AJ, the pistol you purchased for self-defense is an excellent choice. You should also be100% confident with that decision! Beware, of so-called Internet “gurus” who perpetuate misinformed information or focus on statistics that only marginally pertain to real-world situations. I believe that many of these so called experts exist to only convince themselves that their firearms are superior. So let me answer your question and put to rest your concerns.
COMPACT BARRELS POPULARITY:
A favorite handgun for self-defense and conceal carry is the Smith-Wesson J-frame revolver. The J-Frame revolver can be chambered for either the 38 or 357 magnum round and has a barrel length of only 1 /7/8”. In addition many leading manufacturers are building sub-compact firearms with barrel lengths shorter than 3”. The reason is that larger heavier pistols are more difficult to conceal or cumbersome to carry. When it comes to conceal carry being able to adequately conceal the pistol without “printing” is the utmost importance. The lighter/smaller pistols are easier to conceal and consequently more frequently carried than their heavier larger full size cousins.
BARREL LENGTH & ACCURACY:
With regards to barrels many factors affect accuracy. However, barrel length generally affects “theoretical accuracy” more than “mechanical accuracy”. A longer barrel means a longer sight radius, which means less over-correction of sight picture, and tighter “operator margin”. Factors that truly affect a barrel’s accuracy are stiffness/heaviness, twist rate, tolerances and material. Kimber’s Ultra Carry uses a match grade barrel which is built to higher tolerances than most barrels. Most companies generally reserve match grade barrels for high-end versions of their pistols. For example: Springfield has the tactical, Sig the X5, Beretta and HK their respective elites, Smith & Wesson their Performance Center and etc.. The point I am trying to make is that “Operator accuracy” will be more of a factor than “mechanical accuracy” for you when shooting your Kimber. Accuracy issues will most likely be a result of your shooting skills not your pistol’s mechanical performance.
BARREL LEGNTH & VELOCITY:
Yes longer barrels produce higher velocities by allowing the propellant (powder) more time to burn and expand within the confines of the barrel. Increased velocity means increase in energy and flatter bullet trajectories. However, in the realm of pistols where encounters are measured in terms of feet not yards the 45 ACP round will be effective. Now consider that most encounters involving self-defense occur within ten feet. Despite the velocity loss of a shorter barrel the 45 ACP round when fired from a 3” barrel will still penetrate at least 12” of soft gelatin (FBI’s penetration requirement). You can expect a loss of about 90 fps at 10 feet when comparing the performance of a 5” vs a 3” barrel.
My preference for a self-defense pistol has several similarities to the Kimber Ultra that you purchased. Although not a Kimber, I selected a pistol with a single stack magazine for the 45 ACP. I also selected a pistol with a match grade barrel and highly polished feed ramps. More importantly width and size were important as this pistol was intended for conceal carry. Good luck and practice safe.