Kimber 1911 Review: Diamond Ultra II and Stainless II Classic Engraved Edition

Kimber 1911 Review: Diamond Ultra II and Stainless II Classic Engraved Edition
The Stainless II is very elegant with its satin silver frame and scroll engraving.
Both the Stainless II (Classic) and Diamond Ultra II are stylish pistols with plenty to offer in terms of performance. Photos by Alex Landeen
Both the Stainless II (Classic) and Diamond Ultra II are stylish pistols with plenty to offer in terms of performance. Photos by Alex Landeen

Part of Kimber’s 2015 Summer Collection, the Diamond Ultra II and Stainless II Classic Engraved Edition are sleek, sophisticated and shoot with nail-driving accuracy.

The Stainless II is very elegant with its satin silver frame and scroll engraving.
The Stainless II is very elegant with its satin silver frame and scroll engraving.

When the editor asked me to do this review, I had no idea which Kimber pistols I’d be shooting. When The Gun Shop, my FFL, called me to come and pick up the guns, Gary said, “I have a couple of barbeque guns for you.” Until recently, I had no idea of the concept of the barbeque gun. According to the Urban Dictionary, a barbeque gun is: “An old term from the Southwest that refers to a gun that is not worn daily. These were functional guns (heavily modified for better accuracy/reliability/etc.) that might have some custom engraving, polishing, or custom grips. They were normally worn in tooled leather holsters as opposed to daily wear holsters—which were plain.” The human equivalent is a James Bond version of a handgun, capable of generating serious mayhem, but fitting into the most sophisticated setting with ease and grace.

The current most popular basis for the barbeque gun is the ubiquitous 1911. In earlier days, Colt Pythons and Smith and Wesson Combat Magnums were popular for this kind of adornment, but now the 1911 rules. This is only logical since the 1911 in .45 ACP is both powerful and reliable, and the techniques for making it extremely accurate while maintaining reliability have been around for years. Due to its storied history, the 1911 has a certain level of grace, and the classic design offers ample opportunity for adornment.

For Kimber America, it was a logical jump to begin making visually enhanced 1911s because they’re the largest manufacturer of 1911s in the world, and they have a loyal following of discriminating owners. Kimber also has a reputation for reliable and accurate guns.

Kimber 1911 Review - BBQ Guns!Whether there was an intentional decision at Kimber or the company just decided to dress things up a bit isn’t known, but it’s a perfect fit. The whole idea of the barbeque gun is that it not only be visually enhanced; it must also be a seriously accurate gun, capable of performance well beyond a standard off-the-shelf handgun. Traditionally, this class of gun has been a custom gun built by a well-known 1911 tuner, but a few manufacturers are breaking into the category.

When I opened the cases and saw the Diamond Ultra II and Stainless II Classic Engraved Edition, I instantly understood the concept of the barbeque gun. Both guns have been introduced this summer and are part of Kimber’s 2015 Summer Collection. The Diamond Ultra II is a concealed carry, 3-inch barreled, officer’s grip gun. As is normal for 3-inch 1911s, it uses the bushing-less barrel system and a full-length guide rod. The frame is aluminum for reduced weight and has a satin silver finish. There are ball-milled grooves in the front strap and straight mainspring housing.

The slide, grip safety, hammer, magazine release, ambidextrous thumb safety and slide release are high-polish stainless steel. The polish is so high my original thought was it was chrome. There’s border engraving on the slide with scroll corners, similar to the engraving on older classic American shotguns. The grip panels are ball-milled aluminum with flush-fit hollow head screws. Sights are Tactical Wedge night sights. The solid match-grade trigger comes from the factory at 4.9 pounds on my test gun, about right for a defensive handgun. It broke crisp and clean and has adjustable backlash.

Shooting the Diamond Ultra reminds you that 25-ounce 1911s with high-potency defensive loads generate recoil. The recoil isn’t as uncomfortable as a lightweight .357 revolver, but it does deflect the gun upwards regardless of how tightly you hold it. I shot it with Lake City Match hardball, Black Hills 230-grain FMJ as well as Remington Golden Saber 185-grain hollow points. As an additional function test, I used some low-powered reloads with Blue Boy coated 200-grain bullets. Operation was flawless and accuracy was good. I would have preferred grips with a more aggressive texture; the ball-milled aluminum grips were just not rough enough for me to keep the gun as anchored in my hands as I would have liked.

The sights were spot on as shipped, and it was easy to keep rapid shots in the A zone of a USPSA target at 10 yards. Repeat shots were a bit slower, but running the 8-inch plates within the standard time was certainly doable from the low-ready firing position. My only other complaint was that the polishing that provided the super-high-sheen finish must have rounded the slide serrations a bit, and 3-inch 1911s are already noticeably stiff when racking the slide. The Diamond Ultra isn’t a ladies gun, unless the lady has a very strong grip.

The Stainless II Classic Engraved Edition is a full-sized 1911 with a satin silver slide and frame. The slide has both front and rear serrations, and the flat sides and the top are scroll engraved in an open vine scroll pattern. The frame is engraved forward of the slide release, around the magazine release, on the flat mainspring housing and on the right side opposite the safety. The engraving is much more attractive than the roll-stamped engraving I’ve seen on a lot of shotguns. I know it isn’t hand engraved; the engraving cost would surpass the price of the gun, but it’s very close in appearance and sparkles in the light, contrasting the flat finish of the frame and slide. It’s very attractive.

There’s a beavertail grip safety but no enhanced bottom bump for thin hands. Sights are fixed, low profile with no dots. The skeletonized trigger on my test gun broke crisp and clean at 4.0 pounds and is backlash adjustable. The gun also features two-toned smooth walnut grips with Ivory Micarta checkered inlays, which represent one of of the most striking features on the Stainless II.

Kimber 1911 Review.Shooting the Stainless II Classic is like spending time with an old friend. The trigger is good; the sights are easy to see and are the traditional plain black sights I prefer. The checkering on the Ivory Micarta inserts provides a good purchase, and the 38-ounce weight tames things down to normal levels. Accuracy was spot on with my first shot at 10 yards, taking out the A in the A zone of the target. Recovery is fast with the added weight going a long way to reconcile the recoil issue, and the longer and more textured grip provides a solid purchase. This isn’t a target or race gun, but it’s way beyond the average for 1911s and as tough and reliable as a King Ranch diesel pickup truck to boot.

While I’ll admit I’ve never attended a Southwest barbeque that involved barbeque guns, I suspect such a soiree might also include a little friendly shooting competition. My favorite version of this is nail driving, and the Stainless II Classic could certainly perform the task. My adopted son, Chris Cerino, drove nails with a Colt Police Positive in the first Top Shot series, and he inspired me to get into nail driving and fly shooting.

When a fly lights on a target in my classes, I stop the proceedings to demonstrate deliberate shooting accuracy by shooting the fly. I can get the fly almost all the time at 5 yards, and have a good average at 10. I can easily imagine a nail driving competition at a good-old-boy western barbeque, and the Stainless II Classic would be a great gun for the task.

The .45 ACP round is the perfect caliber for nail driving because it drastically improves your chances over a smaller footprint 9mm or the .38 Chris used. My 10-yard group confirms this with nine shots in a ragged hole and probably five or more that would have pounded a twenty-penny nail through the board.

Bench rest testing of the two guns revealed the accuracy of the Stainless II Classic exceeded the accuracy of the Diamond Ultra, as would be expected. Off the bench at 25 yards, the Classic managed a couple of five-shot groups under 2 inches, doing best with Black Hills full metal jacket 230s. The best single group was with Remington Golden Saber at just less than 1.5 inches center to center.

These two handguns are both excellent examples of barbeque guns, but the author ultimately preferred the larger Stainless II to the Diamond Ultra II. Photo by Alex Landeen
These two handguns are both excellent examples of barbeque guns, but the author ultimately preferred the larger Stainless II to the Diamond Ultra II. Photo by Alex Landeen

Bench testing the Diamond Ultra was a bit tougher because of its small size and considerable recoil. I really felt I didn’t do it justice, but it still performed with more than adequate accuracy for a defense gun. My very best group was a bit less than 3 inches, but this is excellent accuracy for a small, concealed carry .45.

I admit, I’ve never owned a barbeque gun, and I don’t frequent many high-class events. If I did, I certainly wouldn’t feel out of place with either of the two Kimbers tested. I like the Stainless II Classic best, and it would certainly be my choice if there were a nail-driving competition as part of the festivities.

Kimber Diamond Ultra II
Caliber    .45 ACP
Type    Semi-auto
Barrel    3-in., stainless steel
Overall Length    6.8 in.
Slide    Stainless steel, cut scroll engraving and border
Frame    Aluminum, Officer
Weight    25 oz. (unloaded)
Trigger    High-polished, match-grade 4.0 to 5.0 lbs.
Sights    Tactical Wedge night sights, fixed
Finish    Satin silver (frame); high-polished (slide)
Magazine Capacity    7
MSRP    $1,652

Kimber Stainless II (Classic Engraved Edition)
Caliber    .45 ACP
Type    Semi-auto
Barrel    5-in., steel match grade
Overall Length    8.7 in.
Slide    Stainless steel, full-coverage vine and leaf engraving
Frame    Stainless Steel, full-coverage vine and leaf engraving
Weight    38 oz. (unloaded)
Trigger    Premium aluminum, match grade 4.0 to 5.0 lbs.
Sights    Fixed, low profile
Finish    Satin silver
Magazine Capacity    7
MSRP    $1,905

This article appeared in the November 2015 issue of Gun Digest the Magazine. Click here to download the full issue.


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