Light Makes Right: Kimber’s 6.5 Adirondack
By Dave Anderson
Back in the late 1970s my mantra was “the shorter, the lighter, the better.” So I went through a carbine phase, one which included a Winchester 94 .30-30, a Ruger .44 carbine and a 1903 Mannlicher-Schoenauer 6.5×54.
Then a local dealer was clearing out some Remington 600 Mohawks. I bought one in .308 Win. It was accurate — with a decent trigger — and easy to carry. Even so, it took just one season to end my carbine phase.
The first problem was simple; I couldn’t hit anything. Shooting offhand or at moving game is never easy, but the muzzle-light 600 carbine made it even more difficult. With a steel-tube Weaver scope mounted, the balance point was about 3-1/2″ ahead of the trigger.
The other issues were muzzle blast and recoil. Back then I didn’t wear ear protection while hunting. The stubby .308 barrel taught me better, though not before I suffered some hearing damage. A .308 usually isn’t a recoil beast, but in a light carbine with hard plastic buttplate the recoil was noticeable.
“Medium” became my new mantra, replacing “shorter, lighter, better.” For most North American hunting it’s hard to beat an 8-lb. all-up rifle with a 22″ barrel chambered for a medium cartridge such as the .270, .280, .284, 7×57 or 7mm-08.
Dave’s Adirondack 6.5 Creedmoor all dressed up and ready to go. Scope is a Leupold VX-2 3-9×33 Ultralight
in dual dovetail bases/rings. Weight as shown with sling is 5 lbs. 15 oz. Accuracy as advertised (below):
Dave’s Adirondack delivered on its sub-MOA guarantee with this 100-yard, 0.75” group using Hornady
Superformance ammo with the 129-gr. SST bullet.
More recently I’ve become enamored with “7-Ups” — field-ready rifles checking in at 7 lbs. or less. Depending on your choice of scope, mounts, and sling, this means the bare rifle needs to weigh less than 6 lbs. One of the best is the remarkable Kimber Montana at just 5 lbs. 2 oz. chambered for standard cartridges and sporting a 22″ barrel.
The Kimber people may have thought, “We’re so darn close, why not break the 5-lb. barrier? Well, they succeeded with the Subalpine, the Mountain Ascent, and the little Adirondack carbine — all at 4 lbs. 13 oz. when chambered for standard short-action cartridges.
The Adirondack I find particularly appealing, so much so I’ve bought one chambered in 6.5 Creedmoor. Overall length is just over a yard (37-1/4″ to be precise), with an 18″ barrel. It balances just where I like — 5″ ahead of the trigger, and it handles superbly.
The 84M short action is a gem — slim, trim and elegant. It’s a controlled-round feed design with external extractor and mechanical ejection. The safety is a 3-position wing type. To further reduce weight, the Adirondack has spiral flutes on the bolt body and the bolt knob is hollowed.
Kimber rifles employ an excellent adjustable trigger. Out of the box my test gun had a 4-lb. pull, crisp and consistent. I used the adjustment screw to reduce the pull to 2-1/2 lbs. The only other change I made was to remove the protective cap from the threaded muzzle and add on Kimber’s proprietary muzzlebrake.
These days I never fire a shot anywhere without ear protection, so noise is less of a concern. But I do like to minimize recoil and muzzle jump. What with the brake, the soft Decelerator recoil pad, and the excellent straight stock design, recoil proved very mild.
Other than my personal-preference changes, the Kimber was flawless out of the box. Quality of materials and workmanship are outstanding. The high-grade synthetic stock is a Kevlar/carbon fiber composite, with the barreled action glass and pillar bedded. The barrel is floated back to the chamber area. Bolt operation is smooth and completely reliable.
The Kimber 84M action is trim, elegant and features controlled-round feed. The bolt body is fluted to reduce weight.
Every little bit counts! The bolt knob is hollowed out to further trim ounces.
Out of the box, the trigger pull registered 4 lbs. By turning the bottom front screw out,
Dave brought it down to 2.5 lbs.
Minimal Velocity Loss
Kimber has a sub-MOA accuracy guarantee, and the Adirondack fulfilled it. I used Leupold Dual Dovetail bases and rings to fit a Leupold VX-2 3-9×33 Ultralight scope, bringing overall weight to 5 lbs. 12 oz.
At 100 yards the rifle consistently produced 3-shot groups under an inch. Factory ammunition I had on hand included 120-gr. GMX and 129-gr. SST Hornady loads. I also used some handloads with 130-gr. Berger match bullets and Hornady 143-gr. ELD-X bullets, both with Alliant RL-17 powder. The barrel’s 1:8 twist easily stabilizes these longer bullets.
Of course a short barrel reduces velocity, but the loss was less than expected. A drop of 25 fps lost per inch of barrel is a fairly reliable guideline. In fact, velocity loss with the 6.5 Creedmoor is closer to 18 fps per inch. Using Hornady SuperPerformance loads, the 120 GMX, rated at 3,050 fps (24″ barrel) registered 2,940. The 129 SST, rated at 2,950 fps, clocked 2,845 in the Adirondack.
My 143-gr. ELD-X handloads clocked 2,700 fps in a 24″ barrel and 2,600 fps in the 18″. I was prepared to sacrifice 150 fps (even 200!) in return for the compact size, light weight and wonderful handling qualities of the Adirondack.
Turned out I wasn’t giving up much at all!