Review: Kimber K6s Revolver

By Wilburn Roberts published on in Firearms

As a professional writer, shooter, instructor, and teacher, I test many firearms. I realize the merits of each, although I have my own favorites. As long as the handgun is reliable, the piece has the necessary baseline for personal defense. Just the same, my personal defense handguns have changed little over the past 40 years. The 1911 .45, Smith and Wesson Combat Magnum .357, and Smith and Wesson snub-nosed .38 have been the mainstays of the battery.

Kimber K6s revolver right profile

Kimbers .357 Magnum is very well fitted and finished.

The 1911 is more likely to be a Les Baer or Springfield these days, but then modern Colts are impressive. My backup revolvers are a pair of Smith and Wesson 442s, but I also use a Colt Detective Special—or should say that I did use. The 1911s are the most reliable and modern I can afford. The 442s are standard fare that I have used for many years.

Recently, I made a big change in the battery. The performance, represented by the Kimber K6 revolver, is surprising in some ways. For a trained shooter, and those who practice, the K6 .357 Magnum revolver offers a higher level of protection than any other revolver its size, in my opinion.

For the K6s, Kimber began with a clean slate and created a revolver with features that are completely modern, although the operating mechanism is based on proven, double-action revolver internals. With a slight modification to a proven action, Kimber managed to produce a very smooth action with a short hammer throw.

The K6s primary innovation is an impossibly thin, six-shot cylinder. This six-shot .357 Magnum revolver is less than 1.5 inches wide. The cylinders are countersunk, in the classic style for safety. To aid in cylinder rotation, the case rim doesn’t drag on the recoil shield. The Kimber is a double-action only design with a humped-grip frame that aids in hand fit and in controlling the handgun.

Sight picture on the Kimber K6s Revolver

A big advantage of the Kimber .357 Magnum revolver is the excellent combat sights.

When the revolver is loaded, the cartridges are visible to one side of the recoil shield. The action is very smooth and breaks at about 9.5 pounds. The DAO press is short and fast. The most noticeable advantage over other revolvers is in the high profile sights. These sights are far superior to the simple trough found on many revolvers. The three dot sights also feature the optional tritium inserts. I have often stated that short barrel handguns need good sights—perhaps more than full size handguns. A short sight radius may make good shooting more difficult and good sights are at a premium. The K6 is the lightest and smallest six-shot, .357 Magnum revolver ever designed and manufactured.

The Kimber .357 Magnum isn’t inexpensive. The revolver illustrated was purchased for $840 with night sights. The K6 is worth the money as there is nothing like it, and it performs beyond expectation. The question is always performance. I have tested self-loaders that were too light for the cartridge, and revolvers that kicked too badly to be useful. The Kimber kicks hard with .357 Magnum ammunition, but with training and acclimation, the piece is useful for personal defense.

The action is smooth and in double-action fire, making it less likely that you will clutch the trigger and flinch, than with a single-action trigger press. The good sights, heft, and trigger action allow good hits, far past the normal snub-nosed revolver range. A good shot, fired from a braced position, would be dangerous to an adversary to perhaps 50 yards. This is a stunt with a snub-nosed revolver, but the K6, like the famous Colt Detective Special, shoots like a big gun. The heavy barrel aids in balance and limits recoil.

Kimber K6s top and Smith and Wesson 442 revolver bottom

The K6s (right), is little larger than the authors S&W 442, .38, (left).

I fired quite a few rounds in this revolver, stacking up a pile of brass. About 90 percent of these cartridges were .38 Special loads. It is best to get the measure of the K6 with .38 Special ammunition. I have fired a number of handloads of various types and the results have been good to excellent. I think that the Federal 129-grain Hydra-Shok factory load would make for a very reliable .38 Special defense load, with good accuracy and a good balance of penetration and expansion. For slightly less recoil, the Hornady 110-grain Critical Defense is a viable choice.

Moving to the .357 Magnum, I have used a handload comprised to the Hornady 125-grain XTP and Titegroup powder for 1,160 fps. Recoil is stout but not painful. This is a good standard handload for many uses. The Hornady Critical Defense .357 Magnum 125-grain FTX breaks 1,180 fps from the K6, and the Federal 125-grain JHP, over 1,200 fps. (Each for 1,380 to 1,440 fps loads in a four-inch barrel revolver.)

These are strong loads that demand the proper technique to master. The revolver’s relatively low-bore axis, compared to other small revolvers’ recoil, is straight to the rear. The pounding is hard, and I am certain many will choose to deploy .38 Special loads. For those carrying the revolver primarily for short range defense, or for defense against animals that charge and bite, heavier loads are desirable. It is a personal decision. When you are able to strike small targets across the parking lot, then you are ready to carry that load in the K6. It is critical you practice often with this revolver, whichever load is used. For defense against animals, I would deploy the Buffalo Bore .38-44 Outdoorsman load. This hard-cast, SWC may have excess penetration for urban use but makes sense for defense against dangerous animals.

Kimber K6s with a speedloader inserted into the cylinder

With practice the K6s is fast to reload with the HKS speed loader.

Packing the K6s

The smooth and snag-free K6s fits many pockets well. As a backup shoved in the pocket for emergency use, there is much merit. For use as a primary defense handgun, a holster is preferred. When covering garments are worn, the Galco Hornet crossdraw is as good as it gets. This is a well-made, finely crafted holster. The Hornet crossdraw offers good access when seated. There really isn’t a better choice for a light revolver.

When a covering garment cannot be worn, the inside the waistband holster is ideal. The Galco Walkaway is a good design with a strong belt clip that takes a good bite of the belt for security. The Walkaway has a unique feature. It is supplied with a speed-loader pouch. We should carry a spare gun load, but few will. Since the proper draw of a speed loader is from the gun-hand side, this combination makes a lot of sense. The Walkaway is supplied with a stabilizing component for a 5-shot speedloader, remove this and drop in the 6-shot HKS speed loader for the Kimber. The fit is snug. This speed loader isn’t going anywhere, and it doesn’t rattle as you move. This is a good kit for a great revolver.

Do you carry a revolver as a primary or backup? What’s your favorite carry gun and caliber? Share your answer in the comment section.

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Comments (28)

  • Don C. Hayward

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    Maybe it’s me but although interesting in the abstract, velocity, what’s faster gets kinda in the weeds for the average Joe Lunchbox carry guy. My choice has been the S&W 360 PD with factory Magnum loads since the demise of my favorite caliber 44 Special Charter Arms retired with a cracked top strap. The 11 once weight with Magnum rounds is as unpleasant as it gets to shoot but the probability that I will need personal; defense across a parking lot is slim to none.

    Reply

  • Eric C

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    I believe it’s Galco Walkabout (not Walkaway).
    Nice article

    Reply

  • Keith V

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    My carry gun is a 1911. Ed Brown Special Forces Carry in .45 acp.

    Reply

  • RKC

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    Not tested the same snubby revolver but if the 2.5 inch barrel .357 is faster than the three inch barrel 9mm with its closed chamber how could a snub nose revolver with its barrel cylinder gap possibly be faster? That makes no mechanical or ballistic sense.
    The LCR is a 9mm the GP100 I dont think ever will be.
    The only way the 9mm equals the 9mm is if you compare the light loaded ‘low recoil’ .357 to the +P+ 9mm

    Reply

    • Ed

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      Thanks for sticking with it. I, too, tested those and other loads against each other. The 9mm was always faster than similar weight .357s until the revolvers got over 3″, then it swapped. I should also mention that I calculated muzzle energy as the bottom line and measured barrels as the length remaining in front of the bullet (to account for the different designs). So velocity was just a step toward that calculation. Sounds like we need to hear from someone who has both cylinders for a revolver and will test a variety of bullet weights.

      Reply

  • Sam

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    This is a dandy little revolver. I opted for the deluxe version (polished frame and cylinder with Rosewood grips), and carry it as my backup – alternating it with my Sig P938 (another superb backup). Like you, I’ve found the .38 special + P ammo the best, but carry a couple of speed strips with some .38 Buffalo Bore Outdoorsman and some .357 magnum – just in case. I find the Sig P938 pistol a better shooter, probably because it is a scaled-down version of my main carry ( a Colt .45 1911, with a couple of custom touches), but the Kimber K6s is quicker into action. Both are top of the line of their type.

    Reply

  • MadMax3.6

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    First of all the 1911 isn’t the most reliable .45 acp pistol!!! If you think I’m lying drop your 1911 in sand or mud and see how unreliable it is.I could drop my Glock 30sf in sand and mud,shake it off and it will function reliably without any problems while your expensive 1911 jams.Don’t get me wrong,I have nothing against 1911’s,they have earned their place in history but when my life depends on it,I opt for 100% reliability of my Glock any day of the week!!!

    Reply

    • Keith V

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      I can tell you, in my 15 years of carrying, I’ve never dropped my gun in mud or sand. Matter of fact, I’ve never dropped a gun in my life.
      I will put up my ED Brown against any Glock for quality, workmanship, fit an finish and reliability. But I won’t drop it in the mud.

      Reply

    • cath8r

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      In a self-defense situation, at what point are you going to drop your gun in mud or sand? I mean, let’s be realistic. I’ve seen people run over, bury, and fire Hi Points with obstructed barrels and they still function. I guess if you are constantly filling your holster or pocket with mud, then by all means stuff the Glock in there. A 1911 is too worthy to be treated like that.

      Reply

    • cath8r

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      And I have an unrealistic scenario. Hold your Glock in front of a blow torch for a couple of minutes and see how reliable it is. I could do that with my 1911 and it would still fire. Just saying.

      Reply

  • Big Al

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    Not being an engineer… But I think the proper term for the chambers is COUNTERSUNK, not counter shrunk.

    Reply

    • wr roberts

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      Thanks for reading and of course you are correct.

      I cannot blame it on spell check or the editor but myself only.

      Well it was close.

      Best,

      WR

      Reply

  • WR

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    Moving to the .357 Magnum, I have used a handload comprised to the Hornady 125-grain XTP and Titegroup powder for 1,160 fps. Recoil is stout but not painful. This is a good standard handload for many uses. The Hornady Critical Defense .357 Magnum 125-grain FTX breaks 1,180 fps from the K6, and the Federal 125-grain JHP, over 1,200 fps. (Each for 1,380 to 1,440 fps loads in a four-inch barrel revolver.)

    Ed,

    From a short 9mm such as the 3 inch barrel Beretta Storm a 9mm 115 grain load is at 1100 fps and the 124 grain a little less. The Buffalo Bore 158 grain load is faster than any 147 grain 9mm. This is a harder hitter.

    Reply

    • Ed

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      Again, test the Ruger (or any other revolver that comes in both calibers) .357 and 9mm in exactly the same snubby barrel length and bullet weight. Tell us what you find.

      Reply

    • WR

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      I did I did I did!

      Even the Buffalo Bore 158 grain .38 Special at 1000 fps beats any 9mm 147 grain short barrel 9mm

      The 125 grain .357 beats any 9mm by 200 fps in short barrel guns.

      That is that.

      WR

      the four inch barrel 357 shows 1442 fps with the Federal 125 grain JHP

      t

      Reply

    • Ed

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      I don’t think I’m getting through. Please confirm that you tested .357 and 9mm IN THE SAME SNUBBY REVOLVER. If so, it appears this group will appreciate hearing the details.

      Reply

  • Ed

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    The main problem here is combining the .357 and the short barrel. Chronograph it and you’ll see that it generates less energy than a 9mm in the same total length. So, this revolver would be noticeably better in 9mm. Test the Ruger LCR in both calibers to see for sure.

    Reply

    • H

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      I was going to comment similarly about the .357/9mm velocity concern but you beat me to it, my Good Sir.
      And here I thought this newest Johnny Come Lately from Kimber was the cat’s meow and you go and mention drilling the cylinder and bore to accommodate the 9mm cartridge and ima all like, YESSSSS! What a BRILLIANT IDEA!
      For the money, and for the record, I’d truly love to have TWO of these Kimber Cuties; one in its original .357 caliber AND its 9mm cousin.
      But first I must go buy a couple of winning Lotto tickets, as they aren’t inexpensive by any stretch of the imagination, are they?
      And one question for the author, although I suspect I already know the answer, but here it goes anyway:
      Is the ejector rod long enough to reliably punch out the spent brass or must the shooter engage in a significant “punch” of the extractor rod with the barrel pointing upwards to ensure the spent brass falls away cleanly?
      Thanks for the quality article and DAMN You, Kimber, for producing yet ANOTHER gun to tempt my budget dollars with.
      Guess it’s back to beans and weenies and Mac and Cheese to support this shooting habit of mine I reckon. LOL

      Reply

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