Kimber Model 84M Montana .308 Rifle
By Rick Ryals
Kimber of America (based in Yonkers, New York) manufactures 1911-style pistols, bolt action .22 rifles, and bolt action centerfire rifles. They have recently begun importing over-under and side-by-side shotguns. All firearms built by Kimber demonstrate the highest quality workmanship and attention to detail.
Kimber's guns are not the cheapest available, but the extra quality you receive greatly exceeds the additional cost. They have definitely raised the bar for production firearms.
The subject of this review is the Kimber 84M Montana. The Montana is a stainless steel, synthetic stocked, short action, ultra-light centerfire rifle. When first introduced it was a departure from their traditional line of rifles.
Kimber's first rifles, both rimfire and centerfire, were made with traditional walnut stocks and matte blued steel. The company delayed introducing a synthetic stocked rifle for many years, and for good reason. When reports first surfaced about the plans to produce a synthetic/ stainless rifle, it was clear that Kimber's goal was to produce a top quality laid-up synthetic stock rather than a run-of-the-mill injection molded plastic stock.
To aid them in producing these top line synthetic stocks Kimber hired Melvin Forbes, the founder of New Ultra Light Arms, as a consultant. I guess they decided it was better to get it right from the start than try to develop such a stock on their own. Since Mr. Forbes had plenty of experience producing his own line of synthetic stocked ultra-light rifles, he was a logical choice.
The Montana's stock is constructed of Kevlar and carbon fiber material. It is patterned in the American classic style. It is a very slender stock to complement the trimmed-down barreled action and displays quality workmanship and simple, refined elegance reminiscent of custom rifles.
The comb is fluted and high for scope use, with no Monte Carlo or cheek piece. The comb's height will easily accommodate even high scope rings, although it seems it would be better adapted to low mounted scopes if it were not quite so high. But it does provide a very tight cheek weld.
The butt is finished with a Pachmayer Decelerator recoil pad. The fore end is straight with a rounded tip. Stainless sling swivel studs are installed in butt and fore end. The pistol grip is slim and well shaped with an open curve and undercut.
The finish of the stock is a mildly textured grey. I have seen examples that varied from a medium grey to dark charcoal, but I do not know the reason for the variation. A Kimber dealer I know has told me that some of their pistol finishes show a similar color variation. The particular rifle reviewed here is a medium-dark grey, about middle of the road from color variations I have seen.
The action is pillar bedded into the stock with an epoxy-based bedding compound. The fit between stock and action is outstanding. The stock to metal fit is very tight around the action and for the first 1-1/2 inches or so of the barrel. Where the barrel begins to taper, the stock is free-floating to the end of the fore end.
An example of Kimber's attention to detail can be seen here, as the gap between the fore end and barrel is exactly the same width on both sides for its entire length. This is true of both their synthetic and wood stocked rifles.
The Montana's synthetic stock is also very stiff. Sling pressure will not bend it into the barrel. This is a marked departure from the normal injection molded plastic stock on other production rifles. I have seen other company's plastic stocks that could be bent by hand pressure to touch the barrel. What do you suppose this does to the point of impact when using a tight sling?
The 84M action was designed around the .308 Winchester family of cartridges. This is a different approach from most short actions, which were derived from actions designed to accommodate .30-06 size cartridges and simply shortened to fit .308-length cartridges. In diameter as well as length the 84M action is no larger than necessary. This results in a petite, light weight action, yet with sufficient strength for modern high intensity cartridges.
The 84M action is cylindrical with a washer type recoil lug, full length extractor, fixed ejector blade, and a wing-type safety attached to the rear of the bolt. The top of the action is drilled and tapped with 8-40 holes for scope mounts. It has controlled round feeding from a box magazine with a leaf spring. The bolt release is a push lever at the left rear of the action. The trigger is crisp and factory set to around 3.5 pounds.
The 84M action might be considered a cross between the Remington 700 and Winchester Model 70 Classic actions, although in appearance it more closely resembles a miniature Model 70 action. In common with the Model 700 are a round bottom receiver and a washer-type recoil lug. This lug is hidden from view by a collar at the front of the action.
Another similarity to the Model 700 is that the trigger mechanism is encased in a metal box, although I am not sure how similar the trigger internals are. This differs from the Model 70 trigger, which has a very simple mechanism that is readily accessible by removing the stock. Many believe the Model 70 trigger, which remained constant through all iterations of the action, is the finest hunting trigger ever designed.
In common with the Model 70 Classic are its controlled round feed, full length extractor, fixed ejector blade, and wing safety at the rear of the bolt. Although the wing safety resembles the Model 70's, the Kimber's is not as smooth or quiet in action. The 84M was originally introduced with a two position safety, but currently produced rifles have a three position safety. Fully rearward locks the bolt and striker, the middle position locks the striker and allows the bolt to be operated, and forward allows the rifle to fire.
The standard 84M models have a slender 22 inch barrel that complements the small action. Kimber's method of reducing weight is minimizing bulk. There has been no reduction in barrel length, and thus no compromise of cartridge ballistics. Even with this barrel, the overall length is only 41.25 inches due to the petite action.
Overall, the Kimber 84M Montana is an attractive, slender, light weight, well balanced rifle. It comes to the shoulder responsively. It carries easily and shoots accurately. To all these qualities it adds weather resistance. What more could one ask of a hunting rifle?
The Kimber model 84M Montana specifications are as follows.
The test rifle has Kimber bases, Leupold rings, and a Leupold Compact 2-7 x 32mm scope installed. This is a small variable power scope that complements the Montana very well. Set up thus, it tips the scales at just less than 6 pounds.
As you can see from the weight and length, the Montana falls into the Mountain Rifle category. This being said, I don't see why you would have to be on a mountain to hunt with it. I think those of us who hunt in the flat lands should be able to enjoy such a light, well balanced rifle too.
I purchased the Montana as an all-around, go anywhere in any weather, rifle. I chose .308 Winchester as the caliber because it is widely available and will serve for most North American game from deer and pronghorn to elk and moose.
The Montana is the only synthetic stocked centerfire rifle I own. I normally prefer attractive wood stocks, or at least wood laminates. However, I wanted one rifle that was suitable for most North American game, and that could be taken anywhere without worry about weather damaging it.
I selected the Kimber because of the overall quality of fit and finish, and its high quality synthetic stock. The only other rifles that could match its quality and performance are produced by the semi-custom makers and start around $2500. It is an incredible value for the product.
My experience with this rifle has not been totally trouble free. Because my local Kimber dealer did not have a Montana in stock, it had to be special ordered. After receiving it, I found that there was excessive wobble in the bolt. I shipped it back to Kimber to be corrected.
However, in the process I had to deal with some arrogance on their part. Their thoughts appeared to be that there couldn't possibly be anything wrong with their product, so it must be operator error. The problem eventually got bumped up to the engineering department, and finally corrected.
Talking to my local gun shop owner, my experience is not unusual. Although Kimber made it more difficult than necessary, at least they fixed the rifle. I was told that many companies don't correct customer complaints, insisting that practically any problem is operator error. It would be nice if the gun companies would treat us like valued customers rather than adversaries.
After getting past those first bumps, my experience with the Montana has been extremely pleasurable. My first trip to the range yielded 1" to 1.25" groups with Federal factory cartridges loaded with 150 grain Speer GS bullets.
I have had similar experiences with hand loads using Hodgen Varget and H-4895 powders with Hornady and Remington bullets of both 150 and 165 grains. I used Remington nickel plated cases and WLR primers. Three shot groups are typically between 0.75" and 1.25". This particular rifle is not very picky about its loads, putting everything I've shot through it into little triangles.
The 84M Montana handles very well. Its excellent balance allows it to mount and swing well. It is also easy to hold steady for offhand shooting. Its light weight makes it very pleasant to carry through the woods.
In spite of its light weight the recoil is not unpleasant. In fact, it is comparable to my .308 Ruger RSI that weighs over a pound more and has 100 fps less velocity. This is probably due to the softer pad and straighter comb of the Kimber. Subjective recoil is often different than the calculated numbers would suggest.
Kimber has designed and built their 84M Montanas to be production rifles of exceptionally high quality. They are priced about 25-50% more than some production rifles, but their level of quality is closer to semi-custom rifles costing more than double their price. I am very satisfied with my Montana and would heartily recommend one to anyone looking for an ultra-light, weather proof, mountain rifle.
RIFLE REVIEW SUMMARY
Copyright 2007 by Rick Ryals. All rights reserved.