I think that there is a propensity among us who enjoy firearms to always want to shoot something different, even when it is the same platform of firearm. From 1911 pistols to Glock pistols to Beretta pistols to…whatever, there just seems to be an insistent desire to experience the next pistol.
In the world of 1911 pistols, there are a lot of decisions to be made when considering what 1911 to purchase. Aside from manufacturers of the 1911, which there are many, the purpose of the 1911 is a prime consideration. Will the 1911 be used for competition, target shooting, hunting, casual plinking, or self-defense, and/or home defense?
Caliber of the 1911 pistol is usually a prime consideration; 9mm, .38 Super, .45 ACP, .40 Smith & Wesson, and 10mm Auto are common calibers. Uncommon calibers like the .45 Super, 460 Rowland, and .45 Winchester Magnum, are considered as specialty cartridges, but they may also be considered. For me, the experience with the .45 Winchester Magnum and the L.A.R. Grizzly Winchester Magnum is one that I will always remember and having to sell that firearm was one of the saddest days of my life.
Recently, I had been interested in another 1911 in 9mm. Why then would I be searching for another? Well, one reason is because I can. A full-size 1911 that is lightweight is always welcomed. Compared to shooting a 1911 in .45 ACP, the 9mm is cheaper to shoot, the felt recoil is less (even in a lightweight 9mm pistol), and the advancements in ballistics and quality of 9mm defensive ammunition has lessened the disparity between caliber such as the .45 ACP. And, another reason is that at I came across an excellent 9mm 1911 pistol that was of reasonable cost and (perceived) high quality. There is also another reason that I will get into later.
Recently, Midway USA has listed four 1911 offerings in a lightweight 9mm and .45 ACP chamberings. These are one-time limited offerings and I like things that are unique. A one-time offering is just that; once they are gone, they are gone, at least from Midway USA. In fact, the offerings are not included on the Kimber website for 9mm or .45 ACP pistols. And, they are priced less than many other manufacturer’s offerings for the same type (lightweight) 1911 pistol.
These one-time offerings include the following:
A very stunning looking Kimber Nightstar Lightweight 1911 Pistol Black Gray Laminate Grips, shown below.
A Kimber Custom Lightweight 1911 Pistol Gray Laminate Grips, shown below.
A highly contrasting Kimber Arctic Lightweight 1911 Pistol Stainless Steel Gray Laminate Grips, as shown below.
A Kimber Lightweight 1911 Pistol Stainless Steel Cocobolo Laminate Grips, as shown below.
All are very 1911 pistols with pulchritude. The Kimber Nightstar Lightweight 1911 Pistol Black Gray Laminate Grips is especially pleasing to me, because I like the contrast of black and stainless. The Kimber Arctic Lightweight 1911 Pistol Stainless Steel Gray Laminate Grips is a mirror image of the Kimber Nightstar Lightweight 1911 Pistol Black Gray Laminate Grips and is as pleasing to my eye. The Kimber Custom Lightweight 1911 Pistol Gray Laminate Grips says, “Work me! Work me Hard!” And the Kimber Lightweight 1911 Pistol Stainless Steel Cocobolo Laminate Grips is nice to look at. All make for good eye candy, but there is more to consider than just eye candy.
Inclination and Other Multi-syllable Words
My first inclination was to go for the Kimber Lightweight 1911 Pistol Stainless Steel Cocobolo Laminate Grips simply because it is a more conventional 1911 look, and I do like stainless steel for its qualities. The same can be said for the Kimber Arctic Lightweight 1911 Pistol Stainless Steel Gray Laminate Grips, as it would fill my ‘practical’ side. The Kimber Nightstar Lightweight 1911 Pistol Black Gray Laminate Grips was quickly finding a top spot. Add a Kimber stainless magazine well extension to the Kimber Nightstar Lightweight 1911 Pistol Black Gray Laminate Grips or a black Kimber stainless magazine well extension to the Kimber Custom Lightweight 1911 Pistol Gray Laminate Grips and the picture would be complete for both pistols.
I was looking for a 1911 pistol in 9mm chambering. Of course, the question of which pistol I would (actually) carry became the elephant in the room. Out of the four choices, the Kimber Lightweight 1911 Pistol Stainless Steel Cocobolo Laminate Grips would be an obvious choice for me due to its more utilitarian nature. I could simply change grip panels to personalize it. But, then again, I have plenty of 1911 pistols to carry, although not so much in 9mm. It was one of those what I want vs. what I need moments. A decision had to be made or the entire thing abandoned.
I have what I feel are ‘utility’ carry pistols; the Ruger SR1911 and the Rock Island Armory Standard FS – 9mm. I have one 1911 9mm pistol that I would not be carrying, the Smith & Wesson PERFORMANCE CENTER® SW1911 PRO SERIES®. The count was two to one, and that meant leaning to an excellent 9mm pistol that I would enjoy shooting but would not submit to the rigors of everyday carry, but then again I could if I wanted to. The decision, it seemed, was being made for me to get what I wanted rather than needed. The Rock Island Ultra Rock FS in 9mm was a prime consideration, but none could be found at this time through several distributors. The itch for one could not be scratched, at least not at this time. The Rock Island Armory Ultra Rock FS is; however, a full size and full weight 1911.
I looked back at the Ruger SR1911 9mm “commander” and the Smith & Wesson PERFORMANCE CENTER® SW1911 PRO SERIES® and realized that the theme of these two pistols was like the Kimber Arctic Lightweight 1911 Pistol Stainless Steel Gray Laminate Grips sans the grips. I was not really looking for another ‘look-a-like’ pistol, but sometimes familiarity plays a factor in the final decision.
Without some touchy-feely time with a firearm, purchasing one is a crap shoot. If you are like me, you try to do as much research on the firearms as much as possible; you read as much information as you can find and may also watch video reviews if they are available. If there is no information available, you may rely on just the reputation of the manufacturer. You may also go to as many local area gun shops to see if one is available to handle. Your local gun range might have a rental that you can shoot. In this case; however, there was no information available at all on these models, but I had several examples of Kimber 1911 pistols to draw from regarding quality, artisanship, and performance. Now, Kimber has thirty-one examples of 9mm pistols on their website, and Kimber quality has always been top-notch – for the most part. I have read about issues with the KimPro finishes in other forums, but these forums are dated and the KimPro II finish seems to be an improvement over previous finish. I; however, passed on the Kimber Nightstar Lightweight 1911 Pistol Black Gray Laminate Grips and the Kimber Custom Lightweight 1911 Pistol Gray Laminate Grips. That only left the Kimber Arctic Lightweight 1911 Pistol Stainless Steel Gray Laminate Grips and the Kimber Lightweight 1911 Pistol Stainless Steel Cocobolo Laminate Grips.
The Kimber Arctic Lightweight 1911 Pistol Stainless Steel Gray Laminate Grips (hereon simply referred to as the Kimber Artic), shown below, won the toss, because I do like the contrasting controls over a stainless finish, and the slide and barrel are stainless-steel.
Specifications for the Kimber Arctic follow.
|Barrel Length:||5 Inches|
|Trigger Type:||Single Action|
|Safety:||Thumb (left side only)/Grip (Extended Beavertail)|
|Front Sight:||Fiber Optic|
|Rear Sight:||Fixed with White Dot|
|Grip Material:||Laminate Wood|
|Country of Origin:||United States of America|
|Unloaded (with magazine):||2 pounds 1.0 ounces|
|Loaded (9 rounds of 147-grain JHP):||2 pounds 5.3 ounces|
Styling, Form, and Fit
The styling of the Kimber Arctic is typical of modern variations of the 1911. Kimber uses its KimberMelt treatment to round out sharp edges and make the pistol more user and holster friendly.
The slide to frame fit is typical of Kimber pistols – tight with absolutely no play between slide and frame.
Front and rear slide angled serrations provide an adequate surface for gripping the pistol during press-checking or when racking the slide.
The left-side only blackened slide lock and thumb safety are over-sized for effortless operation, as is the blackened grip safety. The thumb safety exhibits a positive detent from one position to the other.
The Kimber logo is engraved into the left side of the slide while the right side of the slide has Stainless LW engraved into it. I like the simplicity of markings on the slide. The frame engraving consists of the Kimber name, serial number, and origin of manufacture, which is Yonkers, N.Y. In case you did not know, all Kimber 1911 pistols are manufactured in the U.S. of America.
The finish of the pistol is excellent and feels like satin to the touch.
The barrel is fully ramped, and that is important because you do not want rounds battering the frame as they enter the chamber. Polishing of the feed ramp is not as finished as I like, but I have a Dremel, polishing compound, buffing wheels, and I know how to use them if needed.
The slide contains a stainless-steel barrel, barrel bushing, and one-piece Full-Length Guide Rod (FLGR). I have not yet had an issue disassembling a Kimber pistol with the FLGR. When new; however, the provided bushing wrench is sometimes necessary.
The frame is a slightly contrasting color to the slide, giving the pistol a three-tone appearance. The silver/black grip panels (an Altamont Company product) provides somewhat of a balance between all the different tones.
The mainspring housing is, of course, checkered polymer while the front strap is void of texturing (heavy sigh!). This would be one of the reasons to order a wrap-a-round grip for the pistol; my normal solution to the lack of front strap texturing.. These grips are effective, but very utilitarian looking, and I felt that the Kimber Arctic deserved better. I needed the texturing of the grip to relay both a utilitarian but classy look to the pistol. More on grip panel selection later.
The Kimber Artic Lightweight comes with one magazine; a nine-round unit. Note that I could not load a fully-loaded magazine into the pistol with one round in the chamber. However, 10-round Wilson Combat magazines work very well and provide an additional two rounds; 10 in the magazine and one chambered.
Under the Hood
With the pistol disassembled, you can see the excellent workmanship on the pistol. With nary a machining mark, the Kimber Arctic continues with the quality you expect from Kimber pistols. The cuts for the barrel locking lugs are sharp and well-defined. All controls are fitted very well.
The front sight is a dove-tailed fiber unit while the rear sight is a low-profile 2-dot system. I am not a fan of fiber front sights, but it seems that they are becoming increasingly common. The Kimber Artic does come with additional fiber rods. In bright sunlight, the front sight sticks out like a sore thumb, making it EXTREMELY easy to index the front sight. In poor lighting, the front sight is subdued and the outline of the front sight acts more like a conventional ramped sight.
The Kimber Arctic, like any other firearm, requires complete cleaning and proper lubrication prior to shooting for the first time, or any time for that matter. In the case of this pistol, it came without any lubrication at all. Removing the Slide Stop pin was a chore the first time due to lack of lubrication. With proper lubrication, the Slide Stop pin remains very tight, but all is well, now.
Kimber is very micro-managing in the lubrication department, recommending the following:
- Use a premium lubrication product such as Shooter’s Choice FP-10 or similar quality oil. Grease is not recommended. If the lubrication product contains Teflon, shake well before using, as the Teflon settles.
- Lubricate the following parts:
- Slide and frame rails; 3 drops on each side.
- Disconnector on top of frame; 1 drop.
- Barrel hood; 2 drops spread across surface.
- Barrel locking lugs inside slide and on barrel; 1 drop on each lug.
- Barrel link; 1 drop behind link.
- Slide stop pin; 1 drop spread across surface.
- Outside of barrel; 3 drops spread across surface.
- Cocked hammer; 1 drop in between the hammer and frame.
- Guide rod; 1 drop spread across surface
Lately, I have been using two products from Wilson Combat, Ultima-Lube II Oil and Ultima-Lube II Universal. Ultima-Lube II Oil is an excellent oil for getting into places where a low-viscosity penetration is necessary, like magazine release buttons, hammers, trigger pivots, plunger tube, safety, etc. The Ultima-Lube II Universal product is a heavier lubricant that sticks to what it is applied. It is excellent for use on parts where lubricating moving parts and reducing wear must be considered. It is excellent for use on slide rails, locking lugs, and the slide lock pin. I like to use a healthy quantity on the slide and frame rails and then use a small hobby brush to spread it evenly across the rails. I do not try to overload my firearms with lubricant, yet I understand the need for protecting my investment.
The pistol is built tight. So tight that I had to knock the Slide Lock pin out to disassemble the pistol. But, I think that I mentioned that already. Did I say that the Kimber Artic is built tight?
A barrel bushing wrench is provided with the pistol, and it was needed. The pistol has a full-length, one-piece guide rod, but once the Recoil Spring Guide is removed the pistol disassembles like any other 1911 pistol. For those purists who do not care for FLGRs, it can be exchanged for a standard G.I. guide rod.
Range Time – The First Time Out
No, there was no time out. This was just the first time out at the range.
Setting my usual silhouette target at 7-yards for function testing, the first magazine of Mag-Tech 124-grain ammunition was stuffed into the magazine well. While Kimber provides only one magazine with the pistol (c’mon Kimber!), I had with me several known good magazines from other manufacturers that have been proven to work well with my other 9mm 1911 pistols.
The Kimber Artic exhibits a beveled magwell that helps with inserting a magazine into the pistol.
The trigger exhibits very little free travel and a very crisp 5.8 pound (five pull average) trigger pull with no over-travel. I expect the trigger pull weight to decrease as the pistol is broken in.
Functioning was 100% error free. The Kimber Artic ran with the Kimber magazine and Wilson Combat magazines perfectly. Accuracy was exceptional with POI equal to POA at seven yards. Felt recoil was minimal, which was expected out of a full-size 1911, although it is a lightweight by nature. (Author’s Note: If I can get my Kimber Camp Gard 10 to run like this one, I will be a happy camper, since the Kimber Camp Guard 10 is supposed to guard the camp, and has yet to live up to its name.)
Concealing the Kimber Arctic
If you have read any of my past articles, you know that I am going to say that the Kimber Arctic Lightweight 1911 Pistol Stainless Steel can be concealed. And, indeed, it can, and I have my usual preferences in both IWB and shoulder holster systems.
The Kimber Artic is lighter than your standard ‘Government’ model all-steel 1911. As such, it is a joy to carry and a good holster system makes it more enjoyable and safer.
The Kimber Artic is a 1911, and the 1911 is one of the slimmest pistols on the market. If you do your homework and properly prepare your support equipment, the 1911 can be carried concealed quite easily.
The Kimber Artic is a pistol that I do not want subjected to the harsh environment of a “Kybrid” holster and the Kimber Artic looks at home in the Falco A112 Hawk holster, as it does in the IWB holster from Savoy Leather. In addition, the “Cumberland” holster from Simply Rugged Holsters is a good place to tuck a 1911 pistol inside the waistband.
The “Savoy” Holster by Savoy Leathers
“Cumberland” Holster by Simply Rugged Holsters
The Versacarry “Comfort’ holster, shown below with the Rock Island Armory Rock Tactical FS pistol, is becoming one of my favorites, although it is not as rigid as many other leather holsters.
I can wear it with sweat guard or without. Without the sweat guard, the Versacarry ‘Comfort’ holster is as close to “Mexican Carry” as I choose to get.
The Kimber Artic Lightweight also carries well in the Miami Classic II Shoulder Holster System by Galco Leathers, although the barrel does extend beyond the boundaries of the holster; whereas “Commander” length 1911 fits perfectly.
Kimber Artic Lightweight in a Galco Miami Classic II Shoulder Holster System
The grip panels of any 1911 pistols is always the easiest upgrade to make, and usually is done out of personal preference rather than necessity, as most grip panels that come with a 1911 pistol are adequate for use.
At first, I had ordered the Altamont 1911 Govt. Fingergroove Silverblack Checkered Engraved grip and Two Tone Whorl 1911 Grip Screws with O- Rings. After mounting the Fingergroove Silverblack grip panels, and although they looked great and felt wonderful in the hand, they did not convey the ‘Artic’ theme of the pistol.
I had a set of Black Pearl grip panels, also from the Altamont Company, that I felt would work with the pistol’s theme; the pattern swirls as if an arctic storm exists. The Two Tone Whorl 1911 Grip Screws were kept as they also conveyed the theme of the pistol with their swirl design. The result is shown below.
Altamont 1911 Govt. Black Pearl grip and Two Tone Whorl 1911 Grip Screws with O- Rings
Altamont 1911 Govt. Black Pearl grip and Two Tone Whorl 1911 Grip Screws with O- Rings (Mounting Screw Detail Shown in Inset)
The grip panels are of a composite material and the grip panels and mounting screws are a perfect fit. I believe that the new grip panels and mounting screws provides a further contrast and unique look to the pistol.
Although the new grip panels are smooth and without texturing (checkering), the new grip panels feel great in my hand, as they are the standard thickness (1/4-inch).
Another upgrade being considered, and that upgrade depends a lot on the performance of the pistol, is the addition of an Ed Brown arched magwell in black to replace the existing flat main spring housing. The black version would blend with the black beavertail grip safety and other black controls. I like the 1911A1 arched grip design a lot, as it feels good in my hand when holding a full-size 1911. The replacement magwell; however, would make me consider different grip panels and I am not ready to go there just yet. For the time being, the Kimber Artic remains void of a magwell.
The Crucial Summary
Lightweight handguns, regardless of caliber, are always in demand for carrying; albeit, they can be brutal at times to shoot, especially in compact pistols and revolvers.
Although the Kimber Artic is much lighter than your standard 5-inch barreled 1911, but heavier than Glock G48 at 1 pound 5.7 ounces loaded with 10 rounds, the 9mm caliber and physical size of the pistol helps to mitigate felt recoil. This reduction in felt recoil also helps to manage the pistol better, which also may aid in the accuracy department by reducing any propensity to flinch.
The Kimber Artic is a fine piece of machinery. My choice of this lightweight 1911 may differ from yours, and that is fine. The Ruger SR1911 “Commander” configuration is an excellent example of a 9mm 1911 that is lightweight and 100% reliable. The Rock Island Armory Ultra Rock FS in 9mm is also excellent and just as reliable as the Ruger SR1911; albeit the weight is much greater than the Kimber and is that of a full-size all-steel 1911. The most accurate 9mm 1911 that I have is the most excellent Smith & Wesson PERFORMANCE CENTER® SW1911 PRO SERIES®. But again, the pistol is full size, heavy, and expensive. There are also other excellent 9mm 1911 pistols on the market, but when you can find a most excellent Kimber lightweight 9mm 1911 for less than the price of the Rock Island Armory Ultra Rock FS 1911, or a Ruger SR1911, that is worth looking into.
As I mentioned, the four Kimber lightweight 9mm pistol mentioned in this article are not listed at Kimber’s web site. To view the products (and other Kimber products for sale), go to the Midway USA website, enter Kimber in the Midway product Search field, select Handguns from the list of options that display, and all Kimber handguns that are for sale will be displayed. They are available in 9mm and .45 ACP.
The Kimber Artic would be an excellent carry for someone who likes the 1911 platform, who wants to carry something lighter than a full-weight 1911, and prefers the 9mm cartridge. But, if you prefer the .45 ACP cartridge, the Kimber Artic is also available in that caliber.
Unfortunately, there are not an abundance of review material available for the Kimber Lightweight 1911 pistols, currently. But reviews do exist for other Kimber 1911 pistols and a search of YouTube will present them.
Taurian, January 2020