K6s .357 Snubbies
Kimber’s K6s .357 Snubbie Has Great Sights And A Good Trigger.
Not To Mention A “5+1” Cylinder
By Massad Ayoob
Photo Takashi Sato
Kimber’s K6s is an answer to the suggestions of many revolver experts who had called for a pocket-size 6-shooter—Ed Lovette, Michael deBethencourt and Grant Cunningham to name three. But it’s got more going for it than an extra hole in the cylinder.
The all-stainless steel K6s sits in your hand as solid as a blackjack. The action is smooth and single stage—no stacking or increased pressure required toward the end of the DA-only trigger stroke. It “pre-times,” meaning the cylinder locks the next chamber in place just a little past the halfway point of the trigger stroke.
The hammerless configuration is touted for its sleek and snag-free profile. That’s a plus, but it also offers two more advantages. (1) It allows the rear of the frame to sweep up higher, allowing higher hand placement, lowering the bore axis and giving the shooter more leverage, resulting in less muzzle jump. (2) It eliminates the chance of a politically motivated prosecutor turning a justified self-defense shooting into a claim of a reckless, negligent accident due to cocking the revolver beforehand and creating a “hair-trigger” effect.
The sights got an immediate thumbs-up from all on the test team. Big and blocky, they give an excellent sight picture that’s easy to pick up at speed, and as precise a picture as you’re likely to need with a snubnose revolver. The sights include three big white dots on the standard model. Fiber optic is one accessory on the DCR (Deluxe Carry Revolver) ($1,088) and night sights are available on the NS model ($919). The sights on my standard K6s, however, never snagged or compromised concealment in any way.
The 6 chambers are counterbored. The cylinder has distinctive, subtle flats instead of flutes, rather like a Chiappa Rhino. An HKS 10A speedloader will fit the K6s cylinder just as it will a D-Frame Colt, but the grips get in the way of the loader and slow down its operation. Fortunately, Kimber included their own speedloader with the K6. It’s a little bit rattle-y, and the loose cartridge fit makes it a tad slow to insert, but it does clear the grips. It releases with a counter-clockwise turn, like a Five-Star loader as opposed to the ubiquitous HKS, which has a clockwise release.
The grips on our standard model test gun, incidentally, are what appear to be an homage to the great boot grips created decades ago by Craig Spegel, and copied in rubber by Uncle Mike’s.
A 6-round capacity is a real K6s selling point. With .357 Magnums, recoil was controllable,
though not particularly fun. The chambers are recessed.
Overleaf: The Scar Blades Scorpion (208/716-1212, www.scarblades.com) is one wickedly curved knife
(and it isn’t a folder!) At the other end is a glass breaker, and the scales are brown Micarta.
Holster is by DeSantis (800/424-1236, www.desantisholster.com),
speedloader by Kimber.
Shooting The K6s
At 23 ounces the K6s is an ounce heavier than an S&W 640 .357 and 2 or 3 ounces lighter than the Ruger SP101 in the same caliber, both of which are 5-shot revolvers. Recoil, of course, is subjective. Because the K6 grips are cut to the back edge of the frame and put steel against the center of the web of your hand, recoil is more uncomfortable than with the hand-cushioning grip standard on the Ruger (which also has a few more ounces to absorb recoil). “Kick” wasn’t bad with the K6s when shooting standard-pressure .38 Special ammo, but you knew something serious was going on when you fired +P.
With full-power .357 Magnum loads it was downright unpleasant, but not intolerable. I did not find the gun to shift in my hand so long as I kept a hard crush grip. Cunningham said “I don’t like the rubber grips they’re shipping with. The wooden ones they debuted with at SHOT were, in my mind, much nicer.” I haven’t shot it with wood stocks and can’t comment on that.
Because of its smoothness, the DA pull didn’t interfere with the gun’s accuracy. While it’s customary to test pocket-size handguns like this one at 7, 10 or 15 yards instead of the industry standard 25, I never got the memo saying bad guys had signed a treaty to give us easier shots if we were carrying short-barrel guns, so I still test them from 75 feet.
On a concrete bench with a Caldwell Matrix rest from Brownells, I ran the K6s with three different loads. Short barrel notwithstanding, 2 of the 3 came within the oft-quoted standard of “4 inches at 25 yards” as acceptable accuracy for a full-size service handgun.
People will tell you it’s useless to use .357 Magnums in short barrels because they lose so much velocity. True enough, I’ve chrono’d 125-grain .357’s out of a true 2-inch barrel at a little over 1,200 fps when the same lot of ammo was breaking 1,400 fps out of a 4-inch duty gun.
But while a .357 isn’t very “magnum” out of a snubbie, a .38 isn’t very “special” out of the short a barrel, either. And if you can handle the recoil, you want all the power you can get. The Federal 125-grain .357 JHP printed 5 shots in just under 4 inches at 25 yards in an “I”-shaped vertical string from our test K6s.
In truth, most folks carry these “Baby Magnums” with .38 Special HPs so they won’t be blinded at night with magnum flash and won’t have to deal with brutal recoil. Lots of .38 Special fans swear by 125-grain loads and I used Fiocchi’s JHP as my representative .38. It was the most accurate of the test. The whole group measured just over 3 inches and the best 3 shots were in a cluster that went 0.60-inch center to center. Yes—about 1/2 inch from a 2-inch DAO snubbie. That’s not a misprint.
Mas found the K6s comfortable and fast when worn cross-draw in this DeSantis Gat Slide holster.
Photo: Gail Pepin
Fortunately, Kimber included their own speedloader with the K6s (above). It’s a little bit
rattle-y, and the loose cartridge fit makes it a tad slow to insert, but it does clear the grips. The
Kimber speedloader releases with a counter-clockwise turn (below), like a Five-Star loader
as opposed to the ubiquitous HKS, which has a clockwise release.
Federal’s 125-grain .357 JHP grouped under 4 inches for 5 shots at 25 yards (above).
Fiocchi’s 125-grain .38 Special was the most accurate load tested—5 shots in 3.05 inches.
Note the “Best 3” cluster! Photos: Gail Pepin
What surprised me was when another tried and true favorite grouped poorly. Remington uses the softest lead to make their “FBI Load,” a 158-grain lead SWC HP at +P velocity, and the most likely of its kind to expand when fired from short barrels. In this one, though, the group was a horrendous pattern, with keyholing. The particular load just wasn’t compatible with this particular revolver.
Of course, accuracy encompasses not just size, but point-of-aim/point-of-impact coordinates as the gun comes out of the box. In close, the test gun shot a bit low and starboard for me. The farther back we moved, the more pronounced deviation from POA/POI became. At 25 yards, the .357 bullets were hitting 3 inches low and to the right. Inside 7 yards, it grouped only a little low right for me.
Several hundred rounds went through the test gun without a hitch. It has a lot of design features I like. One of my colleagues bought one and has had trigger return problems, but this is the only complaint I’ve found. The Kimber K6s has a lot going for it. I think it’s going to be with us for some time.
30 Lower Valley Road
Kali spell, MT 59901
Type: DAO revolver
Caliber: .357/.38 Special
Barrel length: 2 inches
Overall length: 6.62 inches
Weight: 23 ounces
Sights: 3-dot fixed
Trigger pull: 9.5 to 10.5 pounds
Finish: Brushed stainless
Grips: Black rubber
Dealing With A “Parabellumized” Set Of Stylish Additions To The Kimber Micro Lineup
By Mike Cumpston With Deborah Davison
The Kimber “Desert Tan” would make a pretty good “General Officer’s Pistol” and pack a
lot more punch than the small .32 ACP and .380 ACP pistols issued in WWII. The “Bel Air”
adds a colorful, stylish look to the normally drab, businesslike look of today’s 9mm pistols.
The Micro 9 emerged in early 2016 as a minimally enlarged companion to the successful Micro 380. Variations on the basic theme have proceeded apace with a number of models arriving in 2017. New models feature various sighting options, color schemes and some have Crimson Trace LaserGrips (LG).
We recently received the Desert Tan (LG) and a Special Edition Bel Air with polished stainless slide over pastel blue frame. Both pistols arrived in zippered cases with two magazines each and laser adjustment/cleaning tools for the Desert Tan. All of these magazines were extended 7-round ones, although a flatbase 6-rounder was included.
Both guns have high-visibility 3-dot sights, with both front and rear dovetailed into the slide providing lateral adjustment. They are about 1/2-inch longer and taller than the Micro .380 and the exact size as my Walther .380 PPK (the Kimbers weighing several ounces less due to the alloy frames). They fit the same pocket holster as my PPK. In just about every conceivable scenario, the Micro 9 should be as easy to conceal as the slightly smaller .380.
The factory nominal trigger pull is 7 pounds. Mas Ayoob shot a Micro 9 and reviewed it in the February ’17 issue. He weighed the trigger pull at 9 pounds with his team of shooters agreeing it seemed much lighter. The triggers on the Bel Air and Desert Tan scaled 7.5 and 8 pounds respectively and I felt every ounce. Accurate bench groups from a 6-inch long pistol with 8-pound trigger presented something of a challenge. Mas thought Kimber might have made the triggers heavy as a safety measure.
Kimber’s 9mm Micro pairing (above): The Desert Tan and the pastel-accented Bel Air.
Both pistols have excellent 3-dot sights (below), although the Desert Tan (CT) comes
with Crimson Trace LaserGrips as well. Holster by DeSantis.
Review samples of the early Micro 9’s across the gun press, came with the flat-based 6-round magazines good for 2-fingers on the grip. Some reviewers complained the pistols—particularly those with smooth grips and no frame texture would move in their hands and deliver pronounced recoil. This may be the reason our samples were supplied with the 7-round mags providing room for a 3-finger grip. Neither Deborah Davison nor I considered recoil—even with +P loads—to be at all objectionable and there was no tendency for either pistol to shift under recoil. I suspect bench groups with the shorter magazine would have been challenging, though unsupported shooting went quite well.
Lacking a rest compatible with a pistol of this size, I shot 2-handed on top of a sandbag for my 5-round, 25-yard groups. The heavy trigger pull was a distraction until I refined my method. A few of the first groups exceeded 5 inches. I re-shot these once and the rest of the groups in the table are 1-time efforts. The average groups of 8 separate loads from both pistols measured less than 4 inches with the difference between the two guns being insignificant.
This is about the same dispersion I get shooting the smaller, 1911-type mini-.380’s. My groups went high by about 4 inches and right of my POA by 2 inches. From a rigid 2-handed stance at 25 yards, Deborah aimed below the 7 ring of the B27 target to put most of her hits well-centered in the 9 ring.
The basic Texas handgun license demonstration consists of 50 rounds shot in timed sequences at 3, 7 and 15 yards. Everything in the 8-ring and inward is a maximum value hit. I walked through it with the Desert Tan shooting like most people do—about three times faster than the maximum allotted times—still a relaxed pace. Five of the 20 rounds from 15 yards spread across the 9 ring. The rest of the shots were contained in the 10 and X rings.
The heavy trigger pulls took some getting used to for me, but Deborah thought they were ideal. Further she was keen on the high visibility sights and considered the size, balance and overall handling qualities close to perfect. She was particularly taken with the Bel Air. It seemed lighter and felt better in her hand than the heavily checkered LaserGrip on the Desert Tan. Adjusting to the high point of impact, she delivered tight, rapid-fire clusters back to 15 yards repeatedly, and generally stayed inside of the scoring rings at 25.
Deborah specializes in training inexperienced women shooters and many of them—arriving from high-tax locales in California and New York— seem to view concealable handguns as a key element of the Texas Zeitgeist. This has caused a major increase in her business and a deepening perspective on the needs of beginning shooters not born into a gun culture. She has found the new shooters are put off by the light triggers preferred by precision shooters. They seem much more comfortable when a conscious effort at trigger control is required.
Stripped down for cleaning, the Micro 9 will be familiar to anyone who’s ever owned a 1911.
Early in my shooting with the Desert Tan I encountered slide lock-back with the last round reversed and lying on top of the floorplate. Deborah had one failure-to-feed malfunction each with the Micro 9’s. They probably wouldn’t have occurred if I had paid more attention to the feed sequence. Loading the chamber from a full 7-round magazine caused the second round to ride forward under pressure from the moving slide. On a few occasions the round would protrude enough to impede magazine removal and come out of the magazine as it was pulled from the grip. Loading the chamber and then ensuring the next round was pushed to the rear of the magazine minimized the forward movement and would probably have solved these problems. For some reason the six-round magazine did not have this tendency, nor did the bullet profiles of those loads using Barnes projectiles and the SIG Elite JHP’s.
The manual for the Desert Tan claimed the Crimson Tracer LaserGrips were factory regulated at 50 feet. We found this was exactly right. Shortly after sundown—but with considerable remaining light—we were able to make effective hits from 7 to 15 yards. We also found it possible to precisely place our shots from various non-standard but potentially useful presentations.
The Kimber Micro family addresses the elements most desirable in deep-concealment personal arms. The range of styles and cosmetic aesthetics will appeal to traditional shooters as well as the more eclectic tastes of more recent generations.
30 Lower Valley Road
Kali spell, MT 59901
Type: Single-action, semi-auto
Caliber: 9mm, Capacity: 7+1, 6+1
Barrel length: 3.1 inches
Overall length: 6.1 inches
Weight: 15.6 ounces
Sights: 3-dot Patridge
Trigger: 7.5 to 8 pounds
Grips: Ivory Micarta (Bel Air), CT LaserGrips (Desert Tan)
Price: $864 (Bel Air), $790 (Desert Tan)