Reliable, Powerful Discreet

Shown here with the factory rubberized grip panels, Kimber’s TLE II (TFS) with
Gemtech’s GM-45 attached is all business.

A Defensive 1911 Has To Go Bang Every Time. Kimber’s TLE II RL (TFS)
Does Just That. And With A Gemtech Suppressor On Board, The Bang’s
Less Obvious

By Dave Douglas

Competition games require fast guns. They’re the thoroughbreds in the gun world — really fast, but finicky and at times fragile. Some can be highly modified to become uber-accurate with 1/30,000 tolerances, but if these guns fail to function, you might lose a trophy.

But when some miscreant is pointing a gun back at you, losing the “game” means death or injury. There’s no second place in a real gunfight and no alibis are acceptable for the gun you need to stay alive.

LAPD Background

A little history on the TLE II is called for to get the feel for the gun. Its roots go to the Kimber Custom II. The Custom II was one of the lower end offerings from Kimber, but it’s hugely reliable.

LAPD SWAT started out with revolvers chambered in .38 Special. After the Watts Riots it became painfully apparent their guns lacked the necessary stopping power. So they were authorized to use scrounged, impounded and converted-to-city-property 1911’s. But after years of use, these were no longer serviceable even though the LAPD armorers put countless hours into keeping them up and running.

Around 2002 SWAT finally received the nod from the city’s finance trolls to purchase new guns. The decision was to stay with the 1911 platform and .45 ACP caliber. A testing and evaluation request was made to five major manufacturers.

Naturally, reliability was the top priority for the LAPD test regimen. But the pistols would also be judged on ergonomics, sighting systems and combat accuracy (4″ at 25 yards, minimum). The winner would have to have a consistent 4-pound trigger pull, a positive tactile and audible trigger reset, smooth chambering, a low amount of perceived recoil and a steadfast safety. The guns had to be California safety compliant as well.

A firing pin safety block was mandatory. Kimber had their Mark II Firing Pin Safety System, which is independent of the trigger. It doesn’t impact trigger pull. When the grip safety is depressed, the firing pin safety is deactivated.

Four of the five 1911 offerings, for various reasons, fell by the wayside. The Kimber Custom II was the gun left when the dust settled. Rumor has it one manufacturer even offered to supply the guns free of charge. However, those guns didn’t stack up during the testing and LAPD SWAT opted to purchase the Kimbers.

LAPD SWAT had a few more requirements. They wanted the front strap checkered at 30 lpi, tritium night sights and “LAPD SWAT” rollmarked on the right side of the slide. They also wanted a unique serial numbering system for their pistols starting with KLA-114. The “K” stands for Kimber and obviously the “LA” is Los Angeles. The office number of the original SWAT team at Parker Center Headquarters was 114. This information comes from a retired officer who was an original SWAT team member.

The barrel is threaded at 0.578-28. The gun comes standard
with a solid full-length guide rod and match bushing.

The pistol features a one-piece, full-length guide rod. Above it is a
match-grade 5.75″ barrel. The suppressor threads can be covered with
an included thread protector.

Almost Identical

The Kimber TLE II available to the public is substantially the same gun as those issued to LAPD SWAT. The rollmark and the special serial number are the only things missing on the consumer offering. Otherwise the guns are identical. The same goes for the TLE RL II (TFS) as shown here. The “RL” indicates the gun is equipped with a Picatinny rail integral to the frame. The majority of the gun isn’t necessarily new, but what is new is the barrel. It’s threaded for suppression, hence the “TFS” designation.

Tactical Precision Tool

The gun featured is chambered in .45 ACP. It’s also available in 9mm. The 5.75″ barrel is one-piece match grade and is precision machined from a single piece of steel. The muzzle threading for a suppressor is 0.578-28. The gun features a stainless steel match grade bushing and a one-piece full-length guide rod.

Some other “custom” features include a beveled magazine well, extended thumb safety, high ride beavertail grip safety and slightly oversized mag release and slide stop, making manipulation easier when your adrenaline dumps in and fine motor skills wane.

The feed ramp is polished for smooth chambering of teacup-shaped JHP’s. Additionally, the breech face is polished to enhance feeding and extraction. The 3-dot night sights are designed to give you a clear sightline over a suppressor. The TLE II RL (TFS) comes equipped with a lightweight aluminum match-grade trigger set by the factory at between 4 and 5 lbs.

The TLE II RL (TFS) combined with Gemtech’s GM-45 suppressor and the L3
Insight WL1-AA Tactical Light and Laser combo is just right for night work.

Suppressor Solution

While just about any 0.578-28 threaded suppressor will fit, Kimber worked extensively with Gemtech on building the barrel and tuning their GM-45 suppressor for optimum performance. It started in the summer of 2013 as a simple hand-drawn sketch from a brainstorming session.

Gemtech engineers began modeling the design in computational fluid dynamic software and in finite element analysis software. (Unless you want to become bored to the point of gouging out your eyes while setting your ears on fire, never ask an engineer about this kind of stuff.)

Anyway, the design proved to be durable on the computer models so they had the shop guys put together a couple of prototypes. Then they shot the snot out of them and the GM-45 worked really well.

The GM-45 provides 32-35 DB wet sound reduction and 21-23dB dry. It is 6.2″ long and 1.25″ in diameter. Machined from 7075 aluminum, it weighs in at only 5.5 oz. The tube is finished in matte black Cerakote and the internals are matte black anodized.

The fully adjustable Meprolight tritium night sights are taller
than on the non-TFS versions to clear the suppressor.

Combat Accuracy

The LAPD defined combat accuracy as having the capability to hit a 4″ target from 25 yards and made that the benchmark in their test and evaluation process for the TLE II. But this gun is fully capable of doing a whole lot better. Usually there’s a trade-off between accuracy and reliability, but Kimber hit the sweet spot with this gun. It’s extremely reliable without sacrificing accuracy.

I was able to shoot 2″ groups from a sandbagged bench rest at 25 yards with ASYM 230-grain Tactical JHP. I’m sure someone without my old eyes and/or my shakes could do much better. When I installed the Gemtech GM-45 suppressor and loaded up with ASYM Practical Match 230-grain FMJ (750 fps), I was able to bring the group size down to 1.25″. And it was so quiet I could shoot it without ear protection.

The TLE II RL (TFS) has a Picatinny rail integral to the frame. It also
features an extended magazine release, a slightly extended thumb safety
and oversize slide release. The Special Forces insignia panels from Rio
Grande Custom Grips add a little personalization

Value Added

Kimber’s MSRP for the gun is $1,326, but you can find them street priced just slightly north of $1,000. When you consider all the custom touches you’re getting, this is a tough deal to beat. Then when you factor in unflinching reliability and great accuracy, it’s about impossible to turn down. 

Maker: Kimber Mfg., Inc.
555 Taxter Rd., Suite 235
Elmsford, NY 10523
(888) 243-4522
Caliber: .45 ACP (as tested)
Capacity: 7 + 1
Barrel length: 5.75″
Overall length: 8.7″
Weight: 39 oz.
Finish: Matte black
Sights: Meprolight Tritium 3-dot night sight, fixed
Grips: Black synthetic
Double Diamond
MSRP: $1,326

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