December 27, 2017
By Brad Fitzpatrick
In August 2016, Kim Woodman was charged by a sow brown bear on the Kenai Peninsula of Alaska and subsequently killed the animal with five shots from his sidearm. Such events invariably start conversations and debates, but much of this discussion revolving around this particular incident had to do with the caliber of Woodman's weapon: 10mm Auto. And while some say the 10mm is too light to ever make a reliable bear stopper, there are a growing number of anglers, hunters and hikers who find the Big 10 to be the perfect companion in country where large predators are a constant threat. I imagine Kim Woodman is one of them.
Kimber, too, seems to be on board with the 10mm for defense against large predators. This year it released its new Camp Guard 10, a 1911-based 10mm Auto that was designed in conjunction with the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and which has been engineered specifically for defense against predators of all types. Plan A in bear country is always avoidance, but the Camp Guard is an effective Plan B.
"The Camp Guard 10 is the 1911 all of us outdoorsmen at Kimber have all been brainstorming on around the campfire for years," says Rachel VandeVoort, Kimber's trade relations manager. "It's got 10mm for power, a rounded heel frame for comfort in carry and control, tritium night sights for low light, plus all the safety features and slim ergonomics 1911s are famous for. The best part about this gun is a great portion of every sale goes directly to the folks at Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation for access and conservation programs. This is another way we can support those who work to keep elk and habitat alive and healthy for generations to come."
The Camp Guard 10 is a good-looking gun, but the laser-engraved rosewood grips are easily the most striking feature on this pistol. They bear (pun alert) a wilderness scene with mountains and trees, and near the bottom of the grips you'll find the RMEF logo complete with bugling bull elk.
The quality of these grips is really exceptional, and you'll be tempted to turn the pistol into the light to see the full detail of the engraving pattern. But the grips aren't just for looks; they're rounded and comfortable, and the texturing of the engraving actually does a good job helping the shooter maintain a firm grip on the gun when firing quickly. That's good, because even the lightest 10mm loads have some bite, and if you ever do find yourself in a kill-or-be-killed confrontation, you'll need a solid grip to cling to with those sweating palms.
The rosewood grips are mated to a 1.28-inch-wide stainless steel frame that has a matte satin silver finish. There's a rounded heel that looks good but also allows the gun to be concealed more easily. The Camp Guard might be marketed as a backcountry backup gun, but at the end of the day, it's a five-inch 1911, and there are a lot of people who carry to Wal-Mart more often than they do to the wilderness.
That rounded heel aids in concealment by eliminating one sharp angle on the gun that's likely to print. The frame's rear has eight vertical serrations that cease just above the rounded heel, and the frontstrap features 30 lpi checkering that is comfortable yet effective in stabilizing the gun during rapid fire.
The extended beavertail promotes a classic high-handed grip that's characteristic of the 1911 and helps deal with Camp Guard's sharp rearward push. The slide is stainless steel and features a KimPro matte black finish and slide serrations front and rear.
Each Camp Guard comes with Kimber's skeletonized aluminum target trigger with vertical cuts that is factory set to break between four and five pounds. I found that to be right in line with the results I got when measuring using a Wheeler trigger gauge; it averaged 4.4 pounds for 10 trigger pulls.
The hammer is also skeletonized, with large serrations for a positive manipulation. The five-inch stainless steel barrel has a left-handed twist rate of 1:16, and the barrel bushing is match grade stainless. Kimber equips the Camp Guard with a pair of Meprolight Tactical Wedge fixed tritium night sights, which are dovetailed into the top of the slide. The included magazine has a capacity of eight rounds.
At 38 ounces unloaded, the Camp Guard is average for a 1911 pistol. But when compared to larger double-action revolvers, it's a featherweight, weighing six ounces less than either the Ruger Alaskan or Smith & Wesson Model 629. So if you are on a trip where weight is a factor and long hikes are par for the course, that difference matters.
The Glock 20 in 10mm weighs just 30 ounces unloaded, but gun weight in hard-kicking calibers like the 10mm can sometimes be an advantage, and the Kimber balances the scales. It's light enough that it isn't a burden yet heavy enough to manage recoil well for fast, accurate follow-ups.
Measuring just 8.7 inches long and around an inch-and-a-half wide, the dimensions of the Camp Guard make it easily portable. Plus, the 1911 design means there is a whole bunch of holster options for just about any style of carry. That portability makes the Camp Guard a natural choice for backcountry carry for anyone who already has a 1911 lying around.
My only wish is that the pistol had a rail. In the wilderness where big predators lurk just beyond the canvas tent flap, having a powerful light attached to your powerful handgun offers powerful peace of mind.
But, as previously mentioned, most of us spend far more time dreaming of escaping into the wilderness than we do hiking on foot through big bear country. The 1911 makes a fine carry gun, and with nine rounds of hot 10mm ammo on tap you're going out quite well armed.
There might be some room to argue against the Big 10's effectiveness on big bears, but not on human attackers. Then again, the Camp Guard can do all the things that 10mms are known for. It would be a fine hog or deer gun, or competition piece, or simply an attention-grabbing target pistol.
Since the Kimber Camp Guard is aimed at the backwoods hunter, there's a good chance this gun will see some serious abuse. It may be tossed in a hunting pack, carried in a holster a lot, exposed to the elements and largely forgotten until that awful moment when it is desperately needed. For that reason, I tried to carry it as much as possible when I was outside looking for sheds, scouting, cutting trees and so forth. And though that's hardly a long-term torture test, the Kimber's finish held up pretty well to sleet, rain, friction and days in a holster.
The Kimber also proved to be pretty accurate. This is aided by the excellent sights, and the wedge design serves to draw the eye directly where it should be — to the front sight. The white exterior ring around the tritium insert is easy to see in full daylight, and at night the green coloration offers a clear sight picture when not much else is easy to see.
From the bench the pistol shot respectably with all five types of ammunition that were tested, but its two favorites in terms of accuracy were Hornady's Critical Duty and SIG's Elite Performance ammo. Full results are shown in the accompanying chart.
Of equal importance was the fact that there was only one malfunction, and that came early on when firing the hot SIG loads. The slide stuck open, which is bad news in a bear attack, but the problem occurred only once, and throughout the rest of the test, which accounted for about 150 rounds of ammo, there wasn't a single issue.
That's a lot of shooting for a 10mm, and while I won't say that it's a breeze to pop off that many shots with the 10mm, it's manageable. The excellent grips help keep the gun planted, and it's possible to fire rounds quickly and accurately.
Energy levels for the loads tested were up to the 600 ft.-lb. range, more than a .357 Magnum but less than a .41 Magnum. There are some hotter 10mm loads that can beat that, pushing energy limits to 700 ft.-lb. levels, but the inevitable tradeoff is increased recoil and muzzle rise.
Whether or not those figures offer plenty for stopping big brown bears is a matter for another article (and even that likely wouldn't close the door on the subject), but you can certainly deliver those shots in a hurry thanks to the Kimber's good balance and superb trigger.
There's no doubt the Camp Guard will help bolster the 10mm's growing popularity as a backcountry backup pistol, but there's also no doubt that a lot of these guns will leave store shelves without ever heading into the wilderness. And I imagine Kimber collectors are salivating as they wait for this pistol.
That's okay. In remote areas or urban landscapes, the Camp Guard has but one primary task- keeping dangerous predators at bay. And for that task the Camp Guard is exceptionally well-suited.