Kimber’s Custom TLE II

posted on August 12, 2015
From a Ransom rest, our Kimber TLE II preferred the lighter, 185-grain bullets over the 230s. In this case, the gun preferred Atlanta Arms & Ammo.
Accuracy and dependability right out of the box. Made in America.

The above phrase is the well-earned preamble from Montana-based Kimber America. Originally founded in 1979 as Kimber of Oregon, Kimber America was reborn in the 1990s and, among others, supplies firearms to the USA Olympic Shooting Team, Marines assigned to Special Operations Command (SOCOM), and the LAPD SWAT Team.

The Kimber Custom TLE (Tactical Law Enforcement) II, aka “the LAPD SWAT gun” is one of twelve firearms in the Kimber Custom II family of 1911-style pistols. For a dedicated target gun, the collection includes the Custom Target II with factory-installed adjustable rear sights. Guns in this group come with match-grade barrels, bushings, chambers and triggers, lowered and flared ejection ports and—the Kimber Firing Pin Safety TM, identified by the “II” in the model name. Type II guns represent about half of the Kimber pistol catalog. You can see the entire collection of “series two” guns here:

Senior Border Patrol Agent and National Champion Robert Vadasz produced this 6-round, 50-yard group (with no sight adjustments) using Atlanta Arms ammo, from the offhand position.

According to Kimber: “The Custom TLE II is essentially the ‘commercial version’ of the Custom II Kimber that we developed at the request of and sold directly to the LAPD SWAT Team. It is a Custom II with the addition of night sights and front strap checkering.”


Barrel Length: 5 inches Trigger weight: 4.9 lbs.
Length Overall: 8.7 inches Barrel Twist: 1:16L
Sight Radius: 6.8 inches Sights: Tritium 3-dot
Width: 1.25 inches Frame and slide: Steel
Magazine Capacity: 7 rounds Guide rod: Full length
Weight: 38 oz. (empty magazine) Calibers: .45 cal. and 10 mm
MSRP: $1,080    

MILSPEC (military specification) guns used by our deployed military are designed with loose tolerances so that they continue to function in extreme environments. While soldiers and Marines take great care to maintain their firearms in top condition, a close-tolerance, match gun would quickly jam in the dust, dirt and temperatures found on the battlefield. Similarly, special purpose “duty” guns used by law enforcement are “spec’d” for rugged reliability amidst daily use in and out of armored personnel carriers, while stored in weapons lockers, banged on while clearing a room—or worse. In such an environment, precision accuracy ranks second to dependability. Out of the box, the Kimber delivers both.

Brand Bullet Weight Type Avg Velocity FPS * High FPS Low FPS Extreme Spread
AA&A Match 185 JHP 816 837 790 47
Federal Personal Defense 185 JHP 957 972 927 45
Remington Golden Saber 230 JHP 835 854 822 32
Federal Premium 230 JHP 815 832 780 52


The front slide serrations make for a safe and easy press check. However, the notch in the ejection port makes this less important, since it is easy to verify if the gun is loaded even with the slide forward.
Kimber’s type II Kimber Firing Pin Safety TM engages when you depress the grip safety, rather than the trigger, thus eliminating the blade safety in the center of the trigger found on some models. When the grip safety is pressed, a pin moves a plunger vertically in the slide, which unblocks the firing pin, resulting in a smoother trigger pull. When field stripping this design for cleaning, be careful not to engage the grip safety when removing the slide. Otherwise, with the grip safety depressed, slide movement is blocked by the pin next to the disconnector. Forcing the slide further can result in a few choice words and an unplanned trip to the gunsmith. You’ll need to remove the rear sight to access the firing pin block mechanism for cleaning or repair.


30-lines per-inch front strap checkering and rubber “slab” grips feels just right.

The “sword handle” back strap of a single-stack 1911 with its ergonomic “hilt” (beaver tail) provide a comfortable, natural grip angle. Firing the steel TLE with subsonic .45 rounds had less muzzle flip than some “Tupperware guns” we’ve fired with supersonic, 9 mm missiles. (Watch for subjective tests on this topic in a future issue.)

The Custom TLE II takes John Moses Browning’s masterpiece and adds an appropriate dose of modern technology and eye candy for a fun, good looking self-defense gun that will also carry the day in NRA Metallic Class competition.




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