Choice is a funny thing. We all want it, but few of us actually use it. When the average buyer walks into a gun store filled with firearms they light up like a kid at a candy store. The majority of these buyers walk out with one of ten popular models. The story’s a bit different when the price tag crests a grand. For that money, customers want something different. Only not really. What they really, really want is something dead reliable that looks, feels and shoots like a custom gun, without all the risk of buyer’s remorse posed by true customization. Something like the Kimber Custom Crimson Carry II.
The Carry II goes Tommy TuTone one better with a black slide, aluminum lower and rosewood grips. The aluminum ejection port and black lower muzzle continue the compare and contrast theme. Details abound: drilled half moon trigger, diamond grip inserts and a rubber laser activator pad that wraps around the wood grips like a neoprene band-aid, complete with a second, vertical Kimber logo.
The end result is a bit fussy, straddling the fence between modern and retro. But the Custom Crimson Carry II checks all the right boxes. OK, some checkering on the front strap wouldn’t go amiss. But the Custom Crimson Carry II is a perfect compromise for people who tend toward compromise—but don’t want to compromise on quality.
You can feel the Custom Crimson Carry II’s mechanical excellence the moment you pick up the weapon. Those of you who believe that a go-to gun shouldn’t have tight tolerances—in case it gets dirty—need not apply. The Carry II’s slide feels like a precision-engineered metal slingshot (16-pound recoil springs contribute to the slide’s stiffness). Locking it back sounds like racking a well-made pump shot gun.
The right-sized, ridged safety switch has two distinctly audio signatures. When you switch it off, it’s something of a thudclick. When you switch it on, it’s a sharper, brighter, more treble-intensive click. Whether intentional or not, it’s excellent sensory feedback for a mission critical part.
The Custom Crimson Carry II’s grips fit both mine and my wife’s hands like a proverbial glove. (She likes 1911s so much that I once had to keep a Colt Compact that I planned to sell, but that’s a whole other story.) Like any full-size gun, the Custom Crimson Carry II’s handle allows for a secure purchase. Like any good 1911, it’s narrow and short enough for reasonably easy one-handed shooting.
The Carry II’s sights are as plain as Buddy Holly’s glasses; they’re completely bereft of dots, bars or other alignment aids. The gun’s rear sight is sleek and smooth to protect the shooter’s hand in case he (or she) needs to sweep away a stovepipe jam. The low profile rear sight is also less likely to snag on clothing or a holster when you draw the gun from concealment.
Kimber obviously considers the Custom Crimson Carry II’s Crimson Trace laser sights sufficient for low light conditions. Why not offer redundancy? This is, after all, a carry gun. Buyers who turn off the laser to save battery life will not be able to flick the tiny, indented, grip-mounted laser switch in the heat of battle; leaving them paddle-less up excrement creek when fighting zombies by night.
A customer forking over a Grover for a 1911 has a right to expect both a laser and night sights. Not so customized now, eh Mr. Bond? Saying that, there’s nothing to stop you from customizing your Kimber Custom Crimson Carry II, except time and money.
The Custom Crimson Carry II is a full-size 1911 with a five-inch barrel built sitting on an aluminum frame. Kimber’s goal: build a weapon that retains all the accuracy of a full-size 1911 (with a “proper” barrel) that minimizes a big gun’s biggest drawback. Weight.
The Custom Crimson Carry II tips the scales at 31 ounces unloaded. A similar steel-framed gun from Kimber weighs almost a half-pound more. I carried the Crimson Carry II in a Milt Sparks Versa Max II. Bottom line: if this Kimber isn’t going to end-up as a safe or range queen, if you’re going to carry your Carry, the lighter frame is something of a godsend.
Simple physics dictate a downside. There’s no getting around the fact that lighter guns kick more than heavier guns (in the same caliber). The alloy-framed Custom Crimson Carry II has more recoil more than its steel-framed cousins.
Although the increased recoil is noticeable, it’s nowhere near as violent as a .44 magnum. Nor is it in 10mm territory. If you’re used to .45s, you’d probably say there’s a little more sharpness in the hand when the gun fires. Maybe 20 percent. If you’re not, oh boy. Get a grip man! Once that’s done, well . . . I noticed that the checkering on the mainspring housing left marks on the heel of my right hand.
The Custom Crimson Carry II’s laser fits into the grips seamlessly. The activation switch sits securely underneath the trigger guard, nestling under the third pad of your FU finger. The position of the actual laser beam ruins RF’s trigger-finger-on-the-slide protocol, but anyone (everyone?) else will be well-pleased with just how easy it is to light up a target.
I shot the Kimber self-defense style. (No Ransom Rest for the wicked.) I fired the Custom Crimson Carry II at a blank silhouette target at distances from seven yards all the way back to 40 yards. I know, I know: 40 yards is outside the range of most true “self defense” scenarios. But there are always exceptions. And the Kimber Custom Crimson Carry II is exceptionally accurate.
It took a few rounds to get the laser dialed in. With the last four rounds I had left, I fired the Kimber looking way over the top of the gun, using only the laser as a sight, from 10 yards. [NB: the above video was shot at American Firearms School. Click on the YouTube video at the top of this post for Mr. Hill's tests.]
I put those four rounds inside a couple of inches, with three of bullets striking less than an inch apart. The first shot was my fault, as I got all excited about watching the little red dot, and forgot to focus on trigger press, sending it high right. The next three grouped very tightly.
The Custom Crimson Carry II’s trigger broke cleanly and smoothly. The gun cycled perfectly; we ran 125 rounds of Winchester white box 230 grain FMJs through it without a single hitch. The slide was as stiff as a line of shot-glasses brimming with whiskey. Let me put 1000 rounds through that Kimber and I’d bet that the slide springs would loosen up and smooth out a bit. [Ed: now there's a no-lose proposition.]
Kimber’s Custom Crimson Carry II has several features in common with custom, hand-built 1911’s that cost double, triple or even quadruple Kimber’s MSRP. But it doesn’t include so many bespoke pieces as to elevate the price beyond the iwannasphere into outer space. The Custom Crimson Carry II is “custom-lite”: the safe choice for 1911 aficionados looking to upgrade to a custom carry gun.
Caliber: .45 ACP
Barrel: 5 inches
Overall Length: 8.7 inches
Weight (unloaded): 31 ounces
Sights: Fixed low profile atop the slide. Crimson Laser grips down below.
Finish: Matte Black and silvered aluminum
Capacity: 9, with Kim-Pro Tac Mags
RATINGS (Out of Five):
Style * * ** 1/2
Very classy looking. Only the few missing custom touches keep it from being a perfect five.
Ergonomics (carry) * * * * *
Very light on the belt for a full-size 1911.
Ergonomics (firing) * * * *
Crisp and clean trigger. It felt good in the hand. The recoil is more sharp than a 1911 made out of steel and chambered in .45.
Reliability * * * * *
No failures of any kind.
Overall Rating * * * * *
If I could afford one, I’d buy it and carry it. A lot.