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Meet the Kimber TLE/RL II .45 ACP 1911: One of the Best Guns You Can Own?

All in all, I’d rate the Kimber TLE/RLII a nice shooter, but given a choice, I’d still stick with SIG or Ruger as far as factory custom 1911s go, and for that matter, remain partial to my Springfield Armory stainless Mil-Spec and genuine WWI-vintage Colt. 

Kimber TLE/RL II. Image Credit: Creative Commons.
Kimber TLE/RL II

Back in the 1990s, Kimber – which already had built a reputation for making high-end rifles – made a big splash in the handgun market with its “factory custom” M1911 semiauto pistols, i.e. versions of the 1911 with highly desirable bells and whistles that previously one had to obtain by spending extra time and money on a reputable gunsmith like Bill Wilson, TJ Jimakas, Dave Lauck, and so forth.

Understandably so, the Kimber 1911s shot up in popularity, not just with private citizen gun enthusiasts but with elite law enforcement agencies and military units

Sometime in the 2000s, Kimber 1911 pistols began developing a reputation for poor quality control, with resultant defects in reliability and durability. Some attribute this to the use of MIM (metal injection molding), but whatever the specific reason. Kimber’s once-proud name took a major hit. 

Fast-forward to the present day and Kimber’s reputation seems to be slowly but surely making a comeback. With this in mind, 19FortyFive went on to evaluate the Kimber TLE/RL II .45 ACP. 

Kimber TLE/RLII History and Specifications

The TLE/RL II debuted sometime around 2002. As stated by the manufacturer’s official info page, “America’s best shooters keep choosing Kimber. Legendary LAPD SWAT tested five major 1911 brands and chose Kimber. United States Marines assigned to Special Operations Command chose Kimber. The U.S.A. Shooting Rapid Fire Pistol Team trains for Olympic competition with a Kimber. Most recently, LAPD SIS transitioned to Kimber. They all chose Kimber for the same reason: quality, dependability and accuracy. So should you.” 

Regarding the Stainless TLE/RL II in particular, the site adds: “The TLE (Tactical Law Enforcement) family of pistols is ideal for duty carry, tactical applications and personal protection.”

Specifications are true to the basic 1911, in terms of the 5-inch barrel, 8.7-inch overall length, and 39-ounce weight. Height is 5.25 inches. 

Personal Shooting Impressions/Range Report

So then, it was off once again to dear ol’ Silver Eagle Group (SEG) indoor pistol shooting range in Ashburn, Virginia, to try out a rental Stainless TLE/RL II.

The target used was my preferred ICE-QT. The ammo used was 50 rounds of PMC Bronze 230-grain “hardball,” divvied into 25 rounds of head shots at 7 yards and 25 rounds of center-torso shots at 25 yards, all delivered with the Classic Weaver Stance

At 7 yards, all head shots connected, though going somewhat low into the (paper) bad guy’s lip and jaw areas. At 25 yards, with the exception of one proverbial black sheep that strayed from the flock into the 4-zone, all hits were in the 5-zone, with 11 satisfying strikes to the tiebreaking 5x-ring.

The fit and finish were nicely done. Ergonomics were top-notch, as is par for the course for a 1911, and the beavertail grip safety was definitely a plus for shooting comfort and distribution of felt recoil (though quite frankly, I don’t find the old-school standard 1911 grip safety to be painful as many 1911 enthusiasts, and in particular esteemed gun writers Dave Anderson of “American Handgunner” Magazine and Chuck Karwan and Dean A. Grennell). Trigger was delightfully crisp, on a par with other “factory custom” 1911s I’ve recently fired such as the Ruger SR1911, SIG Sauer 1911 Scorpion, and Smith & Wesson SW1911. The extended thumb safety was a nice touch as well.

I wasn’t too keen on the magazine, however. It fed 100 percent reliably, which is ultimately the most important function, especially given the aforementioned spate of horror stories about Kimber’s pistols. However, getting that eighth round into the magazine was quite a bear, and when “topping off” to the full 8+1 capacity, I damn near pulled a pec muscle forcing the magazine to lock into place properly within the mag well.

All in all, I’d rate the Kimber TLE/RLII a nice shooter, but given a choice, I’d still stick with SIG or Ruger as far as factory custom 1911s go, and for that matter, remain partial to my Springfield Armory stainless Mil-Spec and genuine WWI-vintage Colt

Shooting Buddies’ and Experts’ Opinions

When I initially posted my Kimber range results on my Facebook page, fellow gun enthusiast and 1911 owner Travis Cook asked me if it was a new gun or a rental. When I responded that it was the latter, he followed up with “Then I figure it’s already had the ‘clean up’ done to it that it might have needed,” by which he meant a 500-round break-in period. From there, he continued, “Make no mistake, once Kimbers are ‘corrected’ by the factory, they are great guns. If I carry a 1911 these days, it’s that Kimber that I used to have problems with.”

Meanwhile, my friend Lou Chiodo, President and Owner of Gunfighters Ltd. Combat Shooting Methods Inc. – and for good measure a retired California Highway Patrol (CHP) officer and former Captain in the U.S. Marine Corps – had this to say about his Kimber TLE/RL II experience: “I have had two of that model. One in stainless and one blue. In fact, it is in the picture on the cover of my first book. Contrary to what I have read in other places, I have had 100% reliability and taught many classes using it to demonstrate everything I teach. Maybe I have just been lucky, but mine have worked fine, nice trigger and as accurate as anything else I have ever used.”

Want Your Own?

True Gun Value states that “A KIMBER TLE RL II pistol is currently worth an average price of $1,185.03 new. The 12-month average price is $1,185.03 new.” Kimber lists an MSRP of $1,297.00 for the matte black version and $1,455.00 for the Stainless. Sportsmans Warehouse has six listed – five in .45 ACP, one in 10mm – at a price range of $1,199.99 to $1,499.99.

Christian D. Orr has 34 years of shooting experience, starting at the tender age of 14. His marksmanship accomplishments include: the Air Force Small Arms Ribbon w/one device (for M16A2 rifle and M9 pistol); Pistol Expert Ratings from U.S. Customs & Border Protection (CBP), Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE), and the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC) Criminal Investigator Training Program (CITP); multiple medals and trophies via the Glock Sport Shooting Foundation (GSSF) and the Nevada Police & Fires Games (NPAF). Chris has been an NRA Certified Basic Pistol Instructor since 2011.  In his spare time, he enjoys (besides shooting, obviously) dining out, cigars, Irish and British pubs, travel, USC Trojans college football, and Washington DC professional sports. If you’d like to pick his brain in-person about his writings, chances are you’ll be able to find him at the Green Turtle Pasadena in Maryland on Friday nights, singing his favorite karaoke tunes.

Written By

Christian D. Orr is a former Air Force officer, Federal law enforcement officer, and private military contractor (with assignments worked in Iraq, the United Arab Emirates, Kosovo, Japan, Germany, and the Pentagon).