Kimber TLE II stainless- initial impression/review, long


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Barry in IN
June 18, 2004, 07:28 PM
A couple of days ago, I traded for my first Kimber.
I'm a little slow there, I guess. My 1911 usage has been limited in recent years, due in part to a back injury that has caused me to carry smaller guns. It had limited my practice time also, so I carried either a Browning HiPower or HK P7, since they seem to shoot themselves. But surgery late last year has helped correct all of that.

So, I traded for a stainless steel Kimber TLE II. Used, but unfired. Previous owner had the barrel bushing replaced with a Briley spherical bushing, and replaced the grips. He got it back, then the shop got something "cooler" in, and off it went. I think the shop had $829 on it. About the same as they put on new ones- with rubber grips and stock bushing (which, as I'll say later was needed). I traded a Beretta 96 and Glock 29 for it.
Here's my initial impression of it, if anyone is interested. No actual shooting results yet, thunderstorms and tornado watches put a damper on things. Without shooting it, these observations really mean nothing.
I haven't been shoooting handguns for eighty years, or been a member of a SWAT team, but I have had a carry permit for the last 21 years, so I have formed some opinions. Therefore, I apologize in advance if I disagree with some features that have become commonplace, and considered "must-haves".

Here we go-
Kimber TLE II, stainless, S/N K1301xx

First, the good stuff, in no particular order.
*Slide to frame fit. Very nice. About 17 or 18 years ago, I "built" my own
1911 on a SA frame as a winter project. I pounded and peened and lapped most of the winter it seemed, to get the slide/frame fit tight, yet smooth-working. I could've waited and bought this- it's better. No detectable play. After oiling it up and checking, just a tiny bit of oil film can be seen moving at the rear when I try to wiggle the slide.
*Barrel interior and muzzle crown. Can't know until I shoot it if it matters, but it looks very smooth- good.
*Barrel fit,rear. Early wear marks from hand-cycling (ahem) are beginning to show how the lower lugs are fit. They appear very even left and right.
*Barrel fit,front. As stated above, the factory bushing was replaced with a Briley spherical bushing by a reputable 'smith in the area. I don't have an opinion yet of this bushing, but am skeptical as usual. No noticeable play at barrel to spherical insert, or between insert and bushing. Bushing to slide fit tight, but able to turn (barely) without wrench. If interested, the bushing installed has an i.d. of .578.
*Sights. I've never had McCormicks before. I prefer Heinies FWIW. I like these OK. They are the more recent type with a sloped rear face like the Heinie SlantPro. I don't have an original type to see if the sight picture changed, but I think it looks better this way- it comes close to matching the contour of the slide rear. The flat face of the rear sight isn't as "busy" of a sight picture as Novaks. They have tritium inserts front and rear. I have mixed feelings on night sights. I usually think the daytime sight picture is too cluttered. I think the white circles around the inserts help this time. I've had then before, and they weren't white enough, or big enough to do anything but add another distraction. These look better to me, but we'll see.
*Edges. They aren't beveled, nor that awful (to me) rounded mess Kimber does to the CDPs. But they aren't sharp either. I know it shows how good your machining is if you can keep nice crisp edges, but I want the corners broke. This gun strikes a good balance here. No sharp edges, but still looks like it was made by someone with pride in their work- even if it was a ten-ton machine. The hammer's edges are "cleaned up" also. That's a peeve of mine. I'll see a "carry bevel", and there'll be that sharp edged hammer poking out. Not here. Talking about the hammer reminds me of the trigger pull.
*Trigger pull. Very nice. Just what I would ask for. Probably the best part of the gun. Just a tiny bit of takeup- enough to warn you it's coming. Firm, definite resistance, then....SNAP. I'd estimate four pounds, maybe a half pound more. The trigger, that is, the actual part, I'll get to later.
*Safeties. I think they are well-fitted for a production gun. The grip safety matches up to the frame. Built-up for positive release without looking like a lumpy afterthought. No rattling. The thumb safety is trim by some standards, but still a little wider than I'd like. I might trim it if I keep it. The safety still covers the frame hole when "on"- another peeve of mine when it does not, a disadvantage of hi-grip grip safeties. The thumb safety goes on and off with positive detents- quiet going off, snapping on. It's nicely rounded also, even on the underside, which gets ignored a lot of the time.
*Magwell. Beveled, both sides, and rear. Sometimes, just the sides are done. It does have a little less bevel at the rear.
*Slide stop, internal. I've had some 1911s (all Springfields actually) that had the lug (that the magazine follower engages) poking so far into the path of rounds being fed, that the slide stop can be bumped, and engaged by accident. The first time I experienced that, it took me a long time to pin down the cause. Later, I would learn that it was a "1911 thing" to watch for, but I didn't know that then. Anyway, this one appears to be safe. We'll see.
*Overall fit and smoothness. Everything fits. No gaps, rattles, binding, or crunchy creaky noises as the slide is worked. It has that "ring" of a well-fit barrel locking home. The raceway on the bottom of the slide is smoooth enough that I don't have to do my standard polishing out of grinder marks.
*Finish. It's stainless, so not much to screw up. Nevertheless, very nice. I'd guess it was blasted with glass beads. I think it's a good balance between an easily scratched up polish finish, and a rough blast job. Just right.

Bad stuff:

*Full length guide rod. Abominations. At least it's a one-piece, recessed type, which allows the recooil spring plug to be turned in for stripping. No Allen wrench or paper clip needed. Still, I prefer the standard length guide and checkered plug. If the gun stays, the guide rod goes.
*Trigger. Not the trigger pull, but the actual part. I just don't like holey triggers. I don't like the appearance, nor the crud they catch. It also has a tapped hole for an overtravel screw. Ain't happenin'.
I have to say, it is well fitted, with little play. I ordered a BCP Hard Use Trigger (no holes) last week for another 1911. Had I known I was getting this gun, I would've ordered two.
*Mainspring housing. Plastic. Abomination #2.
*Forward slide serrations. Puke. Hate 'em.
*Barrel bushing. Moot point, since the prior owner replaced it with the Briley unit. But it was in the box, so I had to check it. I see why it was replaced. It's pretty sloppy. I've read some Kimber magazine reviews, and they seem to all mention the well-fit bushing. Here's the exception.

Undecided issues:
*Front strap checkering. It's not the best job, but at least it has some, I guess. I want to say it would be better if it were smooth, so I could get some done (well), but I know I won't. It's straight and even, as machine done is. But the horizontal lines stop about three lines short of the top. I guess makes a sorta kinda border, but it looks like what it is- a misadjustment of the machine.

Overall:
It's my first Kimber, and I'm very impressed. Especially for the money. I wish it cost about $30 more, and had a steel mainspring housing though.

Of course, all of this means absolutely nothing since I haven't shot it.

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cerberus
June 18, 2004, 11:07 PM
think the Kimber Custom TLE II is a target gun? a combat gun? a work in progress gun? The last Kimber standing? I will be waiting to read your range report about this 1911.

Barry in IN
June 19, 2004, 09:21 PM
I hope it to be a carry/self-defense gun.
I carried mostly a full-size 1911 for quite a while, but not so much in the past five years or so.

I had been carrying smaller guns for a while, but dug out a Colt 1911 recently that I hadn't shot much in the past few years. It was mildly customized by gunsmith friend of mine who is now deceased. He did it maybe ten, twelve years ago. Looking at it, and the Kimber, they aren't that much different in features.
It's kind of intersting (to me anyway) that the same gun that I walked in and bought off the shelf took so much work, time, and money to get not that long ago.

You always hear and read that guns like Kimber, and SA loadeds,etc were full-blown custom jobs as recently as the 70's. That's not true at all.
They were still custom guns in the 90's!

I bought the first SA Loaded that came in the shop, and was amazed then (1998?). Things have only gotten better in the past six or so years. Thanks to SA for giving Colt some (decent) competition in the '80's to get the ball rolling. Kimber just took things up a notch when they started building 1911's.

I didn't plan on attacking Colt. But I will.
I got a Commander around the same time as that SA Loaded. I still have the Colt, and comparing it to the Kimber, it's pretty rough. Of course, someone is thinking- But the Kimber has the "cheap" MIM parts! Yeah, well, if I have to change every internal part in the Kimber, it's still a better deal than any Colt I've had.

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