By Mike Cumpston with Deborah Davison, GUNS Magazine
Studio Photos: Robbie Barrkman
Kimber Manufacturing entered the burgeoning 1911 handgun market in the mid-1990’s when the company left Oregon for Yonkers, New York, and a plant at Jericho Industries. Kimber was recognized as a manufacturer of quality rifles, and Jericho was then the go-to source for precision 1911 components. Kimber pioneered the use of computer-assisted design in manufacturing and implementing a metal-injection molding technique, creating a new paradigm of precision for factory-made pistols.
Our review samples include the Amethyst Ultra II from the 1911 Special Editions Collection and the .380 Micro Stainless Rosewood from the Micro .380 line. Both pistols show outstanding overall fit and metalwork, and no break-in was necessary—both cycled smoothly. This quality was limited to hand-fitted custom pistols not so long ago.
Kimber weighs in on both ends of the power scale with the .45 ACP Amethyst Ultra II (bottom) and the .380 ACP Micro Carry. (top)
Amethyst Ultra II .45
Strong on aesthetics, the Amethyst is designed to appeal to women. Friend Deborah Davison was very enthusiastic about it and impressed with its deeply saturated purple finish and tasteful border engraving. A 17-year-veteran as a firearm instructor (beginning with a law-enforcement career and including CCW training, youth programs and hunter safety), she does business at A Ready Mind, located north of Waco, Texas. Her impressions about the shooting qualities of both the Amethyst and the Micro Carry were invaluable.
The mini-1911 .45’s—identified by their 3-inch barrels—are now offered by a number of makers, including custom and semi-custom. These “minis” now provide reliable function and excellent accuracy (many current shooters don’t remember when they weren’t noted for either). The necessary elements include a bushing-less, precisely fitted bull barrel with supported chamber and a modular recoil system composed of two springs on a full-length guide rod. A combined spring weight is critical for both platform longevity and reliability. Manual slide cycling with the Amethyst is notably heavy—it puts a heavy enough load on the slide stop that it is necessary to “slingshot” the slide to load the top round.
The combined weight of the recoil springs on the Amethyst is 18 pounds. Deborah is petite but in excellent physical condition with good upper body strength. She is able to cycle the slide by using the “push-pull” technique with both arms. Projected spring life is 1,500 rounds for the front spring and 5,000 rounds for the fully captured rear. (Kimber sells the front spring for about $6, and the entire unit is available for under $50.)
The Amethyst functioned perfectly with all loads, including the “abrupta-zoid” semi-wadcutter loaded to standard pressure by Black Hills. That neither Deborah nor I had any issues with function is a tribute to the design and execution of the recoil system.
The fixed sights present a good Patridge profile and feature three prominent tritium dots. The sights on our sample were well regulated at 25 yards. I found the flare off of the high-polish slide distracting in mid-day sunlight, but this may be because of my own vision limitations.
The Amethyst’s border engraving and signature PVD purple finish make for a unique and aesthetically pleasing appearance. But its .45 ACP bore and no-nonsense 3-dot tritium night sights indicate there’s more to this mini-1911 than mere flash.
The purple-colored G10 grip panels of the Amethyst complete the color scheme, and proved comfortable even with the stouter loads tested.
The signature element of the Kimber Special Editions is the mirrored polish metal treatment and the technicolor Physical Vapor Depostion.
In what’s effectively total vacuum, parts are sprayed with ionized nitrogen and argon, causing them to heat up. Titanium is flash evaporated and ionized by an electric arc and the resulting plasma of titanium nitride accumulates on the negatively charged part. Various color elements can produce a variety of effects, ranging from gold, deep black to bright blue and, as in the case of the Amethyst, a deeply saturated purple. It is also possible to produce a parfait of Electric Kool-Aid finishes but so far Kimber is sticking with tasteful solids over high polish, set off by border engraving into the stainless steel slide
The PVD application, incidentally, is 3 to 5 microns thick with partial penetration of the metal. It is touted as a particularly long-lasting finish, with some industry types claiming it will never wear off. Although this sounds too good to be true, nobody has been able to refute it so far.
I grouped the Amethyst at 25 yards, shooting 5-round groups over a sandbag. Single groups with six different premium loads were very consistent, ranging from 1.9 inches with the 185-grain Hornady Critical Defense to 3.25 inches with a 230-grain +P load from CorBon. The average fell at 2.6 inches, which seems very decent from a downsized 1911. Recoil on the bench and in practical exercises was quite manageable and pain-free, though the CorBon +P stood out in the crowd when in comes to muzzle-flip and torque.
The familiar 1911 controls and a street-ideal 5-pound trigger lent consistency to the shooting we did at the standard ranges for the Texas handgun proficiency demonstration. Bullet weights ranged from 185 to 230 grains. It was difficult to determine a difference in felt-recoil from one load to the next. We both felt the muzzle rise would not compromise repeat shot speed from a practical standpoint, and Deborah found the comfort level and overall sensation very pleasant—much like a full-sized, steel-framed 1911. Five round strings at 3, 7 and 15 yards met and exceeded our expectations, and Deborah, shooting from 25 yards, produced a tight group in the upper 9 ring of the B-27 target.
While standing, Deborah got impressive results on a B-27 target with the .45 ACP Amethyst at 7 yards while firing at a reasonably fast rate. The
tight 15-yard cluster at the lower left was shot at a more deliberate speed. She then moved back to 25 yards, where she grouped the shots well, breaking into the 9-ring.
Deborah considers the Micro Carry .380 ideal for most of the women she trains. She found the frame-mounted safety allowing most manipulation with the safety engaged to be a welcome safety feature. The Micro performed very well at 3, 7, and 15 yards (inset). Twenty-five-yard bench shooting is a challenge with an 8-pound trigger on such a small pistol, but most of the groups were in the 4- to 5-inch range.
The Micro Carry .380
Deborah maintains a number of her women associates would be very interested in the Amethyst, but she regards the smaller, more easily concealed Micro Carry as near ideal for most of her students. The Micro Carry closely resembles the Colt Mustang and also the SIG P238 Deborah carries on a daily basis. These pistols are unlike many of the micro-size and medium polymer-frame DAO entries, and are easy to learn and free of painful recoil.
The Kimber is available in a number of variations, including ones with night sights, laser grips and a variety of color schemes. The Stainless Rosewood sample has all the essentials, such as highly visible sights, pleasing lines and superior fit and finish, contributing to pride of ownership.
There are a couple of theories on what constitutes an effective .380 load. We found the loads we have checked out by shooting into raw beef expand quite well from the Micro Carry, even with velocity reductions of 60 to 120 fps from a 1/2-inch longer Walther PPK barrel. There are also loads for people who worry expanding .380 bullets might lack adequate penetration.
Buffalo Bore addresses this with standard and +P loads using 100-grain lead flatpoints and a flatpoint 90-grain FMJ. A large selection of .380 loads are currently available, though there’s always the possibility of large-scale ammo and component drought. The Micro Carry handled all available loads with no stoppages, placing them close enough to exact point-of-aim to saturate the 10- and X-rings of the B27 target back to 15 yards. Solid torso hits were the rule at 25 yards.
Fired from a sandbag rest at 25 yards, the smallest group with the Amethyst Ultra II was with 185-grain Hornady Critical Defense, which measured 1.9 inches.
Accessories And Extras
Pocket carry has always been a preferred option with very small semi-autos, though safety demands a pocket holster enclosing the triggerguard. The DeSantis Ammo Nemesis puts the pistol and one of the two spare magazines in the same location. This can be an ideal choice in conjunction with an adequately large strong-side pocket. Another option on hand is the DeSantis SOF Tuck, an angle-adjustable IWB that can be worn under a cover garment or out of sight under a tucked shirt.
The Amethyst arrives in a hard case with a manual and three magazines. Spare magazines are a strong indication consumer satisfaction is a major company goal. There is a small tool to capture the recoil spring unit. A package contains the parts needed to install a magazine extender/bump pad on one of the Kimber-marked magazines. The boxed Micro Carry comes with a soft zipper case, owner’s manual and three magazines—one with an extended finger-piece installed. Both packages include cable padlocks for safe storage.
Ultra II & Micro CDP
Amethyst Ultra II
|Action||Locked breech semi-auto|
|Caliber||. 45 ACP (tested), 9mm|
|Overall length||6.8 inches|
|Barrel length||3 inches|
|Sights||3-dot tritium night sights, fixed|
|Finish||Amethyst Purple PVD slide, anodized aluminum frame|
Micro Stainless Rosewood
|Gun||Micro Stainless Rosewood|
|Action||Locked breech semi-auto|
|Overall length||5.6 inches|
|Barrel length||2.7 inches|
|Sights||Fixed black Patridge|
|Finish||Stainless steel slide, anodized aluminum frame|
.45 ACP Factory Ammo Performance
|(brand, bullet weight, type)||(fps)||(ft-lbs)||(inches)|
|Remington 230 JHP||723||267||2.0|
|Hornady 200 XTP||792||279||2.7|
|Black Hlls 200 Lead SWC||788||276||2.9|
|Hornady 185 Critical Defense||798||262||1.9|
|Hornady 185 XTP American Gunner||783||252||3.25|
|CorBon 230 JHP+P||820||343||2.6|
Notes: Groups the product of 5 shots at 25 yards.
Competition Electronics Chronograph set at 12-feet from the muzzle.
.380 ACP Factory Ammo Performance
|(brand, bullet weight, type)||(fps)||(ft-lbs)||inches)|
|Black Hills 100 FMJ||755||127||4.5|
|Black Hills 90 JHP||891||159||4.25|
|Hornady 90 Critical Defense||894||160||4.9|
|Buffalo Bore 90 JFP||835||139||7.3*|
Notes: Groups the product of 5 shots at 25 yards.
Competition Electronics Chronograph set at 12-feet
from the muzzle. *Vertical group. Horizontal was 1.3 inches.