Diagnosing a Kimber With Issues

with Ken Brooks
AGI Instructor and Owner of Pisco Gunsmithing

This video from the Gun Club of America gives a valuable lesson to all aspiring gunsmiths. It is an excellent example of the thought process and investigation into a gun that has several problems. Ken looks at the parts that may be culprits and then develops a plan to solve those issues.

Using these techniques, any gunsmith or owner should be able to understand how to repair a faulty firearm, rather than simply throwing a bunch of new parts at it and hoping for the best. The key, of course, is to understand the function of each part and how it interacts with the others.

26 Responses to Diagnosing a Kimber With Issues

    • That could be a magazine issue with the mag lips not holding the round up in the correct position long enough as it is pushed forward into the chamber.

    • Ken said the bullet nosedove into the front shelf of the magazine and stubbed and therefor did not feed the cartridge out of the magazine.

      As admin stated the feed lips on the mag could be too narrow to allow the bullet to feed out of the mag.

      Other causes can be the bullet end of the follower (the front end of the follower) tilting too far downwards and thus not allowing the bullet to clear the front shelf of the magazine body. Anti-tilt followers are best to have in order to avoid nose diving in the magazine. The magazine spring could possibly be a little weak but it’s hard to say.

      Or the front front shelf/edge/wall of the mag body itself is made too high up for the bullet to clear/feed over it.

      Too bad the gun has so many issues. I wouldn’t buy it that way and would return it as new as possible if I had bought it.

      If I really wanted to keep the gun with all the issues it has I would perform other “checks” (headspace, loose breach, amount of lock-up) to see if the gun would be worth keeping and fixing myself but this gun in the video has a thin mag catch AND shows wear on the slide where the slide stop engages and also has wear on slide stop itself. I would have to say these two things alone would be enough for me wanting to return the gun, especially if the metal on the slide and slide stop is wearing early on in it’s life meaning the metal does not seem to be hardened enough.

      Thanks for the video. I could watch those types of troubleshooting videos everyday like I did today during lunch.

  1. Excellent information. Thanks for the explanation of what’s all going on. I had debated one of these when looking for a small pocket auto. I heard they were having serious issues. I am sure glad I opted for the Sig P938. It is much more reminiscent of say the old Colt mustang, but the P938 is 9mm. It wears a ramped barrel like the Kimber you show, but it doesn’t have the dish in the ramp. I’d rather the magazine feed lips were more like the old Browning 1911 design, but I have yet to have any issue with it. It feeds fires and functions every style and weight of ammo I have tried in it. Instead of having the stamped metal mag release it wears one identical to a 1911. The slide locks properly and is similar to a 1911 as well. All in all I would highly recommend the P938 for people who want a 1911 feeling pocket auto. It saddens me the Kimber has suffered from issues such as you have outlined.

  2. I remember seeing some gunzine reviews when the Solo first came out. Most of those reviews seemed to praise the design, but didn’t go in-depth on how it performed. The one thing I remember vividly was the excessive trigger pull weight. For the price, it has no excuse for a poor trigger.

    It appears that it was rushed into production before all the required “fitting” was full understood, and thus that information was not passed on to the manufacturing process. In today’s gun factories, they have assemblers; not gunsmiths. So if the proper fit & finish is not designed into the individual parts, the gun won’t work properly. Kimber’s reputation has been greatly tarnished by this model.

    • Gotta watch them gunzine dolts. Some of em don’t know a clipazine from a magazine. But you’ll be sure to get it straight no Bravo Sierra from the guys here.

      It is sad gun companies have become nothing but pencil pushers and assemblers. There are very few smiths or true innovators like the old days. I have found that quality can vary GREATLY even between two identical models from the same manufacturer. It proves the AGI mantra that you really have to know how stuff works to service firearms and keep them running their best.

      Of course it helps to design them correctly from the ground up!

      • Since at least 1911 the term magazine and clip are totally interchangeable. Early U.S. Military manuals on the 1911 pistol state the feed device as a “clip” not a magazine.

        I personally have heard and read so many horror stories on Kimbers I would never consider buying anything they make. I know in the past their MIM Cast parts also were noted for pre-mature failure.

  3. The gunsmiths at AGI are very good. However, IMO, none of them is a top notch 1911 pistol smith. If you want the best work done, contact one of these (no special order):

    Jerry Keefer
    Chuck Rogers
    Dave Panciotti
    John Harrison

  4. Hi Ken
    I am very familiar with the Kimbers as the gun store I work with is a kimber master dealer.
    The fire control on the solo is designed so the striker is captured at about 1/3 the over all travel. Then as the trigger is pulled the striker is pulled rearward until the sear releases the striker, thus the long trigger pull.
    One thing I saw was a worn out recoil spring. This is serious and if not replaced will crack the frame.
    Kimber recommends changing the spring every 1500-1800 rounds and won’t repair it under warranty.
    I’ve only seen 2 solos with cracked frames but about 12 of the Ultra carry 1911s. These are the ones with the alloy frames.
    I’m not knocking Kimber, I work on many and own a number myself.

  5. I had a brand new Kimber Solo. Two tone. I reload. I have two other 9 mm Kimber 1911’s. One Walther 9 mm pistol. The Walther and the 1911’s had no problems. The Solo had all of the problems you just covered. I sent it to the FACTORY to be fixed!! Three weeks later after I got it back.I tried it out again. Same problems! I took it to the next gun show, and sold it. I traded it for a Sig 938 equinox 9 mm. No problems, no hassles, goes Bang every time!

  6. I think I will take my Colt Mustang (1st model) over either of the new production or the Kimber esp after seeing the reviews.
    I am glad the Sig mags will fit my Colt. I have a Kimber mag that is supposed to work with my Mustang, but won’t feed.
    What’s going on Kimber??

  7. I purchased a Kimber Custom II, new, in 2006. The only modification was the addition of a Kimber magwell and wood grips.
    I have at least 4 or 5K rounds through it, from various manufactures, types and weights of projectiles, without any malfunctions, of any kind, that I recall.

  8. I just bought a Ultra Raptor II 3″ bbl. .45ACP
    I haven’t tried it out yet but after these comments I’m concerned about the quality and reliability. Especially,,, since I paid a ton of money for the thing.
    I purchased a Wilson Magazine to use along with the one Supplied by Kimber so I’m anxious to see if there is any difference in reliability between the two.
    I’ll let you know what I encounter as soon as I get a chance to shoot the thing.
    Now If it only would “Quit raining in Georgia”!

    • Hi trainman
      I’ve had lots of experience with the Kimbers. They are excellent weapons and lots sure you’ll be happy with it as soon as you can shoot it. The stock mags are crap so you were smart to buy a Wilson. Chip McCormack is also a good choice.
      He one thing you’ll have to pay close attention to is the recoil springs. I would recommend you buy 2 of the large outside springs and 1 complete set.
      I love my Kimbers I’ve had 8 over the years and, with the exception of the solo, they have all been excellent 1911.

  9. First, the problem with the magazine release is caused by loading a round in the chamber then replacing the round in the magazine and putting the now full magazine in the gun. This firearm is not designed to have this done. On the bottom of the slide there is a bump that pushes the rounds in the magazine down when there slide is either auto loading or racking the slide. by putting another round in the magazine you are putting a lot of pressure on the magazine. I think this was done to keep the slide and barrel as low as possible. As to problems with failure to load I think a lot of the problem might be dirty magazines. Pay close attention to the spring. Buildup on the inside of the magazine and especially the spring will cause the rounds to not position correctly in the magazine. This gun is designed to be small and there are a lot of tight tolerances. I disassemble the magazines and put the parts in an ultrasonic cleaner. I was supervised how much better everything worked after cleaning the Magazines.

    • Good observations Steve.

      The “bump” as you call it on the bottom of the slide of the gun in topic/video here (Kimber) I am wondering if that bump is thickest/highest at the breach end and then tapers thinner/lower towards the rear of the slide?

      If it does then it is creating magazine surge as the slide cycles rearwards, which can contribute to ammo nose diving in the magazine, especially if the magazine follower is allowed/able to tilt downwards at the front.

      Ken does not at all care for tapered “bumps” on the bottom of the slide because of the potential of that causing mag surge.

      • the” bump is not tapered”. The purpose is to push the next round into the magazine so the slide can clear it. Not a problem when loading the first round. If the slide is not locked back the bump pushes the rounds into the magazine, which is very full, hard to even load the last round. If you charge chamber and fill magazine then the bump pushes the rounds down into a very full magazine and puts excessive pressure on mag release. As far as failure to eject and failure to feed problems I found cleaning the magazines really helps. Pay especial attention to the spring. They tend to accumulate combustion residue and in the tight confines of these small magazines makes a lot of difference. Also Kimber only recommends using Pluss P rounds 124 grain or heavier. they spec only four types of amo, but I have tried many and most 124 grain or heavier work. I have even hand loaded 124 and 147 grain lead and molly bullets. I did purchase new spring when I was having problems with failure to return to battery. This gun is a specialty product designed for self defence not plinking.

        • “This gun is a specialty product designed for self defence not plinking.”

          A plinking gun can easily get away with a few problems. But shouldn’t a self-defense gun be absolutely reliable? I don’t own a Kimber, but after seeing this video and reading some of the comments I’m not sure I would want to rely on any gun that had problems like these for my personal safety.

          I’m sure there are many Kimber owners among you that would disagree, so let us know how reliable your own Kimber carry gun has been for you in the comments here.

          • I’m going to assume that everybody on this forum is a qualified gunsmith. Assuming that’s true we all know that all brands of guns have their problems. The daily repairs will prove that.
            The idea is to make the customers edc gun is reliable. I’ve owned all brands and many Kimbers in particular.
            The most reliable hand gun I’ve owned actually turned out to be a Kimber. I’m not cheering Kimber,just saying know your own edc weapon and tweek it so it’s as reliable as it can possibly be.
            I have 3 personal protection firearms are a Sig 227, a GLOCK 43′ and a S&W 45 shield. I’ve personally tested and “tuned up” these 3 as if my life is depending on it. They all had hundreds of rounds and tweeks (except for the shield I haven’t shot it enough yet) and have my confidence.
            By the way, the GLOCK had the least amount of adjustments, but all are great edc weapons for me.

          • Thank you Dave. I appreciate your comments, however just to set the record straight, there are almost 20,000 subscribers to this blog and according to a survey I did a few years ago only a relatively small percentage of readers are qualified and FFL licensed gunsmiths. Many, in fact, are simply gun owners with an interest in firearms greater than just shooting them.

            That said, I am sure that they appreciate and look forward to the comments and opinions of professional gunsmiths such as yourself so they can make educated choices when choosing firearms, or to make safe modifications and repairs to their own firearms. So, for that, I thank you for your input.


          • I have an old Kimber Royal Carry. It is the epitome of reliability, but it is still essentially a commander sized 1911. For something like what Steve is talking about, something that carries well I call on my Sig P938. It’s pint sized, comfortable to carry, and extremely reliable. There’s my 2 go to carry pistols.

  10. I agree that reliability is very important, but having your firearm with you is also important. The Solo is small enough that I can carry it and not have it jab, poke or otherwise make me uncomfortable. The Trigger is very different, but smooth and easy to manipulate. I have a DeSamtes Inturder IWB holster and I put it on in the morning and take off when I go to bed. It will shoot Plus P rounds, though it makes your hand tingle. Having a 15 round magazine in your gun and having it in your glove compartment is more dangerous than not having one at all.

    OBTW I recently purchased a Springfield XD E in 9MM. It is easier to shoot, the trigger is no where as good as the Solo and it is not as comfortable. It does seem to be more reliable.

  11. Interesting info from other Kimber owners. I have four Kimber’s and of the four, three had major problems. My 45 had a barrel with a bore that was two thousand over max! Of the three rifles one, one had a safety that required a hammer to move it to firing position. My 300 WSW Montana had a gouge in the chamber. Got it back from Kimber and opened the box only to discover a scratch all the way down the barrel…sent it back again! The only good one, mechanically, is a 223 Varmit rifle. Only problem is the stock is not checkered and when handling it with gloves in winter the gun slipped out of my hands more times than I can count and on one occasion almost shot my hunting buddy! No more Kimber’s for me!

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