For most shooters, a factory barrel on their handgun will serve them well for everything they could task their handgun to do. For others, their skill level and ability to accurately place rounds on specific points on target surpasses the attainable accuracy a factory barrel can deliver. These shooters could greatly benefit from a match grade and fit barrel.
There are a lot of replacement barrels for your pistols out there, however, there are only a few companies that make their barrels from scratch. If a business doesn’t control the makeup of the raw materials or the rifling process… they don’t make barrels; they just resell others with their name on the side.
I recently spoke with Luke McIntire from KKM Precision. He had a head full of knowledge and I’ll try to impart as much of that upon you as I can here.
KKM Precision was founded in the early 1990’s by Luke’s father Kevin McIntire. At the time, he was a gunsmith building competition pistols for IPSC and long-range rifles for bench rest shooting. Kevin took his knowledge of 1000+ yard bench rest shooting and applied the same precision to pistol barrels. He always wanted a family business, and when Luke started in about ’96 at the age of 16, they had two small CNC machines in a 1000 square foot shop. Over the past 20 years, they have steadily grown into 20,000 square feet, seven employees and some very advanced CNC machines and robotics.
KKM does everything their selves in the house so they can control every step of manufacturing. Their barrels start out of 12ft long bar stock made from 416R stainless steel. Barrel Steel comes in many grades of 416R from cheap junk to very pure and expensive. In order to make the most accurate barrels out there, KKM uses the very best 416R, which is made specifically for them to their own specs. This proprietary steel helps KKM maintain tolerances in their bores so that every barrel is precisely the same as the next.
At first they tried broach/cut rifling then button rifling, and through many years of trial and error KKM developed a new process of button rifling. Traditional button rifling uses oil based lubricants and tons of pressure to create the rifling. This adds a lot of stress in the barrel that when heat-treated causes warping. KKM’s process of button rifling uses much less pressure only 400psi to rifle the barrel and a very different proprietary lubricant. Less pressure equals less stress, and this is key to producing a bore that when air gauged doesn’t vary in size at all. KKM’s process produces a uniform mirror-like finish down the entire length of the barrel. Unlike broach, ECM, or hammer forging, button rifling produces a more accurate bore diameter, surface finish, and hardness. This also provides a more uniform rate of twist. A single button can produce thousands of barrels before wearing undersized. This allows KKM to maintain a high level of quality control. All of KKM’s buttons are produced in house using highly specialized equipment. They experiment with different bore diameters, twist rates, and land & groove dimension on a regular basis. With the help of their friends at the Army Marksmanship Unit and the Marine WTB, they developed the 32-twist 9mm
Beretta/1911 National Match barrel. They have a 50-yard test shooting range in the house where KKM routinely shoots 10 shot .850-inch groups with these barrels out of their barrel test fixture using Atlanta Arms 115gr FMJ Match AMU ammo.
When KKM makes a pistol barrel, they treat each one as if it was going into their own pistol. Attention to detail is a quality that Luke’s father ingrained into the company. This is why KKM uses advanced CNC probes to measure dimensions on barrels. Doing so eliminates human error during production. Once a barrel is made, heat-treated and vacuum tempered to 44rc, KKM hand laps the bore to make sure there are no sharp edges in the transition from the chamber to the rifling. This breaks the barrel in so that when a customer receives the barrel they are ready to shoot.
With such a smooth bore, KKM’s customers can shoot lead or jacketed ammo without any problems. Another aspect of their business is that KKM makes lots of custom one off barrels for customers. From particular caliber conversions to engraving, KKM is always willing to do a unique barrel for a client. Luke’s personal favorite is a compensated 7” 1911 Bull barrel in 9×25 Dillon with 1-28 twist rifling that he built for a customer in Italy. The first barrel they tried had a 1-16 twist rifling, and the bullets exploded mid-flight from such a high velocity and twist. Experiments like that are things
KKM does on a regular basis. KKM is always learning with each test they do.. and they do a lot!
KKM’s website is HERE