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Kimber K6XS .38 Special Plus P Revolver

With the brand-new K6XS, Kimber shows why the .38 wheelgun is still a capable defensive tool.

Kimber K6XS .38 Special Plus P Revolver

(Michael Anschuetz photo)

I have a theory that I probably stole from somewhere. It is that the era of the combat revolver began when a handful of Texas Rangers armed with Colt Patersons defeated a numerically superior Comanche war party at the Battle of Walker’s Creek in June 1844. It ended on a suburban Miami street in April 1986 when a group of FBI agents found themselves outgunned by a deadly pair of bank robbers.

That shootout and its aftermath led to a sea change in firearms and ammunition for law enforcement use. Within a few years, the faithful revolver was soon a rarity in any lawman’s holster. That trend soon spilled over to the civilian side, but three decades later revolvers are experiencing a resurgence in popularity.

The fact is that revolvers still have a role, even in a self-defense context. Troy, Alabama-based Kimber Manufacturing has helped lead the new revolver era with the K6S series of sixguns it launched in 2016. The company’s newest example, the defense-minded K6XS, builds on that foundation.

Kimber K6XS fluted cylinder
The double-action-only K6XS’s cylinder is fluted and chamfered at the forward edge for a traditional look. The one-piece barrel shrouds the ejector rod. (Michael Anschuetz photo)

The K6XS is a lightweight and compact revolver ideally suited for concealed carry. It is chambered in .38 Special and rated for +P loads.

The gun weighs 15.9 ounces unloaded and has an overall length of 6.8 inches. For comparison’s sake, the K6XS is roughly seven ounces lighter than its closest all-steel cousin in Kimber’s revolver lineup. This significant weight savings comes from the aluminum alloy frame used to build the K6XS.

While not an ideal pocket revolver, it is readily concealable in a variety of configurations. The K6XS would be right at home in a belt holster, in an ankle rig or off-body in a purse or satchel.

Manufacturing revolvers is an expensive proposition, and several makers have gone to two-piece barrels to prevent having to time a barrel to the frame. Kimber did not go the cheap route, instead doing things the old-fashioned way. The K6XS has a two-inch one-piece barrel with an ovate profile that shrouds the ejector. The stainless steel barrel is made with 5R rifling and deeply crowned so the lands and grooves are protected.

The barrel and front sight are machined from a single steel component, creating an extremely durable setup. Both sides of the ejector housing are milled, one side to allow the cylinder to open and the other for weight savings.

Kimber K6XS revolver counterbored cylinder
The cylinder is counterbored so the case heads are recessed within, allowing the cylinder to sit nearly flush with the frame. (Michael Anschuetz photo)

The cylinder locks up at both the front and rear. The cylinder’s release is located just to its rear on the left side of the frame and is operated by simply pushing inward. The barrel-to-cylinder gap on my test sample measured just .006 inch, which is a testament to quality construction.

Modern heat-treated steels are far stronger than those used when much of the revolver market was developed more than a century ago, allowing engineers to build guns such as the K6XS with smaller dimensions. The six-shot cylinder on the K6XS is narrow at 1.4 inches in diameter. As opposed to the flat-sided models in Kimber’s revolver lineup, the K6XS’s cylinder is fluted and chamfered at the forward edge, giving it a traditional look.

The case heads are recessed into counterbores within the cylinder so its rear surface sits nearly flush with the frame. This is a nice touch, one that was abandoned by the likes of Smith & Wesson way back in 1982 as a cost-cutting measure.

The K6XS is a double-action-only revolver with no exposed hammer. This results in a long trigger pull that, compared to a modern semiauto, is relatively heavy. This is by design. The safety and consistency of a long, deliberate trigger pull are exactly the reasons that many consumers seek out a DAO revolver in the first place.


Kimber K6XS sights are machined into the barrel and frame
The sights on the K6XS are machined into the barrel and frame, making them extremely sturdy. They are also quite visible. (Michael Anschuetz photo)

The trigger on my test sample broke right at the 9.5-pound mark. Though this is a non-stacking trigger, meaning it does not have a determined wall before the break, when pulled slowly it does have a transition from one stage to another.

The first stage rotates the cylinder before the second begins the firing process. When the trigger is pulled rapidly, as it would be under stress, this differentiation is meaningless.

Many compact handguns, particularly revolvers, are equipped with sights that are more or less useless due to their size. This is not the case with the K6XS.

The sights are extremely sturdy but still quite visible. The front blade is .130 inch wide and is fitted with a bright orange dot that is difficult not to notice. The rear sight is a notch machined into the frame. The result is a usable sight picture for targets at self-defense distances.

The grip on the K6XS is a molded wraparound unit made by Hogue. This grip completely encases the frame and provides some cushion without being spongy. Two finger grooves are present on the frontstrap, and the grip flares down to allow a full-fingered grip on the handgun. The side panels are textured and feature the Kimber logo. I’ve been using Hogue revolver grips since I was a teenager, so I found them to be comfortable and familiar.

Overall, the fit and finish of this gun displayed excellent attention to detail. The finish on both the stainless steel and aluminum parts was an even satin bead-blast. All sharp edges were removed, which is an important consideration on a carry gun; no one wants to conceal something that tears up skin or clothing.

Shooting the K6XS was a pleasant surprise. Over the years I have fired some concealable revolvers that were nearly impossible to shoot with any reasonable degree of accuracy. The minuscule sights and horrendous recoil of some of these examples make them more suitable as impact weapons than firearms. That was not the experience of shooting the K6XS.

Kimber K6XS Accuracy Results

Recoil varied by load but was manageable, thanks in part to the Hogue grips. Even with the powerful Super Vel +P loads, the gun recoiled straight to the rear with minimal muzzle rise. In terms of power, a jacketed hollowpoint traveling at 1,355 fps is nothing to sneeze at.

Although the K6XS is far from a target revolver, its accuracy was surprisingly good. The limiting factor was not the barrel or sights but the relatively heavy trigger, which is not ideal for bench shooting. Both the PMC and Norma loads shot to the sights while the Super Vel ammo shot a touch low at 15 yards. The Norma Safeguard load produced the tightest groups.

To combat the idea that a snubnosed revolver is useful only at close range, I fired the K6XS at steel targets out to 100 yards. I’m not going to say I hit them every time at this distance, but the revolver was surprisingly effective at longer ranges.

The K6XS ships in a nice zippered nylon case in addition to the familiar cardboard box. Included is a DeSantis Gunhide Swift Strip speedloader. This simple injection-molded accessory holds six cartridges and can be slipped into a pocket. It makes for a handy, fumble-free reload. On its website, Kimber also offers a high-quality aluminum speedloader that makes loading the K6XS even faster.

Why would someone deliberately choose a defensive handgun that holds only six rounds? Despite today’s tacticool enthusiast culture, the fact is many gun owners have little interest in attending defensive training courses, shooting IDPA matches or dry-firing their handguns on a daily basis. A lot of folks just want a reliable gun to defend themselves and others.

Kimber K6XS 38 Plus P Special comes with a DeSantis Swift Strip and you can buy an aluminum speedloader.
The six-shot K6XS comes with a DeSantis Swift Strip for fast reloads. Kimber also offers an aluminum speedloader as an optional accessory. (Michael Anschuetz photo)

The beauty of the K6XS, or almost any revolver, is its absolute simplicity. There is no manual safety to manipulate, no chamber to check, no magazine to insert. The cylinder is either loaded or it isn’t. The sights are straightforward, and the trigger is foolproof. A user could be trained in the basic use of this handgun in minutes.

 That said, this need not be considered a beginner’s handgun. There are some very capable shooters out there who simply prefer a revolver, and those users will find that the small details of the K6XS are well-executed.

The fact is that the defensive needs of an individual generally differ from those of people on the law enforcement side. Though the decision to abandon the revolver for taking on armed bank robbers was no doubt appropriate, a firearm such as the K6XS can be a completely adequate and appropriate choice for individual self-defense.

The reliability, simplicity and safety elements of a revolver cannot be overstated. I regularly carry a revolver when hunting or farming and have never felt undergunned in those environments.

The K6XS is a well-built, reliable and accurate revolver designed with defensive use in mind. This revolver can be carried in an extremely safe condition while remaining ready for action at a moment’s notice. I was glad to see Kimber enter the revolver space several years ago and am happy to see it continue to develop its wheelgun line. A quality American-made sixgun will always have a place in my safe.


  • TYPE: Double-action-only centerfire revolver
  • CALIBER: .38 Special +P
  • BARREL: 2 in. stainless steel
  • OAL/HEIGHT/WIDTH: 6.8/5.5/1.4 in.
  • WEIGHT: 15.9 oz.
  • CONSTRUCTION: Stainless steel barrel and cylinder, aluminum alloy frame
  • GRIPS: Hogue rubber
  • SIGHTS: Topstrap groove rear, orange dot front
  • SAFETIES: None
  • TRIGGER: 9 lb., 8 oz. pull (measured)
  • PRICE: $679

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