I had a chance to put 100 rounds through a Kimber 1911 Compact Stainless II .45 ACP yesterday. I have heard nothing but great reviews from this gun and everybody talks about Kimber in hushed tones of adoration and reverence. Which is why I have been a little bit nervous about writing this review, because to put it frankly, I’m unimpressed.
Let me start off by saying that I’m a Glock guy, I don’t shoot many 1911 style pistols, and in the world of shooting I would still consider myself a beginner. My girlfriend’s father asked me to shoot this gun and tell him what I thought about it. I found out later that he was thinking of selling it and wanted to get my opinion before he did, but I had no idea about all of that as I headed to Walmart to purchase some .45 auto full metal jacket rounds. For those of you who don’t know, .45 ACP stands for .45 Automatic Colt Pistol (at least that’s what Google told me). And you might have to inform the guy in the Walmart sporting goods section that .45 ACP bullets are the same as .45 auto bullets.
I took my camera to the range to record this momentous Kimber shooting occasion, but I didn’t have the camera on auto focus, so much of the footage is unusable. I started out shooting Winchester white box ammo. My first impression of the gun is that it is very light for a fully loaded .45 Auto. I didn’t have a holster specifically made for this gun, but it fit comfortably into my Uncle Mikes Inside the Waistband holster. It’s a pretty looking gun, if that kind of thing matters to you. It had factory sights on it which I really did not like. Yes, the sights were serrated, and many people consider that a plus, but I’m used to sights that have some kind of contrast. These sights were all black. The rear sights on a Glock have a white U painted on it, and the front sight has a white dot painted on it that really gives you some contrast and makes it easy to aim quickly. Some of my other pistols employ the three dot sights, with three little white dots painted on the sights. I don’t ask for much, just any kind of contrast to help you aim the gun. These sights were all black and serrated. Not much (any) contrast. How am I going to acquire a sight picture in a dark theater when some body armor clad idiot kicks the emergency exit door in?
Of course, putting some night sights on the gun will fix that problem, but I didn’t have night sights and I’m going to go on record as saying the factory sights were disappointing. If you ever have to use this gun in an emergency, the sights probably will not matter. Let’s say you’re at the convenience store buying a bag of Chewy Spree or some Watermelon flavored Sour Straws and 2 jack holes barge in waving a chrome plated 1911 style pistol around that they purchased at the pawn shop. 1) the Convenience store is well lit, so lighting will not be a problem, and 2) if you have to draw down on them at such close distance, you will likely be doing target focused shooting (which I discuss in Defensive Pistol 101), and will not even use your sights to acquire sight picture…my point is, unless you are highly trained, chances are you will not rely heavily on your sights in an emergency.
As far as accuracy goes, once I got used to shooting the gun, it surprised me with its accuracy. Put wherever you want to hit right on top of the front sight and that’s where the bullet goes. It was very comfortable to shoot this gun, in that I had no problem shooting a .45 caliber bullet with this small framed gun. I didn’t notice any excessive kick back. I had on double hearing protection (like always) but the gun just wasn’t loud or scary (no 3 foot flame shooting out of the barrel). I only mention this because I know a lot of my readers are first time gun owners or are new to shooting and people tend to think that shooting a .45 auto will be intimidating. Some people believe that shooting a .45 ACP out of one of these compact frames will be unmanageable or frightening. Well I haven’t experienced that yet and I’m still new to shooting. These manufacturers have figured out how to make a small .45 auto that shoots as comfortable as a Glock 19 (see my review of the Springfield Armory .45 ACP XDs). Speaking of the Springfield XDs, that thing comes straight from the factory with some sick sights on it, no upgrade required. Anyway, I’ll get off the sights now.
I had some trouble shooting this gun. 50 rounds of Winchester white box ammo produced 2 failure to ejects. This Kimber 1911, like the Springfield XDs has a safety feature that I’m just not fond of. There is a backstrap safety on the back of the grip that has to be depressed for the gun to fire. If you drop this Kimber 1911 compact, and it lands on the hammer, and a round is chambered, it will not fire because of this backstrap safety feature (also called a palm safety). My thinking is that the misfires were caused by me not squeezing the gun tight enough to either 1) to engage the palm safety, or 2) to allow the slide to properly cycle and eject the spent round. This just shows how inexperienced I am and I have to think that if I ever shot the gun again, I would have no problems with misfires just because I have learned how to properly operate it after 100 rounds. I had 2 more FTEs with a box of 50 Federal FMJ.
Something else peculiar happened, that you will see in the video. I loaded the magazine with 7 rounds, then I forced it into the magazine well. I wouldn’t say that I used excessive force to put it into the magazine well. I used about as much force as I have used with any other pistol and as much force as I would use during an emergency combat reload. Then I shot one round out of the gun. On the video you can see my grip (doesn’t look improper). When I shot that 1 round, the magazine ejected. The magazine eject button on this Kimber 1911 Compact is quite pronounced and probably what happened is that my support hand hit that magazine button when the gun recoiled. I don’t know if that is exactly what happened, but I’m not prepared to say it was the gun’s fault and not the operator’s fault.
I think this happened because I’m a relatively inexperienced with 1911s, and maybe because I wasn’t gripping the gun hard enough to control the recoil. It also might have happened because I slammed the magazine home too hard (unlikely). I really can’t pinpoint the exact cause but I’m comfortable chalking it up to operator error.
I think your training level is more important than the gun you use. If the magazine ejected like that in a gunfight, I’d probably lose that gunfight and die. That’s life. However, I would never conceal carry a gun that I had not had some serious training on. I carry my Glock 19, I’ve had multiple classes with it and shot thousands of rounds though it. If I were going to carry this Kimber 1911 Compact Stainless II .45 ACP, I would take a Concealed Carry Tactics class with it, maybe a Combat Pistol class with it, and shoot at least 1000 rounds through it before I ever wore the gun to defend my life.
After shooting only 100 rounds through this gun, and knowing that I’m not even close to an expert shooter, here are my final thoughts.
I don’t think this should be your first handgun purchase. I don’t think this should be your first concealed carry gun purchase. I do think it’s a great gun and with the proper time and training you could learn to shoot it proficiently enough to carry around all day and defend your life with it in an emergency situation.
I bought a box of 50 .45 auto bullets at Walmart for about $22 after tax. You can buy 50 9mm rounds at Walmart for about $11 after tax. If you are a first time gun owner and you are training to defend your life on a budget, then $11 a box allows you to shoot 1000 rounds at $220, or you can shoot 1000 rounds of .45 auto at $440 ($22 a box, 50 rounds in a box, 1000 rounds is 20 boxes of 50, 20 x $22 = $440). This is a great gun for experienced shooters. If you are new I would buy a 9mm first, train on it, then graduate up to this gun.
I’m one of those guys who is afraid to only carry 8 rounds. I prefer 16 rounds or more. Hard to do in .45 auto, not so hard to do in 9mm. If I were to purchase this gun, I would buy an extra magazine to carry around. That would be a comfortable magazine to carry around because it is a small single stack magazine. That gives me 14 rounds to carry around, 7 plus a combat reload.
This gun is built on a 1911 platform (really?), so it is single action only. I mention that because, it does not have a de-cocker. If you want to carry 8 rounds with you (7 in the magazine, 1 in the chamber), you will be walking around with the hammer cocked after you chamber a round. I always recommend you get to a point where you are comfortable walking around with one in the chamber so that if you have to deploy your weapon in an emergency, it is ready to go, no need to rack the slide first. This could save your life. However, some people might be a little squeamish about walking around with one in the chamber and the hammer cocked back, therefore, some people might not want to carry this gun with one in the chamber. Now if you have to draw this weapon in an emergency, you will have to remember to chamber a round before you can use it. That could mean the difference between life and death. I have a Taurus PT-809 that is hammer fired, but it also has a de-cocker, allowing you to reset the hammer after you chamber a round. That means your first shot will be double action only, you will have a longer and harder trigger pull, but it also lets you chamber a round without leaving the hammer cocked.
This is not a knock on the gun. If you take time to study the 1911 platform, you will find that this really isn’t an issue. I only say this because, as a matter of preference, some people do not like to walk around with a cocked hammer, so those people can only carry 7 vs. 8 bullets with this gun. No 1911s have decockers, so that will be the case with any 1911 you buy. And more bullets is better.
If you want to carry 8 rounds, you are going to have to load a magazine of 7 rounds, rack the slide to chamber a round, then load one more bullet into the magazine. Then engage the safety so that the hammer can’t fall, then holster the weapon. Now when you have to use the gun in an emergency, you need to remember to disengage the safety (during the mother of all adrenaline dumps). This is called Condition 1 (round in the chamber, hammer cocked, safety on). When you draw the weapon, you are going to have to move to Condition 0 (round in the chamber, hammer cocked, safety off). That’s common to any 1911 platform. This is an issue that doesn’t exist with many striker fired automatics (say Glock for instance).
You could opt to carry this Kimber 1911 Compact Stainless II .45 ACP in Condition 3 instead (chamber empty, hammer down, charged magazine in the gun). No need to engage the safety in Condition because there is no round in the chamber, but you still have to remember to rack the slide before firing. Bottom line, I’m just not a fan of 1911s for concealed carry. I carry my Glock 19 with a round in the chamber. When I have to deploy it in an emergency all I have to do is pull the trigger (no safety to disengage, no slide to rack).
The Glock has a trigger safety, a firing pin safety, and a drop safety. These 3 safety features allow you to carry it with one in the chamber without the need to disengage anything before firing (there is no external safety on the Glock).
OK, now this article has morphed from a Kimber 1911 Compact Stainless II review, into an unpaid Glock advertisement. I’ll go ahead and cut this one short before it digresses any further. The Kimber 1911 is a great gun, the .45 round does some serious damage. I just feel it’s a gun for experienced shooters. This guy reviewed a Kimber 1911 and he loved it, see his review.