October 2014

Kimber Tactical Pro Vs. SIG’s Scorpion: Two Good Carry Guns

One is the better choice for concealed carry, we think, but the other is filled with high-grade features. The more expensive pistol just may be the better buy, depending on your needs.

In our latest shoot-out between 1911 handguns, we chose two of the most popular 1911s in their respective lineups. Each lists for well over twelve hundred dollars and has a legion of adherents.

Fired offhand while moving or from cover, the Tactical Pro proved comfortable and accurate. The 4-inch 1911 is proving to be popular, and, in truth, these handguns give up little to the longer-barrel 1911 handguns.

There are certain subjective differences in appearance that many find attractive, and design features that one shooter or the other may find more desirable. But there are differences in the handguns that will make one or the other the best choice for the individual. This was a shoot-out of the elite among 1911 handguns in some ways, and the pistols were given a thorough test for their compatibility with daily concealed carry. Our test guns were the Kimber Tactical Pro II 45 ACP, which lists for $1317. We paid $1215 for it. The SIG Sauer Carry Scorpion lists for $1213 and we paid $1180 for our test gun. The pistols are each shorter and lighter than the Government Models and are intended for 24-hour carry.

Kimber Tactical Pro II 45 ACP, $ 1317
The Kimber Pro series denotes a handgun with a 4-inch barrel and aluminum frame. The pistol features the standard Government Model grip frame. This style has proven popular with many who wish to carry the handgun concealed. The shortening of the barrel by an additional ¼ inch from the Commander size, and a full inch shorter than a Government Model, means that certain design changes were needed. The barrel bushing is eliminated, and the barrel is a belled type that locks directly into the slide. This allows the barrel to tilt at a proportionately greater angle. First developed, we believe, for use in the 3.5-inch-barrel Officer’s Model, the belled-barrel lockup has proven both accurate and reliable, when done properly.

The 4-inch barrel Pro Carry is a popular concealed carry and police service handgun. The 4-inch barrel clears leather more quickly than even a Commander-length-barrel handgun and much more quickly than a Government Model, in the opinions of our shooters. Of particular advantage for shooters with decreased joint mobility, the short 45 ACP is easier on the rotator cuff when drawing from a high-ride holster. The full-size grip frame offers a good grip. The shorter sight radius of the handgun may limit absolute accuracy compared to a Government Model, but we feel that the difference in sight radius at most self-defense distances is inconsequential. Still, among the most accurate 1911 handguns we have tested have been short 45s, and this is one of them. As for the ¼-inch shorter slide compared to a Commander-type handgun, if the Commander pinches you when you sit, then the Pro probably will too.

The Kimber has good features, in our estimation. The fit and finish were excellent throughout. When checking for fitting of the barrel and lugs, the 1911 shooter will notice the feel of the belled barrel is different as the slide is racked. Here, the fit of the link and barrel lugs were deemed excellent. But it was a slightly different feel, and some experience is needed in this regard to properly evaluate the type.

Trigger compression in this new-out-of-the-box handgun was excellent at a clean, crisp 4.5 pounds with no creep or backlash. One of our raters made a comment that if a 1911 doesn’t come with a good trigger, he either passes or installs a new trigger combination from Wilson Combat, Ed Brown, or Cylinder & Slide. He doesn’t believe in “fooling with the trigger.” There was no need to fool with the trigger on this Kimber, and we should note that only a very experienced pistolsmith should attempt trigger jobs on 1911s. The beavertail grip safety was a good design we found comfortable firing. The beavertail safety released its grip on the trigger about halfway into its travel, as it should. The frontstrap checkering was well executed.

Combined with checkered laminated wood grips, the purchase on the gripping area was excellent, with what our shooters said was a good balance of adhesion and abrasion. The purpose of checkered grips and a checkered frontstrap is to improve the grip in less-than-optimal conditions and allow better recovery and control when executing firing strings. This combination did that, in our opinion.

There was a modest magazine well that aided in rapid replenishment of the ammunition supply. While you may not need a speed load, range time goes smoother with the beveled magazine well. In a worst-case scenario, reloading quickly while keeping your eyes on the threat is possible with this handgun.

The slide’s cocking serrations were well done. There were no forward cocking serrations. Because the SIG does have forward cocking serrations, the deletion of this feature on the Kimber became a topic of discussion. Forward cocking serrations are intended to allow the shooter to perform a press check, that is, to move the slide to the rear and check for a loaded chamber. The Kimber has a window in the chamber that does the same thing. Also, the forward cocking serration may allow more leverage in clearing a jam. (True jams are rare; malfunctions are not.) The original press check is accomplished by butting the finger against the recoil spring cap, hooking the thumb in the trigger guard, and pressing the slide to the rear. The finger is near the muzzle, and the thumb is in the trigger guard. You had better know what you are about if you do this, and we do not recommend shooters use this original press-check method. Forward cocking serrations are necessary for the press check in the case of any handgun with a full length guide rod. The raters debated this feature or lack of forward cocking serrations. A roundtable discussion elicited this information: None of us have actually used the forward cocking serration feature, and we did not feel that the lack of forward cocking serrations on a pistol slide would rate a true demerit.

On top of the barrel, our shooters check-rated the Kimber’s sights and sight picture. The night sights were good examples of self-luminating iron sights. The Kimber is among a very few high-end 1911 handguns to use any type of sights other than the Novak; even so, the Kimber design is comparable to the Novak. The Kimber sights were well secured in dovetails.

When firing the pistol offhand, we began with a standard handload using a 230-grain roundnose lead bullet at 830 fps. Using this load in a 28-ounce 45, recoil is there, but the Kimber was fast on target and controllable, we found. The Kimber traversed between targets quickly and gave good results. We used a Clark Fork holster (ClarkForkLeather.com) during the speed work. This is an Avenger-type holster that keeps the handgun snugged to the body by running the belt loop just under the trigger guard in the classic Charles Askins design. With this rig, we found the Kimber to be fast from leather.

At the range, we did run across something none of the raters can recall happening previously. The Kimber and the SIG produced uncannily similar velocities. With a quarter-inch-longer barrel, the SIG might be expected to exhibit slightly higher velocities. But with the handload (4.8 grains of Titegroup under 230-grain Bullets by Chance), velocities were 827 fps and 833 fps for the Kimber and SIG, respectively; 793 fps and 813 fps with the Federal 230-grain HST load, 814 fps and 823 fps with Speer’s 230-grain Gold Dots, and 945 fps and 976 fps with Remington 185-grain Golden Sabers. Only with the fast 185-grain loading did the pistols exhibit significantly different velocity.

When the Kimber was fired from the bench rest, accuracy proved excellent. The single-best group was fired with the Federal 230-grain HST. The five-shot group cut a 1.2-inch group, while the average tabulated out at 1.5 inches. This is excellent performance for any 1911, much less a 4-inch duty gun. The worst accuracy — and still good for practice and competition — was 2 inches with the 230-grain handload. The pistol is accurate.

Our Team Said: Overall, there is nothing to fault with this handgun. During the speed or combat portion of the comparison, we ran a half-dozen modern JHP loads through both pistols with good results, using just a magazine of each in either handgun. There were no failures to feed, chamber, fire, or eject. The Kimber’s recoil was noticeably greater than the SIG, due to the Kimber’s light weight. As a result, firing several strings off the bench rest could become tiring. But the Kimber is less of a drag on the hip at the end of a long day.

SIG Sauer Carry Scorpion 45 ACP, $1213
The SIG Carry Scorpion is another 1911 designed to be shorter and lighter than the Government Model, or in this case, shorter than the full-length Scorpion. The Scorpion is deemed to be a “Carry” model, which means a shorter gun in SIG vernacular, much as Kimber uses the term “Pro” for a shorter 1911. The Scorpion is a 4.25-inch barrel variant that maintains the original Commander-style barrel bushing. Some prefer this, stating greater reliability potential, but the Kimber 4-inch gun seems as reliable as any other handgun. The slide of the Scorpion is markedly different from the Kimber, or a Colt or Springfield 1911. The slide design is intended to preserve the SIG identity and mimic the upraised wedges of the SIG P-series design. That is OK as far as it goes, and branding is an important commercial concern. But the P series uses the SIG-type lockup in which the barrel hood butts into the ejection port. The 1911 Scorpion uses locking lugs. As such, the slightly bulkier slide may be a drawback. The practical drawback is that the SIG slide doesn’t fit all 1911 holsters. As such, we skipped the Avenger-type holster for want of a fit and went straight to the Alien Gear IWB holster. (AlienGearHolsters.com) The SIG proved a good fit in that rig. The SIG was fast from concealed carry, but all our shooters agreed the Kimber was faster, probably because it was lighter.

The SIG uses Novak Lo-Mount sights. These are self-luminous sights with radioactive tritium inserts in the ampules mounted in the sight. There was no problem with these sights, and we found they offer an excellent sight picture. None of the raters had a clear preference between Kimber and Novak sights.

Cosmetically, the Kimber featured the company’s Kimpro finish, while the SIG used Cerakote. We did not do a scratch or corrosion test, but the Cerakote seems durable — we didn’t notice untoward wear in the usual places.

The SIG’s slide featured forward cocking serrations. They were low riding and far less obtrusive than most designs. We liked them a lot, and feel that they will not unnecessarily abrade holsters. During several dozen rapid presentations from the Alien Gear holster, no problems were encountered.

The Scorpion does not incorporate a full-length guide rod into the design. This makes field stripping less difficult. Both pistols feature an ambidextrous safety. The Kimber was more upswept. The SIG’s was actually smaller than the norm, bucking a trend for gas-pedal-sized controls. But they worked just fine, and the safety was positive in operation.

The SIG uses a flat trigger of the type first popularized by 10-8 Performance. We found it worked well in practice, though its compression was heavier than the Kimber at 5.5 pounds. The action was crisp and clean. The frontstrap checkering was crisp and well executed and aided in gripping the pistol. The Hogue Piranha grips were likewise excellent, offering plenty of adhesion in shooting drills. The grip safety was well designed and properly released the trigger when it was depressed about midway. In the case of the Kimber, the grip safety also deactivated the firing-pin block when depressed. This is in contrast to the SIG, which uses a Colt Series 80–style firing-pin block. Our team showed no real preference during our shooting sessions, although the Kimber-type firing-pin block may be less likely to bear upon the trigger action. Neither should be tampered with by anyone not completely familiar with the 1911 and experienced in its operation. To the raters, this means a gunsmithing degree.

During the firing tests the SIG was tractable, with good results on combat-size targets at all ranges. The pistol seemed slightly slower than the Kimber, but recovery in recoil was easier, again probably because of weight. This was also a new-in-the-box pistol. Both were lightly lubricated before firing. The SIG suffered a single break in function, a failure to fully cycle during the third magazine. There were no further failures to feed, chamber, fire, or eject. In accuracy testing, the Scorpion produced acceptable accuracy. The best group was delivered with the Hornady 200-grain XTP with a 1.7-inch group. The SIG did not display the accuracy of the Kimber, but it was clearly an accurate handgun, our testers said.

Our Team Said: The Scorpion is a rail gun. If that is important, the SIG must win. But as a test of carry guns for personal defense, the Kimber is lighter and the Kimber’s conventional slide design offers a greater choice in holsters. Other features such as grip adhesion were rated equal. The two makers simply did the job in a different manner. The controls and sights were rated equal. While the lighter Kimber will kick more, this is more noticeable during a long practice session. The SIG kicks like a 45 as well, it just kicks less than the Kimber. But the Kimber carries lighter and was slightly faster from leather.

The Kimber trigger action is better, but the SIG action is good enough for most shooters. The Kimber was more accurate in bench rest testing and more accurate with every load tested. The SIG suffered an archetypical 1911 break-in malfunction, while the Kimber did not, and this must be taken into consideration. The verdict: The Kimber is the better buy for personal defense, even though it cost slightly more than the SIG. The SIG would be the superior belt gun or service pistol.

Written and photographed by Bob Campbell, using evaluations from Gun Tests team testers. GT

Kimber Tactical Pro II 45 ACP

SIG Sauer Carry Scorpion 45 ACP

Range Data