The year 2013 was a milestone anniversary for me, it marked 20 years of gun writing for Harris Publications. Harris bought an evaluation I did on the brand new Kimber Classic Custom back in 1993. Back then, not everyone had heard of Kimber either. But the company’s new Classic Custom was destined to make Kimber a powerhouse in the 1911 market. If you have a poor memory or weren’t around back in the early ’90s, let me tell you the simple things Kimber did to overpower Colt and Springfield Armory. Kimber was the very first 1911 manufacturer to offer a production gun with a beavertail, an extended thumb safety and low-profile combat sights. The Classic Custom was a gun that was ready for carry or competition straight from the box, at a cost comparable to what other companies sold their 1911s for. It was a business plan so simple and so wonderfully executed it make me and most 1911 fans wonder why it had not been done years earlier.
I used my Classic Custom for several years in U.S. Practical Shooting Association (USPSA) competition even before they had Single Stack and Limited 10 divisions. When Kimber opened its Custom Shop in 1995, the company had me send the pistol back for some upgrades. All these years later, that Classic Custom is one of my most fired and frequently carried guns. I estimate that it has fired somewhere over 50,000 rounds to date. Besides use in competition, I have used that pistol for several high-speed defense classes and it has never failed me. It is a gun I’ve always been able to count on and one that will always be a part of my personal collection.
Ultra Carry Confidence
I didn’t think there was much Kimber could do to keep me from carrying that full-size, steel-framed Classic Custom, but I was wrong. Just a few short years later it introduced the Kimber Ultra Carry—a 1911 pattern, 7+1 capacity .45 ACP with a 3-inch barrel and slide and an alloy frame. Weighing over a half-pound less than the steel-framed, full-size .45 ACP, the new Kimber pistol didn’t become a favorite until I actually put hundreds of rounds downrange and found that even with its abbreviated barrel length and sight radius, I was able to shoot it as quickly and accurately as a full-size, steel gun. I had to ask myself, why should I carry the bigger and heavier gun?
The following year, Kimber sent me an Ultra Carry CDP. Like my previous test gun, this pistol used an alloy frame and a 3-inch barrel and slide, but it was also given some custom touches. “CDP” stands for the Custom Defense Package, which offered this pistol a stainless slide with tritium night sights, a checkered frame, ambidextrous extended thumb safeties and a carry melt treatment designed to remove sharp edges that might cut the shooter, clothing or holsters.
I normally carried the Kimber Ultra CDP in a lightweight Fobus paddle holster. It was as close to prefect as I could find in a carry gun! Lightweight, powerful and accurate, it did everything I needed it to. There were just a couple minor things I would have done differently.
In 2004, Kimber invited me to design my own pistol and have its own Custom Shop build it. I started with a Kimber Ultra and asked the smiths there to fit the gun with an extended thumb safety. I had no use for an ambidextrous thumb safety. In fact, my experience in carrying these little guns with extended ambidextrous safeties was that sometimes the exposed weak-side safety could inadvertently be knocked off, leaving me carrying a .45 cocked and unlocked. I also ordered the gun with a magazine well funnel to aid in quick reloads. This part also adds about 0.25 inches to the length of the backstrap, and this seemingly insignificant addition makes the gun much more comfortable to shoot. Meprolight tritium sights gave the gun night-fighting capability, and the fine 30-lpi checkering on the frontstrap provides a secure shooting grip without abrading the hand or tearing clothing.
Kimber’s smiths tuned my trigger to break at a crisp 4.5 pounds per my specifications and coated the frame and slide in flat black KimPro II finish. At 20 yards, my five-shot groups averaged less than 1.5 inches with any defense load I fed it. This pistol earned a spot in my heart on our first outing. Walking through the desert to my shooting spot, my foot rolled over a Mojave rattler. In an instant, the little Kimber had separated the snake from its head with a CorBon 165-grain Pow’RBall round before it could strike me. It was this gun that I used a couple years later to keep me safe during Operation Wide Receiver. Like the Classic Custom, it is a gun that I’ve always been able to count on and it has never let me down.
Kimber also offers the Ultra Carry pistol in 9mm, and I had little or no interest in testing this gun in that caliber until I received the Aegis in 2006 for an evaluation. Conceived by the Kimber Custom Shop, the Aegis is built on the same platform as the rest of the Ultra Carry pistols. For deep concealment use, the smiths re-profiled the thumb safety, magazine release and bobbed the hammer.
Other custom features include custom low-profile night sights, frontstrap checkering, flat-top slide and ultra-thin rosewood grip panels. It is a perfect gun for those with small hands! But what really made me a fan of the Aegis pistol was its unbelievable accuracy. When I tested this gun eight years ago, four out of the five loads I used printed five-shot groups under an inch at 20 yards! It is the most accurate 9mm pistol I have ever tested, never mind that it is a lightweight subcompact with a short sight radius!
In 2011, without any prior announcement, Kimber introduced another 9mm semi-auto, the Solo Carry pistol, it’s first non-1911 production gun. This striker fired, micro-compact pistol possesses a pivoting trigger, low profile sights and an ambidextrous thumb safety. Built on a machined aluminum frame with a stainless steel barrel and slide, the newest Kimber became an immediate hit with the concealed carry crowd.
The ergonomics of the Solo Carry are excellent. The little pistol has the same grip angle as the 1911, and people like me who have spent much of their life shooting that type of pistol find it to be comfortable and familiar. It also has a very low bore axis, and this feature helps negate the 9mm’s muzzle flip! Weighing just 17 ounces (empty), the Solo Carry has a 6+1 capacity. Its dimensions make it perfect for concealed carry or deep-cover work. With a height of just 3.9 inches, a length of 5.5 inches and width of 1.2 inches, the gun can easily be concealed in the hidden breast pocket of my 5.11 Tactical shirts without making an obvious bulge or causing undue sagging. It is not often that you’ll find me without a Solo Carry, housed in a Galco Pocket Protector, in one of my pockets. Its blended and smoothed edges make it a delight to carry!
The Solo Carry is a gun that sacrifices nothing for its small size and light weight. Like the other guns that I’ve mentioned, it has been 100-percent reliable and affords more accuracy than I am capable of.
While all of the guns mentioned in this article were sent to me for test and evaluation, all of them impressed me enough that I purchased them for my private collection. Based on my experience with these guns, their reliability and awesome accuracy, I knew I’d regret it if I let go of one of them. I carry them frequently and know that I can rely on them to perform if called upon. Kimber has been keeping me safe for over 20 years!
This article was originally published in the 2015 issue of CONCEALED CARRY HANDGUNS. Subscription is available in print and digital editions below.