September 24, 2010
An elite police unit adds a hot new 1911 to its arsenal--and so can you.
In a lot of police departments, you use what they hand you. Cars, radios, uniform design--they could be good, they could be bad. At least uniforms come in sizes. While few officers grumble about being required to use this or that vehicle, some really complain about firearms choices. In some departments you're allowed to select what you want from a short list of approved firearms. And in some departments, officers in certain units have more freedom of choice than officers not in those units.
The officers of the Los Angeles Police Department's Special Investigation Squad have more choices. Besides the standard options available to regular LAPD officers, the 21 members of the SIS can now use the Kimber SIS. Developed for them with their input, the SIS models have features appropriate for a unit of plainclothes detectives who spend a lot of time waiting and watching--waiting and watching before they apprehend the violent criminals they have been tracking.
LAPD SWAT has been using Kimber 1911 pistols for some years now. That SIS would select a 1911-based pistol should come as no surprise, since the two units often work together on cases. Given the "high propensity to violence" track record of the offenders they arrest, selecting sidearms in .45 ACP was a given. The grips and frame are given a non-skid surface, 30 lpi checkering for the frame and aggressively stippled panels on the grips.
Wrestling with people as you arrest them can mean one-handed handgun manipulation, and sometimes you don't get to pick which hand. Thus the ambi safety, which is an increasingly popular feature on duty guns.
Violent offenders with guns means people get shot, and the statistics show hand or arm wounds happen a lot, so the rear sight has been shaped to be used as a camming point. If need be, an officer can lever the rear sight against a rigid object and rack the slide.
The sights have tritium inserts for use in low-light environments. The trigger is clean and crisp but not light. Again, arresting people who already have multiple felony arrests and convictions on their record is a high-stress event. Hence there's no need, nor desire, for a light target trigger pull.
| ||ULTRA ||PRO ||CUSTOM/RL |
|.45 ACP ||Bullet Weight (gr.) ||Muzzle Velocity (fps) ||Avg. Group (in.) ||Muzzle Velocity (fps) ||Avg. Group (in.) ||Muzzle Velocity (fps) ||Avg. Group (in.) |
|CCI Gold Dot HP ||230 ||759 ||3.5 ||794 ||3.5 ||847 ||2.8 |
|Corbon JHP + P ||230 ||851 ||2.5 ||904 ||2.3 ||963 ||2.3 |
|USA FMJ ||230 ||727 ||3.8 ||752 ||3.8 ||805 ||3.0 |
|Fiochi JHP/XTP ||230 ||772 ||2.0 ||821 ||2.3 ||878 ||2.0 |
|Magtech JHP + P ||230 ||816 ||2.8 ||874 ||2.3 ||932 ||2.0 |
|Corbon DPX ||185 ||962 ||3.8 ||991 ||3.5 ||1,054 ||3.3 |
|Winchester Ranger SXT ||230 ||766 ||3.5 ||817 ||3.3 ||853 ||3.0 |
|Wolf FMJ ||230 ||629 ||4.5 ||686 ||5.0 ||716 ||4.3 |
|Accuracy tested at 25 yards off a sandbag rest; figures are average of three five-shot groups. Velocity measured on a Competative Edge Dynamics M2 chronograph with screens centered 10 feet from the muzzle. Abbreviations: HP, hollowpoint; JHP, jacketed hollowpoint; FMJ, full metal jacket. |
Shootouts sometimes go more than one magazine's worth of ammo, so the SIS models have a small but useful magazine well beveling. A match barrel, fitted to a solid bushing and with a tight but not binding lockup completes the ensemble.
The stainless slide, frame and other exterior parts of the SIS models are given a special dark gray KimPro finish. After all, Los Angeles is usually warm, and packing in plainclothes means lots of sweating. Besides being unsightly, a rusty sidearm is a sidearm asking to quit working, the last thing an SIS officer needs.
To set this Kimber apart from all others, Kimber designers made the grasping grooves into a stylized "SIS." The full-size guns have them front and back; the compact model has the treatment only on the rear of the slide.
Looks are one thing, but performance is what really matters. I went out to Los Angeles for the unveiling of the SIS pistols and met some of the members of the SIS. There I had a chance to shoot a few of the guns and see that Kimber (to no one's great surprise) makes accurate pistolas.
The SIS pistol's rear sight is designed so it can be used to rack the slide in a one-handed scenario, and the grasping grooves are a stylized treatment of the unit's initials.
I arranged to have some of them sent to me so I could properly test them on my home turf. Actually, Kimber sent me three of the four versions: a full-size government model with light rail, the SIS Custom/RL; the commander-size SIS Pro; and the compact size SIS Ultra. The SIS Custom is the government-size 1911 without a light rail. (Since Kimber was already kind enough to be sending me over $4,000 worth of 1911s, I didn't feel the need to try out the standard government-size pistol as well.)
I subjected them to my standard high-volume test routine: I slid them into different pockets of a Blackhawk gun bag along with magazines, targets and a notebook and placed the bag next to the shop door and a five-gallon bucket of ammo.
Every time I went to the range, I added the Kimbers and ammo to the load and made sure I put ammo through each of the guns. With regular trips to the range, it doesn't take very long to put a lot of ammo through a handgun or handguns. It also doesn't take long to learn the ins and outs of each.
The SIS Custom/RL is the easiest-shooting of the trio. No surprise there, as a full-size, all-steel pistol is going to offer you lots of mass for a solidly hanging sight alignment, recoil-absorbing capacity and accuracy. At 39 ounces empty, and with a five-inch barrel, the Custom is what we expect of a government model: big, tough, solid and reliable
In your hand the Custom sits a bit nose-heavy, solid and whispering to you "Come on, I can hit that target. Try me." Fast drills like the Bill Drill (six shots in two seconds) are a piece of cake: all A-zone hits without even trying hard.
| ||SIS Custom/RL ||SIS Cutom ||SIS Pro ||SIS Ultra |
|Manufacturer ||Kimber, www.kimberamerica.com, 800/880-2418 |
|Caliber ||.45 ACP ||.45 ACP ||.45 ACP ||.45 ACP |
|Capacity ||8 + 1 ||8 + 1 ||8 + 1 ||8 + 1 |
|Overall Length ||8.7 ||8.7 ||7.7 ||6.8 |
|Barrel Length ||5.0 ||5.0 ||4.0 ||3.0 |
|Height ||5.25 ||5.25 ||5.25 ||4.75 |
|Weight ||39 ||38 ||35 ||31 |
|Slide Finish ||Kim Pro II ||Kim Pro II ||Kim Pro II ||Kim Pro II |
|Sights ||Meprolight ||Meprolight ||Meprolight ||Meprolight |
|Price ||$1,421 ||$1,316 ||$1,316 ||$1,316 |
The one I shot in L.A. on the long-range targets was accurate enough to garner me a hit on a 300-yard plate, and this one was as good or better. I gave up trying my club's 100-yard gong slow fire, as I could hit the plate with every shot. I finally tried hitting it offhand against the clock and found that with a full magazine I could get all hits in about 10 seconds as long as I paid attention to the sights.
At no time did the Custom ever fail to feed, fire, extract, or eject. The excellent Kimber magazines dropped free, and were I restocking my supply of 1911 magazines from scratch I'd have no problem in buying all Kimber mags.
The SIS Pro takes a few ounces off the big brother--35 versus 38--and the barrel and slide are an inch shorter. The result is a lot more than you'd expect from losing an inch and three ounces.
In wearing it, the Pro is a lot easier to live with. The rounded mainspring housing of all the SIS models makes them less likely to "print," but the shorter slide and barrel of the Pro gives a lot more comfort when you have it holstered.
My problem with full-size pistols is that the barrel levers against my thigh, and I end up with the tang or grip safety nearly surgically inserted into my kidney. The Pro-length slide and barrel mitigate that to an amazing degree.
Off the bench, the accuracy of the Pro was on par with that of the Custom. Offhand, the shorter sight radius had the obvious effect of making long-range shooting less fruitful, although I still held a high percentage of hits on the gongs. At closer distances, fast drills didn't suffer much at all. I was still able to hammer Bill Drills with the Pro.
The Meprolight rear sight is just right for low-light conditions, and the gun also features today's de rigeur ambi safety.
The catalog lists the capacity of the Custom at eight rounds, with the Pro at seven. The frames are the same length, as are their magazines. And both guns came with eight-shot Kimber magazines. Once I had puzzled over that minor oddity, I didn't bother keeping the magazines separate, and spent my time shooting. The reliability of the two bigger guns suffered not in the slightest for my unconcern.
The SIS Ultra is a compact little anvil. And I mean that as a compliment: heavy, solid, indestructible, reliable. The slide and barrel are two inches shorter than the full-size SIS, with three inches of barrel to boot .45 bullets up to speed.
The frame has also been trimmed enough so that you lose a round of capacity. You'll have seven shots of .45 ACP medicine in each magazine instead of eight. However, the short size makes it easy to carry in that the ends (muzzle and frame butt) aren't sticking in or out, in places you'd rather they didn't.
Of course, you pay for the convenience. First, there is the decreased sight radius, two inches less than the big gun. A shorter sight radius makes it tougher to aim well. Off the sandbags, the Ultra is quite manageable and accurate. I shot groups almost as small, and in some instances as small, as the bigger guns.
But offhand, the Ultra makes you work for it. In speed drills it takes a lot more effort to handle recoil and wrestle the sights back on the target and keep them there. You also lose velocity. However, as the .45 ACP does its work through bullet mass and frontal area rather than velocity, losing speed is not a problem. If you want to look good shooting at long range with the Ultra, lay off the coffee that morning and focus on a Zen-like follow through. I managed a respectable number of hits at long range, but nothing like the ease of hitting that the bigger guns allowed.
Pick of the Litter
If I had to choose just one of the SIS models for concealed carry, the Ultra would certainly come in for a lot of consideration. I can't say I'd eye it as if it were a sizzling steak, greeting me after exile on a desert island. The Pro model offers too much to let the Ultra steal the limelight. Since they work the same, I'd have to spend time swapping back and forth between the Ultra and Pro; depending on the weather, temperature and what I was wearing, one or the other would get the nod.
For uniform or open carry, the Custom or Custom/RL would be the ones to pack. With no need to conceal them, holster selection would allow for a greater level of comfort.
Which is pretty much the same plan that the detectives of SIS went with. The Kimber SIS models are allowed for carry, but due to budget scheduling and appropriations timing, they had to be personally purchased by the officers. Between the 21 officers, they purchased 125 Kimber SIS pistols. And $15 of each purchase--theirs or yours--goes to the Los Angeles Police Memorial Founda
tion, which provides financial assistance to the families of officers who died in the line of duty.
Yes, these senior detectives probably earn a good salary as a result of their decades of experience. But nearly six guns each, for a total cost of close to $8,000 for tools of the trade, is a lot of money. A vote of confidence you should keep in mind when considering your next 1911 purchase. Or your first.