The Kimber KHX Custom: Refined 911 for Personal Defense

John Moses Browning’s 1911 pistol has, beyond a doubt, earned the right to be called a legend. The early-20th-century design is still going strong more than 100 years after its adoption by the U.S. military. Colt was the main provider of 1911s to civilians for the first part of its existence and offered other models and calibers aside from the full-sized .45 ACP Government. However, Colt’s catalog was nowhere close to what today’s consumer can access in terms of 1911 models. Many might lose sight of this with the plethora of current 1911 manufacturers now in the market. These feature 1911s in shapes and sizes that would boggle the mind of Browning himself.

One company that has constantly separated itself from the competition is Kimber. Kimber’s attention to detail and insistence on accuracy, combined with reliability, are at the root of its reputation for effectiveness. I do not intend to rehash all the well-known 1911 design characteristics.

The 1911’s slim frame width makes it an ideal carry gun, and its single-action trigger promotes accurate shooting of the powerful .45 ACP handgun cartridge. Kimber only builds upon these bulwark 1911 characteristics with its KHX Custom. In the stainless steel KHX Custom, Kimber is offering another take on the classic, full-sized 1911. While Kimber offers more-compact 1911s in this age of concealed carry, the full-sized KHX Custom attracts attention with its all-business air.

Kimber offers more-compact 1911s in this age of concealed carry, but the full-sized KHX Custom attracts attention with its all-business air. (Photo: Kimber)

The KHX Custom measures a total of 8.7 inches long and 5.25 inches high. A 5-inch, match-grade barrel rides over a full-length guide rod. A snug, match-grade stainless steel bushing surrounds the barrel and guide rod. The full-sized KHX weighs 38 ounces—thanks to the use of stainless steel in its frame and slide. The stainless steel slide and frame provide protection against wear that a personal-defense handgun is subjected to. Kimber’s KimPro II matte-black finish serves as additional wear protection.

“The Kimber KHX Custom represents a good balance of features for daily use as a duty or concealed-carry weapon and serves as a reminder of the reason the 1911 platform holds a prominent place in the U.S. civilian market.”

The KHX Custom combines the time-proven .45 ACP cartridge with a carry platform that benefits from nearly a century of refinement. A 9mm variant is also offered. The association between the .45 ACP cartridge and the 1911 platform is seamless. Many might forget that Browning is not only the creator of what might be considered the ideal handgun—in the form of the 1911—but also the designer of what could be the ideal handgun cartridge—the .45 ACP. The KHX Custom represents portability, reliability, controllability and lethality. This is a perfect combination for a personal-defense handgun.

The fit and finish of the KHX Custom were impeccable, with no machine marks evident. It disassembled via methods familiar to anyone who has field-stripped a 1911. Note the full-length guide rod.


The KHX features hexagonal texturing on the front and rear sides of the slide. Not only is this aesthetically distinctive, it also serves to give users more grip purchase when manipulating the slide. In addition to the side texturing, the top of the slide features unique hexagonal patterning. The front of the grip is also “golf ball” stippled. Another added nuance to the KHX Custom is the inclusion of Hogue Laser Enhanced MagGrip G10 grips and matching mainspring housings. The grips also form an external magwell and continuous-wrap grip surface.

A premium skeletonized, aluminum trigger, with a pull weight that averaged 4.25 pounds (per my scale) serves to  connect the shooter to the KHX Custom. A green fiber-optic rear sight and red fiber-optic front sight with a 6.8-inch sight radius round out the KHX Custom package.

“The KHX Custom combines the time-proven .45 ACP cartridge with a carry platform that benefits from nearly a century of refinement.”

The Kimber KHX Custom is equipped with features more likely to be found on full-blown custom 1911s costing much more. The parts and fitting used by Kimber are key reasons for the KHX’s performance level. The thumb safety is not an ambidextrous design, thus accommodating the Hogue laser grips. The barrel, frame and slide are hand fitted, along with blending the parts together. One striking aspect is the polishing of the throat and feed ramp. The Kimber KHX Custom typifies why the 1911 is still as popular as ever.

“The KHX Custom combines the time-proven .45 ACP cartridge with a carry platform that benefits from nearly a century of refinement.”

Kimber delivers the KHX Custom with an eight-round magazine. A bumper pad is provided due to the extended magwell. Kudos should be given to Kimber for making the higher-capacity magazine ship standard. The front and rear fiber-optic sights’ contrasting colors make for easier orientation when aiming in low-light conditions and assists in concentrating on the front sight during the daylight. The sights are designed to offer fast target acquisition while still allowing precise shot placement as the situation demands or as target distance increases.

Any handgun chambered in .45 ACP will be well supported with ammunition choices.


In this day and age of high-capacity polymer handguns, the 1911 has turned into an aficionado’s weapon that attracts users with its natural handling, great trigger and potent .45 ACP chambering. Is the 1911 a prime weapon for all situations or users? Of course not. However, no one can argue that there is a more instinctive-handling weapon than the 1911. The trigger and grip size/angle cause it to be the most accurate handgun in most arsenals—which is why hostage rescue units and other special purpose military/LE teams still use it. It is accurate and conducive to precise shot placement. A 1911 should be trained with to ensure that functions are natural and instinctive if having to deploy it in haste—the same as any other personal-defense weapon.

The KHX features hexagonal texturing on the front and rear sides of the slide. Not only is this aesthetically distinctive, it also serves to give users more grip purchase when manipulating the slide.

I’ve owned and tested numerous 1911 models from different manufacturers over the years. Refreshingly, the Kimber KHX Custom had no issues performing straight out of the box. The first range session consisted of more than 400 rounds without cleaning or adding any lubrication to the KHX besides what had been applied leaving Kimber’s facility. While the bulk of firing was with SIG Sauer 230-grain FMJ ammunition, an assortment of premium ammunition was also proofed through the Kimber KHX Custom: Hornady Custom XTP, Winchester PDX-1, Federal HST and SIG Sauer V-Crown 185-, 200- and 230-grain JHPs.

These were used to verify reliability, no matter the bullet profile or the weight desired for possible use. Firing was at a steady pace, running the Kimber KHX Custom on plate racks, dueling trees and other drills. During firing, its high degree of accuracy was noted. It fired groups into one jagged hole at 7 yards and came close to this  performance at 15 yards. If the shooter does their part, the KHX Custom easily groups inside a target’s nasal cavity at 25 yards.

A weapon such as the KHX Custom should be fired as it is designed to be used—from the hand while standing. This is the true measure of accuracy, combining trigger pull, grip and sights. It was refreshing to experience the subdued recoil of the steel-framed KHX compared to lighter, alloy-framed 1911s and polymer handguns. The Hogue grips offer excellent purchase and keep the hands steady during recoil, allowing for fast follow-up shots.

Subsequent range visits only reinforced initial impressions. I took advantage of Echo Valley Training Center’s Hesco Shoot House to explore the KHX Custom’s CQB performance; I paid special attention to what the laser-equipped Hogue Enhanced grips add to the equation.

Multiple premium ammunition loads were evaluated in the Kimber KHX Custom.

Considering the 1911’s primary role as a fighting/defensive handgun, combined with the lineage of the .45 ACP’s raison d’être, I decided to further evaluate it using drills I experienced during training at firearms schools such as Green Ops, Redback One and TMACS Inc.

The Kimber KHX Custom was fired extensively, with no issues encountered during this evaluation.

The natural pointability of the KHX Custom was confirmed, along with speed getting it into action. The beavertail frame settles the Kimber 1911 naturally into your hand and provides a point of reference when drawing the pistol from a holster. Condition 1 carry (“cocked and locked”) typified by the 1911 allows a shooter to merely swipe off the safety and benefit from the lighter, shorter, single-action trigger pull.

“Kimber did an outstanding job of including the right features for maximizing performance without turning it into a finicky or fussy competition gun.”


Over the years, I have experimented with/explored using handguns equipped with lasers. The KHX Custom allowed me to revisit the topic. As with many accessories, there are pros and cons that force a user to train and familiarize themselves in order fully to understand best practices. Grips with a built-in laser, as epitomized by the Hogue Enhanced Grip, seem to be holding sway with civilian customers. Most holster types are still usable, and operation is intuitive with the Hogue setup.

The Hogue Enhanced Laser grip is an ideal force multiplier in low-light conditions. Nonstandard firing positions are easier to assume confidently—thanks to the laser-targeting ability with the KHX Custom.

A laser sight is best used with a target focus method, which comes naturally in a stressful encounter. What can be simpler than placing the dot where you want the bullet to land? The caveat here is proper sight-in. Fifteen yards seem to be the most-advised zero distance. Remember: Unlike iron sights and slide-mounted optics, the laser and bullet path only intersect once when using a grip-mounted laser, considering the offset below and to the right of bore line.

The Hogue laser grip enables a wide variety of holsters to be used without resorting to custom rigs.

Unconventional aiming methods can be utilized with a laser (that is, eyes do not have to be directly behind the weapon). Lasers are not nearly as “cool” as advertising or entertaining movies depict, with the laser dot holding steady on the target. In reality, the laser moves around— a lot—on the target and really exposes any deficiencies the shooter has with trigger control, breathing and steady hold. Proper trigger control and recoil management are essential. Lighting conditions are also a factor for effective deployment. Daylight use inside most structures poses no issue, with low light optimal for outdoors. Overall, laser grips should be viewed as a tool that can enhance performance in certain situations.

Contrasting-color fiber-optic rear and front sights are positive improvements over mere three-dot configuration sights. The top of the slide features unique hexagonal patterning.

Hogue Laser Enhanced MagGrip G10 grips are low-profile and offer a superior feel to most grips while still offering laser aiming.


The 1911 design is too well-known for me to attempt any new exposé story. However, the Kimber KHX Custom, with everything it offers as “standard,” is worthy of Mr. Browning’s approval. The KHX Custom arrives ready to go, right out of the box. Kimber did an outstanding job of including the right features for maximizing performance without turning it into a finicky or fussy competition gun. No one can argue about the instinctive handling qualities of the 1911. The trigger and grip size/angle cause it to be the most accurate handgun in most arsenals.
The Kimber KHX Custom represents a good balance of features for daily use as a duty or concealed-carry weapon and serves as a reminder of the reason the 1911 platform holds a prominent place in the U.S. civilian market.



Velocity (fps)

Accuracy (inches)



Federal HST 230-grain




Winchester PDX 230-grain JHP




SIG Sauer 230-grain V Crown




Hornady 200-grain XTP




SIG Sauer V-Crown 180-grain




NOTES: Velocity is an average of three shots fired using an RCBS chronograph. Accuracy consists of three five-shot groups fired at 25 yards with each load.

The KHX accuracy was impressive.



CALIBER: .45 ACP (tested); 9mm available
BARREL: 5-in. match
OA LENGTH: 8.7 in.
WEIGHT: 38 oz. (unloaded)
SIGHTS: Fiber-optic (red or green) grip laser
GRIPS: Hogue MagGrip Enhanced G10 laser grips
FINISH: Stainless steel with KimPro II matte coating
CAPACITY: 8-round magazine (standard)
MSRP: $1,259









Editor’s note: A version of this article first appeared in the November 2018 print issue of Gun World Magazine.

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Author: Pandora

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