I began my handgun shooting life with a revolver and will doubtless always have a revolver close by, on my hip or in my pocket. The revolver’s good attributes include simplicity, accuracy, power, and fast handling.
I have carried a snub-nose .38 Special as a backup handgun for over 35 years. The snub .38 can be left loaded for long periods and come up shooting without maintenance, and in a worst-case scenario may be thrust into an adversary’s body and fired time after time without any danger of malfunction. The snub-nose .38 fills a unique niche better than any other handgun system.
I have constantly upgraded my service handguns, and the handguns I carry for personal defense are the best I am able to afford. They are versions of the 1911 or SIG P series and compliment what skill I have. I looked at the .38s I have owned for many years—perhaps an upgrade was possible.
An advantage of some revolvers is chambering for the powerful .357 Magnum cartridge. While the .38 Special +P is difficult enough to control in lightweight revolvers, if there were a configuration that made for good control—for those who practice—I would consider it. I wasn’t looking for comfort in firing, but a powerful backup handgun that was bearable to fire.
KIMBER REDEFINES THE REVOLVER
I studied what was available and elected to test and evaluate the Kimber K6s™ revolver. The advantages over previous revolvers I have used isn’t slight—it is profound.
Kimber began with a clean slate and redesigned and perhaps redefined the revolver. I chose to test the stainless-steel version because I feel it is the best choice for carry beside the body. The revolver features a concealed hammer for a snag-free profile, and the grip profile also makes for comfort when firing. The revolver has a smooth trigger action that aids in fast combat shooting and also allows accurate fire at longer ranges. The barrel is two inches long.
The frame contour maximizes form and function. The design lowers the bore axis of the K6 as much as possible to aid in control. The grip frame and rubber recoil-absorbing grips that separate the hand from the metal of the frame are good features.
The cylinder release is pressed straight in to open the cylinder. The cylinder is thin for a revolver, 1.39 inches in diameter. There are no flutes, only flats between the cylinder. These areas have a pleasing appearance and perhaps shave a few ounces off the weight.
The cylinder features six chambers for the .357 Magnum cartridge. Yet the cylinder isn’t much larger than most five-shot .38 revolvers. Speedloaders designed for the Colt Detective Special fit well, and K-Frame speedloaders are usable. Special effort has been made to eliminate any sharp edges for concealed carry.
The action resembles the Smith & Wesson action, but with modification and updates. The hammer spring is angled slightly differently, perhaps five degrees, and the hammer is pushed off of the pivot pin more quickly than the S&W, in my opinion. This results in a shorter hammer throw. The rebound slide and hammer are coated with some type of friction-reducing material.
Since this is a six-shot revolver, the bolt cuts in the cylinder are on each side of the chambers when the cylinder is locked, requiring further re-design. The bottom line: This re-design makes for a shorter action, and the care in fit and polish makes for a smooth action.
If I felt a trigger this light on a competing revolver, I might say someone had tampered with the trigger springs and it would not crack Magnum primers, but the Kimber never failed. Trigger compression is 9.8 pounds.
The sights on the K6s are a contrast to the notch usually found in the top strap of small revolvers. They offer an excellent sight picture. Good sights are needed as much on a small gun as a large gun, perhaps more so due to the short sight radius. These sights feature a three-dot sighting system and are fitted with Tritium inserts. The advantage of these sights in practical accuracy is demonstrable on any type of firing course.
Before firing the revolver, I dry fired it over 250 times. The action was the same from the first press to the last, and I felt I had a good feel for the revolver’s trigger.
The first trip to the range primarily involved .38 Special loads. An advantage of the Magnum chambering is that .38 Special loads may be used for practice and in some cases for personal defense. I had along a good supply of handloads using the Magnus cast bullets 158-grain SWC at 800 feet-per-second (fps).
Initial familiarization went well. After all, I have been firing small concealed-hammer revolvers for 30 years. I moved to the Black Hills Ammunition HoneyBadger 100-grain loading. This design doesn’t rely on bullet expansion but on the cutting action of the projectile. At 1,010 fps, this would be a credible choice for personal defense. Next came the Black Hills 125-grain JHP +P. At 800 fps, this is a pleasant loading to fire. Control is excellent, and the balance of expansion and penetration favors penetration. The sights are well regulated for this bullet weight.
With 100 rounds expended, I began firing at 10 to 15 yards, with good results. I had regarded the Colt Detective Special with two-inch barrel as the most accurate and easy-to-use snub-nose .38 Special I own.
But the K6s has toppled the Colt from its lead spot. I fired the K6s as quickly as I could recover the sights, and found control and practical accuracy good. 125-grain loads impacted about two inches above the point of aim at 10 yards.
As testing progressed, I fired the only .357 Magnum load I brought along, the Black Hills Ammo cowboy load. This is a 158-grain lead bullet at 800 fps, intended for practice and competition.
I took a barricade rest and fired for accuracy at 25 yards. Rolling and staging the trigger, I took a center hold. I allowed the trigger to reset during recoil and fired a number of six-shot strings. The best six-shot group from the barricade was four inches, while most went five to six inches. That is excellent performance from a short-barreled revolver for this shooter.
.357 MAGNUM TESTING
The next trip to the range was to test the Kimber’s performance with .357 Magnum loads. Often enough, the .357 Magnum is loaded with slow-burning powder for maximum performance from a four-inch barrel. The result is tremendous muzzle blast and unburned powder from a shorter barrel. But some loads are standouts and perform well, one of which is the 125-grain Hornady XTP over 7.5 grains of Titegroup powder for 1,250 fps in a four-inch barreled revolver. I fired 50 rounds at man-sized targets at seven, 10, and 15 yards. The revolver remained controllable and centered the hits. Velocity is 1,160 fps in the K6s, an advantage of relatively fast burning powder.
Next I fired Hornady Critical Defense 125-grain FTX. This load clocks 1,180 fps in the Kimber. Recoil is strong and requires practice to master. These loads may not be all the Magnum can be, but they are considerably stronger than the .38 Special +P.
As an example, I have evaluated Double Tap Ammunition .38 Special 110-grain JHP at 1,040 fps and Double Tap 125-grain JHP at 954 fps—stout .38s, but they are not Magnums. Quite a few defensive .357 revolvers are loaded with .38 Special loads, and this is a viable choice. While Magnum has greater wound potential, it requires a great deal of practice to master.
I have never fired a revolver this size and weight that was as smooth and comfortable to fire as the Kimber. Every shooter will reach a certain threshold where recoil becomes intolerable, at least for long practice sessions. I fired several full-power loads, including the Black Hills 125-grain JHP at a strong 1,221 fps from the Kimber. The K6s did not twist in the hand during recoil but, although recoil energy was straight back, some energy transferred to the trigger finger. I placed six rounds in center mass at 15 yards with some effort, and times were understandably slower than with .38 Special loads or my standard Magnum handload.
The .357 Magnum is a formidable cartridge and difficult to control in a handgun this size. For personal defense, I think I will develop a load that maximizes wound potential while maintaining control.
The mission may dictate the load. For example, the likely scenario for outdoor use is an attack by a feral dog or one of the big cats. The survivor earns that name by placing the revolver into the animal’s body and firing multiple times. The most powerful load is certainly the best.
For personal defense and firing at a small exposed target, a load with greater control is needed. The Kimber K6s represents a significant upgrade in power and accuracy over my previous .38 Special and may be considered as a primary carry gun.
It isn’t inexpensive—mine was $838 retail—but worth the money. Small-frame .357 Magnums have a history of going out of time at a high round count. We don’t know about the Kimber yet, but a good program is to practice on a ratio of 20 to one with .38 Special loads.
CARRYING THE KIMBER
The K6s is small enough for carry in a jacket pocket. For concealed carry, I have adopted a pair of holsters from Galco. I like the Hornet crossdraw for its versatility. When seated, the crossdraw holster offers excellent access, particularly when driving. I often carry the K6s in the Hornet to back up a self-loading pistol.
The Walkaway is a good inside-the-waistband holster that incorporates a speedloader carrier into the design. Few of us carry a spare load for the revolver, and we should. The Walkaway features a plastic insert that holds a five-shot speedloader. Remove the insert for use with the six-shot speedloader.
Since we draw the speedloader with the gun hand, this is a good setup when the Kimber is the primary carry.
Because we’re behind the curve in terms of capacity, I like the ability to carry six rounds instead of the common five rounds in a revolver of this size. The K6s is a bit heavier than other popular snubbies. While some may view this as a detriment, I consider it an advantage, because the extra weight helps soak up recoil and makes the small gun more controllable.
SPECIFICATIONS, KIMBER K6s
|MANUFACTURER||Kimber Mfg., Inc.|
|BARREL LENGTH||2 inches|
|SUGGESTED RETAIL PRICE||$884.00|