Prior to succumbing to the siren's call and becoming a gun writer, my time with NRA included a lengthy stint as a membership customer service representative. As with all jobs, it too had an other-duties-as-assigned provision, which often meant answering questions not related to membership, including: "I'm thinking about buying a gun, what type should I buy?" and, "What's the best cartridge for this application?"
Those questions illustrate how we as Americans-either by conscious effort, or chance-strive to acquire multi-purpose items in this increasingly one-size-fits-all world. Truth is, while it's okay to apply that sort of Swiss army knife rationale to some things, applying it to handgun selection-especially one for personal protection-is a mistake. The folks at Kimber's Custom Shop understand the distinction between the two types of pistols. More importantly, they understand the dynamics of life-threatening situations and design their 1911s with features appropriate for self-defense.
The phrase "The right tool for the right job" instantly came to mind the first time I saw the company's Pro Aegis II. Its name alone suggests this is a special-purpose pistol. Aegis has multiple meanings. However, the most poignant comes from Greek Mythology, referring to the goatskin shield or breastplate of Zeus and Athena. The word also corresponds in English to mean protection, or sponsorship.
From its matte-black, flat-top slide to its satin-silver aluminum frame, the Kimber Pro Aegis II is handsome enough for any God. However, a closer look revealed a far from a run-of-the-mill 1911. Whereas most manufacturers typically shorten both grip and slide on their carry guns, the Pro Aegis II mates a 4-inch barrel (hence its Pro designation) with a standard-size grip. While it appears slightly disproportionate at first glance, the result of the pairing is a well-balanced pistol, which completely fills the hand.
In addition, many 1911 manufacturers typically feel the need to sacrifice a solid-firing grip in the name of concealability, Kimber took a different approach with this pistol by using thin, fluted Rosewood stocks, making for an extremely comfortable feel. By reducing the grip circumference, this pistol should appeal to all manner of deities-from the massive musculature of mighty Zeus to the beautiful Athena. Given its mere 28 ounces, the Pro Aegis II can even be carried by mortals. Overall, the pistol should prove easy to conceal thanks to such things as its shortened barrel and slide, contoured exterior, reduced grip circumference and light weight. Proper holster and clothing determines handgun concealment effectiveness, more so than size-see Sheriff Wilson's thoughts on the subject in this month's "Straight Talk."
Both slide and frame sport a carry melt treatment, where all sharp edges are gently blended. The process not only serves on an aesthetic or dynamic level, but makes the pistol smooth-incapable of cutting clothing (tunic or gown), holsters, or shooter. The fire controls receive the same treatment: the magazine release and thumb safety are contoured, maintaining enough surface area for quick, albeit positive manipulation. The hammer spur is also removed and mated with a solid match-grade trigger-compared to their easier-to-tune skeletonized counterparts. This is however, an item not commonly seen on custom 1911s. The solid trigger is a perfect choice for the Aegis since bobbing the hammer adequately reduced its mass, thereby making the addition of a solid trigger possible. The only downside of the spurless hammer is a reduced ability to lower it manually.
While there's little doubt the Pro Aegis II was specifically designed to be carried cocked and locked, it should be noted Kimber is now offering Aegis pistols with the option of regular hammers for 2009. Another feature includes a beavertail grip safety complete with a memory bump for positive disengagement. It, along with the high-relief cut under the trigger guard, enables the shooter to adopt a high grip on the pistol for maximum controllability. Similarly, 30 line-per-inch checkering on both frontstrap and mainspring housing further aid positive grip and purchase.
A departure from traditional 1911s, the Aegis' slide contains prominent rear cocking serrations for easy access along with a flat top. Whether this feature actually reduces glare has been debated in shooting periodicals for decades. Nonetheless, its matte-black finish should make glare less of an issue. Front and rear dovetails contain 3-dot, low-profile sights, which are well suited to the pistol thanks to their durable design and fast acquisition at combat distances. Tritium inserts provide additional reference during low-light engagements. Reliability is addressed by means of a lowered and flared ejection port, along with a highly polished feed ramp found on the pistol's 4-inch, bushingless, match-grade barrel.
Overall, I found the Pro Aegis II's performance worthy of mortal or deity. There were no malfunctions and I was able to get the best accuracy with 115-grain Winchester Silvertips, which grouped 1¼ inches at 25 yards, suggesting this handgun prefers lower-velocity self-defense ammunition. Although snappier than normal, recoil proved quite manageable despite the lightweight frame.
Will owning a Pro Aegis II give you the urge move to Mount Olympus or shoot lightning bolts from your limbs? Probably not, but it will grant you the ability to smite attackers with mythological power.
Manufacturer: Kimber: (888) 243-4522, Kimberamerica.com
Type: Recoil-operated, semi-automatic
Caliber: 9 mm
Frame: Aluminum, with satin-silver KimPro II finish, checkered front strap
Slide: 6¼-inch, forged carbon steel
Finish: KimPro II
Frame: Satin silver alloy
Slide: Matte black
Barrel: 4-inch steel, ramped, match-grade
Rifling: 6-groove, 1:16, LH
Grips: Thin rosewood, fluted
Sights: Fixed, low-profile, tactical wedge tritium night sights
Trigger Pull Weight: 4 pounds, 2 ounces
Length: 7.7 inches
Width: 1.15 inches
Height: 5.25 inches
Weight: 28 ounces empty
Suggested Retail Price: $1,277