Gun Review: Kimber Tactical Custom HD II

If you’ve been to your local gun emporium in the last year or so, you’ve probably noticed that there’s been a run on guns. Certain models are in short supply. Like all of them. Most of the better manufacturers are running at something like a six-month backlog of orders. Kimber has this somewhat enviable problem – they’re selling ‘em faster than they can make ‘em. A shortage of weapons for sale = a dearth of weapons to send out for review, which is why I’m reviewing a Kimber Tactical Custom HD II, instead of the Kimber Pro Crimson Carry II that I wanted to write up. Yep. The review of my dream gun will have to wait. Which was kind of disappointing . . . right up until the moment I squeezed the trigger on the Tac Custom.

I’ve shot a lot of 1911s, not to mention a lot of other .45 semi-autos. I’ve shot S&Ws, Colts, Springfields – you name it, and I’ve put some rounds through the pipe. Along the way, I’ve gotten to be something of a trigger freak. When you get past the basics – does it run, is it accurate, what’s the fit of the slide like – you realize the trigger separates one gun from the next in that rarified level. In car parlance, it’s where the rubber meets the road. A gun with insanely great specs can fall to the bottom of the barrel if it’s trigger is not up to par. So when I tell you that the Kimber’s trigger blew me away (no pun intended), I’m saying that the Tactical Custom HD II is a high end weapon. And then some.

All Kimber’s Tactical pistols use their Custom Shop’s Premium Aluminum Trigger. The factory sets it to break clean at four to five pounds. I’ve seen operating rooms that weren’t as clean as the Tactical’s trigger break. While 1911 novices should put in some serious range time to familiarize themselves with the gun’s “light” trigger, anyone familiar with this style of gun will immediately appreciate the Tactical Custom HD II trigger’s combination of smoothness and predictability.

Just to play fair, I used my Springfield Armory Loaded as a benchmark, shooting them side-by-side. Comparing them by feel was no comparison at all. The trigger on the Kimber was like stepping on the gas of a Ferrari, compared to the Dodge Charger pedal of the Springfield.

But man does not live by trigger alone. The Kimber is, as they say, nicely turned out. The Tac Custom HD II comes with some awesome sights – nice, big Tritium sights that are about twice the size of those on my Springfield. Add a match-grade barrel, ambi-thumb safety, beavertail grip safety, flared and lowered ejection port, skeletonized trigger, magazine well and KimPro finish, and you’ve got about the sweetest package you could find short of a custom job.

The “HD” part of the gun’s name stands for “heavy duty.” Along with the Tactical Entry II, the Tactical Custom HD II is built around a stainless steel frame. The metallurgical comparison: the Tactical Custom HD II weighs seven ounces more than Kimber’s aluminum framed Customs. While I’ve never heard of a Kimber alloy gun cracking under pressure, some buyers feel better knowing they’re firing bullets through the ballistic equivalent of a WWII Dreadnaught.

The HD’s “extra” weight helps reduce muzzle flip and increase the gun’s superb, OK deadly accuracy. There is also a school of thought that says that a steel gun has a bit more give to it, that makes it more user friendly. Frankly my dear, I can’t tell that worth a damn. But if bike geeks can argue about these things, so can gun nuts.

The “Tactical” part of the Custom HD II has a lot to do with grip. More specifically, not losing your grip on the weapon when conditions are less than ideal. Truth be told, the gun has more checkering than a chess board factory, including 30 lines-per-inch checking on the front strap and trigger guard. If you’re looking for a gun you can grab from any angle in any weather, this one qualifies.

The Kimber Tactical Custom HD II also comes complete with an extended magazine well for fast reloads. The fact that the gun fits so well in the hand is probably more important for speed loading, but maybe not.

So how does it shoot? In a word, “like a dream.” (I’m a heavy tipper.) The importance of a great trigger is it can keep you on-target (literally). A stiff trigger, or one with some slack, or perhaps one that has a rough feel to it can kill your accuracy. Conversely, a smooth trigger gives you one less thing to worry about when you’re trying to throw some lead downrange.

Any downsides? Nothing Kimber-related. With 1911s you either love ‘em or hate ‘em. Is a 1911 a pain to strip and clean compared to say a Glock or an XD? Yup. Are they about twice as expensive as a polymer pistol? Usually. Can they supply the same number of rounds as one of those plastic pistols? Nope. Not in a single magazine, in a traditional 1911 form factor. But if you love 1911s, none of those things matter. And I love 1911s.

So what will this little slice of gun heaven set you back? MSRP is $1,333.00 , but street price is usually around $1,100. Worth it? Smoke ‘em if you got ‘em. You’d be hard-pressed to find a better weapon without shelling out considerably more for a custom-made semi-auto.

Specifications: Height (inches) 90° to barrel: 5.50
Weight (ounces) with empty magazine: 39
Length (inches): 8.7
Magazine capacity: 7
Magazine well
Ambidextrous thumb safety
Recoil spring (pounds): 16.0
Full length guide rod
Frame: Material: Stainless steel
Finish: Matte gray
KimPro II™ frame finish
Width (inches): 1.28
Front strap checkering
Checkering under trigger guard
Slide: Material: Steel
Finish: Matte black
Front serrations
Barrel: Length (inches): 5
Material: Steel, match grade
Stainless steel match grade bushing
Twist rate (left hand): 16
Sights: Meprolight Tritium 3-dot night sight, fixed
Radius (inches): 6.8
Grips: Laminated
Double diamond
Kimber logo
Trigger: Premium Aluminum Match Grade
Factory setting (appx. pounds): 4.0 – 5.0
MSRP: $1333.00
RATINGS:
Style: * * * * * (5 out of 5 stars)
It’s a 1911. And a slick one. ‘Nuff said.
Ergonomics: * * * * * (5 out of 5 stars)
If you like the feel of a 1911, you’ll love this one. Fit and finish are flawless.
Reliability: * * * * 1/2 (4 1/2 out of 5 stars)
It’s perfection when clean. After a couple of hundred rounds of practice ammo, you might experience one stovepipe. Might – or might not. A clean gun is a happy gun.
Customize This: * * * * * (5 out of 5 stars)
You could. But you won’t need to. Seriously – it comes with everything you’d ever want, other than (possibly) laser grips.
OVERALL RATING: * * * * * (5 out of 5 stars)
Wow. If I was in the market for a full-size, steel-frame 1911, THIS would be my new object of lust. And that trigger? Like buttah.