Kimber SIS Ultra Initial Impressions and first 1000 rounds

| March 3, 2010 | 6 Comments

Why I chose it:

I’ve been wanting a 3″ 1911 for a while to serve as a quasi-replacement for my PPK/s as a backup and as a primary on the rare occasions that I couldn’t dress around my fullsize 1911. I also prefer SAO guns and want to move that direction with all my SD firearms. I also like the small 1911 as a backup because I’ve found that the 1911 ergonomics and controls are perfect for me, and it would be great to have my SD platform based around, and the mag interchangeability between primary and backup is a plus.

I like heavy guns, so I wanted a steel-frame 3″. As far as I could tell, that left me with 4 options: Springfield GI Compact, Citadel Compact, Kimber Eclipse Ultra and the Kimber SIS Ultra. Front strap checkering is a must, so I was left to choose between the two Kimbers. The SIS won out because I really like the raises sights for belt cocking, the slightly bobbed MSH, (I also prefer serrated MSHs), the Series I safety, the memory bump safety, the stippled grips (stippling or Nill Rhomlas are by far my favorite grip textures), and the solid trigger. The fugly SIS serrations are a downside, but I’m not buying this to be pretty.

Ordering the gun:

This was an adventure all on its own. For those not aware, the SIS line was discontinued for 2010, so whatever was on dealer shelves when I was looking for the gun would be all that’s out there. The first site I found it on required FFL info before you could order. By the time my FFL got his info faxed in, it was out of stock. The second site showed in stock, but when they recieved the FFL info and went to ship it, they didn’t have one, and neither did any of their distributers. I finally scored one on a third site, and for a decent price to boot.

The Gun


It figures my first troublesome gun would be a 3″ 1911.

Felt great out of the box. Slide to frame fit was standard Kimber, not exactly seemless:

The slide is looser than my other Kimber, or any other Kimber I’ve had experience with for that matter. Its fairly loose, very similar to a Colt. Barrel to slide lockup is rock solid, though. No movement when you press on the barrel hood, and no play between the barrel and frame at the end. I’ve found Kimber triggers to be some of the best for the money, but this one is subpar relative to the rest of the Kimbers I’ve dealt with. Its their standard 4-5 pound duty trigger, and it must be right up at 5 if not slightly more. It does break cleanly but only after some slight gritty takeup. Maybe my Les Baer and the tuned trigger on my other Kimber have spoiled me. I was also dissapointed with their grips. The stippled areas have barely any texture, and the rest as smooth as glass. In general they offer a very poor, slippy grip.

I mentioned earlier that this was my first troublesome gun. The problems manifested themselves quickly during the 500 round breakin, that, as is my tradition, I did in one sitting. I had frequent lockbacks in the middle of loaded mags, as well a bizzarre failure to feed where the bullet end of the top cartridge would stay down in the magazine while the rear would rise properly and the slide would come forward and get stuck. When I finished the 500 rounds (the problems did not abate) and took it home to clean, every grip screw bushing came loose and I boogered up the threads on one of them trying to separate it from the screw. The ejector was also loose, and there was rust on the barrel.

Service:

I called Kimber, and a prepaid shipping label was in my email inbox not ten minutes after I got off the phone with them. They told me repairs typically take 2-3 weeks, sometimes longer, but the gun was back at my door 2 weeks to the day after they received it. They replaced the ejector, all grip screws and bushings, polished the rust off the barrel (this did not effect lockup), but in an obviously hand-fitted slide stop, and polished the feed ramp and contoured it into the frame. Here’s pic to illustrate what I mean:

Ever since then its run like a top. 500 rounds since and nary a malfunction. It also feeds Federal HST 230gr. +p wonderfully, although the recoil is rather spirited. Its an accurate little bugger, too, as the last picture in the thread will show. Once I get the hang of the mediocre trigger (I always shoot my Baer first at the range) My groups only open up an inch or so from the fullsize gun. I could probably bring that down a little with a better trigger.

Finish

I really like the Kimpro. Its very slippery, though, which is a plus and a minus. If you don’t diligently wipe away every last trace of oil from the exterior, its very slipperty. On the plus side, it appears to be fairly durable and its a breeze to clean. The fouling just glides right off.

Modifications

As I mentioned earlier, I didn’t like the stock grips, so I made my own. I used walnut and fully stippled them with my secret dremel stipping method, and finished them in Tung oil. They’re not much to look at, but they’re very functional. About like Nill stippling (which I was trying to duplicate) but not as grippy as Nill Rhomlas.

I’m talking to my gunsmith about dropping the trigger down to 3.5-4# and crisping it up, so that may be in its future as well.

I’m also thinking about cutting some skate tape to fit into the SIS serrations to make them a bit more usable.

And finally, the gun on top of the targets it shot today from 15 yards, 50 rounds per bull:

Overall, I’m very satisfied, both with the gun and with Kimber’s service. The little SIS has turned out to be exactly what I wanted it to be.

Another great review written and authorized by ?The Wiry Irishman? over at THR.

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6 Comments on "Kimber SIS Ultra Initial Impressions and first 1000 rounds"

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  1. Ricky Kurtz says:

    I have purchased 3″, 4″ and 5″ Kimber SIS.
    They all had the same issues as above.
    I sent all 3 back to the factory and the 3″ a second time.
    They came back and functioned the same way.
    There customer service people were rude.
    The guns were tested by 2 of New York City Finest. We sent photo of each of the failures, of the 3 different type of ammo use and full documentation of the malfuntions.

    They are really a big disappointment, especially since a friend from LAPD had design input in to these guns.

    Ricky Kurtz – k4vms@comcast.net

  2. Daniel Schitkovitz says:

    Wow, how disappointing to here this. On the bright side, I have had a 3″ Ultra SIS since March of 2009 and I have shot about 10 different brands of ammo, both FMJ and HP. I have only had trouble one time with Winchester SXZ 45 ; it’s exclusive to Bass Pro Shops. Other than that, it is one of my absolute favorite firearms to shoot. I personally find there to be no recoil issues no matter what I have shot. The weight of the gun offsetting recoil was one reason I wanted this model; it’s a heavy little bugger. Myself, I like the grips, classy and they feel good in the hand. Yes, the SIS serrations are slick, so I generally overhand rack it, piece of cake. Actually, I like it so much, I have been searching for a PRO model. Sadly, the ones I have found are going for about 150 to 200 more than I paid for my Ultra. Due to that price increase I am now considering a Super Carry Pro HD instead. It’s only about $50 more and has nice heel treatment and comes in all black KimPro II finish on Steel instead of aluminum like the regular Super Carry models. As for magazine feed issues, never had any of those either. I really like the KimPro Tac-Mags, they always function flawlessly for me. I bought a couple extra to use with my Rock Island and Springfield.
    I hope your problems don’t resurface. I was hesitant initially to buy the 3″, read a lot of posts saying that HP ammo has feed problems. Never have experienced that once. I’ve used over a half a dozen different HP’s, Hornady XTP & FTX, Remington, Fiocchi, Winchester Silver, Federal, Magtech, Blazer Brass all without issue.

  3. AJ says:

    My 4″ SIS, while not having all the issues you did, had a misfitted grip safety, and I could never get any grip screws to stay tight with the factory bushings. Kimber overnighted me a new grip safety so they were very responsive at least. After a rebuild and trigger job, it ran like a top, but I was disappointed that out of the box it needed attention.

  4. Sean says:

    Junk, Two trips back to factory for feed problems, Not reliable for a Duty weapon

  5. Dale USMC says:

    I have SIS Pro 4 Inch Love it al I did was put new wolff spring in a it has rocked without any issues…LOVE IT……feels like part of my hand…..

  6. TheWiryIrishman says:

    The 5000 round report for this gun is coming in about a week or so. Quick preview – it hasn’t had any issues since it came back from Kimber. My customer service experience with the company was positive, the people were polite, and it came back when they said it would (< 2 weeks) and the issues were fixed.

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