Handguns

Kimber 1911: Quality Is Back!

Fieldstripped Kimber LW Shadow Ghost .45 ACP 1911 on a cleaning mat

If you have followed the gun industry for any period of time, you’ve no doubt seen many manufacturers go through a period in which their reputation becomes tarnished. It has happened with Colt, Taurus, Remington, and others. The problems get fixed, but in the consumers’ eye the company’s products are viewed suspiciously for years down the road. I was that way with Kimber.

A Checkered Past

During the years I operated live handgun classes, I witnessed numerous failures to feed and failures to eject (FTF, FTE) with Kimber guns. I was puzzled by this because Kimber was among the more expensive handguns people brought to the course.

Kimber LW Shadow Ghost .45 ACP 1911, left profile
The Kimber LW Shadow Ghost features an aluminum frame to reduce weight, a blackout finish on the smaller parts such as the magazine release and pins.

Many of our clients consisted of well-to-do professionals, living in upscale neighborhoods, and finding evil making its way past their gated communities. The changing tapestry of the world we live in convinced them it was time to buy a gun. Their research drew them to the full color Kimber ads that appeared on the back cover of almost every gun magazine. The new handgun owners would show up at our classes with a couple of Kimber Micros, or maybe hers was a Micro, and he had something bigger. Rarely did the Kimber guns make it through the shooting proficiency test trouble free.

A couple of Kimber shooters who attended our class were former members of an Army competition shooting team. Their Kimbers ran as they were supposed to. I asked these owners why their Kimbers ran great while so many didn’t. They attributed it to the magazines. They tossed the Kimber mags and used either Wilson Combat or Chip McCormick aftermarket magazines. Okay, whatever. I figured I’d just stick with my SIG, Smith and Wesson, Ruger, and Springfield guns.

The Road Ahead

One day, during a traffic stop in which I was a passenger in the car, the female officer who pulled us over because of an expired temporary tag and asked whether there were any weapons in the car. “We are firearms instructors on our way back from a course we were teaching. As a result, the back seat of this vehicle is full of firearms,” my friend told her. “Plus, both of us are carrying.” “Just a minute,” she said and retreated to her cruiser.

We waited. Quickly, I noticed other officers arriving on the scene and a conversation was going on by the original officer’s cruiser. It wasn’t because we were such a threat. We were just around the corner from a Quick Stop where the other officers had been partaking refreshments. When the original officer approached the car again, two male officers were with her.

One of them showed her how to find the vehicle’s VIN number on the dash. As he leaned in the car window, I noticed his sidearm was a Kimber 1911. “Kimber, huh?” I questioned. “You carry a Kimber?” As it turned out he was the department’s firearms training officer, and he was delighted to tell us about the testing they had done before choosing the Kimber as the department’s issued handgun and how pleased they were with them.

Kimber LW Shadow Ghost .45 ACP 1911, right profile
The Kimber LW Shadow Ghost left the factory with black rubber grips with diamond checkering. The author installed some G10 grips he thought would enhance the gun’s appearance.

It seemed Kimber had gotten its act together and shooters were giving the gun great reviews. So, I began to think, “maybe someday, if the price was right and the money was there, I might get a Kimber.” That time has come, and I’m now the proud owner of a Kimber LW Shadow Ghost .45 ACP 1911.

Kimber LW Shadow Ghost

The Kimber LW Shadow Ghost had not been in my possession long before it was joined by another Kimber. This one would not be a shooter but more of a collector’s item. It belonged to a friend who was liquidating his gun collection because he was moving overseas. I helped him with a couple of guns. One was a custom Kimber, a limited edition custom F22 Fighting Eagles Raptor model built for and exclusively sold to the first group of pilots to fly the F22 Raptor, plus some of their support people. The pistol I have is identified as #360 of 413 according to engraving on the slide. It came with its own custom display case.

I’ve tried to find the back story on these 413 Kimbers, but for the most part I’ve come up dry. I tried contacting the person who sold the gun to my friend, only to learn he died in 2014. Kimber’s Customer Service told me the manufacture date on the F22 Raptor 1911 I own was September 2013, and the Kimber database lists it as an F22 Raptor Fighting Eagles Custom edition.

Kimber LW Shadow Ghost .45 ACP 1911 and Kimber F22 pistol
The Kimber Shadow Ghost had not been in my possession long before it was joined by another Kimber. This one would not be a shooter, but more of a collector’s item.

Kimber had no other information in its files. I asked if there was anyone at Kimber who might remember those guns, but I came up empty. A former airman responded to one of my forum queries with the information that they were ordered through an F22 pilot at Elmendorf AFB Alaska. He had responded to the email offer to buy one since he was a member of the support team, but by the time he got his order in, he had missed the deadline.

Kimber now has a Raptor II model in its lineup. This is the gun the F22 custom Kimbers were built upon. Cheaper Than Dirt! has the Raptor II listed on its website as I write this. The Raptors differ from the LW Shadow Ghost in several areas. For one, they are made of steel, so they weigh more. The LW Shadow Ghost weighs 31 ounces, and the Raptor weighs 40 ounces.

Slide serrations (front and rear) on the LW Shadow Ghost are standard. The ones on the Raptor are a totally different pattern, kind of like a heavy wire mesh. The LW Shadow Ghosts sights consist of large white dots, while sights on the Raptor are all black.

Fieldstripped Kimber LW Shadow Ghost .45 ACP 1911
The Kimber Custom LW Shadow Ghost is relatively easy to clean. Takedown is standard for a 1911 with a full-length guide rod.

The LW Shadow Ghost features an aluminum frame to reduce weight and a blackout finish on the smaller parts such as the magazine release and pins. The sights consist of a white dot rear sight with a red fiber optic front sight. The LW Shadow Ghost is equipped with a match grade, stainless steel barrel and a match grade trigger. It has an 8-round magazine,

The gun left the factory with black rubber grips with diamond checkering. I had some G10 grips in my stash. I thought would enhance the gun’s appearance, so I installed those on my gun. I like the 8-round magazines. I’m a fan of flush fitting 8 rounders and have always used Colt magazines in my 1911s for that purpose. It appears these Kimber magazines are every bit as good as the Colts. At least I can say they have worked well for me and appear to be well-built.

Nowadays there are probably two questions you may be thinking: Is it optics-ready and does it have night sights? The answer to both is no. I’m fine on both accounts, because I really like the sights that are on the gun. During my range sessions with the Kimber, the gun hasn’t given me the slightest indication of trouble and is as accurate as I am — probably much more so.

Range Trip

On my first range trip, one of the range safety officers noticed the Kimber sitting on the bench while I was loading a magazine and asked if he could look at it. He motioned a couple of other range employees over, and they all seemed to be impressed with it. That particular model Kimber had not yet made it into their store’s inventory.

One thing I was reminded of when shooting the Kimber LW Shadow Ghost is how much more recoil a shooter feels when shooting a lightweight .45 ACP 1911 versus shooting one made of steel. When my first two shots went into essentially the same hole, I was thinking this was going to be one of those outstanding range outings until the third shot hit approximately four inches lower. Why? I flinched from recoil anticipation. That’s something to consider when purchasing a gun.

Kimber LW Shadow Ghost .45 ACP 1911 handgun in a DeSantis Mini-Scabbard leather holster
The Kimber Shadow Ghost carries nicely in a DeSantis Mini-Scabbard leather holster.

Lightweight for carrying is great. Lightweight for shooting, not so great in the larger calibers. I suspect shooting the steel-framed Raptor would be easier on the hands and shoulders.

Both of my Kimbers have a manual thumb safety located only on the left side of the pistol. They have the standard beavertail grip safety to prevent the pistol from firing unless the grip safety is fully depressed. On both guns, the grip safety is comfortable and shaped to encourage a high grip that assists in the gun’s stability as it is being fired.

The white dot, fixed rear sight and replaceable, fiber optic front sight present an excellent sight picture. I wear progressive trifocals and sometimes have to work at getting a good focus on front sights. The fiber optic front sight stands out and really helps me to get a good sight picture. The low-profile design of the rear sight helps to reduce the overall height of the pistol that makes it easier to carry and handle.

Trigger pull on both guns is smooth and consistent, breaking at just over four pounds. The trigger is adjustable for overtravel and pre-travel allowing the shooter to customize the trigger to their preferences. The trigger faces are serrated which helps prevent the finger from slipping off the trigger during firing.

Kimber LW Shadow Ghost .45 ACP 1911 handgun on a paper target with a box of Underwood ammunition
With its smooth, crisp, 4-pound trigger and high visibility sights, targets like this are typical of what can be done shooting offhand at 7 yards.

The Kimber Custom LW Shadow Ghost is relatively easy to clean. Takedown is standard for a 1911 with a full-length guide rod. Detailed instructions on disassembly, lubrication, and reassembly are easy to follow per the manual. A sheet of paper in the plastic case the gun came in has cleaning and lube instructions. I can almost guarantee that following those instructions would put to rest the old rumors about it taking 400–500 rounds of break-in before the Kimber would operate reliably.

Final Thoughts

With today’s cost of ammo, that’s a noticeable addition to the cost of a new gun, if it had been required.  My Kimber, the one I shoot, got a light oiling before I began operating it per the factory’s instructions, and it hasn’t had the first hiccup. I don’t intend to shoot the F22 commemorative Raptor as I’m pretty sure it was in an unfired condition when I got it. And you normally don’t shoot collector guns.

The Kimber joins the ranks of several full-size .45 ACP 1911s in my collection. It’s one of two lightweights — the other being a Springfield Operator. I’m much more likely to carry a Commander-sized 1911, and I have two lightweights in that category along with several steel-framed models.

I’m now 75 and much of my enjoyment from owning these guns is in sharing them with others. In that respect, the Kimber is one I’ll enjoy putting on the shooting bench for some of our family and friends’ shooting outings.

What’s your favorite Kimber 1911? Share your thoughts in the comments.

About the Author:

David Freeman

David is an NRA Instructor in pistol, rifle and shotgun, a Chief Range Safety Officer and is certified by the State of Texas to teach the Texas License to Carry Course and the Hunter Education Course. He has also owned and operated a gun store. David's passion is to pass along knowledge and information to help shooters of all ages and experience levels enjoy shooting sports and have the confidence to protect their homes and persons. He flew medevac helicopters in Vietnam and worked for many years as a corporate pilot before becoming actively involved in the firearm industry.
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 (32)

  1. I too bought a Kimber 1911 Custom II with the laser grips from the factory about 2 years ago. I’ve had nothing but problems from day one. When I researched the mfg date by way of the serial number , I discovered it was mfg’ed in Feb of 2014. So that pistol sat in that gun shop for a long time, odd huh? Constant failures while chambering has made this the worst gun purchase ever. Only last week, I asked a friend who works at a local range to take the pistol and 100 rounds and see what he thinks. For him, he had 7 out of 100 misdeed. I thought that was outstanding but in reality, that’s not really except-able.
    He used Wilson, Kimber and a no name brand magazines. From my experience, I wouldn’t buy another. I am considering the gentleman’s recommendation to change out some parts as suggested above but that’s more money for a pistol I paid the highest price for that just rubs me the wrong way.
    Happy Shooting.

  2. I work in the machine tool industry and had worked at Kimbers Yonkers plant several times. I had heard about their reputation as higher end gun but that they could be finicky. I was poking around online and came across a good deal on Gun Broker for a barely used Custom II two toned model for $600 with several Wilson combat magazines and 2 holsters….I jumped on the deal and I have to say this my favorite gun to shoot and I havent experienced any issues with it….Im so happy with it, I picked up a Micro Stainless model in .380…now I have a Father & son set…LOL

  3. Just purchased a new Kimber 1911 in 9mm. 4 inch model Aegis Elite Pro. I must say it is a great 1911 to shoot. I’m very impressed with reliability and accuracy. Highly recommend this 1911.

  4. My partner with an AL State Police agency was a former SWAT member with a local SO. They carried Springfield Armory 1911s, shooting at least 250 rds. in practice every Friday for years. Due weapon fatigue, some with a documented 100k rds. thru them, they traded for Kimber 1911s. The Kimber’s started failing within two months! A huge problem arose when Kimber refused to warrantee them, claiming they were within specs. An independent gunsmith used by many of the team members examined the guns and determined that the barrel links were a bit short causing the issues.Kimber still denied responsibility so the Sheriff threw them ALL in a box and sent them to the distributor and bought new Springfield Armory 1911s, which are still running 100%. To me, Kimber’s never showed the quality evident in some other 1911s. My personal 1911, a SA, has been in service since the mid 1990s and never missed a beat with any magazines you put in it. I use 8rd. Chilp McCormicks for duty carry.

  5. Interesting to hear about the F-22 raptor model!
    I’ve got a custom AH64 Apache Target II that was a special order when I worked in the Apache program office. Similar to the Raptor, something like 400 were made if I recall correctly.
    It has always worked flawlessly, with both magazines and 2 extras I bought mail order. It is the most accurate handgun I own….. the longest barrel handgun I own, so perhaps not surprisingly. The good experience has made me consider a smaller Kimber 45 for carry, but so far it hasn’t creeped up to the top of my budget list. When it does, it will compete with whatever Sig is around and also an itch I have to include 10mm in the mix.
    Those glossy full page Kimber ads do have a subliminal impact! Hah!
    Appreciate the comments and experience from everyone! Cheers!

  6. More data ref your F-2 comments:

    It wasn’t really a specific squadron that put the buy together but it did originate from the Langley AFB Raptor Wing. This buy was very similar to other custom buys put together by various squadrons – although they are typically for custom watches. In order to get special pricing, you needed a certain number of pre-sales to make it worth the while of whatever company you were working with. These were offered to all who were involved with the program, ie: Lockheed, Boeing, squadrons, etc… when they were ordered, you could have a call sign or whatever engraved on the slide. if i remember right, original cost was $900 for the pistol and $100 for the case. the case was cherry wood with the pictures etched in the glass.

    Apparently, Kimber also made some for the F-35 but once LM found out about it they told Kimber they would sue them if they made another with an LM aircraft on it without their permission. Kimber will make a custom 1911 with a minimum order of 25, the larger the order the lower the price per unit.

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  7. My Ultra Ten CDP II has had FTE issues. I will try the Wilson mags and let you know if that resolves this problem.
    Bob K

  8. Being jealous of my son’s Kimber, I saved up and bought my first one 7 or 8 years ago. I managed to damage it beyond repair (DO NOT put loose rounds of 10mm and 45ACP in same bag) and worked with Kimber to replace it. During break-in, I had the same issue with doubling. The first time it happened I thought it might have been due to riding the trigger to minimize reset (?}. I ran it some more with only 2 rounds in the magazine and it happened again.
    Boxed it up, sent it back to Kimber, they reworked it, returned it very quickly and I took it to the range. Problem fixed but I am still cautious when shooting it!
    Additional comments: I did not think I had had any feed issues with the Kimber mags but after reading these comments I will reexamine ftf problems that I had previously attributed to ammo.
    Finally, I know this will be seen as blasphemous but my Taurus PT1911 was more accurate and operated problem free from the start, unlike my first Kimber. The replacement Kimber obviously had issue(s) but seems to be fine now. And it’s not even close to my P220 in terms of trouble-free operation. Just saying!

  9. I own a Kimber Custom II, I’ve put about 500 rounds through it without any issues. It’s my first Kimber, but I’m hooked now. I would recommend a Kimber to anyone. I’m using Kimber magazines and they have performed just fine.

  10. I WISH Kimber would bring back their Polymer Target Model. !!
    It holds 14 rounds of 45 and has nice big sights. I’ve been told the frame was made by BUL.
    They aren’t making them anymore either as near as I can tell.
    If you know different, Please tell me.

  11. I’ve owned several Kimber’s. The first was stamped made in Oregon. This one Kimber was and still is the best Kimber I’ve ever owned. Reliable and very accurate. I have all barrel length Kimber’s and have never had any issues. I was shooting 1911s in 1970 and still shoot them regularly. One fellow was correct that magazines and properly tuned extractor’s required for dependable 1911. Shoot straight and enjoy.

  12. I own 3 Kimbers (all full size), 45ACP, 9 and 10 mm. The 45 has well over a 1000 rounds thru it with no problems. The 10mm worked well with the Kimber mag but the two Wilson Combat mags that I purchased later caused some issues until I contacted Wilson Combat and they were able to ID my problem. Now no issues with it and well over a 1000 rounds thru it. The 9mm is relatively new (only two trips to the range) and I did experience two failures to extract on the first trip. Several days later I shot 100 rounds thru it with no issues. I love my Kimber 1911s.

  13. I’ve had a Custom Target II since I graduated college in 1998. Until recently, I’ve had a Love/Hate relationship with the gun, because it’s ridiculously accurate and feels great, like all 1911’s should. The Hate part of the equation has been that I could never get it tuned properly to run a full box of ammo without FTF problems. I tried working with Kimber’s service teams multiple times over the decades, but was always told It needed more rounds to break in, that I needed to use different ammo, etc. — ANYTHING but take responsibility for the regular failures. (I spent years bashing the company on social media for their apathy and subpar service.)
    Through trial and error, I have since tuned the gun properly and now I wouldn’t dream of parting with it.

    Recipe for success:
    (1) Wilson Combat mags – Accept no substitutes. (Not even Chip McCormick.)
    (2) EGW 18lb recoil spring – Ditch the standard 16lb spring.
    (3) EGW GI Plug – Ditch the full length guide rod for the GI setup.
    (4) Polish the ramp/barrel with 2000 grit sandpaper. (MANUALLY. Donnot use a Dremel.)

  14. Kimber 1911 Stainless LW (Arctic) 5′ 9mm with crimson trace laser grips using Wilson combat and Eddie Bauer magazines. No problemo.

  15. Kimber 1911 Stainless LW (Arctic) 5′ 9mm with crimson trace laser grips using Wilson combat and Eddie Bauer magazines. No problemo

  16. Dale, great to hear from you. I would be so curious myself to see how the repaired Kimber worked. Don’t see how you’ve managed to lay off it for so long, EXCEPT I can understand how it’s two-for-one firing could make you uncomfortable with it. I’m wondering if you still have the notes about what Kimber did with it to fix that problem. Seems like it would be some kind of seer issue.

  17. I’ve had my Kimber Custom II since 1998. Maybe that’s when they made them right, because I think I have had, maybe 3 misfires and I attribute that to garbage ammo.
    The trigger is like glass and it eats pretty much anything with exquisite accuracy.

  18. I purchased a new Kimber Team Match II 10-12 years ago. I installed Wilson Combat G10 grips and use McCormick Power Mags. She shoots great, very accurate, and I’ve never had any issues. Love the feel and the brushed stainless finish is beautiful.

  19. Hello Mr. Freeman.
    I am now in my 70’s and am one of your former students for a few years, when my Texas CHL would need ‘renewing’. Also, your Son, (Nate), is a friend and worked with my son, (Chad).
    I’ve been a buyer of firearms, etc. with Guns.com for years and had no idea of your affiliation with them. It’s really great to hear that you’re ’still kikin’, LOL

    Now….about Kimber…..

    In November of 2020, I bought two 1911 Kimber Stainless Target II .45’s.
    One for my Son, (Chad) and one for myself.
    On our first trip to the range, his ran flawlessly and mine had 4 failure to feed episodes.
    I got tired of f’ing with it after firing only 11 rounds total, bagged it up and we went back home.

    The next day I called Kimber, got everything setup and sent it back to them in their new facility in Alabama.
    I received it back from them with all their repair comments etc. in 5 days.
    They had polished the feed ramp and for some reason, the barrel too and at that point I was feeling much better about all of it.

    I never fired it again until Saturday, May 15th, 2021, the first time at the range after getting it back and she was running flawlessly after the first two mags, (14 rounds).

    And then….I loaded the mag for the 3rd time, squeezed the 1st round off, smooth and spot on, squeezed for the 2nd shot and ‘hit the jackpot’! 2 for 1. Yep, double fired.

    The range attendant had been watching me because up to this point I had been shooting very well. Really.
    He stepped up from behind me and said, “no double tapping”.
    I of course told him that I am aware that that is not allowed and I did not do that intentionally.
    So, he said, “keep going and let me see what happens”.
    5 more single rounds, on target, no problem, then on the sixth pull, again BOOMBOOM!
    Now the mag was empty again.
    There was 7 other shooters in there at the time and this had everyone’s attention.
    Even the range workers. ALL shooting had stopped.
    The Manager asked me to reload and let him try it.
    Ooookay. So, he fired off the first 3 rounds without a problem and on the 4th pull, BOOMBOOM.
    He unloaded the pistol, turned around and literally said, and I quote, “I’ll give you a hundred dollars over book for it”.
    I told him it is not for sale and asked why he would want it like that and his reply was, it will soon be fully automatic……
    I told him that when it did that, I failed to make a good shot because I wasn’t expecting that and if I know when it’s going to do it, I would be better prepared for it and could make better shots.
    Others watching all of this made a point to show him that HE put a hole in the ceiling when it did that to him and I at least hit the target. LOL
    He told me I could keep shooting if I wanted to but at that point I stopped and told him how unsafe I considered my Kimber to be like that and I would send it back, again.
    We packed up, paid up and left.

    I called Kimber (again), and sent the pistol back (again).
    They sent it back to me within a week, along with their explanations of everything they had ‘done’ to it, again.
    I put it in my safe and have still never yet fired it again.
    Today is May 20th, 2023, so, that’s been over 2 years ago now.
    Did that ‘fix everything’? Maybe/Probably. We may never know.

    Consequently, my Son’s is still running flawlessly.

    So, for me……
    In the famous words of the late B. B. King…..
    “The Thrill is Gone”

    NOT IMPRESSED WITH KIMBER!

    Mr. Freeman, it’s really great to hear from you again Sir.

    Nuff Sed.
    Dale

  20. I have all kinds of 1911 I have over 15 Kimber, Colts and others and have shot them all a lot the Kimbers are all 15 plus years old when I go out to the range I have well over 100 magazines some Kimber some Colt and some others but most of them are surplus old us army mags load them all up the night before and have fun the next day all seem to work just fine no FTF or FTE problem but all my Kimbers came through the costom shop.

  21. I have a Springfield TRP standard government that I purchased a few years ago. Even after getting rid of the two piece full length guide rod for GI and a new flat wire recoil spring all from Wilson Combat no feed issues. Never did use the two magazines that came with it. Been running Wilson 47-D mags from jump.

  22. If looks could kill, the Kimber would be my first choice for a 1911 carry pistol. As it is, their QC has gone through several highs and lows over the decades. They may be perfectly fine now, but I admit am worried I might end up with a Monday morning hangover built pistol.

  23. Recently bought a lightly used Kimber Custom II at a gunshow and am in love with it. I had given up on 45’s and planned on sticking with 9’s until finding this one. Cost me more than any other pistol to date but now I wouldn’t give it up. No issues with the pistol so far and I have run a couple hundred rounds through it.

  24. The traffic stop was really a non-event except for us getting to talk to the training officer about their Kimbers. The stop was because the temporary tag on my friends newly purchased car had expired. He’s not real good about taking care of details, but he got by on this with just a warning. We were not treated differently by the officers because we had guns, but I do live in Texas. Glenn, it wouldn’t hurt to try Wilson or Chip McCormick mags in your Kimber if it’s giving you trouble. The newer Kimber mag are apparently not an issue.

  25. Over the years I have noticed that the Kimbers from some retailers were not as well finished.

    When a maker gets into that market and must supply a ton of guns at a certain price point quality always suffers.

    Winchester and High Standard ‘Sears Roebuck’ guns were never as good as regular production.

    Just an observation.

  26. I’ve owned five different Kimber Pistols, All have always functioned correctly, When brand new
    A little patience, should allowed for a break in period, But with all new pistols that should be
    Practiced. MICRO 9,is great little carry pistol, Kimber is my go to, weapon of choice !!!!!!

  27. I’ve had one Kimber (circa roughly 2010) and it was a jam-o-matic POS, but it sure was puuurty.
    I’ve noticed the same thing the author mentioned at numerous high-round count (800+) weekend courses where if someone had a Kimber, they had better have brought a backup gun to even finish the first day.
    It’s good to hear they might have gotten back to decent quality control now, but it’s going to take a few years of consistency before I’ll lay down my money on another one.

  28. I the past and not so recent, I purchased a Kimber Custom zoo which is blued. It was somewhere over $800 dollars and the least expensive Kimber I had seen at that time.
    Before I found an opportunity to fire it, I read numerous reviews which were less tha stellar.Could the magazine be. My problem as well?

  29. I didn’t know the quality had gone down. I own a CDP 4” that is about 15 years old. I trust my life with that firearm. I have 4 Kimber mags and the firearm functions flawlessly. There’s just something elegant about a 1911.

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