Kimber Stainless Target .38 Super
It is reasonable to expect that any pistol-evaluation piece covering "options in self defense" would focus on a range of semi-automatics that combine power with portability. In one such test, Gun Tests magazine chose to review the $1059 Kimber Stainless Target .38 Super.
The Kimber Stainless Target is a full-size 1911 built on a stainless-steel frame. The single-action trigger requires only a short press for ignition.
The test distance from the sandbag rests was 25 yards. In addition, they tested the gun in a rapid-fire sequence at close range. From a distance of 5 yards they fired freestyle holding the gun in both hands. They also performed strings using just the strong hand.
The test procedure was five attempts at two shots to center mass designated by a sheet of loose-leaf paper measuring 8.5 by 11 inches. Elapsed time for each string of fire was recorded, as well as the elapsed time between the first and second shot. This was referred to as the split time, or "split."
Would they be able to shoot the gun fast and accurately? Here is what they learned.
The Kimber Stainless Target .38 Super is a Browning 1911 pistol that feeds nine rounds of .38 Super Automatic (+P) from a single-column magazine. It could be easily confused with a .45 ACP model if it werent for the smaller hole in the barrel.
The tested Kimber had a subtle contrasting finish. The top of the slide, the underside of the dustcover, the front strap and the surface along the mainspring housing were a frosted matte finish. The sides of the slide and the upper frame were polished. The grip panels were black rubber with a checkered pattern held in place by Allen screws.
The thumb safety was left side only. Upgraded components such as an aluminum trigger, extended beavertail grip safety, relieved hammer, checkered mainspring housing, cocking serrations on the slide fore and aft, and a full-length guide rod were in place.
The front sight was a plain target blade devoid of any dots or tritium. The rear unit was a fully adjustable Bo-Mar design. Lockup at the muzzle included a barrel bushing. They could make out a slight increase in the diameter of the barrel starting about 0.3 inches from the muzzle.
The magazine has in the past tested 1911s chambered for calibers other than .45 ACP, such as 9mm and .40 S&W. In terms of reliability, the results have been mixed. But the Kimber Stainless Target .38 Super ran without any problems throughout their tests. This should be of no surprise because chambering the Browning/Colt 1911 for .38 Super goes back to 1929. What the 1911 chambered in .38 Super brings to the table is less recoil and higher capacity than .45 ACP models. Other advantages include a passive action grip safety and a mechanical safety that literally turns the gun on or off. Furthermore, the narrow profile of the 1911 helped the gun point cleanly and conceal easily despite its weight.
In terms of training the 1911 offers one additional advantage. Since the trigger does not change in operation from shot to shot, a dry-fire regimen can be utilized to refine technique.
One negative aspect of chambering the 1911 for .38 Super was how it affected the ability of the shooter to perform a quick reload. The overall profile of .45 ACP ammunition is short, tapered, and round at the tip. The .38 Super rounds lend a thin, boxy profile to the top of a loaded magazine. This made quick reloads that much more difficult. The magazine well of the Kimber was beveled on the sides, but they said they would add a magazine guide such as the Wilson Combat Custom magazine well. This $30 part from www.WilsonCombat.com bolted on via the grip screws to add a funnel-like profile to the magazine well without modification to the frame.
Kimber also offers pistols chambered for .38 Super in a Commander-sized package with a shorter barrel and slide. But in this case they chose to maximize its power by providing a longer barrel from which to generate velocity. This enabled them to edge out other test pistols by generating average muzzle energy of 525 ft.-lbs. when loaded with Cor-Bons 115-grain JHP rounds. Accuracy from the bench at 25 yards averaged about 2.25 inches for all shots fired. The most accurate performance was turned in by the Winchester Silvertip HP ammunition, but they found little variation in accuracy between brands. In terms of selection, there is not a variety of ammunition to choose from in this caliber. But no matter what they loaded, the Kimber Stainless Target was easy to shoot.
The action test firing the Kimber .38 Super was very different than other drills. This was because they had only one trigger to deal with. Presenting just less than 5 pounds of resistance, the action was clean, smooth, and predictable. Beginning with the safety on and firing with both hands on the gun, their runs were very consistent. Average elapsed time was 0.96 seconds with an average of 0.26 seconds between shots. Variation in total elapsed time was only 0.06 seconds, and all shots were on target. Firing strong hand only, their elapsed time was 1.30 seconds with a 0.44-second split. But they landed three shots off target. They were able to shoot a perfect score strong hand only by taking about 0.10 seconds longer on average to fire the second shot.
Given the consistency and control of the 1911 when chambered for .38 Super, they were surprised this combination is not more popular. The trigger system is far less complicated than todays double-action models and easier to learn. The weight of the 1911 design, that in their experience works best when fashioned from steel instead of alloy, may be a hindrance to its popularity. But they could not find anyone on their staff or among the onlookers at the range that did not enjoy shooting this gun.
Report Card: Gun Tests Grade: A-. Point-and-shoot handling and exceptional rapid-fire capability make this a formidable defense gun. In the action tests, the shooter was able to place two shots on a 5-yard target about 0.25 seconds sooner than any other test gun. This could make its 9+1 capacity (which is better than other 1911s) academic when compared with the higher-capacity pistols.