Kimber 1911 Upgrades: 10 Ways to Customize a Kimber 1911

Kimber 1911 Upgrades: 10 Ways to Customize a Kimber 1911

May 31st 2024

Kimber makes a variety of pistols, revolvers, and even rifles, but they are arguably best known for their 1911s.

And they’ve earned that notoriety. Kimber takes the classic design of the Colt M1911 and puts a modern spin on both its looks and performance, while still creating pistols with a timeless feel. They even offer customized builds for those who want something truly exceptional.

However, springing for a pistol from the Kimber custom shop isn’t the only way to get a next-level Kimber. Instead, you can upgrade a standard Kimber yourself, and if you already own a Kimber, your first step is taken care of.

In this guide, we’re going to go over several of the ways in which you can customize and upgrade your Kimber to take it up a notch.

Whether you're a competitive shooter who wants to optimize their range gun or a recreational shooter who’s just trying to make their Kimber a bit more fun, we have some great options for you right here.

Read on to learn more about some of the 10 best upgrades for Kimber 1911s!

Best Kimber 1911 Upgrades

1. Custom Grips

Wicked Grips Custom 1911 Grips Mammoth Tusk

Custom grips are one of the easiest upgrades that will also make a big impact on the aesthetics and performance of your firearm. Grips are available in a wide range of different materials and designs, each with its own aesthetic and functional qualities.

Nowhere is that more true than right here at Wicked Grips. At Wicked Grips, we take pride in combining art and functionality to create grips that don’t just look great, but perform great too.

For example, the engraving on our aluminum grips is gorgeous but also serves as an aggressive grip texture to keep your Kimber firmly in hand. Our G10 grip panels feature unique artwork that you can’t find anywhere else, plus a 3D texture. We even have options in more exotic materials, like ironwood, mammoth tusk, and Icelandic blue lava stone. That’s just the tip of the iceberg though.

With so many options available, we have something for all needs, fits, and price points. Check out our list of the best custom 1911 grips for more great options, then click on over to our complete selection of Kimber 1911 grips and accessories.

While you’re at it, or if you want a more minimalist upgrade, swapping out your grip screws can add an additional layer of style to your Kimber handgun. In addition to our extensive selection of Kimber grips, Wicked Grips offers grip screws in several different designs and finishes.

2. Night Sight or Red Dot Sight

Upgrading the sights on your Kimber 1911 is another quick way to make a big difference in your gun’s performance. Sights are one of the most common upgrades chosen by Kimber owners and one of our recommended initial modifications for Kimber 1911s.

Now don’t get us wrong, the factory sights that come on Kimber 1911s — generally either tritium or fiber optic night sights — are pretty solid already.

These types of sights provide a highly visible aiming point that stands out against various backgrounds and lighting conditions, with fiber optic sights doing so even more successfully than tritium ones.

This enhanced visibility allows for faster target acquisition and improved accuracy, especially in dynamic shooting situations or low-light environments.

But there’s always room for improvement, especially if you’re looking for match-grade precision.

If you’re opting for traditional (well, traditional for tritium or fiber optic sights) iron sights, you’ll want to look for adjustable rear sights.

These provide shooters with the ability to fine-tune their sight alignment for precise shot placement at different distances or when compensating for environmental factors such as windage and elevation.

Or you can go all in on sight improvement with a red dot sight. Red dot sights are pricier than iron sights, but they make target acquisition faster and easier for most shooters, so they’re generally worth the investment.

3. Magazine Release

Colt 1911 Mag Release

The benefits of an upgraded mag release are simple: they allow for faster, more efficient magazine changes. Factory mag releases can be small and tricky to manipulate, especially for the small-handed or sausage-fingered among us.

Extended or oversized magazine releases solve this problem by providing more surface area, making the release easier to operate, particularly without looking. They also usually feature serrations or other forms of aggressive texture so your fingers are less likely to slip. Some aftermarket mag releases offer ambidextrous or reversible designs, so they can be operated with either hand.

With less reason to fumble the release or adjust your grip, you’ll be able to make faster mag swaps and get back to shooting sooner.

4. Magwell

On the topic of magazines, a larger or extended magwell helps streamline the reloading process, minimizing the risk of fumbling or misalignment. They do this via a larger opening, along with texturing or finger grooves to improve control during reloads, and integrated ramps that make mag loading smoother than ever.

This upgrade is especially useful for competitive shooters since every millisecond counts during competition. Those who use their Kimber as their carry gun will also appreciate the faster mag changes, but might not appreciate the extra bulk a larger magwell adds.

5. Recoil Spring

Wilson 1911 Government Flat Wire Spring Kit .45 ACP 17lb

Upgrading the recoil spring is one of the best value replacements that you can make on your Kimber 1911. Generally speaking, you can get a recoil spring for about $10, or a full spring tune up kit — including the recoil spring, firing pin spring, and mainspring — for less than $20.

With the improved spring, your pistol will more effectively absorb recoil, which reduces the wear and tear on other internal components, improving their lifespan. In fact, a recoil spring upgrade often ends up paying for itself by delaying the need to replace other parts.

A high-quality recoil spring will also reduce felt recoil and make your pistol more reliable. And you can do all of this with a simple, easy drop-in replacement that won’t take more than a few minutes.

6. Trigger

Colt M1911 trigger

While certainly not as affordable as a recoil spring upgrade, a trigger job is still on our list of good-value replacements for Kimber 1911s. The trigger is sometimes considered the heart of the gun and no other part makes such a significant impact on the feel of a pistol.

Generally, you’ll want a smoother, lighter trigger pull with minimal creep and overtravel. This will reduce trigger manipulation errors while also leading to faster shot times and improved overall shooting performance.

7. Slide Release

Similar to the magazine release, the slide release is a popular modification of Kimber 1911s because the factory one can be difficult to manipulate. The solution is largely the same too.

Aftermarket slide releases are generally extended or oversized, so they provide more surface area and protrusion, making it easier to engage and disengage the slide without shifting your grip. Serrations or other texture provide additional tactile feedback and prevent fingers from slipping.

8. Safety

Colt M1911 thumb safety

Kimber 1911s have both grip and thumb safeties, and both can be upgraded.

An upgraded grip safety may feature a more pronounced or textured surface, providing better ergonomics and ensuring positive engagement when the firearm is properly gripped. This helps prevent the firearm from firing unless intentionally held in the shooter's hand, reducing the risk of unintentional discharges if the firearm is dropped or mishandled.

Similarly, an upgraded thumb safety offers improved functionality and ergonomics, allowing for easier engagement and disengagement of the safety lever. Extended or ambidextrous thumb safeties provide added convenience for shooters with different hand sizes or shooting preferences.

9. Barrel

Kimber Team Match II 1911, photo by Zorin Denu

Along with a better trigger, a barrel replacement is one of the changes that can make the biggest difference in your shooting performance.

Stainless steel barrels are known for their durability, corrosion resistance, and heat dissipation, making them ideal for high-volume shooting or adverse environmental conditions. Carbon steel barrels, on the other hand, provide excellent accuracy and heat resistance but require more careful maintenance to prevent rust and corrosion.

Match-grade barrels are manufactured with tighter tolerances and improved rifling to enhance accuracy and consistency, so they’re ideal for precision and competition shooting.

A threaded barrel also opens up the option to use muzzle devices like compensators, muzzle brakes, or suppressors.

10. Mainspring Housing

Finally, upgrading to a steel mainspring housing offers several advantages over factory polymer or aluminum housings, including increased durability, reliability, and customization options.

Steel mainspring housings are more robust and resistant to deformation or damage compared to their polymer or aluminum counterparts, ensuring long-term reliability and consistent performance.

This is especially important for shooters who go through a lot of rounds since steel mainspring housings are better able to stand up to prolonged shooting sessions without compromising function or integrity.

In addition, features like aggressive checkering or stippling patterns can provide a more secure grip surface


Kimber Custom TLE

Can You Customize a Kimber 1911?

Yes, Kimber 1911s can be customized extensively with options like grips, sights, triggers, magwells, barrels, safeties, mainspring housings, finishes, and internal modifications.

Why Buy a Kimber 1911?

Kimber 1911s offer exceptional craftsmanship, accuracy, and reliability, making them a top choice for enthusiasts and professionals seeking a high-quality and versatile firearm.

How Accurate is a Kimber 1911?

Kimber 1911s are renowned for their precision engineering and tight tolerances, delivering exceptional accuracy capable of achieving precise shot placement even at extended ranges.


Disassembled M1911A1

From custom grips that mold to the contours of your hand to precision sights that ensure every shot finds its mark, there are upgrades out there for nearly every aspect of your Kimber 1911. The options are virtually endless!

Of course, none of these upgrades is a substitute for shooting skill. These upgrades help the gun function better and help you use it more effectively, but if you’re not skilled with the gun you have already, you won’t be skilled with an upgraded one. There’s no replacement for regular practice.

Now get out there and make your Kimber 1911 your own!