Kimber's Warrior: The Wiley Clapp Review

posted on June 19, 2022
Kimber America Warrior M1911 semi-automatic pistol gun firearm closeup stamping barrel
Photos by author.

This article, "Kimber's Warrior," appeared originally in the December 2005 issue of American Rifleman. Kimber America has since brought to market the Warrior II, an upgraded version of its original gun reviewed here. To subscribe to the magazine, visit the NRA membership page here and select American Rifleman as your member magazine.

Kimber warrior magainze spread print gun m1911 firearm usmc text article screenshot
The Kimber Warrior is a full-size 1911-style .45 Auto, with features that reflect the requirements of USMC Special Operations personnel. It is intended for rough service in desert climes. The Warrior bucks the current trend of using a full-length guide rod (r.).

According to the USMC Table of Organization & Equipment (T/O&E), my designated weapon was an M1911A1 pistol. That was true for every Marine Corps unit with which I served.

In Vietnam, I carried the same pistol for the long tour I spent there. It was right out of the arsenal refinish program and looked like it was brand new when I got it in the spring of ’65. It looked like hell when I turned it in in December of ’66. I had installed a long trigger and a flat mainspring housing, along with walnut grips. This brought the gun up to my personal preferences for handling and shooting. None of my modifications were USMC-approved, but the statute of limitations has long since run out. There were times when the old warrior picked up so much mud and dirt that I had to clean it daily. I never let more than two or three days pass without at least a wipe down. Like every other Marine, I took good care of my weapon. It would add a lot to the introduction to this story to tell you how many times the old Colt saved my butt, but the truth is that I fired exactly one shot “in anger,” and the effect is not worth the recounting. Still, it was a wonderful old gun that I never let out of arm’s reach for many months, even when I was able to get an infrequent shower. I wish I could have kept it.

For the majority of the Marine Corps, the T/O&E sidearm is no longer a .45. But a number of Marines are packing a new version of the timeless classic, and happily enough, essentially the same pistol is available right down the street at your local gun shop. The pistol is made by Kimber and called the Warrior. I have had a sample for several weeks and have had the opportunity to put the gun through its paces. Using the gun gives this old Marine a twinge of nostalgia. I hope that every current Marine lucky enough to be armed with the pistol appreciates what the Corps has done for him or her. There are two types of Marines using M1911 .45s. They are the Recon Marines assigned to the Marine Expeditionary Units (Special Operations Capable) and the members of Detachment One, Special Operations Command. When the latter unit was formed, their commanding officer was able to wrangle the purchase of enough Kimber pistols for his unit of 100 or so Marines.

The gun, named the Warrior by Kimber’s marketing executives, is an upgraded version of the company’s standard all-steel .45 auto. All of the major M1911 makers have a good array of models with increasing levels of cost in their upgraded features. The trick is to select the features that add to the gun’s utilitarian value and, thereby, justify increased prices rather than lavishing money on gingerbread features that don’t pay their way in hard use. The original version had features specified by some really gun-savvy Marines who know what a fighting handgun really is. That adds up to a civilian-legal rendering of the 1911 Warrior that’s an excellent choice of pistol for a police, civilian or military shooter who wants the good stuff and has no time for meaningless bells and whistles.

In its physical aspect, the Warrior is straightforward and businesslike. It is a full-size pistol with a 5" barrel and slide. The operating system is pure John Browning, with a classic single-action trigger and typical tilting-barrel, recoil-operated locking system. The magazine is single-column and wears a huge bumper pad that you really do need on this particular pistol for reasons that we will get to in a moment. Generally, it is a rugged, no-frills gun intended and well suited for rough service.

On top, the Kimber Warrior has a full-length slide. The sights are what the Kimber catalog describes as a tactical wedge design with Meprolight three-dot night sights. In a limited amount of low-light shooting, I found them to be easy to acquire and align. Kimber provides the Warrior slide with fore and aft angled cocking serrations on each side. Cut with a square-bottomed tool, the serrations give the shooter a positive gripping surface when racking the slide. Markings are minimal, in keeping with Kimber’s tradition of simple elegance. On the left side, there is the “Kimber” logo in script. The right side has the gun’s designation, “WARRIOR,” in block letters.

The Warrior’s frame is considerably different from the traditional shape in that this is a rail gun. Forward of the trigger guard on the underside of the frame, there is a thick extension of steel with a flat bottom. This is the so-called dust cover area, and the extra metal was included in the design so Kimber machinists could carve it into the shape of a Picatinny rail. Rails of this sort are growing in popularity. They give a tactical shooter the means of mounting a powerful light or laser-sighting system (or both) on the pistol and in direct line with the bore. Some of the lights are remarkably sophisticated. The unit from Insight Technologies shown in accompanying photographs has two lights. One is a low-power LED green light that gives a handgunner just enough light to get around in a darkened building or cave. The other is a powerful white light that allows him to clearly identify a target and to disorient an opponent with intense light. “Weaponlights,” as they are called by SureFire, are the hot ticket these days, and the Warrior has one of the better systems on which to mount one. Note that the thickness of the dust cover is greater than that of a conventional M1911. It extends all the way back to the slide-stop pin.

Kimber supplies the Warrior with an ambidextrous thumb safety and a high-ride beavertail grip safety. The speed bump or insurance pad at the bottom of the grip safety is there to ensure that the shooter’s grip—sometimes assumed under the stress of a gunfight—is enough to fully depress it and ready the gun for firing. Unlike most others, it has grooves in the form of squiggly lines.

There are a couple of other features of note on the frame. One of them is the mainspring housing. It’s flat and wears conventional square checkering with lines intersecting at 90 degrees. But it has a feature that is a return to yesterday’s design. On the base of the mainspring housing, there is a U-shaped steel loop—a lanyard ring. In times gone by, the lanyard was a part of every pistol-armed soldier’s equipment. As a matter of fact, pre-World War I M1911 magazines often had similar loops on their floorplates. The device has fallen into disuse, particularly in civilian circles. However, our SpecOps personnel have returned to using lanyards to retain their pistols, as have some police SWAT personnel. I can recall using a spare bootlace to tie my .45 to my wrist on some occasions in Vietnam. If you intend to manipulate the gun in the modern technique, the lanyard ring could interfere with high-speed magazine changes. That’s why the Warrior comes with extra-thick bumper pads on its magazines. They ensure the brisk application of upward pressure needed to fully seat a magazine doesn’t drive the heel of the shooter’s hand into the lanyard ring.

Probably the most distinctive and immediately noticeable feature of the Warrior pistol are the stocks. They are made of a synthetic material called G10 laminate. Light green in color, their exposed surfaces consist of vertical rows of tiny depressions, each of which is shaped like a miniature bathtub—round ends, straight sides. It is distinctive as well as functional. Much of the time, SpecOps personnel wear Nomex gloves, and a coarse surface like this one adheres well to a gloved hand. For reasons that escape me, the frontstrap of the Warrior has no serrations or checkering.

With the exception of the barrel, the hammer’s sides and aluminum trigger, the Warrior is finished with an applied coating. The catalog refers to it as KimPro, but it offers no further information. Whatever it is, it is very evenly applied, as well as being very tough. I tried to scratch off a bit of the finish at a spot inside the frame and had no luck at all. Dead black in color, the finish is appropriate for a firearm of this character.

The Warrior omits some features that are arguable, although popular, in the first place. Many modern .45s come with full-length, recoil-spring guide rods—the Warrior does not. It uses the plain old G.I.-style rod used for almost 100 years, and therefore breaks down from the front the way I learned in boot camp. Also, the Warrior does not have a buffer-type washer on the recoil-spring guide. These washers absolutely prevent frame cracking as advertised, but they’re not necessary if the gun’s owner knows how to change recoil springs when they wear out.

Kimber was one of the first M1911 makers to develop and use an external extractor, but the original USMC version of the gun did not have one. This was at the request of the Marines who wrote the specifications for the pistol. Therefore, the Warrior that I evaluated for this story is like the military version and the vast majority of other M1911 pistols made during the last century. It has the old-style, internal extractor that works perfectly when produced to the specifications that John Browning developed so many years ago.

Further, the Warrior does not have a firing-pin safety. There are several different kinds of these devices in current usage with other guns. All are intended to keep the pistol from firing if it is dropped. Handgunners who buy a Warrior get a gun with an original type of trigger pull. Invariably, a firing-pin safety has an impact on the quality of the trigger action, so guns that don’t have the device are often popular with experienced M1911 shooters. This situation means that the full-featured Warrior—with the original extractor and no firing-pin safety—is a very appealing product.

All of the forgoing constitutes a description of a .45 pistol that should really get the job done. But, I had to take it to the range for a thorough shoot before I could really put a stamp of approval on the gun. I fired the Warrior initially in a very un-warrior-like way at dirt clods, pop cans and the like. It’s a big old .45, and that means a certain amount of recoil and muzzle rise. However, as I have noticed on other M1911 pistols equipped with a rail-mounting system, the additional weight out front helps dampen the distracting muzzle bounce off the target. It is slightly easier to control than a stock M1911 in fast exercises.

I also used the late Chuck Ransom’s wonderful Ransom Rest to determine the pistol’s mechanical accuracy. This involved shooting a series of five consecutive, five-shot groups at 25 yds. The results of this exercise are tabulated with this article and show a pistol that averages under the 2" mark. I used three different kinds of ammo with two bullet weights. The two 230-gr. loads are two of my accuracy standards and the Warrior was happy with both of them. The best single group (0.83") and the best average (1.34") came with Federal’s 230-gr. Gold Medal Match. This is not a tightly fitted pistol, nor is it one that is conceived for matches of any kind, but it has the accuracy to compete well with anything out there.

Kimber makes a huge array of M1911-style pistols. The Warrior is not the most accurate, the most expensive or the prettiest, but pretty is as pretty does, and the Warrior is fitting equipment for any serious handgunner.


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