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Kimber claims their new $38 million Alabama factory will create more than 350 jobs over the next five years. While the Kimber’s tax break remains unspecified, the deal depends on one thing: product. Whether deserved or not, the brand must overcome its rep for producing unreliable firearms to woo disaffected customers and win new ones. Does the  $1286 Kimber Custom Shop Stainless Ultra Raptor II in .45 ACP set the standard for the future?

Kimber ships the Ultra Raptor II in a plastic box with the standard Democrat lock and one  — count it one — seven-round capacity magazine.

The company’s website claims the pistol got its name from “a combination of aggressive slide and frame serrations, feathered logo grips and special scaled texturing accents.”

The Zebrawood grips are beautifully finished and help make the compact .45 look balanced, stylish and lethal. The “texturing accents” running across the top of the slide continue the Ultra Raptor’s feathered theme. Raptor. Bird of prey. OK then . . .

The slide is, as advertised, stainless steel. The satin silver finish is perfectly applied and tool marks are notable by their absence. The Ultra Raptor II’s cocking serrations match the indentations on the front of the grip. Again, they’re both cool-looking and effective.

The controls are standard 1911: a left side mag release and slide stop, a positive-feeling right-sized ambi-safety (yes I know the thumb safety wasn’t part of JMB’s original design), and a grip safety.

Bonus points for the Ultra Raptor II’s tritium night sights; all carry guns should ship with low light capability. But while some may see the snag-reducing angled rear sight as a bonus for a carry gun, I’m not a fan of sights that you can’t easily rack on a shoe or belt. Especially when they’re called “tactical wedge.”

Taking apart the Ultra Raptor is as easy as disassembling my GLOCK 19. Simply hold the slide partially back, push out the slide stop, take off the slide, remove the guide rod and spring, barrel bushing and push out the barrel.

Kimber says the Stainless Ultra Raptor II’s single-action trigger breaks between four and five pounds. Ours measured closer to four, and felt like a 1911 trigger should: short, crisp with minimal slack and a clean break. 

GLOCK fanboy that I am, I was expecting Kimber’s sub-compact 1911 to generate snappy recoil. A big boy caliber through a three-inch barrel is not a normal recipe for shooting pleasure or accuracy. To my surprise the Raptor II generated a stout but perfectly manageable recoil impulse.

Credit the Kimber Ultra Stainless Raptor II’s weight, of course. But the .45’s textured wood grips also had a hand in the gun’s controllability (so to speak). The “feathered” texture helped keep the gun securely planted in my mitt, while the wood absorbed sweat — a common problem here in Texas which can quickly interfere with shooting stability.

I ran the Ultra Raptor II through target transition drills, cadence, and rapid engagements from concealment at distances of up to 20 yards. Shooting a platform with which I have limited familiarity, I could mag dump at ten yards on C-zone sized steel with about .25 second splits with all rounds landing on target.

Close in, slow fire, standing non-supported, stacking rounds is like connecting Legos. Out to 75 yards, I consistently hit the steel popper with Cap Ams and Winchester 230 grain FMJ ammo. Grouping stayed small, about one inch at 7 yards and 4 inches at 25 yards.

Over the course of two weeks I put some 500 rounds through the pistol. The good news: the Ultra Raptor II delivered near perfect reliability. The bad news: it wasn’t perfect; I experienced three stove pipes shooting Cap Arms ammo.

The good news: that’s lightly loaded ammo that’s no longer in production. So a Mulligan. And the usual warning: feed your gun what it likes to eat.

Kimber’s profits depend on selling firearms at the bottom end of the top end of the market (or the top of the bottom end). In the rarified air of “mass luxury” there’s little margin for error. The Custom Shop Stainless Ultra Raptor II doesn’t make any mistakes and has the Kimber “look” that speaks of quality craftsmanship.

If Kimber’s new factory produces all its guns to this standard, their Southern expansion won’t fail. Neither will Ultra Raptor II buyers, should worst come to worst.

SPECIFICATIONS: Kimber Custom Shop Stainless Ultra Raptor II

Caliber: .45 ACP
Length: 6.8 inches
Barrel Length: 3 inches
Barrel Twist: 1:16 left-handed
Trigger weight: 4 – 5  lbs
Function: Single Action only
Weight: 25 ounces
MSRP: $1,286

RATINGS (out of five stars):

Aesthetics * * * * *
Beautifully designed, perfectly assembled.

Reliability * * * * * 
Two stove pipes over 500 rounds due to lightly loaded Cap Arms ammunition. Otherwise, perfect.

Accuracy * * * * *
Round stacked on top of each other at 7 yards, 4 inch grouping at 25 yards, and consistent hits on popper sized steel at 75 yards

Ergonomics * * * * *
It’s a 1911.

Overall * * * * 1/2
A handsome, concealable, reliable self-defense pistol in a soul-destroying caliber that costs $1200– without a spare mag ($25.95).

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  1. “The Ultra Raptor II’s cocking serrations match the indentations on the front of the grip. Again, they’re both cool-looking and effective.”

    Effective? Yes. Cool-looking? I will respectfully disagree. I LOVE my Kimbers, but do buy models with the fish scale-esque serrations. I find them hideous to the point of nausea.

  2. Most Kimbers require a 4-500 round break in period. It’s in the manual. So, unless they’ve changed something lately, the fact you only got a couple of malfs is pleasantly surprising.

    • I personally only give new guns about 50 rounds of break in… Anything else is being overly generous IMO, and I’ve never paid close to this much for a new pistol.

  3. Carry a glock 36 on a regular basis. The gun is accurate, thousands of rounds without a malfunction reliable and easy to conceal. Paid $525 for it. I don’t need to spend $1300 to make a fashion statement.

    • Huh. #4 post (primary, not responding) to get one of these comments.

      That’s longer than average. Way to go Kimber! (Or in this case, Kimbette maybe?)

    • You remind me of the guys who drive Fords all their lives and don’t understand why anyone would pay twice as much for a car. It’s sort of a pity those people never get to experience what it’s like to operate a truly well engineered automobile.

      You should at least understand that shooting an all-steel pistol with a sweet, icicle-break single action trigger is a wholly different experience from shooting a polymer framed, striker-fired Austrian wonder.

      That is not to say that you should replace your Glock. Glocks are tools designed to do a job, and they do it well. But it would be a shame for any shooter to live his entire life not knowing that difference.

      • Wow Curtis. You are an amazing guy. So knowlegeable, worldly and sophisticated. You are also arrogant, condescending and patronizing. You know nothing of my life. You know nothing of firearms that I own, have owned or fired. You have no idea what vehicles I have owned or driven. Since you did not specifically mention Kimber I will not assume it is that brand you refer to. However I will say that if you consider Kimber to be a finely tuned piece of machinery you are and idiot. I happen to own a Kimber and it sits in my safe because it is an unreliable POS. Illinois Curtis? Once again I am not going to assume you have spent your entire life in Illinois but “it would be a shame for any shooter to live his entire life” in a cesspool like Illinois and never experience the joy of living in a free state. I hope you have a nice day Curtis. It is truly a shame you will spend your entire life never knowing that you exist in a persistent vegetative state of willful blindness, ignorance and denial.

        • If your Kimber is an unreliable POS, why not get rid of it and get something better, or at least open up a little room in your safe?

        • Chicago is a cesspool, along with a few other small pockets. Most of the state, geographically, is beautiful and populated with freedom-loving Americans in low-crime communities. Just like most of New York and most of California, outnumbered by the cesspool dwellers.

          I do enjoy visiting states unencumbered by such cesspools. Might move to one when I retire.

          I agree with you on one thing: I am an amazing guy. Just ask my grandkids!

        • Replace the recoil springs with ones from Wolff. My Kimber Pro Carry II 4″ was horribly unreliable, mostly failure to return to battery, until I finally did so after 1400 rounds. Since then it has been perfect.

        • No one here knows what you have (besides a G36 and a Kimber) or what you do. All we know is that you’re a prickly SOB with a major attitude.

          So on behalf of Curtis in IL:

          Screw You!

        • You’re way off base. Drive a good solid ford, nothing wrong with that but there’s a reason why a BMW is far more expensive. Suggest you keep your ignorance about quality to yourself.

        • … and of course we all know that if Kimber made one unreliable pos then by default all Kimber’s are unreliable. I think you were kicked out of Aristotle’s lyceum for using this type of logic, but I digress … to continue then all 1911s are also unreliable, and wait … any Browning design is unreliable. Can’t wait to tell my son this, he is in the military now and a descendant of Browning through my wife’s family. Horacemann you are a genius! I am just a lowly swiss trained master watchmaker, and by the way my Kimber is well made and reliable. But wtf do I know?

      • No one complains that a Ferrari 488 can’t haul kids and groceries around like a minivan because it’s not in any way, shape, or form designed or advertised to do so.

        This is a carry gun. Complaining that a carry gun doesn’t have Glock-like reliability is definitely valid.

        • It’s also much heavier and is based on an obsolete pattern.

          So what? Some people will buy it because they think it’s cool.

          Is that so wrong?

        • Actually I returned my Ferrari when I couldn’t get the carseat in comfortably. For the 260K I paid for it, it was just inexcusable.

      • I had a Kimber Anniversary full sized 1911. The only difference between it & their normal pistols was the lack of the Schwartz firing pin block actuated by the grip safety.

        It wasn’t a cheap gun and it wasn’t reliable either. I had to replace the MIM extractor with a Wilson part & it still was never 100% reliable.

        The Slide, Frame & Barrel were well fitted and free of tool marks. Everything else was MIM, which I don’t have a huge problem with, you can just tell it’s straight from the mold.

        I sold it after 8000 rounds. I’ll probably try a Dan Wesson next. I’ll probably never own another Kimber. They charge a premium price for a pretty pistol that is of average or below average performance.

    • Horacemann, when you say accurate, what kind of groups do you mean? For instance, with your carry ammunution, what size of groups do you expect to see at 25 yards?

  4. I had three Kimbers. All worked fine… After sending them back for tuning. There’s a Dan Wesson model with similar specs at a similar price. The only difference is the DW will work on day one.

  5. “The “feathered” texture helped keep the gun securely planted in my mitt, while the wood absorbed sweat”

    So, are they finished zebrawood or raw balsawood? Or is there a magical water absorbing coating for all that money?

    Enquiring minds, and all…

    • I’m waiting for the firearms industry to discover what the knife industry has known for a while when it comes to grips: linen micarta.

      Good grip and it absorbs sweat to keep that grippiness under hard use. It’s becoming more common on higher end blades that are meant to do work.

      • VZ Grips makes linen Micarta grips. Many (all?) Dan Wesson 1911s come with VZ grips from the factory.

      • Wasn’t aware that Micarta was making a comeback for knives. Interesting to know. Good to see the cutting edge of 1910 tech finding an appropriate product application.

        I’ve thought about it for grips many a time, glad to see that happening too. It’s an interesting tactile sensation, but hell, I like bakelite too, so…

  6. Only with a 1911 design can a $1200 gun get five stars in reliability after stove piping twice in the first 500 rounds. Possibly the light ammo but it would still shake me of any confidence I had in it.

    • To be fair, that ammo chronoed at barely 700fps out of my Colt Government. I could see any short barrel having issues.

    • Failure rate of the other (non-under powered) ammo is 0.0%. Failure rate with the crappy ammo was still only 0.4%. Don’t sweat it and don’t run the low powered stuff for defense. Kimbers (mine anyway) are awesome.

  7. Looks like Kimber lost that 90 degree corner between the back strap and the mag-well. The corner that when you swap out the plastic OE MSH for an aftermarket stainless one leaves two pointy exposed corners that you can do nothing about.

    My favorite feature of my Stainless IIs.

    Did they do this for all their guns? Did they do it a while ago? Hope so. Haven’t handled any new Kimbers in years.

    • I agree. That rounded corner looks good to me too. (I don’t care for the looks of “bobtail” mod.)When I replaced the plastic MSH on mine, I filed a bevel on the new stainless part to reduce that corner, without modifying the frame.
      I also shortened and recontoured the rear edge of the grip safety behind the hammer pocket.
      These are satisfying upgrades and on stainless parts require no refinishing other than bead blasting.

  8. I have seen plenty of complaints about Kimbers, but my experience has been quite positive.
    My (pre-Series II) Kimber Stainless Compact .45 ACP has been flawless for several thousand rounds.
    There were a very few hiccups during the first 100 rds. or so.
    The +1 officers factory mags, and the (apparently identical) CMC spare mags I purchased were sometimes reluctant to feed the first round. It was necessary to adjust the slide lock tab on the followers of a couple of these mags for reliable function. The pistol is reliable with other full-size mags of various make.
    I don’t recall any stovepipes ever, and it tosses the empties in a neat little pile about 5 feet to the side.
    It is accurate and feeds every type of ammo I have tested- including hardball, SWC, 185 and 230 gr JHP, and 200 gr RNFP.

    • My Ultra Covert II won’t chamber a first round with the Kimber mags, and sometimes fails to feed with them as well. But it runs perfectly with Wilson Combat magazines.
      So I threw away the Kimber magazines. Problem solved. I’ve tried this on other people’s “broken” Kimbers with the same result.

      • When I had my full sized Kimber, I bought 3-7 rd & 3-8 rd Wilson magazines.

        The Kimber destroyed all 3-8 Round mags by pulling an extracted case through the feed lips. It was a total Death Jam. You can only clear it by using something like a plastic Bic Pen and inserting it in the case and pulling it out. Then you have to yank out the magazine, because the top is swelled up & it won’t eject.

        To top it off, Wilson won’t sell replacement mag bodies, so my $800 + pistol destroyed about $90 in magazines.

  9. I have mostly had Kimber rifles and they have been fantastic. No other production rifles compare for lightweight hunting rifles that I’ve seen. Other “lightweight” rifles are pounds more. And, mine have been accurate. I picked up their k6s revolver and I’m happy with it. I still have a couple Glocks but I don’t mind paying a bit more for a couple items that are a step above in terms of finish and attention to detail.
    These threads bring out the haters, I just want to say there is a market for these things and I know because I’m part of it.

  10. Fancy guns, cars and women are great to look at, but…………..I will take functional beauty that works reliably any day.

  11. Bought a 5” SS Colt Government model.
    Kimber now for sale. Over 1000 rounds and Still stove pipes regularly.

  12. I see Kimber as entry to the low end of the high end market, not top of the bottom end. I have a Kimber Pro Carry II two tone 1911 in 9mm that I bought last year. It is a great gun. Accurate, great trigger, nice looks, not too heavy (aluminum frame) and low recoil. Around round 25 it had a stove pipe and failure to feed with some lower powered freedom munitions (new) ammo. After that it’s been perfect throughout the remainder of the break-in period and I have over 500 rounds through it now. Some people probably don’t break them in correctly. Kimbers, from what they claim, have very tight tolerances and can’t be thought of as a Glock/XD or other polymer striker fired gun when it is new. It needs to be broken in and Kimber explains how to do it correctly in the manual. And again, as far as reliability, don’t feed it what it doesn’t like (i.e., low powered ammo). Mine tends to occasionally throw the low powered stuff (like freedom munitions FMJ) up or only slightly to the side, instead of to the side with authority. My defensive ammo? Great ejection trajectory. I would definitely buy another Kimber.

  13. Why did the reviewer give it all 5-stars for every category, but the gun only received a 4.5 star overall rating? Doesn’t make sense. I’d say this is a 5-star gun considering all categories were 5 stars.

  14. Nice guns. I’ve owned one. I read the article like it was something new Kimber produced but the Stainless Raptor has been around for awhile. I’m a Kimber fan and carry a couple. My favorite carry is a Kimber Solo CDP. It eats only 124 or 147 grain. 115 grain and it pukes faster than my kid eating broccoli.

    Was the gun you tested factory new? I’ve had some get finicky just out of the case but after a few rounds and adequate lubrication they season well.

    Didn’t know they were opening an Alabama facility. Thank God they’re expanding beyond Yonkers. I don’t know why any company remains up in anti gunville. Props to them.

  15. My Raptor ultra 2 jams after every shot.It’s currently at the gunsmith and it’s an expensive disappointment.

  16. I have owned and shot this exact pistol for six plus years with a round count of more than 500 now. I purchased the upgraded mags from Kimber for it right away after reading how bad the problem could be. Seems folks had problems with the earlier mags and I think mine was from that gen. Anyway, never shot it with the factory mag it came with. All the ammo I have put through it was either Speer Gold Dot, Winchester Ranger RA45T or Seller & Bellot fmj, all 230 grain. Not one malfunction of any kind. Not one. My guess is that the Kimber’s malfunction due to bad mags, bad ammo and/or guys limp wristing. I don’t carry the Kimber often though. EDC is a Sig 229 in .357 sig from 1993 (modified), and a Rorbaugh R covert (speer gd 115 or 124 only). No mals in those either but one has to stick to good quality SD ammo. Train with what you will fight with when it comes to a handgun. And if you don’t like mals don’t take any credible gunfighting course … the best instructors love dummy rounds and you will learn to clear them so fast that you may not even realize you had one when you finish your string.

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