Don’t Let The “Varmint Pedigree” Fool You. In 6.5 Creedmoor,
This Ultra-Distinctive Kimber Is A Big-Game Getter
By Mark Hampton
A few years ago my wife and I enjoyed a Dall sheep hunt in the Northwest Territories so much we hated to leave. The only drawback for this dyed-in-the-wool handgun hunter was handguns are prohibited there for hunting. But I’m not opposed to shooting a long gun, especially if it entails a particular species or destination on my “bucket list.”
Mountain caribou don’t necessarily carry the widest racks but do grow the heaviest antlers of the species and a big bull will tip the scales close to 600 pounds. I’m not sure if it was the caribou or the majestic mountains of NWT, but regardless, I was heading north.
After booking this hunt well in advance, I begin looking for the ideal rifle. One particular candidate was Kimber’s Open Country available in 6.5 Creedmoor. To be honest, it was the distinctively cool camo pattern that hooked me. This rifle had mountain caribou written all over it. But when I had it in hand, it was obvious there was more to it than an eye-catching camo pattern.
The first attribute was the “soft touch” finish on the stock. It was very comfortable and felt great. The Gore Optifade Open Country treatment provides a soft, smooth, secure grip and will do so wet or dry. This custom carbon fiber stock is pillar bedded. The fore-end features two swivel studs for sling or bipod attachment. The stock features a 1-inch Pachmayr Decelerator pad that is most welcome at the bench.
Mountain caribou are the largest-bodied caribou species, tipping the scales at around 600 pounds.
Mark took this dandy bull at 266 yards.
Nuts, Bolts And Specs
The barrel, receiver and hinged floorplate are stainless steel with a KimPro II gray finish. You could say it’s Kimber’s version of Cerakote and it definitely provides protection against corrosion. It looks good and matches the camo nicely.
The deep fluted, heavy barrel is 24 inches long (the OAL is 43.25 inches) with a recessed target crown, threaded muzzle and thread protector. At the muzzle I found a diameter of 0.860. The barrel comes with an 1:8 twist, ideally suited for 6.5 bullets in the 130- to 143-grain range. Don’t assume the bullish barrel makes the gun heavy! Mine tipped the scales at 6 pounds, 15 ounces unscoped—not too heavy to carry for miles yet I can shoot it much better than a super-light rifle with pencil-like barrel.
Kimber’s Open Country uses the stainless-steel 84M action, which is designed to the smallest dimensions possible to eliminate unnecessary weight while leaving a compact profile. It features a full-length Mauser claw extractor providing controlled-round feed and extraction.
I like the 3-position wing safety that allows for loading and unloading the firearm with the safety on. Although the trigger is adjustable, I found no reason to touch the one on my test gun. It broke cleanly at around 3 pounds without creep. This Kimber features an oversize bolt knob making manipulation easy at the range or in the field.
With the help from Talley’s base/rings, I fitted Bushnell’s new Engage scope on the rifle—I chose the Engage 4-12x40mm offering with the new Deploy MOA reticle system. At first look through the scope I thought it was a bit too busy—hashmarks all over the place. After awhile, however, I realized there was lot of flexibility with hashmarks at every 1-MOA for elevation—and 2-MOA wide for windage adjustments. I just needed to confirm the point of impact for the desired ammo.
Bushnell’s 4-12x40mm Engage scope matched the Kimber well when Mark installed it using Talley rings.
And the oversize bolt knob is easy to grab and fast to work.
All the rage these days! The Open Country features a threaded muzzle with a cap for protection.
Shooting It In
In preparation for the hunt I tested several brands of ammunition. At the range we shot 100-yard groups with each load. It didn’t take long to recognize the Open Country is a shooter. Testing 8 different factory loads—none of which produced a 3-shot group larger than 1.40—I was a bit surprised actually and darned sure pleased with the results. One group from the Prime load measured 0.30! Both my shooting partner John and I felt the rifle balanced well with mild recoil. We both found the bolt a bit rough when cycling, but after running 100 rounds through the Open Country it started to smooth out.
The 100-yard test targets that came with the rifle were shot with Hornady Match Ammo and were most impressive. But I wanted hunting bullets so I tried Hornady’s 129-grain SST (2,947 fps/1.15 inches), 143-grain ELD-X (2,689/1.0), and their 120-grain GMX (3,072/1.1) offerings. I also tried Nosler’s 140-grain BT (2,623/1.4), Prime Ammunition 130-grain HPBT (2,831/.30), Federal 120-grain Trophy Copper (2,864/1.3), and Fusion 140-grain SP (2,732/1.2). This would provide enough data to allow me to make a wise choice.
Just prior to departure for the hunt, I received some Vor-Tx 127-grain LRX ammo. I tried it at 200 yards and was impressed with a 1-inch, 3- shot group (it clocked at 2,822 fps). I ran several more rounds downrange at steel targets on my farm. With different size AR 500 steel plates at various yardages, the practice provided an opportunity to confirm which hashmark to use at specific ranges. Once I got accustomed to the scope reticle, I found it certainly removes luck from the equation when long-range pokes are called for. I had confidence in this combination of rifle, scope and ammo. Now if we could only find a big bull…
Mark’s Open Country wasn’t picky when it comes to ammo preference. Prime’s 130-grain HPBT produced this 0.30-inch,
100-yard group (below). But accuracy aside, what caught Mark’s eye initially was the wild camo pattern!
Ammo manufacturers have jumped on the 6.5 Creedmoor bandwagon with both feet.
Here’s some of what Mark auditioned.
The first morning in Northwest Territories found my 28 year-old guide, Scott Kennedy and me climbing to a vantage point so we could glass for game. At first I thought we would only be climbing for a short bit. The mountain was steeper than it looked and before long, I thought we were on a sheep hunt! When we finally reached the top I was already exhausted. But we could see for miles.
We spotted Dall sheep on the adjacent mountainside. A small herd of caribou were running and as we looked behind them, a grizzly was trying his best to come up with breakfast. Down below in the valley, several herds of caribou were spotted. But we were so far up the mountain it would take us a long time to get in position if we saw a good bull below. So we worked our way down further on the hillside. Scott glassed another herd of caribou crossing the huge plateau with one dandy bull in the group.
Down the mountain we hiked. The herd was feeding along the bottom but covering a lot of ground. When we hit the valley we made a straight-line approach to the herd. We tried our best to remain unseen by using a small creek bed to hide our presence. As we closed the distance, Scott took his rangefinder and started to work. When we got inside of 300 yards I told Scott to be looking for a rest I could use. So he took off his pack that allowed me to gain enough height for a decent shot across the tundra. I got set up as Scott ranged the bull at 266 yards. Unfortunately he was always protected by other females or scattered brush. Finally he turned broadside and started walking to our left.
When he cleared all the obstacles I followed him in the crosshairs and squeezed the trigger. The 127-grain Vor-Tx bullet landed slightly behind his front shoulder and the bull didn’t go 15 steps before my tag was punched. Scott was impressed by the performance of the 6.5 Creedmoor and I couldn’t have been more pleased myself. Although mountain caribou are big-bodied animals, 6.5 Creedmoor handled the task easily.
I’m not really sure why Kimber has listed the Open Country in their “varmint family” of rifles. Obviously it will work nicely for coyote hunters, but chambered in 6.5 Creedmoor it’s a tad big for prairie dogs and smaller vermin. This rifle is not overly heavy or cumbersome like some purpose-built varmint rigs. It is—in my opinion—a serious big game rifle ideally suited for whitetail deer, antelope, black bear, mule deer, wild boar and caribou (of course).
I wouldn’t be afraid of using it on a sheep hunt. Kimber has once again provided hunters with an attractive, accurate, well-built hunting rifle. The price is $2,269.
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