Kimber Model 8400 Montana .300 WSM Rifle
By the Guns and Shooting Online Staff
The Montana is the stainless steel / synthetic version of the basic Kimber bolt action rifle. The Montana reviewed here is the Model 8400 and our test rifle came chambered for the powerful .300 WSM cartridge.
Like all Kimbers except for the heavy barreled Longmaster, the 8400 series are very lightweight rifles. 8400's come with petite actions and light sporter contour barrels. Base weight of the 8400 Montana is only 6.3 pounds. This makes for an easy carrying hunting rifle, but it is far too light to ameliorate the recoil of a .300 Magnum cartridge.
Kimber achieves weight reduction the right way, with an action that is reduced in every dimension, not just a standard length action shortened to accommodate .308 length cartridges. The 8400 Montana is built on an all stainless steel barreled action. There are no aluminum floorplates or plastic trigger guards here. The only synthetic is in the Kevlar carbon fiber composite stock.
The barrel of our Montana measured 24", the minimum length necessary for any .300 Magnum caliber rifle. Kimber supplies a full length barrel on their 8400 WSM rifles and they deserve to be commended for that. We suggest that a medium contour sporter barrel would be a better choice for a .300 Magnum rifle than the light contour barrel supplied. A heavier barrel would add weight to the package, but it would delay the effects of barrel heating, reduce the felt recoil and likely improve accuracy. The benefits would far outweigh the weight penalty.
We have described the basic Kimber bolt action in detail in previous reviews so, to avoid boring our regular readers, we will simply refer you to the Guns and Shooting Online review of the Kimber Model 84M Classic, which uses an action of identical design. It will suffice for our purposes here to mention that the Kimber is a Mauser pattern action with two opposed front locking lugs and a 90 degree bolt rotation. It cocks on opening and features controlled feeding and an internal box magazine with a hinged magazine floorplate. The trigger is an adjustable, single stage type that is a pleasure to use in these days of lawyer inspired triggers. Everyone who tried it gave the Kimber's trigger high marks. The safety is of the Model 70, three-position type and blocks the striker. Kimber advertises "match" chambers and "match" barrels, whatever that means as applied to hunting rifles chambered for hunting cartridges. About the only noticeable manufacturing economy is the recoil lug, a separate steel "washer" that is trapped between the barrel and receiver in Remington Model 700 fashion rather than being a machined, integral part of the receiver. The metal finish is a matte silver color, typical of stainless steel barreled actions.
The synthetic composite stock is a charcoal gray color and devoid of any kind of checkering or adornment. You could call it plain and get no argument from us. Sling swivel studs and a Pachmayr Decelerator recoil pad are standard equipment. The stock shape is modern classic with a straight comb and it adequately fits most users. It is more rigid and more durable than the cheaper, injection molded plastic stocks found on lesser rifles, but not any more attractive. This stock makes the Kimber Montana a very plain looking (some would say homely) rifle, although it costs about $140 more than a Kimber 8400 Classic. It is a pity that Kimber does not offer their stainless steel barreled action in the Classic walnut stock, because the Montana simply does not "look" like a Kimber.
No iron sights are supplied, but the receiver is drilled and tapped for scope bases. Kimber offers fluted scope bases at extra cost and most scope mount manufacturers supply bases and rings for Kimber rifles.
Here are the features and specifications for the Model 8400 Montana straight from the Kimber catalog:
As regular Guns and Shooting Online readers probably know by now, we are not fans of the WSM, WSSM and Rem. SAUM families of short magnum cartridges. They offer no ballistic advantage over the cartridges that they were designed to emulate and their short / fat case geometry can--and has--caused no end of feeding problems for bolt action rifles. The fat cases also reduce magazine capacity (by two rounds in the case of a Kimber). We feel that these cartridges represent a step backwards in cartridge evolution and doubt that they will be with us over the long haul. (Most of them already appear to be dropping by the wayside.) For more specific information about the .300 WSM cartridge, please see the Rifle Cartridge Page.
We outfitted the Kimber 8400 with a Leupold VX-II 2-7x33mm scope in Conetrol bases and rings. The Leupold 2-7x33 is an excellent scope for an all-around rifle, but the Conetrol bases and rings proved to be a very poor choice. The smooth "look" of the Conetrol mount / ring assembly is its selling point. The rings have no visible source of support, by which we mean no visible screws. Unfortunately, we found the Conetrol design seriously flawed and poorly manufactured. Initially, the bases did not align correctly with the bore and they did not properly fit the Kimber's receiver until Guns and Shooting Online's Gunsmithing Editor Rocky Hays modified them. (After receiving approval to do so from Conetrol.) It is an excessively complex scope mount with too many parts and tiny bearing surfaces, which makes the whole system unnecessarily vulnerable to loosening and loss of zero. To add insult to injury, the Conetrol mounting system is also very expensive. In summation, an excellent scope in a poor mount. However, the Conetrol scope mounts served well enough to get us through our range session. We would make it a point to replace the Conetrol bases and rings with Leupold STD bases and rings before taking this rifle on an important hunt.
We did our test shooting, as usual, at the Izaak Walton gun range south of Eugene, Oregon. This facility offers covered shooting positions, solid bench rests and target distances of 25, 50, 100 and 200 yards. The weather was cool and wind was not a factor. After bore sighting the scope and checking it at 25 yards, all subsequent shooting was done at 100 yards. We fired 3-shot groups for record to minimize barrel heating, which is considerable given the Montana's light contour barrel. Guns and Shooting Online staff members Rocky Hays, Bob Fleck, Gordon Landers and Chuck Hawks did the shooting chores.
All shooting for record was conducted from a Caldwell Lead Sled DFT weighted with two bags (50 pounds) of lead shot. The recoil attenuating effect of the Lead Sled was much appreciated. Shooting a 7 pound (with scope) .300 Magnum rifle is not our idea of fun and the less said about this .300 WSM rifle's recoil, the better. The Kimber's good stock design and Decelerator recoil pad, however, at least made it tolerable to fire the rifle from the shoulder.
None of us owns a .300 WSM rifle or reloads for the caliber, but our friends at Remington and Winchester came to our rescue and contributed ammunition for this review. Our sincere thanks to the good people at both companies. Remington supplied Express cartridges loaded with 150 grain Core-Lokt Pointed Soft Point bullets. This load has a catalog muzzle velocity of 3320 fps. Winchester supplied samples of their Supreme Elite ammunition loaded with 180 grain XP3 bullets, a polycarbonate tipped spitzer design. The catalog muzzle velocity of this load is 3010 fps.
Here are our shooting results with the Kimber Model 8400 Montana rifle.
The principle advantage of short, fat cartridges like the .300 WSM is supposed to be superior accuracy, but we have not found this to be true in ordinary hunting rifles and our experience with this Kimber 8400 did nothing to change our minds. Feeding reliability is the main drawback to such cartridges, but there were no malfunctions with the controlled feed Kimber. The Kimber action fed cartridges smoothly and surely. We suppose it balanced out; the rifle/cartridge combination was not particularly accurate--in fact, its accuracy was marginal--but it functioned well.
Here at Guns and Shooting Online we try to be reasonable about accuracy, which is a much overemphasized commodity in most contemporary gun publications, electronic and print. We, admittedly, do like to see hunting rifles shoot into 2" (center to center for three shots) at 100 yards and the Kimber 8400 missed that standard by ¼" with its favored ammunition. Almost certainly we could have worked up a handload that would shoot into 2 MOA had we expended the time and effort to do so. In any case, the rifle's accuracy was sufficient for shooting deer size (and larger) animals at ranges well beyond 200 yards, which is good enough for practical purposes.
If you feel that you can't live without a minimum weight rifle chambered for a short magnum cartridge and don't mind a synthetic stock, the Kimber 8400 WSM may be just what you are looking for. It features a well designed action, good workmanship and is manufactured from top quality materials in the USA.
RIFLE REVIEW SUMMARY
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