On The Trail Of The Kimber Open Country

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Kimber Open Country 6

For the discerning hunter looking for a rifle that goes the extra mile, the Kimber Open Country stands in a class of its own.

We’d spent the morning making a concerted effort to cross a creek—swollen with the recent rains—to no avail. Although we sat on the near bank, glassing a mule deer buck and his trio of does on the far hillside, they might as well have been on another planet.

My pal, Mike Mattly, and I decided to pull up stakes and try another location: a deep series of gorges that just seemed to appear in the South Dakota terrain … the ones those mule deer like to haunt. As the old saying goes, I’d rather be lucky than good.

We’d barely stopped the truck—in fact, it wasn’t in “park” yet—when two bucks bounded from their beds. Mattly gave what amounted to an order.

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And run we did. With a near-cliff in front of them, the deer had to break either left or right, and we took a gamble to head left. It paid off, because the larger of two deer, a big-bodied 3×4, had slowed down just long enough to allow me to send a 140-grain Hornady ELD-X into his vitals. I stood in the South Dakota mud, looking proudly upon my first mule deer buck. The rifle I was testing performed so fluidly that I never gave it a second thought.

Mini Mauser

The rifle? Kimber’s Open Country. And, it performed so well on that mule deer hunt that I asked Kimber to send me another rifle for a more in-depth review.

Hornady’s Precision Hunter proved to be one of the best rounds of the bunch, printing groups between ½ and ¾ MOA.

For more than 40 years, Kimber has offered sensible and reliable rifles for the hunter who prefers to hunt the toughest terrain. Kimber offers lightweight actions, which still offer controlled round feed, claw extraction, a Winchester Model 70-style, three-position safety, smartly designed stocks (both synthetic and walnut) and a range of cartridges suitable for everything from paper and steel, prairie dogs, and right on up to buffalo and elephant. The Open Country rifle, part of Kimber’s Open Range line of hunting rifles, offers a well-balanced blend of match-grade components and ruggedness.

Built around the Kimber 84M short-action receiver, and offered in 6.5 Creedmoor and .308 Winchester, the Open Country is loaded with features a hunter will most certainly appreciate. My test rifle for this review, as well as the rifle I had on that South Dakota hunt, was chambered in 6.5 Creedmoor—a sound, if controversial, choice for hunting deer and similar-sized game, as well as for the target range.

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Kimber’s 84M action is what I refer to as a miniature Mauser, in that the benefits of the non-rotating claw extractor and controlled round feed are there, but at a significant reduction in weight. The bolt features a beefier target-style handle, which affords a positive grip, even under stress (as the situation with that mule deer buck certainly was). A fast, second shot was no issue whatsoever.

Four 8-40 screw holes in the receiver allow for the attachment of scope bases. For the test rifle, I used Talley Lightweight one-piece bases and rings, mounting a Leupold VX-5HD 2-10x42mm riflescope with the CDS turret on board. Although the 84M action might be small, the Open Country wears a beefy, 24-inch barrel with deep flutes, threaded and capped for a muzzle brake or suppressor. I measured a diameter of 0.860 inch at the muzzle.

The Kimber 84M action is the perfect size and weight for the 6.5 Creedmoor and .308 Winchester.
The Kimber 84M action is the perfect size and weight for the 6.5 Creedmoor and .308 Winchester.

Kimber equips the Open Country with a carbon-fiber stock finished in—you guessed it—the Gore OptiFade Open Country camouflage pattern. With a length of pull measuring 13¾ inches, the stock comes easily to shoulder (in spite of the fact that I generally prefer stocks about ½ inch longer), and the wide forend allows the shooter’s left hand to steady the rifle for the shot. In fact, at the widest part of the forend, the stock measures a full 2 inches, and that width sits in the palm very nicely, in addition to sitting nicely on a sandbag.

The stock has no cheekpiece and has a comb designed for use with optics. The Open Country rifles have no iron sights. They come equipped with a pair of sling swivels mounted on the forend, making the attachment of a bipod and sling simultaneously easy as pie. Two aluminum pillars help keep the stock affixed to the action, without risk of crushing the carbon-fiber stock from overtightening, and to prevent the action from moving within the stock.

While the stock of the Open Country is a light, strong design, I found the rifle to be just the slightest bit nose-heavy while carrying it, but it settled down nicely for the shot from field positions. Measuring 43 3/8 inches overall, the Open Country rifle is nice to carry, even in the woods, because it’s not long enough to get caught on tree limbs or to pose a problem in the average deer blind. Even so, its barrel is long enough to wring the proper velocity from both the 6.5 Creedmoor and .308 Winchester.

Tipping the scale at 8 pounds, 7 ounces (unloaded and with the Leupold scope onboard), the Open Country sits nicely on the shoulder. It stays put (when using a decent sling) and doesn’t wear a groove in your trap muscle. Nevertheless, it’s heavy enough to offer stable shots from common field positions, even the offhand shot I had to take on that mule deer buck. From the knee, or when leaning on a tree, fence post or other solid object, the rifle settles nicely.

Kimber provides a hinged floorplate, placing the release on the inside the trigger guard at the front.
Kimber provides a hinged floorplate, placing the release on the inside the trigger guard at the front.

And, I’ve come to love the mix of weight, magnification, clarity and ruggedness the Leupold VX-5HD 2-10x offers; and, in those Talley rings, it mounted perfectly, sitting no more than 1/8 inch off the barrel and aligning wonderfully with the comb of the Open Country’s stock.

Bone Up On Kimber:

The Open Country At The Bench

I could tell you that Kimber built an accurate 6.5 Creedmoor rifle, with the hopes of you making that “shocked” face, but I feel pretty confident that you’re aware of the accuracy reputation of the Creedmoor, in spite of the sub-MOA guarantee Kimber makes for this rifle. I could also allude to the fact that a sub-MOA guarantee in a rifle offered only in 6.5 Creedmoor and .308 Winchester is not a great boast in today’s market, but there are a good number of rifles on the market that don’t live up to the guarantees their tags make.

Happily, this isn’t the case with the Kimber Open Country.

I grabbed a wide selection of 6.5 Creedmoor ammo—both target and hunting bullets—to see what the Open Country was capable of in the accuracy department. I settled on three-shot groups (because this is a hunting rifle) and settled into the bench on a hot summer afternoon.

To measure velocity, I set up my trusty Oehler 35P chrono and began to have fun. None of the ammo I chose was disappointing; in fact, the worst of the three-shot groups measured 1.2 inches, and I have to attribute some of that to barrel heat on that 90-plus-degree day.

A Hornady ELD-X 6.5mm 143-grain softpoint handled this big-bodied mule deer very nicely.
A Hornady ELD-X 6.5mm 143-grain softpoint handled this big-bodied mule deer very nicely.

The rifle showed a definite preference for Hornady’s Precision Hunter with the 143-grain ELD-X bullet, as well as the ultra-affordable American Eagle Match load and Choice Ammunition’s 140-grain Nosler AccuBond load. These three routinely printed groups just over ½ MOA.

Looking at the trio, you’ve got an attractively priced target cartridge, one of the best cup-and-core bullets ever designed in the ELD-X, and the terminal strength and hair-splitting accuracy of Nosler’s AccuBond handloaded in the Choice Ammunition load. What more could you ask for? Or, perhaps put a better way: This trio of factory loads will do anything you should be doing in the hunting fields with a 6.5 Creedmoor.

In South Dakota, I used Black Hills ammo topped with the 143-grain Hornady ELD-X, and the three-shot groups were sub-MOA. And, after I’d taken my mule deer, a young hunter used the rifle to take his first buck—at more than 300 yards. The Open Country is a shooter!

Kimber Open Country Range Data

During the entire afternoon testing, I experienced no issues with either feeding or extraction, irrespective of muzzle velocity or bullet shape. The hinged floorplate—released via a button located at the front inside of the trigger guard—only released its contents when I asked it to; and the shape of the stock, combined with the mounts and that Leupold scope, made a bench session a pleasure.

Talley’s one-piece lightweight ring/base combination cradled the Leupold VX-5HD scope perfectly, mounting it as low to the bore as is practical.
Talley’s one-piece lightweight ring/base combination cradled the Leupold VX-5HD scope perfectly, mounting it as low to the bore as is practical.

The three-position safety gives a positive feel, with a definite click when switching between positions. In addition, the wider trigger gave great control at the range in the field, the trigger didn’t even come into play; it just did what I asked of it. Grabbing the Lyman digital trigger scale, I measured the break of the Kimber’s trigger at 3 pounds, ½ ounce, and that figure was very consistent. I like the width and the feel of the trigger, both from the bench and from other field-like positions.

The Oehler reported velocities in congruence with the advertised figures … or at least within the parameters I’ve come to expect for the Creedmoor, given the slight variations in barrel dimensions from rifle to rifle.

A Lifetime of Hunting

In a market flooded with sound and solid designs, where does the Kimber Open Country sit? Well, at just under $2,300, it isn’t an entry-level rifle, nor is it in the league of a custom rifle. I feel it sits in the league of rifles that offer a good value to the hunter who’s more concerned with functionality than appearances.

The rifle’s weatherproof coating sheds rain and snow wonderfully, the stock is a smart design (if the digital camo pattern suits your fancy), and the now-famous Kimber action provides a reliable platform for a lifetime of hunting. It’s not often that I get to test two different models of the same rifle, but I can honestly say they are consistent from model to model. In fact, there were two other Open Country rifles on that hunt, and all shot well and performed flawlessly.

Kimber’s controlled-round-feed action is scaled down, yet rugged, giving excellent performance in the field.
Kimber’s controlled-round-feed action is scaled down, yet rugged, giving excellent performance in the field.

Regarding the choice of cartridge, I find the .308 Winchester to be a better all-around choice, simply for the additional bullet weight, should the hunter want to take the rifle for elk, moose, and bear. The 6.5 Creedmoor and cartridges of similar proportions have taken all three, but the bullet weight usually tops out at 140 to 143 grains, whereas the .308 Winchester will offer bullet weight up to 200 grains. Either way, the pair of cartridges is easy on the shoulder, equally easy on the wallet and shares a reputation for exceptional accuracy. Kimber’s Open Country is a great platform for either cartridge and makes for a serious rifle for the traveling hunter whose focus is deer and similar-sized game … especially when topped with good, versatile glass such as that Leupold VX-5HD.

I get to shoot, test, and hunt with a lot of different rifles, and I really enjoyed my time with the Kimber Open Country. If I had one thing to change about the design, I’d want about another ¾ inch of length added to the stock, but that’s common to almost every mass-produced American rifle I pick up.

Take a look at the Open Country; I think you’ll find an immediate friend.

Kimber Open Country Specs
Approximate weight (pounds/ounces): 6/15
Overall length (inches): 43.25
Barrel Material: Stainless Steel
Barrel Finish: Gray, KimPro II
Barrel Length (inches): 24
Twist rate (right hand): 8
Grooves: 4
Trigger: 3-3.5 pounds
Stock Material: Reinforced Carbon fiber
Stock Finish: Optifade Open Country
Recoil pad thickness (inches): 1
Length of pull (inches): Adjustable
Drop at heel (inches): 0.54
Drop at comb (inches): 0.43
Action Material: Stainless steel
Action Finish: Gray, KimPro II
Magazine capacity: 4
MSRP: $2,269

For more information on the Kimber Open Country, please visit kimberamerica.com.

Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared in the September 2020 issue of Gun Digest the Magazine.

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