The Kimber Ultra Raptor II
Pat Cascio 06.21.13
Many experts in the field of love and romance will tell you that it’s not a good idea to rekindle an old flame. The usual logic goes something like; “you left them for a reason,” or “you can’t bring back the love once it’s gone.” This might be well and good when it comes to love, romance, and old girlfriends, but things are different when it comes to guns — leastways it is in my book. Take my old flame, the 1911-style .45 ACP handgun — I loved her and left her, and this is the story of how I got her back.
Approximately a year ago, I stopped carrying a 1911. It was a Kimber stainless steel Custom Model. Real nice gun, to be sure. But, I’m getting to the age where I don’t want to lug around any more weight on my hip than necessary. I sold off the Kimber, and I’ve been carrying either a GLOCK Model 23 or Model 19 for the better part of the last year. To be sure, GLOCKs are excellent handguns — light-weight, totally reliable, easy to shoot, high first-shot hit ratio, good ergonomics and many other desirable features in a concealed carry handgun. But, they aren’t a single-action, .45-caliber, 1911-style handgun. And, for some reason, that just rubbed me the wrong way.
A 40-year love affair
My love affair with the 1911 started with a military surplus, Colt Government Model 1911A1 that I picked up on a visit to family down in Kentucky. The year was 1967, and my cousins Moe and Abner (yeah, they’re good ol’ Country Boys), introduced me to the grand ol’ .45 ACP during a summer visit. Abner was a returning Vietnam vet and Moe was a happy-go-lucky sort, confined to a wheel chair due to a car accident. But I learned more about shooting rifles and pistols that summer than I’ve since learned. Those readers who follow my works know that I’m a big proponent of point shooting. Abner taught me how to point shoot, and the late Col. Rex Applegate polished my skills in this form of close combat shooting.
In the past, most 1911s were fairly reliable as they came from the box, especially with FMJ ammo. The sights were a tad too small to suit my tastes and, the grip safety was lacking (as was the hammer bite at times). But the 1911-style of handguns just seem to fit my hands perfectly for some reason. Just like slipping into a favorite pair of shoes.
I’ve found that I can shoot a single-action .45 ACP semiautomatic pistol better (and faster) than any other handguns I’ve shot over the many years I’ve been a handgunner. It just seems to give a higher first-shot hit ratio than many of todays’ DAO or DA/SA semiautos. The 1911-style of gun is still the first choice of many SWAT teams, the FBI Hostage Rescue Team, the US Army Delta Force Detachment, many savvy street cops and many of us civilians.
Over the years, many custom gunsmiths made a living modifying and customizing 1991. Many gunsmiths still make a living at this — a testament to the enduring design of the 1911. I’ve had more than my share of customized .45s over the years, some better than others. And I’ve even put some 1911s together from parts. If I do say so myself, I turned out a few pretty decent shooters, too.
Then along came Kimber some years ago, with their line of factory “customized” 1911-style .45s. The Kimber line, when first introduced, came with all the desirable features that we gunnies had been adding to our 1911s. But Kimber was doing it better and cheaper, right from the git-go. Match-grade barrels, extended beavertail grip safeties, speed hammers, match-grade trigger groups, and other features — all at prices comparable with the basic Colt Government Model 1911A1. Needless to say, Kimber has made quite an impact on the market with their guns. So much so that some 1911 makers have all but abandoned the market.
I’ve owned 4 of the full-sized Kimber 1911s, two in their matte black finish and two in stainless steel. All were excellent guns — well-made, high-quality and a best buy for your money. My one complaint is the cheap rubber grips that Kimber puts on their basic line of handguns. Guns this nice need to start out with some real nice wood grips of some sort. I carried a Kimber Custom Classic for better than a year. I felt well-armed with it. But dammit, it’s a full-sized 1911A1 and I simply got tired of lugging it around all day long. I’m one of these people who believe that if you’re gonna go armed, you go armed all the time. I strap on a handgun every time I leave my house.
But I’m getting older, maybe a little more “tired” of having to carry any more weight on my hip than necessary. That’s why I started carrying the GLOCKs. But then I ran into an new twist on an old flame at my local gun shop.
The Kimber Ultra Raptor II
When I discovered a Kimber Ultra Raptor II on the shelf of my local gun shop, I handled it, drooled over it, and played with it. The decision to get this gun was immediate. I couldn’t be more pleased with the Ultra Raptor II. It is totally reliable with all the ammunition I’ve run through it to date. The Ultra Raptor II is produced entirely in the Kimber Custom Shop.
At 25 ounces, I hardly know I’m packing this little 1911. There’s no different feel around my waist with this Raptor and a spare magazine than when I was carrying one of the GLOCKs. As for accuracy, the little gun is capable of better than I can hold at distances of 25 yards or less. Standing, off-hand, I can usually put 5-shots into 3.5″ – 4″ with most brands of ammo, some groups smaller. Keep in mind, I said this is off-hand, not sand bag rest shooting. That’s plenty of accuracy in a handgun used under these conditions.
Shooting the little Raptor over a rolled-up sleeping bag over the hood of my car, I was able to get 2 ¾” groups with Black Hills Ammunition 230-gr JHP load — if I did my part. I tried their 230-gr +P JHP load, but it was a bit too snappy for my tastes in the little Raptor. My ol’ bud, Jeff Hoffman, who owns BHA, suggested I stick with the 230-gr JHP standard load in the Raptor, and when Jeff talks, I listen. Tim Sundles, who owns Buffalo Bore Ammunition, recently came out with a new standard velocity .45 ACP load — it carries a 160-grain Barnes TAC-XP all-copper hollow-point bullet that clocks in at around 950-FPS. This round is a real joy to shoot, and it expands extremely well at lower velocities. So this is another option for feeding the light-weight Raptor, if you find 230-grain loads too hot to handle in a smaller .45ACP handgun. I really like this load from Buffalo Bore – a lot!
The Kimber Ultra Raptor II has a match-grade 3″ barrel, matte black carbon steel slide, and KimPro matte black aluminum frame. Wedge night sights are standard, along with Zebra wood grips that have the “raptor” feather-texture to them. The sides of the slide also have a raptor feature-texture scale to them instead of serrations. The top of the slide is flat, with raptor-type texture to it as well. All edges on the pistol are very gently melted, too. A very crisp 4-lbs trigger pull makes this one helluva shooter,. The front strap also has the scaled feather design to it for a sure grip. The one thing I can do without, and I’ll probably swap out, is the ambi-safety. I can do without them on my 1911s these days.
I’m not trying to sell Kimber handguns in this article — the buyer has to make that choice. My sole purpose in writing this article was to renew an old romance, a romance I’ve had for more than 40 years, with a firearm that has a proven track record. The Model 1911, in its various configurations, has served us in two world wars, the Korean conflict and the Vietnam war. The .45 ACP is a proven round, but it’s not the “one-stop” round that some claim it to be. Shot placement is still important in a gunfight!
My GLOCKs are jealous mistresses and call out to me every now and then. But the fling is short-lived — maybe for a day or two — then I return to my one true love, the 1911! So don’t let all these other gun writers tell ya that you’ve gotta have a plastic gun hangin’ on your belt to be on-board with the current trend. Oh, that’s not to say that’s there’s anything “wrong” with the current crop of polymer framed guns — they’re excellent guns. But for me, I’ll be carrying around an old love — even if does have an aluminum frame instead of steel. I’m finding out that it’s not such a bad thing to renew an old romance with a trusted and loved friend.
As nice as the Kimber Ultra Raptor II is, it is a 1911, and I find I always have to change something on any 1911 I get my hands on. In this case, I already mentioned that I’ll probably swap out the ambi-safety for a single-side safety — it’s a personal choice. The only other change I plan on making is replacing the wood grips with a pair of “Code Zero” 1911 grips that I designed, and are being produced by Mil-Tac. Other than that, no other changes are planned for this little 1911.