Kimber Pair Covers Both Bets – With Style.
There’s two things here, two things looking very much alike at many levels, but which are also very different — apples and oranges different maybe. They’re both 1911 models, but at many levels the resemblance essentially stops there. Both are Kimbers, both made in their custom shop, both are .45 ACP’s and both use tried and true design elements. Yet, as the saying goes — “One of these is not like the other.”
Kimber’s history is well known enough to not require delving into much. Suffice to say, they pretty much single-handedly caused Colt to sit-up and realize they had competition 15 or more years ago.
Kimber went back to 1911 basics when they started, re-tooled, added design upgrades, honed functionality, then proceeded to build the best factory-made 1911’s available then. They arguably created the 1911 boom market, and were — and still are — the one to “catch” in the market place.
But few things come easy or remain that way, so Kimber’s design staff has continued to upgrade, improve, create and craft a long-line of everything from basic fighting pistols, to fine 1911’s of heirloom-quality. What we have here is a little bit of everything they do — in two guns. A “I carry this every day to protect my family” Ultra+ CDP II small gun, and a “Hey, ain’t this a beauty!” Classic Carry Pro.
Both can, would and do a great job protecting anyone with the sense to carry one. But just as a GTO (think: Ultra+ CDP II) is a road car with some muscle (at least in the old days, eh?), a Mercedes (think: Classic Carry Pro) might also have muscle, but is more refined, dare we say elegant — and simply makes you want to stare at it and be amazed you own it.
That’s what we have here. I tend to think of them as one to work with — and one to play with. Although I can’t stress enough, the Classic Carry Pro can work as well and as hard as either of them (as any Kimber might), yet still … would you take the trash out in the trunk of your Lexus?
Am I painting a picture here?
The Tough Guy
Kimber did a smart thing with the Ultra+ CDP II — they gave it a short slide and a full-length grip. You can use full-length magazines, get a full, firm firing grip (no pinkies looking for a home) and yet have the concealability and convenience of a shorter slide. The barrel length is 3″, with the total slide length being a bit more than 5.5″. Even though it has an aluminum frame, the full grip puts the weight in the hand, rather than out front along the slide. It’s as if the gun is part of the hand and you can move it very fast when working in-close. Also, the full grip means you can really apply a firm firing platform, which these short slides need to work right. This one ran fine.
Built in the Custom Shop, several custom features are automatically added to it there, helping to keep the cost down by about $500 (if you wanted to add them later). Things like an ambi-safety, night sights, 30 LPI checkering, etc. are all part of the package right off the bat. They’ve even checkered under the triggerguard, which I like, as you can sort of wedge your weak-hand pointer finger against it with a two-hand hold.
The additional length of the grip only ads about two ounces, so the stainless steel slide and alloy frame only weigh about 27 ounces total. That’s only a couple more ounces than a Walther PPK/S, but with much more authority in place. The frame is finished in Kimber’s “KimPro II”, which I can’t quite tell if it’s a hard, bake-on type finish or some kind of anodizing. Either way it appears to be very durable, and shows good attention to detail during its application. It’s also self-lubricating. The slide, along with the other metal bits showing, is finished in a pleasing satin.
The stainless steel, match-grade barrel is bushingless and recoil is handled with a full-length guide rod assembly. The nicely fitted grip safety has a “bump” to help with high thumb operation, and the trigger is the de rigueur lightweight trigger with an over-travel stop. This model is also fitted with Kimber’s passive firing pin safety system. The grip safety needs to be fully depressed in a firing grip before a plunger will clear the firing pin, allowing a hammer strike to fire a chambered round. It works fine.
The barrel is ramped and shows excellent lock-up at battery. Frankly, this entire gun acted and looked more like a custom build than a factory model, and the Custom Shop attention to detail was obvious. I will say the plastic mainspring housing remains a strange notion to me, but I have never seen one cause any issues in any gun I’ve tested. And, they do offer added weight savings and a certain natural lubricity for the bits moving inside.
The fit, finish, gentle “melting” and great trigger pull made this gun fun to shoot and handle. At about $1,331 at full retail (try to find a Kimber not at full retail!), this is a lot of gun for the money.
Classic Carry Pro
Even the name of this model makes sense. It’s a very classic look (blued steel, solid bone grips, all-steel), it’s eminently carryable and is certainly professional in every category — from build quality to custom touches. It reminds me of the sort of custom 1911 done by a master ’smith who specializes in minimalist work. What’s there is just what’s needed, no bells and whistles for the sake of bells and whistles, and the work done is done “just-so” with flats being flat and curves remaining correct and in proportion. It pleases the eye, as it were.
The reason the finish looks the way it does is because it’s crafted by Turnbull Manufacturing Co., those miraculous mad scientists who have mastered bluing of all sorts, color case hardening — and more. Called Charcoal Blue, it offers a depth and specifity of color you simply can’t find in bulk bluing tanks. Paired with the light bone handles, it’s an eye-turning package. Something General Patton might have carried, if you get my drift.
Built in the Kimber Custom Shop, a frame and slide are matched early in the process, then remain a pair throughout the build. There’s no “parts bins” assembly here, each gun is hand-assembled from scratch. And it shows. Small touches like the recessed and flattened offside slide release pin (on the starboard side of the frame) catch your eye and make you take note of details.
Right off the bat, the Round-Heel Frame (Kimber’s name for it) makes the Pro feel very comfortable in-hand. It also really enhances carryability, and frankly, just looks good too. The 4″ bushingless match-grade barrel is a tad shorter than a Commander-style, and it’s a match-style barrel, with standard feed ramp since the frame is steel. Weight is about 35 ounces but the round-butt and shorter slide makes it feel lighter. With the right holster, you could definitely carry this all day, and feel just a bit smug while you do it. Something about being “Unseen in the best of places?”
The rear sight has a “cocking shoulder” built-in so you can run the slide against a belt or heel if needed. Both front and rear have tritium inserts, and are fixed. The slide top has been flattened slightly and has longitudal serrations adding a streamlining effect. I suppose they could reduce glare too, but it’s something I’ve never really had an issue with on a 1911 in the real world. I think they just look good — and that’s why they’re there.
Note the “French Shoulders” on the slide-to-frame junction. It’s that slightly beveled edge at the lower slide rail, tending to ease the eye over the break between the two. It helps to create one package where there is often a distinct separation of top-to-bottom. I like it. The ambi-safety is of modest proportions and makes satisfying “snicky-snicky” sounds when moved up and down.
The front strap has 24 LPI checkering, nicely done, the main spring housing is all-steel, the grip safety (without the firing pin block, as far as I can tell) has a bump to help with high-thumb grips, and the trigger is solid. Interestingly, the hammer is the same as that on the special Kimber SIS models they build for the LAPD fugitive unit, and has enhanced cocking serrations to make it easy to manipulate. The recoil spring is a 22-pound unit attached to a full-length guide rod, and keeps things moving along with some snap.
Keep in mind, this gun is a “production” model for the Custom Shop, so is actually available and shipping now. The really remarkable thing about the Classic Carry Pro is the price — $2,056. I honestly thought this was going to be a $2,800 gun and was amazed when Kimber told me the MSRP on it. This is a lot of gun for what is essentially what you might pay a custom pistolsmith to turn your existing gun into a custom gun. Here you get it all, at once, engineered to work together from the start, and for only the cost of a business lunch past $2,000.
Yes, I shot them both. And yes, they ran like you’d hope they would run. But, a word here on that. I did take the time to clean each one, lubed them correctly and shot Federal, AYSM, Winchester and Black Hills from them, using a solid firing stance. In other words, I did it right, and didn’t expect them to run with junk reloads, without proper lube and shooting them all limp-wristy and such.
Would they run that way? I’d imagine so. And your car might run on seven cylinders rather than eight in a pinch, but why do it? Give these guns (or any gun) a chance, and they almost always run fine. It’s why our test guns here at Handgunner usually run … well … fine. And this pair was no exception.
The Ultra+ CDP II likes a very firm firing grip, and it not only ran well for me, but delivered groups in the “about 1.75″ to 2.5″ at 20 yards” range during my investigation of these interesting guns. I’ll tell you it may shoot better than that, likely even at 25 yards, but it was about 30 degrees outside and I was cold, so this will have to do. Brrr …
I liked the “handiness” of the Ultra+ CDP II, and it’s something you could live with all day, every day, without tiring of it. It’s light, works and is confidence-inspiring. I really like the full-sized grip and the fact you can use full-sized magazines, which always seem to work better than shorty ones. A perfect daily carry gun for anyone with any sense.
The Classic Carry Pro is something else entirely. It ran fine, shot well (more like 1.5″ on average at the very cold 20 yard line, and I’d think I could beat that if I was more relaxed!), and I found I kept just looking at it while I reloaded magazines. Functional art comes to mind. I’m a die-hard minimalist guy usually, and this really appealed to that side of things with me. Just for fun, I put some nice wood grips on it. Nope, didn’t work. Those bone handles are “just right” so my hat’s off to whoever thought of that.
It’s a bit heavy for daily carry in this age of “Unobtanium” weight guns, but if you’re used to carrying “real” guns, the compact round-butt modification and short slide work wonders for comfort. A quality IWB rig would be the ticket for sure. Oh, and Kimber, if you’re listening, can I have one in 9mm and/or even .38 Super too? Doesn’t hurt to ask, eh?
The Ultra+ CDP II is for fighting, for getting sweaty with, for riding at home on your hip for weeks at a time and for collecting dust bunnies but still delivering the goods when called upon.
The Classic Carry Pro is for enjoying, admiring, showing off, for shooting in a match now and again, for sitting on your desk while you write letters (just to the right, under the light, just-so, of course, and you can’t help glancing at it now and again … right?). It’s for wearing to brunch (discretely carried, of course), but the all-steel weight nonetheless reminding — all the time — you have company.
Neither are guns for a novice, but either helps to make any experienced shooter — a better shooter. If you use Snap-On tools, are you a better mechanic? I say: You’re likely a better mechanic not because you have Snap-On Tools, but because you knew to buy good tools.
So there you go. Listen to the better mechanic. If you’re wise enough to invest in good tools, you’re likely either already an accomplished shooter, or getting there.
And these are — trust me on this, now — good tools. Form or function? How about both?
By Roy Huntington
Photos By Chuck Pittman
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