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Kimber KDS9c Rail 9mm Review

What is Kimber’s new KDS9c Rail pistol, and what do the initials mean? Kimber’s “KDS9c” stands for “Kimber Double-Stack 9mm Compact” pistol. “Rail” means it has a 1911-style Picatinny Rail to use with a light and/or laser. It is a 1911-style pistol built around a double-stack 9mm magazine, sized down for the 9mm cartridge, and designed for concealed carry. So that is the general definition of a 2011 carry size pistol: a single-action, carry-size 9mm gun with a double-stack magazine. The 2011 double-stack 1911 was designed to keep the positive attributes of the 1911 (same grip angle, single-action trigger, ergonomics, beavertail, manual safety for carrying cocked-and-locked, hammer, etc.) while enhancing capacity for more rounds. Make no mistake, the KDS9c’s trigger, hammer, sear, and disconnector are classic 1911 in design. So there is the 1911 single-stack feel, function, and control, but with increased magazine capacity.


A 2011 uses a two-piece grip and frame system and is a recoil-operated, hammer-fired gun. 2011 pistols are what you would call “semi-custom” in that some hand-fitting is required to build the gun. Most small parts are often made from forgings instead of mim or castings, which is the case with most mass-market 1911s. 2011 clearances and tolerances are usually going to be tighter as well. When I first picked up the pistol, I recognized that its slide-to-frame fit is very solid with no wobbles or rattles.

With the recent introduction of this new KDS9c Rail, I want to thoroughly analyze, compare, shoot it, and rate it for recommendation or not for concealed carry in this article.

Several readers and students have asked what criteria I use to analyze my recommended handguns, so I want to give my criteria and range test results for this pistol to help you analyze your handguns and make the best selection for yourself, especially for your concealed carry purpose. You can add or subtract from my criteria to meet your needs and preferences. I was very anxious to shoot the KDS9c Rail and to compare it factor by factor to my other quality compact 9mms to see how it truly ranked. It is similar to the size of a Glock 19.

I requested the KDS9c from Kimber, and they were nice enough to loan me one for testing and evaluation purposes. Know that I am not on the Kimber payroll, have not been paid by them for this article, nor have I been influenced to say certain things about the gun. I want to be honest and straightforward with my opinions and ideas to help folks sincerely.

Specifically for this review, I wanted to know how accurate it is out of the box, without modifications. Is it reliable? What about the trigger press weight? Is the trigger smooth and crisp? What about the reset distance for follow-up shots? Do the rounded edges and bobtail butt really help with concealability? Are the fiber optic sights helpful? Can I easily handle the recoil? What about its ergonomics, comfort, and feel in the hand? What are its pros and cons? Are there any issues or concerns that would prevent me from carrying this gun? Is this a gun I would recommend for concealed carry? I will give you my ratings on my criteria and my opinions and recommendation in this review.

The Kimber KDS9c Rail Review Plan

Here are the 9 major sections of my Kimber KDS9c Rail review:

  1. First-Glance Features of the Kimber KDS9c Rail 9mm Pistol
  2. Detailed Specifications and Features
  3. Col. Ben’s 10 Evaluation Criteria
  4. Ammo Used in Testing
  5. Col. Ben’s Concealed Carry Drill
  6. Overall Range Test Results
  7. Range Test Results for Each of My 10 Criteria
  8. Conclusions & Recommendation or Not
  9. About Col. Ben
Kimber KDS9c Rail Right
Kimber KDS9c Rail Right

First-Glance Features- KDS9c Rail 9mm

There are four features that stood out to me before I even shot this pistol:

1. Trigger: Match-Grade, Single-Action, Flat, & Skeletonized Aluminum

The trigger is single action and is flat to allow a more speedy and consistent press and flexibility as to where you place your finger. A curved trigger introduces the possibility of inconsistent trigger press weight due to varying leverage created by the curve. With a flat trigger, I can press anywhere on the flat surface, get a clean, smooth press, and fire the shots quickly while managing recoil. A flat trigger provides me a more consistent feel through the press, and it feels the same every time, even if my grip is off some. I expect this pistol to have fine Kimber-proven features representing basic performance, accuracy, excellent reliability, value for features, and fine ergonomics.

Kimber KDS9c Rail Fluted BarrelKimber KDS9c Rail Fluted Barrel
Kimber KDS9c Rail Fluted Barrel

2.  Barrel: Match-Grade, Stainless Steel, Fully-Fluted, Ramped Bull

For me, Match Grade means fine quality handgun parts, especially the trigger and barrel,  that are suitable for competition matches and high performance. It usually means features and parts that are manufactured with high precision, tighter tolerances, and more exacting dimensions. This pistol is offered with a Match-Grade stainless steel bull barrel which is fully fluted. Fluting looks good to me and reduces weight, cools down the barrel quicker, and gives faster heat dissipation after firing. Generally, a bull barrel does not taper outward, is cylindrical and larger in circumference, and is stiffer to reduce vibrations. It is usually a thicker and heavier barrel to better manage recoil.

Kimber KDS9c Rail Rear SightsKimber KDS9c Rail Rear Sights
Kimber KDS9c Rail Rear Sights
Kimber KDS9c Rail Front SightsKimber KDS9c Rail Front Sights
Kimber KDS9c Rail Front Sights

3.  Front & Rear Sights: Excellent Green Tritium Night Sights

The sights were easy to pick up and use on this fine KDS9c Rail 9mm compact pistol. Since I am color blind, the green tritium sights worked great for me. I could quickly see and use them day and night. My non-color-blind wife also liked them and easily used the sights. The glow of that tritium front sight really helps me quickly get on target.

KDS9c Rail ReviewKDS9c Rail Review4.  Frame: Lightweight Aerospace-Grade 7075 Aluminum with Beavertail, Rounded Bobtail Butt, and Slightly Beveled Magwell

This pistol has a lightweight aluminum frame that makes carrying it easier. And its beavertail, slightly-beveled magwell helps fast reloading, and the rounded and smooth Bobtail Butt also helps concealed carry. This solidly built, decent-valued pistol has features normally found on much more expensive pistols and feels high quality.

Kimber KDS9c Rail Specifications

Kimber KDS9c Rail Features

  • Four-Slot Picatinny Rail to Add Light and/or Laser
  • Ambidextrous Thumb Safeties
  • Full-Length Steel Guide Rod and 16.9-Pound Flat-Wire Recoil Spring
  • Tactical Skeletonized Trigger to Reduce Weight & with Over-travel Screw
  • Tactical Skeletonized and Serrated Hammer to Help Cocking
  • External Steel Extractor Pinned to Outer Slide with Separate Spring Tension
  • Loaded Chamber Indicator Notch at Rear of Barrel for Chamber Loaded Status
  • Bull Barrel with 30-Degree Target Crown to Protect Bore & to Help Accuracy
  • Back Strap/Mainspring Housing and Front Strap Checkering
  • Bushingless Barrel with Flat Wire Spring, Guide Rod, and Plunger
  • Front and Rear Serrations that Wrap Around Top of Slide to Enhance Grip
  • Attractive and Durable Gray and Black Finish on Slide and Frame
  • All Edges and Sights Smoothed and Rounded for Carry; Bobtail Butt for Carry
  • Slightly-Flared Magwell to Enhance Mag Changes
  • Ejection Port is Lowered and Flared to Help With Cartridge Ejection
  • Reversible and Checkered Magazine Release and Manual Thumb Safeties
  • Optic Ready Slide is Cut for Optic Adapter Plate (Optional- RMSC & Holosun-K)
  • Standard GI-Style Serrated Slide Stop
  • Tight Slide-to-Frame fit with no Discernable Play

Ben’s 10 Evaluation Criteria

Here are just ten criteria and factors I use for evaluating any handgun. In addition to my criteria, there are other subjective features that may be appealing for some, like flared mag well, front and back fine-line checkering, smooth rounded corners, mag release location and type, action, caliber, appearance, number of mags included, type of sights/modifications, grip angle, bore axis, non-porting or porting, included extras like a holster and pouch, customer service, etc. So, I combined these into my last Miscellaneous criterion. I must admit that all gun-choice decisions involve tradeoffs, but I really want all of my criteria to be met. I assigned a total possible point score of ten points for each of my ten criteria for a total possible score of 100 points. You can certainly add your own additional criteria, preferences or subtract any of mine.

Recognize that there are several features, characteristics, pros and cons, and personal criteria to include and consider when you make your own tradeoffs for gun and ammo, according to your priorities, preferences, defined needs, and use. Decide if a .380 Auto pistol and various ammo are appropriate and optimal for your own self-defense and other shooting needs. .380 ACP is often considered “underpowered,” but carefully selecting your ammo can help to mitigate its deficiencies to some degree.

Kimber KDS9c Rail Ammo Used in ReviewKimber KDS9c Rail Ammo Used in Review
Kimber KDS9c Rail Ammo Used in Review

Ammo Used In Testing

Variety of Range Test Ammo for Kimber KDS9c Rail 9mm Pistol

For range testing the KDS9c Rail pistol, I used various high-quality 9mm ammo, with 115, 124, 100, and 150 grains and jacketed hollow point and full metal jacket ball ammo.

Here are the various high-quality 9mm rounds with different grain weights and types:

  • Hornady Critical Defense 115 gr FTX
  • Federal Premium HST 150 gr JHP
  • American Eagle 115 gr Total Synthetic Jacket- Polymer
  • Fiocchi 115 gr and 124 gr FMJ, and
  • SinterFire NXG, Lead-Free 100 gr Ball

This variety of ammo gave me the information I needed to Test and Evaluate this pistol. I fired about 245 rounds to evaluate this gun (usually, I shoot 500 rounds over a couple of days) to decide if I wanted to carry the gun or not. I used the ammo I already had on hand. Below, you can see my evaluations for each of my ten criteria and my recommendation (or not) for this pistol and for my concealed carry purpose. I put this gun through its paces and checked it thoroughly for malfunctions and performance with this variety of quality ammo.

Ben’s Concealed Carry Drill

I used my standard Concealed Carry Drill to test and evaluate the KDS9c Rail, after I initially thoroughly cleaned it. You can use my Concealed Carry Drill to test and evaluate your handguns. I like the realistic 5-yard, 7-yard, and 10-yard distances best to match common distances for personal defense purposes.

Download, Print, and Share My Concealed Carry Drill and Target

You can have my Concealed Carry Drill for Free for your practice. Permission to Download, Print, and share “Col. Ben’s Concealed Carry Drill” is granted when my website address and copyright are included and kept on it.

You can Download and Print “Col. Ben’s Concealed Carry Drill ” and targets by clicking on the link at my website’s Articles Page at www.FloridaHandgunsTraining.com.

Range Routine with “Col. Ben’s Concealed Carry Drill”

As I usually do, I started with my Concealed Carry Drill target at the 3-yard distance to warm up and get used to the trigger, operational mechanics, and recoil. No problems at all here. All my hits were inside the bullseye area of each of the 5 circles. Very accurate and reliable initially up close. The grip was very comfortable and textured just right for me. I really like the light, smooth, and soft trigger press. The performance was there and no malfunctions or concerns at all.

I continued using my above standard Concealed Carry Drill at 5, 7, 10, 15, and 20 yards and performed two iterations at each distance. I easily and quickly landed all 15 rounds on the five circle targets from a draw on targets at 3, 5, 7, and 10 yards. At 15 yards and 20 yards, my ole codger eyes failed me some, but I still managed to qualify with 80% hits and times at 15 yards. But, sadly, the  2.5″ circle was a problem for me at the longer 20-yard distance. My hits would have stopped the bad guy/gal, however. At 20 yards for both trials, I only got 1 of 3 shots on the small 2.5″ target. So it was not my fundamentals, and it had to be my unfamiliarity with this new-to-me pistol. Yes and no. My fundamentals and marksmanship skills were right on. And the pistol did its job! But, the problem with hitting the smaller target was my aging eyes. Mea Culpa! I did not make the time limit of 20 seconds overall at 20 yards for the first trial, but I did at the second trial. YES! Still, I must practice more and get a new set of eyes for my aging ones. Hope my Drill helps you.

Kimber KDS9c Rail 9mmKimber KDS9c Rail 9mm

Kimber KDS9c Rail TriggerKimber KDS9c Rail TriggerOverall Range Test Results

Altogether, this pistol looks and performs great. This Kimber KDS9c Rail has a high-quality appearance, fit and finish are exceptional… especially for its price and the features you get. This fine pistol has excellent overall ergonomics. When I field-tested this pistol at the range, it was comfortable in my hand and felt good. The G10 grips with the cross-hatch pattern look exceptional and are made of very durable material. They are slightly thicker for added capacity but still thin for a comfortable and stable grip.

NOTE: For me, I wanted the grip checkering to be just slightly more aggressive for a more solid grasp since I perspire profusely. The type of checkering on the front strap and mainspring housing/back of the grips was the only real concern (and a minor one) I had for this fine gun since it affects my firm grip. It also, to me, did not have the quality look of the checkering on some of my other Kimbers. My Kimber 1911 Pro Carry II has 25 LPI back strap checkering, while my 1911 Aegis Elite Pro and Ultra pistols have 24 LPI checkering on the front straps. These are excellent all-around grip checkering and texturing for a very classy, high-quality look and actual performance. But, of course, it costs more. I usually prefer from 20 to 30 LPI checkering on the front and rear backstrap of the grips. Not only does it give the pistol an outstanding look, but it really helps with a solid grip. So maybe just some 20 LPI checkering would help the grasp. Again, this adds cost above standard grip checkering. Usually you get what you pay for.

I could easily reach all the controls on this fine pistol. The mag release is reversible,  textured, and easy to access. It has a left-side and a right-side thumb safety but no grip safety.  The slide stop is extended and works well. The two double-stack metal mags were nice and hold 15 rounds and 18 rounds. The slide was very easy for me to rack with its fine serrations, and the felt recoil and muzzle rise was surprisingly very manageable for this commander-sized compact pistol. I do wish the undercut behind the trigger guard and below the mag release was just a little more undercut to further help my high-hand grip on the pistol.

Overall, after my range live fire, the Kimber KDS9c Rail single-action compact gun impressed me as a very attractive, accurate, and reliable (with a limited 245 rounds fired by me) carry gun. I had no malfunctions or stoppages at all with the various types, weights, and quality of ammo fired. Fantastic!

At the range, shooting the gun for the first time up close, my first 15 rounds fired rapid fire at 5 yards, all hit in a nice 2.5″ or so group, considering my declining eyesight. My next 15 rounds fired at 7 yards formed a similar group but about a 2.5″ to 3.0″ group. For this aging shooter with challenging vision, the hits were acceptable for closeup self-defense encounters. Over different up-close, tactical distances, accuracy was very acceptable, but shoot it for yourself to make your own decisions based on your abilities and proficiency. Below are my hits on my Carry Drill target for 15 rounds fired at 7 yards with the KDS9c Rail model.

Next, I will present my ideas, ratings, and some details for each of my criteria after my range testing.

Kimber KDS9c Rail 9mm Hits at 7 YardsKimber KDS9c Rail 9mm Hits at 7 Yards
Kimber KDS9c Rail 9mm Hits at 7 Yards

Range Test Results For Each Of My 10 Criteria:

Accuracy and Reliability – Score: 10

The accuracy of the compact KDS9c Rail was excellent for me at self-defense distances of 3, 5, 7, and 10 yards, even with my aging eyesight. My groups at each of the up-close encounter distances were about 2.0-3.0 inches for the first time I ever fired the gun after first cleaning it. Groups were similar for me at all distances, using the various types and grains of cartridges. I fired about 245 rounds. The 3.8# trigger press I experienced was crisp, soft, smooth, and outstanding. The comfortable and solid G10 grips and the flat single-action match-grade trigger really helped account for this result. I used my Modified-Isosceles Stance, a two-handed grip, and shot various high-performance quality 115, 124, 100, and 150-grain JHPs and FMJs.

Trigger Press – Score: 10

The trigger press averaged about 3.8 pounds with ten readings from my Electronic Trigger Pull Gauge. This was excellent and what I prefer for my press range for my carry guns. I prefer that my carry guns have around a 4-pound press, so this more than meets my expectations. Of course, this is personal preference. I analyze and compare 21 of my top 21 CC guns in my concealed carry book. I liked that the trigger press was crisp and easily identifiable. There was a small amount of pretravel/takeup, a solid tactile wall stop, and then a smooth and crisp break with no overtravel. The reset was fast. The polished feed ramp helped. Single-action shooters will really appreciate this press.

Trigger – Score: 10

The trigger was match-grade, solid aluminum, and had a tactile and very identifiable click and reset. I liked the fairly short and positive reset and very crisp trigger. The trigger is adjustable for the length of travel. Since the trigger pulls straight to the rear rather than pivoting, there is minimal movement to make the shot. My shots were consistent each time, and I could easily recognize the reset point. I did like shooting it because of this excellent trigger. It has a fine, soft, and smooth trigger for a compact pistol.

Kimber KDS9c Rail BarrelKimber KDS9c Rail Barrel
Kimber KDS9c Rail Barrel

Barrel Length – Score: 10

The 4.09-inch barrel was match-grade, stainless steel, cone-shaped, had a 16-pound recoil spring, a bushingless, fully-fluted, and ramped Bull barrel, and a polished 30-degree flush-and-deep cut Target Crown. These most definitely helped control muzzle flip and felt recoil. Very nice recoil control. The steel barrel was of high quality, and its compact size made it very concealable. It does not use a bushing and the barrel is locked into the frame by a slide stop pin and barrel link. It has a highly polished feed ramp.

Sights – Score: 10

The front sight and rear sight are tritium night sights, with green tritium that really glow and are highly visible. Great for me and my color blindness. The rear sight is dovetailed and is part of the mounting plate. The green glowing tritium sights glow 24/7 and help me get a better and quick lock on the front sight and target. The tritium night sights transition from very visible standard white dot sights during the daylight to glowing green dots in the dark. No battery is required, and no charging is necessary.

Proper Gun Weight – Score: 9

The 29.6-ounce unloaded weight with the 15-round mag and the 30.3-ounce weight with the 18-round mag are acceptable, with the aluminum 7075 lightweight frame for concealed carry and within my desired range. It is close, however, and for carry, there is a tradeoff between the extra weight of a double stack mag like this gun with a rail and its 4-ounce weight increase and its great capacity of 15 rounds to carry. The pistol is machined from billet and offers rigidity and durability. The non-railed model is lighter, of course, at 25.3 ounces, but with the lightweight comes some disadvantages, like just a little more felt recoil and snappiness. This weight overall is certainly acceptable for carry.

Caliber – Score: 9

It was easy and comfortable to shoot the 9mm caliber. The KDS9c Rail has an almost perfect balance between portability and performance. The felt recoil of the 9mm was easy for me to control. It digested the various weights of 9mm ammo easily without a single malfunction or stoppage. The lightweight aluminum frame made it comfortable to carry and recoil, although there was no major problem.

Capacity – Score: 9

The two 15-round steel, epoxy-coated magazines with polymer followers were of very fine quality for carry. I went to the Kimber Store to check for extra mags. The price for a 15-round mag was higher than I thought: $50. each. 18-round mags were $65. each, but they were out of stock, probably the reason I did not receive an 18-rounder but got a 15-rounder. I want at least three mags to be included for each of my many pistols.

Kimber KDS9c Rail CaseKimber KDS9c Rail Case
Kimber KDS9c Rail Case

Ergonomics – Score: 9

Overall, the ergonomics of the KDS9c Rail were very nice. Aside from the pistol’s outstanding appearance and great fit and finish, the G10 grips are durable, moisture-resistant, and have a high strength-to-weight ratio. The grip’s body was ample to allow me to acquire a decent and comfortable grip, and I was able to easily reach all the controls without changing my grip. The frame is undercut at the rear of the trigger guard, but for me, again, it is not deep enough to allow for a real high grip on the gun for my medium-sized hands. The ergonomic design with the front and backstrap texturing is not aggressive enough for me, is shallow, and does not have enough traction to give an extra firm grasp of the pistol, but it was not really slippery in my hand and worked fine. In my opinion, especially as a shooter prone to much perspiration, they should be slightly more aggressive, and I like LPI checkering.

Kimber KDS9c Rail GripKimber KDS9c Rail Grip
Kimber KDS9c Rail Grip

Miscellaneous – Score: 9

As always, before shooting any new gun, I disassembled, lubed, cleaned, and re-assembled the KDS9c Rail gun before I shot it. I did NOT have to press the trigger to disassemble it, and it was very easy and quick to do, like with a 1911 pistol, but without a barrel bushing. No bushing is necessary since the bull muzzle locks directly into the slide. The pistol does not include accessories like some others, e.g., a holster or mag pouch, but this is not even close to being a deal breaker. Just nice to have. There is a one-year warranty for the original purchaser rather than a lifetime warranty for all. The external extractor and ejection of shells was positive, brisk, and launched empties consistently away from where I shot the gun. The frame has a prominent and well-shaped beavertail and can function as a cocked-and-locked single action with a thumb safety and no grip safety. I found that a few of my commander-type holsters for my 4.25″ pistols with a rail will fit it, but, of course, slightly longer. When the rear sight is removed, the shooter can remove the plate covering the optic mount to install an optional optic plate and a red dot. Optic mounting plates are available for the commonly used Shield RMSc and the Holosun-K patterns.

Total Points = 95 out of 100 Possible.

Recommend Or Not?

I certainly RECOMMEND this all-around defensive handgun for strong consideration as your concealed carry compact gun. This single-action 1911-style pistol with its high-capacity 9mm magazine is superb. I especially like its accuracy, reliability, high visibility glow tritium green night sights, 15-round capacity, outstanding fit, finish, appearance, acceptable weight for carry, and medium size for concealability. Its felt recoil was very manageable for a compact 9mm and its smooth and rounded lines prevent snags—the added weight of the double stack and rail help for felt recoil. Love the rounded Bobtail Butt to help concealed carry. It has many features for its price. While I only shot about 245 rounds through it, I want to shoot it more to see its long-term reliability. Overall, I was very impressed with its accuracy out of the box, its low muzzle flip and moderate felt recoil for a compact 9mm, and its reliability with no malfunctions or stoppages. This machined 2011 is made to a very high standard, with performance and reliability as its primary purpose, instead of meeting a price point.

These are just my opinions and ideas, so handle and shoot it for yourself. I hope this review of the Kimber KDS9c Rail, single action compact double-stack 9mm, has helped you gain some information you did not previously have. Consider that these are just my opinions with limited live-range shooting. Like always, I recommend that you shoot any handgun yourself before you purchase it. Decide on your criteria, how you will primarily use the gun, what features are important to you, and for which you are willing to pay ahead of your range time. Then, critically evaluate the gun yourself per your criteria and purpose, with standard drills (several mentioned in my book), with various ammo types and brands, over an extended break-in period of about 500 rounds. Remember, Safety First Always.

Continued success!


Troy, AL 36081

Photos by Author and Kimber.

* This personal opinion article is meant for general information & educational purposes only and the author strongly recommends that you seek counsel from an attorney for legal advice and your own personal certified weapons trainer for proper guidance about shooting & using YOUR firearms, self-defense and concealed carry. It should not be relied upon as accurate for all shooters & the author assumes no responsibility for anyone’s use of the information and shall not be liable for any improper or incorrect use of the information or any damages or injuries incurred whatsoever.

© 2024 Col Benjamin Findley. All Rights Reserved. This article/review and its images/pictures may not be reprinted,  reproduced, or distributed in whole or in part by mechanical means, photocopying, electronic reproduction, scanning, or any other means without prior written permission. For copyright information, contact Col Ben Findley at [email protected].

The Review

KDS9c Rail

Review Breakdown

  • Accuracy and Reliability

  • Trigger Press

  • Trigger

  • Barrel

  • Sights

  • Weight

  • Caliber

  • Capacity

  • Ergonomics

  • Miscellaneous

Read the full article here

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