March 2003

Commander-Sized Poly 1911 .45s: Kimber, Wilson, and STI Face Off

In this test, 11 rounds of .45 ACP came in good, better, and best platforms according to price: Kimber Pro Ten II, $875; Wilson KZ 45 Compact, $1125; and the STI VIP, $1725.

If you find the range in prices for the very similar guns described in the deck above to be shockingly wide, then you had the same reaction as our staff. After all, each gun has a polymer body. You know, plastic, the material that was supposed to reduce cost. But atop each plastic grip frame is the 1911 action, and as we have said before, this is a design that requires some real hands-on work to make it accurate and smooth. Even if you replace most of the work with a machine, there is still hand fitting, and those darned CNC mills are pretty expensive as well.

At $875, the Kimber Pro Ten II was the lowest priced of our three test guns. STI, which originally stood for Strayer-Tripp International, offers designs so advanced it refers to its line of Browning inspired pistols as 2011s. The VIP model is twice the price of the Kimber at $1,725. In the middle at $1125 is the KZ45 Compact from Wilson Combat, the first series of plastic guns to come out of the Berryville, Arkansas, shop and also their least expensive model.

Given the price range of these guns and the reputation of their manufacturers, we figured it would be a surprise if any of them malfunctioned. What we were looking for was any substantial difference in performance among the three. Also, we wanted to know if polymer played a key role in the success or failure of these pistols.

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