By Law Enforcement Firearms
Although many officers associate Kimber with their top quality line of 1911-pattern pistols, the company’s reputation was originally built on their rifles. In fact, the Kimber brand began in Oregon with superb sporting rifles that featured highly-polished blue metal and well-figured walnut stocks. Even in those early days, Kimber’s rifle line was well known for one other feature, namely fantastic accuracy. In 1986, I purchased a .223 Kimber on their miniature Mauser action and was amazed at its accuracy. It had consistent ∏ Minute of Angle (MOA) with selected factory match loads. I had the opportunity to be able to sit down with Kimber’s founder and encouraged him to use their accuracy techniques to build a sniper rifle. Eventually, Kimber changed ownership and moved production to New York. Fortunately for law enforcement, they have finally put their talent and experience into a line of dedicated sniper rifles. Kimber’s lineup starts with the Light Police Tactical (LPT) with an unscoped weight just over eight pounds. The Tactical model uses their larger 8400 action, with a heavier barrel, bringing its weight to a shade over nine pounds. With a sticker price of $2,497, the flagship Advanced Tactical version features a McMillan A-5 synthetic stock with adjustable comb height and length-of-pull.
|Kimber 8400 Tactical Rifle with McMillan stock.|
In reviewing the new Kimber sniper offerings, we must compare them to the sniper variations of Remington’s Model 700 rifle. Such a comparison is required because almost every bolt-action sniper rifle in use in US law enforcement today uses the Remington action. The USMC’s M40A3 and the Army’s M24 sniper rifles are also built on the Remington action. Certainly, a few agencies use rifles built on other bolt-action receivers, and some use semi-auto rifles. However, Remington essentially owns this market.
When bolt action rifles ruled the battlefields in World War I (and World War II for all except the US), they generally utilized a controlled-feed action. Rifles such as the German 98 Mauser and our Springfield 1903, fed the cartridges by hooking them under the extractor as they left the magazine. The controlled-feed action was thought to be essential for a combat rifle because it prevented a double-feed if the operator bobbled the bolt-throw sequence under stress. Rifles like the Remington 700 are known as push-feed actions because they only hook the extractor onto a cartridge as it is fully seated in the chamber. Theoretically, a controlled-feed action, like the new Kimber, should be a better fighting rifle. However, push-feeds, similar to the Remington system have a solid reputation in the field.
|Kimber’s LPT Rifle.|
Kimber did have one advantage in waiting so long to get into the sniper rifle game: they were able to incorporate all of the best features that have evolved in bolt-action sniper rifles. Starting at the top, the Kimber rifles come with a Picatinny rail already in place for mounting a scope. In the Tactical and Advanced Tactical models, this rail is offset by 20 MOA of elevation to allow most scopes to adjust for 1,000 yard shooting with the .308 Winchester cartridge. Police snipers will probably never fire at 1,000 yards, but most top shelf sniper rifles now include offset mounting systems. Also, the Picatinny rail is mounted with four oversize 8-40 screws, substantially beefing up the strength of the mounting system.
The bolt handles on these Kimber rifles have an oversized knob, ensuring an ease-of-operation from a shooting position. The McMillan synthetic stocks featured on these rifles are tank-tough and are proven in combat with the Marine’s M40 series of rifles. At the bottom of the action, Kimber’s floorplate is solid steel. Remington’s factory sniper rifles use an aluminum floorplate assembly that some find too weak to hold up to extended use. The military models based on the Remington action use steel floorplates. Kimber wisely did the same.
Most importantly, how does the Kimber sniper rifle shoot? I received their top model for testing and evaluation: the Advanced Tactical. I mounted a Leupold Mark 4 – 3.5-10x40mm LR/T M1 scope with the illuminated Mil-Dot reticle, grabbed an assortment of .308 caliber match loads from my stash and headed for the range. I fired about 20 rounds, with a break-in pattern of cleaning after every round for a few cycles, and still got nice preliminary groups. When I settled down to serious shooting, I got three shot groups hovering around ∏ MOA at 100 yards with just about any brand of match-grade ammunition. Even with my more mature eyesight, the Kimber easily delivered on its guarantee for half-minute accuracy.
The McMillan A-5 stock allowed me to remove a ∏ inch spacer and adjust the length-of-pull to my liking. I didn’t need the adjustable comb to get centered behind the Leupold Mark 4 scope, but larger scopes with higher mounts will require the comb to be elevated. I tried several shots with the comb elevated and found that the locking screws for the comb adjustment tended to vibrate loose after a few shots. You’ll need to really crank down on those screws once you’re comfortable with the setting. Kimber rifles are known for their sweet triggers. Case-in-point: my old .223 rifle has the best trigger of any rifle in my rack, including a couple that have been extensively customized. The Advanced Tactical rifle’s trigger wasn’t quite as nice as my .223, but it broke consistently at 2 pounds 10 ounces with just a hint of creep. Complete with the Leupold scope in their Mark 4 rings and a Harris bipod, the Advanced Tactical weighs just under 13 pounds. The weight makes it very steady to shoot, but is at the upper limit of what I’d want to carry for long distances.
In my opinion, the Kimber Advanced Tactical rifle delivers custom rifle performance at a significant savings from the going prices for a custom-built rifle. The Advanced Tactical and Leupold Mark 4 combination costs about the same as many custom sniper rifles without a scope. Kimber’s LPT rifle is substantially lighter, using their smaller Model 84 action, a thinner diameter-fluted barrel and a fixed-length McMillan stock. At a price almost 50 percent less than the top shelf Advanced Tactical, the LPT is priced competitively with any factory sniper rifle. Kimber builds a lot more than pistols. These new Kimber sniper rifles are definitely worth serious consideration. For now, all of the Kimber sniper rifles are in the .308 Winchester chambering, far and away the most popular police sniper caliber. The models using the 8400 series action could easily be chambered for the .300 Winchester Magnum or perhaps even the .338 Lapua, making them an option for military snipers who need truly long-range capabilities.
About the Author
Richard Fairburn is a Critical Incident and Firearms Trainer.