KIMBER STAINLESS TLE II, .45 ACP 5” BARREL – PART 1

Kimber has an extensive, and impressive, line of 1911 pistols. The TLE (Tactical Law Enforcement) family of pistols is ideal for duty carry, tactical applications, and personal protection. The Stainless TLE II and the Stainless TLE/RL (rail version) are the only all stainless-steel pistols in the TLE line-up.

Specifications

Height (inches) 90° to barrel:5.25
Weight (ounces) with empty magazine:38
Length (inches):8.7
Magazine capacity:7
Recoil spring (pounds):16.0 pounds w/Full-length guide rod
Frame Material:Stainless steel
Frame Finish:Satin Silver
 Frame  Width (inches):1.28
Front strap checkering:Yes
Slide Material:Stainless steel
Slide Finish:Satin Silver Flat top
Barrel Length (inches):5
Barrel Material:Stainless steel
Barrel Bushing:Stainless steel match grade bushing
Twist rate (left hand):16
Sights:Fixed low-profile 3-dot tritium night sights
Sight Radius (inches):6.8
Grips:Aggressively textured G-10 grips
Trigger:Aluminum, match grade, Factory setting (approximate pounds): 4.0 – 5.0
Product #:3200342
UPC:669278323428
MSRP:$1,136.00

There is not an abundance of information on the Kimber Stainless TLE II except the basics. The Kimber Stainless TLE II is a souped-up version of the Kimber Stainless II. In comparison to the Kimber Stainless II , G10 grip panels replace the Kimber Rosewood with Kimber logo grip panels, and Tritium night sights front and rear replace the fixed low-profile rear sight and the fiber front sight.

The slide, frame, and controls are the same satin finish as with the Stainless II.  The stainless-steel, match-grade barrel length is 5-inches with a right-hand twist rate of 1:16 and is paired with a stainless-steel match grade barrel bushing.

As stated by Kimber, the Kimber Stainless TLE II (Tactical Law Enforcement) pistol is ideal for duty carry, tactical applications and personal protection and is a perfect fit for the duties it may well have to perform. The Kimber Stainless TLE II pistol provides a low-cost package that may be more ready than I am to protect and serve myself and my family.

The Kimber Stainless TLE II pistol is in the classic and time-proven style of the 1911 pistol with modern conveniences. I liked what I saw and read while researching the Kimber Stainless TLE II and then, because of my perspicacious nature, realized that except for the G10 grips and night sights, the pistol was the Stainless Steel II pistol that was just prepared for the LE community. The night sights and grips would constitute the price difference between the two models.

Front Night Sight
Rear Night Sights n’ Fit and Finish

The thumb safety, slide lock, and beavertail safety are all the same satin stainless finish as the rest of the pistol. In some ways I like it, as it gives a “spartan’ appearance to the pistol, and business is what this pistol is all about.

Serrations front and rear ensure that the hand has something to grip for press checking, when releasing the slide, or when retracting and locking the slide into place.

Rear Slide Serrations Provide an excellent Grip

The Weight, if you read the specifications, is 38 ounces. For some, that may be a burden, but you will like it when you pull the trigger and feel the tad bit of a push of recoil against the palm of your hand. And speaking of pulling the trigger, that only takes 4.5 pounds on this pistol. The skeletonized aluminum trigger does have an over-travel screw, but no adjustment is needed. The trigger is excellent; albeit, new and not yet broken in.

The working end is always impressive…FLGR or not.

Now, some may argue about the use of full-length guide rods, but I have seen them aid in the accuracy department even on new 1911 pistols that do not have them. Case in point was my Ruger SR1911 CMD-A “Commander” in .45 ACP.  Accuracy was “meh to good” when brand new. I installed a Wilson Combat one-piece full-length guide rod and accuracy improved.  My shooting companion tried a FLGR on his old M1911A1 and accuracy was boffo. If a pistol comes with a one-piece FLGR, it stays. Two-piece FLGRs are evaluated and may be swapped with a single-piece unit just to keep things simple. I am not one of those who is going to get flustered over a flippin’ guide rod.

Fit and finish on this pistol is excellent. There is absolutely no play between slide and frame. Except for the slide serrations, every edge has been rounded to reduce sharp edges and corners. I believe that Kimber calls this is “Carry Blend Treatment.”

Fit n’ Finish is Impeccable

I had read some incredibly positive and not so positive reviews on Kimber 1911 pistols in the past. Everything from barrels rusting to downright failures to extremely poor customer service. Sometimes you just must ignore the negatives, find out for yourself, and I did that when I purchased a Kimber Crimson Carry II from a friend of mine. I have not regretted that purchase. I found it to be a quality example of a 1911 pistol and have purchased more Kimber 1911s (and a K6S revolver). The Kimber Stainless TLE II being just one acquisition. In truth, the TLE tag means nothing to me, as I consider the Kimber Stainless TLE II more practical than tactical. The term “Tactical” has fast become one of the most misused terms and is simply a marketing ploy to get those who think that a “tactical” tool will define who they are. It is all in the marketing.

You see, adding night sights to the Kimber Stainless Steel II and calling it a “Kimber Stainless Steel II Enhanced” does not have the same impact as adding night sights and a G10 grip to a Kimber Stainless Steel II and calling it a Kimber Stainless TLE II, because “Tactical” sells, and Kimber employs experts in marketing. Now, had Kimber added a magazine well extension, then the pistol could have been truly referred to as a “Tactical” pistol because we all know that true “Tactical” pistols must have magazine well extensions! And then there is the railed version that just drips with tactical…

Stepping down from my soap box, I simply like the fact that the Kimber Stainless TLE II comes equipped with night sights. What really matters; however, is how the Kimber Stainless TLE II performs, and I will get to that in Part 2.

Break-in Period

Some would consider the Kimber Stainless TLE II an entry-level pistol. Price-wise it may be just that. But because Kimber builds high quality, semi-custom pistols, their guns are tightly fitted with awfully close tolerances. This requires a break in period for all moving parts to uniformly wear against each other and loosen up a bit.

During this break-in period, you may or may not experience malfunctions like feed failures, jams, and other problems. These should clear up during the break in period and leave you with a well fitted and functioning gun. I have had 1911 pistols break in without a whimper and some that took some tweaking.

Kimber recommends 400 to 500 rounds before the pistol is considered broken in. According to the Kimber User Manual; “Before firing the firearm for the first time, field strip and clean the firearm following proper procedures (see Disassembly, Cleaning and Lubrication and Assembly instructions in this manual). For proper break-in, fire 400-500 rounds of 230 grain (or heavier) full metal jacket, high quality factory-fresh premium personal defense ammunition. Clean and lubricate the firearm after every 100 rounds or after each shooting session, whichever is first, or more often as needed, such as when the firearm is exposed to dirt, moisture, or perspiration. During this time, you may experience malfunctions like feed failures, jams, and other problems. These should clear up during the break in period and leave you with a well fitted and functioning gun.”

Before all of this happens; however, the pistol must be properly lubed, and Kimber has micromanaged that to the point of lubrication recommendations; to wit:

  1. 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
  2. Lubricate the following parts:
    1. Slide and frame rails; 3 drops on each side.
    1. Disconnector on top of frame; 1 drop.
    1. Barrel hood; 2 drops spread across surface.
    1. Barrel locking lugs inside slide and on barrel; 1 drop on each lug.
    1. Barrel link; 1 drop behind link.
    1. Slide stop pin; 1 drop spread across surface.
    1. Outside of barrel; 3 drops spread across surface.
    1. Cocked hammer; 1 drop in between the hammer and frame.
    1. 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.

A barrel bushing wrench is provided with the pistol, although it was not 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.

Upgrades

The grip panels were the first to be upgraded. I replaced the O.D. Green G10 grip panels with a less aggressive 1911 Govt. Tactical Panel Foundation Desert Earth G10 (Item# CG-CP71-G5)  and Screw Pattern M#8 – Pinwheel mounting screws from The Altamont Company that, I believe, adds a different touch and personal look to the pistol.

Altamont Grip Panels – Left
Altamont Grip Panels – Right
Altamont Grip Panel Up Close
Altamont Screw Pattern M#8 – Pinwheel

If the Kimber Stainless TLE II is to be carried, plan to replace the provided magazine with one or more that are exceptional (Wilson Combat magazines are a good place to start).

Finally, and only because I am beginning to like the darn things, may be to add a magazine well extender that will assist in reloading magazines and help extended magazines better blend into the pistol for concealed carry (they add about 1/4-inch to the overall grip length). However, one must determine if a flush-fit magazine will be carried with the pistol. Flush-fit magazines sometimes do not work well with magazine well extenders during reloads, as they are intended for use with an extended magazine, but it is usually the fault of the operator and not the magwell extender. Carry the pistol with a flush-fitting 7-round magazine and carry an 8-round magazine with bumper pad magazines for spares. With a magazine well extender, an 8-round with bumper pad magazine could be your default magazine.

Concealability

The Kimber Stainless TLE II is a 1911, and the 1911 in general 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, although the weight might bother you. Fully loaded, you are looking at around 48 ounces for an all-steel model, and that is about 3 pounds of pistol that you will be packing.

The Kimber Stainless TLE II is a pistol that I do not want subjected to the harsh environment of a “Kybrid” holster and the Kimber Stainless TLE II looks right at home in the Falco A112 Hawk holster, as it does in the IWB holster from Savoy Leather. The “Cumberland” from Simply Rugged Holsters is another option.

the Falco A112 Hawk holster
IWB holster from Savoy Leather

When traveling, something like the Galco Miami Classic II Shoulder System might be the ticket.

the Galco Miami Classic II Shoulder System

Other holster choices may include the clip-on Hawk Variant IWB holster from Falco holsters or the Alien Gear 1911 – 5 inch Cloak Tuck 3.5 IWB Holster (Inside the Waistband).

Hawk Variant IWB holster from Falco holsters
the Alien Gear 1911 – 5 inch Cloak Tuck 3.5 IWB Holster (Inside the Waistband)

Performance

Unfortunately, and because of the COVID situation, range time is at a premium and by appointment only. I will present the range results in Part 2 of this article.

Summarizing

There is an abundance of 1911 pistols on the market, and some exceptionally fine all-stainless ones. For the price, Kimber leads the way with this high end, but affordable handgun. There is truly little to dislike, and an awful lot to really like. In appearance, the Kimber Stainless TLE II is like many other 1911 pistols.  If you have not owned a Kimber 1911 before, then you are going to be going on their reputation and what others say about it. If you have owned a Kimber 1911, or have shot one or more of them, then you have first-hand experience with them, and you can base your decision on that experience.

For me, the Kimber Stainless TLE II is going into the carry rotation as soon as the requisite 500 rounds are fired.

The Kimber Stainless TLE II is a model of Kimber Custom. The designation “TLE” stands for “Tactical Law Enforcement”. The TLE is identical, except for the markings, to a special model that was designed for use by the LAPD SWAT team. Unlike the standard Custom, it comes with tritium bar-dot night sights and 30 lines per inch front-strap checkering.

The TLE has been manufactured in the following variations:

  • Custom TLE II, the standard variation and the same as the LAPD SWAT model.
  • Custom TLE II (LG), with laser grip sights.
  • Custom TLE/RL II, with an accessory mounting rail.
  • Stainless TLE II, with a stainless-steel finish.
  • Stainless TLE/RL II, with a stainless-steel finish and an accessory mounting rail.

Resources

About Taurian

Taurian is an Oath Keeper, veteran, former LEO and Defensive Tactics Instructor. Until retirement, Taurian had over forty-seven years of experience as a Technical Writer and Training Program Developer. After leaving home at the age of ten without any shoes, Taurian continues on with many years devoted to the keeping and bearing of arms.

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