Whereas a year or two back, the name Kimber would have drawn blank expressions from most hunters, the brand’s reputation has grown in the UK and it is now a top contender.
I have reviewed the Classic and SVT before, so will not dwell for too long on aspects that have already been discussed. However, the Montana model is certainly worthy of separate mention, as it is currently the lightest production rifle in the world. I have to admit this statement is slightly misleading, as a new rifle – the Mountain Ascent – will soon claim the title. It is unlikely Kimber will be too concerned, though, as the new champion also comes from its innovative factory floor. I look forward to seeing the results.
As a result of the company’s minimal tolerance ethos, the Kimber 84M range is light anyway. When it came to speccing out the Montana, the remit was even stricter. There was to be no aspect of design left unscrutinised. This was a weight-stripping exercise, but it still had to maintain the accuracy, shootability and reliability inherent in Kimber’s other rifles. To build the ultimate mountain rifle, it had to not only be light, but also operate faultlessly in the most challenging of environments.
The starting point was the stock. It is unsurprising that a rifle such as this sports a synthetic stock – it is, after all, the best combination of strength, weight and durability. However, this is no injection-moulded sheath or aftermarket copy. When Kimber drew up plans to build the world’s lightest rifle, it began the stock design from day one. In its search for the ultimate lightweight all-weather material, it landed on a Kevlar-infused composite.
Handling the naked stock, it is hard to believe that something that weighs so little can have any strength at all. I was half-expecting a mild draft to float it out of my hand. Any doubts to its long-term durability are soon dispelled, though, after viewing the ‘Kimber Rifle Torture’ clip on Youtube. To prove the credentials of this Kevlar-based stock, an American magazine hurled a barrage of shotgun ammunition at it before test-firing the rifle. Some minor tweaks were required with a hammer and screwdriver, but it loaded, fired and ejected the case, with no cracking on the stock.
It is an impressive spectacle to watch. I can’t imagine a hunting situation where you would need your rifle to withstand a point-blank pounding with SSG, but it does give you confidence. I have no doubt the stock will still be serviceable after any slip or fall that you can survive yourself.
The ingenuity doesn’t stop there. Like most of Kimber’s rifles, the Montana is bedded with a free-floating barrel, but removing the action doesn’t reveal what one may expect. There is no obvious bedding resin, and the aluminium pillars are non-existent.
This may initially seem surprising, but a closer inspection unveils the simplicity of the design. The pillars are moulded into the stock itself, while the bedding is formed during the moulding process. Although I could not confirm this, it seems each stock is constructed around an exact replica jig of the action and barrel. The result is an understated graphite-grey stock, finished with a rough, grippy exterior. It is incredibly comfortable in the hand, and shoulders with effortless pointability.
Despite being bland aesthetically, the stock’s functionality cannot be faulted, and the only aspect I would want to see altered is the free space between the barrel and channel. There isn’t much room to play with, and I prefer to see a healthy gap to deal with the rough and tumble of serious hunting. Although it is perfectly even and free-floating from an inch beyond the action, an extra millimetre all around would be of benefit.
Unusually, the Montana doesn’t come with a detachable magazine or even a floorplate. The blind magazine is loaded from the top, and unloaded by semi-chambering and extracting each round. This may seem an inconvenient method, but it does mean more unnecessary weight is shed. This just leaves a neat stainless trigger guard – a decision I have to applaud Kimber for, as it could have justifiably made this synthetic instead.
Most people will be familiar with the action, and if not, a quick scan back at my previous reviews on Kimber’s rifles will shed some light on the intricacies. Essentially, the Montana will be the same, using a refined and slimmed-down Mauser-type controlled feed and Remington-style recoil lug. The main difference with the Montana is the super-sleek, weight-minimising barrel profile, and completely stainless metalwork.
I knew Kimber could build accurate rifles, but I was intrigued to see how 5½lb of .308 Win would perform on the range. To minimise any error on my behalf, GMK kindly loaned me a 6-18×40 Leupold VX-II to undertake the tests. For a moderator, I made use of the newly launched Hardy Gen III from Riflecraft (also the distributor for Kimber in the UK).
Most people, including me, would expect some exaggerated muzzle flip and a bit of recoil punishment given the lack of weight. Remarkably, I could detect almost no difference between shooting the Montana and the walnut-stocked Classic. In fact, if I had to draw a preference, I would say the Montana was nicer to shoot.
Removing the moderator to negate any differences confirmed the rifle’s sympathetic handling upon firing. Although I cannot be sure, I can only assume that this is primarily a result of the stock material and recoil pad. It certainly seems that the Kevlar/carbon fibre-based stock absorbs a substantial amount of the recoil. I am in the dark as to how the Kevlar fibres are bonded in the stock, but its use in bulletproof vests distributes the impact force across a wide area through the woven fibres. Similar effects within the stock may explain the results.
The Hardy Gen III moderator also deserves a mention as it is one of the most effective sound suppressors I have ever used. In terms of noise reduction, it is on par with any of the other top market contenders, with reduced report of 22-30dB depending on calibre. However, the recoil reduction is perhaps the Hardy’s most impressive quality.
The corrosion-resistant, ultra-light over-fit mod boasts a smartly designed dispersion cone at the front. Combined with the internal workings, this can reduce recoil by as much as 60 per cent. Although I was unable to effectively measure this, it was quite apparent after firing a number of moderators side by side that the Hardy Gen III was the leader of the pack.
Interestingly, I fired the rifle at night on a few occasions, and the lateral dispersion of gases from the cone were obvious. There was very little in the way of forward-projecting gas expulsion, acting much in the same way as a muzzle break.
When you consider that the unit only weighs 360 grams and increases overall rifle length by 100mm, there doesn’t seem to be any compromise for this performance (a Jet-Z is 550 grams and adds 150mm).
Establishing the impressive on-paper credentials of the rifle is one thing, but it would mean nothing if it didn’t shoot well. Without hesitation, I can categorically confirm that this rifle is a shooter. On paper, my first three-shot group clustered the 168-grain Hornady A-Max ammo into 0.6in.
Running through some other brands and weights didn’t quite replicate this, but at worst the groups opened to 1.1in with the 150-grain Hornady Customs. The Montana certainly preferred the heavier bullets, which makes sense given that the rifle is built around this bullet weight.
Normally, at this point, I would take some longer shots and call it a day, but I was enjoying the rifle so much I couldn’t help but burn a couple more boxes.
Trying to simulate some real hill shooting, I pinned up a deer silhouette, pocketed seven rounds and started walking. At 150 yards I lay down, rested on my roe sack and took my first shot. Bang on the money.
The distance went up to 175 yards. Again, the rifle delivered the goods. I repeated the process in steps out to 250 yards, where I took two shots. I finished with five shots touching and two that were just outside the group – impressive shooting from a 5lb 2oz rifle. Even with the scope and Hardy Gen III moderator, the set-up only just tipped the scales over 6lb. A Sako Finnlight, by comparison, weighs in at 6lb 3oz for the bare rifle.
My biggest problem with the Kimber Montana is that now I want one. I think a cheeky little .257 Roberts may just suit this nicely. BP
Model tested: Kimber 84M Montana in .308 Win
Price range: £1,830
Contact: Riflecraft 01379 853745