By: Greg Chabot
Photos by: Sasha Steadman
Back before Christmas 2019, I was looking for something different to test out for Gunpowder Magazine.
Being a 1911 guy, I started in that section first. I spotted an interesting-looking 1911 with a factory optic mounted and immediately became curious and checked it out. I liked how it felt in my hand, and after some haggling, I was headed home with a Kimber Aegis Elite Custom IO (Installed Optic.).
I bought this weapon on impulse and against my better judgement, as I have had very poor experiences in the past with Kimber products. Kimber is the largest manufacturer of 1911s in the United States. For many years, they had leadership that was more concerned about getting product out than QC. In the past, I have had the finish come off on my hands, along with rust on a fresh-from-the-factory weapon.
I had owned two different CDP series that would not run reliably – they were all show, no go. A few years back, Kimber changed up their leadership and slimed down their product line. I have been hearing good things from Kimber owners about improved QC, which made me chance the Aegis Elite. Unlike many gun writers, I am not afraid to publish a negative review or call out design defects. I pride myself on honesty and integrity and refuse to be a shill for anyone. If an honest review will help a reader avoid a poor-quality product, it means I did my job as a writer.
The Aegis Elite Custom IO is a full-sized 1911 chambered in .45 ACP. The weapon is constructed of stainless steel, with the slide finished in matte black. The ejection port is flared and lowered. Serrations are fore and aft and are in an aggressive chain-link pattern Kimber calls AEX (Aegis Elite X). The heel of the frame is rounded for concealment purposes. It comes with 24 lines per inch checkering on the front strap. The mag well has a slight bevel to help with mag changes. The frame is finished in a satin silver color. Grips were made of G-10, with the color complementing the pistol.
The Aegis comes with a match grade bushing mated to a stainless barrel. Lock-up and slide to frame fit is tight with no slop. A full-length guide rod with 16-pound recoil spring is standard on this model. Being a full-sized 1911, the Aegis weighs in at a hefty 41 ounces unloaded. A good quality holster should mitigate that for carry purposes. The IO model comes equipped with a Vortex Venom RDS with a 6 MOA dot already mounted from the factory. White, three-dot suppressor height sights also come standard with this model. The Aegis Elite Custom IO ships with one magazine. Thankfully, the Aegis series of pistols come without the dreaded Schwartz safety that is common on some Kimber Products. Colt did away with them before WW2 for a reason, and you couldn’t give me a 1911 with one.
The slide catch is recessed into the frame on the right side, which was a nice touch to a good-looking pistol. I was impressed with the overall quality of this weapon. There were no sharp edges, the finish was even and didn’t come off on my hands. I proceeded to field strip the Aegis to do a quick clean and lube and found no machine marks. All parts were fitted properly, and the plunger tube was properly staked, and the ejector is pinned. Overall, I was pleased with how this weapon looked out of the box. The big question, will it perform in the field?
For new readers, I’ll take the time to cover why I do certain things while testing a handgun.
1) Why do I use mixed ammo? I started doing this for two reasons: being on a tight budget, I couldn’t always afford to buy ammo in bulk. I would buy a box or two here or there and acquire different brands, so I was always going to the range with mixed ammo and had some weapon malfunctions using mixed ammo. When I started writing, I felt it was a good test for reliability. If a weapon won’t function with mixed ammo, I will not trust my life to it.
The second reason is for prepping. As we have seen with the China virus and Tyranny of the Brandon regime, ammo can be hard to find, so we use what is available. I personally won’t trust my life to a weapon that only runs well on certain brands of ammo or bullet type.
2) Why do I use mineral oil to simulate blood on my hands? That comes from my experiences on the battlefield. Bloody hands can make controlling/manipulating a weapon extremely difficult. Hence why I like aggressive grips/ stippling on handguns.
3) All weapons are tested as is, out of the box. It never ceases to amaze me how a writer will do extensive modifications to a brand-new weapon. Then have the nerve to praise how great it is out of the box. I feel this does a complete disservice to readers.
I decided early on to make this a long-term test. I was fortunate enough to have stockpiled ammo before the China virus hit. Testing was with various ammo over a two-year period in all weather conditions. Multiple magazine brands were used over the course of testing. For lubrication, I used SEAL-1 CLP. Steel targets were used exclusively during the testing period.
After installing the battery and placing a witness mark on the cover, I started off by zeroing the Venom red dot sight at 10 yards. The dot only required a minor adjustment to zero. The 6 MOA dot is very easy to see upon presentation. This was my first time using a red dot on a handgun, and I didn’t have any issues adjusting to using one. To be thorough, I would shut the dot off and use irons, which I prefer.
No complaints about the trigger in this weapon. It is a pre-series 80 type, pull weight is 4.5lbs with a crisp break and short reset that is adjustable for over-travel by the end user. Combined with the bushing to barrel fit, the Aegis Elite is a very accurate weapon at all ranges. I found the red dot more beneficial at longer ranges. The irons were easy to see and acquire and were dead on out of the box. I recommend readers train with both, as irons do not require batteries.
Since this weapon is marketed as a defensive pistol, I focused most of my testing on shooting defensive drills. Cleaning was done every 500 rounds. For holsters, I used the Pro-S from 2Aholster and a Crossbreed Super Tuck Deluxe. I shot a variety of drills with both holsters, and the Aegis performed admirably. Double taps were a breeze with the both the dot and irons. Mozambique drills were easy and efficient to perform with this weapon.
I train for reality; I do most of my shooting on the move or from behind cover or awkward positions. One drill I like to do is the 5,7,10 drill. I start at 5 yards shooting at a swinging hostage head. After a hit, I move back to 7 yards then, 10 yards. You don’t move until you score a hit. At 10 yards, I do the drill in reverse. I also like to do what I call “The Forward and Backward” drill starting at 15 yards draw and engage the target. After a hit, advance on the target, upon slide lock reload, after a hit engage the target while moving backwards. These drills are fun and challenging; using the Aegis with the dot made them easy. Don’t get me wrong, I had to do my part, too.
Recoil was easy to manage with this weapon. While using +P ammo, I had no trouble controlling the Aegis elite during slow or rapid fire with my strong or weak hand. The grips and checkering kept the weapon firmly in my hand with and without gloves. It passed my blood simulation test with flying colors. I had no issues keeping the Aegis under control and on target with oil-soaked hands. I experienced no difficulty manipulating the slide with the AEX serrations, regardless of gloves or oily hands. Ergonomically, this weapon gets five stars. The rounded heel made for all day shooting comfort. The Kimber “carry melt” removed any sharp edges that could snag on clothing. The strong side only safety has plenty of room for those who ride the safety. During testing, my hands never got fatigued while running this weapon. The rounded heel made this weapon very easy to conceal with the proper holster and clothing.
The Aegis Elite is a very reliable production 1911. I only experienced 5 failures to feed in 2,500 rounds, all with the factory magazine. After removing that magazine from rotation, it ran like a top. Remember, magazines are disposable; don’t be afraid to toss a bad one. To test reliability further, the weapon was dropped into snow, sand, and water/mud. The Aegis never failed to function properly regardless of how dirty it got, with good magazines.
During cleaning intervals, no unusual wear was found, including the MIM parts. I would like to address MIM parts in firearms. There seems to be a perception that MIM (metal injection molding) parts are inferior to machined parts. Some say a gun with those parts will get you killed. That is complete internet nonsense. MIM is used in just about everything, from aircraft to appliances. People who preach this need to go shoot more and post less on message boards. I have yet to break an MIM part in any firearm I own. I have some high round counts through many of them.
Overall, I have no regrets in purchasing this weapon. It is well-made and met my standards for a defensive weapon. It is on my hip as I write this. All five failures were due to the magazine, which can happen with any semi-auto weapon. Therefore, smart shooters put in the range time before trusting their life to a weapon. Please take the time to run a defensive weapon hard before trusting your life to it. Expensive? Yes, your life is worth more than 50 rounds of ball ammo. It was nice to see that Kimber QC has improved, and I would have no qualms recommending this weapon to readers.
I was impressed with the Vortex Venom; it held its zero throughout testing while taking quite a bit of abuse. I have full confidence in it for carry purposes. I would like to see a railed Aegis offered in the future. Kimber has a winner with the Aegis Elite series. They have won this writer back as a customer for their recently manufactured products. It is nice to see a company get back to their roots and once again focus on quality, not quantity. The Aegis Elite Custom IO is proudly made in the USA. Full specifications of the Aegis Series are available at the link below.
Big thanks to Coyote Creek Outfitters.
Greg Chabot is an Iraq Combat Veteran freelancer, writing from New Hampshire.