Kimber's new Varminter.
Not one to sit on his laurels for very long, nor one to be swayed from his game plan by a depressed economy, Kimber's president, Greg Warne, squared his shoulders and forged ahead with his high grade sporter by eventually offering it with several styles of stocks and in calibers .22 WMR and .22 Hornet. First came the classic-style followed by the Cascade with its Monte Carlo buttstock. The Super grade, a limited production rifle, sold out fast and was permanently replaced by the Super America grade, probably the classiest mass-produced sporter ever turned out by a U.S. manufacturer. And, of course, there's the Custom Classic grade which is the original Classic with fancier wood, ebony fore-end tip and bigger price tag.
Now the folks out in Clackamas have done it again by introducing the Model 84, the first U.S.-made rifle scaled down in size and proportion to Remington's .222 family of cartridges.
From a few feet away it's hard to detect any difference between the new Model 84 and its cousin the Model 82. The lines are the same since both share the same stock, barrel profile and barrel length.
Starting at the rear we see a checkered steel buttplate, a nice detail popularized by A.O. Niedner back during the Roaring Twenties. The grip is capped with steel too. My rifle has the Custom Classic stock, replete with fancy wood, ebony fore-end tip and checkering cut 18 lines to the inch. It lists for $780 but you can buy the standard Classic grade for $1-30 less.
If Monte Carlo buttstocks are your cup of tea, you'll spend $618 for the Cascade or if you've just got to have the best of everything, your Kimber dealer will swap you a Model 84 Super American for a $1,023 check. For do-it-yourselfers or have-it-doners, Kimber offers two possibilities: a standard Model 84 barreled action for $475 or the Super America barreled action for $653.
The Model 84's 22-1/2-inch barrel is the same length as the Model 82 and follows the same contour out to a .580-inch muzzle. In addition to a slightly longer receiver, the .223 cartridge requires a longer loading/ejection port and longer bolt throw. Three of my Kimber rifles check out as follows:
Ejection Port Bolt Throw Length (Inches) (Inches) Model 84 2.25 2.75 Model 82 (Hornet) 1.75 2.00 Model 82 (22 RF) 1.31 1.65
From here we depart from design details borrowed from the Model 82 by Kimber engineers.
The now-familiar rotary-type safety disc with its smooth, positive, quiet operation is there as are the Brownell-style bolt handle on one side of the receiver bridge and a neat bolt release on the other side. Dovetail grooves atop the receiver bridge and ring receive Kimber's side-lever rings or their new rings which are the same but without the quick-detach feature. They're pretty. The receiver is machined from bar stock, a bit unique in this age of stamping, forging and investment casting of gun parts.
If you're a Kimber rifle fan, what will get your attention first is the fact that, unlike its cousin, the Model 84 has no detachable clip. Rather, it has a Mauser-type, staggered-column magazine box with spring-loaded follower; the latter is investment cast of steel. The magazine box is 2.28 inches long (inside). To dump the five cartridges from its magazine, one merely releases the hinged floorplate by depressing a spring-loaded plunger located in the front of the trigger bow. By the way, the triggerguard and floorplate assembly are good old hard-to-beat steel.
In keeping with Paul Mauser's design, the Model 84 has a nonrotating, claw-type extractor, held to the bolt body by a collar. The bolt face is counterbored but its wall is cut away at the bottom to allow the extractor hook to engage the rim of a cartridge as it travels from magazine to chamber. This feature is commonly known as controlled feeding since it prevents double loading. The extractor hook is quite heavy and beveled so it will slip over the rim of a cartridge loaded manually into the chamber. The .555-inch diameter bolt body has dual, opposed locking lugs at the front measuring .400-inch long. Unlike Mauser's design, the left locking lug is not weakened by a slit for passage of the ejector. Instead, the Kimber design team incorporated into the Model 84 action an ejector first introduced on a sporting rifle back in 1925 with the Winchester Model 54 rifle. It is the same type ejector seen on Model 70s produced prior to 1964.
The ejector is a flat piece of metal extending up through a narrow slot milled through the bottom left side of the receiver bridge, and pivoting on a pin. In operation, when the bolt is retracted the end of the ejector enters a matching groove milled into the bolt body, out through the bolt face and ejects a cartridge or spent case out through the port.
The Model 84 bolt has a tail trailing from the rear of the firing pin and extending rearward beneath the bolt cap. A red dot on its top surface is exposed to view when the firing pin is cocked.
In the event of a punctured primer or case separation during firing, a hole drilled through the bolt body wall is aligned with a hole through the left side of the receiver ring for venting powder gases to the outside. Another vent in the bottom of the bolt body serves to dump gases into the magazine well. Backside, the shooter is further protected by a bolt cap and shroud. What it boils down to is this; Kimber is building a small action without sacrificing the level of strength and safety usually seen only in much larger actions.
The Model 84 also introduces a new trigger with what Don Kyle, who was involved in its design, calls a roll-forward sear. The sear's pivot point is at the rear in lieu of the front. According to Kyle, the new trigger offers two advantages; most consistent let-off from shot to shot and a lighter pull at the lower end of its adjustment range. My rifle's trigger is without a trace of creep or backlash and breaks like an icicle. Its pull checks out at 33 ounces but feels much lighter due to its smoothness, and it's a darned good trigger.
The only other major difference I see between the Model 82 and Model 84 are their recoil lugs. Where the Model 82 has a cylindrical lug dovetailed into the barrel, the Model 84's lug is rectangular and dovetailed into the receiver ring. The flat area on the rear of the lug serves as a good solid bedding area.
As we've come to expect of Kimber rifles, overall workmanship is a cut above the average with the Model 84. Except for a few diamonds around the edges left begging to be pointed up, the cut checkering is well executed. Its coverage is also quite generous. Wood-to-metal fit is snug as a bug and finishes on both are very good. Both locking lugs bear evenly on their receiver ring abutments and a Cerrosafe casting shows the chamber to be unusually round for a mass-produced rifle and quite concentric with the bore.
Mechanically, my Model 84 has performed without a single bobble. Firing pin travel seems short and quick with no ignition problems experienced when using Federal, CCI, Winchester and Remington primers. Bolt travel is very smooth, without excessive wobble and the claw-type extractor is most positive. My rifle's ejector is a bit lazy, something I shouldn't even mention since it will be given more muscle in the next batch of rifles.
For now, the Model 84 is available only in .223 Remington with a rifling pitch rate of 1-12 inches and will probably remain so until the initial flood of orders is filled. However, other possibilities are lying on the drawing board awaiting consideration.
The next move forward may be the Kimber Varminter with heavier barrel, possibly a single-shot action without magazine cutout for greater rigidity. Other chamberings being considered are the .221 Remington Fireball (the modern .22 Hornet), .222 Remington, .17 Remington, and two wildcats, the 7mm TCU and 6x47mm. In other words, excepting the .222 Remington Magnum, Kimber may eventually invite the entire .222 Remington family over for Sunday dinner.
Like its Rimfire and Hornet cousins, the Model 84 measures 40-1/2 inches long (including a 13-1/2-inch pull) and is rated at a nominal 6-1/2 pounds. This weight will vary slightly from rifle to rifle due to different densities in the American walnut and depending on how the owner decides to equip his rifle.
For accuracy testing the Model 84, I used a procedure which I've come to rely on during years of working with varmint rifles. First, virgin brass was run through a full-length sizing die for truing up the necks and then cases were trimmed slightly to square up their mouths and to achieve a uniform case length. Next I stocked up on Federal 205M primers, H-4895 powder and Ed Watson's custom benchrest bullets in 52-grain hollow point style. This is a combination for the .223 Remington that has proven to be standard by which all other loads can be judged. In case you're interested; the Watson bullets presently hold several world records shot in benchrest competition. They're available from Watson at 2404 Wade Hampton Blvd., Greenville, SC 29615.
In order to reduce holding error, a 16X Redfield RM 6400 scope was attached with Kimber rings. At the range, wind flags were positioned at 25, 50 and 75 yards in an effort to compensate as much as possible for mother nature's constantly shifting breath. Initially the rifle was tested with no effort toward fine tuning since I wanted the results to reflect its level of performance fresh from the box.
During its first test session the rifle averaged .667 minute-of-angle with the Watson bullets with the smallest and largest of seven, five-shot groups measuring .400 and .965-inch, respectively. As a measure of control I fired occasional groups with this load during succeeding test sessions which served to indicate whether or not conditions were being closely duplicated as much as humanly possible. If anything, both rifle and shooter continued to improve because when all groups shot with this load during all test sessions were tallied up, the overall average was .653-inch.
Next came mass-produced ammunition and the realization that with this particular rifle, a picky varmint shooter (this one in particular) could not happily live on factory loads alone. Other Model 84s may accept such a diet with less complaint, but the one leaning in the corner as I type this opus much prefers the home-made variety.
Winchester's new 53-grain load led the pack with an average of 1.37-inches while the Federal 55-grain hollow point boattail load and the 55-grain full-jacketed load from Frontier followed close behind. Six different lots of Remington ammunition with the 55-grain Power-Lokt hollow point loading averaged from a low of 1.50 inches to a high of 1.63 inches. The Winchester 55-grain softpoint and Remington 55-grain metal case loads turned in the worst performance with both averaging over two minutes-of-angle (MOA).
Handloads with various commercial bullets atop H-4895 painted a much brighter picture with six averaging less than MOA. Previous to testing the rifle I had expected 55-grain bullets to be the ones to beat in the Model 84's quick rifling pitch but this was not to be. Only the 55-grain Hornady bullet broke the MOA barrier although Speer's offering consistenly nipped at its heels. The rifle definitely prefers shorter bullets, especially those with hollow cavities in their noses.
To summarize the Model 84's performance at this stage of the game, I think it's fair to grade its report card as follows:
ACCURACY (Inches) Custom Benchrest Bullets .65 Commercial Bullets (selected loads) .95 Commercial Bullets (all loads) 1.25 Factory Loads 1.75
Next I decided to see how the rifle would respond to minor tuning. The recoil lug was bedded at the factory with its bottom and backside bearing heavily against some type of epoxy-like compound. Using a small chisel I relieved its bottom from contact with the bedding compound. This modification improved group sizes slightly but the real improvement came after a paper shim cut from a business card was placed between the barrel and forearm, just back of the fore-end tip. The rifle responded to this attention by averaging almost exactly one half MOA with the control load and less than three-quarters MOA with the 52 Speer, 53 Hornady, 52 Sierra and 55-grain Speer bullets. Now the Model 84 was beginning to cook like a varmint rifle ought to. The two best factory loads in this rifle are now averaging slightly over one MOA.
I honestly believe that with a bit more tinkering with its innards, my Model 84 will do even better in the accuracy department. However, since further modifications would be beyond the capabilities of the typical shooter who walks into a gun shop and comes out the proud owner of a Model 84, I felt that I had gone far enough for purposes of reporting on a factory rifle.
After spending quite a number of hours with Kimber's new offspring and putting over 600 rounds of handloads and factory loads through it, both at the range and in the field, I can absolutely find no fault with it. The thin barrel heats up quite rapidly during firing but its accuracy indicates excellent quality. Powder and copper fouling buildup in the bore proved to be quite controllable with my normal cleaning procedures utilizing Markman's Choice and Sweet's 7.62 solvents. Initially, the rifle had a tendency with some loads to cluster four shots quite close together and then spoil an otherwise impressive group with a flyer but my beddding modifications settled everything down. Now it's doing an awfully good job at the range.
The Model 84 has pulled its end of the saw in the field too. Thanks to its accuracy, a couple dozen crows have pestered their last farmer and on May 5th at precisely 11:45 AM (local groundhog time) one of the neighborhood whistlepigs had the honor of being the first varmint to be victimized by the wicked bark of a Model 84. Jim McKinley of Kimber tells me that it was, in fact, the first game bagged with any Model 84. The chuck made the fatal mistake of stopping at the mouth of his den and taking a last look at the odd form lying prone at what proved to be 186 paces (human-size) away. Dust boiled from his hide as a 52-grain hollow point kissed him square in the chest. He folded up like a worn-out dish rag.
Come to think of it, that pretty much sums up the Kimber Model 84; it's a sweet little rifle. It carries like a feather, consistently shoots exactly where you want it to and it's most handsome to boot. On top of all this, the Model 84's action is quite strong and its design is most sound, right down to the last detail. In other words, when putting together this rifle, Kimber stayed with time-proven design rather than trying to invent the better mouse trap as many small gun companies have tried and failed to do since World War II.
Since I already own Kimbers in .22 Rimfire and .22 Hornet, the Model 84 is a welcome addition to my battery. I like it. And, according to my old crystal ball, riflemen who scamper up steep hills and over vast dales in quest of critters that dig holes in the ground will storm the gunshops for their Model 84.
Yep, Kimber's new lightweight varmint rifle is that good.
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|Publication:||Guns & Ammo|
|Date:||Sep 1, 1984|
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