used to, as your gait will change for a short time, until you get used to the weight. You’ll also have to wear trousers with enough width and drape to cover the gun. Drawing with an ankle rig is always an adventure. No, a one-legged gung-fu stance, lifting your leg to draw, is not advisable. Instead, drop the other leg back and take a knee, use the off hand to rip up your trouser cuff, and draw and shoot.

As for aiming, the groove on the slide is more of a sight than you’d think. First of all, the rear portion of it is a replaceable segment, so you could adjust the sights if you had to. And, if you pay attention, the alignment of the front edges of the groove, compared to the rear opening, allows for actual aiming, and not mere pointing.

Now, do you need all this? No, not really. However, if we were going by probabilities, none of us would be carrying a gun. As long as you ascribe to the Farnam 80% rule (“80% of life’s problems start out with; “there I was, in this bar/dice game/bad part of town” Answer stay out of those places!) the probability of needing a gun is lower than that of being struck by lightning. But, we’re looking at probabilities from a different perspective. That is, if trouble comes, I have to be prepared. If it never comes, then I’ll be happy. But if it does, I must be ready.

And if trouble comes, it usually arrives in spades. Standing there, I have (leaving out the other emergency equipment) three pistols, with five magazines and forty-two rounds of .45 ACP. Do you need that much? Perhaps not, but there are many permutations of this setup. You could swap the Super Carry Pro over to the right, leave the Custom II at home or not get it at all, and pack the Ultra on the left side. (Just be sure to have it fitted with an ambi safety.) That gets a gun off your ankle, and eases the weight on your belt. Or, keep the full-sized Custom II, and use the Ultra as your backup gun.

In the case of going with just two guns, instead of all three, I’d be tempted to double up on spare magazines. I’d carry a double mag pouch on the left side in front of the Ultra or the Super Carry Pro, and the other double mag pouch behind the main gun on the right. The plan would be thus; In the event I need a gun, I have the main gun. If I have to reload, I will go with decades of practice and snatch them off the left side. If I get to the point of running dry, I’ll ditch the main gun and draw the backup. By then, I’m likely to be shooting left-handed or one-handed, and the right-side holster will be empty.

Then again, we can over-think this. Still, if the recycled kobe beef ever hits the air circulation device, I want to have too many guns and too much ammo, and not “just enough” or “almost enough.”

As for shooting and testing these or any other Kimbers, they performed pretty much as you’d expect; quite well, indeed. The Custom II, being a full-sized and full weight 1911 pistol, was soft in recoil with any load I fed it. At 38 ounces, you wouldn’t expect anything else. The Super Carry Pro, being aluminum-framed, tips the scales at ten ounces less. Recoil in it was a bit more brisk, but nothing oppressive. The Ultra was the real eye-opener. The Ultra RCP II is listed as being just three ounces lighter than the Super Carry Pro, but in recoil it moved around a lot more. The short barrel took a bunch of velocity off of any and all loads, but not a really big chunk. After all, the .45 ACP does its good work via mass, not speed. So, unlike a .357 Magnum or a .357 Sig, a short barrel doesn’t become a masochistic exercise in ballistic self-flagellation.

From the Gutter
What did surprise me was the accuracy of the Ultra RCP II. I really expected to find a five-shot “group” that used all of a USPSA target at 25 yards. What I found was that I could, if I paid attention to the subtle clues the gutter sight gave me, I kept all of my shots well within the boundaries of an 8.5X11” sheet of copy paper. In fact, all groups were within those boundaries. I know, someone is near-derisive at this point “He’s bragging on keeping his groups under eight inches at 25 yards.” I repeat a three inch barrel, a sighting system that is a groove on the top of the slide, full-power ammo.

In test-firing these, I did the usual; I fired drills, I shot groups, I ran ammo over the chronograph. But then I had a chance to stretch the boundaries. I found myself at a National Guard base, during a patrol rifle class, and down at the back end of the 300 meter computer range was a deuce-and-a-half. It had already been thrashed/practiced on by someone with a 40mm grenade launcher or ten, and the holes were impressive. Since then it had been left forlornly at the back corner of the rifle computer range, and it was now fair game for anyone to shoot with whatever they had. I learned a few things, plinking at that truck. (And stop cringing, Dave. Your deuce is safe.) First, you don’t have to hold over as much as you’d think. A ballistic calculator will tell you the bullet drops ten feet out there, but when you’re looking 300 meters downrange, ten feet doesn’t seem like enough holdover. You’ll want to hold 40-50 feet over, which is way too much.

Second, it takes a long time to get feedback. Even starting at 1,000 fps, it takes over a second for the bullet to get there, and another for the sound to return. Third, at 300 meters you aren’t going to punch a .45 caliber hole through anything on a truck like that except for the window glass.

But, as fun as that experience was, we are not expecting to be attacked by a truck at 300 meters distance. No, we’re most likely going to be dealing with a felon out on parole, standing at the other end of a passenger car. For that, these and any other Kimbers will work superbly. Just be sure you follow rule #1; have one with you. Rule #2; have a spare, and extra ammo.

  • Steve

    I also thought Kimbers were great, until I bought one. After numerous failure-to-feed problems, accuracy about the same as throwing rocks, and cleaning metal shavings out of the frame and slide after shooting it, I changed my mind. I guess you have to pay more than the base $1,200 to get one of the Custom Shop guns before you can count on it actually working. Counting on THREE Kimbers to cover all the bases? Ain't gonna happen. I got my money back three days after I bought my Tactical Ultra II. I'd rather use a stick, at least it won't jam.

  • Guy

    I have a Kimber Custom II . It has without fail shot anything and everything I have put in it . I can say that I personally would not want to be on the business end of it . From 5 to 25 yards it hits what I aim at . I was not a 1911 fan until I traded a Glock for it , I am a believer now ! Two years and alot of ammo later – I would buy another in a heartbeat !

  • Bob

    Got a good price on a used Kimber Royal II and have been totally pleased with it. Fed it almost a thousand 200 gr cast reloads last summer and no problems at all to report. From my experience I'd buy another one, got my eye on a Custom TLE.

  • Martin

    I have a kimber ultra carry 2 with the crimson trace laser grips. I have put over 1000 rounds through it with no problems. Very nice shooting gun

  • Coach3

    Pat, are you carrying all same ammo in all three carry guns? If not, what is break down? I don’t plan on carrying three guns any time soon, but in the event that it would become necessary, I’d like to be better prepared.
    Thanks,
    Dave

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