Truly fine instruments never appear out of a vacuum, but are developed from an idea. Such was the case of John Moses Browning’s timeless .45 ACP caliber Model of 1911 pistol. Stronger than ever, the 1911 remains king of the autopistols across the board.
However, the Model of 1911 did not materialize overnight, but only on the heels of years of other Browning autopistol development. Even after the tremendous success of the 1911, the pistol was improved more than a decade later, as the Model of 1911A1, in which capacity it continued to serve the U.S. military until 1985.
In fact, the 1911 continues to serves some Marine Corps special operations forces, as well as the special weapons and tactics (SWAT) units of many law enforcement agencies. One of the best known is the SWAT unit of the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD).
The LAPD SWAT Kimber
Formed shortly after (the first) Watts riot (August 11, 1965), LAPD’s SWAT unit soon was allowed to carry .45 ACP 1911-type pistols instead of the .38 Special revolver that was then standard issue. These guns were drawn from a variety of confiscated 1911 pistols, as well as those purchased by individual officers assigned to SWAT, all such pistols first certified by LAPD armorors. These roughly 100 pistols were of various makes, both G.I. and commercial, with an even greater number of “custom” features.
As the years passed, the 1911-type pistols used by the LAPD SWAT unit continued to shoot thousands of rounds per year in practice and required increasing maintenance.
Finally, in 2004, the LAPD agreed to purchase new 1911-type pistols for its SWAT unit in order to have all pistols uniform with regard to make, mode and features. After rigorously testing 1911-type pistols from six major manufacturers, the LAPD SWAT unit selected a special version of the Kimber Custom 1911 pistol, one with a dedicated SureFire Tactical Weapon Light. These guns are still issued to LAPD SWAT personnel.
The USMC Kimber
Not long after the LAPD SWAT unit adopted its special version of the .45ACP Kimber Custom 1911, the US Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) USMC’s Detachment-1 (Det-1) followed suit with a Kimber Custom 1911 of its own design. In addition to the many custom features standard on the Kimber
Custom, the USMC specified a number of additional custom features. These included a checkered front strap, Dawson Light Rail from Dawson Precision, G-10 “Gunner” Grips from Strider Knives, Novak Lo-Mount Sights and more. A special version of a SureFire Tactical Weapon Light and a custom Safariland
Model 6400 Series Holster were part of the USMC’s package.
The LAPD SIS Kimber
In the wake of the LAPD SWAT and the USMC adopting the Kimber 1911, the personnel of another specialized LAPD unit were taking note. These were members of the Special Investigation Section (SIS).
The SIS is a relatively small unit for a department with over 8,000 officers, whose hours of duty are 24/7 with everyone potentially on call. As with most small police units, in which long stakeouts and tailing suspects are standard operating procedure, this one generates extreme dedication. After operating for a number of years from several departmental entities and under as many names, SIS has been responsible for taking untold numbers of the worst criminals off the streets of L.A. Among these criminals was the famous “Hillside Strangler.”
Adopted in four models, the Kimber SIS 1911 was approved for individual purchase by officers assigned to the SIS. The SIS model came with a host of custom features, one of which was Kimber’s integral frame rail, a feature not available at the time the LAPD SWAT and USMC purchased their Kimbers. However, if you’re wondering why all the Kimber history here, well, part of it is related to the evolutionary aspect mentioned above. But another part of it is a unique feature specified by SIS, and one never before seen on a production 1911 pistol.
The Cocking Sight
For years there have been studies of retracting the slide of an autopistol by using a part of the slide or, more recently, the rear sight. If you’re wondering about the likelihood of having to retract the slide by using the rear sight, the LAPD has done a large case study of the issue. Scenarios include one’s strong hand or arm becoming disabled in a fight, having to manipulate the slide while driving with one hand, or holding onto something with the support hand, etc. The SIS asked Kimber to design a rear sight by which the slide could be retracted if necessary. Kimber did and the SIS trains to use this special rear sight should the necessity ever arise. This historical overview brings us to the subject at hand.
The Kimber Gold Combat II
Having made a practice of incorporating the best custom features in most if not all of its 1911-type pistols, Kimber has done it once again with a new 5” barrel 1911 it calls the Gold Combat II. Coming standard with all features found in the Custom II, the Gold Combat II also comes with most of the custom features found in the LAPD SWAT, USMC and SIS Kimbers. These features include both front and rear slide-cocking grooves, Meprolight Night Sights, an excellent undercut trigger guard with 30-lpi machine checkering on the bottom, 24-lpi machine checkered front strap, grooved flat top slide, ambidextrous thumb safety and magazine well extension. The pistol also comes with superb new G-10 grips and an optional frame rail, and can be had in either matte black KimPro finish or matte stainless steel. But that’s not all.
Pioneered in the early 1980’s by Charles C. Kelsey of Devel, and Irv Stone of BAR-STO Precision Machine, the 1911 bushingless barrel is nothing new. However, the stainless steel version used by Kimber is far and away the most improved bushingless barrel system I’ve yet seen, and it provides match accuracy in addition to putting slightly more weight forward. Yes, it does use a full-length recoil spring guide rod, but while I have no use for these in conventional 1911 pistols, I have no problem with this one. This is because the pistol does not require a “special” tool to field strip it (a paper clip will do). Unlike a standard bushing system, one could literally rinse debris out of the Gold Combat II with its slide locked back by pouring water from a canteen.
However, to completely fieldstrip the Gold Combat II, first remove the magazine and ensure the chamber is empty. As Ron Avery stresses, “Nothing in its mouth and nothing to feed it.” Next draw back the slide to slide lock and insert the short end of the “L”-shaped pin (furnished) into the exposed tiny hole in the guide rod. Then draw back the slide to its disassembly notch and push the slide stop pin partially out from the right side. Now pull it out the rest of the way from the left while holding the slide back slightly. Without depressing the grip safety, simply remove the slide group off the front of the frame as a unit.
With the slide removed, the recoil spring guide and its captive spring and the above pin can be withdrawn to the rear. The barrel can then be withdrawn out the front and the pistol can be cleaned and lubricated as needed. No further disassembly is necessary or recommended, although the firing pin can also be removed with proper instruction. Could I live with the Gold Combat II out of the box? You bet, but there’s more.
The SIS Rear Sight
In addition to all of the above features, the Kimber Gold Combat II comes with the exact slide-cocking Meprolight rear sight as is standard issue with the LAPD’s SIS Kimber pistol. This is essentially Kimber’s standard rear sight, redesigned with a ledge that allows it to be used to retract the slide. As good looking as it is functional, this sight will never get in the way even if you never use it, but don’t take slide cocking lightly. The act requires lots of practice to be done safely, especially if the edge of one’s holster is used to catch the sight on. Exposing one’s body to injury is highly likely, not to mention the difficulty of using a belt with the sight!
The rear sight is most likely to be used for cocking during a malfunction, and that is the way I would train my people, with strict emphasis on placement of the trigger finger and not covering one’s body with the muzzle. Better and far safer things to use for sight cocking are a steering wheel, doorframe or other available fixed object.
Since my sample black KimPro Gold Combat II came without a frame rail, I tested it with both Sure-Fire hand-held tactical lights and First-Light’s new Tomahawk Light. Being used to conventional handheld lights, I still found the Tomahawk to offer several solutions to problems law enforcement officers face, not the least of which is allowing the hand to be free while still holding the light, as well as having an instant strobe function.
The Gold Combat II was right at home in BlackHawk’s Serpa and Tactical Serpa holsters and Safariland’s new Model 6377 and 6378 security holsters. Designed by Bill Rogers, the Model 6377 (shown), with its suede lining, is one of the finest, most secure and fastest holsters I’ve used.
The Gold Combat II’s sight picture is as good as any conventional combat sights and the ambidextrous thumb safety worked perfectly. I was even able to depress the grip safety sufficiently when shooting high thumb. Magazines fell free when released and could be inserted in a flash into the gun’s magazine well extension. The trigger of my sample Gold Combat II had a crisp letoff of a hair over 3 pounds, which contributed to the accuracy obtained with the gun.
Recoil was manageable even when shooting .45 ACP +P ammunition of various makes and bullet weights, such as 230-grain JHP by Federal and COR-BON. Both of these provided exceptional accuracy, with most hand-held 5-shot groups hovering about 2 inches at 25 yards. Match grade 230-grain .45 ACP ammunition did even better, with 5 shots often going into just over one inch. No malfunctions of any kind were experienced with the Gold Combat II. Other than the frame rail and stainless steel 5” barrel Gold Combat II pistols, no other versions are offered.
Whether you’re a professional who uses a pistol for duty, one who likes to invest in fine handguns, or somewhere in between, I’m sure you’ll agree that this new Kimber is as good as gold. For information on Kimber’s new Gold Combat II and all their superb firearms, contact Kimber Mfg., One Lawton St., Dept. SOF, Yonkers, NY 10705, (800) 880-2418 (kimberamerica.com).
BlackHawk Products Group
6160 Commander Pkwy., Dept. SOF
Norfolk, VA 23502
320 County Rd. 1100 North, Dept. SOF
Seymour, IL 61875
3120 East Mission Blvd., Dept. SOF
Ontario, CA 91761
18300 Mt. Baldy Cir., Dept. SOF
Fountain Valley, CA 92708
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