November 13, 2019
Carry guns can be curious things. Plenty of shooters own tuned, high-grade 1911s that stay in the safe while less-expensive production handguns fill their everyday carry role. While there’s nothing wrong with this practice—and some practical reasons to adopt it—wouldn’t it be a good idea to stake their lives on the handgun they shoot best?
If you are a 1911 shooter, your ideal carry gun just might be a compact and lightweight handgun that retains the performance, balance and controls of America’s favorite sidearm. That’s exactly what Ed Brown Products has developed in its new KC9.
Years ago, Ed Brown turned the 1911 world on its head with the introduction of the Kobra Carry. This Commander-length handgun incorporated Brown’s patented Bobtail grip and Snakeskin grip treatment on the frontstrap, mainspring housing and slide. The Kobra Carry has maintained great popularity among 1911 fans ever since and is still in production.
For 2019, Ed Brown wanted to evolve that proven platform into a new handgun, and the KC9 was born. “We wanted to build a new gun, something a little outside the box,” John May, Ed Brown’s head of sales and marketing told me. “We kept going back to wanting a cool, shootable carry gun. Nothing feels as good in the hand as a little 1911; the balance of this gun is off the hook.”
The gun is part of Ed Brown’s EVO (for Evolution) series, the company’s next generation of handguns that build upon the 1911’s fundamentals. The KC9 differs from its Ed Brown predecessors in several meaningful ways, the most notable being its price. The suggested retail price on the KC9 is $1,895, which is a tremendous value in the custom 1911 market. By comparison, the Kobra Carry retails for $3,000.
Ed Brown incorporated several features into the design of the KC9 to maintain its price point, each of which I will cover in detail.
One way to cut costs is by making every gun the same way. The KC9 is available only with a stainless steel frame, and the only options are the buyer’s choice of finish and front sight.
Ed Brown builds the entire KC9 in-house with the exception of tritium sights, springs and the grip panels. Not only does this allow the company to control quality, but also it can cut down production time since it isn’t reliant on outside vendors to provide critical components.
Slides and frames are milled from forgings, and smaller parts are made from bar stock on CNC machinery. There are no MIM or polymer parts on the KC9, and regardless of finish, all the guns are built from stainless steel.
Before I dig too deeply into the internals of the KC9, let’s examine the basic external dimensions. One of the things you notice immediately when handling this gun is how narrow the slide is. Because of the KC9’s 9mm Luger chambering, the engineers at Ed Brown were able to design a slide that is a full 0.06 inch narrower than that of a traditional 1911. At its widest point, the KC9 is narrower than the milled-off sections on a Kobra Carry with “carry cuts” at the muzzle end of the slide.
The barrel is four inches long, a quarter-inch shorter than on traditional Commander-length handguns. The result of these decreased dimensions is a handgun that weighs 34 ounces unloaded and balances perfectly. The seven-top slide is milled so the top of the slide profile is actually a series of flats. Coupled with the unique rear and front cocking serrations, it’s a cool look.
Two primary features allowed Ed Brown to control production costs and maintain such a low price point on this handgun. One of them is the external extractor. John Browning’s 1911 extractor is a beautiful thing when properly executed, but to be done right it must be fitted by skilled hands. Skilled hands add significant cost, so the decision was made to adopt the more modern external extractor on this handgun. The extractor on the KC9 is CNC milled from 17-4 stainless steel bar stock and requires no hand-fitting.
The second cost-saving feature on the KC9 is the bull barrel, which does not require a bushing. No bushing means, once again, no handwork. Virtually every handgun designed after the 1911 eliminated the barrel bushing, so this is hardly a radical concept.
The stainless steel barrel is fluted and tapers up to full diameter at the muzzle, allowing it to lock up securely on the internal diameter of the slide. The barrel locks into battery via a single lug forward of the chamber, another first for an Ed Brown pistol. The barrel uses a traditional 1911 feed ramp arrangement, and the chamber is unsupported, meaning the cartridge is not completely encased when in battery.
The final piece in the puzzle in terms of streamlining production and keeping down costs is the front sight. The sight attaches to the slide using a TP6 Torx head screw in lieu of a milled dovetail. This arrangement was chosen because it allows the end users to decide which sight suits them best and then fit it without the aid of a gunsmith.
At the time of this writing, Ed Brown offers six different front sights: black, green fiber optic, red fiber optic, HD XR orange/tritium, HD XR yellow/tritium and a gold bead. My test pistol came equipped with the Trijicon HD XR orange/tritium front sight, which was highly visible both day and night.
The rear sight is fit into a dovetail and secured using a Torx screw and is drift-adjustable for windage. The rear surface is lightly serrated, and the sight is made with a small ledge to allow for one-handed racking of the slide. The notch is U-shaped so the entire ring of the HD XR sight is visible. The sights on this gun are simply wonderful and made life simple when it came to hitting things on the range.
The KC9’s frame provides the full grip length of a 1911, although the Bobtail cut makes the gun a bit easier to conceal. Both the frontstrap and mainspring housing are textured with Ed Brown’s proprietary Snakeskin pattern, which provides lots of grip without being too abrasive. The grip texturing is as functional as it is attractive.
A beavertail grip safety allows for a high grip and, thanks to its raised pad with memory grooves, engages positively without any effort on the shooter’s part. The extended thumb safety allows plenty of operating surface without adding any unnecessary width to the handgun.
The slide stop hole on the frame is tastefully chamfered, and the recessed slide stop fits flush with a slight bevel to aid its alignment with the barrel link.
The KC9 uses a full-length recoil spring guide rod and a flat spring cushioned by a polymer buffer. The flat recoil spring allowed the gun’s designers to put more functional spring tension into a smaller space.
Due to the narrow slide, the half-moon slide stop notch is a bit more difficult than normal to see, but disassembly is a simple task. The slide is drawn to the rear, and the slide stop is removed laterally once in the proper position.
The slide comes off the frame and the recoil spring assembly, including the plug, can be removed. The barrel link is then articulated forward, and the barrel is removed from the slide. Assembly is accomplished by reversing the procedure.
The trigger is one of those things that separate a great gun from the pretenders, and this one hits the mark. The skeletonized aluminum trigger on my test gun broke cleanly and consistently at 4.25 pounds, which strikes a nice balance on a carry gun. Trigger reset was almost imperceptibly short, allowing for fast, precise shooting when multiple rounds were in order.
The Labyrinth-pattern grips are made from imported cocobolo, and the design, like the Snakeskin treatment, provides plenty of grip without being overly aggressive. The magazine well is slightly beveled, and the 9mm chambering allows for an extra round in the single-column steel magazine. Standard 9mm 1911 magazines are compatible with the KC9, and its capacity is 9+1.
The KC9 is available in either satin stainless steel or in the G4 version, which uses the company’s own polymer black Gen 4 finish. My test gun was a G4 model, which meant all parts were coated black with the exception of the stainless steel barrel and aluminum trigger. The overall fit and finish on the gun were excellent.
Since this is a carry gun, I began my range time by running a full magazine into an IDPA target at 10 yards to get a feel for it. It was immediately apparent that this gun was special. It has all the familiar controls and overall feel of a tuned 1911, but in a smaller and lighter package.
Five fast rounds went into a group the size of a golf ball before I put two pairs into the target’s “-0” head zone. Recoil and muzzle rise were gentle thanks to a high grip on the gun, its 9mm chambering and the slightly front-heavy balance provided by the bull profile barrel. I was immediately impressed.
After that, I did the accuracy testing, and my results are found in the accompanying chart. Though the gun’s mechanical accuracy potential was great, the KC9 really shined during practical drills on steel and cardboard targets where the gun’s excellent sights and trigger made hits look easy.
Most importantly, the gun ran with every load I fed it without any hint of a malfunction. The 9mm cartridge’s taper makes it want to feed and extract, and that’s certainly part of the gun’s reliability equation. I actually had a case-head failure on my second to last round of Super Vel ammunition during the accuracy testing, and the gun cycled nevertheless. I was wearing my shooting glasses, so no harm was done.
With today’s threat of active shooters, I’m no longer satisfied carrying a handgun that only allows me to make hits at short range. The threat has evolved, and so must our tools and methods. With this in mind, I loaded a half-dozen FMJs into the magazine and shot at a 12-inch steel plate at 90 yards from the seated position, resting my arms across my knees. I was able to hit the plate four out of six times, which tells me the gun is up to the task.
With a slide that is a quarter-inch shorter than other Commander-size 1911s, the KC9 may not be fully compatible with all holsters designed for that handgun. This isn’t an issue because Ed Brown has commissioned a holster designed specifically for the KC9. Made by S&S Leatherworks, this hand-tooled black leather and crocodile pancake-style OWB holster retails for $225. For the record, though, the KC9 worked fine in the Commander-length holsters I tried it in.
Although the KC9 is not available for sale in California, Golden State fans of Ed Brown who own a Kobra Carry are in luck. Ed Brown is offering an upgrade program whereby existing Kobra Carry handguns can be retrofitted to the KC9 format. Once this conversion is completed, Kobra Carry owners will have the option of using their handguns with either the .45 ACP or the more compact 9mm upper just by swapping slides.
For those who desire a premium carry gun, one that embodies the best features of the 1911 but in a more agreeable package in terms of concealment, the KC9 is worth some serious consideration. The solid construction, excellent sights, great trigger, dependable reliability and impressive accuracy provide a level of confidence that is tough to match at this price.
ED BROWN KC9 SPECIFICATIONS
- TYPE: 1911
- CALIBER: 9mm Luger
- CAPACITY: 9+1
- BARREL: 4 in.
- OAL/HEIGHT/WIDTH: 7.5/5.6/1.3 in.
- WEIGHT: 34 oz.
- CONSTRUCTION: black Gen 4-coated stainless steel frame (as tested)
- GRIPS: Labyrinth pattern cocobolo
- SIGHTS: Ledge rear, Trijicon HD XR front (as tested)
- TRIGGER: 4.3 lb. pull (measured)
- SAFETIES: grip, single-side thumb
- PRICE: $1,895
- MANUFACTURER: Ed Brown Products, EdBrown.com