Kimber handguns, while not the most expensive on the market, are still considered fairly pricey among the shooters I know, and there’s a substantial ‘hidden’ cost to them that you should be aware of before you go shopping for yours.
I bought my first Kimber, an Eclipse Ultra II, just over a year ago. My opinion of it is very high, but you can take that with a grain of salt, since it is the only 1911 I’ve ever shot on a regular basis; part of my exuberance over the gun is due to the famous John Browning design itself. I might be just as crazy about a Colt Commander if I owned one.
During the ‘break-in’ phase of my Kimber, I had some frustrating issues, but they should have been expected; they are after all, the exact reasons Kimber has the break-in phase requirement. It often failed to eject, the slide failed to return to firing position (“return to battery”), and it required constant fiddling and small shots of Rem-Oil at the range to keep it functioning.
The single magazine that came with it seemed flimsy (especially for a gun that retails over $1,100.00), and often failed to drop out of the well when I hit the release.
All those issues have been resolved by following the Kimber break-in process outlined in the manual, with the exception of the mag issue, which I corrected with the purchase of five Wilson Combat mags for about $130.00 total.
That really put my actual cost to carry this handgun well over $1,200.00, not including the $200.00 or so in factory ammo I had to burn through it in the break-in process. I still have a few ‘jam-ups’ with reloads at the range, but I can live with those.
I only load my Kimber with quality factory ammo when I’m not practicing, and since the completion of the break-in rituals I’ve never had a failure with factory loads.
In reading through various gun forum threads on Kimbers, I found that folks generally either loved their Kimbers or hated them. There were numerous complaints posted about Kimber customer service being patronizing and having the same initial response for every ‘return to battery’ complaint (‘you must be limp-wristing it’).
What I learned through the break-in process with my Kimber is that it is built so tight there is little tolerance for any grit or unburned powder. Reloads? Forget it. The chamber was so tight out of the box that every round of reloaded ammo failed to eject and the next round had a failure to return to battery. Factory ammunition did much better, and the manual is specific that only quality factory ammo should be used.
Kimber suffers from a failure to provide enough education about their tight tolerances and what it means to initial reliability for their customers prior to purchase. If they could manage to provide an up front explanation, they might have less trouble with frustrated shooters on their support line taking offense at being accused of limp-wristing.
I’m sure they are expecting their dealers to handle the customer education, but let’s face it, gun salesmen aren’t really going to stress the fact that you need to burn a lot of expensive factory ammo in this weapon before it becomes reliable.
Most gun owners are used to buying guns that function reliably right out of the box. Many gun owners demand it, since quality guns are expensive items and many households can’t afford more than one.
Your typical handgun customer doesn’t expect to pay $1,000.00 or more for a handgun only to find out after reading the manual that it has to be fed $200.00 worth of ammunition before it becomes reliable enough to trust with his /her life.
In Kimber’s defense, experienced shooting enthusiasts should all realize that any new weapon should be practiced with for familiarity and general reliability testing prior to carrying it as a duty weapon or a concealed carry gun. It’s just not smart to buy a new gun, load it up, and start toting it without making a few trips to the range first.
One fellow recent Kimber owner I spoke with said, “This is the first gun I ever bought that I had to wear out before I could bet my life on it”. Well, that’s an exaggerated statement, but I knew what he meant.
I equate the debate over Kimber’s break-in necessity with the old AK-47 vs. M-16 argument. When my son came home from Army Infantry school a few years ago, he bought himself an AK because, he said, “not only is it cheap, you can shove a live squirrel in the breach and this thing will still go bang every time. It’s 90% air so nothing jams it up.”
On the other hand, tight tolerances are essential to accuracy. Like a famous Marine Colonel once said, “You can run from a terrorist who’s shooting at you with an AK47 and you might live. Run from a U.S. Marine who has an M-16 and you’ll just die tired.”
Kimber is at the extreme end of the accuracy gage. That means loose, sloppy fits are out of the question, and if you’re going to buy a Kimber, you should be prepared to do a lot of shooting, cleaning, and lubing before you tote it in the real world. And it will never pass the old ‘dunk it in a bucket of muddy water and it’ll still empty a magazine’ test.
However, if you follow the process according to manufacturer instruction, and keep it cleaned and oiled, it will turn out to be exceptional in dependability AND accuracy once you’ve made the time and money investments in the break-in process.
I now carry my broke in and dependable Kimber with confidence that it will go bang every time I pull the trigger should a (Heaven forbid!) combat scenario ever arise. Plus I know that the bullet is going to land exactly where the sights line up and nowhere else.