Kimber 84M LPT 308 Winchester
Tactical bolt-action rifles are pretty easy to spot. Typically, they utilize a composite stock with pronounced pistol grip, oversize bolt handle and fire from a heavy barrel. The military models are camouflage or earth tone in color, and the law-enforcement models are usually black. Accuracy, strength, and simplicity are key attributes. Gun Tests magazine recently asked: “Can a tactical rifle serve as a hunting rifle?” They weren’t saying one can’t. But they noted that a tactical rifle typically weighs more than a hunting model. The heavy barrel enhances the ability to maintain accuracy throughout repeat fire and excessive heat. In addition, tactical rifles tend to be more suitable for longer distance shots and offer ergonomics that favor the prone position or other means of support. Compared to hunting rifles that feature adornments such as engravings or fancy wood, the tactical rifle is stark and businesslike. They evaluated the $1315 Kimber 84M LPT chambered for 308 Winchester aimed at the law-enforcement market. The rifle featured a full-float barrel and black synthetic stock.
The test procedure was straightforward. Shooting from bench support they fired groups at paper targets placed 100 yards downrange. Beyond accuracy data, they judged the rifle as a total package after taking careful note of characteristics displayed by the trigger and the bolt. They also wanted to know how willingly the rifle took to the shoulder and related to a variety of support. The rifle was fired from sandbags, a mechanical rest, from prone position and seated with bipod support.
When it came to choosing optics for the test, they weighed the advice of one staffer who had taken the position that he would rather own one good expensive scope than have several lesser optics, so they shot all the guns with a $1783 Nightforce 5.5-22X50mm NXS scope. Fitted with an illuminated mil-dot reticle, this scope has been in use by one of their long-range specialists for more than two years. The open-face mil-dots, which appear as small loops, have proven helpful when determining elevation for targets at an undetermined distance. They mounted the 31-ounce scope using 30mm Nightforce rings fit with half-inch bolts. The use of a 65-inch-pound torque wrench made fast work of swapping the scope from one rifle to another.
Test ammunition included three selections of factory ammunition. They recorded five-shot groups firing Remington 180-grain Nosler Partition No. PRP308WB, Remington 168-grain Boat Tail Hollow Point Match No. R308W7, and 175-grain Boat Tail Hollow Point rounds from Black Hills Ammunition. Making use of the powerful Nightforce scope, they were able to use small target dots from Birchwood Casey measuring little more than 1 inch across. They also fired three-shot groups of some of their favorite handloads developed for lower recoil and accuracy at moderate distance. Their handloaded ammunition consisted of filling each cartridge case with an identical charge of IMR 4064 powder atop Winchester Large Rifle primers. They then seated three different bullets from Sierra (www.SierraBullets.com). They were the 165-grain Spitzer Boat Tail bullets No. 2145, 165-grain boat tail hollow points No. 2140, and the 150-grain Spitzer bullets No. 2130. The rifle was fired to produce a single three-shot group with each handload. Weather conditions varied during our 9 a.m. to noon sessions, with calm winds in the morning and gusts exceeding 10 mph toward midday. The rifle was treated to a break-in regimen of one shot and clean; two shots and clean; three shots, clean; four shots, clean; and finally five shots and clean. With little interference from the weather, they thought they were able to accurately assess the test rifle. Here’s their report:
The Kimber 84M LPT (Light Police Tactical) rifle is a weapon that makes an immediate visual impression. The black synthetic stock was solid with a matte pebbled finish. The fore end and pistol grip were knurled to improve grip. This pattern camouflaged the block letters LPT along the fore end. Our Kimber rifle was built for right-handed shooters. The oversize pistol grip was further enhanced by a palm swell on the right side. The left side of the comb was built up, offering a broad expansive wall on which to rest the cheek. But the right side of the comb was abbreviated, producing a sharp edge for the left-handed shooter. As we went to press we learned that the 2010 84M LPT models would feature a neutral profile to its comb and butt stock. It just so happened that our test shooter, an accomplished NRA High Power competitor, was left handed. He did not find this bias difficult to overcome but remarked that the change to a neutral profile stock was welcome news.
The bottom of the stock was fit with one sling stud to the rear and two sling studs up front. These can be used to attach a bipod on one and the top of the sling to the other. The right side of the stock was relieved for the bolt handle, but the knob was oversize, tapering to one full inch at the end cap. A five-round internal magazine with floor plate release located inside the trigger guard at the lower end of the forward arc capped the bottom of the action. Above the action was a sturdy, clean-looking one-piece scope mount. At first our staff reported that it took some extra care to load the rifle on a single round basis because of the way the scope mount crossed the breech. But another member of our staff who does a lot of Practical Pistol competition remarked that it reminded her of a magazine well. Indeed, the center of the mount did not simply lie horizontally across the opening. Instead it offered a smooth 90-degree arch that could be used to guide the round into place. To illustrate, we found it possible to tilt the rifle with the bolt closed, chamber empty, place a fresh round on top of the bolt and load the breech by pulling back the bolt. The round would roll off the underside of the mount and fall into place ahead of the bolt. We doubt this procedure will find its way into the owner’s manual but it might show up in a movie someday.
The bolt had a moderately long throw, but the huge bolt handle gave us plenty of leverage, enough to make it fun. A three-position safety was mounted on the right. Swept fully to the rear, it locked both the trigger and the bolt. The intermediate position prevented the trigger from moving but allowed the bolt to be manipulated. With the safety pushed fully forward, the rifle was ready to fire. The barrel of the Kimber was only about 1.6 inches shorter. This is because the Kimber LPT varied from the standard Tactical profile by working through a Sporter style barrel. This means that the barrel was tapered from the receiver to its smallest diameter at the muzzle. In addition, the surface of the barrel was fluted. By milling indentations into the surface of the barrel that run lengthwise over the bore the barrel not only becomes lighter but introduces more surface area from which to disperse heat. The crown of the barrel was recessed only by the subtle convex profile at the front of the barrel. The most remarkable aspect of this 9.2-pound rifle was its balance. It felt like the lightest weight rifle in the test.
The trigger on our Kimber was a single-stage action. The face of the trigger was highly polished, and its tight arc seemed to grab our trigger finger. There was no take-up in this trigger, just a crisp snap. Although it weighed in at 3.0 pounds, we think this is the kind of trigger we hope to obtain when we send a rifle to a top custom gunsmith. According to the owner’s manual the trigger is adjustable for over travel, depth of sear engagement and weight of pull. But the manual does not instruct how to make adjustments and warns against changing the factory setting. We don’t think the trigger could be improved anyway. We wondered if the trigger would pay off at the shooting bench and if there would be any adverse effect such as vibration from the narrow profile barrel. Our handloading team remarked that barrel vibration is a characteristic that can be taken into account when preparing ammunition. But we needn’t have worried.
Our handloads delivered groups of 0.4 inches, 0.5 inches and 0.6 inches respectively for the 165-grain Boat Tail, 165-grain Boat Tail Spitzer, and 150-grain Spitzer bullets from Sierra. The Kimber showed a distinct preference for the 168-grain Boat Tail hollow points from Remington, averaging just over 0.7 inches across for five shots. Given the 1:12 inch twist to the barrel we might have predicted these results in comparison to our test ammunition topped with heavier bullets. Our 175-grain and 180-grain factory loads produced groups that averaged about 1.1 inches across. Modern law enforcement rounds typically featuring light to moderate weight bullets should excel in the Kimber LPT rifle.
Gun Tests Said: The superb balance of the 84M LPT made this 9-pound rifle much easier to handle. The stock featured the best pistol grip, and we loved the texture of the synthetic material. Five-round internal magazine capacity should satisfy those who would prefer a removable magazine. The latest version of this rifle will forego the bias of a one-sided raised comb. Hopefully the super match-quality single-stage trigger will remain.