Kimber Model 84M LongMaster .223 Varmint Rifle
By the Guns and Shooting Online Staff
Kimber of Oregon built a reputation for top quality rimfire hunting rifles of solid design and great accuracy that received much critical acclaim. Unfortunately, financial problems ensued and Kimber was eventually sold and the operation moved to New York State, where it became Kimber Manufacturing, Inc. The present ownership has attempted to continue the Kimber tradition, but with a different line of rifles.
This time the Company seems to have attained a solid economic footing and the Kimber firearms line has expanded to include pistols, and recently shotguns, as well as rimfire and centerfire rifles. All metal parts of Kimber rifles are manufactured in the U.S.A. in Yonkers, New York; the stocks are made at the Kimber stock shop in Costa Rica.
The key to Kimber's success is simply that they are trying to do it right. The following passage is quoted from the Kimber Home Page (www.kimberamerica.com):
"Kimber is dedicated to building only the finest pistols and rifles. Beyond choosing the best materials and holding true to classic design, each part is made to the industries tightest tolerances, ensuring unequaled dependability and performance."
Given that philosophy, of course, Kimber rifles are not inexpensive. However, they are perhaps more affordable than many shooters realize. To put price into perspective, the centerfire Kimber Model 84M LongMaster Classic that is the subject of this review carries a 2009 MSRP that is $127 more than a Savage Model 12 Long Range Precision Varminter, and $678 less than a Weatherby Mark V Super VarmintMaster.
Kimber is selling every rifle they make and there is a waiting period for some models. In these circumstances, obtaining a new rifle for review is not easy. With the help of able Aaron Cummins, Kimber's Communications Manager (part of his job description includes dealing with the media), we managed to procure a rifle within a reasonable time frame. Many thanks, Aaron!
The 84M LongMaster is what we consider a stalking or light varmint rifle. (Kimber calls it a "classic walking varminter.") It is a rifle designed around a medium-heavy barrel and a sporter stock. This is a rifle you can carry without feeling like a beast of burden when you need to hike into the area where you intend to do your varmint hunting.
Like all Kimber 84M series rifles, the LongMaster is built around a modified Mauser 98 type bolt action. In fact, this Kimber short action bears a striking superficial similarity to the Winchester Model 70 action. Our rifle was, in fact, mistaken for a Model 70 by one knowledgable shooter at the rifle range.
It is a conventional bolt action with a one-piece bolt body incorporating two large front locking lugs, and it cocks on opening. The bolt knob, which is round and smooth, is conveniently situated directly above the center of the trigger guard. The camming surfaces of the locking lugs are radiused for smooth operation. Bolt rotation is approximately 90 degrees. Two gas relief vents are drilled in the bottom of the bolt body and there is a gas relief vent in the right side of the receiver, Model 70 style, to direct powder gasses away from the shooter's face in the event of a blown case. Features include a user adjustable trigger, full length Mauser claw extractor, fixed receiver mounted ejector, three position wing safety that blocks the firing pin, steel bottom iron with a hinged magazine floorplate and Mauser style floorplate release mounted inside the trigger guard.
Unlike the Mauser 98 and Model 70 Winchester, the Kimber's open top 4340 steel receiver is cylindrical, machined from bar stock. There are full length raceways for the bolt lugs to minimize bolt wobble. The recoil lug is of the Remington 700 type, essentially a thick washer trapped between the barrel and receiver, but neatly hidden under a flange at the front of the receiver. Ejection is to the right and the loading/ejection port is generous, allowing rapid loading from the top.
This is a controlled feed action, but the extractor is beveled to allow it to override the rim of a cartridge place directly into the chamber. It is easier to close, however, if cartridges are fed from the magazine.
The barrel comes with what Kimber describes as a "match grade" chamber and it is fluted to more rapidly dissipate heat. It is free floating except for approximately the last two inches at the forend tip, where the stock applies a mild upward pressure to stabilize the barrel.
The barreled action is pillar bedded in the stock. The finish of the barreled action is what we call a "Holstein," black and white. The bolt body is left in the white while the bolt handle, rear shroud and head are matte blue. The receiver wears a matte blue phosphate finish while the barrel is satin stainless steel in the white.
This Kimber's trigger deserves special mention. It is clean, crisp and not overly heavy, releasing at about 3.5 pounds out of the box. Fifty years ago this would have been a good trigger, but not extraordinary. Today, when most triggers are designed to please lawyers instead of shooters, the Kimber trigger is very good indeed. The Kimber trigger is also fully user adjustable for pull weight, sear engagement and over travel. We adjusted our test rifle's pull weight down to two pounds, in keeping with its varmint rifle purpose.
The straight-line comb, classic style stock is crafted from A Grade claro walnut and there are well executed 20 lpi cut checkering panels on the forend and pistol grip. Our test rifle came with nicely figured wood that would have to be near the top of the "A" rating and it wore a traditional hand rubbed oil finish. The bottom of the pistol grip is protected by a handsome steel grip cap. The buttstock terminates in a 1/2" thick, black rubber pad and detachable sling swivel studs are provided. All in all, the LongMaster is an exceptionally handsome varmint rifle.
Here are the basic specifications for the Kimber Model 84M LongMaster Classic:
Our test rifle was supplied with 2-piece Kimber/Leupold type scope bases and we used high Leupold rings to mount a Sightron SII Target/Varmint 4-16x42mm AO scope with a fine crosshair/dot reticle. This scope is an excellent choice for a .223 Longmaster intended primarily for use as a varmint rifle. If you buy your Longmaster primarily as a predator rifle, perhaps a smaller scope in the 3-9x or 3.5-10x range would be a good choice, as it would make for a slightly lighter and faster handling rifle and allow a wider field of view (at low power) for shots at running coyotes and foxes.
So much has been written about the .223 Remington cartridge on Guns and Shooting Online and other places that we presume it needs no long-winded introduction to our readers. It is the most popular centerfire varmint cartridge in the world, as well as being a standard NATO military rifle cartridge. There are quieter, shorter range varmint cartridges such as the .22 Hornet and .218 Bee, and there are noisier, longer range varmint cartridges such as the .22-250 and .220 Swift, but the .223 will suffice in about 90% of all varmint shooting situations. The .223 Remington is the least expensive and most widely distributed centerfire varmint cartridge on the planet, so it's hard to go wrong with a .223 varmint rifle.
Our test shooting with the LongMaster was done at the Izaak Walton outdoor gun range south of Eugene, Oregon. This facility offers covered bench rest shooting positions and target stands at 25, 50, 100, and 200 yards. The summer weather was clear and warm with temperatures running about 80 degrees F and light winds.
Guns and Shooting Online staffers Chuck Hawks, Rocky Hays, Bob Fleck and Gordon Landers did the shooting. Shooting for record was done at 100 yards from a shooting bench using a Caldwell Lead Sled rifle rest weighted with two 25 pound bags of lead shot. We used Hoppe's "Crosshair" Sighting Targets and fired 3-shot groups, letting the barrel cool between shooters, but not between shot strings.
We shot groups for record with five types of ammunition. Two of these were economical Remington/UMC factory loads, one using a 45 grain JHP bullet at a MV of 3550 fps and the other with a 55 grain MC bullet at a MV of 3240 fps. Another was the excellent Hornady Varmint Express factory load, which drives a 55 grain V-Max bullet at a MV of 3240 fps.
The other two test loads were reloads that have worked well in other .223 rifles in the past. The first reload used a 50 grain Hornady V-Max bullet in front of 25.7 grains of H335 powder for a MV of 3300 fps. The second reload used a 60 grain Hornady Spire Point bullet in front of 23.0 grains of H335 for a MV of 3000 fps. Both reloads used Remington brass and CCI 400 primers. Here are the results:
AVERAGE GROUP SIZE FOR ALL AMMUNITION = 1.21".
That is good accuracy for any 7.5 pound (catalog weight) rifle. As you can see from the above results, it definitely preferred the 55 grain Hornady V-Max bullet as factory loaded by Hornady and it didn't like the inexpensive Rem./UMC factory loads. Our test rifle, with its scope and mounts, has an empty weight of 8.75 pounds. That is a reasonable weight for shooting from unsupported positions (sans rest) in the field, which is practically impossible with the heavy Savage Long Range Precision Varminter rifle that we happened to be testing at the same time. The big Savage demonstrated superior intrinsic accuracy from a bench rest, but the Kimber is easier to shoot quickly and accurately in the field.
The comparison in the paragraph above is not intended to slight either rifle. They are designed for quite different shooting styles and applications. If I were a wayward rodent, I would not want a hunter with either rifle beading-in on me.
In operation, the LongMaster is conventional in every way. There were no malfunctions or problems of any kind. Anyone with even a rudimentary familiarity with bolt action rifles should have no problem using a Kimber. The controlled feed action is smooth and positive and allows loading a single cartridge directly into the chamber, a benefit at the rifle range.
The LongMaster's trigger is very sharply curved and we found it to be less comfortable than typical, more gently curved triggers. Rocky found this trigger to be uncomfortable; the rest of us had no real problem with the trigger, but we all would have preferred it with a less pronounced curve.
The Kimber Model 84M LongMaster is less specialized than most varmint rifles these days. We have become so used to bench rest varmint rifles, prone varmint rifles, ultra-long range varmint rifles and extra heavy varmint rifles intended to be used from a bench rest or near a vehicle that general purpose varmint rifles like the Kimber LongMaster have become comparatively rare. Odd, when you think about it. Perhaps in today's topsy-turvy world it is the LongMaster that has become the specialty niche rifle.
However you classify it, this Kimber varmint rifle does its job neatly and unobtrusively. If you are thinking that a general purpose varmint rifle might be a worthwhile addition to your rifle battery, you should take a look at Kimber's elegant LongMaster.
RIFLE REVIEW SUMMARY
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