Firearms

5 Ways to Customize a Kimber M1911

Kimber M1911

Now, when you go to customize any gun, you’re going to go about it with certain goals in mind. The “work” goals and the “play” goals.

If you’re starting with a quality piece like the Kimber M1911, you have a ton of options in both categories.

Do you want to improve performance? Recoil management? What if you just want to sling around a freakin’ cool-looking handgun?

Let’s take a look at the top 5 ways to customize your 1911 (for both work and play).

1. Performance

With a Kimber, you’ve already got a pretty good little gun for accurate and precise shooting. However, there are always things that can be done to get you that extra half-inch.

Sights

Sighting systems are one of the easiest ways to improve accuracy. If you’re thinking you’ll be using your Kimber M1911 for home defense, you’ll definitely want to get night sights in case of home invasions.

There are a ton of quality night sights out there, but one of my favorites for a streamlined upgrade is the Trijicon HD Night Sight. It’s great for quick target acquisition.

Another great option for picking up targets quickly is the XS Big Dot. They give you a great sight picture by lighting up the rear “V” with a big front night sight.

You can’t go wrong with a classic pairing of adjustable rear sights and fiber-optic fronts. The options here are endless, so pick your favorite duo and get to plinking.

Trigger

While this Kimber comes with a decent trigger, if you’re looking to cut out creep and lighten the trigger pull, you’ll want a trigger upgrade.

My all-time favorite trigger package is the Wilson Ultralight Match, it pulls smooth as butter. You’ve got a couple options as far as looks here, either finished with bluing or stainless steel.

XS Sights for 1911

2. Handling

You can get all the performance upgrades in the world to improve accuracy, but if your gun isn’t gonna go “bang” when you need it to, then you’re in deep water. Here are some ideas that will help take your 1911 to the next level in reliability:

Mag Release

When you’re in a stressful situation, the last thing you want to worry about is a magazine catching in the well. With an extended release like this EGW, you’ll get reliable feeding every time.

Extended Slide Release

This upgrade is a super easy swap-out that makes all the difference when you want quick reloading capabilities. You can’t go wrong with a model like this Wilson.

Magazines

One of the less-than-great features of your 1911 out of the box is the magazine it’s shipped with. After replacing my standard mags with these sweet Chip McCormicks, I never looked back. They feed without a hitch and will take a lot of wear.

Grip and Thumb Safety

For a more confident shot under high-stress situations, my go-to upgrade is the thumb and grip safety. Wilson, again, has lots of options that work great including ambidextrous thumb safeties.

I’ve been really happy with just my plain-Jane version though, plus this great grip safety.

The style of beavertail you throw on is totally up to you and how you like the feel. With a new beavertail, however, you’ll also need a hammer upgrade…

Hammer

Like this! Most commander-style hammers work great, but my choice for comfort and durability is the WIlson Bullet Proof Ultralight.

Chip McCormick 1911 Mag

3. Recoil

This last category of “work” upgrades that will take your 1911’s performance to the next level is recoil management. To knock off a ton of kick-back, try these two upgrades:

Full-Length Guide Rod

While they aren’t fun to take apart, a full-length guide rod is going to give your handgun that extra weight on the front to minimize muzzle flip.

For the best fit, you’ll want to go straight to the source and grab a Kimber guide rod.

Springs

Replacing the springs can do so much for overall performance, but especially recoil. You’ll get better cycling and this upgrade is one of the cheapest and most effective ways to fine-tune your gun.

That being said, LET A PROFESSIONAL REPLACE THEM! Otherwise, your cheap DIY upgrade could make your Kimber unreliable. I’d recommend this complete spring kit.

Full-Length Guide Rod for Kimber M1911

4. Looks

The upgrades above are awesome for making your Kimber M1911 its best when it comes to accuracy, reliability and handling, but let’s be honest… you also want your handgun to look BA.  

These upgrades are totally based on your preference, but here are some visual tweaks that I think just look sweet.

Finish

For an extremely corrosion-resistant finish, one of my favorites is the Robar NP3. This is definitely something you’ll want done at a custom shop.

A slightly more practical option is to get your handgun Cerakoted. There are tons of color options and it makes your gun more resistant to corrosion as well.

Wilson Combat Hammer

5. Fun!

I think one of the coolest upgrades I made to my Kimber M1911 was getting a match barrel. I didn’t need the extra accuracy, but it sure was a blast plinking soda cans downrange.

Plus, they just look cool! Mine is a custom job from my local gunsmith, but you can get some great match barrels in stainless or chrome-moly that are either supported or unsupported. I like the bushing models, but that’s totally up to you.

Storm Lake 1911 Match Barrel

Conclusion: Customizing Your Kimber M1911

So, whether you’re in the upgrade zone for better shooting or just to have a great time building on an already great gun, check out these ideas for some classic customizations.

How did you customize your Kimber M1911? Let us know in the comments section below!

The Mission of Cheaper Than Dirt!'s blog, The Shooter's Log, is to provide information—not opinions—to our customers and the shooting community. We want you, our readers, to be able to make informed decisions. The information provided here does not represent the views of Cheaper Than Dirt!

Comments (12)

  1. I’ve got a Kimber CDP pro II . It’s already got all the goods but I like to Mill the slide I take .040″ off each side then refinish the stainless steel slide with a bead blast all the way around, the sides are then brushed and the top left flat to avoid glare. Replaced the grips with wrap around magpul’s and changed the thumb safety and slide catch.

    I have done this to many many 1911 slides and never had an issue.

    Anyway that’s my custom work if anyone gives a hoot.

  2. I bought a used Kimber with a 4″ barrel, stainless steel with guide rails. It was not a good investment as it had cycling issues and stovepipes quite often. After researching this particular Kimber I found out that the mainsprings need to be changed very often. The disassbly process was a major pain in the a-*. Kimber even sells replacement springs in a 5 pack. This was unacceptable, plus the trigger spring housing was made of plastic! I replaced it with a real stainless steel one asap. Got rid of it!

  3. For me, it was replacing the grip panels with Crimson Trace laser grips and a trigger job. The trigger is approx 3.5 lbs and allows me to place all 8 rounds in a hole the size of a quarter at 7.5 yards.

  4. I have 2 friends with Kimbers. Both of them are EXTREMELY DISSATISFIED with them. The worst problem is that the steel slide saves metal off the frame each time it is fired, AND KIMBER REFUSES TO STAND BY IT!
    I have 4 1911’s, 2 military and 2 commercial. Based on my friends’ experiences though, I will NEVER TOUCH A KIMBER.

  5. I recently picked up a Kimber Custom LW Nightstar. First thing , I got Jerry Kuhnhauser’s book. During the quarantine, I had time to go through it thoroughly. As mentioned, I cleaned up the trigger/disconnector interface, an Ed Brown mag release spring, original was very tight, and polished the feed ramp, checked “downlink” clearance to the feed ramp. Trued up the hammer face,. i got a Brownell’s sear guide, faced the sear(follow instructions closely).
    After I was able to get to the range and put a few hundred rounds though it, went a step lighter on the mainspring, replaced the Kimber plastic housing with a Houge aluminum one. Ergonomics, Pachmeyer grips.
    And yes, keep it clean and well lubed.
    During break in , I had ONE misfeed, that’s it.
    I love it !

  6. Great article, thanks! I spent a ton starting in the early ‘80’s upgrading several 1911’s for IPSC and home defense, and have a drawer full of BOPOS (bolt-on…) parts to prove it. These are all great suggestions, but IMNSHO an extended slide stop and extended mag release have no place at all on a 1911 that will be used for defense. With those longer accessories hanging out there, it’s too easy to activate them and accidentally drop the mag or bump the bottom of the slide stop, locking up the slide, depending on how you hold the pistol. I had this happen several times with a nice Pachmayer extended slide stop before I got rid of it.

    Instead, the solution that former IPSC world champion Ross Seyfried came up with back in the day, is to have the face of the standard slide stop checkered, which gives a much more positive engagement. Likewise, have the mag release checkered, and cut just one turn ONLY off the mag release spring, which means when you drop the mag you get a better engagement and it’s SLIGHTLY easier to depress and activate.

    Finally, if I’m going to carry it, I also lose the ambi safety which is a solution in search of a non existent problem, again IMO. It adds width to the gun, and gives another place for your coat to hang up on. I’ve never had a problem deactivating a standard left side safety with my left hand in any case when I practice weak hand shooting.

    I like all these other mods for sure. Purists say you don’t need a full length guide rod, but I’ve always added an Ed Brown full length guide rod to all my 1911’s. I like the extra weight as the author says, and think it’s easier on the recoil spring. It can be a challenge to get the barrel bushing back on, but I still prefer the one piece rod to the two-piece.

    Regarding springs, I know the author doesn’t want to go down that road for obvious reasons, but I’ll just say I’ve had good performance from Wolff springs (Gunsprings.com), and like an increased power recoil spring, about 18.5 lbs as Bill Wilson recommends, coupled with a reduced power mainspring, and an extra power firing pin spring, with a full weight steel firing pin. That “faster lock time” titanium FP stuff is sales spiffing. I want the FP to be safe, especially in an older Series 70 type pistol with no drop safety, so add the extra power spring, but also want the primer whacked as hard as possible each time by a full mass steel FP.

    Finally, I love Robar, and have their Roguard on a 1911 frame along with their NP3 on the internals, but after 35 years they went out of business last August. Too bad, Roguard has an insane salt spray rating, and is much tougher than cerakote. I learned my lesson on cerakote and don’t use it on high contact steel parts anymore, and it just gets worn off. I use it on polymer pistol frames and synthetic stocks, and it works great there.

    Everybody is cerakoting nowadays, so I don’t know of anyone who’s offering the same insanely tough finishes like Robar used to do. I’m sure there’s someone.

  7. Love the 1911. IF you have the time, first “upgrade” is to polish the trigger/sear interface. This is an “upgrade” that can be done by the almost anyone. 800 and 1200 grit sandpaper, and some toothpaste will do the trick. Sand/Polish a little and test. Repeat until any “rough” spots are gone. Most 1911s have a decent trigger/sear interface, and after several hundred rounds would “smooth” out just by shooting. If you Sand/Polish – be sure to CLEAN YOUR GUN!

    Second most important improvement are decent magazines. Found that many magazines are only fit for range use, so you can practice clearing misfeeds.

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