May 29, 2013

Kimber Compact Stainless II 45 ACP, $1009

Some of us who know that there’s no substitution for bullet mass when it comes to stopping power prefer the 45 Auto for self defense. But no one likes to pack a heavy handgun, so most makers offer some solutions to that problem in the form of lighter-weight 1911s. These generally utilize aluminum frames, with shorter grips and slides. Any 45 Auto requires good management by the shooter, so these lighter and shorter-grip guns are not for everyone. One of the better 45 compromises is the use of a full-size aluminum grip frame combined with a short slide. Colt calls this setup the Lightweight Commander. We found a handgun by Kimber that is mighty close to that concept, the Compact Stainless II, $1009.

The finish on the Kimber was all matte stainless except for the fixed sights, which were matte blued, and the grips, which were black checkered rubber. The slide was marked with the gun’s designation on the right and the Kimber logo on the left. The extended left-side safety was easy to use, and we liked the look and feel of the black rubber grips. The rear mainspring housing was checkered, and although it was made of plastic like that on the Colt CCO, we had no problems with the method or material of construction, having had years of experience with the Colt setup. It works, and is lighter than steel. The Kimber did not have checkering on its front strap. In fact, only the Sig had that feature. One magazine came with the gun, but we also got two extras ($30 each) with slam pads. The slam pads make it easier to speed-load guns with the shorter grips. We noted the magazines for the Sig are identical to those for the Kimber, i.e., made by the same company, and they’ll both fit the Colt CCO.

The fit and finish were excellent on the Kimber. One fault was the sharp edge all around the ejection port, which could cut hands in clearance drills. The Springfield also had some knife edges on the port, but the good folks at Sig have realized knife edges belong on knives, not handguns. The Kimber’s sight picture was pretty good, as it was on all three guns, but we thought the Kimber could use a bit more light on the side of the front blade for faster work. Both front and rear sights were dovetailed into the slide. The rear had an Allen screw to lock it. The front relied on friction.

Courtesy Gun Tests

Courtesy Gun Tests

We liked the simple, clean lines and absence of non-essentials on the lightweight Kimber Compact Stainless II. The checkered rubber grips helped control the gun in recoil, but we would have liked checkering on the front strap. The fixed sights did not have tritium inserts, and some will want them. We liked the feel of the single-side safety as well. We didn't like the takedown procedure, which requires a small bent pin, easily made from a paper clip if you lose both of those provided with the gun. Do you carry paper clips in the field?

This gun had no front barrel bushing. The barrel gets fatter at the front to fill the hole in the slide. Beneath the barrel is the rod-like keeper for the recoil spring, and you need a suitable tool to remove it. Kimber provides two of them. To get the gun apart you clear it, rack it open, insert the bent-wire tool, slowly release the slide, pop out the slide-stop pin and take the slide off the frame. Then the parts come out easily, spring to the rear and barrel to the front. The spring assembly can be taken apart for cleaning, using lots of care and always wearing safety glasses.

The result of such a design is that you have fewer parts to the gun, which makes maintenance less of a chore. From what we’ve seen, the performance is not affected in a negative way either, by the elimination of the original-design spring and plunger and front bushing. However, traditionalists, die-hards, and older gun writers will always prefer the original 1911 system, which the Sig has, so you can take the gun apart entirely by hand, with no tools needed. Will you have that takedown tool with you in the field?

Inside the gun we found excellent workmanship, with one questionable area that we’ll watch in our follow-up shooting sessions. The feed ramp was slightly pitted or rough. We had test fired the gun before disassembly, and it appeared as if the bullet noses had slightly battered the aluminum of the ramp. This was not an issue on the Springfield, which had a steel extension from the barrel that formed its ramp. The Colt and the Sig both had aluminum ramps, but neither showed any battering. We would watch this area carefully if we owned this gun.

Courtesy Gun Tests

Courtesy Gun Tests

Here's the Kimber torn down. You can see the takedown tool, a small bent wire, extending to the left of the captured spring. We noted some apparent very mild battering on the feed ramp. It didn't get any worse but we'd keep an eye on it and polish it if necessary. Feeding was perfect throughout our testing.

At the range we had no problems with the Kimber. We tested with Black Hills 230-grain JHP, Lawman 230-grain ball, and with Winchester 185-grain BEB ammunition, and they all fed and fired and ejected with zero problems. The accuracy was way more than adequate, with smallest five-shot group from the Winchester BEB ammo, which measured 0.9 inch. We had another fine four-shot cluster with the Lawman ammo of just 0.6 inch, but one of the five made it a 1.3-incher.

Rapid fire presented no major problems either, but again we noticed the lack of white space on the sides of the front-sight blade. The rubber grips seemed to aid in recoil handling. We would have liked to have either night sights or a white dot on the front sight to help us see the sight picture faster in questionable light. Red or white nail polish is one quick way to accomplish that. The clean trigger broke at just over 4.5 pounds.

Our Team Said: We like the feel and balance of the Kimber. It shot exactly to its sights with our test ammo. We could not fault it in our short test time. It always worked, shot well, and looked great, we thought. While we would have liked night sights and front-strap checkering, these are not all that necessary and would add lots to the overall cost. We though the Kimber’s price tag was reasonable. Finding a good holster would not be a problem here either.

Comments (23)

A stainless compact 1911, can be a very nice carry piece. While my preferences in carry pieces are still with SIG Sauer (as posted above on 31 May), one of the three 1911s I have is a Para Ordnance P12-45 in stainless. As you note, Ernesto A, the grip frame can be short, but with my P12-45, the flat mainspring housing nestles nicely into the palm of my hand, providing a pleasant grip and good control resulting in accurate fire.

Posted by: canovack | June 1, 2013 4:18 PM    Report this comment

I have a "COMPACT STAINLESS" I bought 13 years ago. I had a gunsmith checkered the front strap and replaced with night sights. Very reliable and accurate with 230 balls, and 185 & 160 hp's. The grip is a little shorter than I like but it's a sweet little gun.

Posted by: Ernesto A | June 1, 2013 3:45 PM    Report this comment

I hear you Colonel. I was trying to get to court on time one day and it was raining. I jumped a puddle and my Walther PPK jumped out of my waistband and when it hit the parking lot, it discharged. It scared the shit out of me AND the black guy that was working on a police car. So, I know of what you speak.

Posted by: Cecil B | May 31, 2013 9:15 PM    Report this comment

Cecil, all of the gurus, including Jeff Cooper, advocated cocked and locked carry of a 1911, and I have yet to hear of anybody shooting themself because of it. It's just one of my own foibles.....The idea of .45ACP pointing down my leg with the hammer back, just gives me a severe case of the willies. I can always visualize a crystalized safety just letting go, and some sort of nudge causing the hammer to fall. By-the-way.....back in 1967, while stationed in Alaska, I had a Colt Woodsman in a belt holster fire.....from a cocked and locked condition, sending a .22LR bullet through the welt on my right boot. Nobody got hurt, but it scared the shit out of me, and every time I put those boots on, after that, I was always reminded of that event. While the offending pistol was not a 1911, it was still a Colt, and it was cocked and locked.

Posted by: canovack | May 31, 2013 7:30 PM    Report this comment

I always did and still do carry my .45 cocked and locked. When I was a street cop, I just thought it to be a prudent measure. As I age, perhaps I should re-think the practice.

Posted by: Cecil B | May 31, 2013 11:51 AM    Report this comment

For the better part of my 21-year Army career, I carried a 1911, and I own three of them. That said, my preferred carry pieces are SIG Sauer pistols with either DA/SA or DAK trigger systems. With the DA/SA and DAK triggers it is safe to carry a round in the chamber, so a first shot can be effected quickly from the draw. Depending on the age of the 1911, one can carry it with an empty chamber, with the hammer down on a round in the chamber, or cocked and locked. Since the empty chamber mode requires racking the slide, and since the hammer down mode requires thumb cocking, the fastest mode with a 1911 is cocked and locked. That said, I have never felt comfortable with the idea of a loaded pistol with a round in the chamber and hammer cocked and locked, hanging on my belt. It is for these reasons that my daily preference for concealed carry are any of my SIG Sauers.

Posted by: canovack | May 31, 2013 10:55 AM    Report this comment

I trust my Colt.

Posted by: Cecil B | May 30, 2013 10:04 PM    Report this comment

Would you trust your life to a gun that is polluted with MIM cast parts known for early failure. I would not.

Posted by: wild romanian | May 30, 2013 8:31 PM    Report this comment

I own two Kimbers. The first one I bought was the full size Classic Royal. This gun will eat anything I feed it. So I bought the Ultra Chrimson Carry ll expecting the same quality. Not so. It had/has a failure to extract problem that was partially solved when I installed the Wilson combat extractor. The jury is still out on this handgun. BTW I tried everything on the 1911 forum to fix the problem and that is after sending the gun back to Kimber twice without the problem being resolved. This gun will be on the auction block if soon if I cannot fix the problem and feel comfortable using it as a defensive weapon.

Posted by: Clifford Brown | April 12, 2011 8:31 PM    Report this comment

I own two Kimbers. The first one I bought was the full size Classic Royal. This gun will eat anything I feed it. So I bought the Ultra Chrimson Carry ll expecting the same quality. Not so. It had/has a failure to extract problem that was partially solved when I installed the Wilson combat extractor. The jury is still out on this handgun. BTW I tried everything on the 1911 forum to fix the problem and that is after sending the gun back to Kimber twice without the problem being resolved. This gun will be on the auction block if soon if I cannot fix the problem and feel comfortable using it as a defensive weapon.

Posted by: Clifford Brown | April 12, 2011 8:30 PM    Report this comment

Have a Compact CDP II. Other than the initial cleaning I was prepared to shoot it without cleaning until it quit. At 500+ rounds without a jam, I gave up and cleaned it. It has my respect as reliable.

Posted by: L. T. S | February 28, 2011 4:35 PM    Report this comment

I have two Kimbers,the 5" classic stainless and the 4" Pro Carry II. I shoot 230 ball mostly, but occasional 180 HP. It is the most reliable gun I own.

Posted by: Deputy_Dog | February 21, 2011 6:07 PM    Report this comment

"While we would have liked night sights and front-strap checkering, these are not all that necessary and would add lots to the overall cost". WRONG! I got my Pro CDP several years back, but paid less than this. In fact it was one of the test guns from this magazine! Night sights, front strap checkering (that is the best of any handgun I have ever felt... it's just perfect) and the full 'melted' treatment and dual safety levers which I happen to like. Accurate, reliable and lightweight. My only regret is that I don't have 2 Pro CDPs in .45 & two more in .40!

Posted by: Markbo | February 20, 2011 5:46 PM    Report this comment

H F - you're using an Ultra, correct? Any compact or subcompact is going to have stiffer recoil springs. Try either using a Pro-sized (4" bbl) Kimber or full size 1911 and see how you like that. The .45 in the above article is the Kimber "Compact" which they still offer in one or two models. Their "Compact" is the 4" bbl on the Ultra sized frame.

Posted by: PVB | February 18, 2011 6:21 AM    Report this comment

My 3" Ultra Carry II doesn't feed most hollow points. Tried Hornaday's new loads and they never fail to feed. Question: as my arthritis [and other hand injuries] worsen, which .45s have the "lightest" recoil springs? I'm about to give up on the Kimber. I'd rather sell the Kimber and buy another .45; my gunsmith said he doesn't suggest changing to lighter springs.

Posted by: H F | February 17, 2011 10:33 PM    Report this comment

I too was a skeptic about the manners of a compact 45 ACP. But after my first session with a borrowed Ultra Carry II, I was hooked. I now have an Ultra Carry II, a CDP II and a Pro Carry II. Out of the box accuracy is outstanding. Reliability is unquestioned. These three will eat any and all types of ammo I feed them, not something that my fussier Colt's would do. Not a misfire, stove pipe or hiccup of any kind, reloads or factory ammo!! Now I want one in 10MM!!

Posted by: MasterGuide | February 17, 2011 10:22 PM    Report this comment

I had the shorter version - the Ultra Carry II. It worked flawlessly. However, I read that the Kimber supplied magazine follower could be a problem, so I switched to Mag-tech and Wilson Combat magazines. Best daily carry 1911 I've owned.

Posted by: exdetsgt | February 17, 2011 8:44 PM    Report this comment

I have a Kimber Pro Carry II and bought it used. I checked the barrel and it did not have more than 3/4 hundred rounds thru it. I polished the feed ramp, cleaned it and gave it a good oil job and I would put my family's life and mine any time 24/7. I use 185 gr hollow points and I have never had a jam, never.

Posted by: Molon Labe | February 17, 2011 7:54 PM    Report this comment

I love my Kimbers. I can't wait until I have enough coin to get another one. In fact, one in each caliber would be nice!

Posted by: PVB | February 17, 2011 2:49 PM    Report this comment

I bought one several years back when they called it the "Pro Carry II." With the possible exception of the factory springs, the pistol is as accurate as any target 1911 and reliable to the point of stupidity. I carry mine during the winter months to ensure plenty of stopping power shold clothing conditions cause the hollow point XTP slug I run through it to fail to expand. The 1911 and the .45 ACP is second only to a shotgun when fighting at close range. Ask the Germans, Japanese and Italians in their sixties and seventies what they think about the .45 acp. It sent a lot of their friends ass over tea kettle to the grave.

Posted by: sivispace | February 17, 2011 2:27 PM    Report this comment

I have the CDPII. It originally cames with and external ejector and was VERY unreliable. I could not run a full clip without a jam. I sent it back to Kimber for repair. They replaced the slide with an internal ejector. So far it has performed reliably.

Posted by: Steve823 | February 17, 2011 1:43 PM    Report this comment

I had a Kimber similar to this one. It was never 100% reliable with factory hardball. I finally bought a lower power (20 pound I think) Wolff recoil spring and that seemed to fix it. Possibly the gun was timed for +P ammo out of the factory? Anyhow, I sold it.

Posted by: TOM M | February 17, 2011 12:59 PM    Report this comment

The minor annoyances with short-barreled (<5") 1911's are that 1) they have very heavy recoil springs making the slide hard to retract, requiring two hands (one-handed drills are difficult) and 2) the breach face under recoil does not move much behind the rear of the next round that's being fed, so slide timing is even more critical to reliability. I also miss being able to "press check" guns with full length recoil spring guides and with 5" barreled guns sporting traditional recoil setups you can charge the gun by pressing the front of the slide below the barrel on a hard surface (for true 1-handed ops).

Posted by: David C | February 17, 2011 12:04 PM    Report this comment

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