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Well Worth the Weight: Kimber 84M Mountain Ascent Review

by Craig Boddington   |  February 13th, 2013 4


There’s one thing I don’t like about Kimber’s new Mountain Ascent: It only comes with a right-hand bolt. This drives me up the wall, but there isn’t a darn thing I can do about it. And, realistically, if I were a manufacturer, I’d probably coddle to the right-handed majority rather than the minority lefty market. But with this rifle it irks me, because I like it a lot.

The Mountain Ascent isn’t a fancy rifle; it’s a synthetic-and-stainless bolt action with significant upgrades, essentially an extension of Kimber’s Model 84 line in two versions: Models 84M and 84L. The 84M is a short-action rifle chambered (initially) to .308 Winchester with a 22-inch barrel. The 84L is based on a .30-06-length action with a 24-inch barrel. Chamberings are .270 Winchester, .280 Ackley Improved and .30-06.

Both action and barrel are stainless coated with KimPro II weatherproofing in an attractive shale-gray color. The stock is Kevlar-reinforced carbon fiber finished with Gore Optifade in the digital Open Country pattern. The stock isn’t checkered but really doesn’t need to be; the finish gives a feel that is almost like rubber, allowing a sure grip even with wet and cold hands (I tried it in a Canadian snowstorm).

Light Done Right
It’s arguably more pleasant to carry a light rifle up a mountain than a heavy one, but the Ascent is a full-size rifle with standard barrel lengths and stock dimensions, four-round magazine capacity and full-house performance. Nothing needs to be said about the capabilities of the .270, .308 and .30-06, but it probably should be noted that the .280 Ackley Improved in a 24-inch barrel comes awfully close to 7mm Remington Magnum performance.

And yet the weight—or lack thereof—is astounding: The 84M in .308 weighs four pounds, 13 ounces; the 84L with 24-inch barrel weighs five pounds, five ounces. To achieve these tidy numbers, Kimber engineers pretty much used every trick in the book. The Kevlar-reinforced stock, although sturdy, is very light. The rifle has a blind magazine (no floorplate), and the triggerguard is extremely light. These features alone would yield a light rifle, but not this light.

The barrel is very slender and fluted for the first half. The bolt is sort of “slim-line,” plenty big enough for the .30-06 case-head family, but I don’t think you’ll see magnum chamberings on this particular action. Finally, the engineers started shaving ounces—the bolt body has spiral fluting, and the bolt handle is fluted and hollowed out.

The basic action is essentially the same one Kimber’s been building for a long time—essentially, a Mauser/Model 70 clone with dual opposing locking lugs, long Mauser extractor, controlled-round feed and three-position cocking-piece safety. But it’s been downsized to the .308/.30-06 families, and as much metal as possible has been removed. There are some rifles that are lighter. But not full-size ones. And not over-the-counter ones either.

To Brake or Not to Break
I’ve never made it a secret that I don’t like muzzlebrakes. They’re noisy, and I need all the hearing I have left. So I prefer to steer clear of them. That said, they work. Actual recoil attenuation is hard to measure; it depends a lot on the arrangement of the holes (which also affects noise level), but the speed of the bullet makes a difference. In any case, if you told me a muzzlebrake reduced felt recoil by about 40 percent, I’d accept that number.

Generally speaking, however, I don’t worry too much about recoil at the performance level of the cartridges this rifle is chambered to. Except for one mitigating factor. Gun weight is one of the most important factors affecting recoil. The easiest way to dampen things is to add gun weight. The easiest way to accentuate recoil is to remove it. Make no mistake, even a .270 that is this light is going to kick, and a .308 under five pounds (and a .30-06 weighing a half-pound more) will belt you.

Speaking for myself, you can’t get rifles chambered to these cartridges light enough to hurt, but I do a lot more centerfire shooting than many people, and I’m twice the size of some people who might like the Mountain Ascent. So it comes standard with a muzzlebrake and I think that’s good. It is not a particularly obnoxious muzzlebrake, but if you decide to leave it on, hearing protection is strongly recommended, even for that one shot in the field.

Whether you leave it on is up to you. The Mountain Ascent’s muzzlebrake is removable, with tool supplied, and a screw-on thread protector is also supplied. This really does give you the best of both worlds. You can practice on the range to your heart’s content and not get beat up in the process. Then, if you choose, you can unscrew the muzzlebrake and leave it at home when you go hunting. Because of the very light gun weight, I do recommend using the brake on the range. Whether you should remove it for hunting is really up to you. As I said, the muzzle blast from this brake isn’t as bad as many, but it’s important to note that the blast is always worse for hunting partners and guides who find themselves to your right or left. One more thing: Check zero with and without the brake. Some rifles vary and some don’t, so you can’t accept a constant zero unless you check it out at the range.

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