July 14, 2016
Americans vote with their wallets and, if market offerings are a reliable indicator of popularity, the 1911 still stands tall among gun buyers. Virtually every manufacturer turns out its own interpretation of John Browning's masterpiece, though Kimber offers more choices than most.
One of the company's offerings is the Kimber Desert Warrior TFS, which stands for "Threaded For Suppression." With civilian-owned suppressors becoming increasingly popular, this is a welcome addition to the expansive lineup of Kimber handguns.
Before we get into the specifics of the TFS version, let us take a step back to look at how the Kimber Desert Warrior was born.
In 2003, the United States Marine Corps broke from longstanding tradition and formed its own special operations unit. This unit, known as Marine Special Operations Command Detachment One, saw immediate duty in Iraq performing dangerous missions alongside other U.S. special operations troops.
It was decided that the unit's unique mission and designation warranted a special sidearm, and an extremely rare Kimber .45 was born. Only around 350 of these guns were ever made. Civilian interest in the Detachment One pistols inspired Kimber to release the commercially successful Warrior and Kimber Desert Warrior handguns.
The Kimber Desert Warrior is essentially a Warrior finished in Flat Dark Earth with Kimber's KimPro II coating on the slide and frame. Like the Warrior and Detachment One guns, the Desert Warrior's frame incorporates a rail on the dustcover for the mounting of lights or lasers. Kimber's frame uses a 1913 Picatinny rail, while the Detachment One guns used an aftermarket Dawson rail.
The handgun also incorporates several upgraded 1911 features, including front slide serrations, a lowered and flared-back ejection port, a beavertail grip safety, skeletonized hammer and an extended ambidextrous thumb safety. The mainspring housing is checkered at 30 lines-per-inch and incorporates a lanyard loop for securing the handgun per the Marine Corps' specs. The tan grips are made from G10.
The TFS version has all of these bells and whistles, with a few notable additions. The stainless steel match barrel on the Kimber Desert Warrior TFS is about 0.60 of an inch longer than that of standard 1911 to allow for the attachment of a suppressor. The barrel threads are cut at .578 x 28, which means they will fit most sound suppressors designed for .45 caliber handguns. When a suppressor is not mounted, a knurled black thread protector fits over them to prevent damage.
Since the diameter of most suppressors can obscure the sight picture when mounted, Kimber added a taller version of its tactical wedge fixed night sights to allow the shooter to sight over the top of the can. The sights incorporate three green tritium dots for use in low light and both the front and rear sights are serrated to minimize glare. We found the sights to be highly visible and useful when using the handgun both with and without a suppressor.
The legalities of suppressor use are such that it is nearly impossible to "demo" a suppressor without taking ownership. Since I already own the excellent SilencerCo Osprey 45, we mounted it for use throughout our evaluation.
The Osprey's interchangeable pistons means that it can be mounted to just about any thread pattern on the market, but the fact that the Kimber Desert Warrior TFS uses the same threads as my SilencerCo Glock 21 barrel meant that I didn't have to change a thing. The Osprey is designed to interfere with the sight picture as little as possible due to its offset rectangular design. With the extra tall sights on the Kimber, there were no issues putting the sights on target.
The best part about suppressing a .45 ACP is that it is easy to find subsonic ammunition within commercially available choices. Most common .45 ammunition is subsonic from a 5-inch barrel, including the Blazer 230-gr. FMJ and AYSM 185-gr. JHP Match ammo that we used to evaluate this Kimber Desert Warrior. The Osprey is highly effective at reducing a handgun's report, with a listed average dB level of 131.3 at the muzzle.
In English, that means that it is comfortable to shoot a .45 without hearing protection with an Osprey mounted and that the bullet hitting the steel target at 25 yards is louder than the muzzle blast. Not only does a suppressor such as the Osprey quiet the muzzle blast, but it effectively moves the source of the blast an additional 8 inches forward and away from your face. That said, if you're expecting "movie quiet" suppression from any model, you're going to be disappointed.
When you start messing with the fundamental engineering of a firearm, as in adding an extra 11 ounces to the muzzle, reliable function becomes a concern. Most guns work fine with a suppressor mounted but, you never know- especially when you're talking about a gun as finicky as a 1911 (blasphemous, yes, but also true).
This Kimber Desert Warrior never missed a beat, though, functioning with 100 percent reliability with or without the suppressor attached. Another wild card with suppressed guns is that you never really know what kind of point of impact shift you'll see with the device attached. With both loads we tested, the Kimber Desert Warrior TFS' sights were perfectly aligned with the suppressed point of impact. Unsuppressed, the point of impact was only an inch or two higher at 25 yards which is very minimal.
Accuracy was excellent both with and without the suppressor. I have a stash of ASYM match ammo, made when Stan Chen still loaded it himself in Colorado, and this stuff is as good as it gets (I haven't tried any from the new owners). At 25 yards, the Kimber Desert Warrior put 5 rounds of the 185-gr. JHPs through one fat hole.
The barrel diameter of the Kimber Desert Warrior widens by .006 of an inch at the point where it interfaces with the bushing, which is probably a factor in the gun's accuracy and reliability. The dimensions allow the gun lock up tightly when it is in battery but there's less drag between the bushing and the barrel as the slide cycles.
My only complaint about the Kimber Desert Warrior is that the five-pound trigger is a bit heavy for my preference, but it is certainly in line with the military theme of the pistol. The trigger displayed no noticeable creep, and the pull weight was very consistent.
I'll assume that you've never fired a suppressed handgun and will do my best to try to describe the experience. It is, in a word, "pleasant." You start out with what is essentially an 11-ounce counterweight at the muzzle, which makes the gun quite steady to hold.
Your conscious brain knows that it won't experience the overpressure blast of a traditional handgun, so fighting the unconscious urge to flinch becomes far easier. When the gun fires, recoil and muzzle rise are significantly diminished by both the internal dynamics and the physical mass of the suppressor. The recoil of a suppressed .45 feels like that of a mild 9mm.
The sound doesn't shock your ears and the aforementioned muzzle blast doesn't overwhelm the sensitive surface of your eyeballs. The unmistakable "thunk" of a fat .45 slug hitting the target brings satisfaction to your ears. Smiling occurs automatically. Not only is it fun, it is also highly conducive to good shooting.
The Osprey isn't the only .45 suppressor that can effectively interface with the Kimber Desert Warrior TFS. It's not even the only device made by SilencerCo that can do so.
The SilencerCo Octane is a suppressor designed for use with both handguns and submachine guns that, unlike most centerfire suppressors, can be disassembled for cleaning and maintenance by the user. The cylindrical Octane is available in both standard and "K" (kurz is German for "short") models for the 45. The full size Octane is .46 of an inch longer than the Osprey and an ounce heavier while the Octane K is 1.75 inches shorter than the Osprey and 1.7 ounces heavier (it bears mentioning that there is a K model Osprey available as well).
Average muzzle dB readings for the Osprey, Octane, and Octane K are 131.3, 132, and 139.8 dB, respectively. Keep in mind that the decibel scale is logarithmic rather than linear, but, as a practical matter, it takes a 3-4 decibel increase before the human ear can register a difference.
Suppressors represent the next area of innovation for the firearms industry and the technology is evolving rapidly from year to year. Firearms designed to function with suppressors represent a real and expanding niche in the marketplace, and Kimber is wise to include the Kimber Desert Warrior TFS models in its lineup.
The Kimber Desert Warrior TFS is a solidly constructed firearm with fit and finishing befitting its price point. Accuracy was excellent and reliability was perfect. If you are in the market for a suppressor-ready handgun and are a fan of the 1911, the TFS Warrior and Kimber Desert Warrior pistols are both strong contenders inspired by one of the most storied military handguns in recent history.
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