Big Punch, Little Footprint: Kimber’s Compact CCW Ultra TLE II .45 ACP—Full Review.

The Kimber Ultra TLE II offers CCW enthusiasts a powerful 1911 in a very compact package.

The Kimber Ultra TLE II offers CCW enthusiasts a powerful 1911 in a very compact package.

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My very first exposure to Kimber was back in 1999; I had been running the HK USP platform and decided that I wanted to move to a different class in IDPA. I figured I’d take a shot at the CDP class and began shopping around, finally settling on the Kimber Super Match. After campaigning the gun for a while, I also bought one of the very first Kimber Ultra CDP models put out by the custom shop. I’ve gone through a lot of guns over the years, but that little Kimber Ultra CDP has been one that has stayed with me through it all. I have been so impressed with the gun that I bought one for my father for Christmas one year. As you can imagine, when I was asked if I would like to review the Kimber Ultra TLE II I was all in. Seriously, if you are looking for a compact carry 1911 with some really nice bells and whistles as well as top-notch quality, this Kimber is well worth a look.

Despite its compact dimensions, the Ultra TLE proved to be very comfortable in the hand.

Despite its compact dimensions, the Ultra TLE proved to be very comfortable in the hand.


  • Chambering: .45 ACP
  • Barrel: 3 inches
  • OA Length: 6.8 inches
  • Weight: 25 ounces
  • Grips: G-10 grips
  • Sights: Tritium three-dot
  • Action: Single-action
  • Finish: Matte black
  • Capacity: 7+1
  • MSRP: $1,007


The first thing I’ll offer up is that this gun looks larger than it is. There is almost an optical illusion at play. It’s like looking at the miniature version of a dog; it looks larger than it is until you see it next to the full-sized version. This could be because the mini has all the attitude but less size and weight. When you pick up the gun it’s light in the hand, thanks to its aluminum frame. Overall size is trimmed thanks to the attenuated slide and grip. There are some key elements that are not trimmed: the full-sized night sights are easy to pick up without snagging on clothing or gear, and the extended beaver tail keeps your hand from being bit by the Commander-style lightweight hammer. The front strap is checkered at 30 lines-per-inch, matching the flat mainspring housing. The trigger is an aluminum match grade with adjustable over-travel. The 3-inch barrel is stainless steel with a left-hand twist this is mated to a full-length guide rod. The whole gun except for the hammer, trigger and barrel is finished in a very attractive matte black. The green and black G10 checkered grips provide sure traction and look great on the TLE II. The slide is milled to a flat top between the dovetails cut for the sights. This gun does a great job of looking great without being gaudy.

With handsome G-10 grip panels and an attractive matte-black finish, the Ultra TLE II is a real eye catcher.

With handsome G10 grip panels and an attractive matte-black finish, the Ultra TLE II is a real eye catcher.


I wanted something other than the factory plastic box to keep and carry the gun to the range in. To solve this dilemma, I reached out to the fine folks at Negrini and chose their 1911 Handgun Case. This is a double-wall ABS construction with hardened steel combination locks, and it is certified for international air travel. The internal compartments hold both your 1911 style handgun and two single-stack magazines, and they also adapt to different barrel lengths. This case protects your gun no matter where you go.

The 1911 Pistol Case from Negrini is a well made accessory for your pistol. Note the carbon fiber-type texture.

The 1911 Pistol Case from Negrini is a well made accessory for your pistol. Note the carbon fiber-type texture.

The Negrini case features a secure combination-type lock.

The Negrini case features a secure combination-type lock.

1911 for Carry

“Never” and “always” are two words that get thrown around a lot these days regarding guns. It has been my experience that these words are often the result of blending several things together: anecdotal information, experiences and biases. I have made my living as a full-time trainer since 2010, and in that time, I have formed a few opinions about handguns for defensive use. All handguns can and will eventually fail. The leading causes of malfunctions are user error, magazine issues and ammunition. When I hear phrases like “this caliber will get you killed,” “don’t trust this style of gun with your life,” “it doesn’t matter as long as you get the correct shot placement,” or any other absolutes, I tend to cringe.

The magazine well of the Ultra TLE II is subtly flared to speed reloading.

The magazine well of the Ultra TLE II is subtly flared to speed reloading.

Note the extended beaver tail grip safety and tritium rear sight unit.

Note the extended beaver tail grip safety and tritium rear sight unit.

I do not recommend a 1911 as a personal defense carry gun for everyone. The 1911 is a more involved gun, and will require a higher level of commitment than other choices. Let’s have an analogy: in every neighborhood, there are two “bookend” types of yard maintenance. There’s one guy who only cuts his grass because he must; this would be your low-involvement homeowner. Down the street is the guy who wins the Yard of the Month award every single month, because he’s into it; this would be your high-involvement homeowner.  Everyone else falls somewhere in between. Some of us don’t care at all what lawn mower we have; we never want to perform maintenance it or change the oil, we just want it to cut the grass. Others of us are more emotionally involved with our lawn, and take the time to learn to use a variety of tools proficiently. Both bookend guys in my neighborhood are great neighbors—I got no beef with either of them. However, there are always those couple of guys talking trash about how they keep their yards… I guess I just don’t get it.

Anyway, the point is that if you’re willing to make the commitment to learn the platform, a 1911 can be an excellent carry gun. Just know that your level of involvement with your tools will be higher than some other choices. I get the opportunity to carry all different kinds and calibers of guns, and there are some guns that I particularly enjoy but others absolutely despise. Well, haters are going to hate; ain’t gonna stop me carrying my 1911 sometimes.

The pistol employs a telescoping recoil spring assembly due to the short length of the slide and barrel.

The pistol employs a full-length guide rod with a telescoping recoil spring assembly due to the short length of the slide and barrel. Note the bushingless barrel system in which the barrel mates directly to the slide.

Teaching with the Ultra TLE II

Target and gear used in qualification. The holster is a Concealment Solutions unit and the magazine pouch is from DeSantis.

Target and gear used in qualification. The holster is a Concealment Solutions Sidewinder Zero and the F.T.U. Magazine Pouch is from DeSantis.

I often find myself teaching a class while I am reviewing a new gun, which was the case with the Kimber Ultra TLE II. Since this was a group of professional students, we had them shoot the qualification prior to the instruction, which serves as an opportunity to see what their skills are cold. I have observed that most people who are involved in a gunfight were not given a few warm-up shots to blow the cobwebs out prior to the fight starting. I thought that this would be a good opportunity for me to evaluate the Kimber from a cold start as well. Once I had selected the holster and magazine carrier, I loaded the gun up and took my position on the line. I was afforded the opportunity shoot as one of the students, as I had a co-instructor with me and he generously agreed to call the line.

The course of fire was 50 rounds on an IDPA target, from distances starting at 3 yards and progressing backwards to 15 yards. The course of fire involved drawing and firing using both hands, strong hand and then weak hand. There were multiple on-the-clock reloads as well. Each round accounted for 10 points if placed in the center scoring area, 9 points if landing in the next outer scoring area, or 8 points if in the outermost scoring area. 10 points were deducted if the round failed to hit the target entirely.

The author used Sig Sauer Elite FMJ ammo for the qualification course he ran.

The author used Sig Sauer Elite FMJ ammo for the qualification course he ran.

I was thankful that we began at 3 yards, as this allowed me the opportunity to get some familiarity with the trigger and sights on the gun with a forgivable margin of error. After we moved back to 7 yards, I managed to place all but three rounds inside the center ring. At the 15-yard line, I had a lapse in concentration… I think I was more interested in scoring my target than firing the final rounds. This resulted in one more round being thrown out of the center scoring area and barely breaking the line to avoid the outer scoring area. When all was said and done, my score was 496 out of a possible 500. I experienced two user-induced issues with the gun. The first was my failure to count correctly, resulting in my starting with an empty chamber. This was quickly remedied with a tap and rack. The second malfunction I induced was by resting my support hand thumb underneath the slide release. This caused the slide to lock back on ejection. I depressed the slide release and was back in action.

I had chosen the Sig Sauer 230 grain full metal jacket ammunition, which this gun ate without complaint. One of the things that I particularly like about Sig Sauer ammunition is that they offer a practice round and a carry round, with the only difference being the projectile. They use the exact same cases, primers, powder charge and weight of bullets for both rounds, allowing you to practice with a less expensive round that duplicates the real deal exactly.

When It’s Worth It

As part of what I said earlier, this gun with the two external safeties and one internal safety might not be for you. Knowing that you may need to clean this gun sometime in the ownership cycle could be a put-off. If you’re allergic to metal guns, this one could cause a nasty skin rash.

Ok, all kidding aside, 1911s are not for everyone, but this one is a great choice if you are a 1911 fellow or lady, or want to be. The Kimber Ultra TLE II is ready to go right out of the box.

To learn more, visit

To purchase on, click this link:

The pistol features a flattop slide and factory night sights.

The pistol features a flattop slide and factory night sights.

{ 30 comments… add one }
  • 45 Gunny August 20, 2018, 11:58 am

    Jon thanks for your review and my advice. About the idiots that criticize to demonstrate their stupidity. Be like a duck , let it roll right off your back. I too was after a smaller lighter 45 and went to a local range ,rented the ultra carry 2 and shot 80 rounds thru it with no problems at all. It was amazingly accurate for such a small, short barreled gun. The lighter weight is nice for carry. Yes it did have a little more recoil, but not excessive to me. There\’s a trade off in ANY small, lightweight full caliber pistol. I loved it immediately. Needless to say I began a search for one of my own. I already had a custom2 full size and love it, accurate good looks ,reliable I have now had both just over two yrs and shoot them regularly nearing 800 reds each. I\’ve only had one stoppage during the initial break in Of both pistols. One overall, not each!. I clean and lube after every range session too. But that\’s just me.i am extremely satisfied with my kimber said and very confident with them. A confidence given to me by their accuracy,reliability and feel. I like the galco combat master owb holster for the custom 2 and May get one for the UC if available btw I carry cocked and locked with no qualms. It just sensible and being prepared. Disclaimer. I paid full price for my kimbers from an online gun store as well as all the ammo out of pocket. And I did test fire the glocks ,compact 45 and 9 both. Just connot warm up to them. To bulky, blocky feeling in hand , and terrible triggers in comparison. I went with the one I liked best ,that gave me confidence in its ability for me. I am

  • ejharb February 14, 2018, 8:37 pm

    Think I’ll keep my 30sf.
    You boys have fun with your remember,45 ball stops like 2 rounds of 9mm ball.

  • Rob P July 2, 2017, 7:50 am

    I just got back for the range and fired my first 100 rounds thru my out of the box Kimber stainless ultra tle 2 and had no issues at all it was highly accurate I love this gun. I highly recommend it to anyone. It’s a great gun for every day carry

  • JimmyJames March 25, 2017, 11:46 am

    What a bunch of #%*holes… you google this pistol because you are obviously looking to make a purchase. Before ponying up the cash you want to do your homework. This guy is courteous enough to oblige you and what do you do? You make fun of him for being overweight. Why don’t you spend the $1007… then post your own review and be sure to include some pics so we can do the same to you… or Maybe you just be grateful that you have a little more information than you had before and keep your insensitive comments to yourself.

    Thank you for the review. This certainly helped me part with the $900 that I payed for mine. 😉

  • Rik January 24, 2017, 5:54 pm

    Got one exelent wepon good concel cary, holdingup yer chinns

  • Mark Berry January 23, 2017, 8:08 pm

    Thank you for the review. I thought it was well presented and informative.

  • Rick January 23, 2017, 5:34 pm

    The old browning 1911 is a good pistol however there is a lot better stuff on the market and at a better price point that’s more reliable with a higher round capacity. Iv had way too many jams with many 1911 style handguns. Plus I myself do not care to carry a heavy 38 oz or higher handgun for CC. Also please just review some different platforms.

  • Hugo January 23, 2017, 3:44 pm

    Overall, a good review. I have heard that Kimbers can be finicky about ammo. The shortage a few years ago convinced me that my carry gun needs to eat anything without a hiccup. Since I like .45 and I live in the south where light clothing is the rule most of the year, I went with the Springfield XDs. Carries and conceals very well and is super reliable. Recoil is very manageable for such a small pistol. I see them for sale now under $350-400. Leaves lots of $ left over for ammo.

  • jim January 23, 2017, 3:07 pm

    Why is the man in the picture choking himself while shooting one-handed? Is this an “attack and response” training simulation?

    Lost me at the pic….

    • PaulWVa January 23, 2017, 6:38 pm

      His stance is sort of like the old (really old) FBI stance using a one hand hold and crossing the off hand over your chest to protect vital areas. Or he could have swallow a piece of flying brass…..not sure.

    • Gunny January 23, 2017, 9:39 pm


  • William Alan January 23, 2017, 12:30 pm

    this author needs to go to Jenny Craig-not the range

  • Bob January 23, 2017, 10:04 am

    You lost my interest at “CCW enthusiast”

  • Jimbo January 23, 2017, 9:12 am

    That picture makes me giggle. For some reason all I can think about is auto-erotic asphyxiation.

    • Todd January 23, 2017, 10:02 am

      Ha! I was thinking “why is this guy choking himself?”

      • JJMJ January 23, 2017, 1:12 pm

        He is actually holding up all his chins.

        • MAC August 17, 2017, 2:11 pm

          Bro do you understand how much of a petty bitch you yoi sound like? Have you ever seen Russian or Grom operators? They aint skinny and they would bleed your skinny ass real fast. Read about the Russian bogeyman and then open your trap. Let me guess 170 pounds of little muscles and gelled hair. Good luck in world boy. Teddy Roosevelt was chubby and a bad ass. 😎

          • ejharb February 14, 2018, 8:34 pm

            Wow! There are other movies than John wick 1 and 2. Give em a try.

  • roger January 23, 2017, 8:22 am


  • Ralph January 23, 2017, 7:53 am

    I think I will unsubscribe to this web site. Every time I open it there is way too much coverage of some type of 1911. There are thousands of different firearms that have never been looked at here and yet you keep jamming the 1911 platform down our throat! Yes I own 1 but I’m pretty well informed as to how this platform performs.

  • Cyrus January 23, 2017, 7:47 am

    Nice long review but I will stick with my HK45CT

    • Pseudo January 23, 2017, 12:33 pm

      As will I. I have both the Kimber Ultra Carry II in stainless and switched to the HK compact 45. It is my choice but I like the decocker and YES even the manual safety. So if one does not prefer these options then by all means carry what you prefer.

      Now I do have a few other items to mention? Just what is a “hater?” At least the author did not use the deplorable “my bad.”

      Lastly I would like it if GOA and other’s in the industry would when mentioning AR platforms would stress the SEMI-AUTO. I have run into more people recently including a doctor who believes that it is to easy for the public to buy fully automatic weapons. Everytime they hear AR they think FULLY AUTOMATIC.


      • PaulWVa January 23, 2017, 6:32 pm

        Many think that AR means “automatic rifle”….so you get morons like the coach of the New Orleans SAINTS spouting false “facts”on subjects he knows nothing about. And with our so called “leaders” like Obama and Clinton who pronounce their lies like absolute truth and people believe it.

  • Zorro January 23, 2017, 7:16 am

    You people (Kimber) waste far too much time on \”The same old firearms\” My God how many times can you keep fooling people taking an old design and reworking a few things and rebadging it and calling it new. There is nothing new or different about this Kimber it\’s just one of the run of the mill Ultra\’s the only thing different will be the inflated price tag -Calling something new would be the H9 Hudson, now that\’s new, it\’s a new design, a completely new concept built by taking two old platforms and creating a new platform, now that\’s new…

    • Dash January 23, 2017, 8:04 am

      I hear what your saying… and I’m no purist 1911 fanboy… but… that Hudson is one of the fugliest guns ever created and gawdaweful offerings like it are why we keep returning to the 1911… nevermind all of the positive attributes of the 1911, the real reason people keep buying them.

  • Bob Nagy January 16, 2017, 9:33 am

    The author of this article erred in stating this firearm is ready to go right out of the box. While it may have worked just fine out of the box with FMJs, as my Ultra CDP did, there is a required break-in period as per the manual, and should not be considered ready for defensive purposes until 3-5 hundred perfect feeding rounds are fired through it, including several boxes of the owners preferred defensive JHP ammo. This is not a suggestion, it is a requirement of any 1911 style pistol, including high end models from Wilson, Les Baer, etc. The author should have made this clear.

  • Clay Hamann December 8, 2016, 5:01 pm

    I have two Kimber 1911 pistols that I carry in an inside the waistband holster from UBG. I have owned the model with 3inch barrel, but it always feels unstable in the holster. I have an Ultra Carry 4.25 inch that sits deep enough for stability and proper grip presentation that I really get along well with. I also have a Kimber Custom TLE II in 10mm with 5 inch barrel that is my daily carry piece, also in the UBG holster. My point being that I find the longer barrel gives better stability, at least in the mode/position that I carry.

    • Mark N. December 9, 2016, 2:13 am

      I thought all of the Ultra Carry series were 3″ barrels? The Pro Carry has a 4″ barrel. I don’t think Kimber makes a 4.25″ commander pistol. I have the Pro Carry II with a 4″ barrel, weighs in at 27 oz, but the grip is so long I’ve never found a holster that conceals it well (or keep the heel from digging into my ribs).

      • Bob Nagy January 16, 2017, 9:24 am

        Mark you are correct, all Ultra’s are 3 inch barrels, and all Pro models are 4 inch barrels, no Kimber 4.25 inch Commander styles are offered. Love my Ultra CDP, and owned a bobbed grip Pro Carry that addressed the grip issue somewhat.

        Methinks the OP had a typo, or was unencumbered by the truth.

      • Bayou Boys January 23, 2017, 6:44 am

        Alien makes a great holster, Cloak 3.0 I have the Super Carry Pro and Ultra. They offer a free lifetime shell trade program.

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