|Home - Volume 2 (2007) - Issue 2 (Spring '07) - Pistol Review: Kimber Gold Match II|
Kimber Gold Match II
Not Your Grandfather's Production 1911
A Gun Test by Frank Ettin (Frank, )
I remember the first Kimber 1911 I ever saw. It was about ten years ago, give or take, at the San Francisco Gun Exchange. I was there on other business but couldn't resist having a look at some 1911s. I had just acquired my first 1911 about a year before, and I definitely had the bug.
The owner of the store showed me a new make of 1911, the Kimber. He had recently put one on display. It was a basic, full size 1911 in a matt blue with fixed sights and rubber stocks. It had what were becoming the usual "custom" features. It also had an excellent slide to frame fit with no play, a tight lock up and excellent trigger. What it did not have, as I recall, was a fancy price tag. I'm not sure exactly what Kimbers cost at that time, but I do recall thinking that it was a lot of gun for the money.
The San Francisco Gun Exchange is, sadly, now long gone. But Kimber has flourished and become a major player in the 1911 world (and the gun world generally). Kimber now makes something on the order of 70+ variations of the 1911: including models with three, four and five inch barrels; models in various calibers including rimfire; models with steel frames, alloy frames and polymer frames; models with fixed sights or adjustable sights; models in various finishes; models with accessory rails and without.
Kimber is such a presence in the 1911 world that it seems only right for m1911.org to review at least one of their many models. So m1911.org management was able to secure the kind offer from Kimber to loan me a gun. And in due course, I received a telephone call from the excellent staff at Reed's Indoor Range to let me know that a Gold Match II for me to try out had just arrived from Kimber.
So I loaded up the truck and set off to join the morning commute traffic on my expedition to Reed's Indoor Range. (Lest you think that this is all glamour (what glamour?), I arrive at Reed's a good hour before they open to the public so that I can have the range to myself while I run the chronograph tests.)
The pistol came packaged in a hard plastic clamshell case. Inside, I found the pistol, three magazines, a bushing wrench, the ubiquitous lock, an instruction manual and a sheet with directions for cleaning and lubrication, an offer for a discount on rosewood grips, and a sample of FP-10 gun oil.
This is a handsome, all steel gun. Its finish is a deep blue-black. The flats of the slide are polished and the rest of the gun is an attractive matt finish. It mounts a good looking set of well grained rosewood stocks - checkered in the traditional double diamond pattern - that offer an excellent and elegant contrast to the finish of the metal.
In keeping with its "match" designation, the Gold Match II has a fully adjustable rear sight. It also sports the custom features one now expects quality 1911s: a lightened match trigger, a lightened "commander" hammer, a stainless steel match barrel; a beavertail, lowered and flared ejection port, dovetailed front sight, extended safety, and ambidextrous safety. The slide has front serrations. While those aren't by any means a "must have" for me, I think Kimber has done a nice job with the wide and well finished serrations. The mainspring housing is checkered at what appears to be 30 lpi.
The beavertail grip safety is raised to assure disengagement, but instead of the more common, squared off speed bump, the raised area is more blended with the contour of the grip. Sure disengagement of the grips safety is of special importance since this is a Kimber series II pistol with a firing pin safety that works off the grip safety (a Swartz safety). Disengaging the grip safety not only unblocks the trigger permitting the trigger to release the hammer, it also unblocks the firing pin permitting it to strike the primer when hit by the hammer. Below you can see the pin (just above the disconnector) in the frame that is pushed up by pressure on the grip safety and the plunger (just below the disconnector cut) in the slide which, when pushed up by that pin, unblocks the firing pin.
I know some folks object to firing pin safeties, but they are becoming a fact of life. The Kimber version worked just fine and gave me no trouble. I didn't even know it was there.
A few words about the ambidextrous safety are in order. Kimber uses a type of right side safety introduced, I believe, by King's Gunworks, one of the pioneers in 1911 pistolsmithing. With this type of ambidextrous safety, the right side paddle is held in by a dovetailed, extended hammer pin. This makes for a neat installation.
Note the absence of the tab fitting under a relieved portion of the right side stock panel that holds the right safety paddle in the more common Swenson style. You can also see one of the hex screws used to hold the stocks on. And the magazine catch lock also uses a hex head fitting.
The sights are target type sights. They are plain black with no spots or dots, and I've always thought that such sights provide the best sight picture. The rear sight is adjustable for both deflection and elevation. Positive clicks aid adjustment, and I suspect would help the rear sight hold its zero. The blade of the rear sight is serrated to help reduce glare.
The front sight is a semi-ramp design, i. e., with a slight forward slope that would help avoid a hang up in a holster. The rear surface is flat, and I would have preferred serrations to help cut reflection.
The pistol comes with a one piece full length recoil spring guide rod. Of course this is a controversial matter. One of the eternal debates in the world of pistols - right up there with the great .45 vs. 9mm schism - is whether a 1911 should have a full length guide rod. Well, I'm not going there. But if I'm going to have a pistol with a full length guide rod, I'd want the one piece type. At least I would need a hex key to field strip the gun and don't have any concern about a two piece guide rod working loose while shooting.
With the one piece guide rod, the gun field strips pretty much as easily as a 1911 with the short rod and solid plug, although a bushing wrench is a help.
Note there's no shock buff. There's another eternal controversy.
But I don't want to just look at it. How does it shoot?
Well everything seemed to work nicely. The slide to frame fit showed no play, and nothing moved when I pushed down on the barrel hood. The safety engaged and disengaged with a positive "click." Everything felt right and well fitted together. The trigger broke at 4 pounds 5 ounces (average of five on my Lyman electronic scale) with just the slightest bit of creep.
I loaded each of the three magazines with eight rounds of Armscor .45 ACP (230 grain FMJ, provided courtesy of Advanced Tactical Firearms International Corporation) and proceeded to do some shooting at 15 yards to get a feel for the gun. The first thing I noticed, in addition to the fact that it ran perfectly, was that it was shooting low and to the left. Well, a good thing about adjustable sights is that I could fix that easily. So I spent some more ammunition dialing in the sights. After a bit, I got the gun to shoot pretty much to point of aim at 15 yards with the Armscor ammunition. And I was ready for some serious measurement.
I picked an assortment of ammunition, including a couple of self defense JHP rounds, and measured some velocities. I also shot some groups at 25 yards from an improvised rest. The table below shows the results.
The gun liked Federal American Eagle, especially when you drop the flyer.
Winchester SXT produced especially good results as well.
I then shot a variety of exercises to see how the gun handled and performed generally. The picture below show the results of 40 rounds of Armscor shot at 10 yards in quick pairs from low ready.
And the picture below shows 24 rounds of Winchester 185 grain FMJ shot at 15 yards in 2, 3 and 4 round strings from a low ready.
I managed to burn through about 400 rounds, and the Kimber performed flawlessly. There were absolutely no malfunctions, bobbles, hiccups or anything of the sort. It ran exactly the way one expects a good, reliable and accurate 1911 to run - because that's what it is.
A Word about Magazines
The evaluation Kimber came with three magazines: one in blue steel, and two of the new Kimber KimPro Tac magazines in stainless steel with removable bases and bumpers. The magazines were described as eight round magazines. I took Kimber at its word and loaded eight rounds in each magazine during the course of my shooting. And guess what. They worked.
The magazines had what appears to be an improvement on the old Devel follower originally developed by Charlie Kelsey to squeeze eight rounds into a 1911 magazine originally designed to hold seven. To help accomplish this, the top to the follower could flex downward. But as shown in the photograph below, the Devel follower could lack stability.
But the follower used by Kimber appears to incorporate the flexible top but includes a skirt that should make for greater stability
This looks like a promising improvement. I will personally still load only seven rounds for "social" purposes, but Kimber seems to be on to something here.
Kimber bills the Gold Match II (and the stainless steel variant) as its finest production pistol. It is certainly an impressive pistol - well fitted and finished. The sample I shot was accurate and reliable - and a pleasure to shoot.
At an MSRP of over $1,200 it's not quite the bargain basement price of that first Kimber I looked at all those years ago; but then again, the Gold Match II isn't quite that "plain Jane" that first Kimber I saw was. So it's still a lot of gun for the money.
By the way, the Gold Match II I received came with a coupon good for $10.00 off a one year membership in the National Rifle Association.
I would like to thank Aaron Cummins and Kimber America for the loan of the Gold Match II.
My thanks to President Martin Tuason and Sales Manager Ivan Walcott of Advanced Tactical Firearms International Corporation, for supplying the Armscor ammunition used in this evaluation.
My Competitive Edge Dynamics Millennium chronograph performed beautifully, and the available infra-red sky screens worked perfectly indoors. My thanks for a well designed and made instrument.
Jim Reed, Eric Fisher and the crew at Reed's Indoor Range have been very helpful. They graciously consented to accept delivery of the gun and return it for me. They have also made their excellent facilities available. This review would not have been possible without their assistance.
You may discuss about this pistol, ask questions or in general discuss about this review, in this thread in our Forums Site:
Caliber: .45 ACP
Trigger reach: 2.8 inches/7.11 cm
Kimber Mfg., Inc.
Advanced Tactical Firearms
Competitive Edge Dynamics USA
Orders: (1) 888-628-3233
Reed's Indoor Range
|Home - Volume 2 (2007) - Issue 2 (Spring '07) - Pistol Review: Kimber Gold Match II|