Concealed Carry & Home Defense

Gun Test: Kimber Custom CDP ll

By John Taffin, GUNS Magazine

Fully realizing individual taste in just about everything is quite subjective (I’ve even run into people who like cauliflower and broccoli), there just isn’t any accounting for some people’s choices. We recently celebrated the 100th anniversary of John Browning’s Government Model 1911 and there were actually people who complained about too much coverage given to the number one semi-automatic pistol in the hearts of millions of shooters.

Not liking the 1911 is somewhat like being against apple pie, ribeye steaks and motherhood. It’s almost like being tired of living. The Colt Single Action Revolver Army, the Smith & Wesson double action revolver and the 1911 have not only been built millions upon millions, they are also the basic pattern for millions of other sixguns and semi-automatics.

The 1911 is still number one when it comes to full-sized semi-automatic pistols for civilian use, and the number one supplier of 1911’s today—in a market with over 50 manufacturers of 1911’s—is Kimber. Kimber started out not all that long ago making rimfire rifles, then added centerfire versions, all of which are high quality, and then came the 1911 pistols. In a few short decades Kimber has risen to the top of the list of 1911 manufacturers and has captured over 40 percent of the market. With such a large number of competitors Kimber has to be doing something right, and that right is building excellent 1911’s at reasonable prices.

At my age, firearms purchases serve two purposes. The main purposes are for test review and my own use as well as to add to my accumulation of quality handguns. However, there is a second purpose, which is becoming more and more important. When a new or used firearm is added I immediately think of which of the kids or grandkids this particular firearm will eventually go to. Two years ago Kimber’s Stainless Steel Target Model II really caught my attention. By ordering four of them in different chamberings I could not only write several reviews and do a lot of shooting but also put them back for my son and three grandsons. So to this end I went with four matched Stainless Steel Target Model II’s in 9mm, 10mm, .38 Super and .45 Automatic Colt Pistol. I have thoroughly enjoyed all of these excellent shooting semi-automatics. Now the only problem will be who gets which one. Long before these Kimber’s became part of my accumulation, I had already been shooting a very special Kimber for quite a few years.

Custom ’smithing of the 1911 was really coming into its own in the early 1950’s and it wouldn’t surprise me to find there were gunsmiths who mated up Commander alloy frames with standard Government Model slides and barrels to come up with a custom full-size Lightweight, however Kimber has been cataloging such a .45 semi-automatic for quite some time and I have been shooting their lightweight 1911 for a couple of decades.


Kimber’s alloy-framed full-sized .45 ACP 1911 is their Custom CDP II. This self-defense pistol takes everything right about the 1911 and the Commander and combines them into one .45 ACP, however they don’t stop there but added several features all designed to make this the perfect fighting handgun whether it is for open or concealed carry. The aluminum alloy frame is finished in matte black in what Kimber calls KimPro II while the slide is brushed satin stainless.

The ambidextrous thumb safety, beavertail grip safety, slide stop, magazine release and grip screws, are all stainless steel while the skeletonized trigger, which is serrated and also adjustable, is of aluminum. The blued steel hammer is also skeletonized and the trigger pull is a crisp, creep-free 4 pounds. The flat mainspring housing is also stainless steel and finely checkered for a secure grip. Barrel, chamber and trigger are all match grade.

Factory stocks are double diamond Rosewood, however, I have replaced them with finely checkered Rosewood stocks from Herrett’s just because. Sights are absolutely superb with both the front sight and rear sight sitting low in the slide in dovetails with the rear sight being adjustable for windage and locked in place with a setscrew. The front sight is an easy-to-see post sloping forward while the rear sight has a deep square notch and slopes backwards. These are 3-dot sights and the dots are Meprolight tritium for fast acquisition in low light scenarios.

So far everything mentioned works together for the main purpose of this CDP II, which stands for Custom Defense Package, however the best is yet to come. What makes this .45 ACP stand out as a Custom Defense Package is the fact the entire pistol has been “melted” given what Kimber calls a Carry Melt treatment. There are no sharp edges anywhere to be found. The slide has had all the sharp features removed from both bottom edges and especially in front of the frame and all around the front part of the slide. There is nothing to catch on clothing, holster, or hands and is the ultimate user-friendly 1911.


Black Hills factory ammunition delivered remarkable groups in the Kimber CDP II.


As traditional for a Government Model 1911, the
Kimber Custom CDP II has a capacity of 7+1 rounds.

At 26 ounces, the Colt Commander Lightweight is very easy to pack, however the trade-off is it is also more difficult to shoot and certainly felt recoil is more noticeable. At 31 ounces the CDP is 5 ounces heavier than the Commander and 8 ounces lighter than a full-size steel 1911; so it falls somewhere in between. If you shoot all three pistols side-by-side there will be an obvious difference when comparing felt recoil. However, the more the CDP is fired the less obvious this difference is. Serious practice with 230-grain Hardball and 200-grain hardcast bullets at 1,050 fps will help in lessening any effects of the slightly increased recoil. Self-defense pistols are certainly carried much more than they are shot and the 1/2-pound difference of the CDP compared to a steel 1911 makes a huge difference when carried regularly. So much so the difference in felt recoil is hardly noticeable at all.