Kimber is probably not the first manufacturer you think of when the topic of pocket guns arises, but the truth is that they’ve been building subcompacts for over 13 years now and introduced two entirely new models in the last two years: the Solo Carry and the brand new Micro .380, which fit nicely into the pocket gun category.

When Kimber entered the 1911 market in 1993, they had just one model—the Classic Custom. It was a full-sized, steel-framed 1911 .45 pistol. But what made this gun such a resounding success was that it came out of the box with an extended thumb safety, beavertail grip safety, low-profile combat sights, lowered ejection port and a host of other refinements.

Those of us who had been using a 1911 for defense or IPSC competition were used to buying a gun and dropping it off at a gunsmith’s for installing these features, usually adding several hundreds of dollars to the cost of our new gun. Kimber was the first manufacturer to offer their guns with all of these upgrades.

Ultra Design

Always the innovator, Kimber engineers started with a fresh page when they decided to offer a subcompact 1911 pistol. Rather than using Colt’s Officers Model as a template for their new gun, Kimber designed their gun from scratch and introduced the Ultra in 1999.

The Ultra weighs 25 ounces, and that’s about a half-pound lighter than a steel-framed, Government-sized 1911. It uses a barrel a half-inch shorter than the Colt Officers Model with an overall length of just 6.8 inches and a height of just 4.75 inches. It is a gun that is small enough to carry in a coat pocket or rear pants pocket. Of course, I always recommend using some sort of holster like Galco’s Pocket Protector to keep the gun positioned properly.

For weight savings, Kimber machines the frame from aircraft-grade aluminum. For shooting comfort, it is outfitted with a beavertail grip safety to eliminate any chance of “hammer bite.” The frame is also fitted with an extended thumb safety to make it easy to engage and disengage when appropriate.

Kimber engineers designed the Ultra with a bushingless barrel. Just 3 inches long, the match-grade barrel is ramped and supported but uses a traditional swinging link. With the very limited space under the barrel, Kimber engineers had to come up with a novel solution to give the gun enough spring mass for reliable operation. One spring wasn’t going to cut it! The solution was two springs—a small, tightly wound spring rides around the recoil spring guide. A stainless steel cap rides over the guide rod and spring with a larger-diameter recoil spring wrapped around the cap, so there is no direct spring-to-spring contact. Even though the gun uses two springs, it is still easy to manually chamber a round yet the gun can handle even the hottest defense rounds. Besides ensuring proper functioning, the dual spring recoil system also makes the lightweight subcompact comfortable and controllable to shoot.

In 2001, Kimber added their Series II firing pin safety to most models, and the Ultra pistol became the Ultra II. This safety prevents the gun from accidentally firing unless the trigger is pressed—even if the gun falls on its muzzle. It does nothing to affect the trigger pull adversely.

If you think this pint-sized 1911 sacrifices accuracy for its compact dimensions, you’d be wrong. I own a number of these Kimber Ultras, and every one of them will print a five-shot group under 2 inches at 25 yards.

There are currently 17 different variants of Ultra II pistols in the Kimber lineup. Guns vary by sight options, frontstrap treatments, ambidextrous thumb safeties, etc. There are standard models like the Ultra II and the same gun with night sights called the Ultra TLE II. For those who prefer the extra weight and perceived durability, Kimber offers two Ultra models with steel frames: the bi-tone Eclipse Ultra II with its stainless frame, and the Super Carry Ultra HD. There is even an Ultra with a full-sized grip. The Super Carry Ultra+ features a bobbed and rounded butt and has the full-sized frame with a 3-inch barrel and slide mounted on top. Kimber even offers four models in 9mm. One, called the Ultra Aegis II, is a beautiful black-over-silver pistol that features night sights, fluted grips and a checkered frontstrap.

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