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Return of the .257 Roberts: two "Bobs" from Kimber.

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One of the most popular cartridges chambered custom hunting rifles is the .257 Roberts or "Bob" as it is often called. Rifle builder Charlie Sisk told me he builds just as many rifles in .257 Roberts as he does .270 Winchester. This is as confusing as it is understandable. There has never been a wide selection of factory ammunition available for the .257 Roberts and most is held to lower pressure limits because of the frequency this cartridge was once chambered in custom rifles built on actions of questionable integrity. This is an interesting conundrum--inhibited performance due to popularity.

The popularity makes sense because a cartridge capable of firing bullets from 75 to 120 grains On either side of 3,000 fps is suitable for a Wide range of hunting applications. Rifle aficionados understand this and don't mind handloading to get versatility And, handloading "Bob" is very rewarding because unlike most modern cartridges, with handloads you can obtain ballistics measurably better than what factory ammunition can deliver.

Rifles in .257 Roberts have the reputation of what I call "both ways rifles" meaning, a rifle equally appropriate for varmints and big game. I've shot a bunch of varmints and took my first two pronghorn with a .257 Roberts. Friend and benchrest shooting legend Walt Berger took a trophy red stag with the same rifle. The Roberts is truly a versatile cartridge but was originally designed for long-range varmint and target shooting. In his book The Muzzleloading Cap-Lock Rifle, Ned Roberts wrote; "... with the assistance of my friend Mr. Fred J. Sage, we developed the 25 caliber Roberts, and the .257 Roberts cartridges adapted to various high velocity arms for vermin shooting and target work at ranges including 600 yards."

Remington made the Roberts available commercially in 1934 but in '55 Winchester brought out the .243 Winchester and in '69 Remington introduced the .25-06 Remington. Fans of short-action rifles found the .243 a better varmint option and nearly Bob's equal on larger game. The .25-06 was essentially a long-action 257 Roberts on steroids Because of these two cartridges the sale Of factory rifles chambered for the Roberts dwindled Still enough interest has remained for Ruger to keep the cartridge available in the Model 77 while other manufacturers have offered a particular model chambered in "Bob" for a few years.

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Some smart somebody at Kimber realized the appeal this cartridge has with hunters who appreciate fine rifles because last year Kimber made the Classic Select Grade and Montana versions of their Model 84M available in .257 Roberts. The Kimber 84M is not a new rifle, it has been around for several years, originally introduced for short action cartridges like the .308 Winchester and "Bob's" arch enemy--the .243 Winchester. During that time the 84M has established a reputation as a high quality, dependable hunting rifle.

The 84M action utilizes a controlled-round feed design with a full-length claw extractor, similar to the 98 Mauser. Like the Pre-'64 Winchester Model 70, the 84M has a fixed ejector and a 3-position safety mounted on the cocking piece of the bolt. It also has a separate bolt stop/release. The Classic Select Grade has machined, steel bottom metal and floorplate with the release inside the triggerguard. Triggers are adjustable, the action is pillar and glass bedded to the stock and the barrel is free floated.

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These rifles come without open sights and are drilled and tapped for scope bases. Early on, Kimber used 6-48 screws for scope bases but newer 84Ms use larger 8-40 screws. Opening scope base screw holes to this larger diameter is a common treatment given custom rifles because it increases the strength of the mounting system. Kimber offers steel dovetail front and windage adjustable rear scope bases and Talley makes their one-piece lightweight rings and bases for their vertical split rings for the 84M.

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The Classic Select Grade and the Montana both have front and rear sling swivel studs and a 1" Pachmayr Decelerator pad. A hand-rubbed oil finish, very tasteful 20 line-per-inch checkering patterns on the grip and forearm and an ebony fore-end tip dresses up the wonderfully figured grade A French walnut stock used on the Classic Select Grade.

Out of the box the Kimber Classic Select weighed 5.93 pounds and the trigger consistently broke at 2.78 pounds on my Timney trigger pull gauge. Kimber supplied their steel bases with the rifle but I wanted to keep weight as low as possible so mounted a 10-ounce Leupold FX II 6x36 riflescope in Talley's Lightweight 1-Piece rings. This brought total rifle weight to 6.8 pounds.

I had all five current factory loads in .257 Roberts available for testing. Hornady, Remington and Winchester offer 117-grain bullets at around 2.700 fps, Hornady's Light Magnum load pushes a 117-grain SST bullet to almost 2.900 fps and Federal loads a 120-grain Nosier Partition to about 2,800 fps. These loads will take care of about any big game hunting application Bob is suited for.

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Handloading is where the .257 Roberts really shines and I tried a variety of loads, mostly using bullet and powder combinations proven to be good performers m other 257s. During the testing l fired 217 rounds through the Classic Select. Feeding and ejection were positive and there were no malfunctions of any kind.

How a hunting rifle shoots from the bench is one thing, but how it handles when shooting offhand and from field positions is another. Some shooters claim light rifles are hard to shoot. This is usually not a weight but a balance issue. It's common for lightweight, custom rifles to be built with very thin or short barrels and standard weight actions. This often makes a rifle butt heavy and any rifle with more weight in the butt will be more difficult to shoot offhand.

A muzzle heavy rifle will be easier to shoot offhand, but will not handle as smoothly. The best compromise is when a rifle balances between your hands. This generally means within 1/2" of the front action screw. Obviously this balance can be altered with scope selection, mounts and positioning, but the Kimber, with the 6X Leupold, balanced a 1/2" behind the front action screw. Even though the Kimber has a thin barrel, weight is distributed evenly because the action is just as trim. I'm sure this helped me keep my shots inside an area the size of deer vitals when snap shooting offhand and from field positions between 50 and 200 yards.

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Shooters have debated for years whether a .257 Roberts should be built on a long or short action rifle. Those who favor the long action claim bullets can be seated out further, increasing powder capacity. This is fine if the rifle is throated to accept the longer overall cartridge length. I have messed with both factory and custom rifles in .257 Roberts built on long actions and a few, like the last Remington 7001 had, were throated so the maximum overall cartridge length had to be kept to a length that would work in a short action anyway.

The magazine box of the Kimber 84M will accept a cartridge with a maximum overall length of 2.81". If throated properly, a long action rifle might permit an overall length of as much as 3.3" and this might be helpful with excessively long bullets like a 115-grain Barnes Triple Shock. Problem is. you could expect quite a bit of jump from the case to the rifling with lighter, shorter bullets With a 3 or so .257 Roberts. what you gain m powder capacity will only minimally increase velocity, and I have never had problems getting maximum published velocities in a Roberts built on a short action.

At any rate, most of the handloads I tried grouped between a 1/2 and 2"but several, hke the factory Hornady 117-grain load, shot poorly, I've found rifles with thinly tapered barrels can be ammunition sensitive and the barrel on the Kimber only measures .56 at the muzzle. This is not a big detractor, the good shooting loads far out numbered those not grouping well.

I think Kimber has hit the nail on the head and has finally and decisively done the Bob justice. Instead of just chambering another entry level rifle for the .257 Roberts, the firm is appealing directly to the customer considering a custom-grade rifle chambered for this cartridge. The Kimber Classic Select Grade is an exquisite little rifle and evokes the notion of custom origins but sells for a third or fourth of what a similar custom rifle would cost. And, for a lightweight sporting rifle, it shoots pretty darn well.

What we need now is an ammunition manufacturer to step up like Kimber has done and offer some +P varmint loads like a 75-grain Sierra hollowpoint or Nosier 85-grain Ballistic Tip at about 3,450 or 3,350 fps. A premium 100-grain bullet like the Barnes Triple Shock or Nosier Partition running at about 3.100 fps would be nice too. (Nosier does offer custom loaded .257 Roberts ammunition.) This in conjunction with the two Kimber rifles would finally make the .257 Roberts a reasonable option for the hunter who appreciates nice rifles but doesn't handload.

I've heard comments these new Kimbers might just save the .257 Roberts. I'm not sure the cartridge needs saving. Even though factory rifle options have been limited, the cartridge is still around after more than 70 years. What I feel certain of is Kimber has made a deep cut into the custom rifle market. If you're not a handloader, this might just be the rifle that gets you st started making your, own ammunition and it could be the perfect both ways rifle."

Kimber Montana .257 Roberts

The Kimber Montana is an all stainless steel version of the model 84M bedded to a synthetic, Kevlar/carbon stock. With an advertised weight of only 5 pounds, 2 ounces the Montana is one of the lightest sporting rifles available factory direct. Aside from the stainless steel, synthetic stock, and the fact the Montana has a blind magazine box and a 4-round capacity instead of five, it is identical to the Classic Select Grade version of the Kimber 84M.

I mounted a compact Burris 2-7x35mm Fullfield II scope with the Ballistic Plex reticle. I've tested this reticle out to 500 yards and it works as advertised and is a great choice for a deer rifle you might use for varmints. I mounted the Burris using Talley's new stainless, quick-release, split-steel rings. This made a very attractive outfit and brought total weight to 6.3 pounds. The rifle/scope combination was very comfortable to shoot, balanced nicely and was easy to get on target fast. The trigger broke crisp and clean every time at a surprising 1.75 pounds. The Montana did not necessarily like the same loads as the Classic Select, but did shoot most loads very well.

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The aesthetic appeal of the Kimber Classis Select and its richly figured wood stock is undeniable. However, the ruggedness of the Montana's stock and weather resistant properties of the stainless steel should appeal to any hunter, especially those who can't tell when it's raining. Which one should you get? That's a tough call but if you like the .257 Roberts as much as I do, might as well get both while you can. Rifles chambered for this cartridge have a way of coming and going.
.257 ROBERTS HANDLOADED AMMO PERFORMANCE KIMBER MONTANA

BULLET CHARGE GROUP
BRAND, BULLET POWDER (GRAINS VELOCITY SIZE
WEIGHT TYPE (BRAND) WEIGHT) (FPS) (INCNES)

NOSLER 85 BALLISTIC H4350 47.5 3264.000 .70
 TIP
BARNES 100 TRIPLE Big Game 41.5 3,033 1.91
 SHOCK

Notes: Accuracy is the result of three. 3-shot groups fired at 100
yards off a shooter's Ridge Gorilla Bag rest. Velocity is the average
of nine shots fired over a Shooting Chrony placed 15' from the muzzle.

.257 ROBERTS FACTORY AMMO PERFORMANCE KIMBER MONTANA

LOAD VELOCITY GROUP SIZE
(BRAND, BULLET WEIGHT, TYPE) (FPS) (INCHES)

HORNADY LIGHT MAGNUM 117 SST 2,889 2.26
NOSLER CUSTOM 115 BALLISTIC TIP (+P) 2,827 1.86
REMINGTON 117 CORELOKT RNSP 2,665 .80
WINCHESTER 117 POWER POINT (+P) 2,730 .89

Notes: Accuracy is the result of three. 3-shot groups fired at 100
yards off a shooter's Ridge Gorilla Bag rest. Velocity is the average
of nine shots fired over a shooting chrony placed 15' from the muzzle.

FULLFIELD II 2-7X35MM

 MAKER: BURRIS COMPANY
 331 EAST 8TH STREET, GREELEY, CO 80631
 (970) 356-1670, WWW.BURRISOPTICS.COM

 MAGNIFICATION: 2X-7X
 OBJECTIVE: 35mm
 EYE RELIEF: 4.1 (2X), 3.1" (7X)
 INTERNAL
 ADJ. RANGE: 60 elevation & windage at 100 yards
 CLICK VALUE: 1/2"
 TUBE DIAMETER: 1"
 WEIGHT: 12 ounces
OVERALL LENGTH: 11.4"
 RETICLE: Ballistic Plex
 PRICE: $180

.257 ROBERTS HANDLOADED AMMO PERFORMANCE KIMBER CLASSICS

 BULLET CHARGE GROUP
 (BRAND BULLET WEIGHT POWDER (GRAINS VELOCITY SIZE
 TYPE) (BRAND) WEIGHT) (FPS) (INCHES)

 SIERRA 75 HP Big Game 47.5 3,450 .85
BARNES 100 TRIPLE SHOCK Big Game 41.5 3,085 2.60
 NOSLER 110 ACCUBOND H4350 44 2.988 .68

Notes: Accuracy is the result of three. 3-shot groups fired at 100
yards off a shooter's Ridge Gorilla Bag rest. Velocity is the average
of nine shots fired over a Shooting Chrony placed 15' from the muzzle.

.257 ROBERTS HANDLOADED AMMO PERFORMANCE KIMBER CLASSICS

 GROUP
 LOAD VELOCITY SIZE
 BRAND BULLET WEIGHT TYPE (FPS) (INCHES)

 HORNADY LIGHT MAGNUM 117 SST 2,890 1.98
 REMINGTON 117 CORELOKT RNSP 2,630 1.26
 WINCHESTER 117 POWER POINT 2,775 1.73

Notes: Accuracy is the result of three. 3-shot groups fired at 100
yards off a shooter's Ridge Gorilla Bag rest. Velocity is the average
of nine shots fired over a Shooting Chrony placed 15' from the muzzle.

KIMBER 84M CLASSIC & MONTANA

MAKER: KIMBER
2590 HWY. 35
KALISPELL, MT 59901
(914) 964-0771
WWW.KIMBERAMERICA.COM

 ACTION TYPE: Bolt action, controlled feed
 CALIBER: .257 Roberts (tested, most others)
 CAPACITY: 5 (Classic), 4 (Montana)
 BARREL LENGTH: 22"
 OVERALL LENGTH: 41.25
 WEIGHT: 5 pounds 15 ounces (Classic),
 pounds 2 ounces (Montana)
 FINISH: Matte blue (Classic), stainless steel Montana
 SIGHTS: None (Drilled and tapped for scope bases.)
 STOCK: Grade A French Walnut (Classic)
 Synthetic Kevlar (Montana)
 PRICE: $1,273 (Classic) $1,276 (Montana)

FX II 6X36MM

MAKER: LEUPOLD & STEVENS INC.
14400 NW GREENBRIER PARKWAY
BEAVERTON,OR 97006
(800) 538-7653, WWW.LEUPOLD.COM

 MAGNIFICATION: 6X
 OBJECTIVE: 36mm
 EYE RELIEF: 4.3"
 INTERNAL 64 MCA elevation & windage
 ADJ. RANGE:
 CLICK VALUE: 1/4"
 TUBE DIAMETER: 1"
 WEIGHT: 10 ounces
 OVERALL LENGTH: 11.4"
 RETICLES: Duplex, Wide Duplex, LR Duplex
 PRICE: $280

SCOPE RINGS: TALLEY RINGS
P.O. BOX 369
SANTEE, SC 29142
(803) 854-5700, WWW.TALLEYRINGS.COM
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Author:Mann, Richard
Publication:Guns Magazine
Date:Apr 1, 2009
Words:2481
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