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A Tale of Two Kimbers

by Jim House

Once upon a time, my wife and I were in a sporting goods store in Appleton, Wisconsin.  In the handgun section of the gun department was a case that featured Kimber pistols.  A friendly and helpful worker there came over and asked if I would like to see something.  At first I declined but then I decided that it would not hurt to handle a full-size .45 Auto.  I had a certain reverence for the .45 Auto of the Colt 1911 type since I was a kid, but never really entertained a very serious lust for one.

            While I was holding the Kimber something made a light go on or perhaps something in my subconscious snapped.  In either case I knew that I wanted a Kimber .45 Auto.  Eventually an opportunity came because at our local dealer there was a Kimber Micro Bel Aire in .380 Auto that my wife wanted and in the same case was a Kimber Stainless II .45 that I wanted.  The result was that we helped the dealer have a good day.

            With full size Kimber autos, the II signifies a firing pin safety that is disengaged when the grip safety is squeezed.  The idea behind this is that if the pistol is dropped, the firing pin cannot go forward to cause a discharge.  This is a different type of firing pin safety from that used by some other makers of 1911 style pistols.  Some believe that this feature prevents the pistol from having a crisp trigger pull, but if my pistols are any indication this is not true.

            After some experience with the Kimber Stainless II with its 5 inch barrel and 38 ounces empty weight, the virtues of a smaller, lighter model dawned on me but it still had to be a .45.  Kimber makes the Pro Carry II and the Ultra Carry II.  The former has a 4 inch barrel and weighs 28 ounces with an alloy frame whereas the latter has a 3 inch barrel and weighs 25 ounces.  I decided that the Pro Carry II in what is known as the Commander size would suite my preferences and I obtained one in what Kimber calls the Two Tone configuration.  It has a blue slide and satin aluminum frame.  Being 10 ounces lighter and more compact than my Stainless II means that it is much more convenient to have on my belt on hikes in the mountains.

            Both of my Kimbers use the same size grip frame and they came with checkered rosewood grips that are beautiful.  The smaller Pro Carry II and Stainless II use the same magazines and grip panels.  However, I replaced the grips on the Stainless II with Hogue rubber grip panels and that provided a much more secure grip.  As luck would have it, I later replaced the nice grips in the Pro Carry II with similar grips that I found on sale and they have the Colt logo, but they make the pistol easier to hold and they do not get scratches.  However, the rubber panels give a comfortable, tactile grip.

            The Pro Carry II does not make use of the same barrel bushing as the full size models and the disassembly procedure is different as illustrated in the photos.  The slide of the Pro Carry II is retracted and a small diameter tool is inserted in a hole in the guide rod to keep the recoil spring compressed.  The slide, barrel, and recoil spring can then be removed together.

            Because the grip frames and grip panels are the same, the pistols have the same feel in the hand except of weight and size difference. Moreover, sights on the two guns are similar but not identical and the rear sight is supposedly capable of being moved laterally after loosening a small screw.  The Pro Carry II has the three dot arrangement whereas the Stainless II has a black post and rear sight with a black blade, but without white dots.  Both of the guns shoot very close to the point of aim at 25 yards so I have not moved the rear sights.

            As near as I can tell, the Pro Carry II and Stainless II have trigger action that is identical.  Initially, the full size Stainless II was very stiff and had a heavy trigger pull, but it has lightened as the pistol has been used.  Both guns have very crisp let off, but these are not target pistols and trigger action is certainly better than just acceptable.

            A typical load for the .45 Auto features a 230 grain bullet at approximately 870 ft/sec to give an energy of approximately 370 ft lbs.  This is not a load to flatten a grizzly or a cape buffalo, but is adequate for most purposes.  Ammunition today makes use of numerous improved bullet styles that make handguns more effective than they were half a century ago.  In the .45 Auto, many newer loads utilize bullets of 185 grains that are given a velocity of approximately 1000 ft/sec.  Two of my favorites are the Winchester Silvertip and the Hornady Critical Defense.  Both loads deliver advertised velocity from a 5 inch barrel and the bullets expand reliably.  From a 4 inch barrel, the velocity is slightly lower, approximately 950 ft/sec, which is sufficient to assure good expansion.

            With both of the Kimbers, I can usually get about 2 ½ inch groups at 25 yards when shooting from a rest.  They will last as long as I will be shooting handguns.  I may look longingly at another handgun, but the Kimbers will make getting another unnecessary.  However, Kimber produces a kit to convert either model to a .22 rimfire, but that is another story.

PHOTO CAPTIONS

Two doses of Kimber comfort.

The muzzles of the Kimbers show the difference in how the barrels are supported.

The Pro Carry II features excellent sights with dots to aid in alignment.

Disassembly of the Kimber Stainless II requires removal of the barrel bushing and recoil spring plug.

To disassemble the Kimber Pro Carry II the slide is pushed to the rear and a small tool is inserted in the guide rod.  The barrel, slide and recoil spring can then be removed.

The Hornady Critical Defense load performs well in the .45 Auto.

The difference between a full metal jacketed bullet and the Winchester Silvertip recovered from water is readily apparent.