Welcoming Kimbers to My Collection

During the years we operated live handgun classes, I developed a negative opinion about Kimber firearms and really had no desire to own one. Every week we ran at least one weekend class with 25-30 participants and two weekday classes averaging 10-12 participants. Each participant was required to shoot a 50-round proficiency test, so we saw a lot of people shoot, sometimes with our loaners, but more often with their own guns.

As we observed shooters on the firing line, several patterns emerged. One pattern, for example, involved Springfield XD pistols. We observed them to be consistently accurate and consistently trouble-free. There were other brands that just did what they were supposed to and presented no issues. The brand that presented the most issues regarding failure to feed, failure to eject (FTF, FTE) stoppages were Kimbers. At first, I was puzzled by this as Kimbers were among the more expensive handguns people brought to our course.

The free gun cleaning classes we ran the first Monday night of every month served to unlock the secret of why Kimbers did not operate smoothly during the range sessions. For the most part the people who had purchased the Kimbers were new to guns and didn’t have the experience to operate them properly. They brought them to the gun cleaning class to learn how to take them apart and put them back together. Although we had taught them how to hold and fire them during the regular course, a lot of it didn’t stick because we were dealing with people who had not grown up around guns and who had little or no background from which to operate.

We were operating in an area in which many of the inhabitants were well to do professionals who lived in upscale neighborhoods. Yet they were having break-ins or knew someone who had experienced a break-in or even a robbery. The changing tapestry of the world we live in caused them to decide they needed to get a gun. As they researched what to buy they were drawn to the full color ads Kimber ran on the back of every gun magazine there was. Putting that exposure together with the fact Kimbers were expensive, they figured they had to be good, so they bought two of them, one for the husband, one for the wife. Sometimes the wife’s gun was one of those micro models. So the failures we were seeing for the most part were caused by limp-wristing or guns that were dirty.

A couple of shooters who attended our class were former members of an Army shooting team that competed. Both of those Kimbers ran like they were supposed to. Naturally, I asked their owners why and the answer I was given had to do with magazines. Toss the Kimber mags and use either Wilson Combat or Chip McCormick aftermarket magazines. Okay, whatever. I figured I’d just stick with my Sigs, Smith & Wessons, Rugers and Springfields. But during a traffic stop I had a short conversation with the training officer for the Hurst, Texas, police department. After evaluating various brands and models they had settled upon the Kimber 1911 as the official issue gun of the Hurst Police Department.

It seemed Kimber was getting its act together and shooters were giving the gun great reviews so I began to think about maybe someday, if the price was right and the money was there, I might get a Kimber. GrabaGun, is a local gun store known for running some pretty good specials from time to time. One of their Internet ads caught my attention because it was a very attractive and well-equipped Kimber for a price I could afford, so I bought it. Here it is, the Kimber Shadow Ghost:

The Shadow Ghost features an aluminum frame to reduce weight, a blackout finish on the smaller parts such as the magazine release and pins. A white dot rear sight with a red fiber optic front sight is included to enhance accuracy. The LW Shadow Ghost is equipped with a match grade stainless steel barrel and a match grade trigger. It has an 8-round magazine and it leaves the factory with black rubber grips with diamond checkering. I had some G10 grips on hand that I thought would enhance the gun’s appearance so I installed those on my gun. In this day and time I’ve got to answer two questions: No, it’s not optics ready and no, it doesn’t have night sights. I’m fine on both accounts because I really like the sights that are on the gun and I don’t plan on carrying it for self defense, at least not at night.

I’ve taken it shooting and have been pleased with the results. It has not given me the slightest bit of trouble and is pretty accurate.

This Kimber had not been in my possession long before it was joined by another Kimber, this one pretty special. My friend, Jerry Colliver, is moving to Thailand and is consequently liquidating his gun collection. I helped him with a couple of guns, one being a very special custom Kimber, the F22 Fighting Eagles model built for and exclusively sold to the first group of pilots of the F22, and some of the support people. The gun I have is #360 of 413 according to engraving on the slide.

It came with its own custom display case.

Now to find the story. From what Jerry could tell and I have to agree after digging myself, this is the only one of the 413 to have ever been offered for sale in any way it could be traced publicly, i.e. at auction. We wouldn’t know if there have been private sales. I’ve reached out to Kimber and to former Kimber employees and have not found anyone who can tell me how to determine who any of the original 413 were or how the product was marketed to them. Collectible arms that are of a limited number are usually sold through a magazine ad in a trade magazine only read by those who would be eligible. So far, nothing. I’ve posted some request for information on some Kimber forums. I tried contacting the person who sold the gun to Jerry only to learn he died in 2014.

Meanwhile back to the other Kimber. The one I’ll actually shoot from time to time. It joins the ranks of some other 5-inch 1911s I have.

I like Commander-size 1911s for carrying and I have a number of those, but the Kimber rounds out this collection nicely.