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.
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About Brad Kozak

Brad Kozak is an iconoclastic, curmudgeonly graphic designer/marketer/writer/musician/advertiser/conservative creative guy. In 2007, he completed a gradual transition from a conservative semi-pacifist to a proactive, armed citizen, willing to exercise his Second Amendment rights to protect his family and property. His idea of “gun control” is hitting where he aims.

14 Responses to Gun Review: Kimber Tactical Custom HD II

  1. avatarihatetrees says:

    I've heard Kimber's are wonderful shooting pistols. I've fired other custom 1911's, and I must say that when done right, 1911's are the best to shoot. However, for carry, their weight is somewhat of a drawback – although I know a guy who swears by his 9mm Kimber compact.

    I concur completely about the trigger feel. Having learned to shoot using rifles exclusively for 5+ years, I found the trigger action in the first handguns borderline insane. Especially DA/SA animals – maybe it was the depleted uranium from the Gulf War – but lousy trigger drive me nuts.

  2. avatarPatrick says:

    I still can't hop on the Kimber bus! I've tried and have shot at least 50 different examples in the past 2 years. I love how they look (especially the Pro Carry II), but I feel the total OPPOSITE to how you feel. I think the trigger on my Springfield (a Trophy Match that I use for steel shooting is top notch! As a matter of fact, World Champ Robbie Leatham shot my Trophy Match at a recent training session and he said "that's a great feeling gun". I haven't even modified the trigger at all because I love how it feels.

    I have many other 1911's, including a Wilson and a heavily modified Colt. Both of these have better triggers than my Trophy Match, but the Wilson cost me over $2500 and the Colt can barely be called a "Colt".

    I had the chance to shoot over a dozen Kimber's recently (all .45ACP) and while the fit and finish is fantastic, they all had soft "doughy" triggers. Instead of the crisp break that I get with my SA or Wilson, I found the Kimber's to have triggers that feel like I'm squeezing pizza dough, with no clear "break point". I have shot a dozen or so Springfields in the past year, and with the exception of the 9mm EMP model, I think the Springfield triggers are superior to that of the Kimber's. But of course, to each his own….

    Regarding "weight" of a 1911 for CCW, I used a CrossBreed Super Tuck and I rarely notice the weight of the gun. A good holster goes a LONG way in helping hide a gun from printing, but also helps in distributing the weight evenly while keeping it easily accessible.

  3. avatarbob says:

    Bull. EVERY Kimber I have ever picked up at a gun store or fired at a range has had awesome top notch triggers. You smoke crack, Patrick. You probably work for Springfield.

  4. avatarNeil says:

    I have a TLE II and I don’t think Patrick is on crack! A hand gun should feel like an extension of your hand and we all have different hands. My TLE trigger is a little long and causes me not to have the best trigger action. Unfortunately Kimber only offers a crappy solid short trigger. To each their own in my opinion solid triggers look awful and I will sacrifice performance for look since I do not live by the gun. I am an every day Joe just trying to find the time to shoot not a gun rep or gun smith. I love my TLE II but honestly out of the box would not have trusted it to save my life. Modifications neccessary to make it battle ready – I took a nic of the slide lock it was hitting the bullets in the mag and locking the slide. I polished the feed ramp with 1500 grit to get proper feeding. The gun now shoots what ever round I want plus feeds from what ever mag I use even the cheap ChipMcCormicks! Still love the gun.

  5. avatarjohnnie laird says:

    my customHD has a trigger system thats flawless and i wouldnt want it any other way dammit

  6. avatarJohn says:

    I think I’m sitting at the driver’s seat on this Kimber bus. I won’t say a bad word about other makers of 1911′s, most are solid guns. I’ve have 2 Kimbers and a heavily customized Springfield (Caspian slide, Wilson Combat internals). I’ve shot many 1911′s from Colts to STI and love them all. That said, Kimber seems to deliver for me, but I get that our hands are different and needs vary. If I could only have 1 gun for all duties, I would pick up a Kimber Tactical II. Once my Super Carry got through the break in period it fed reliably, but it wasn’t there till about 450 rounds ( Manual mentions a 500 round break in period). Now it too shoots like a dream and easy to carry. Enjoyed the review, thanks.

  7. avatarfoxtrot says:

    hey i stumbled upon your review, b/c i’m looking for a california friendly 1911. it sounds like this is a winner! thanks for the review, and maybe tone down on the colloquialisms for future reviews :)

  8. avatarjohnnie laird says:

    if i could marry my Kimbertac custom HD 2 i would as far as “pizza dough” trigger NOT likely i know how my lady works when i use my index finger she screams in the same language every time FLAWLESS FAULTLESS KIMBER 1911,s for life….

  9. avatarDevnull says:

    Damn. You just cost me $1,100!

    I have a few 1911′s, but have always considered my kimbers to be the best of the fleet, and the first to be picked on range day. With the loss of my custom II (let’s just say the wife shot it and it is now hers), I was looking at another full sized kimber to fill the void. Mission accomplished and this thing is SWEET!

    Great review, excellent info, but pricey read (well worth the price lol)

  10. I am new to the world of hand guns. Only used archery in Mississippi to hunt deer. Moved to PA and started to collect handguns. Recently joined a gun club where you need to qualify with the largest caliber you intend to shoot if you plan on using the Indoor Range (hit the paper target 10 out of 10 times, @ 15 yards). I had bought a KAHR CW45 as a carry gun but was not the best shot with it. A friend let me try his Kimber Tactical Custom II. Having never shot it before, I qualified the first time I shot it, hitting the black every time. Needless to say, I am now on the search to get a Kimber. After reading your review, I will add the HD model to the models to consider. Thanks

  11. avatarJoshua says:

    I own one Kimber Custom II. I’d love to get my hands on a Tactical Pro II!

    • avatarLuke says:

      Joshua,

      There’s a Tac Pro II with your name on it at marengoguns.com. Another good Kimber store is hyattguns.com. Hyatt is sold out of the Pro II but they may have some other Kimbers in stock. Great customer service too. I just ordered their last Custom HD II. Couldn’t believe I found one in stock! Due Monday. Can’t wait.

  12. avatarGordon says:

    I’m now just a regular guy, no longer work in law enforcement was just looking for an excellent carry piece. I picked up a Kimber Gold Combat while I was in Oregon. Out of the box near perfect I had an AMT hardballer and a Colt series 80 gold cup at the time plus an old Star PD. I liked the 1911 design but usually carried an HK USP (the old Star was my hidden piece or used on the motorcycle) just could not fully warm up to these 1911. One range trip showed me just how good a 1911 can be! I went from like to love in a single magazine. I added a tactical ultra shortly after, the AMT and Colt are both gone and I don’t miss either one. My ex carried a Springfield “loaded” which I found to be an excellent pistol but it’s not in the same league (don’t expect it to be, much cheaper pistol).

  13. avatarCD MCKINNEY says:

    I’ve found that [usually] all “production” 1911′s need a little “tweaking” to function “flawlessly” and reliably, which is really easy and no big deal,

    1. Check “ammo clearance” from slide stop and if there is contact do a few passes with a fine file and polishing with 1000 grit sandpaper – EASY and about 10 minutes

    2. “Throating” of the barrel chamber with a small, round, fine file and polishing with 1000 grit sandpaper ensures reliable feeding of all ammo – EASY and about 10 minutes

    3. Check extractor “fit” by removing slide and placing a live round into the breach being held by the extractor; it should “hold in place” and if it doesn’t remove the extractor from the slide and bend it a little until it holds a round tight enough to stay in place – EASY and about 10 minutes

    4. Do some light sanding [1000 grit paper] on the frame slide rails to “smooth” the “sharp edges”

    Now you have reliable and positive function, even in “lower end” 1911′s

    These 4 minor “tweaks” are very simple and [virtually] remove the “hiccups” during the “break-in period” and [really] make that period [overall] a formality.

    These “tweaks” can be found on YouTube if you need more instruction and doing it yourself you will see how easy they are and save you hundreds of dollars.

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