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Hook & Barrel
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kimber kds9c rail

Factory or Custom? Kimber’s New KDS9c Rail 9mm Blurs The Line

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Late afternoon at my outdoor shooting range in Wisconsin, the temperature was dropping fast, and dusk coming on strong. I really needed to head home and thaw out from the three hours of shooting in sub-freezing temps. But I was running Kimber America’s newest pistol, the KDS9c Rail, and my groups kept getting tighter and tighter.

One more brand of 9mm ammunition, I told myself. 

I loaded the magazine with NOVX Extreme Self-Defense 9mm +P. The 65-grain copper-poly bullet launches out of a pistol barrel at a screaming 1,600 feet per second, which would make it the lightest and fastest load I used in the Kimber.

I shot at five yards, offhand, in a self-defense distance/scenario, using a Birchwood Casey Shoot-N-C Bad Guy reactive target. My first six rounds pegged in at 1.3 inches, followed by a five-shot cluster at just .62 inches. I figured it couldn’t get any better. I proceeded to drill another five rounds of the NOVX into a .55-inch group—right between the bad dude’s eyes!

I’d already decided that the KDS9c Rail was a stellar pistol, one that blurs the line between a factory and a custom firearm. But with those last groups, it was time to give my bank account a serious look. Or maybe I could just send a note to my mortgage company?

“This month’s payment will be late—gotta buy the KDS9c Rail! Knew you’d understand!”  

A Double-Stack 1911 Reimagined

Kimber America introduced the original KDS9c in the spring of 2023. Essentially a double-stack 1911 chambered in 9mm, the pistol received very sold reviews and generated impressive sales. With its 4-inch barrel and aluminum frame, the KDS9c was and is a great concealed carry choice for those who appreciate the 1911 platform but don’t want to tote traditional 1911 weight. And it sported a 15-round magazine.

As the new pistol was making noise in the handgun market, Kimber customers began hitting the company with requests. They loved the pistol and the way it handled. But could Kimber add an accessory rail and an ambidextrous manual safety?

kimber kds9c rail 9mm
Customers requested, and Kimber responded with a new ambi-manual safety.

In July 2023, Kimber management decided that, yes, they’d do exactly that. Kimber orchestrated a fast re-design and manufacturing pivot, and by December 2023 Kimber was turning out two versions of the KDS9c Rail.  

Impressive Upgrades

kimber kds9c rail 9mm
A great addition, the Holosun 507K optic is not standard.

I received a new KDS9c Rail pistol several weeks before the 2024 SHOT Show. Mine arrived with a Holosun 507K optic already mounted on it, but the optic—to be clear—is an aftermarket accessory and is not standard.

kimber kds9c rail 9mm
The pistol’s 4-inch bull barrel was both crowned and fluted.

Like the original, the new KDS9c Rail featured a 4-inch stainless steel bull barrel that was fluted, crowned, and ramped. Likewise, the single-action pistol was built on a 7075 aluminum frame with serrations that wrapped around the front strap and grips. A reversible magazine release provided flexibility for left and right-handed shooters.

kimber kds9c rail 9mm
A first-rate single-action trigger made even better with front serrations.

Old vs. New Features

Both the original and the new versions have a flat space milled behind the ejection port for an optics-ready cover plate. For optics, one can install Holosun models, any of the Trijicon RMR family, and Vortex Venoms, with the correct plate. The cover plate also holds a dovetailed TruGlo rear night sight. A white dot front post completes the sights.   

The differences? Obviously, the Picatinny rail under the barrel and the ambi-manual safety.  That safety clicked up and into the SAFE position with a steady push of my shooting hand thumb and was just as easy to return to the FIRE position. The rail measured 1.83 inches long, with ample space for all manner of lights or lasers.

kimber kds9c rail 9mm
Ample rail space for a light, laser, or combo unit.

The original KDS9c is still being made in a stainless or black finish. The new version can be had with either a KimPro Black frame and slide finish or with the frame done in KimPro Gray and the slide in KimPro Black.

My evaluation Kimber sported the gray and black pattern and looked very sharp.

Range Test Results

In addition to the impressive accuracy with the NOVX 9mm, some of my best five-shot  groups included:

-0.80 inches at five yards offhand using Remington’s Golden Saber Bonded self-defense ammunition

kimber kds9c rail 9mm
Remington’s Golden Saber Bonded made this nice .80” group at five yards.

-1.1 inches, Federal’s Train+Protect, five yards and offhand

-1.0 inches, Remington’s UMC range ammo, 10 yards, rest

-At 10 yards and a rest, 0.90 inches with the Train+Protect

kimber kds9c rail 9mm
The Kimber and Train+ Protect drilled this sub-1-inch group at 10 yards from a rest.

-A six-shot cluster with Aguila Ammunition’s flat point range round and its 147-grain bullet, at 1.2 inches, 10 yards.

kimber kds9c rail 9mm
NOVX frangible 9MM provided the best groups during McCombie’s shooting, here at 5 yards, offhand.

Features & Handling

As one would expect with a 1911, the Kimber KDS9c Rail 9mm has a very crisp single-action trigger, with an average pull weight right at two pounds.

In approximately 225 rounds and using a wide variety of 9mm loads, my Rail model experienced zero failures to feed ammunition or to eject spent brass. The slide remained open when each magazine was empty.

The pistol’s grips featured a crosshatch pattern that engaged my hand effectively, even in the 25-degree Fahrenheit temperatures in which I shot. The aforementioned front- and back-strap serrations also helped me keep a firm grip throughout.

kimber kds9c rail 9mm
The KDS9c Rail’s grips and checkered front and back straps are made for a firm hold, even in winter conditions.

The Kimber KDS9c Rail 9mm is sold with both a 15- and 18-round steel magazine. My pistol came with a 10-round magazine (for customers in capacity-restrictive states) and a 15-round mag. Rounds loaded both easily and quickly; both magazines seated into the pistol firmly.

Factory or Custom?   

My evaluation of the Kimber KDS9c Rail 9mm has a suggested retail of $1,900. Custom 1911s I’ve used, with the same features, run another $1,000 to $2,000 more than the Kimber. I’ve asked myself what these custom 1911s do that the Kimber doesn’t, and I do not have an answer.

The KSD9c Rail is a custom pistol at the upper end of the factory price range. Kimber has pushed itself to a new level of quality and performance with this pistol. The gun maker has set the bar very high—for itself! Which is what a first-rate gun maker does.   

Specifications: Kimber KDS9c Rail 9mm

ACTION: Single, Semi-Auto
CHAMBERING: 9mm
SLIDE: Stainless Steel, Rear Cocking Serrations, KimPro Black Finish
FRAME: 7075 Aluminum, KimPro Gray Finish
BARREL: Stainless Steel, Crowned, Fluted
BARREL LENGTH: 4 inches
MAGAZINES: One 15-Round, One 18-Round
SIGHTS: Sight Plate w/TruGlo Night Sight Rear, White Dot Front Post
SAFETY: Manual, Ambi
TRIGGER: Skeletonized, 2 lbs. Avg. Pull
HEIGHT: 5.6 inches (w/15-Rd. Mag)
WIDTH: 1.5 inches
LENGTH: 7.75 inches
WEIGHT: 29.6 Oz. (w/Empty 15-Rd. Mag)
ACCESSORIES: MIL-STD-1913 Rail, Reversible Mag Release, Sight Plate Is Optics Compatible
MSRP: $1,903

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