Gun Review: Kimber Gold Combat 1911

The D & L Sports heavy duty magazine worked well with the Kimber magazine guide.
The D & L Sports heavy duty magazine worked well with the Kimber magazine guide.

When it comes to the 1911 handgun I have been accused of being as nutty as a dump rodent. But then the mighty oak springs from a nut that held its ground! Thus we look at the Kimber Gold Combat 1911.

For those who do not embrace the 1911 let me task them to simply share the passion with a 1911 man. Go to the range, try a quality 1911, let a few rounds fly. Chances are you will agree that the 1911 is a great design. The first time I held a .45 something in the walnut grip said “friend.” Nothing has diminished that feeling in the intervening 35 years.

The Commander .45 rode with me through several difficulties. The concept is pretty simple when it comes to a good pistol. I do not pick the best until I test them all. I recognize performance. There is no better “go-anywhere, do-anything, anytime-anywhere” handgun than a good 1911.

Will Smith is getting the measure of the .45 in a fast pass at steel plates.
Will Smith is getting the measure of the .45 in a fast pass at steel plates.

Today I often carry and shoot a thoroughly modern pistol that is among the best 1911 pistols I have ever handled. The Kimber Gold Combat is Kimber’s idea of a first-class combat pistol. The pistol is a consensus of the opinion and demand of a number of shooters- Kimber simply made it happen. I have been around the block with the 1911, built 1911 handguns, disassembled the pistols in detail, and fitted barrels, safety levers and triggers. I don’t mind admitting that I made a few mistakes and learned along the way, but it has been a long time since I made a mistake. I know how a 1911 is supposed to be fitted.

Appearance is one thing. Some feel the 1911 is ugly. But the ones who call her “old ugly” or “old slabslides” often do so with real affection. Someone out of the fold had best keep their derogatory comments to themselves.

The 1911 does best what a fighting pistol does and that is deliver a heavy blow accurately and quickly. The pistol’s balance is ideal. After trying the modern polymer pistols I find them slide heavy. I tend to pull the muzzle low and hit low. The 1911 is well balanced. The pistol is both reliable in action and robust in service. It takes a great amount of abuse to knock a 1911 out of the game. The trigger offers straight-to-the-rear single action compression. The 1911 is often clean and crisp from the factory but with a minimum of effort the trigger may be polished to a high degree of smoothness. My recommendation is to fire the piece until it smoothes up.

Let’s touch a little on longevity. I have seen so many 1911 handguns at the 20,000 round count I have lost count. I own a number myself. I have sources in the military that tell me that they are using World War II era frames and slides with well over 100,000 rounds on them.

These figures are reasonable to low when you consider the training that goes into producing a special team operator. As a young peace officer beginning in 1978 I often fired 500 rounds a month and when I had time to load ammunition, it was not usual to fire 500 rounds in a week. I believed in quantity and I learned to shoot the hard way with little formal instruction. I can not help but wonder if I had used but a single pistol could a 1911 have taken the several hundred thousand rounds I have spread about a battery of pistols? The answer is probably yes.

After years of use and thousands of rounds of ammunition the Kimber .45 is none the worse for wear.
After years of use and thousands of rounds of ammunition the Kimber .45 is none the worse for wear.

A Modern 1911

Getting back to the Kimber Gold Combat; the controls are properly fitted. The safety locks crisply into the slide with a good indent. The trigger is smooth and breaks at an ideal 5 pounds with no creep or over travel. The grip safety releases the trigger about halfway to full compression. The slide runs smoothly across the frame. The Kimber achieves good fit through tight tolerances. It is not so tight as to present a difficulty in break-in or to produce malfunctions but such tight fit reduces eccentric wear. There is no perceptible play in the slide. Don’t believe that overly tight fitting is required for first-class practical accuracy. The Kimber is tight but not so tight that lint, dirt or other material may cause it to tie up.

Among the first modifications to the 1911 was to modify and lengthen the dust cover in the 1911A1 in order to protect the mechanism from foreign matter. The balance between reliability and accuracy must favor reliability. The pistol is a Gold Combat, remember? For makers who understand the balance compromise is not necessary. If you understand the three-point pedestal method of barrel fit then you know what I mean. It is necessary to pay for care in fit and the Gold Combat costs a bit more than other pistols.

Consistency of construction pays off big dividends in longevity. The barrel returns to the same place after each shot. This limits slop and eccentric wear. The extractor picks up the extractor groove exactly the same for every cartridge. The ejector doesn’t deviate. When you wonder what you are paying for when the price edging close to $1,500 you have to understand some things. When you begin with a false premise you cannot reach an accurate conclusion. Sloppy is sloppy. Precision properly executed means long life for the handgun. In short, you get what you pay for and in this case you are paying for precision and performance.

The Gold Match has all of the features we could ask for but the fit is most important. The pistol features forward cocking serrations. Take them or leave them they are a feature of tactical-grade 1911 handguns. The pistol also features excellent high-visibility sights with Meprolight self-luminous Tritium inserts. These bold clear sights are ideal for all-around use. The pistol features an ambidextrous safety design dissimilar to any other Kimber in my collection. The beavertail safety subtly lowers the bore axis as well as making the pistol more comfortable in firing +P loads. The grips are high quality checkered rosewood. They are reminiscent of the classic double diamond checkered pattern.

There is also a very well done checkered front strap. Formerly found only on top of the line custom handguns, the Kimber custom shop has done a fine job with these serrations. Some feel that a checkered front strap is uncomfortable during a long firing session or a 1,000 round training course. My reply is, “Wear gloves.” The Kimber also features a magazine guide. While we are not likely to be caught in a running gun battle, the magazine guide is a plus during administrative handling and in range practice. The pistol also features a full-length guide rod. While controversial, the FLGR is an aid in certain situations. Just one of these situations is in firing off a barricade. If you bump the slide the FLGR will prevent the pistol from being knocked out of battery.

The proof of a good gun is in the firing. This report comes after many months and thousands of rounds of ammunition. For the majority of range outings and during training I have used the Oregon Trail 230-grain Laser Cast bullet over enough Titegroup powder for 830 fps. In using this load for economy and others for testing, the pistol has never failed to feed, chamber, fire or eject. Practical accuracy off hand has been excellent. The Kimber is a fast pistol on target and it tracks well when engaging multiple targets. There is nothing like a Government Model for this type of work.

The Haugen Handgun Leather crossdraw holster offers excellent fit and finish and good design, all we may ask.
The Haugen Handgun Leather crossdraw holster offers excellent fit and finish and good design, all we may ask.

I have also tested a number of personal defense and service loads. A number of new loadings have proven their mettle in the Kimber. Winchester’s new 230-grain Bonded Core load was adopted for service by the FBI and naturally we were all greedily wanting to test this one. The load demonstrates excellent quality control and a good balance of expansion and penetration. Another load has given me pause and a bit of a surprise. Black Hills has introduced a 185-grain +P load using the Barnes all copper TAC bullet. This is a brilliantly accurate loading and one that has proven completely reliable in feeding. There is little excuse for not carrying first rate ammo in your .45 as there is much available.

There are few handguns as consistently accurate as the Kimber Gold Combat. Like all quality handguns, the Gold Combat prefers one load to the other but the results are often very consistent. The only handgun I own as consistently accurate is a target pistol with a stylized Gold Cup on the slide. Enough said on the subject of accuracy.  If you would like to own a well made 1911 that will challenge any shooter to perform at his highest level this is the pistol.


Since I have tested this handgun during the winter months, I adopted a crossdraw holster for under the jacket carry; the Huntington Wedge from Haugen Handgun Leather. Maker, Jerry Evans, has given excellent service for several years. When seated or driving the crossdraw is more accessible than any other and a very versatile design. The Haugen holster is a quality type with much to recommend.

This is a great combination, worthy of protecting all that you hold dear. If you carry a gun for defense, many have said you should always carry the best gun you can afford. The Kimber Gold Combat falls into that category.

This article appeared in the December 6, 2010 issue of Gun Digest the Magazine


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  1. The review was an excellent defense of the M1911A1 and the improvements that gun makers such as Kimber have made to the venerable pistol. Kimber, Caspian and others have engineered sturdier pistols without doing anything, at least in my opinion, that would cause JMB to roll over in his grave.

    The first time I got my hands on a 1911, after people told me I could never handle it, I fell in love. I now have three, a government model and an officers’ model and soon will have a custom built CCO.


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