I’m not aware of a manufacturer of 1911 pistols that has ever offered as extensive a line of the stalwart creation of John Moses Browning as Kimber. Some come close but don’t equal the sheer variety of pistols provided by the firm. Kimber was also the first to offer what was to be the closest to a mass-produced “custom” 1911 pistol in their Custom Defense Package (CDP), first introduced in 2000. These are turned out by Kimber’s renowned Custom Shop.
Whether you would consider this a custom pistol or not, the CDP has a few prominent features that distinguish it from the company’s other models. Chief among them is the attractive, contrasting matte stainless slide and lightweight aluminum alloy frame in black. The slide and frame, as well as their external small parts, are treated to a Carry Melt finish on all edges, which would normally be sharp or squared. Getting back to groundbreaking, the CDP was the only available production gun with a true “melt” treatment at the time. The melt is not only a cosmetic attribute, but significantly changes the feel of the pistol, and lessens the chance of an edge snagging clothing when drawing from concealment or causing the CDP 1911 autopistol to print under clothing.
As is the practice with Kimber, the CDP is available in three familiar configurations: Custom, Pro and Ultra. Toward the end of 2010, another model was added to the CDP family: the Ultra+ CDP II. The Ultra+ is merely an Ultra with a full-sized grip frame. The “II” designation, of course, means that the Swartz-style firing-pin-block safety is utilized in the design, as opposed to the original guns that didn’t incorporate the firing pin safety. Some would argue that this safety system is superior to the Series 80 firing system that Colt and some other manufacturers use because it is disengaged by the grip safety, rather than being a series of parts driven by the trigger, thereby not complicating the trigger pull.
I contacted Kimber about getting a test pistol loaned to me for my evaluation. The Ultra CDP II arrived in its hard-polymer, padded case with one blued steel, seven-round magazine and two stainless, eight-round KimPro magazines. The KimPro magazines have polished tubes, metal followers, and can be used with the included long or short bumper pads fixed to the floorplates. They can also be used without the bumper pads for a flush fit in the magazine well. Numbered holes on the sides allow the user to make a round count at a glance.
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Machined from a lightweight 7075-T7 forging, the frame features 30-lpi checkering on the frontstrap and the underside of the triggerguard; its magazine well is beveled. Finished in matte black KimPro II finish, the frame is contrasted by stainless small parts: ambidextrous thumb safeties with extended, serrated pads, a high-swept beavertail grip safety, a slide stop and a mag release with checkered pads. The hammer is a slotted and serrated Commander-style unit. A lightweight aluminum, skeletonized, long trigger with a serrated face completes the ignition set. The trigger is also adjustable for overtravel. The grip is enhanced by a flat-checkered, polymer mainspring housing.
Ramped and mated to a recessed cut into the frame, the 3-inch, carbon steel, bull barrel is button-broached with a left-hand, 1-in-16-inch twist and treated to an 11-degree crown. A loaded-chamber indicator port, consisting of a notch at the rear of the barrel, makes the case rim of a chambered round visible to the shooter. The supported barrel means the user doesn’t have to worry about an anodized ramp on the aluminum frame wearing down. In fact, Kimber’s aluminum frames have been tested to over 20,000 rounds with no meaningful wear.
A stainless slide with satin silver finish is machined from a forging; it has cocking serrations at the rear only. The ejection port is lowered and flared with an extra bevel at the front to help it toss brass clear. Fixed, three-dot tritium combat sights are fitted to dovetail cuts machined into the slide. The time-tested, internal-style extractor is used. “Custom Shop” roll-marks are cut into the left flat of the slide, flanking the Kimber logo. “ULTRA CDP II” is engraved under the ejection port. The barrel and slide are a Custom Shop-fitted pair.
The slide is returned to battery via a compact, dual-captive-spring guide rod assembly that allows for the short springs to generate 18 pounds of force; a reverse plug at the muzzle receives a full-length guide rod. The guide rod assembly must be kept compressed once the slide is locked back by using an included takedown tool (a simple paperclip or anything similar would also work). Otherwise, fieldstripping is the same as it is with all full-sized Kimber models, sans bushing. It’s recommended that this assembly be replaced every 1,800 rounds. It is fairly simple to replace the recoil spring, all it takes is just a bit of muscle and a little bit of patience.
Internally, the ignition set—sear, disconnector, hammer and strut—are all of MIM (metal injection molding) construction, as are the slide stop, thumb safety and grip safety.
The grip frame is shod in beautiful checkered rosewood grip panels secured by hex screws, completing the handsome appearance of the Ultra CDP II. The mag release also utilizes a hex screw. I’ve come to expect excellent fit and finish throughout from Kimber’s pistols, and such was the case here. Slide-to-frame fit allowed no discernable play.
.45 On The Range
The Ultra CDP II was a very nice pistol by all appearances, so I endeavored to see if it was a shooter. I benched the pistol at 25 yards, which is a good distance for a 3-inch-barreled pistol, but I was interested to see what I could do with it. I’d picked out a selection of standard-pressure ammunition from Black Hills, Hornady, Remington and Winchester for my tests, all in 185-grain and 230-grain weights, as I know that’s what these very compact 1911s tend to function best with. In fact, they usually tend to cycle only with the 230-grain ammunition. Regardless, it would be interesting to see how the Ultra would digest the 185-grain loads. I also used Galco’s excellent Side Snap Scabbard for this range test.
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I tested the pistol’s inherent accuracy by firing five-shot groups. The largest group of the day was only 3.88 inches, from Winchester’s 230-grain Ranger JHP (jacketed hollow point). Ratcheting things down a bit were Black Hills’ 185-grain JHP at 2.88 inches. Hornady’s 185-grain FTX and Remington’s 185-grain JHPs both funneled into just 2.13-inch groups. Not only did the gun cycle with the 185-grain loads, but both of them made the best showing in the accuracy department. Fortunately, the Ultra CDP II also functioned flawlessly with all of the ammunition, as accuracy of any degree is of no value in a defensive pistol if the gun doesn’t cycle and feed reliably.
It really came as no surprise that the pistol rode very comfortably in the hand, functions of both the legendary 1911 ergonomics and the Carry Melt treatment it had been given by the Kimber Custom Shop. The relieved triggerguard and sculpted/swept beavertail grip safety allowed for a high grip on the Ultra CDP II, and the fine checkering on the frontstrap and mainspring housing gave a very positive grasping surface while not being overly coarse or sharp enough to be uncomfortable or abrade the skin. Furthermore, the CDP just feels light for a 1911. As one who can definitely appreciate a good trigger, I can say that the Ultra CDP II definitely had an excellent one. Breaking at a crisp 4.25 pounds, the trigger had less than a 0.06 inches of take-up before resistance was felt, and about another 0.06 inches of travel to the break. Even though most every 1911 I’ve handled has at least a bit of vertical play of the trigger shoe, this pistol had none, which is perhaps a result of assembly being done in the Kimber Custom Shop.
The serrated paddles of the thumb safeties had all edges smoothly broken and were extended just enough to enhance performance without going too far. The safety snicked easily into the “safe” position, though it disengaged a bit too easily for my taste. The beveled magazine well helps guide reloads in. As with all of Kimber’s pistols, the low profile, fixed three-dot combat sights were large, and the silhouette blocky and easily picked up by the eyes. The added tritium makes them effective to work with in low-light environments or darkness.
The Ultra CDP II is a sweet carry pistol, and I’m hard pressed to find anything to criticize about it. The shorter grip frame on Kimber’s Ultras only gives up a bit of control. In fact, more than 75 percent of my small finger rests on the Ultra CDP II’s grip, yet the grip frame is the part of the pistol one must be most concerned with in concealment, particularly if an IWB (inside-the-waistband) holster is used. This means you get a lot of the performance of a larger pistol with the added benefit of concealability and a light weight. Furthermore, the Ultra CDP II is just a nice pistol in looks, form and function—and it’s a shooter. Designed perfectly for a fighting handgun that gets carried and concealed most of the time, it goes above and beyond its duty with neat, clean, handsome looks.
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The Ultra model in each line of Kimber 1911s has its place, mostly as a carry pistol, and it fills that role nicely. The Kimber Ultra CDP II brings a Custom Shop pistol that ups the features of the Ultra configuration by bringing a lightweight alloy frame, custom enhancements like the carry bevel treatment, and appealing aesthetics like the two-tone frame and superb fit and finish. The Ultra CDP II, as with all of the CDP line, presents a production pistol with many of the features one seeks in a custom firearm, and it does it all in a package that gives accurate hits with smooth, reliable cycling, and all at a price point much less than a full custom.
For more information, visit http://www.kimberamerica.com or call 888-243-4522.