My first…and LAST Kimber

I’ll say it right up front. The vaunted Kimber *quality* is not quality at all.

There…now that I got that out of the way…

As most readers know, I’m a holster maker. One of the perks of being a holster maker is that when I can’t find the proper model to mold a holster to, I need to buy the real thing. (Queue the miniature violin playing a funeral dirge and hearts bleeding for me….)

I have BlueGuns for a 3″ 1911 (I use the Springfield EMP Bluegun as my base model for this…) and also for the full-sized 5″ model 1911’s.

The problem was for a model for a 4″ gun. Couldn’t find a dummy, so I needed to buy a real example. Well, tax time was kind to us this year, and after looking around I found a very good price on the Kimber SIS, which is the now-discontinued *cop gun* that Kimber stopped making when the PC Police started complaining about these guns being sold to civilians, because they were specifically designed for LEO use.

I don’t know….maybe the gun has magical properties that makes it more lethal than a vanilla Glock, or a 4″ Colt 1911. Regardless, the PC Police were getting their collective panties in a bunch, so Kimber stopped making them.

Good thing, too. Because while the main parts of the gun are truly fantastic, its the attention to the small detail-oriented parts that makes this gun a HUGE failure in right-out-of-the-box performance.

So, lets start at the beginning. This is my second 1911. The first was my Magnum Research Desert Eagle 1911G. Right out of the box it was an excellent shooter, and as its broken in, it has gotten MUCH better. Over 700 rounds through it so far, without experiencing ANY failure of ANY sort. It has eaten everything I’ve fed it, never failing to run. No stovepipes, no FTF, no cartridge nosing….nada. I would trust my life to this gun, and it is my October thru April daily carry.

That being said, I’ve come to appreciate the .45 for personal defense. Couple this with the need for a 4″ pistol for the holster business, a nice refund from Uncle Sam, and I decided to take the plunge and get a Kimber, because of the reputation for quality they have. Also, it isn’t every day you’ll find a $1,500 pistol for $1,150, especially a discontinued one that had a limited 3 year production run, and is considered to be one of the better (if not best) 4″ Kimber’s made to date on the 1911 platform.

So I took the plunge. Got it home, did the requisite stripping and cleaning, and lube, getting it ready for the first day at the range to start the required 500 round break-in that Kimber demands be done before you call to complain about anything being wrong with the gun.

That should have been my first indication that there’s something not right…but I digress.

I get to the range with 100 rounds of ball ammo (I use Blazer Brass, as they are the least expensive of the .45 cal that I’ve found) and do a quick comparison of my ONE mag that came with the Kimber (a KimPro) and my TWO mags that came with the DEagle (ACT Mags).

Mags look right, and exhibit nothing that could make them incompatible. So, I load up one round in the KimPro, insert it, do a slingshot of the slide. Single round chambers properly, slide is smooth as silk. Take aim using my normal sight picture, pull off a round at a 7 yard target, and its low and left of center by about an inch and a half. Not a problem, as its most likely the sight picture, and a windage adjustment.

Drop the mag, put in 3 rounds, repeat, and adjust my sight picture. Nice 2″ group, 2 hits center, and one just left. OK…I’m happy with that, and I can adjust the rear sight at home to compensate for the windage.

OK…happy that the gun shoots well, and is accurate, I go and load up all three mags. Put the Kimber mag in, slingshot the slide….and the round noses down, biting the frame just below the feedramp.

OK…never had THAT happen before. I lock the slide back, reach in to pull the round backwards a bit to get it back into the mag where it belongs (it was too far stripped that it wouldn’t drop with the mag) and try again.

Same thing. Nosed into the frame.


I take the Kimber mag out, put the gun aside and take the DEagle out of the case, load the mag, slingshot…perfect. Chambers the round, goes into battery.

Drop the mag and take two more rounds out of it (leaving 5) and pop it into the Kimber. Slingshot, and it chambers. Drop the mag, eject the cartridge, put 6 rounds in the Kimber Mag, repeat. No Problem.

7 rounds? Sometimes it chambers, sometimes not. OK…thats not right. So I empty the mags, and compare the way they seat into the guns, with the slides locked back. In the DEagle, the mag seats nicely, with about 1/32″ of play in the mag if you push it up into the magwell from the bottom, once the mag catch has been engaged.

The Kimber? 3/32″ of slop. That tells me the shelf of the mag catch in the Kimber is cut 1/16″ lower than the DEagle. OK…so I go and try something. Load up a mag with all 8, and hold the gun so that when I slingsghot the slide, I’m pushing up on the mag so that its all the way up into the gun.

Chambers the round fine.

Repeat without holding the mag into the gun? Nosedive into the frame.

OK…at this point I just want to shoot a few mags, so I’m happy enough to cup the bottom of the grip with my off hand so that the first three rounds cycle through. Gun functions fine, and after the first 4 rounds, feeds fine without the extra help.

OK…maybe its a break-in thing. So I run a second mag through it the same way, and make it through that one. Do a third mag, and the slide locks back at round 4.


Drop the mag and look at the slidelock….and its engaged in the slide. Hmmmm….never saw that happen either.

Went and reloaded the empty mags, and reloaded the partial, and tried again.

Same thing, this time it locked back on round 5.

Screw it. By now I’m livid, and I put the Kimber in the case, and shoot the remainder of the box with the DEagle. Finish up the box I opened, packed up, and went home.

Dropped some mail to folks I know who are 1911 guru’s, got a few different responses. I decided to start comparing things, so the first thing I did was look at the slidelock of my DEagle, compared to the Kimber. Surprised to see a different profile on the internal catch.

Turned to Google, did a quick search…sure enough, Kimber *is aware* of a problem with a run of slidelocks, and folks have been getting replacements from Kimber at no charge. So I called Kimber, spoke to the service rep, and two days later, a new slidelock is in the mail. Compared the new and old…and there is a noticeable difference in the way the catch is cut where it gets activate by the mag follower.

OK…so I’m happy that I got a new part that would cure the premature lockback. But the nosediving of the first few rounds?

Took a LOT of searching, but I found a very old post where someone had an issue with a Kimber SIS Pro (same as mine) where the rounds were nosediving. Someone recommended a new mag catch from a specific company that cuts the shelves on the catch at different heights, so that you can tune the gun via placing the mag further up into the well when engaged, to help with proper feeding of hollowpoint which sometimes doesn’t feed properly due to nose shape.

OK…so I decide to extract the mag catch from the Kimber and DEagle, and compare the two.

WHat do I find? A difference so big, that you can tell with the naked eye that the parts are not the same. Put a caliper on the shelf of the mag catch, and its a 1/16″ off from the one out of the DEagle.

OK…now I put the DEagle catch in the Kimber, grab three boxes of ammo, and head to the range.

Load up the mags. Slingshot the first round.


Start shooting.


100 rounds later, I’ve had one round fail to extract, and one stovepipe. Still, its MUCH better than the first outing. For the remaining box, no problems.

SO…here is why the Kimber sucks eggs.

For the price you pay, the damned thing had better not need to have MIM parts replaced so that it cycles correctly. Thats pure BULLSHIT. The DEagle cost only $675, and has NEVER FAILED TO FIRE, OR TO CYCLE PROPERLY!

The Kimber? Complete FAIL right out of the box.

So….its now cost the price of the gun, plus a new mag catch that holds the mag higher than MILSPEC by .020″ (just a hair under 1/32″ difference from MILSPEC, which will snug it up in the Kimber with virtually no play) plus a new slidelock that IS NOT MIM, because I now DO NOT trust Kimber small-parts quality AT ALL. And the stovepipe, and failure to extract? Well…the extractor isn’t seated properly…you can see that when you look at it. Its slightly off having the extractor tooth being perfectly parallel to the rim of the round, so its not getting a full lock on the round. So, a new extractor is coming also, so I can replace THAT too, and make sure that its seated properly AND is a high-quality part, not a crap MIM part.

Will I trust the gun enough to use it as the summer carry? That depends. If it runs 1000 rounds flawlessly after the tuning with upgraded parts, yes. If not? Its gonna get traded on a 4″ colt.

Used to be that Made in USA meant something. If this is what the much-touted *Kimber Quality* is, I’ll pass. My Bersa Thunder ran better out of the box than the SIS did.

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