Rifle Review: Kimber Hunter Provides Performance, Affordability

The new Kimber Hunter rifle line, available in popular calibers, makes high performance more obtainable thanks to an affordable price point.
Rifle Review: Kimber Hunter Provides Performance, Affordability

Kimber rifles have historically been just out of reach for many budget-conscious hunters, but that’s not the case anymore.

The company’s Hunter line of bolt-action rifles is mid-priced by today’s standards, with prices starting under $900. The line represents an opportunity for you to offer your customers high-quality rifle performance at a more obtainable price.

According to Kimber’s director of marketing communications, Jordan Hunter, the Kimber Hunter rifle was “made with intent” in response to Eastern hunters who wanted a rifle more in line with their needs.

Though I am now a resident western-state hunter, I hunted out East for the first 30 years of my hunting career. I can say authoritatively that the Kimber Hunter rifle is going to be right at home, whether your deer camp is in a snowy Vermont cabin or a breezy wall tent in the arid Southwest.

I say that because the features on the Hunter are the same features you’d want on any well-made deer hunting rifle.

Kimber Hunter Features

At its heart is Kimber’s stainless steel 84 action and, while this rifle costs less than other Kimber lines using the exact same barreled actions, there is no cheapening. “The other rifle families have feature sets that are more expensive to manufacture,” Jordan explains of the price disparity. “For example, the Mountain Ascent and Montana feature performance lightening enhancements such as a lighter stock, skeletonized bolt and bolt handle, as well as fluted and threaded barrels.”

The Hunter's features include Kimber’s reliable, controlled round feed, a high-quality lightweight stock, detachable magazine and adjustable trigger. (Photo: Kimber)

What the Hunter does have, however, are such features as Kimber’s reliable controlled round feed, a high-quality lightweight stock, detachable magazine and adjustable trigger. “Often, people aren’t aware of the wide range of caliber offerings that are available for the Hunter line,” Jordan says.

Depending on exact model, Hunter chamberings include .243 Win., .257 Roberts, .25-06 Rem., 6.5 Creedmoor, .270 Win., 7mm-08 Rem., .280 Ackley Improved, .308 Win. and .30-06 Sprg. All are backed by Kimber’s sub-MOA accuracy guarantee that reads, “Kimber rifles are designed to be capable of shooting a 3-shot group of .99-inches or less at 100 yards by a highly skilled and qualified shooter using factory ammunition.”

While there are good reasons why other Kimber rifles cost more, there are also some reasons why the Hunter costs less. Perhaps the biggest cost-saving measures on the Hunter are its stock and lack of bottom metal.

The stock is a tough injection-molded synthetic material reinforced with a patent-pending honeycomb structure in the fore-end for added rigidity. George Hawthorn, Kimber’s rifle product engineer who developed the honeycomb, notes that the design “improves the stock’s strength-to-weight ratio” and “adds rigidity under torsional loading.” In other words, it won’t twist if you’re wrapped up tightly in a sling, shooting at a big buck from a field position.

Jordan sums up the new stock more simply saying, “The design ensures long-term dependability and accuracy.” Though less expensive, the stock is several steps above utilitarian. Pillar bedding and full barrel free-floating aid accuracy potential, while stippled panels on the wrist and forend provide some added grip to an otherwise slick stock. It retains the classic straight American lines that direct recoil into your shoulder, not up and over or into the cheekbone. And what recoil isn’t mitigated by the straight design is tempered by a 1-inch-thick rubber recoil pad.

Instead of a metal trigger guard, the Hunter’s is molded in as an integral part of the stock. It’s flush-fitting, three-round magazine has a synthetic floorplate and must be tipped in and out of the stock much like on an AK-47. However, on the Hunter, you tip the rear of the magazine in first, and the magazine release is in the front of the magazine box instead the AK’s receiver-mounted lever at the rear. Inserting the magazine takes a little getting used to, but it’s nothing a little range time won’t solve.

Kimber Hunter Performance

Kimber sent a Hunter Black chambered in .243 Win. for review. This variant differs from the others in the Hunter family in that its stainless steel action parts and barrel are blackened with Kimber’s matte KimPro II finish that reduces reflection and stands up against the elements and abuse. The stock is flat dark earth-colored. Other rifles in this family are available with various camouflage patterned stocks and natural stainless steel. Additionally, all have an adjustable trigger set at the factory between 3 1/2 and 4 pounds of pull.

The Kimber Hunter stock is a tough injection-molded synthetic material reinforced with a patent-pending honeycomb structure in the fore-end for added rigidity. It weighs just 5.5 pounds. (Photo: Scott Mayer)

I topped the Hunter Black with a 30mm Leica Magnus 1.5-10×42 scope. Ordinarily I’d consider this optic too large to put on such an ultra-light gun. However, it worked great. The gun remained nimble and well balanced, came quickly to the shoulder and stayed steady on target from various field positions. Maybe I’m just getting used to 30mm scopes as they become more the rule than the exception, but in my opinion, the comparatively large optic did nothing to diminish the svelte, trim look Kimber strives for in its rifles.

I started shooting with my go-to .243 Win. factory load — Hornady’s 100-grain Interlock. My wife, kids and I used that load almost exclusively for many years on our personal whitetail deer hunts when we lived back East. There’s nothing sexy about it — it’s just accurate and kills deer — plus, I know what to expect from it.

When the Kimber started giving me 1 1/2-inch groups, I was a little shocked and sadly disappointed. Three groups in, though, it was as if a switch flipped. All subsequent groups were sub-1/2-inch, including one bug-size group that measured a tiny 0.26 inches. Clearly, this Hunter more than lived up to Kimber’s accuracy expectations and guarantee.

I clean the bores of rifles between loads so each one has an equal and fair starting point, and maybe that was a mistake with the Kimber Hunter. The next load I tried was Federal’s Fusion 95-grain soft-point — the one with the boron nitride coated bullet. I had never used that load before and didn’t know what to expect, so I did a little research on it. Judging from the comments on various websites, it seems many guns don’t like this load, and neither did this Kimber. Though Federal still lists the load (F243FS1), it does not currently identify it as coated, so maybe the coating for this bullet was one of those things that seemed like a good idea at the time, yet wasn’t.

Comments from Hunter rifle owners suggest that the group shrinkage I experienced with the Hornady load might not be an isolated incident. One of Cabela’s verified purchasers, WestslopeJR, comments of his Hunter, “Accuracy from the Kimber was highly variable with seven to eight different kinds of factory ammo through the first 60-100 rounds. Now with over 200 rounds it reliably shoots three shot groups of one MOA or better.” This is not an indication of any “problem” with Hunter rifles; some individual guns simply “settle in” and then continue to shoot more accurately.

Other owners got their sub-MOA accuracy right out of the box. Byjherald posts on Cabela’s website, “Sub MOA with the first loads I fired through it at 100 yards,” and By1longshot calls his Kimber Hunter in .243 Win. an “amazing little rifle” and says “the first five shots down the pipe at 100 yards could be covered with a dime.”

So as it is with all rifles, Kimber Hunters are each unique with individual ammunition likes and dislikes.

Final Thoughts

Overall, I’d call the Kimber Hunter a world-class rifle that happens to have a mid-level price tag. Jordan suggested that with the Hunter line, Kimber learned many lessons in the way it manufactures that will enable the company to maintain the highest quality standards, but still offer a price point that appeals to a broader range of customer.

When owners think of their Kimber Hunter rifles, Jordan says he “hopes they think of quality, reliability and all at an incredible price point.”

Kimber Hunter Specifications

Manufacturer: Kimber
Model: Hunter Black
Calibers: .243 Win., .257 Roberts, .25-’06 Rem., 6.5 Creedmoor, .270 Win., 7mm-08 Rem., .280 Ackley Improved, .308 Win. and .30-’06 Sprg.
Action: Bolt-action repeating rifle
Magazine Capacity: 3
Barrel: 22-inch stainless steel, KimPro II black finish
Trigger: Adjustable 3.7 pounds pull
Sights: None. Drilled and tapped for scope bases.
Stock: Injection-molded synthetic, flat dark earth color.
Overall Length:  41 1/4 inches
Weight: 5 pounds, 9 ounces
Other: Match grade chamber, pillar bedding
MSRP: $945
More Informationwww.kimberamerica.com

Featured image: Scott Mayer


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