Kimber is a company primarily known for their line of nice 1911 pistols; in fact they state that they are the largest manufacturer of 1911s. But they also produce a line of USA made bolt action rifles and a few years back they decided to start building a line of Tactical Rifles as well. They have four different models starting with the 84M LPT, which we will be reviewing at a later date, as well as the 8400 Police Tactical, 8400 Tactical and 8400 Advanced Tactical. We decided to do the initial review on one of the McMillan stock versions and opted for the 8400 Tactical rifle and ordered one up in 308 Win.
The 8400 series action is a slightly larger 84M action to accommodate standard length cartridges as well as magnum and short magnum cartridges. The action is a Mauser style action with a full claw extractor and control round feeding. The dimensions are kept as small as Kimber felt comfortable with so what you end up with is a Mauser style action with a bit less bulk.
For you Winchester and safety minded fans, the bolt has a Winchester style three position safety mounted on the bolt shroud. The three positions are: fire, safe with bolt cycling, and safe with bolt locked. I would like a bit more positive detent in the second (middle) safety position so you can feel it better when operating with gloved or cold hands, but it is visually easy to identify when you are there. The bolt release is on the left hand side of the action and is easy to locate and to operate. On the 8400 Tactical and 8400 Advanced Tactical, Kimber does true the bolt face, hand finish the chambers and hand laps the lugs on the action. It is not a complete truing of the action but they do hit some of the major components and it is more than a standard mass produced rifle.
The bolt has a large tactical style knob on it which is a nice standard feature to have and does offer some advantages when using gloved hands. The bolt throw itself is fairly long but cycling the action is smooth for a full claw extractor style action. It will probably never be as smooth as a push feed style action, like a Remington 700, but it offers superior extraction and positive feeding. That positive feeding does require that the rounds be inserted into the 5 round internal magazine so there is no single feeding by just dropping a round on top of the follower and closing the bolt.
The trigger is a match trigger that is adjustable and it does break nicely. The literature states that the triggers are set at the factory from 3.0 – 3.5 lbs, but my trigger scale indicated this one was 3.75 lbs, though I will admit that it could be instrumentation error. The trigger does have a very wide trigger shoe that is smooth and it felt very nice and provides plenty of surface area for your trigger finger. The floorplate is a standard hinged floorplate design with a release on the inside of the trigger guard and the trigger guard itself is large enough for gloved fingers.
The barrel is a Kimber chrome-moly barrel that is 24″ long and of heavy “sporter” contour. From what I can tell the Heavy Sporter contour tapers a bit quicker toward the muzzle to a smaller muzzle diameter than a standard heavy barrel. At the action the barrel diameter is 1.2″ and it has a gradual taper at first but as you approach the muzzle the taper becomes more pronounced and the diameter ends up at .752″. It is a little thinner than most heavy barrels at the muzzle but the as I indicated, the taper is gradual at first. The crown is a recessed crown to protect it from dings and nicks. The barrel is free floated all the way back to the receiver with a nice even gap on both sides of the barrel. Kimber states that the barrel is of match quality and has a hand finished match chamber.
All of the metal work has a nice uniform matte black bluing that provides a nice over all appearance. The finish on the bolt wore fairly quickly in the high wear areas which is typical for a bluing finish but overall the quality of the bluing is nice and is of better quality than a standard Remington production rifle. One of the more advanced modern finishes would be nice on this tactical rifle, but traditional bluing still continues to work. A nice touch is that the follower on the rifle is also finished in matte black.
The stock is a McMillan A5 with a marble finish using the colors black, grey and green. It is an interesting color pattern but does work well enough. The A5 stock has been much talked about on this site as well as plenty of other people in the tactical community and it the most popular McMillan A series tactical stock, and for good reason. It has all the right features and proportions and makes an excellent tactical rifle stock. I have no complaints with the choice of the A5 for a tactical rifle. The action is glass bedded to the stock though I did notice that the bedding does not come all the way up the sides of the action in the stock, which many custom rifle builders do. Honestly, I am not sure how much that really has on the bedding job, but just something I noticed.
The rifle does include a scope mounting rail which is nice and avoids the problem of finding a good quality rail for a fairly specialized action. The rail on our sample only had one cross slot in the rear and three in the front and I would much rather the slots span the entire rail as it should on a picatinny rail. I did notice that the latest rifles from Kimber appear to have a rail with slots that span the full length.
By using the A5 stock, a fairly compact action and a 24″ barrel with a heavy sporter contour, Kimber was able to keep the weight of the rifle fairly low. The rifle with scope mounting rail comes in at under 10 lbs which is good for tactical rifles which tend to have quite thick barrels and lots of other goodies such as “sniper fill” stocks, accessory rails, and other features that all drive the weight of the rifle up. The 8400 Tactical rides a good balance of required features and weight. This all helps to make the rifle handle quite nicely.
For our initial shooting sessions we mounted a Nikon Monarch X 2.5-10x44mm Tactical scope using Nightforce .885″ height 30mm rings. I was able to get the general shooting and field impressions using this scope and then to get some good solid accuracy tests I mounted our trusty Leupold VXIII LR 6.5-20x50mm using leupold Mk4 rings. The Monarch Tactical is the permanent duty scope that will remain on the rifle and it makes a nice match.
For the accuracy tests I used both HSM 168gr HPBT Match and Federal Gold Medal Match 168gr ammo. With the Nikon 2.5-10x44mm scope the rifle shot in the .552 – .702″ range which is not stellar, but the rifle showed good accuracy potential when I concentrated. Changing out the optics to the Leupold 6.5-20x allowed for more precise aiming and as such the groups easily shrank to sub .5 MOA. The best group I fired was done with the Federal GMM and measured .352″ center to center and is pictured below. With the higher power optics the average group size for the Federal GMM was right around .50″. While Kimber does not make any accuracy guarantees, this particular rifle is a sub .5 MOA rifle.
As I noted earlier, the claw extractor actions are fantastic for extraction and controlled feeding, but they do give up some in terms of smoothness compared to a push feed style action. You can tell the 8400 has had some polishing work done as it did cycle smoothly and I suspect over time it will smooth up even more. When doing rapid fire bolt drills the action seems to perform well, almost as if a strong hand is desirable for the action. The rifle did digest and perform all of the drills I wanted it to without problem.
Long range shooting was about as you would expect with no surprises provided the shooter did his part. I did not shoot any groups for measuring at longer ranges but did several engagements for overall shooting impressions.
Overall impressions of the Kimber are favorable as it is a nice rifle, but just where exactly does it fit in the tactical rifle world? It is not a full custom rifle, but they are hand built with procedures and parts that are common on custom tactical rifles. Because they are more of a production line rifle without all the custom pieces and options, prices are kept fairly reasonable with a suggested retail price under $2000 and street prices a bit lower than that. I believe that particular market is a good place to strive to put a rifle like this and I think Kimber has done a nice job with the product. Judging the rifle on those merits and against the other rifles in its class, it compares favorably. There are other mass produced rifles at lower cost that you might compare the Kimber against, but they do not have many of the features the Kimber does like glass bedding, McMillan stock, and hand tuned parts. The rifle is not without shortcomings, but overall I have a favorable opinion of this rifle for what it is and the price range it is targeted for.
Sniper Central – 2010