Tipping the scale at a mere 6 pounds, 2 ounces, it’s the lightest rifle ever
By Thomas C. Tabor
Two things in life seemingly increase with each and every step we take. The first of course is our taxes, which like a burdensome weight on our shoulders hinders our progress, bogs us down and continues to grow year after year. And, the second is the strain that is produced from the gear we pack with us while hunting.
Even if the amount of your gear remains the same year after year, the strain it places on your body is accumulative. The more miles you walk, the more hills you climb and the more years you rack-up only increases the burden on your body.
While we might not be able to do too much about the wasteful spending in Washington D.C., we can certainly do something about the stress that our hunting gear places on us and that is where Kimber’s new Model 84L comes in. Marketed as the smallest, lightest standard-caliber sporter ever offered, the 84L is what appears to me to be a top choice when it comes to a /walk-about/ style of hunting rifle. Tipping the scale at a mere 6 pounds, 2 ounces, the company has appropriately labeled this rifle A True Hunter’s Rifle.
When compared to a few of the similarly styled lightweight rifles, we find that Winchester’s Model 70 Featherweight tips the scale from a low of 6 pounds, 8 ounces to a high of 7 pounds, 4 ounces; Ruger’s Hawkeye runs 6 pounds, 12 ounces to a whopping 8 pounds, 4 ounces; Remington’s Model Seven weighs 6 pounds, 8 ounces to 7 pounds, 6 ounces; and the Remington’s Model 700 Mountain LSS comes in at 6 pounds, 10 ounces.
ALL THE RIGHT STUFF
Still, aside from being /light/, the Kimber 84L has a great deal more going for it than simply being a real pleasure to carry in the field. The company officials had the foresight to include many of the desirable design features and characteristics that are popular in the company’s Model 84M and 8400 rifles. In order to ensure consistent shooting accuracy, the 84L comes with a match-grade chamber, pillar bedding, front lug fiberglass bedding and a free-floated barrel.
The triggers are also match-grade quality, and are adjusted at the factory to a pull weight much lighter than most other production firearms. The trigger on my test rifle came set at just under 3 pounds, which in my opinion, is near perfect for a hunting rifle.
The three-position wing safety is outwardly similar to those found on the Winchester Model 70 rifles. When this safety is placed in the center position, it remains fully engaged but allows the bolt to be safely opened for unloading purposes. And, rather than using such inferior materials such as plastic and aluminum in the construction of the 84L, it comes with sculptured steel bottom metal and a steel grip cap.
Yet, at the heart of this Kimber is its strong and safe, yet scaled-down dimensions. When its bolt is compared side by side with the bolt from virtually any other .30-06 family of rifles, the size difference becomes immediately obvious. At first glance, you might even mistakenly assume that the bolt from this Kimber was designed for use in a rimfire rifle. Nevertheless, even in its reduced size I found that the action functions perfectly and amazingly; the magazine held a full five rounds, plus an additional cartridge can be shoved up its snoot for a grand total of six.
TWO GREAT MODELS
There are two grades within the Model 84L family of rifles: the Classic and Classic Select Grade. The Classic Grade is available in the calibers of .270 Winchester or .30-06 Springfield, and they come stocked in a fine grade of walnut that possesses a hand-rubbed oil finish and checkered in a basic, but pleasing to the eye, 20-lines-per-inch pattern.
The Classic Select Grade is a slightly fancier version that is stocked in an elegant grade of French walnut that is also hand-checkered, comes with a hand-rubbed oil finish and is accented with an ebony forend tip. In addition to the two cartridge choices of the Classic, the Classic Select Grade is also available in the great performing .25-06 Remington.
In order to thoroughly evaluate the overall quality and performance of Kimber’s new Model 84L, I contacted the company and made arrangements to receive one of its Classic Select Grade rifles chambered in .25-06. I selected this particular caliber because of its versatility on a wide variety of both North American and worldwide game animals. I’ve owned several rifles so chambered and have always found that the .25-06 to be flat shooting, accurate and well suited to my style of hunting.
The test rifle came from the factory without any form of sights (iron or otherwise), but when I took it from the box, the feel was such that I simply couldn’t resist bringing it up to my shoulder, much as I would if a whitetail buck had surprisingly appeared from a canyon bottom in front of me. The weight reduction was immediately obvious, and I found the rifle to be well balanced and pointed, almost like a fine-quality shotgun. Nevertheless, I knew the real test was yet to come once I had a scope mounted on it and had sent some bullets down its barrel.
It should be recognized that any built-in benefit received from a lightweight, well-balanced rifle, such as the Kimber 84L, could be lost if the wrong scope was mounted on it. If the chosen scope didn’t match the rifle weight-wise, what benefit would there be in starting out with a lightweight rifle?
And, it would certainly be a shame to equip such a fine rifle with anything but a scope that possessed good optic quality. For those reasons I chose Swarovski Optik’s Z3 Series 3-10×42-L-Plex. This particular scope possessed a trim 1-inch diameter main-tube, and even with its versatile range of magnification it tipped the scale at only a mere 12.7 ounces. It came set at the factory to be parallax free at 109 yards (100 meters), which I believe to be near perfect for a centerfire hunting rifle.
With the scope mounted in place, the entire package, including rifle, scope and mounts, came in with an overall weight of about 7½ pounds. In the eyes of any shooter, that is very light for any centerfire hunting rifle, and it continues to surprise me each and every time I pick it up.
FACTORY AND HAND LOADS
When I’m testing any rifle, I always like to expose it to a wide variety of different cartridges and loads, which typically includes a combination of both factory-loaded ammunition as well as some of my own handloads. Doing so produces data that can be used for a broader spectrum of shooters. Those individuals that only shoot factory ammunition can see precisely how the rifle performed using that type of ammo. And those who prefer to handload their cartridges can gleam some benefit from the sampling of loads I use.
As far as the factory loads go, I have always felt that Federal Cartridge Corporation produces some of the best hunting ammunition you’ll find anywhere. So based on that reasoning, I chose to use Federal ammunition solely for that portion of the testing, but included a broad array of the bullet styles and weights. That ammunition included Federal V-Shok cartridges loaded with 85-grain Nosler Ballistic Tip bullets and Federal Premium loaded with a combination of 117-grain Sierra Game King, 115-grain Nosler Partitions, 100-grain Nosler Ballistic Tip and 100-grain Barnes Triple-Shock X-Bullets.
Because this rifle was clearly designed to be a hunting rifle, I wanted my handloaded ammunition to reflect that objective by loading the same type of bullets I most frequently use for my own hunting. That consisted of Nosler Partitions in 100- and 120-grain weights, Barnes bullets in 100-grain Triple-Shock X and the company’s new Tipped Triple-Shock X. RCBS dies were used for the handloading and several different charges of IMR 4831 powder were loaded behind the Noslers, while Alliant RL-22 was used for the Barnes bullets.
NO HOUSING RESTRICTIONS
Many handloaders believe the best accuracy is sometimes achieved when the bullets are seated just shy of touching the lands of the barrel. Unfortunately, that is not always possible in some rifles due to the restrictions built into the magazine housing. When the bullets are seated further than normal, it increases the overall length of the cartridge and sometimes that results in making them too long to fit inside the magazine.
Of course, this isn’t a problem if you only shoot factory-loaded ammo. The factory always seats its bullets deep enough to fit in virtually any rifle of current manufacture. But, if you are like me and like to handload, that can pose a real problem. So, I was very pleasantly surprised when I began handloading for the Kimber 84L and found that the company seemingly recognized this problem and designed the length of the magazine with room to spare.
I found that seating my bullets out to almost touching the lands left room to spare inside the magazine, and I experienced virtually no feeding problems with either those loads or the factory ammunition. I did, however, find that when filling the magazine, it was important to always make an effort to move the cartridges all the way to the rear of the magazine, but that is a good habit to get into no matter what rifle you are shooting. My handloads came in typically with an overall length of around 3.244 inches and the factory loads averaged 3.094-inches. Kudos to Kimber for the insight and attention to detail that they gave this issue.
PROS & CONS OF SKINNY BARRELS
The barrel of the Kimber came with the standard twist rate for a .25-06 of 1:10, and its outward appearance was one of the trimmest I’d seen. The muzzle diameter measured only a mere 0.56-inch. As the critics will be quick to point out, you can expect a barrel as skinny as a French model to have a tendency to heat up quicker. Remember, however, that this is a rifle designed not for the benchrest competitive shooter, but one that is intended for field use as a hunting rifle.
On occasion and under field conditions, it might require a follow-up shot to finish the deed, but if more than a couple of shots are required, maybe the shooter should be taking a closer look at why those shots are necessary rather than blaming an overheated barrel.
Yet, there is a positive side to skinny barrels other than weight reduction. While they may heat up quicker, they also cool down quicker. I am a bit fanatical about rifle barrels heating up excessively, so I always monitor the temperature closely, and as a result, I found that the 84L’s barrel temperature dropped back to acceptable levels much quicker than most.
WHERE’S THE RECOIL?
I must admit that I had some concerns about what the recoil would be like in such a light rifle. Even though none of the cartridge choices offered for this rifle are what I would call earth shaking in terms of felt recoil, this was still an extremely light rifle package I’d put together.
Surprisingly, the recoil was very tolerable, I’m sure due in part to the design and characteristics of the straight stock. In fact, several of my shooting sessions involved close to three boxes of cartridges in one sitting.
Almost all of that shooting took place off the bench and that is usually the most severe shoulder-jarring shooting there is. In no case did the recoil bother me whatsoever. Unless you are unusually recoil sensitive, I don’t believe the amount of kick produced by these rifles no matter which of the cartridges you select would be a problem.
The accuracy portion of the testing took place on my private outdoor rifle range and consisted of three-shot groups fired at 100 yards. As is often the case, the handloads generally shot a little tighter groups overall than the factory-loaded ammunition, but several of the Federal cartridges produced what I feel are very acceptable groups and were close to being on par with the handloads.
The most accurate factory loads were the Federal V-Shok cartridges loaded with 85-grain Nosler Ballistic Tip bullets and the Federal Premium cartridges with 100-grain Barnes Triple Shock X-Bullets. In both of these cases, the groups averaged 1¼ inches with the best groups measuring 1 inch.
Of the handloads tested, this particular rifle seemed to prefer Barnes bullets that I’d backed with Alliant RL-22 powder. I would venture to say that the overall best handloads were those loaded with the Barnes new Tipped Triple Shock X-Bullets in 100 grain backed by either a powder charge of 53.0 or 54.0 grains. I am quite sure that when a shooter expands his handloads to include a wider variety of component choices it will result in squeezing down the size of the groups.
LIGHTENING THE LOAD
I have spent too many days packing rifles in the field that with scopes mounted, their weights bumped and sometimes even surpassed the 10-pound mark. I can remember having to switch that heavy burden back and forth from shoulder to shoulder and hand to hand trying to relieve some of the onerous stress these rifles were putting on my body.
At a total weight of 7½ pounds, the Kimber 84L and the Swarovski Z3 Series 3-10 package looks a whole lot better to me, particularly when my own accumulating years don’t seem to be slowing down anytime soon. I found it to be a real pleasure to pack the Kimber 84L, and the overall functionality and performance in my mind has not been sacrificed one iota in order to achieve that weight reduction.
One Lawton Street
Yonkers, NY 10705
2 Slater Rd.
Cranston, RI 02920
Federal Cartridge Company
900 Ehlen Dr.
Anoka, MN 55303
107 S.W. Columbia
P.O. Box 671
Bend, Oregon 97709
Barnes Bullets, Inc.
38 N Frontage Rd.
Mona, UT 84645
605 Oro Dam Blvd.
Oroville, CA 95965
(drop in photo at top of spec box gw-1105-KIMBER-SPEC BOX)
Note: Right-justify the bold text below on the left.
KIMBER 84L CLASSIC SELECT
Action Front-locking repeater
Caliber/s .25-06, .270, .30-06
Capacity 5 rounds
Barrel Length 24 inches
Overall Length 43.75 inches
Weight 6 lbs., 2 oz.
Stocks A-grade French walnut
Finish Hand-rubbed oil
Kimber Model 84L Accuracy Testing
(100-yard 3-shot groups inches)
Federal Factory Loads
Ammo TypeBest Group Average Group
V-Shok 85-grain Nosler Ballistic Tip 1-1/4″
Premium 117-grain Sierra Game King 117-grain 1-3/4″
Premium 100-grain Nosler Ballistic Tip 1-5/8″ 2-5/16″
Premium 100-grain Nosler Ballistic Tip 1-3/8″ 2-1/8″
Premium 115-grain Nosler Partition 2″ 2-1/8″
Premium 100-grain Barnes TSX 1-1/4″
Powder & Charge Wt.Bullet Type Best Group Average Group
IMR-4831 – 52.0 gr. Nosler Part. 100 gr. 1-3/8″ 1-3/4″
IMR-4831 – 53.0 gr. Nosler Part. 100 gr. 1-3/8″ 1-9/16″
IMR-4831 – 51.0 gr. Nosler Part. 120 gr. 1-3/8″ 1-3/8″
IMR-4831 – 52.0 gr. Nosler Part. 120 gr. 1-1/2″ 1-13/16″
RL-22 – 52.0 gr. Barnes TSX 100 gr. 1″ 1-1/16″
RL-22 – 53.0 gr. Barnes TSX 100 gr. 1″ 1-1/2″
RL-22 – 54.0 gr. Barnes TSX 100 gr. 7/16″ 13/16″
RL-22 – 52.0 gr. Barnes TTSX 100 gr. 1″ 1-5/16″
RL-22 – 53.0 gr. Barnes TTSX 100 gr. 3/4″ 13/16″
RL-22 – 54.0 gr. Barnes TTSX 100 gr. 7/16″ 13/16″
Note: All handloads utilized Federal cartridge cases and Winchester large rifle primers.