Review: Kimber Custom II Night Sights 1911
Pat Cascio 04.18.16
I get asked the “one gun” question a lot as a gun writer, and my answer has changed over the years. Right now, I’d say that if I were forced to own just one handgun for the rest of my life for self-defense, it would be some kind of 1911 in .45ACP. However, I will readily admit that either a GLOCK 19 in 9mm or a GLOCK 23 in .40S&W are close on the heels of my all-time favorite handgun, the 1911. And to narrow it down, I’d pick a 1911 in the Commander size–something with a 4″ or 4.15″ barrel length. They just seem to balance better in my hand and are quicker on-target, too.
This article will cover the Kimber Custom II night sight 1911 in .45ACP, one of my personal 1911s. Sadly, Kimber is no longer offering the Custom II with night sights as a regularly cataloged item. However, you can order a Kimber that way with the night sights, or purchase night sights and have them installed on the Kimber.
Fit, Finish, and Features
A quick look at the Kimber Custom II is in order. It is chambered in .45ACP, has a 5″ match-grade stainless steel barrel, and weighs 38-oz empty–about average for most full-sized 1911s. Magazine capacity is 7 rounds, and Kimber only provides one magazine with their guns–shame on them!
There is also a full-length guide rod. I can take or leave ’em any more.
The frame and slide are made out of carbon steel with a matte black finish. There are cocking serrations on the side of the slide, front and back. Nice touch.
The aluminum match grade trigger is set to release at between 4-5 lbs, and that’s about right for a gun carried for self-defense. You don’t want a trigger pull too light on a carry gun.
There is also an extended combat thumb safety and an ever so slightly extended slide release.
The grip safety doesn’t have the typical “bump” like many 1911s have. Instead, it tapers thicker towards the bottom of the beaver-tail grip safety. I prefer the “bump” myself.
We also have a pair of checkered black rubber grips, and I think Kimber can do better. How about a nice pair of checkered walnut grips on such a nice gun? I installed a pair of VZ “Gator-Back” grips on my Kimber sample.
Seeing as how the front strap on the Custom II night sight version is smoother (not checkered), I put some skateboard friction tape on it. It’s an excellent fix if you don’t like smooth front straps, which I don’t. Skateboard friction tape is cheap, about a buck and a half for a foot of it, and it easily lasts a year or longer and is easy to replace when needed. It’s an outstanding fix to a smooth front strap.
Besides replacing the rubber grips and adding the skate board friction tape to the front strap, the only other change I made was to replace the 16-lbs factory recoil spring with a heavier 18.5-lbs variable power recoil spring from Wolff. I shoot a lot of +P loads in my 1911s, and it’s wise to install a heavier recoil spring to prevent the frame from getting battered or even cracked.
Trigger pull on my Custom II night sight 1911 was right at 4.25-lbs, with just a hint of creep before letting off, so I didn’t do anything to the trigger pull. Many 1911s that come into my hands have horrible trigger pulls, and I work them over until they are to my satisfaction. For as long as I can remember, I’ve loved working on 1911s. I took armorer’s training in the military and learned the ins and outs of this grand design. I rarely carry and use a factory stock 1911. I always seem to find something I want to change or improve on, and I just enjoy working on 1911s–period!
My Kimber Custom II night sight sample just perks along, no matter what ammo I put through it. I’ve tried to intentionally make it malfunction, all to no avail. Everything is timed just perfectly on this gun. Some 1911s are a bit picky about the types of ammo they will take. Some don’t like certain types of JHP ammo or lead or cast bullets, but my Kimber eats everything I feed it. I’ve used a variety of 7 and 8 round magazines in my Kimber, and the gun functions fine with any brand I tried.
I had quite a selection of .45ACP ammo on hand from Black HillsAmmunition and Buffalo Bore Ammunition for testing for this article. From Black Hills, I had their outstanding 230-gr FMJ fodder, as well as their 230-gr JHP and 185-gr JHP loads. From Buffalo Bore, I had their 160-gr all-copper hollow point TAC-XP low-recoil load, and the same in +P, 185-gr FMJ-FN low-recoil load, 230-gr FMJ-FN +P and their 200-gr JGP +P load. Again, my Kimber had no problems with any of this ammo. Even the low-recoil loads from Buffalo Bore worked fine even though I installed a heavier recoil spring.
All accuracy testing was done at 25-yds, resting the gun on a sleeping bag over the hood of my SUV. All loads shot 3.5″ or less, and there were some loads more accurate than others. The winner was the Black Hills 230-gr JHP, which came in right at 2″ if I did my part. Close on the heels of this load was the Black Hills 230-gr FMJ, which has always been a fine performer. Also, closing in on the best accuracy for the day was the Buffalo Bore 160-gr all-copper hollow point TAC-XP low-recoil load.
I don’t believe there is any one bullet shape or design in .45ACP that is suitable for all types of shooting. If I were out hiking on the logging roads out just out camping in the mountains, I’d elect to stoke my Kimber Custom II night sight sample with the Buffalo Bore 230-gr FMJ-FN load +P. This would sure be a great round to discourage a black bear from putting me on the lunch menu. This round will penetrate deeply, and that’s what you need against big game like that. Out on the mean streets of a big city, I might opt for Black Hills 185-gr JHP or even their 230-gr JHP. Keeping a 1911 loaded around the house for self-defense, I might go with the Buffalo Bore160-gr TAC-XP low-recoil load. If I lived in a big city where an errant round might go through sheet rock, then this round would be a bit “safer” in that respect. It wouldn’t penetrate as deeply and travel through three apartments.
The 1911 wouldn’t be my first choice for hunting small or medium sized game. However, these days we have quite a selection of loads to handle different situations. Needless to say, the .45ACP is a proven man stopper so long as you make good hits. And, with heavier bullets like the BuffaloBore 230-gr FMJ-FN +P load, it would take care of black bears, where deep penetration is called for.
I guess the “problem” today is trying to pick which .45ACP ammo you want to carry in your gun, and for what ever problems that you might have to resolve with a .45ACP round.
Choices are a good thing, and there are some great choices in a 1911. You have many, many choices into which type of .45ACP ammo you want to load in your 1911. It’s like a knife; no one knife can be expected to do all chores. And, so it is with a 1911 in .45ACP; no one bullet type will do everything you ask of it. So load your 1911 according to the threats you might face in the big city or in the boonies.
Many years ago, when you purchased a 1911–any 1911–you usually sent it off to the gunsmith to have it customized the way you wanted it. Kimber came on the scene and started a frenzy because their guns were “custom” from the factory. They came with all the bells and whistles you needed and none you didn’t need. Everyone had to jump on the bandwagon and start offering “custom” factory guns at reasonable prices or get left in the dust.
Kimber has a 1911 to suit just about any taste, from their full-sized Custom II models, down to the very compact models, as well as target models and everything in between. If you can’t find what you’re looking for, you can place an order at the Kimber factory or through one of their many deals and have a Kimber made exactly the way you want it.
So, in the end, I guess the answer to the age old question, “What is your favorite gun?” I’d have to say a 1911 of some type loaded with the right ammo for the job at hand, for self-defense. I honestly can’t think of any other gun design that is as popular as the grand old 1911 is, and with today’s modern advancements in bullet designs, it’s just hard to beat the 1911 if that is to be your one and only gun.