Friday, June 03, 2005

I give you the Kimber Compact

That's what they called it when I bought it; now I think the comparable model is the Pro Carry. Shorter barrel & grip frame than the full-size, with the factory magazine it carries seven .45's; with Chip McCormick mags it carries eight, seven in the mag & one in the chamber.

This one is the aluminum frame, picked over steel because it weighs loaded what the steel frame version weighs empty, and since it was picked as a carry gun weight mattered. I don't know who originated the idea, but instead of a barrel bushing in the front of the slide, the barrel is cone-shaped at the end, fitting directly to the slide. It came with an extended thumb safety, beavertail grip safety, and low-profile Novak sights. The barrel is supposed to be match-grade, and it has a match-grade trigger. Those features were also considerations in choosing it.

This was only the second 1911-pattern pistol I'd ever fired. The first one, a full-size, had impressed me enough to want the style, and in .45acp; if I ever had to use it for real, I wanted something that would do the job of stopping the fight. Preferably by sight, in the extreme by having sufficient power to make the bad guy either stop fighting or run.

So how's it shoot? Very well. I've never had a problem that could be blamed on the firearm. It has always gone bang when you pull the trigger, and I suspect it's capable of greater accuracy than I am. The trigger is all I could expect, a touch of creep(hard to notice unless you're looking for it) with a clean break at around 3 lbs, I think.

I repeat, no problem that I could blame on the firearm. It has digested all factory ammo I've tried, ball, truncated cone and hollow points, without a burp. The only ammo it hasn't worked with was semi-wadcutters, and that's a common problem in 1911's that haven't had the barrel throated to handle them; since it was designed as a self-defense pistol I don't consider that a problem I'll worry about.

The only other problem I had was when I put in a Cominolli Frame Saver, a recoil-spring guide with buffers that mount on it. I'd read that aluminum-frame pistols like this could get the frame beat up over time where the slide hits it, and I read that this system was good, so I got one. And promptly started having fails-to-feed. It turned out that the buffers, under pressure, expanded out enough to rub slightly on the bottom of the barrel and the slide, and that added just enough friction to slow the slide enough to cause the problem. So I trimmed the buffers down to flush with the edges
of the guide, and no more problem.

The one other thing I'll mention is the recoil spring. In a pistol of this design the spring takes a battering, especially when shooting full-power ammo, so (at least at the time I bought it) Kimber recommended you replace it about every 1500-2000 rounds. I've done it about every 1500; Kimber sells it as a set of recoil, hammer and firing pin springs so you can replace all at the same time. I've measured the firing pin and hammer springs and found them to have taken no 'set', so I think Kimber does it that way just to be on the safe side.

My opinion is pretty much covered by this: I still carry it. There are times I have to go with something smaller, but when situation/clothes allow, this is what goes on my belt or in my vehicle. I've mostly used either Hornady XTP 185gr. HP or Speer Gold Dot 158gr. HP ammo, for normal self-defense I think they'll do the job if needed.

I handload a lot of my practice ammo, mostly cast 230gr. ball with 3.9 gr. of Hodgden Clays powder; it's an accurate load that's worked well for me(NOTE: this is a load I use in MY pistol; that's no guarantee it'll be wonderful in yours; check the manuals), lighter recoil than the carry loads so it's easier on my hands in practice. I think I could go to 4.0 or 4.1, it'd still be well within the safe range listed in my Lyman manual, and I've had an occasional fail-to-feed from the slide not coming back quite enough and that would solve that. Again, this is something with the load, not the pistol. I haven't changed the load partly because it shoots so nicely, and on the(rare) occasions it's happened, I've used it as a clearing drill- better at the range in practice than for real.
Lee will make custom bullet molds, what I'd like to do some day is take their 230gr. truncated cone and shorten it enough to cut the weight to 200 and have them cut a mold to throw that bullet. It'd be accurate, a good weight, and if you had to I'd have no problem using that bullet as a defense load.

The finish is getting pretty worn, so one of these days I'll have to either send it to somebody or refinish it myself. Kevin at Smallest Minority once mentioned this Moly Resin finish that can be put on with a airbrush and cured in the oven; it looks good, so I may have to get a bottle. And if I have the bottle, there's a couple of other things I could try it on...

I wonder how it'd work as a blade finish?

This was brought to mind by something I read over at Mad Ogre, and that's customer service. My only experience with Kimber customer service was an e-mail I sent them with a question- which they didn't answer, which kind of pissed me off; how hard is it to answer the damn question? But from what I've read at Ogre's place there are a lot of people who have had problems with Kimber in repairs. Some of them bad enough that Ogre says he'll never buy one, especially since Springfield makes a fine series of 1911's and has a very good rep for taking care of the customers. It may be that they've cleaned up past problems, but I personally do not know either way; it's something to keep in mind and check out for yourself.


Kevin said...

I'm about to find out, but I'm not doing it myself. I chickened out when I couldn't figure out how to build a decent temperature-regulated oven that the barrelled action of my Garand would fit in. A local guy who specializes in molycoat finishes is doing it for me, and he's going to parkerize the thing first. I should get it back in a week or so. I'll write a post on it when I do.

I STRONGLY suggest that if you're going to do the molycoat option that you do NOT use your kitchen oven. The fumes are quite strong, and you can bet some of the stuff will end up as vapor deposits on the oven walls, to sublime off onto your food over time. Get a turkey roaster or something similar and bake anything smaller than a rifle or sword in that.

As to the question of the knife finish, I think it ought to hold up well if you can degrease the steel thoroughly and then lightly abrasive-blast the surface (not glass-bead!)

chaos said...

Good choice for a carry pistol. I am thinking about getting the Kimber Ultra CDP for carry. Basically it's what you have except all the edges have been rounded out to make it more concealable, and it's got a two tone finish and work done in the Kimber Custom Shop. Retail is about $1200 though so I'm not sure.

As far as the refinishing one thing you may want to look at is Duracoat, it is something you can do yourself and from everything I've ever heard from smiths, it's the way to go. Don't know about blade usage though. You can see about duracoat at

One other thing, I don't mean to toot my own horn here though but if you ever need any 1911 help or looking for a place to discuss the 1911 platform you are always more then welcome to check out my 1911 forum that I run.


Firehand said...

Geez, Kevin, be a wimp! What's a little moly flavor in dinner, anyway?

Chaos, I'll check it out, thanks.

Cowboy Blob said...


I learned my lesson about home gunsmithing proects. I pay the professionals now.

Firehand said...

You're not a perfessional? Well, I'll be...

The Angry Engineer said...

Ah, yes, the worn finish of a Kimber. My Compact Custom (first-generation) is looking pretty tough from holster wear, but I haven't yet decided what to do with it. The can of black KG Gun-kote sitting on the shelf and the old oven in my garage should make the choice clear, but I'm still kicking around the idea of sending it out to a pro.

After shooting my Compact for a while, I'm convinced that the Government Model's extra 0.75" of barrel would have never been missed had JMB implemented the shorter barrel from the beginning. I'm truly in love with the Compact's form factor and performance. I was, shall we say, somewhat less impressed with the Kimber Ultra 10 that I owned for a while.

Firehand said...

I'm still deciding between the molycoat and the Duracoat. Both look good, the moly may wear a bit better on the frame rails. Either one I'd be able to do myself.

Haven't tried an Ultra 10, so I'll go by your comment on it.

Overall I've been real happy with my Compact.

Buckethead said...

I've never tried the compact - though maybe I will once my CCW comes through. I've been very happy with my Kimber Custom II. I like the 1911s, and the Kimber is the best that I've personally fired. Good post on the effects of gunshots, too.

Firehand said...

Thanks, Bucket.

I lucked out a couple of years ago and bought a Custom II for a very good price. I agree, it's a damn good firearm. The extra size and weight really tames down hot .45 loads, and the accuracy is wonderful.

The barrel length doesn't seem to be a real factor on concealability for the most part, it's the longer grip frame that tends to show more. 'Course, that depends on your build and clothing style, too.