I’ve got a lot to talk about, so this post will be longer than usual. I hope you’ll take the time to read, however, because I think there’s some really interesting news.
First things first: SHOT Show, for those who don’t know, is the shooting industry’s annual trade show. Held in Las Vegas, it attracts some 60,000 people over four days (five, if you’re in the media and attend Range Day before the show opens) of displays and seminars. Any company that’s worth talking to exhibits at SHOT, and it fills the Sands Convention Center to the brim.
I go there for several reasons. First, I get to meet with other like-minded people in the industry and make plans for the coming year. A lot of great ideas get their start at SHOT, and being able to get face-to-face with the people who make things happen is invaluable. Second, I go to look for new products (or just products that are new to me) that have application and value to my area of interest, which is self defense in the private sector. Some of the show is devoted to hunting equipment, there’s a strong showing of historical reproductions for those people who like to collect such things, and a huge portion is devoted to military and police gear — most of which is likely to be purchased to fuel wannabe fantasies.
As you may have noticed, I’m a practical guy. At SHOT I’m looking for those things that real people who live in the real world can use to keep themselves and their families safe. I realize that most people hold down responsible jobs and can’t dress like a mall ninja heading to the range, and despite self-defense being the number one reason people buy handguns these days it’s surprising how little realistic gear is available to support those buyers! I’m looking for that realistic gear, the products that help us integrate good defensive equipment and training into our everyday lives.
I just wish I saw more of it, but I did see some very neat things this trip — and one thing I’ve been working on for the last three years but couldn’t talk about until now.
The new Kimber K6s Revolver
This was, without a doubt, the hit product of SHOT Show 2016 — and I’m proud to be able to say that I was a member of the development team for this new revolver!
Kimber originally asked me for input on what the “ideal” defensive/concealed carry revolver would look like. They didn’t want to make a hunting revolver or a competition revolver or a “tactical” revolver, but one that would actually be a useful defensive arm for those people considering a revolver for self defense. What’s unusual is that they actually asked for design input!
Believe it or not, this doesn’t happen very often in the firearms industry. Sometimes manufacturers will get a little military or law enforcement feedback about a product that’s already well into the production cycle, and sometimes they’ll ask a famous person to do a special edition with minor changes to an existing gun, but this is the first time I know of that a major firearms manufacturer has sought out, at the very start of the design process, input from a private-sector instructor about a self defense handgun.
I suggested to them that a good self defense revolver would carry six rounds, have a great trigger and good sights. Of course there were a lot of other details that were important: it needs to fit and feel good in the hand, have rounded edges that were comfortable and didn’t chew up clothing, be of a concealed or enclosed hammer and double-action-only, have a rounded and smooth trigger face, be easily used by people with smaller hands, and of course be of high quality. In short, it wouldn’t be revolutionary but rather evolutionary: none of this stuff is really new, but it’s never been put together in one gun. The goal was to get everything into one package and get the details right.
What came out of subsequent design and range sessions was the Kimber K6s, and I think they managed to do exactly that.
The Kimber K6s revolver has a superb trigger (the best of any production revolver on the market), the best low profile sights that I can think of on any revolver, the smallest-diameter six-round cylinder capable of shooting Magnum rounds, and terrific ergonomics.
At Range Day, Kimber supplied .357 Magnum ammunition to shoot in the gun — and a frequent comment I heard was that it was surprisingly comfortable to shoot with that hot ammo. That’s because it was designed to be! Another comment I heard more than once was “I never thought I’d like a revolver, but this changed my mind.” Several people told me that they could never shoot a revolver well, especially a small one, but with the K6s they were able to hit targets easily. As you might imagine, this kind of feedback was really great to hear!
This is the concealed carry revolver I’ve wanted for a long time and it’s finally a reality. I was privileged to work with a great core team at Kimber — including Director of Product Management Tim Mulverhill, Director of Product Engineering Maureen Lincoln, and Senior Product Manager Ron Dudzic — who, along with their engineering and production staffs, did a terrific job of turning ideas into a top quality product. If you’re a revolver fan like I am, I think you’re going to like it too!
The K6s should be shipping by May, and carries an MSRP of $899 (of course street price is likely to be less than that.) Is that a lot of money for a revolver? Yes, but when you consider that the S&W Performance Center revolvers start about there and only go up, the Kimber is price-competitive but at a higher level of quality. Don’t believe me? If you were to take off the sideplates of the Kimber and one of those Performance Center guns, you’d see that the Kimber’s parts have a much higher level of fit and finish than the PC revolver does. I’ve seen the insides of both! (Of course S&W doesn’t have anything that matches the Kimber’s features, either.)
Holsters are available now from DeSantis, and by the time the gun ships there should be at least another half-dozen makers (several of whom committed during the show to start producing them.) Crimson Trace already has LaserGrips starting production and will probably ship before the guns do. 5-Star is making speedloaders (the cylinder is sized differently than anything else on the market), and each gun will come with two Kimber-branded SpeedStrips.
For some time I’ve been preaching the importance of carrying a good high intensity flashlight as a defensive tool, primarily because it’s a useful safety device over a wide range of plausible situations: as a search and identification tool (which is another way of saying that it can give you an early warning of someone out to do you harm); a tool to temporarily distract and disorient an attacker; and as an impact/control device where you can’t have a firearm or for those situations where lethal force just isn’t warranted.
I’ve also said that my favorite tool for this task is a light powered by two AA batteries, as they produce a lot of light and are just the right size to use as an impact/control tool — yet still slim and small enough to easily fit into a pocket or a waistband.
I’ve been recommending the FourSevens Quark Tactical 2xAA light for some time; we have several of them in our household (along with other FourSevens products) and they’ve been put through heavy use and still function. I can’t say that about some other manufacturers! You can imagine my disappointment when they discontinued the line of lights and replaced them with the Quark Click, which was a cheaper light that had to be factory programmed. I was in such despair that I started looking for another quality 2xAA-powered light.
David Chow, the owner of FourSevens, told me to cool my heels because he had something better in the pipeline — something I’d really like. Now I’m not one to trust people blindly, but David has always been straight with me and I’ve learned that if he says it’s good, it probably is. So I waited until SHOT Show to see what he had cooking. I must say, I wasn’t disappointed!
The new Quark Smart may be the perfect defensive flashlight, largely because it’s configurable to a degree and with an ease that we haven’t seen before. For instance, I believe an ideal defensive flashlight would have a non-locking rear activation switch that always comes on at maximum brightness and does absolutely nothing else: no brightness adjustment, no strobe modes, no nothing. Just on when pressed and off when released.
The trouble with that is a) it makes the light less usable for other tasks, and b) almost no one makes a light like that any longer.
The Quark Smart has a Bluetooth chip built in so that you can program the light with your iPhone or iPad (Android app will be coming later this year.) Using the app you can set up the light so that the rear switch is momentary only (doesn’t lock on) and always comes on at maximum. That’s great, but there’s more — that rectangular logo on the head of the light is actually a secondary switch, and you can program that to do anything else you need like locking the light on, changing brightness, and more.
What’s even more cool is that the logo on the switch is translucent and covers a red/green LED. That LED serves as a battery charge indicator so that you know at a glance what state your batteries are in! Green for charged, red for empty — but you can program that indicator to whatever charge level you want. Say, for instance, that you use rechargeable batteries and you want to know when they’re half empty so you can remember to throw them on the charger. No problem — tell the app to turn the indicator red at 50% and it sets the light accordingly!
That LED can also be used as a nightlight. If like me you have your light next to the bed and want to be able to find it easily in the middle of the night, you can set the LED to a nice soft glow. That’s great — but you can also program it to come on every night at, say, 10:pm and turn off at 6:am!
It also communicates with your phone or iPad to track proximity. You can, if desired, program the light to start strobing if you walk away from your phone, or you can set it so that if you have your phone but leave your light behind, the phone will give you an alert!
All of this is done through the app, which can handle a bunch of different lights. They had theirs controlling about a dozen lights and David says it will do as many as you might need. The app is also very clean and easy to use and will even support the iWatch (he was using his iWatch to ramp the brightness of his light up and down!)
Of course it’s built like all of the Quarks have historically been: very well. I have no doubt it will prove as tough as the ones I’ve been using (and often abusing) for several years.
Being completely configurable makes the Quark Smart a great defensive tool, and with the added features expands the range of situations where it will be useful as a personal safety device. I haven’t seen anything else like this, and I predict in a year or two everyone will try to copy the concept (though I’m sure the implementation is probably patented.) It’s currently available in a one-cell lithium version (using 123 cells or rechargeable RCR123), and in just a couple of months it will be joined by a two-lithium-cell version and a two AA-cell model. The latter, of course, is my preference because it is much better suited to use as a control or impact weapon, which further raises its usefulness as a true personal safety device. (Especially if you learn to use it properly by taking a class like Julie Loeffler’s “Light Then Fight!”)
– Grant Cunningham