As it approaches its second century of production, the 1911 pistol continues to achieve even greater levels of popularity. Twenty years ago, it seemed like the 1911 was losing quite a bit of ground to the double-action “wondernines” and was soon to be put out to pasture. This trend seems to have run its course and today, the 1911 has carved out an even bigger piece of the defensive market.
Currently, several different companies are turning out versions of this classic design. Leading the charge is Kimber. For over a decade, Kimber has been building high quality 1911s in a mind-boggling number of variations. I have had the opportunity to test several different Kimber pistols and have yet to be disappointed about their quality.
In 2007, Kimber announced the introduction of the Aegis II family of pistols. Built in the Kimber Custom Shop, the Aegis II pistols are designed to address the needs of the defensive-minded shooter. Three different variants are offered including full size, mid size, and subcompact models. Perhaps the most unique quality is that these pistols are chambered for the 9mm cartridge rather than the .45ACP.
When an opportunity came up to check out the Aegis II, I jumped at the chance. My sample Aegis II was the mid-size variant and external dimensions mirror those of the classic Commander.
To optimize carry qualities, the Pro Aegis II pistols utilize an aluminum alloy frame mated to a steel slide. Weight of the 4-inch copy tested is 28 ounces, well within the limits of comfortable, all day wear. The slide of the pistol is finished in black KimPro II. KimPro II is a non-reflective, self-lubricating coating that is also resistive to the elements. The slide also features wide serrations in the rear for a positive grip during manual manipulation.
A number of touches from the Kimber Custom Shop are readily apparent. The front strap of the frame is checkered 30 lines-per-inch (lpi). Both the slide and frame are given a “carry melt” and are devoid of sharp edges. The flat mainspring housing is also checkered. To facilitate better control, the frame has been given a relief cut under the triggerguard.
Slide configuration of the Aegis II also differs from other Kimber 1911s. Rather than the usual rounded contour, the Aegis II has a flat top slide. Three-dot Tactical Wedge Tritium Night Sights help get the Aegis II on target in any light condition.
A match grade, ramped barrel is standard on the Aegis II. Rate of twist is 1 turn in 16 inches. The Aegis II utilizes a full-length guide rod and a 14-pound recoil spring. Its match grade trigger is designed to trip between 4 to 5 pounds.
A readily apparent deviation between the Aegis II and other 1911 pistols is the spurless hammer. The thumb safety and magazine release button are also given the bobbed treatment.
To ensure positive operation, Kimber equips the Aegis II with a palm swell, bumped grip safety. As long as you get something close to a proper shooting grip, the safety will disengage and the gun will fire every time. I find this to be a very important quality when shooting in cold weather with gloves.
Thin rosewood grip panels help complete the Aegis II package. The grips sport vertical, ball milled flutes to enhance control and are held in place with a set of hex-head screws. The Aegis II comes in a black, lockable case complete with a lock and instruction manual. One 9-round magazine was included with the Pro Aegis II.
I can report that the slightly abbreviated, lightweight Pro Aegis II 9mm received for testing ran like a top. Quite frankly, if it didn’t run that way, there would be no point in considering it as a defensive pistol. Apparently, the engineers at Kimber have solved the riddle and our sample missed nary a beat.
For self-defense, I would still recommend that one carry the most powerful gun that can be effectively managed. But for many of us, a full size, steel frame .45 ACP is beyond the limits of practicality. I still have a spot for that big gun, but on a day-to-day basis, a lighter, easier to conceal gun like the Pro Aegis II is a better choice.
Although the .45ACP holds a slight edge over the 9mm in terminal performance, that gap is smaller than many people think. One thing for sure is that the 9mm is far easier to control, especially in a lightweight gun. This will help shooters of every skill level perform to a higher standard and get their hits on target.
The Pro Aegis II was fired extensively over several different range sessions and performance was top shelf. Save for a single failure to lock back on an empty magazine, function was perfect.
From a stable rest, the Pro Aegis II turned in some very impressive results. Most 5-shot groups ran between 2 to 3 inches with a few tighter clusters recorded. CorBon’s 147-grain FMJ Match load and Black Hills EXP 115-grain JHP turned in top honors, both averaging 2.5 inches at 25 yards.
In 9mm, I remain partial to the hot 124- to 127-grain loads and the Pro Aegis II handled them in style. With a muzzle velocity of approximately 1200 feet per second (fps), these loads approach .357 Magnum level performance, yet were easily managed. Penetration and expansion in ballistic gelatin is excellent and credible feedback from the street is encouraging as well. Felt recoil is a subjective quality and perception will vary from one individual to the next. But let there be no doubt, the 28-ounce, 4-inch, Pro Aegis II bucks considerably less than my LW Commander in .45ACP. A short session with the Commander isn’t at all punishing, but once that round count moves into the triple digits, it starts to wear me out in a hurry. With the Pro Aegis II, I only quit when I run out of ammunition. Predictably, split times between shots are considerably faster with the Pro Aegis II 9mm.
I really didn’t have a strong opinion one way or another on the spurless hammer of the Pro Aegis II. From an operational standpoint, it wasn’t a big deal, but I do like to thumb back the hammer of my 1911s prior to takedown. I would probably prefer a hammer with a spur, but it just wasn’t that big of a deal for me.
The one quality I did have an issue with was the abbreviated bobbed thumb safety. I like to ride the safety with the thumb while shooting. As a southpaw, the single side lever forced me to switch hands during much of the evaluation and shoot from my starboard side.
Initially, I thought the bobbed safety had just caught the attention of my less-often-used right thumb. Its shelf seemed a tad too sharp for my tender digit and I would have preferred something larger with a more rounded contour. Truth be told, I would have to retrofit the Pro Aegis II with an ambidextrous safety anyway. But my capable assistants concurred with my opinion. They too, felt this was one area in need of attention.
At one time, the Commander variant of the 1911 was widely regarded as the ultimate martial artist’s pistol. With the right clothing, this lightweight autoloader concealed very well and could be carried in all-day comfort. A user-friendly trigger also enabled most shooters to hit, particularly with that first critical shot.
The Kimber Pro Aegis II in 9mm fills a somewhat similar niche. This highly refined 1911 is ideally suited for self-defense and incorporates features that would cost a pretty penny from a custom pistolsmith. True, the Pro Aegis II does cost a bit more than a basic 1911, but it is still a bargain when compared to a true custom number. Pistoleros who prefer a pistol for the international standard 9mm would do well to consider it.
A recent health crisis has given me a whole new perspective on the 9mm cartridge. I am currently dealing with a serious depletion in both grip strength and stamina. Hopefully, I will turn the corner soon and be back up to form, but for the time being, a 9mm is about all the fun I can handle in a lightweight package. Upon reflection, I don’t feel my situation is that unique. The moderate recoil of the 9mm can help any number of shooters stay in the game, yet have a reasonably powerful cartridge at their disposal.
I would also submit that the Pro Aegis II 4-inch would be an ideal choice for shooters with small hands. The single stack grip frame, slim rosewood grips, and reduced trigger reach can make for a better fit and better performance. Small hands often mean smaller stature and once again, the 9mm chambering of the Pro Aegis II will prove easer to control than a similar pistol in .45ACP.
The Pro Aegis II may very well be the most handsome factory pistol to come my way in quite some time. The two-tone Pro Aegis II is truly an eye catcher and refinements such as 30-lpi and sexy grip panels really put it over the edge. But the bottom line is that the Pro Aegis II is an accurate, superbly reliable pistol that performs as good as it looks. Its full-length grip frame felt very good in my medium-size hand and served to enhance natural pointing qualities.
With the Pro Aegis II, Kimber has cracked the code and broken the 9mm jinx. When it’s all said and done, the Aegis concept makes tremendous sense for users who fancy the 1911 for self-defense.
For more information contact: Kimber, One Lawton St., Dept. CH, Yonkers, NY 10705; 800-880-2418; www.kimberamerica.com