As the classic 1911 pistol approaches its centennial, it is just as viable for law enforcement or civilian defense use as it was when it sprang from the genius of John Browning in 1910. Browning designed the pistol in 1910, but it was not tested and accepted by the U.S. Army until 1911, whereupon it was designated M1911. Slight modifications in 1922 resulted in the M1911A1. All 1911-type pistols available today are basically 1911A1s, and the M1911 in all its iterations is the most successful handgun design in the history of firearms.
No other handgun in firearms history can claim to be a viable combat weapon nearly 100 years after its introduction, but the 1911 will continue to serve our nation’s military and law enforcement for the foreseeable future, well past its centennial. The 1911 is so popular that there are more manufacturers of 1911s today than at any time in its history, and the demand for the classic seems never ending.
One of the premier 1911 makers is Kimber
, which produces what is arguably the greatest variety of 1911s available, from entry-level pistols to full custom handguns. The subjects of this evaluation are both true custom handguns, although their prices are surprisingly reasonable. Before we proceed, though, we need to explore why the 1911 continues to be so popular.
The pistols that are the subject of this evaluation are both products of Kimber’s Custom Shop, which produces some very high-quality pistols. Kimber Custom 1911s all share some characteristics in common. Non-stainless pistols are finished in KimPro II, a tough thermally cured finish that blends boron, PTFE, nano silicates, molybdenum disulfide and other ingredients, resulting in a durable finish that is resistant to salt, sweat, ultraviolet radiation and solvents. Due to its content, it is also self-lubricating to a degree.
We were especially impressed with the quality of fit and finish of these pistols, which are as good as we have ever seen, and we have seen quite a few 1911s from various manufacturers. The Grand Raptor II is without doubt one of, if not the most visually striking, 1911 pistols on the planet. Upon first glance, the reaction of everyone who sees the Grand Raptor II is, “Wow!”
The Grand Raptor II is the top of the Raptor line, which consists of four custom 1911s, all of which share some features. Barrel lengths run from the Ultra Raptor’s 3 inches and Pro Raptor’s 4 inches to 5 inches on all other varieties: the Raptor, Stainless Raptor and our test Grand Raptor II. All Raptors have steel frames except the Ultra Raptor, which has an aluminum frame.
Some time ago we tested a Kimber Pro Covert II that had a 4-inch barrel and aluminum frame. The pistol was so accurate that we purchased it, but not before having queried Kimber about the aluminum frame’s longevity. We were advised that our Pro Covert’s aluminum frame would last more than 20,000 rounds, which should be good enough for just about anyone.
All Raptors have “scale” checkering that mimics reptilian scales in keeping with the pistols’ overall theme. The checkering is extremely striking and attractive while at the same time being very effective at making the Raptor easy to hang onto and control, even with sweaty or wet hands. Barrels and slides are hand fitted with Kimber’s overall custom pistol production methods, which are the equal of any custom shop in the country, although Kimber’s suggested retail prices are significantly less than most custom manufacturers.
The slide has wide non-slip “scales” at the front and rear to facilitate reloads and press checks. The stainless barrel is machined to match grade specification as is the barrel bushing. The grips are rosewood, also checkered in “scales” that carry over the reptilian theme. The wide beavertail grip safety has a “memory bump” to ensure proper grip and positive engagement of the grip safety.
The aluminum match trigger is factory tuned to 3.5 to 4 pounds. All members of the Raptor family have tritium night sights, and the Grand Raptor II is also fitted with a fully ambidextrous safety. As if this weren’t enough, the Grand Raptor II is the most striking and aesthetically appealing 1911 in our 40-plus years of experience with 1911-type pistols.
The fit of slide to frame is impeccable. There is absolutely zero “slop” between slide and frame. Once we removed the assembly oil and lubricated the pistol, operation was so smooth that it could well be running on ball bearings. The two-stage trigger broke like the proverbial “glass rod” at exactly 4 pounds with no creep or over-travel. The fit of barrel to slide was perfect as was lockup and timing—everything we would expect in a custom handgun. Rimfire Super
Kimber’s Rimfire Super is a perfect partner to the Grand Raptor II in .22 Long Rifle for inexpensive practice with a pistol that carries over all the features of a standard 1911 except the recoil. The Kimber Rimfire manual of arms is identical to the larger caliber pistols, and Kimber’s Rimfire 1911s have all the features found in the company’s center fire pistols. Kimber Rimfire 1911s are available in two versions along with a “drop on” conversion slide and barrel assembly.
The “full up” rimfires are the Rimfire Target and Rimfire Super that we were provided for test. The Rimfire Target has adjustable sights, an extended ambidextrous safety and an extended magazine release. Rimfire 1911s are of all aluminum construction except for the steel barrel. This makes for exceptionally light weight, which is ideal for younger shooters just getting started on the 1911. The Rimfire slides do not lock back on the last round, although magazines drop free, and the slide can be manually locked to the rear for safety.
The Rimfire Target can be purchased with either all satin silver or matte blue finish. The Rimfire Super is a Custom Shop pistol which has a two-tone finish matching that of the Grand Raptor II. The Rimfire Super has a hand-fitted slide with zero play between it and the frame; classic “double diamond” rosewood grips; an aluminum match trigger; and 30 lines per inch of checkering on the front strap and the bottom of the trigger guard. What’s best though is that every Rimfire Super is guaranteed to have fired a five-round, 25-yard test group of 1.5 inches or less before leaving the factory: a test target to prove this is packed with the pistol.
Both Kimber’s Grand Raptor II and Rimfire Super were a real treat to shoot. The Grand Raptor’s accuracy was on par with 1911-type pistols we have tested that cost far more. From 15 yards, Black Hills 230-grain JHPs grouped into 1.5 inches. Remington 230-grain Golden Saber and Winchester Ranger 230-grain SXT is grouped into 1.75 inches.
The Rimfire Super lived up to its claim for reliability, which was 100% with all types of ammunition tested. We didn’t formally test the Rimfire Super for accuracy, but used it as most .22s will be used: informal plinking at small targets like .22 ammo boxes. The Rimfire Super shot point of aim and was reliable with both high velocity and subsonic Remington ammo, although the instructions that came with the Rimfire Super stated that it was intended to be used with high-velocity ammo.
The Kimber Grand Raptor II is one of the finest such pistols we have ever evaluated, as is the Rimfire Super. In fact, we know of no other rimfire 1911s that compete with our test Kimber. In the final analysis, the Grand Raptor II and Rimfire Super make for a perfect shooting pair that look very much alike and give the owner the pleasure of having what is probably the most visually striking .45 ACP 1911 available, plus a match grade .22 to go with it. What more could a 1911 shooter want?
Charlie Cutshaw is a small arms, ammunition and infantry weapons editor for Jane’s Defense Information. He served as an Army infantry, ammunition and intelligence officer before retiring in 1996. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.