Sporting Rifle’s Byron Pace reviews the 84M Classic Select in .243 from Kimber, distributed in the UK by Riflecraft, and endorses this excellent value off-the-shelf rifle
Although it supplies guns to some impressive organisations – including the USA shooting team, LAPD SWAT, and special ops within the Marine Corps – Kimber is not a well known manufacturer in the UK. Founded in 1979, it suffered bankruptcy in 1989 before several riflesmiths left to form Cooper Firearms of Montana. Kimber has since relaunched, with the company now in its strongest position in its history. It was a manufacturer I had always been curious to investigate, so I was excited when UK distributor Riflecraft agreed to send me a rifle for testing.
As soon as I cut the rifle free from its cardboard bindings, its light and pointable nature was obvious. It felt more like a rimfire than a fully fledged centrefire. The quality of the external finish was exceptional, and I spent considerable time admiring the rifle and caressing the smooth lines and deep, crisp chequering.
You can tell a lot about a rifle when splitting the woodwork from the metalwork, and I was keen to see if the external appearances of the Kimber were matched by equally impressive workmanship in marrying the stock to the action. Removing the hex screws in the floor plate and trigger guard assembly gave the first indication that the rifle had been made with considerable attention to detail – the machining and fit wouldn’t have been out of place on a fully customised rifle.
On dropping out the final fixings, the bedding still gripped the action firmly, requiring a tap with the palm of my hand to separate. This exposed the aluminium pillars and neat synthetic bedding extending about an inch and a half along the barrel. The integral Remington-style recoil lug plugged into a bonded slot of the same composite, providing a secure and positive platform, fixed by two substantial screws: one at the very rear of the action and one just in front of the hinged floor plate. Of course, the barrel hovered through the stock, free-floating from bedding to muzzle. I would have preferred to see a little more of a gap between the stock and barrel, but that’s a small detail and easily modified.
Heavy triggers are one of the bugbears of American rifles, often requiring completely new trigger units to achieve breaks on par with off-the-shelf European competitors. So it was with apprehension that I turned my attention to the trigger of the Kimber.
My finger rested comfortably and was perfectly positioned on the unusually wide blade (which I took an immediate liking to). The pull length test also returned pleasing results – as I squeezed with increasing pressure, the firing pin released with an astonishing crispness. The over-travel seemed non-existent.
Re-cocking the rifle again, I couldn’t help but smile. This was really nice. The pull pressure and over-travel can be altered via the two adjustment screws on the side of the trigger, and monitored by observing the internal movement of engagement. The pressure can be taken down to 2.5lb, but lighter weights are possible on request from an approved Kimber gunsmith such as Riflecraft. As far as factory non-set trigger units go, the Kimber holds its own.
The ethos behind Kimber’s action is refreshing. By stripping back the design to calibre-specific requirements, excess weight and bulk has been removed to produce a very dainty, slimmed down action, akin to a thin yet refined Mauser. Where many manufacturers simply cut down their long action design to accept smaller cartridges, Kimber believe in providing minimal dimensions tailored specifically to case design. This is how it is able to achieve an all-in weight for the Classic Grade rifle of just 5lb 13oz, and an astonishingly light 5lb 6oz in the Montana model.
Designed to accept the .308 Win family of cartridges, the 84M is based on the inherently reliable and strong Mauser 98 controlled feed, while bringing together aspects of revered actions from the past, such as the Winchester model 70. Kimber successfully modernise this fusion of historic excellence in a remarkably compact piece of engineering. The 84L model offers the same exacting design ethos, but for longer cases such as the .270 and .30-06.
My biggest criticism of the whole rifle is of the bolt handle itself. Functionality is not a problem at all, but for an otherwise beautiful rifle, the bolt shaping seems unrefined and a bit crude. I like sweeping curves and seductive lines, not a rounded peg designed as an afterthought. I am maybe being a bit harsh, but I have to be when there is little else to pull the rifle up on.
Located on the right-hand side of the bolt shroud, the safety is typical of the side-operating units commonly seen on model 70s. It offers three positions: forward for fire, middle for safe bolt operation, and full rearwards to lock down the bolt and firing pin. Operation is easily achieved with your thumb while in a shooting position, although my personal preference is for a Sako-style safety. I did find that moving the side lever from ‘middle’ to ‘fire’ required a little concentration to achieve silently, but with more use this should become second nature.
The Classic Select .243 Win I had on test came with an attractive hand-oiled French walnut stock, topped nicely with a darkwood forend cap. The flat profiled stock shouldered wonderfully with heel and cheek drop ideally proportioned for my build, leading to a very comfortable head positioning through the 50mm objective scope. The swelled forestock provided ample grip and complemented the rest of the rifle. Although I have a preference for slimmer forestocks on hunting rifles, it felt just right on this one.
When I got to the range, I was almost hesitant to take the first string of shots. I had been so impressed by the rifle to this point that I was anxious for it to shoot well. On paper, the light nature of the rifle didn’t lend itself to super accurate shooting, and I had prepared myself to take a little bit of recoil abuse. On firing the first shot, this assumption was quickly dispelled. The rifle did jump around a bit more than my heavier rifles, but it felt sweet.
The quick bore sighting had managed to get the first shot on paper, with the following two rounds remarkably clustering into 0.432in. In the spirit of fairness, I made no adjustments and got my dad to squeeze off three more 75-grain Remingtons. The accuracy turned out to be no fluke – he achieved similar results when he settled on the next target.
As with most .243 rifles, the USA following of the calibre as varminting medicine sees the rifle chambered in a 1-in-10 twist, which lends itself to the lighter bullets. As many UK hunters also use their .243s for deer, I widened the scope of bullet weights, chambering some 90-grain Federal and 105-grain Gecos, which produced groups of just over an inch. With a bit of tinkering on the handloading bench, I achieved consistent 0.8in groups with 90-grain Nosler ballistic hunting tips.
At around the £1,500 mark, the Kimber competes with some quality rifles such as Sako and Mannlicher yet comes in at substantially less than, say, a Mauser or Blaser. I believe that this rifle holds its own anywhere in the market, and for the money it may just be one of the best off-the-shelf rifles on offer today.
Riflecraft is the UK supplier of Kimber rifles. For more information, call 01379 853745 or visit www.riflecraft.co.uk.
Great article, having just bought the same rifle this afternoon, I am relieved by how well it performed in the tests.
Would also recommend Riflecraft, their helpful advice, knowledge and service today was exceptional.