If you have followed the gun industry for any period of time, you’ve no doubt seen many manufacturers go through a period in which their reputation becomes tarnished. It has happened with Colt, Taurus, Remington, and others. The problems get fixed, but in the consumers’ eye the company’s products are viewed suspiciously for years down the road. I was that way with Kimber.
A Checkered Past
During the years I operated live handgun classes, I witnessed numerous failures to feed and failures to eject (FTF, FTE) with Kimber guns. I was puzzled by this because Kimber was among the more expensive handguns people brought to the course.
Many of our clients consisted of well-to-do professionals, living in upscale neighborhoods, and finding evil making its way past their gated communities. The changing tapestry of the world we live in convinced them it was time to buy a gun. Their research drew them to the full color Kimber ads that appeared on the back cover of almost every gun magazine. The new handgun owners would show up at our classes with a couple of Kimber Micros, or maybe hers was a Micro, and he had something bigger. Rarely did the Kimber guns make it through the shooting proficiency test trouble free.
A couple of Kimber shooters who attended our class were former members of an Army competition shooting team. Their Kimbers ran as they were supposed to. I asked these owners why their Kimbers ran great while so many didn’t. They attributed it to the magazines. They tossed the Kimber mags and used either Wilson Combat or Chip McCormick aftermarket magazines. Okay, whatever. I figured I’d just stick with my SIG, Smith and Wesson, Ruger, and Springfield guns.
The Road Ahead
One day, during a traffic stop in which I was a passenger in the car, the female officer who pulled us over because of an expired temporary tag and asked whether there were any weapons in the car. “We are firearms instructors on our way back from a course we were teaching. As a result, the back seat of this vehicle is full of firearms,” my friend told her. “Plus, both of us are carrying.” “Just a minute,” she said and retreated to her cruiser.
We waited. Quickly, I noticed other officers arriving on the scene and a conversation was going on by the original officer’s cruiser. It wasn’t because we were such a threat. We were just around the corner from a Quick Stop where the other officers had been partaking refreshments. When the original officer approached the car again, two male officers were with her.
One of them showed her how to find the vehicle’s VIN number on the dash. As he leaned in the car window, I noticed his sidearm was a Kimber 1911. “Kimber, huh?” I questioned. “You carry a Kimber?” As it turned out he was the department’s firearms training officer, and he was delighted to tell us about the testing they had done before choosing the Kimber as the department’s issued handgun and how pleased they were with them.
It seemed Kimber had gotten its act together and shooters were giving the gun great reviews. So, I began to think, “maybe someday, if the price was right and the money was there, I might get a Kimber.” That time has come, and I’m now the proud owner of a Kimber LW Shadow Ghost .45 ACP 1911.
Kimber LW Shadow Ghost
The Kimber LW Shadow Ghost had not been in my possession long before it was joined by another Kimber. This one would not be a shooter but more of a collector’s item. It belonged to a friend who was liquidating his gun collection because he was moving overseas. I helped him with a couple of guns. One was a custom Kimber, a limited edition custom F22 Fighting Eagles Raptor model built for and exclusively sold to the first group of pilots to fly the F22 Raptor, plus some of their support people. The pistol I have is identified as #360 of 413 according to engraving on the slide. It came with its own custom display case.
I’ve tried to find the back story on these 413 Kimbers, but for the most part I’ve come up dry. I tried contacting the person who sold the gun to my friend, only to learn he died in 2014. Kimber’s Customer Service told me the manufacture date on the F22 Raptor 1911 I own was September 2013, and the Kimber database lists it as an F22 Raptor Fighting Eagles Custom edition.
Kimber had no other information in its files. I asked if there was anyone at Kimber who might remember those guns, but I came up empty. A former airman responded to one of my forum queries with the information that they were ordered through an F22 pilot at Elmendorf AFB Alaska. He had responded to the email offer to buy one since he was a member of the support team, but by the time he got his order in, he had missed the deadline.
Kimber now has a Raptor II model in its lineup. This is the gun the F22 custom Kimbers were built upon. Cheaper Than Dirt! has the Raptor II listed on its website as I write this. The Raptors differ from the LW Shadow Ghost in several areas. For one, they are made of steel, so they weigh more. The LW Shadow Ghost weighs 31 ounces, and the Raptor weighs 40 ounces.
Slide serrations (front and rear) on the LW Shadow Ghost are standard. The ones on the Raptor are a totally different pattern, kind of like a heavy wire mesh. The LW Shadow Ghosts sights consist of large white dots, while sights on the Raptor are all black.
The LW Shadow Ghost features an aluminum frame to reduce weight and a blackout finish on the smaller parts such as the magazine release and pins. The sights consist of a white dot rear sight with a red fiber optic front sight. The LW Shadow Ghost is equipped with a match grade, stainless steel barrel and a match grade trigger. It has an 8-round magazine,
The gun left the factory with black rubber grips with diamond checkering. I had some G10 grips in my stash. I thought would enhance the gun’s appearance, so I installed those on my gun. I like the 8-round magazines. I’m a fan of flush fitting 8 rounders and have always used Colt magazines in my 1911s for that purpose. It appears these Kimber magazines are every bit as good as the Colts. At least I can say they have worked well for me and appear to be well-built.
Nowadays there are probably two questions you may be thinking: Is it optics-ready and does it have night sights? The answer to both is no. I’m fine on both accounts, because I really like the sights that are on the gun. During my range sessions with the Kimber, the gun hasn’t given me the slightest indication of trouble and is as accurate as I am — probably much more so.
On my first range trip, one of the range safety officers noticed the Kimber sitting on the bench while I was loading a magazine and asked if he could look at it. He motioned a couple of other range employees over, and they all seemed to be impressed with it. That particular model Kimber had not yet made it into their store’s inventory.
One thing I was reminded of when shooting the Kimber LW Shadow Ghost is how much more recoil a shooter feels when shooting a lightweight .45 ACP 1911 versus shooting one made of steel. When my first two shots went into essentially the same hole, I was thinking this was going to be one of those outstanding range outings until the third shot hit approximately four inches lower. Why? I flinched from recoil anticipation. That’s something to consider when purchasing a gun.
Lightweight for carrying is great. Lightweight for shooting, not so great in the larger calibers. I suspect shooting the steel-framed Raptor would be easier on the hands and shoulders.
Both of my Kimbers have a manual thumb safety located only on the left side of the pistol. They have the standard beavertail grip safety to prevent the pistol from firing unless the grip safety is fully depressed. On both guns, the grip safety is comfortable and shaped to encourage a high grip that assists in the gun’s stability as it is being fired.
The white dot, fixed rear sight and replaceable, fiber optic front sight present an excellent sight picture. I wear progressive trifocals and sometimes have to work at getting a good focus on front sights. The fiber optic front sight stands out and really helps me to get a good sight picture. The low-profile design of the rear sight helps to reduce the overall height of the pistol that makes it easier to carry and handle.
Trigger pull on both guns is smooth and consistent, breaking at just over four pounds. The trigger is adjustable for overtravel and pre-travel allowing the shooter to customize the trigger to their preferences. The trigger faces are serrated which helps prevent the finger from slipping off the trigger during firing.
The Kimber Custom LW Shadow Ghost is relatively easy to clean. Takedown is standard for a 1911 with a full-length guide rod. Detailed instructions on disassembly, lubrication, and reassembly are easy to follow per the manual. A sheet of paper in the plastic case the gun came in has cleaning and lube instructions. I can almost guarantee that following those instructions would put to rest the old rumors about it taking 400–500 rounds of break-in before the Kimber would operate reliably.
With today’s cost of ammo, that’s a noticeable addition to the cost of a new gun, if it had been required. My Kimber, the one I shoot, got a light oiling before I began operating it per the factory’s instructions, and it hasn’t had the first hiccup. I don’t intend to shoot the F22 commemorative Raptor as I’m pretty sure it was in an unfired condition when I got it. And you normally don’t shoot collector guns.
The Kimber joins the ranks of several full-size .45 ACP 1911s in my collection. It’s one of two lightweights — the other being a Springfield Operator. I’m much more likely to carry a Commander-sized 1911, and I have two lightweights in that category along with several steel-framed models.
I’m now 75 and much of my enjoyment from owning these guns is in sharing them with others. In that respect, the Kimber is one I’ll enjoy putting on the shooting bench for some of our family and friends’ shooting outings.
What’s your favorite Kimber 1911? Share your thoughts in the comments.
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