Kimber SIS Ultra: 5000 round report

| April 14, 2012 | 8 Comments

The Gun:

Kimber SIS Ultra, you can read more about why I chose it here:?


4700 hand loads, 4.7gr. Bullseye under a 230 grain Missouri Bullet LRN.

300 Federal HST +P 230gr.


Fully cleaned with Ballistol and brake cleaner after every range trip, usually between 200-500 rounds. Lubed with Slide Glide Lite and Shooter’s Choice FP-10. Every 2000 rounds or so, full detail strip and clean. Outer recoil spring replaced every 1800 rounds, inner recoil spring replaced every 3600.


The biggest and most important modification I’ve made is the same one I’ve made to every one of my 1911s – I’ve added and SVI hammer, sear, disconnect, thumb safety, and long flat trigger. I’ve long been a believer in the superiority of flat triggers, and as far as I’ve ever been able to find, SVI is the only company makes 1911 trigger longer than the standard “long” triggers. I have long slender fingers, and the SVI extra longs fit me so much better than anything else. The SVI fire control parts were added because I’ve gotten so used to guns with them installed that anything else just feels… broken. Instead of the traditional hammer/sear engagement geometry where two angled flats are stoned into sear, the hammer and sear have matching curves EDMed into them, so not only are they produce the crispest-breaking trigger out there, but the parts are drop-in as well. I’ve fired Browns, Bears, Nighthawks, STIs, etc, and none of them approach the crispness of the SVI parts. They’re almost as good as some of the Morini and Hammerli free pistol triggers I’ve tried, at least in terms of crispness. The SVI thumb safety was added out of necessity, as the SVI hammer and sear have some fairly non-traditional geometry that generally doesn’t engage on traditional thumb safeties.

I’ve also added Very Aggressive textured Alumagrips to the gun. I want my grips to be as grippy as possible. The stock SIS grips are awful in that regard, as well as anything in plastic, rubber, or g10. As soon as my hands get sweaty, all of those materials start slipping around. Oiled wood, metal, or grip tape are all that seem to work for me. I’ve long regarded ?the normal Alumagrips as fairly awful, as they have no texture whatsoever, just a laser-engraved line drawing of what texture would look like. They’re like a metal version of those horrendous laser-cut grips that come on the Les Baer TRS. However, Alumagrips has a custom shop where you can pick your own color, texture, etc. I went for the “Very Agressive” texture, which essentially looks like checkering with the points filed flat encouraged by the warning that it should only be used with gloves. Well, that turned out to be a massive?exaggeration, but they still have a lot of grip and stay put well in your hand, even running 230gr. +P loads though this tiny 1911. I’ve got a couple sets of the very aggressive Alumagrips now, and would highly recommend them. The price is really good, and the company’s customer service is excellent.

I also polished the slide flats, hammer flats, trigger flats, and barrel hood. I’d love to tell you I have some super-cool tactical reason for doing so, but the reality of the situation is that I have a raccoon-like obsession with shiny things. Your opinion might be different, but I really like how it turned out:

The last of my modifications was simple but incredibly useful. I cut out grip tape to fit into the smooth, near-worthless SIS slide serrations. They’re now incredibly functional, and the slide is much easier to manipulate:


As I covered in my 1000 round report, this gun came out of the box as a massive problem child. I never really counted the malfunctions in the first five hundred rounds, so instead of a nice, exact figure, just think first 500 rounds = broken. It went back to Kimber, and came back in two weeks with all the problems fixed. It ran like a top for about another 1000 rounds, then had two consecutive failures to extract. After the second I pulled the slide off the gun, picked up a piece of my spent brass from the range floor, and performed and extractor tension test, which it failed miserably. As MIM extractors are prone to, it had lost tension rather quickly. Instead of attempting to re-tension the factory MIM part, I installed a barstock SVI extractor. The problem was solved, and the gun hasn’t had an issue in the ~3500 rounds fired since.

Also at some point, I’m not sure exactly when because I didn’t write it down, the tritium vial in the front site burst. Not really a Kimber problem but a Meprolight problem. Kimber fixed it quickly and without charge.


Kimpro is a good finish, but its definately not top-tier. As you may have noticed in my previous pictures, its worn down to bare steel in several high-contact places, like corners (probably from holsters) and the ejection port relief cut. (definitely?from brass) Also, 1911 breech faces tend to get bald with use, but not usually to this degree with this few rounds:

The finish wear on the under side of the slide, however, seems pretty average:

Even though this is (was, I suppose, as the SIS is out of production) Kimbers more high-end guns, it still wasn’t fully free of whatever awful spray-on finish they use on the Custom II small parts (Krylon?):

Long story short – Kimpro holds up well enough, but it’s nothing to write home about. Regardless, finish wear is superficial and largely irrelevant. On to the important wear.

Ejector looks ok, but you can see where the edges are starting to round off. I will probably need replaced in another 10,000-15,000, but will probably end up getting swapped out sooner just because I’ve never done it before and want to learn.

In contrast, here’s the barstock SVI extractor, which looks just like my other SVI extractors with five figure round counts on them, which look just like they did brand new:

The locking lugs are wearing more or less symmetrically, which is good, but the wear seems to be rough and heavy, especially for a low round count gun. Its not really problematic now, but it will?definitely?bear monitoring:

The slide stop is holding up well. The shininess you see isn’t wear, but a result of the grinding the Kimber smiths did to fix the early lockback problems the gun was having in the first 500 rounds.

The only unusual wear on the gun is on the inside of the frame rails, caused by the front of the ramped bull barrel rubbing on them. This started becoming noticeable around 1000 rounds, got steadily worse for a while, then stopped. Its probably a sign a bad fitting between the frame and the ramp part of the barrel, and the ramp just needed to scrape some frame material out of its way. Not super-awesome, but not worrisome, either:

The rifling is still sharp, shiny and crisp as is to be expected, albeit with a little bit of leading I forgot to clean out before I took the picture:

And finally, a picture of the gun all stripped down. As I always seem to do with these posts, I forgot to put one of the pieces in the picture. 15 Internet Points to the first person that can tell me what it is:


Good. Quite good in fact. I’ve printed some startlingly small 15-20 round groups with this gun, but they’re inevitably ruined as I keep shooting. I don’t know what it is about this gun, whether its the shorter sight radius, fatter sights, or shorter grip, but I just can’t print a tight, consistent, 50 round group with it to save my life. However, the groups I whine about are more than small enough to save my life should I need to use the gun for that purpose, and the fat sights are super fast to acquire. Here’s three 50-round groups shot at 15 yards, the last of which got the gun up to 5000 rounds. The top one isn’t too bad, but the rest really start to spread. Still, obviously more than acceptable for self-defense purposes:

General Impressions and Opinions:

Despite being a real turd out of the box, I’m still pleased with this gun. I bear no ill-will toward Kimber, they were polite, quick, and fixed everything on the first try. My tastes and skill level have moved a ways up-market since I bought the gun, so it feels like it lacks refinement, but it still works. Still, this is the only 3″ 1911 I could see myself buying, or recommending to others. I’m not a fan of the aluminum frame subcompact 1911s, as I don’t buy into the “carried a lot, shot a little” mantra, nor the idea of practicing with powderpuff ammo way lighter than what you carry. When shooting full-power 230gr. loads the few extra ounces of the steel frame really helps to reduce muzzle rise and speed up your follow-up shots. Plus I think it balances better as well. Has the gun had too many problems for its price point? There’s two ways to answer that. The first would be yes, I would expect better contruction, fit and finish for the price. Not by too much, but by a little. The second way would be no, as this was the only 3″ 1911 that really fit my needs, so simple economics dictates that as the sole source of supply for my demand, Kimber could charge whatever they want. All in all, I like the gun and have no regrets.

About the Author:

I'm an engineering improvement specialist in the aerospace industry

8 Comments on "Kimber SIS Ultra: 5000 round report"

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  1. L-2 says:

    Missing Part(s)?
    I do not see the disconnector or the magazine release lock (the part with the screw head).

  2. This is the best review (both articles) of a 3″ Kimber that I have seen anywhere! I have also had an “adventure” with an Ultra Raptor that was cursed with premature slide lock backs, and the modified slide stop did not work. It’s all documented on my web-site. Great job!

  3. TheWiryIrishman says:

    L-2: The mag catch is the fully assembled unit, as well as the mainspring housing for anyone else that wants to guess. The disconnect is indeed not there. You get 30 Internet Points for that, because I didn’t even realize it wasn’t there… good job! There’s still other parts missing as well.

  4. L-2 says:

    OK, let’s throw in the grip panels, grip screws, firing pin, firing pin stop, and firing pin spring.

  5. TheWiryIrishman says:

    All the Internet Points are belong to L-2

  6. Zack says:

    I just recently bought a hammer, sear, disconnecter, and sear spring along with the medium flat trigger all SVI for an Ultra CDP II. The sear spring seems to be a tad bit to wide and with no filing stone I’m going to bring it to a gunsmith. However when the hammer is in full-cock with the thumb safety (kimber part) engaged the hammer still drops!! I’m curious to know what kind of thumb safety you use. When looking at the kimber hammer vs the SVI there is a very big difference of space where the thumb safety lies.

  7. TheWiryIrishman says:

    Zack, youre almost always going to need to use an SVI thumb safety with SVI fire control parts. Their sear geometry is just so much different than standard that they tend to have functionality problems with traditional safeties. The good news is, though, that the SVI thumb safety design is also quite non-traditional and as such is probably the easiest to fit on the market.

  8. Zack says:

    Thanks for the prompt response, i did go over your article to find out your thumb safety was from SVI. I already ordered the thumb safety and in the mean time switched back to my kimber internals which i have no complaints about.

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