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Kimber TLE/RL Combat pistol
The Kimber entry into the world of "railguns" is a slightly juiced up version of their utility gun which has been adopted by several law enforcement agencies and a limited number of military users. The current variant is of the newest "Series II" generation, but really could be called "series 2.5" since it has some significant changes from guns made in 2003. The most obvious of these changes is the claw type extractor found in most of the newer Kimber guns. There have also been some minor changes to the firing pin safety and the nature of the rail as opposed to some earlier models which had an attached rails, known as the Dawson Rails instead of the rail that has been machined in as part of the frame.
This type of gun has been quickly gaining favor among professional users who want reliability and power in a gun that can deliver top performance in the hands of a trained operator. One general drawback of the 1911 pistols in the past was the fact that they could not accept weapon mounted lights which are becoming standard for most tactical teams. This practice has been picked up by elite military units and those in the survivalist community who have sought current training in the various shooting schools that teach night shooting techniques. The two most important factors for night shooting are of course accuracy, and the other biggies is target discrimination. Target discrimination being the major issue for shooters in environments where you need to positively identify who are shooting act because of zero tolerance for shooting innocent bystanders, misidentified targets or friendly personnel.
The TLE pistols do not all come with a rail, which can be confusing when comparing the prices on the pistols. Another cost item to look out for is whether or not your particular gun comes with an ambi safety. While Kimbers used to contract Chip McCormick parts in the guns, that contract was ended by McCormick and Kimber went with some slight design changes that now make it necessary to either use Kimber parts for upgrades and or require a skilled gunsmith to install McCormick parts that used to be more or less a drop-in proposition. Thus, my gun did not come with the ambi safety, and it took a skilled gunsmith to install the McCormick ambi safety I bought for it. Features standard on all of the TLE pistols (so far) that differ from the normal Custom/Target II pistols are fixed tritium sights (very bright green Meprolight on all three dots), and a checkered frontstrap. Some custom build models will feature an old style extractor, different grip safety, and a mainspring housing with a lanyard loop.
The gun was specifically engineered to work with the Streamlight M3/M6 combat lights as shown here mounted with the M3. The M6 laser option is largely redundant on a gun that already has tritium sights, however it still has value for those using night vision equipment and those who wish to have a less lethal intimidation alternative in the form of the laser.
Fit and finish on the weapon is utilitarian throughout, from the basic rubber grips to the matte blue finish, however unlike lower quality guns, a close inspection will reveal that machine marks and rough spots have been carefully removed in any area that would even remotely affect function. Every added detail is functional in nature, from the checkered frontstrap to help gripping with wet hands or gloves, to the slide serrations in front to give a better grip when cocking the gun using alternate methods like my modified Applegate reverse grip method.
The barrel, while left "in the white" however is not stainless steel, but a common hard carbon chromoly steel that is susceptible to rust from handling and pitting from corrosive ammunition. Note that ALL ammo can be corrosive in a salt water or highly humid environment because the carbon residue from burned powder will combine with salt and oxygen to create a mildly corrosive substance that will pit bare metal. Care must be taken to lubricate and clean this weapon or it will suffer significant loss in performance. This is very unlike other service pistols like the Berettas, Smith & Wessons and Sigs which can withstand more abuse and less maintenance. This requirement for extra care and maintenance, along with the gun being less suitable for extremely harsh environments make it more of a special purpose tactical pistol than a general purpose field pistol, but it can serve the survivor or military user quite well in a field environment if due care is exercised in keeping crap out of the action.
Being single action only leaves the user with a small but significant dilemma, which is in relation to the mode of carry. If you carry the gun with a round in the chamber, it can be safely left with the hammer resting in the forward position due to the firing pin safety that is integrated with the grip safety (the gun can be dropped on the hammer and this device will prevent it from firing). This protects the sensitive rear parts of the action from getting dirt in that could otherwise render the gun inoperable if dirt, especially sand, gets into the hammer/sear area. To make that situation more complex, the grip safety integration with the firing pin block and recoil rod arrangement make field maintenance sensitive and difficult, with sand removal being practically a depot level maintenance operation. Thus, for military or survivalist field/ camp use, you will want to keep the hammer forward under most circumstances. On "cocked and locked" carry, usually known as "condition one" the gun can be extremely fast, in fact some highly trained people will carry the gun cocked and with the safety disengaged, relying entirely on the grip safety and positive control of the gun to prevent accidental discharge (IE, keeping the finger off the trigger until ready to fire). This is only advisable in highly dynamic tactical situations where speed is your highest priority. Otherwise, safety concerns will pre-empt any need for that much speed. Condition two carry (chamber loaded, hammer forward) is problematic with this gun in that the hammer spring is stiff and the gun can be tricky to cock swiftly. This is because most users really need to stretch the thumb a bit to reach around the beavertail grip safety to get at the hammer and back again. Thus, the other valid way to carry this gun is with a loaded magazine, safety off, hammer forward. This condition three carry transitions to the firing position with the user pulling the pistol out with the strong hand, and then using the other hand to chamber the first round in the magazine and cock the gun all in one motion. Condition four (chamber empty, safety engaged) is not recommended at all with this pistol because it is both slow and exposes the sensitive hammer/sear / firing pin interface area to the introduction of debris because the hammer needs to be cocked in order for the safety to be engaged. These factors in the use of the gun are more complicated than man other pistols even though you have the deceptively simple sounding idea that the gun is "single action only". It is more complex to teach and learn procedures for handling this gun than others like the Beretta or Glock even though the basic technology of the 1911 is older.
more to come later