My rifle, the Kimber Montana

R0001888Back on my first real elk hunt in Montana Dick and I got to talking about a lighter rifle for the backcountry.  Many ideas were thrown around, but after some consideration it was decided that a new Kimber Montana in .308 would be the best, most versatile option.  Shortly after he headed back to Ohio Dick took matters into his own hands and before the end of that hunting season I had a new rifle in hand, one which shaved almost 2 pounds off my Remington 700 in .30-06.

R0001889My Montana has a Leupold 4×33 scope, and Dick cut 2 inches off the factory barrel, bringing it down to a practical 20.  After hunting out the last part of the 2013 season I proceeded to monkey with it a bit over the coming year; installing a larger and incrementally lighter titanium bolt knob, a lighter (and black) aluminum trigger guard, flush cups on the left side of the stock, and giving it a Duracoat paint job (Desert Warrior Dark Earth).  I also used JB Weld to build up a bit of a palm swell on the sides of the pistol grip.  The first set of mods dropped weight, while the later half added it back.  As pictured, my rifle is just a hair under 6 pounds empty.

R0001892Flush cups allow for a slung carry over your back which does not have the trigger guard poking you.  Installing these on a Montana bears some explication.  The Montana stock is a very hard kevlar/carbon shell filled with fairly unsubstantial foam.  Even with a brand new Forstner bit it takes a lot of effort to get through the former, even though it’s less than 2mm thick.  To give the cups a bit more to bite into, I back filled the inside edges of the holes with epoxy, and added a bit to the exterior as well.  Once this cured I tapped it, coated the flush cup threads with more epoxy, then screwed them in and let the whole thing set.  Thus far they’ve proven both handy and durable.

The Duracoat has proven quite satisfactory, though after a lot of use it’s showing plenty of wear.  I used a shake and spray kit, which is effective so long as you keep the whole thing well warmed (tough in the dead of winter).  I like the color very much; they ought to rename it Mule Deer.

IMG_1299The light weight of the Kimber has proven to be a massive asset, but the improved balance and ergonomics have let me take to it in a way I never did with the Remington.  In fact, over the winter I purchased a Bell and Carlson mountain rifle stock for the 700 which almost copies the dimensions of the Kimber stock, and while I haven’t really wrung the new .30-06 out yet, I think this version will get a lot more use.

I did have a few feeding issues early on, which is a problem with a blind magazine.  These were solved definitively by two things, making certain all the roads are fully to the back of the magazine (there isn’t much extra, and if they’re a bit forward the nose tends to catch), and polishing the feed ramps of the follower and edges of the magazine box with 1500 grit sandpaper.  Since I did this I’ve been able to run through magazine as fast as I can work the bolt, with no issues at all.  The larger, “tactical” ti knob helps with this.

R0001893Big variables are in fashion, but I find the small Leupold exceptionally effective and easy to use.  The eye relief is considerable, and the eyebox exceedingly forgiving.  Unlike the 3-9×40 on the 700, the 4x always gives me a perfect sight picture immediately upon shouldering.  At my current skill level, the magnification and reticle do not hold me back.

The .308 cartridge has been effective on a variety of deer-sized and smaller game from 50 to 300 yards.  Not having yet used it on either bear or elk, I haven’t given it much of a test.

R0001898While backpacking I always carry my rifle in a gunbearer, but I occasionally use a sling day hunting, and always bring one on backpacking trips for easy carry around camp.  You just never know when you’ll see something, after all.  My sling is a length of extra thick 1″ polyester webbing, with a single triglide for adjustment, mounted on Blue Force gear swivels, which are expensive but a lot trimmer and generally more quality feeling than similar offerings from Magpul and others.  Field accessories are rounded out by a neoprene scope cover, ammo, and electrical tape over the muzzle to keep out obstructions, as well as extra tape around the barrel, and the drop chart and angle compensation ratios taped to the scope.

To quote Evan Hill, “…the best parts of material culture are the ones that are both utilitarian and expressive.”  Aside from good shoes, there is nothing more utilitarian than something which allows you to feed yourself and those whose continued existence you prize.  This goes a long way towards explaining why, in a short period of time, I’ve become so attached to this rifle, moreso than bikes and skis I’ve had for far longer.  It’d be one of the first things, along with my packrafts, I’d grab if the house was on fire.  A rifle is similar to a mountain bike or ski rig in that optimal function isn’t as simple as trouble-free operation, but is found in a close bond between tool and user.  Given my brief history in shooting, I’m very happy at home at home I’ve become with this rifle.  I don’t think it’s a coincidence, but rather the result of good design.

After all, there’s a reason Kimber did not name it the Colorado.

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10 thoughts on “My rifle, the Kimber Montana

  1. nice Kimber Dave 🙂 I think you’ll find the .308 more than sufficient for bear/elk (although it is tough to beat the .06 for Montana’s larger critters), bullet selection will be become more important than it is for deer size game

    if you ever think you want a little more scope, the 2×7 VX-II is roughly the same size and just 1.5 oz heavier

    one of these days I’m going to pony up for a Kimber, it would shave about a pound off of my Featherweight- although the Featherweight is definitely an A+ in the beauty department

    Mike

  2. Very nice rifle. Would love to have a Kimber if they offer ones for left-eye dominated shooters.

    Still holding out for a left-handed mountain rifle so the Sako L579 in my possession won’t get abused. Thought about Forbes, until I read about the quality control.

    1. There were several Forbes at the local gun shop the other month, a .270, .30-06, and .308. Nice and light with a thicker barrel contour than the Kimber. The stock is more Remington-esque with more drop in the comb and a more closed grip, neither of which I like. The action seemed slick, but the 700 style safety cutout looks like I did it with a dremel (not a compliment!) and seemed like it’d be a pine needle and sand collecting machine. Certainly a good option if the QC issues get sorted, but the Kimber has really made me appreciate a M70 style action and safety

  3. My research proved that the Montana was finnicky and lacking in comfort, so when I paired that with the price I opted for something else for my first rifle. Would you say that given your experience with long guns (e.g. your modifications) overcomes how picky the gun is said to be? As for comfort I’m not really sold on the idea that a gun needs to lack huge recoil since other than sighting in on range days all-day comfort isn’t necessary in a weapon that I’m only hoping to have to pull the trigger once per hunt. The idea of shaving 2+ pounds off overall weight from only a single piece of gear while maintaining (or perhaps increasing) quality is pretty spectacular.

    1. The Montana has cultivated an online reputation as being not so accurate, or at least erratically so gun to gun. I don’t shoot that much, nor have I owned many rifles, but it does seem to me that this has been exaggerated by the insular vortex of online opinion. It also seems to me that everyone involved in such online discussion is in the top 5% of shooters, which seems implausible. I may run into the mechanical precision limits of the Montana at some point, but that will take a long time.

      Separate from this is the myth that a light rifle is harder to shoot and/or less precise than a heavier one. For field use I think this is largely rubbish. My arms are much more comfortable shouldering a 6 pound fancy stick than an 8 pound one, so I shoot it better.

      Recoil is a big deal, because I need to practice a fair bit with my hunting rifle to really feel comfortable using it to it’s potential. Practice with other centerfires or a rimfire only goes so far. I can shoot 10-15 rounds from the Montana before I start to feel it, and maybe 20 before I reach the point of diminishing returns (and soreness the next day). It took me a good few months to get to that point. I’d add that I’m probably pretty sensitive to recoil, as well as relatively small of stature and without much natural padding in the shoulder. The .30-06, still over 7 pounds in the new stock, recoils enough that I cannot yet shoot it well enough to be satisfied. The straight stock design of the Kimber does mitigate the effects of recoil well.

      The Montana is (to me) a very aesthetically pleasing tool, which should not be understated in a rifle.

      1. I guess the jury will remain forever out on whether the gun is erratic or not. None of us will ever truly be able to wade through the heaps of misinformation out there and in my case I’ll simply take the words and advice of a few of the voices I trust. As for the points you make on practicing I hadn’t taken that as much into consideration as I spread my sighting and practicing sessions out over the course of the entire summer and never shot more than a dozen rounds on any given day. If I was to up that to 20 or more rounds I could see how the effects would certainly create diminishing returns. Thanks for taking the time to pen a response.

      2. The hardest thing with researching guns is everyone is an expert, and very few are good at shooting. So, the only opinions I trust are the ones who are out in the field the most aka guides. I haven’t read a lot of bad things about Kimber from guides; more like from average Joes.

        But I hear you on the recoil. My stepdad likes to laugh at me because he grew up with a British Enfield, and military rifles kick a lot harder than sporting rifles. But he hasn’t gotten the memo most Americans and Canadians modify their Enfields, Parkers and Springfields for easier use.

        But maybe I should spend some range time with my Winchester 1895 and learn to deal with it. Those Russian 7.62x54R kick hard.

        I like my Sako L579 and L46 as they are lighter than most of the mountain rifles I have handled so far with minimal recoil, but they are from the 1950s, and I rather preserve them. Plus, operating a right-hand rifle with a left eye is time consuming. So, hence the interest in synthetic stainless steel.

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