A 3-inch 6-Shot Magnum: The Ultimate Compact Wheelgun the Kimber K6s

Kimber has built a brand name that for many gun buyers in America is simply synonymous with top quality firearms. From its long guns to the many variations of 1911s, on down to the subcompact self-defense pistols — choosing a Kimber means taking a look at what is on the top shelf and telling the clerk, “I’d like to try that one, please.” Until about a year ago, that all stopped if your desired handgun was a revolver, but with the introduction of the K6s line the folks at Kimber put the long-toothed wheel gun makers on notice that ‘good enough’ would no longer be good enough. And now, the K6s is available with a 3-inch barrel; this is Kimber’s newest variant.

No one expected Kimber to make an ‘ordinary’ revolver. Then again, few expected Kimber to make a revolver at all.

Chambered in .357 Magnum, the K6s (the ‘s’ is for stainless steel) holds six rounds, where most revolvers its size accept only five. It also accepts .38 Special and .38 Special +P (both being significantly tamer than .357 Mag.) which are much more desirable for practice, and I submit – even for carry. The K6s is akin to the S&W J-frame in size and ergonomics, and full power .357s leave an imprint on both your hand and memory.

Taking a Walk Around the Kimber K6s

At first glance, you see a very attractive revolver that immediately looks different from the rest of the pack. The top strap and flat-bottomed trigger guard draw a sleek rectangle to the mind’s eye. This is further enhanced by the flattened sides of the cylinder, followed by the raked back sleek angle of the internal hammer cover. And finally, in the case of our evaluation copy, a set of beautiful wood stocks – left smooth and round, cry out “pick me up and hold me!” Such has been the distinction of the Kimber K6s since it was first introduced as a snub-nosed 1-1/2-inch pocket revolver, but doubling the barrel length to 3 inches only adds to the distinctive shape and styling, while signaling that this is no mere pocket gun or backup option — this is a contender for your IWB or pancake holster primary concealed carry protection. And because the Kimber K6s holds the full complement of six rounds, it contains the same count as many very popular micro 9mm semiautos.

With the cartridges fitting flush to the cylinder edge, the fit of cylinder to breach is extremely close.

Not long ago, few imagined the name Kimber on a wheel gun.

The 3-inch K6s came to me with a beautiful brushed stainless steel finish and a completely de-horned body, from the aggressively rounded radius cuts at every edge to the snag-free rear sight that is drifted into a dovetail flush with the top strap of the gun. I said to a friend, “it’s the DeLorean of revolvers” – which I intend in a complimentary way.

Shooting the K6s

After admiring the pleasing looks of the K6s, it feels slightly smaller in the hand when you first lift it. I attribute this partly to the optical illusion created by the design of the frame, and partly to the small, rounded, and very smooth walnut stocks. Those stocks feel superb in the hand, filling the palm enough to feel you have a secure hold, and yet small enough to allow the fingers of the strong hand to wrap into nearly a normal fist. The smooth texture of the walnut helps make it feel comfortable in any position. It’s an interesting little gun that looks like a compact size but feels like a sub-compact. The measurements of the frame, particularly the trigger reach are very akin to the S&W J-frame, for reference. But the K6s feels so much more substantial in the hand than the typical ‘snubbie’. This was a bit encouraging to me because although I don’t consider myself at all to be recoil averse, I will confess that shooting full power .357 Magnum loads from most small revolvers are about as enjoyable as reaching out to stop the bat of an NBL player in mid-swing. The web of the strong hand sits high on the stocks just below the angled hammer cover, giving the shooter a high grip and canting the wrist slightly forward. This provides a better power line with the body by reducing pivot points in the wrist and helps manage the significant recoil of a .357 Mag or .38 Special +P. Trigger reach is short enough that even the most diminutive shooter should get plenty of finger on the trigger to overcome the published 9 ½ to 10 ½ pounds of trigger pull (my Lyman scale measured it at just a tad over 11 lbs.).

The K6s’ chambers are recessed in the cylinder to the depth of the case head. At first glance, it appears to be cut for a moon clip (it’s not).

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Although the 3-inch barrel provides ample room to extend the ejection rod, Kimber left it the same length as the snub nose version.

I’m no contender when it comes to running wheel guns with any sort of speed. Even though I cut my teeth on a Model 10 back in the day, the teeth were not nearly as long as they are now, and my trigger finger was much more accustomed to working the long double action pull of a revolver. These days, I tend to lock them if I go too fast (and sometimes even when I don’t) because my spoiled semi-auto finger wants to ride the action. The problem this can cause, for those unfamiliar, is that the delicate timing of the revolver can be upset by not allowing the trigger to go fully forward after each shot. Those of us who have trained in the muscle memory to “ride the reset” on a semi-auto can struggle with this. I said all that to say that some revolvers are more forgiving than others when it comes to the action. The K6s is not. I found it easier to lock the action than not, despite knowing exactly what was wrong and what I needed to do to avoid it. So powerful is habit! On the flip side (and possibly related, but I’m not a gunsmith so it’s just a guess) is that the K6s has perhaps the best staging trigger I’ve ever felt in a standard production revolver. “Staging”, or “prepping” (among other nicknames) is a technique that the shooter of a double-action revolver uses to quickly draw the trigger back to just near its breaking point, and stop it there – then slowly squeeze off the shot with what is essentially a single-action trigger. This is most common among competitive shooters when a longer shot is necessary and the delicacy of a light break is preferable. A good double-action revolver will have a tactile index point at just that point in the trigger stroke, a sort of a ‘pause’ spot. The K6s stages wonderfully, and it quickly becomes muscle memory for the trigger finger. The touchy locking of the mechanism with uncouth operators such as me might be the byproduct of this internal working. However, in the hands of a friend who is a serious wheel gunner, it performed flawlessly in all ways.

This means that even .38 Special cases are longer than the ejector. You’ll need gravity to help.

The Kimber K6s 3-inch handles recoil better than I expected it to, even full power .357 mag loads – though I much preferred shooting .38’s. I suspect the small size belies its heft and strength. At over 25 ounces (Kimber reports 25.1 officially, but my scale said 26 ½) it is certainly no air weight clone. The previously mentioned grip angle is also helpful, putting your bones and muscles in a good alignment to handle the energy. With .38 Special, even the +P variety, it is downright fun to shoot. The sight picture with the standard 3-dot configuration is exceptional and allows for both quick acquisition and respectable precision. The front sight is held by a small roll pin that can be drifted out, and the rear sight sits in a nicely cut dovetail. Replacing both would not be a difficult job, which sets the K6s apart from most revolvers.

You’ll find few right angles on the K6s. Every edge is nicely rounded and smooth.

The K6s is a nice little shooter, ringing a small steel target from 10-15 yards with ease, and punching nice fist-sized groups in paper with off-hand shooting at those same distances. My 25-yard tests from a simple rest saw the groups spread out a bit, but still quite acceptable. Somewhat surprising was that the best groups of the day were made with Remington .357 Magnum rounds and not the more manageable .38 Specials.

Remington UMC .357 Magnum yielded the best group.

JUST MY OPINION

Every gun collection, no matter how small, should include at least one good revolver. There is something about handling (pronounced fondling) a beautiful firearm that still uses essentially pre-Civil War era technology. And there is something additionally special when the gun is somewhat innovative and takes the engineering and design of this old technology to its limits. When the Kimber K6s was first introduced, I have to confess my first thought was that it would be a “me too” revolver to appeal to a niche market. Far from it. I am impressed with the level of engineering that has been applied to the creation of the K6 family, and also with the design and ergonomics. Add in that it is simply a beautiful gun, and the MSRP has been announced at only $899, and the Kimber K6s 3” gets my enthusiastic recommendation. Accessories available from Kimber include speed loaders and holsters. It would have been nice if a speed loader had been in the box for testing, but none was provided. I’m sure aftermarket options will also be available. If your collection is missing a revolver, or you are looking for one that has a nice balance for concealed carry and home defense, the K6s in 3-inch is a great value.

For more information about the Kimber K6s, click here.

For more information about Remington ammunition, click here.

To purchase a Kimber K6s on GunsAmerica, click here.

{ 1 comment… add one }
  • Grant Stevens November 17, 2017, 2:01 pm

    A revolver without an exposed hammer is like a breast without a nipple. I have carried revolvers for more than 50 years and have never had an exposed hammer snag on anything but my thumb. Half the value of a double-action revolver is destroyed when it cannot be deployed for single-action accuracy.

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