Shooters, pistolsmiths and manufacturers rarely question whether steel will work. Instead, the question is often whether another material will suffice in place of it. Particularly for 1911 frames, steel remains the trusted baseline to which all other alloys and compounds are compared. If you want a 1911 to pass on to your kids after you enjoy it for tens of thousands of rounds first, you go with an all-steel model.
One of the latest 1911 pistols to come from the Kimber Custom Shop combines the long-term durability of a stainless steel frame with the concealment advantage offered by a Commander-size platform. Although the Super Carry Pro HD has a certain heft uncharacteristic of modern-day carry pistols, the gun is nevertheless smartly designed for daily companionship.
First, this business of weight. Compared to the aluminum-frame Super Carry Pro, the heavy-duty HD weighs 7 ounces more. Is a 25-percent increase in weight enough to notice? Absolutely. Is it enough to prevent you from carrying the pistol day in and day out? That's an individual decision largely dependent on your daily activities. For me, the Super Carry Pro HD rode nicely in a Galco Combat Master holster as I went about my work without being a burden.
Those extra 7 ounces do lend an advantage in the form of felt-recoil reduction. If you like the size and balance of a 4-inch 1911 but find recoil a bit snappy, the HD presents an attractive solution. Or, if you're the type of guy who likes to shoot his pistol as much as he likes to carry it, a little extra weight in the hand can make range time more enjoyable when the day's round count climbs into the triple digits.
Of course, the HD's stainless steel frame also offers the benefit of added longevity over an aluminum frame. Again, though, the question is does it matter, and again the answer is it depends.
Most estimates put the service life of an aluminum 1911 frame at 15,000 to 20,000 rounds, assuming the pistol is properly maintained. Mileage may vary, but for the sake of discussion, let's go with the higher number. If you shoot 200 rounds a month, an aluminum frame should last a little more than eight years.
After talking with several manufacturers and pistolsmiths, the best estimate of a steel 1911 frame's lifespan I could come up with was 50,000 to 100,000 rounds. There's a large gap between those numbers, but even at the bare minimum, a steel frame will last at least 2.5 times longer than an aluminum one. If you plan to shoot your 1911 a lot, particularly with +P loads, steel is the obvious choice.
Regardless of frame material, the HD is heavy on enhancements intended for the role of concealed carry. Most noticeable is a rounded heel that won't dig into your ribcage or snag your cover garment when you tote the pistol on your belt. Kimber continues the no-snag theme by rounding the edges of the frame and slide to achieve its Carry Melt treatment.
The surfaces of the pistol where purchase is desired—namely the rear of the slide, the mainspring housing and the frontstrap—are covered with the company's Super Carry millings. Resembling fish scales, their low-profile design provides resistance in the direction needed for control without being aggressive on hands, holsters or clothing. The same treatment applied to the top of the slide reduces glare.
Two features aid in running the pistol with one hand should the other become disabled or engaged in another activity. The Super Carry Pro HD is equipped with ambidextrous safety levers, so you can flip the switch from either side of the gun. In addition, the rear, tritium night sight has a 90-degree shoulder for manually retracting the slide by placing the forward surface of the sight against the edge of a table, boot heel or belt.
The HD has a match-grade, bushingless, bull barrel and a solid aluminum trigger with a factory pull weight of 4 to 5 pounds. Having fired other 4-inch-barreled Kimber 1911s set up in similar fashion in the past, I had high hopes for this pistol's performance. I didn't leave the range disappointed.
With Speer's Gold Dot Personal Protection Short Barrel load, the Super Carry Pro HD produced a five-group average of slightly less than 2 inches at 25 yards. The other two loads I tested tallied averages that weren't much larger, grouping five rounds into clusters of about 2.5 inches. The HD is more than capable of putting rounds where they count.
I appreciated the HD's solid, sturdy feel. When running drills on paper targets, I couldn't help but notice how nicely the pistol remained settled in my strong hand. I enjoyed it for nearly 400 rounds, which were interrupted by only two failures to feed during the first four magazines I put through the gun.
While shooters often pair a dedicated range gun having a steel frame with a lighter carry pistol built on an aluminum frame, the Kimber Super Carry Pro HD can easily take the place of both if you don't mind the extra ounces. And if you want to regularly compete in matches with your carry gun as a way to keep your skills sharp, the tough HD would fit well with the plan. This pistol is worth the weight.