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Reviews : Arsenal

Kimber Custom II Pistol

.45 ACP stopping power and rugged, no-nonsense design make this Model 1911 suitable for tactical and patrol officers.

October 01, 2002  |  by Roy Huntington

The low profile Meprolight sights, extended safety, beavertail grip safety, and checkered rubber grips all belong on a fighting pistol.

Following the 1965 Watts riots, there seemed to be a general increase in violence on the streets of Los Angeles. Something had to be done to help the hard-strapped patrol officers.

And something was done.

In 1967, the Los Angeles Police Department organized the first police special weapons and tactics unit. The almost magical acronym "SWAT" was born.

SWAT 35 years ago was not the SWAT of today. Training, tactics and indeed, virtually everything used by tactical officers, was invented as they went along. The original team members supplied virtually all of their own weapons and much of the equipment themselves. Noted gun writer Gary Paul Johnston who was on the LAPD at the time recalls that it was a "shoestring operation."

The issue duty sidearm for LAPD officers at the time was the .38 Special revolver, but the team members wanted something more. They asked for, and got, permission to carry, .45 ACP autos. This was a very good thing, except for one hitch; there was no budget for the purchase of the guns.

SWAT eventually twisted enough arms and received permission to have Model 1911s issued from property room impounds (recovered stolen guns, turned-in guns, etc.). And that's been the team's practice for the past 35 years. The LAPD has always approved 1911 handguns for SWAT officers-but has never purchased one. Until now.

Finding a Gun

Once the funding was secured. LAPD SWAT armorers rounded up test pistols from all the major makers. Since the team members had long experience with the 1911 design, they had some solid ideas of precisely what they needed.

One thing they definitely needed was uniformity of weapons. The main problem with the sidearms procured from impound was the wide range of 1911 makes, models, finishes, sights, etc. that were issued. What came into the property room was a "catch-as-catch-can" proposition and, besides, many were simply worn out.

The LAPD SWAT Custom II logo will be on LAPD guns only. However, anyone can own a Kimber Custom II model 1911.

The officers of LAPD SWAT wanted a handgun that was solid, reliable, and delivered the features, accessories, and performance they felt they needed. After an extensive period of testing there was one clear winner: the Kimber Custom II.

By Kimber standards, the Custom II is a plain-Jane sort of gun with few special features. However, as Clint Smith, director of Thunder Ranch, is fond of saying, "The side with the simplest uniforms and guns usually wins." Bells and whistles have a tendency to crack and break. So, perhaps an "If you don't really need it, it doesn't go on the gun" attitude was in effect at LAPD SWAT.

If you think the LAPD SWAT gun is a custom shop, hand-fitted special arrangement, guess again. Aside from the standard line-up of features, the SWAT-specified Meprolite Sights and 30 LPI checkering were the only special add-ons. If you want your very own, simply buy a Kimber Custom II and there you go. Of course, yours won't be marked "LAPD SWAT Custom II" but you can get awfully close.

The Details

Calling the Kimber Custom II a plain-Jane pistol is like calling a 1940 Packard, "just another car." Since the inception of the Kimber 1911 series, Kimber has rapidly-and deservedly-developed a reputation for quality and reliability. Most Kimber pistols flash a list of standard features that would normally only be found on expensive custom guns.

Forward checkering and rubber grips ensure a firm hold, even in sweaty palms.

All-stainless steel, the Custom II features a rounded speed hammer, stainless steel throated barrel, polished feed ramp, lowered/ flared ejection port, 4-pound trigger pull, extended safety, beavertail grip safety, beveled mag well, and black checkered rubber grips.

As it sits, the Kimber is one of the most completely equipped "factory" 1911s around. It also has another little something up its sleeve. The Mark II Firing Pin Safety System is an integral part of the Custom II. When the grip safety is applied, the firing pin block is released. When the grip safety is released, the firing pin block is actuated. Unlike the Colt Series 80 system, the Kimber's has nothing to do with the trigger action, so the safety does not affect trigger pull or performance.

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