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Ed Brown EVO KC9-G4-VTX: Full Review

Aesthetically pleasing and innovative, Ed Brown's EVO KC9-­G4-­VTX updates the popular commander-­size model 1911. Here's a full review.

Ed Brown EVO KC9-G4-VTX: Full Review

(Photo by Mark Fingar)

The 100th anniversary of the Model 1911 was more than a decade ago. The year-­long celebration seemed more like a memorial, but John Browning’s design remains a favorite for many shooters. There are lighter guns, more concealable guns, and guns that hold more ammunition. Still, the M1911 endures.

The continuance of the M1911 can be credited to the handling and manufacturing capabilities that adapt the platform to accept tactical innovations. Ed Brown is one of those gunmakers that helped the M1911 stay relevant, and the EVO KC9-­G4-­VTX is one of those examples. Introduced in January 2021, this particular model is a concealable 9mm 1911 that comes optic ready or equipped with a Vortex Venom.

While still a Model 1911 Commander in 9mm at its core, Ed Brown eliminated antiquated features that are normally expected. This included removal of the barrel bushing and using an external extractor. Opting for the Vortex optic made this EVO-KC9 thoroughly modern. (Photo by Mark Fingar)

In 2019, Ed Brown introduced the EVO KC9, a compact 9mm built with some contemporary tweaks. The M1911 is labor ­intensive to build properly, thanks to some of the more antiquated features of the design. Ed Brown set out to maintain the important virtues of the M1911, but in a format more compatible with modern manufacturing techniques. Fitting a barrel bushing or tuning an internal extractor, for example, are operations that require skilled hands. How many handguns designed in the past century have employed a barrel bushing or internal extractor? (Not many.) Eliminating those steps can reduce costs and increase efficiency. The optic-­equipped EVO KC9-­G4-­VTX is the fourth variant of this format. 

Abandoning the the traditional barrel and bushing, the KC9 features a 4-inch, stainless-steel bull barrel that’s crowned. (Photo by Mark Fingar)

Before considering what’s new with the “-­VTX,” let’s reconsider the base-­model EVO KC9. For starters, the all-­steel EVO KC9 eliminated the traditional barrel bushing in favor of a 4-­inch, fluted, bull-­profile, stainless-­steel barrel that locks directly to the slide. I’ve tested two examples of the EVO KC9 and both had barrels that locked up with no discernable play. There is a single locking lug at the 12 o’clock position, which provides plenty of strength for the 9mm chambering. The company chose not to use an integrally ramped, fully supported barrel on this model, defaulting instead to the standard feeding method for the M1911 — ramped surfaces on both the frame and barrel.

The black iron sight seems standard, but it is sharp to aim with. It can function as a backup with lines on the rear of the optic. (Photo by Mark Fingar)

The EVO KC9’s second significant departure from the traditional M1911 is the external extractor. Ed Brown’s component is CNC machined from 17-­4 stainless-­steel bar stock and it’s a drop-­in part. Makers of M1911 clones have struggled with the external extractor, sometimes due to the quality of steel. Ed Brown cracked the code when it started putting them into the EVO models; the samples I’ve tested were reliable. The taper of the 9x19mm cartridge plays a role because there is less friction required to extract a fired case. Helping is the fixed Commander-­style extended ejector, which is pinned to the frame.

Serrations at the front are tactile due to being cut across two facets. Despite the angularity, there are no sharp edges. (Photo by Mark Fingar)

Though the EVO KC9 series was designed in a way that reduced manufacturing costs to make the pistol more affordable, Ed Brown did not compromise its quality standards. There are still no cast or metal-­injection-­molded (MIM) parts in any of the EVO KC9 models. The slide and frame are machined from forgings and smaller parts are made in-­house from bar stock. Other than a few odds and ends, the metal components that complete the EVO KC9 guns are created exclusively from stainless steel. Only the barrel and recoil spring’s guiderod are left in raw stainless. The remainder of the steel components are finished with Ed Brown’s G4 black polymer.

The mainspring housing is available as a standard frame (shown) or with a Bobtail, with checkering (shown) or Snakeskin. (Photo by Mark Fingar)

The EVO KC9 is a quarter-­inch shorter overall than a Colt Commander. It features a 4-­inch barrel rather than Colt’s 41/4-­inch tube. The slide also measures .06-­inch narrower than a typical Commander, which scales it appropriately for the 9mm chambering. This also slims the handgun’s profile and cuts a fractional amount of weight. The top of the slide is machined with five flats that create a unique seven-­flat profile. That angular shape is complimented by the angular cocking serrations at the front and rear of the slide. Short ball-­end mill cuts are machined into the slide to match the dustcover, too, and the bottom of the slide is beveled. There is a full-­length steel guiderod with a flat-­wire recoil spring inside; the flat spring has a service life that is significantly longer than coil springs.

The frontstrap texturing is cut to match the texture on the mainspring housing. Note the magwell and high undercut. (Photo by Mark Fingar)


The frame is interesting, as well. One of Ed Brown’s best-­known handguns is the Kobra Carry ($3,195 to $3,295). For the EVO-­KC9-­G4-­VTX ($2,545 to $2,895), some of the more notable features of that icon was added to the option list. Ed Brown’s innovative “Bobtail” (BO) frame is available for the KC9-­G4-­VTX, for example. The trademarked frame design notably features an angled cut to reduce the profile of the grip to maximize concealability without compromising control. Another tribute to the Kobra Carry that’s available is the Ed Brown’s Snakeskin treatment instead of checkering. Snakeskin texture is milled into the frontstrap and mainspring housing. For Guns & Ammo’s evaluation, however, we received a sample without the signature Bobtail or Snakeskin options. 

Ed Brown’s famous Memory Groove Beavertail grip safety is present. It is perfectly blended to the contours of the frame. (Photo by Mark Fingar)

The KC9 is compatible with standard 9mm magazines for the Model 1911, but Ed Brown’s are among the best. Two nine-­plus-­one stainless-­steel magazines are included with the EVO-­KC9, along with extended basepads. Spare 9mm mags are available for purchase direct from Ed Brown.

The controls on the EVO KC9 are familiar to the M1911. There is a narrow extended thumb safety, a checkered magazine release and a more-­or-­less standard slide-­stop. An ambidextrous thumb safety is an option. The frame features what’s known as an “HRT” cut, which makes the slide stop pin fit flush with the frame. The frame is beveled around the pin to allow for its removal though. This detail makes the pistol slightly more difficult to disassemble, but it is an attractive look. The magazine well is beveled, too, and the grip safety is Ed Brown’s legendary Memory Groove Beavertail that actuates without conscious thought. Pressing the grip safety approximately halfway through its travel disengages the safety. The grip safety’s contour matches the frame perfectly. It is both comfortable and aesthetically pleasing. Cocobolo grips complete the package with a distinctive pattern named “Labyrinth.”

Ed Brown’s single-stack 9mm magazines hold nine-plus-one rounds. The KC9 was tested and used other mags without issue. (Photo by Mark Fingar)

Few guns beat an Ed Brown 1911 when it comes down to the trigger. It is one of the main reasons these guns are so accurate. The long-­format, three-­hole trigger shoe is made from aluminum and fixed to a stainless-­steel bow. The trigger measured exactly at 41/4 pounds with zero creep. There was a short amount of take-­up, then a solid wall and a clean break.

Controls are arranged in classic M1911 locations, but all are made by Ed Brown and have a higher quality design and fit. (Photo by Mark Fingar)

An Optic-­Ready 1911

Red-­dot sights are increasingly common on carry guns. Adapting the M1911 slide to accept one is helping to keep this single-­action semiauto a relevant option for some shooters. Optic technology has evolved rapidly, increasing both reliability, battery life, overall size and the footprint required for mounting. Red-­dot sights offer simplicity in aiming by superimposing the dot over the target, creating a single sighting plane. With a dot, the shooter looks at the target, not the sight. Dots also offer increased speed to engage for most shooters. With correct training and repetition, a dot has the potential to be significantly faster. In the competitive shooting arena, dot sights reign supreme. Shooters who have trouble picking up traditional front sights due to aging eyes should also consider a red-­dot system.


The aluminum trigger shoe is a standard-length Videki-style with a serrated, curved face. The trigger averaged 41/4 pounds. (Photo by Mark Fingar)

The EVO-­KC9-­G4-­VTX takes all of the features on the EVO KC9 and offers the option for Ed Brown to install a Vortex Venom sight. The Venom is a 1.1-­ounce battery-­powered optic with a parallax-­free 6-­MOA dot. It is powered by a CR1632 battery that runs between 150 hours at the highest brightness setting to 3,000 hours on the lowest. Intensity is adjusted using up and down arrows on the left side of the sight. The dot size is about perfect for a defensive handgun. At 25 yards, the 6 MOA dot translates to a 11/2-­inch aiming point that mirrors this handheld accuracy potential. This model was also given a black front sight to align with a pair of vertical white lines at the rear of the optic to function as a backup sighting arrangement.

The Venom sight was mounted directly (and securely) to the slide using two T15 Torx fasteners. Since the slide is milled flat to create a full mounting surface, there is no current method by which an iron rear sight can be mounted. The Venom optic does not need to be removed in order to change batteries but, removal is necessary in order to service the extractor since its retaining pin is captured under the sight. For those who prefer a different brand or model of optic, an optic-“­ready”-­only version is also available at a $250 discount.

Cocobolo grips feature the unique Labyrinth pattern. Details matter: The bottom of the stocks fit squarely with the magwell. (Photo by Mark Fingar)

At the Range

If you give me a decent set of sights and a good trigger, I can hit something. Add in a lifetime of familiarity with the Model 1911 and I’ve got a recipe for success. Though I am not among those (yet) who use red dots on my carry guns, I can appreciate the virtues. With the combination of the Vortex optic and the outstanding trigger, the EVO-­KC9-­G4-­VTX was a very shootable handgun for me. As an all-­steel 9mm, recoil was light and manageable, too.

The EVO KC9 series was not finicky or unreliable. I’ve fired many different loads through two KC9 samples without one issue. 

I started working with the EVO-­KC9 series in 2019, so this report is long overdue. Carrying an all-­steel 1911 proved to be a commitment. Even unloaded, the EVO-­KC9-­G4-­VTX weighed double of my other polymer-­framed 9mm carry guns. That said, for followers of the Model 1911, there is no alternative. To those individuals, Ed Brown’s EVO KC9 models are an attractive option. It was also a fun gun to take to the range. 

A Vortex Venom sight extends slightly beyond the width of the slide. A pair of white lines serve as an emergency backup rear. (Photo by Mark Fingar)

Though the EVO KC9 is compatible with most holsters designed for the Commander, take note of the red dot. Ed Brown offers its own line of holster options for both outside-­the-­waistband (OWB) and inside-­the-­waistband (IWB). An OWB holster was delivered with this handgun for testing, and it was very comfortable and slick on the draw.

The Ed Brown EVO-­KC9-­G4-­VTX encompasses the great virtues of a custom 1911 with modern touches that keep it suitable for serious use. This is an accurate, reliable and well-­built handgun with an excellent trigger and a modern optic. M1911 aficionados looking to step up in quality with an optic-­equipped handgun should consider this series.

(Photo by Keith Wood)

Ed Brown EVO KC9-G4-VTX

  • Type: Single action, hammer ­fired, semiautomatic
  • Cartridge: 9mm
  • Capacity: 9+1 rds. 
  • Overall Length: 7.5 in
  • Barrel: 4 in., stainless steel
  • Width: 1.3 in.
  • Height: 6 in
  • Weight: 2 lbs. 3 oz.
  • Finish: G4, Black
  • Grip: Cocobolo stocks, Bobtail
  • Sights: Steel, black (front); Vortex Venom, 6 MOA red-dot (rear)
  • Trigger: 4 lbs., 4 oz. (tested)
  • MSRP: $2,795 (with Vortex Venom)
  • Manufacturer: Ed Brown,
(Guns & Ammo photo)
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