Editor’s Note: Just yesterday (6/14/2012) I found myself in discussion about Kimber .45ACPs and it reminded me that I was recently asked about a few Kimber handguns. Dredging up an older review, but one that still stands, I am republishing this one of the Kimber TLE II. Note that Blackwater is now Academi and the instructor cadre has changed.
In previous reviews I suggested that a .40 caliber safe-action pistol might well be the perfect duty pistol. I was very careful to specify “duty”. At least one police department feels that this week’s reviewed pistol is the best Special Operations pistol: The Kimber Custom TLE (Tactical Law Enforcement) II – otherwise known as the “LAPD SWAT gun”. The Custom TLE II is an exact replica of the guns produced for LAPD with the exception of the markings.
Also in previous articles I mentioned that I “cut my teeth” on a Government Model .45 issued to me by the United States Army. I said that in front of a work mate of mine and he wanted to know what I was doing with the pistol in my mouth: funny guy. The Govt Model I was issued by the Army in 1983 was a far cry from what Kimber produces today. Although Kimber does produce “Mil-Spec” .45s, the TLE II is not one of them – but it’s not a race gun either. It’s a well-built practical handgun for doing serious work in harsh environments.
Let’s review the basic information and we’ll see that it’s the same as most .45s. The barrel is 5″ long; the magazine capacity is 7 rounds; the trigger pull runs between 4 and 5 pounds; and the pistol weights (empty) 38 ounces. Not much different from “regular” Govt Models there. Here’s where it gets interesting:
The 5″ barrel is match grade and machined from a solid steel forging. Such a production method increases the accuracy of the barrel and provides for a higher round count before it has to be replaced. The average shooter will probably never see a barrel that been “shot out” – where the rifling has been degraded to the point of needing to be replaced. The 7 round magazine is fed into a beveled magazine well to assist with faster loading and reloading. The 4 to 5 pound trigger pull releases an aluminum match grade trigger to fire the weapon. And something I never knew before: all Kimber pistols have a polished breech face to minimize the chance of malfunction during feeding and extraction. For sure the pistol we tested extracted and ejected the spent brass with authority.
Now on to some more picky details: The finish is matte black oxide which presents a nice flat black, almost dark blue appearing, non-reflective coating. The pistol is equipped with Meprolight 3-dot green fixed night sights and they have a sight radius of 6.8″. That sight radius, so close to seven inches, provides for greater aiming accuracy as compared to pistols with a shorter sight radius. The thumb safety is extended to allow for greater ease in operation, and the front strap of the frame is checkered at 30 lines per inch. The grips are black synthetic (rubber) and the combination of front strap checkering with the rubber grips makes for a nice secure hold.
A few other niceties are the serrations on the front of the pistol which enables easier press checks; the high memory groove beaver tail grip safety; and the spur hammer. A final feature of note is the notch cut in the top rear of the chamber which serves as a visual “chamber loaded” indicator. When a round is chambered, the brass is visible through this small notch. This mitigates the need to perform a press check.
I’ve had the test TLE II I was provided by Kimber at the range on a number of occasions. It’s been handled and fired by a few not so experienced shooters, some SWAT operators in Rhode Island, and some students and instructors at Blackwater. While some of them said that any Govt Model pistol wouldn’t be their first choice in a defensive handgun, none of them had anything negative to say about it. Their choice was purely personal and based on their preference for a single pistol to “do it all” rather than a specialized pistol for specialized operations.
The most skilled shooter I saw firing the TLE II was Chris Epperson: one of Blackwater’s pistol instructors. Much to my surprise when I first handed the pistol to Chris, he started shooting close to the fifty-yard line and worked his way closer as he went. I’m an above average shooter, but I think I’d have started out closer and worked my way back as I gained familiarity with the pistol.
On the second round of the very first magazine Chris fired, the weapon malfunctioned – a failure to feed. However, that was the only malfunction and all other rounds fed and extracted/ejected without any issues.
Shooting from the fifty-yard line, Chris missed his first shot at an eight inch steel plate, but hit every shot thereafter. Not being familiar with the sights, point of aim – point of impact relationship, I expected him to miss the first couple. That he missed only one is a statement about his shooting abilities. At the fifty-yard line he put 13 out of 14 rounds on the steel plates, shooting with the nice steady rhythm that I learned was so important while I was there for a tactical pistol class.
From there Chris moved up to somewhere around the seven yard line and continued firing. In the accompanying pictures you can see the dull gray area in the center of the white target. That gray area is the collection of hits Chris scored on the freshly painted target. I’d be remiss if I failed to mention that Chris’ rhythm of shooting was the same at both distances. He fired no faster or slower up close than he did at fifty yards. After having attended the class, I learned that this is a shooting characteristic of a skilled shooter.
In one of those pictures you can clearly see the ejected brass in the air. The brass really flew out of the pistol, landing about ten feet back and to the right of the shooter. The recoil spring in the pistol is a 16-pound spring, but the pistol forcefully extracts and ejects before being slammed back into battery. A good solid grip is vitally important to this function. If you limp-wrist the pistol enough, you increase your chances of ejection/feeding malfunctions.
On a different day, at a different range, I put three magazines through the pistol rapid fire. Firing from about ten feet, I managed to keep the shot groups respectably tight – for a none-competitive shooter. As you can see in the picture, the center group was the one I was happiest with: it’s essentially a one-hole six-shot group with a single flyer. The third seven-shot string, on the far right, was the one where I focused more on trigger speed and less on technique. The hits tell the tale.
Up in Rhode Island I had the pleasure of shooting in the rain. Always a fun thing to do. Then I committed the ultimate sin: I put the pistol, with water drops still on it, into it’s case, closed the case and packed my truck. The next morning I drove home (eight + hour drive) and unpacked. That evening I got the pistol out to clean it. It had been in the case, water drops on it, for about twenty-four hours. Light surface rust had formed on the slide and on the magazines as well. A quick wipe with the cloth removed it, and proper care since then has prevented any return. What’s the lesson learned? Treat your pistol right if you want it to be there when you need it.
All in all I was very impressed with the pistol. Though it is one of Kimber’s more basic designs, it certainly performs to a high standard. With a suggested retail cost of about $900, I’ve found this gun being sold for a little more than $800. At that price, it’s a good investment.
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