Gun Review: Kimber Pro Crimson Carry II

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=URyIuDSQUFw

Life is all about balance. It’s a Zen thing. Yin. Yang. Black. White. For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. Name your poison. Like in anything else in life, all guns are a study in the art of compromise. Large calibers = big holes, but come with (more) expensive rounds and fewer that will fit in your average sized magazine. Then you’ve got size. And contrary to what Cosmo magazine would have you believe, bigger is not always better. It depends on what you wanna do. Capice? Thus we have the study in compromises du jour, The Kimber Pro Crimson Carry II.

One wag defined compromise as the fine art of nobody getting what they really want. I used to believe that. Until now. Nope, self-defense fans, the Kimber Pro Crimson Carry II (henceforth “the Kimber” or “the Crimson Carry” cuz I’m tired of typing a name only a Microsoft product marketing manager could love) is that rarest of rare bird – a compromise that delivers on the promise of being the best of all possible worlds.

Let’s take a step back, and review our criteria, so we can make a case for (or against) a given weapon’s suitability-to-task. First of all, you can use just about anything for self-defense. Baseball bat, frying pan, framing hammer…you name it. But the self-defense cognoscenti look for the biggest bang for the buck. Handguns are a particular favorite for those in the know. Why? Because you have that “carry it with you” factor that leaves bats, pans, and claw hammers in the dust. But that begs some questions: How big is too big to conceal? How heavy is too heavy to carry with you all day? What about rounds in the mag? How few is not enough? Is accuracy a factor? Distance to target? Stopping power?

The right answer to each of these questions is quite simple, and surprisingly universal, to wit: It depends on the personal needs/preferences of the shooter. Anybody that tells you otherwise is a liar, a scoundrel, or selling you something. (Or quite possibly, all of the above.) For me (and your results may vary), I want a lightweight, semi-auto that shoots .40 cal or larger, with at least 8 rounds capacity, is accurate between 20 and 50 feet, feels good in my hand, and is reliable as the sun coming up tomorrow.

Per my stated requirements, I’ve found that of all the guns out there, a 1911 feels best in my big hands. Again, your results may vary. But deciding on a 1911 is like ordering a Coke at a well-stocked soda fountain – Do you want Coca-Cola? Diet Coke? Caffeine-free Diet Coke? Diet Coke Plus? Coke Zero? Vanilla Coke? Cherry Coke? Diet Coke with Lime? You see what I mean. So I narrowed it down to an aluminum-frame “Commander-style” 1911 with a 4-inch barrel, and a capacity of 8+1. The Kimber in question fits those requirements to a T.

Shooting the Kimber was a revelation. I took my trusty Springfield Loaded, steel-frame 5″ barrel with me for a side-by side, shootin’ comparison. Only there was no comparison, once I solved one nasty little problem. The laser was off. And I mean waaaaaaay off.

The Kimber comes factory-equipped with a pair of custom laser grips, courtesy of Crimson Trace. Squeeze the grip, see a dot. The idea is, wherever that red dot sits, that’s where mister bullet meets mister target. That’s the idea. The reality is, there are two teeny, tiny, itsy-bitsy hex screws on the laser that adjust where it goes. And for some reason, it was NOT adjusted. Fortunately, I was able to use the tiniest damn Allen wrench I’ve ever seen, and adjust it. Here’s the thing…features = mo’ money.

And in order to keep the cost down on a laser grip-equipped pistol, Kimber apparently figured that no-dot iron sights would be good enough. Um…I’m not sure on that one. My first (and probably only) upgrade to the Crimson Carry would be to replace the iron sights with something with a LOT more visibility, just in case the laser goes buh-bye at precisely the wrong time. Say some fiber-optic/tritium jobbers. With my tired old/Vari-Focus®-equipped eyes, brighter is better. And while the laser is a huge deal, I’d like to know I can shoot without it. Even some white paint on the sights would be a help.

When reviewing a product or service, writers will tell you, it’s a lot easier to be snarky, vitriolic, and downright nasty about something you hate, than it is to shower something with praises. (It’s also a lot more fun.) On that count, I’m afraid that absence of decent sights on the Kimber is the only weakness I found. And I looked. Boy, how I looked. Trigger? Like buttah. In fact, it’s so good and so smooth, I found myself double-tapping without really thinking. It was almost TOO good, but I’m not complaining. Hit me with some o’ that trigger love and I’m one happy camper.

But what about weight? The Springfield full-size clocks in at a chunky 44oz. unloaded. The Kimber, at around 28oz. That doesn’t sound like much. But it’s like the difference between lightning and lightning bug when it comes to feel. Does the Kimber have more kick than the Springfield? Yep. Is it so much more that it makes me prefer the heavier gun? Nope. And interestingly, it didn’t seem to have any significant effect on my groupings. In fact, I’d argue that the Kimber’s lighter trigger offset any disadvantage found in shooting a lighter gun with a shorter barrel.

Now there is one thing you’d want to know up front about 4″ bull-barrel-equipped 1911s. Whereas it’s possible to field-strip a standard 1911 with no tools, a bull-barrel requires one small tool for disassembly. A paper clip. Yup. A lowly paperclip (albeit a bent one) is required to act as a stop on the guide rod in order to take this puppy appart for some TLC.  Oh, sure, you can use a supplied “wrench” but a paper clip is really all you need. Which is cool (paper clips are, when last I checked, in ready supply) and a little UN-cool, in that you have to have a tool to field strip the Kimber. On the other hand, it reduces your parts count by one, and I found that the bull barrel has a very solid feel to the way it fits hand-in-glove to the slide. With one fewer part than the standard model, I think the accuracy factor might go, ever so slightly, over to the bull barrel camp. Not bad.

I’ve frankly never been much on two-tone anything, but the dark slide coupled with the brush aluminum finish on the frame is growing on me. The faux rosewood grips look great, and (once you get the laser sighted in) the laser is a way cool thing to have.

Did I say “way cool”? I meant “if you’re gonna have a self-defense gun, you really NEED a laser grip.” Here’s why…studies show that when you get into a situation where you have to use your gun for self-defense, a couple of things happen. If you’re lucky, training kicks in. Mostly, though, it doesn’t. Instinct takes over. You end up just “goin’ for it.” point shooting wins out over sight picture. grab n’ go beats plan and prepare. So when it’s time to defend yourself, what could be more natural than grabbing your gun and shooting at the little red dot? Of course, you may not remember that you’re controlling where that little red dot goes, but as long as it’s painting the bad guy, no worries. RF once pondered the possibility that the laser might contribute to the tunnel vision effect experienced by many shooters. In my experience, the opposite was true. Focusing my attention on the laser dot broadened my field of vision and kept my focus down range, instead of on the gun sights.

Okay…one last nit. Kimber…guys…what’s with the product names? I mean, I get you have different series of guns, and you’ve got a name for your full-sized, mid-sized, and compact guns. But really…can’t you come up with something that falls a little more trippingly off the tongue than “Kimber Pro Crimson Carry II”? (Can I get an “Amen” from the TTAGencia out there?) There’s gotta be a better name for something this cool. “The Kimber Defender.” “The Kimber Dragon.” “The Kimber Nightwing.” Think about it. When you have a name that looks as if it was coined by a panel of actuaries, it’s time to get some real marketing people looking at a renaming project.

With a trigger smooth as silk, a virtually idiot-proof laser targeting system, handsome looks, and some impressive attention to detail, the Crimson Carry is all that and a side o’ fries. Is it the perfect carry gun? Too soon to tell. I’m gonna avail myself of the opportunity to carry it daily for 30 days and see. But I can already tell you this. If you think that you’ll have to compromise anything to get a kick-ass pistol for conceal carry, think again. The Kimber Pro Crimson Carry II will change your mind.

Specifications

  • caliber – .45 ACP
  • height – 5.25″
  • length – 7.7″
  • width – 1.28″
  • weight – 28 oz.
  • magazine capacity – 8 rounds
  • recoil spring – 22 pounds
  • full-length guide rod
  • aluminum frame/satin finish
  • steel slide/matte black finish
  • bull barrel – 4″ length
  • twist length – 16 (right hand)
  • black, fixed/low profile sights
  • sight radius – 5.7″
  • Crimson Trace laser grips
  • Aluminum match grade trigger – 4 to 5 lbs.
  • Street price – around $1,200.00

Ratings (out of five)

Style * * * * *

If you like 1911s and aren’t a hide-bound traditionalist, you’ll appreciate the styling. And lasers are cool.

Ergonomics * * * * *

Comfort, thy name is 1911. And this one’s as good as they come.

Ergonomics Firing * * * * *

Surprisingly easy, with a sweet trigger (factory-fresh, no less), bull barrel, and the feel of a custom, hand-tuned pistol.

Reliability * * * * *

No choking on roundball, JHPs – you name it. I didn’t feed it the really crap stuff, but why would you put kerosene in a Ferrari?

Customize this * * * * *

The 1911 is to guns what a Jeep is to SUVs. Customize away, baby! (And start with the sights.)

Overall Rating * * * * 1/2

I’m deducting a half-star for the vanilla iron sights. If you’re under 40, you won’t care. If you’re over 40, figure you’re gonna wanna upgrade those sights, pronto.