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.
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.
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.
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.
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.