December 14, 2017
By Patrick Sweeney
Change comes at us fast these days, and one of the latest comes from Kimber. The company makes revolvers now. And it doesn't make just any revolvers but rather all-stainless six-shot double-action snubbies—serious carry guns for those who realize revolvers are cool and eminently useful carry guns.
Early last year I had an opportunity to test-fire a preproduction K6s, and it was a lot of fun. This gun is now in regular production and available in four models: First Edition, LG, DCR and Stainless. I received the DCR (Deluxe Carry Revolver) for testing.
The basic K6s is a double-action-only, six-shot snubbie. The internal hammer is completely enclosed, so there is no thumb-cocking option. That's not a problem, as the Kimber action is one of the easiest to stage factory actions I've ever felt. Staging is where you use your trigger finger to advance the cylinder and lock it in place, and then continue to press the trigger as an almost separate action. Essentially, it is as if you used your trigger finger to single-action cock the hammer and then pressed it some more to shoot.
Back when revolvers were more common on police ranges and in police competitions, staging was a double-action method of shooting a lot of competitors used for precision because the time limits were generous. Staging became less common with the advent of action shooting, as shorter time limits meant a straight-through pull was more beneficial. Well, the Kimber K6s action is so civilized you can shoot with a straight-through pull, too, if you want to.
The six-shot cylinder is machined round at the locking lugs, tapering into a rounded hexagonal shape forward of the lugs. This makes the K6s a little bit slimmer and a little bit easier to slide into a holster.
The front sight is a separate part, pinned to the barrel, and it's replaceable if you don't like the red fiber-optic blade the gun comes with. The rear sight also is a separate steel part, dovetailed into the frame, and composed of carbon steel that has been given a durable black oxide treatment.
The cylinder opens by pressing the cylinder latch into the frame—unlike some revolvers where you have to push the latch forward or pull it to the rear.
The locking slots on the cylinder are offset from the alignment of the charge holes. The locking bolt is located as far to the right of the frame window as Kimber could move it and still be supported by the frame and also lock the cylinder securely.
This allowed designers to make the cylinder smaller in diameter, since they didn't have the locking slots taking a divot out of the cylinder wall directly over each charge hole. This keeps the charge hole wall thick enough to stand up to .357 Magnum and still allows the cylinder to be as small as possible.
The cylinder rotates on the centerpin, which when the cylinder closes is spring-loaded to ride into the breechface. The other end of the centerpin is recessed inside the end of the ejector rod, and a spring-loaded plunger in the barrel shroud locks the ejector rod in place when closed. So the K6s rotates on a bearing axis that is secured both front and back. That promises a long life and accurate shooting.
The rear of the cylinder is recessed at each charge hole to accommodate the rims of the cartridges. Ejection is easy. Once you have opened the cylinder, press the ejector rod, and the ejector star pushes the empty cases or rounds out.
The rod length is limited by the barrel length and is not long enough to fully press cases out of the cylinder. This is not a problem because we figured out how to solve that decades, even a century, ago. Just give the ejector rod a brisk push or a sharp rap to propel the empties out. Back when I was competing in USPSA/IPSC with a revolver, I got into the habit of rapping the ejector rod so sharply that range officers learned not to stand too close to my right shoulder or the empties would hit them.
The K6s is chambered in .357 Magnum, meaning it can stand up not only to .357 Magnums as well as .38 Special and .38 Special +P ammunition. Just remember: The .38 Special case is shorter than that of the .357 Magnum. If you shoot a lot of .38s, be sure to scrub the chambers clean to remove the buildup in the front. This is compacted powder residue that accumulates between the end of the .38 Special case mouth and the front of the chamber, which was cut for the length of a .357 case.
With its enclosed hammer, the rear of the K6s frame rises up a bit higher than it does on revolvers with exposed hammers, and the frame's backstrap is grooved for a non-slip grip.
The Deluxe Carry Revolver model sports a satin-finished stainless surface and rosewood grips that have checkering panels on the sides that add to the security of your shooting grip. The all-stainless (except for the sights) construction brings a weight of 23 ounces, but when you are shooting full-power .357 Magnum ammunition, the K6s seems anything but heavy.
Shooting the K6s DCR was both fun and work. The fun part came after I had gritted my teeth through the .357 Magnum portion of the testing. Getting the chronograph results was relatively easy. But getting consistent, smooth double-action trigger pulls for accuracy testing, knowing the .357 Magnum bark and thump that was to come, is work. Making a snubbie revolver in .357 Magnum is a good idea as far as durability and versatility is concerned, but I really think most shooters would be best served with .38 Special or .38 Special +P ammunition.
The Kimber K6s DCR printed smaller groups with the .38s than with the .357 Magnums. This is not because .357 ammunition is any less accurate than .38 ammunition. It is just the guy behind the grips. No shooter—no matter how experienced—can shoot as accurately with magnum ammo than he or she can with non-magnum ammo in a gun of this size.
The fun came when the chronographing and accuracy work was over. Then I spent my time working over the plate rack and clanging poppers set heavy enough so they wouldn't fall with .38 Special ammunition. The smooth double action of the Kimber K6s DCR made it fun to blaze through a rack of falling plates and play tunes on the popper array.
Along with the K6s DCR, Kimber sent along a pair of its speedloaders, a loading block and a holster. The speedloaders hold six rounds in a solid aluminum unit, and Kimber is selling them for $25 apiece (look for the Revolver Shop in the Handguns category on the company's website). To load the revolver, you simply insert the six (start with two, at an angle, then tip in to align) press forward, rotate the knob to unlock the rounds, and let go of the speedloader.
To load the speedloaders themselves, you can either make sure it is unlocked and drop them into it, one at a time, rims first. Once loaded, rotate the knob to lock them in place and you're done. Or you can stand them up in the loading block ($15), which has been machined to hold two sets of six rounds. Press the speedloader down over an array of six, rotate to lock, and lift them up.
The leather came from DeSantis. The holster is the company's GAT Slide, an open-topped outside the waistband holster with a trailing belt loop that acts to pull the grips of the holstered revolver tight into the body. Kimber sells this model for $73.
Along with the holster, Kimber sent the DeSantis Second Six Speed Loader pouch ($44). The pouch has adjustment screws so you can use it on belts of three different widths. The speedloader pouch goes on your belt, and the speedloader, instead of sitting outside your belt, has three rounds on either side, straddling the belt.
This means it is less of a lump on your belt and is going to be more low profile in everyday carry. We all know people who walk out of the house with a loaded firearm as their carry gun and don't bother with a reload. Really? Have they not heard of Murphy's Law? Having spare ammo is prudent, and if you have geared up to add the weight of the K6s DCR to your belt, what's the burden of six more rounds of ammunition?
One aspect that some will object to is the price, which is almost $1,100. Old-timers will remember when a new double-action revolver cost $400, but it has been a long time since those prices reflected reality.
Yes, today's polymer-frame pistols are much less expensive, but if you get a polymer pistol that truly is the size of the K6s, it is small indeed. The polymer pistol will not hold much, if any, more rounds than the six-shot revolver we're considering here. It will be much more difficult to shoot because that abbreviated semiauto frame will be much harder to hold on to than the K6s grip. The slide and barrel will be no shorter than the cylinder and barrel of the K6s.
Sticking with the semiauto comparison, yes, 9mm loads tend to be more robust than the .38 Special, but the .38 Special +P can deliver 9mm-level performance, and, of course, the .357 Magnum blows them all away. And if you just want to practice and not make it work, the softest .38 Special loads will be a lot more pleasant to shoot than any 9mm load in a polymer pocket rocket.
I think Kimber has hit a home run in the K6s, and now that it is available in four variations, you can select the one that fits your idea of a daily carry gun. It's a really good-looking, compact double-action revolver. It is made of stainless steel, it is chambered in .357 Magnum, and its durability promises to outlast your bank account or your ability to withstand recoil. It already has holsters available, you can count on speedloaders being available, and the trigger is as good or better than what we used to consider a competition trigger to be.