This story pushes so many of TTAG’s buttons it makes Lt. Sulu look chronically under-employed. More than a few members of our Armed Intelligentsia sent me the link to this morning’s newsobserver.com, wherein we learn that the N.C. Division of Alcohol Law Enforcement (ALE) used taxpayers’ money to purchase 150 “investment grade” Kimber 1911s at $1050 a pop. For on-the-job use. So, our Yankee Gun Nut asks, how did that turn out? About as well as you (of all people) would expect. Only worse . . .

ALE Director John Ledford said the Kimber pistols repeatedly suffered such problems as rounds jamming during training exercises, broken sights and the weapon’s safety button sometimes falling off. He made a deal with a local firearms dealer to swap the pricey pistols for less expensive handguns without spending any additional money.

Or reporting any profit that may accrue to the IRS. Yup, inappropriate weapons, profiteering on the public purse, firearms abuse. This story’s got it all . . .

Responsible for conducting background checks on ABC permit applicants and catching bootleggers, ALE is among the smallest of the state-run law enforcement agencies. Currently, there are just 112 full-time agents statewide. An additional 22 retired ALE personnel serve as “reserve agents.” They will also be issued new service pistols.

“Just” 112? Well, there’s also the federal ATF out there. WAY out there. Somewhere. Meanwhile, 122 plus 22 equals 146. Who got those “spare” four Kimbers? Never mind. This thing smells to high heaven without worrying about a handful of guns.

The Kimber .45-caliber 1911 pistols were bought under former Director Bill Chandler, who abruptly retired in September 2009, days after The N&O detailed the purchase and revealed that two assault rifles issued to ALE agents were missing. Other issues included stolen pistols and an agent who accidently shot himself.

An avid gun buff and collector, Chandler ordered Kimbers with special sights and the ALE seal carved into their handles, spending $158,250 provided to the agency through federal seizures involving alcohol, drugs and illegal gambling. The purchase was also approved by Chandler’s supervisor, Gerald Rudisill, the chief deputy secretary of crime control.

Similar pistols are used by elite Special Forces soldiers and the U.S. Olympic rapid-fire target shooting team, according to Kimber’s website.

Well of course they are. And that’s relevant to the ALE’s work because . . . I got nothin’. But the ALE agents? They get new guns! And the old guns. For a $1!

The Kimbers replaced Sig Sauer handguns bought in 2003 and 2005 for about $685 each. The Sig pistols, which Chandler said were worn out, were declared “surplus” and sold to agents for $326.

A review of Internal ALE records going back three decades shows the agency has bought all new firearms every few years. The old guns are then typically sold to ALE staff, usually for less than half the price the state originally paid.

Records show that since 2000, the agency has sold at least 373 pistols and shotguns back to its own agents. Some agents have bought as many as six discounted weapons in the last decade, sometimes buying more than one of the same model.

As with state troopers and SBI agents, a state law also allows retiring ALE personnel to buy their last service weapon at a price set at the discretion of the agency. Historically, that price has been $1.

And I bet they’re worth every penny, too. Anyway, this whole story is a slur, a slur I say, against Kimber, who make dead reliable guns, no matter what that Yankee bastard has to say. Or the pistol-pampered members of the the ALE’s brave LEO team, who would never make shit up just to get new guns or a bit of profit selling the old guns, and if they did, would retire soon thereafter. Still, just out of curiosity . . .

Since the Kimbers were issued to agents in the fall of 2009, Ledford said, his agents documented 289 malfunctions with the pistols during training exercises. Many agents chose to carry personal weapons instead, Ledford wrote in a memo Nov. 8 to Young.

In an effort to fix the problems, Ledford contacted Ralph Karanian, the chief operating officer of Kimber America of Elmsford, N.Y. Karanian promised to fix the problems, and the company replaced a key spring on the pistols, according to the memo. Agents also fired as many as 1,500 rounds with each pistol on the suggestion they needed to be “broken in.”

But with the manufacturer’s warranty expiring at the end of 2010, Chandler wrote Young that the best solution was to trade in the troublesome Kimbers for new Sig Sauer 220 pistols similar to what the agency had previously.

With Young’s approval, Ledford negotiated a deal to trade in the department’s Kimber pistols to a Raleigh firearms dealer in exchange for 150 new Sigs valued at $718 each.

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19 Responses to Why Did the N.C. Division of Alcohol Law Enforcement Buy 150 Kimber 1911s?

  1. The discrepancy of 4 guns–150 new guns, for 146 persons–makes some sense: if one breaks, you have an “automatic” spare. So rounding up a pinch actually shows some wisdom, since anything mechanical is bound to break.

    Selling a service pistol to a retiring office, for a buck, is kinda cool. I mean, if it’s been carried for a decade, it’s bound to have, err, character, the sort of character that its owner would like–and that no rookie would care for. Plus, after a decade, it’s done its job, it’s not exactly money tossed out the window. Unlike these Kimbers, that is.

  2. Some of their Sigs were only 4 years old when they picked up the Kimbers, yet they were worn out? I doubt that the alcohol cops do enough shooting to wear out a Sig in 4 years.

  3. This seems like an odd choice for a duty weapon. I’m assuming they’ll be carried in a Condition One state, will the ALE and its agents all be OK with that? I’m having a hard time believing that a Kimber (or any) 1911 was found to be more suitable for duty service than a Sig 220 in the same caliber.

    And for God’s sake, don’t let the folks on the Kimber sites read about these guns failing to perform properly. Isn’t that why you spend four figures on a 1911, so it runs right out of the box? Like say a $379.00 RIA GI 1911?

    • Aside from everything else about how awesome this story is, you are right on the money about the way they must needs be carried. While proudly showing off his super fancy Les Baer custom 1911, a family friend who was on the FBI’s hostage rescue team mentioned that only HRT was allowed to carry cocked and locked SAO pistols. I find it impossible to believe that all of these 146 men and women could safely do so.

  4. This stinks like yesterday’s diapers. The “avid gun buff and collector” orders specially engraved guns. Four more than he needs (though supton’s explanation rings true). And, SHAZAM!, a couple of “assault rifles” were missing, too.

    Nothing to see here. Everyone move along.

  5. While it’s nice that stuff like this is finally getting the outrage it deserves, it’s hardly a new development.

    Since the mid 80s, and accelerating ever since, LE has been overstaffed, over budgeted, and way over toyed. The race to piss away Fed funds has gotten the point of absurdity that there are dozens of cities that have $300K+ armored personnel carriers. Because, ya know, they need them.

    Considering the amount of ‘legitimately’ confiscated property that gets ‘repurposed’, and the amount of outright theft (see:STL Towing Scandal or dozens of others) you’d think it would be enough graft. But it never is.

  6. Much ado about nothing. And 1911s are notoriously finicky. Glocks and SIGs are know for their reliability, and the superiority of their modern designs.

  7. Robert, I stumbled on the site recently and was glad to find it. TTAC has not been the same since you left. ALE should give the tax payers a break and buy High Points with their life time warranty. At least when the retiring agents spent their dollar to purchase the gun, the tax payers would not be getting ripped off. It would be a fair deal.

  8. Kimber produces a top quality product, and I’m sure that the top guys at Kimber will correct any problems with any of their guns. I own several Kimbers and never had a problem with their top notch quality.

  9. “An avid gun buff and collector, Chandler ordered Kimbers with special sights and the ALE seal carved into their handles, spending $158,250 provided to the agency through federal seizures involving alcohol, drugs and illegal gambling.”

    Wherever you see seizure and forfeiture in law enforcement there is bound to be trouble. It becomes a form of entrepreneurship.

  10. “Kimber, who make dead reliable guns,”

    I’d say that is a debatable statement. But, either way, it’s not the main point of the story.

  11. I frequent the firearms dealer that took those Kimbers from the NC ALE so I got to see them up close. There were 3 different sizes that were ordered, full, commander and officer. The NC ALE seal was affixed to the frame of the gun and not the grip. The dealer was asking $1000 each for them the first time I saw them but the price has since dropped to $850 each. They are not handsome weapons imho. The dealer was touting them as “collectables” but for as little use as they were supposed to have gotten used the finish was in bad shape. I am not familiar with Kimbers but it almost looked as if they had been painted and the paint was rubbing off.

  12. I have one of the pistols 3″. No problems at all. My friend a firearms instructor shot it said he hated it, smiling and tried to trade me a his HK USP with 6 , 12 round mags for it.
    Both of us shot it very well. No problems at all. I have large hands this gun has thick grips. I’ve have had Les Bear pistols, nice gun. This Kimber is a nice gun, perfect concealed weapons size very light. Enough gun to fit into a big hand.

    After shooting… Recommended. It now sleeps on the night stand.

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