We do not often do reviews on 223 rifles due to their limited long range and lethal capability, but there is a place in the precision marksman’s arms room for a diminutive 223 precision rifle. With the 69grain and heavier long range bullets, the 223 actually has some medium range capability, though those capabilities are limited. There is certainly limitations when it comes to lethality at those longer ranges with the light 224 caliber bullets, but there is some capability. An argument can be made for the 223 precision rifle for reduced range roles such as precision capability in urban environments or in hostage and law enforcement roles. Additionally the 223 can make a nice training rifle for new precision shooters or for reduced cost applications. We have used them on a number of occasions to introduce new shooters to the sport of long range shooting or just rifle shooting as a whole. For the above mentioned reasons, and others, we have reviewed a few 223 rifles in the past and feel there is an appropriate roll for them on Sniper Central as well. This time around we are taking a detailed look at the Kimber 84M Light Police Tactical (LPT) rifle. The LPT that we have here to review is actually an older version of the LPT as Kimber updated the LPT with a different stock design and different barrel in about 2010. We felt that the review would still be beneficial in showing the overall quality and capability of a Kimber 84M and we suspect the current version would perform similar to this one, likely it would do even better. The stock construction material is the same between the two versions as is the bedding and the action.
As we mentioned above, the LPT we are reviewing here uses the older style LPT laminated wood stock that has since been replaced with a less dramatic profile stock without the exaggerated cheekpiece, though the new one is still made of laminated wood covered in the epoxy matte black finish. This LPT stock is essentially the Kimber varmint stock, as found on their SVT and VT varmint rifles, with a matte black epoxy finish applied. On this 223 rifle, the buttpad is a thin and relatively hard rubber, but this too was change with the new stock to a full 1″ decelerator pad, even on the 223 Rem rifles where recoil is not particularly stiff. Just in front of the rear recoil pad the stock takes a very quick turn up where that exaggerated cheekpiece is. The design is a bit odd since the actual buttstock has a lower comb, but then it has the elevated cheekrest to raise the head. This stock design is like a benchrest or even position shooting style stock which is not a particularly good layout for a tactical rifle used in the prone. The reason is because when in the prone position, the buttpad itself actually sits a bit low in your shoulder socket. This is why a typical tactical stock will have the entire buttstock up higher with a smaller cheek rise to it. When sitting at the bench or even when using the rifle in a sitting or standing position as some Law Enforcement snipers find themselves in, it is comfortable and well designed.
At the front of the cheekrest the stock dips down aggressively to make room for the thumb on the firing hand to wrap around the nearly vertical pistol grip. There is a pronounced indention for that thumb which gives the stock a very molded shape around this area at the rear of the tang. The pistol grip itself, as mentioned, is nearly vertical and it is quite wide with a palm swell on the right hand side of the grip as well as some nice texturing on both sides that gives it added grip. As you might imagine with the palm swell only on one side and the very pronounced contouring for the thumb and a cheekpiece that is built up on one specific side, the left, the rifle is intended for right hand use only. Sure, it can be fired left handed, but it is awkward and uncomfortable. This is likely one of the reasons why the new model LPT does not have this same stock and rather has a more traditional shape. But for right handed shooters, the shape is contoured nicely and is comfortable to shoot.
The stock is thicker than normal around the action area, which is likely due to the use of laminated wood here instead of synthetic fiberglass that would give more leeway and strength. This extra thickness is not bad and it carries through the action area and then up into the forearm where it is rounded on the bottom. The forearm does not widen and instead just carries the same width all the way up to the front, but there is a dip down just in front of the hinged floorplate giving the stock a deep forearm area. There are two sling swivel studs up front in the traditional tactical rifle way, one for the sling, one for a bipod to attach to. There is the same texturing on the forearm that is found on the pistol grip of the stock and there is a engraved ‘LPT’ symbol just for aesthetics.
The stock, being made of laminated wood, has some extra weight which some shooters like for added stability on a rifle rest, and others don’t because they have to haul that weight around. But the shape looks aggressive and distinctive and it does offer solid functionality. The epoxy coating gives the stock a synthetic look and it does provide some added durability to the finish and a matte black color for concealment. Properly constructed laminated wood stocks do not swell and shrink with the heat and moisture like a traditional wood stock does, though it is still not quite as impervious to the elements as a synthetic stock. The epoxy finish will help with weather and wear resistance as well and the matte finish also provides some better grip for cheekwelds and handling of the rifle. The stock is also pillar and glass bedded to the action to help with improving accuracy.
The Kimber 84M action is their smallest action available and it was designed specifically around the 308 Winchester cartridge. They did this in order to be able to make the action as small and lightweight as possible. The action itself reminds us of a Pre-64 Winchester model 70, which in turn shares a lot of traits with the Mauser family of actions, but it has its own unique features as well. On the left hand side of the action there is a bolt release lever that is easily manipulated with a finger to allow the bolt to slide all the way to the rear and out of the action. The rear tang of the action extends elegantly in a tear drop shape to the rear and is not over sized. The actions incorporate an integral recoil lug so there is no separate recoil lug like on a Remington 700. The action is also round along the bottom, which is different than the Mauser and Pre-64 Winchester’s with their flat bottoms.
The Kimber actions use a hinged floorplate with an internal box magazine that holds six rounds of 223 Remington. There is a floorplate release lever inside of the trigger guard at the front and it is easy to operate by pressing it forward. There are arguments against having the release lever inside the trigger guard to prevent either an accidental discharge if the trigger is accidentally pressed while trying to drop the magazine, or accidental opening of the floorplate during handling of the rifle. Both of those can be completely avoided by proper and safe handling of the firearm and we do not find it to be a problem. The floorplate is well designed and functions nicely and we especially like the fact that it is made of steel for durability. It is nicely machined with a high quality matte finish as well. There are two hex head action screws that are placed in the traditional front and rear location on the floorplate that hold the bedded action to the stock.
The trigger has a wide curved trigger shoe that also is finished in matte black to match the rest of the metal work on the rifle. We prefer trigger shoes that have ribs on them to help with the trigger feel, but we are fine with a smooth trigger as well. The Kimber triggers are adjustable but we left this one just as it was when it came from the factory. This trigger had a tiny bit of creep before it would brake nice and clean. We would like to have that creep removed and smoothed up on a single stage match trigger like this. Because it is a tactical rifle, that little bit of creep is not even noticed most the time, but we did notice it when we were shooting for accuracy during our testing. According to our trigger scale, the trigger broke at 3.5 lbs. Overall it is a nice trigger, though not great.
As we mentioned, the 84M action is built around the 308 Winchester cartridge so everything is nicely sized for these smaller short action cartridges. The 223 is even a bit smaller so there was no issues in regards to space and room in the action. There is a three position safety on the rear of the bolt which will remind users of the Winchester M70 safety. When the lever is all the way forward it is in the fire position and this is identified by a red dot that is visible from the rear of the rifle. When the lever is flipped one notch back so that it is sticking out at a 90 degree angle from the bolt, the rifle is in safe, but the bolt can still be operated so that the rifle can be safely unloaded. The final position of the safety is pulled all the way to the rear and this will then lock the bolt so it cannot be cycled, as well as placing the firing pin on safe. There are many proponents of a three position safety for good reason, and its location is convenient as well.
The bolt itself is again similar to the Model 70 and Mauser 98 in that it has a full claw extractor, which has a cult like following among rifle shooters. The full claw extractor is without a doubt a very positive way to insure proper extraction of the cartridge. It is also known as “control round feed” which gives the impression that the bolt is fully controlling the feeding process and that is a good way to look at it. The full claw extractor control round feed design is robust and very effective, though it does add additional parts to that bolt that makes it not quiet as smooth as a push feed design such as the Remington 700. But over time these bolts will wear in and smooth up as well and this one came functioning fairly smooth from the factory, as it should considering the high quality nature of the Kimber products.
The bolt handle is a large bolt knob attached to a straight handle that is swept back. The knob itself is finished in a little more glossy black than the rest of the rifle. The sheen was a bit different, but not bad.
The barrel is a bit interesting as it is a full 24″ long with a profile that starts off heavy but then uses a straight taper profile that quickly tapers down to a “medium” weight barrel at the muzzle. We assumed this was done to help keep the compact little package a bit lighter. The barrel flutes would also indicate that this was the desired result as well. The current version of the LPT that is made now has a 22″ long fluted barrel with a heavy barrel profile carried out to the muzzle. The muzzle has a 11 degree recessed crown for improved accuracy as well as protection for the crown itself. There are six lands and grooves with a 1:9″ twist rate for the 223 Remington. This rate of twist limits the usable bullet weights to about 69 grains, though we did test some 75’s without any major problems.
All of the metal finish is completed in a nice matte black finish that appears to be a teflon style finish of some sort, though Kimber does not list it specifically. It is even and nicely applied over the entire rifle.
Overall the rifle is an interesting mix. The action is compact and well sized for its purpose which helps save weight, as does the fluted more thinly profiled barrel. But then the stock is made of laminated wood, typically a heavier material, and it has a steel floorplate which also adds weight. So the rifle is not really a compact tactical rifle like the Rem 700P LTR, but it isn’t a big beast either. It weights 8.25 pounds empty and without optics, which is on the lighter side for modern sniper rifles, so in the end, it seems to make a handy little package. The quality appears to be well made for a semi-factory produced rifle and they did not seem to skimp on the parts selection. Some may argue that the laminated wood stock with epoxy finish is a skimp, and that is probably true, but they did have a target market they were shooting for and selecting a stock they had on hand that would be considerably less money than a high quality synthetic stock. This helped them meet that sub $1500 MSRP price point. They have higher end tactical rifles for the upscale market, like the Kimber 8400 Tactical we reviewed a while back.
With the detailed examination of the rifle complete, it was now time to get down to the business of seeing how the little guy performed. The LPT rifles come from the factory with a rail already attached, though on the LPT it is not a canted rail, so if you intend to do some long range shooting with a LPT, be sure to get a scope with enough vertical adjustments to get you where you want to go. The rail also does not have slots along the entire length, so there may also be come scope maneuvering when mounting it to get the proper eye relief for you. When we first acquired this rifle we set it up for a low recoiling introduction rifle for less experience shooters and those smaller in stature, such as youth and some women. For this role we equipped it with a Leupold MkAR Mod1 4-12x40mm scope with the 223 BDC on top and mildot reticle. We have used this rifle for students in our classes as well as during demonstration shooting events where inexperienced shooters have used it. This combination of scope and rifle has been very successful, so we saw no reason not to use the same scope for our testing here. The scope is mounted using Leupold Mk4 1″ medium height rings and it has been a solid setup.
For our shooting evaluations we wanted to stick to some common, slightly heavier weight, 223 match loads that could be used effectively out to about 600 yards. Of course, Federal Gold Medal Match 69gr was the first ammo selected to be pulled off the shelf, and then we brought some Hornady TAP 75gr and some Eagle Eye 69gr match as well. Knowing that many tactical shooters use 223 rifles for affordable practice, we decide to bring along a box of cheap Federal American Eagle 223 55gr ammo which is representative of the cheap 223 plinker ammo commonly used in ARs and other 223 rifles. For a detailed description of how we perform our rifle tests, take a look at our how we test page. For our shooting sessions we had nice Montana fall weather with about 55 degrees and sunny with minimal wind. The 100 yard test results are displayed below:
|Ammunition||Average Group||Best Group|
|Federal GMM 69gr||0.721″ (0.689 MOA)||.441″ (.421 MOA)|
|Hornady TAP 75gr||1.192″ (1.138 MOA)||.882″ (.842 MOA)|
|Eagle Eye 69gr Match||0.683″ (0.652 MOA)||.416″ (.397 MOA)|
|American Eagle 55gr||1.670″ (1.595 MOA)||.723″ (.691 MOA)|
The Federal Gold Medal Match turned in its typical steady and reliable performance shooting under .5 MOA occasionally and just going about its match grade business like usual. After shooting the Hornady TAP we were wondering if perhaps the 1:9″ twist might just be on the verge of not stabilizing the bullets enough. There was no keyholing or other obvious signs of unstabilized bullets, but the groups were wider than we normally see from the Hornady match line of products. The Eagle Eye match ammo came out on top providing the best groups as well as the most consistent. We shot the Federal GMM first and we may have become more comfortable with the rifle by the time we got to the Eagle Eye as the GMM did seem to have more accuracy in it than we saw. The current Kimber LPT rifles come with a .5 MOA accuracy guarantee and we are not sure if that guarantee was around when this LPT was built nearly 10 years ago, but we would consider it a .5 MOA rifle when we do our part, and with proper match grade ammo. The American Eagle cheap ammo performed about like you would expect, erratic. We did have one sub MOA group, but for the most part the ammo shot about 2 MOA.
Because the Eagle Eye Match ammo performed the best at the 100 yard accuracy test, we elected to use it for our 300 yard rapid head shot engagement test. We setup the Figure 14 sniper training target at 300 yards and loaded up our three rounds with the BDC dialed to 300 plus two clicks to compensate for the heavier bullets. The wind was calm and the timer was ready. With the test begun and us getting our rounds off and cycling the bolt rapidly we ran into a problem after shot number two. The shooter felt something strike his cheek but didn’t think anything of it until he tried to load the third round where there was some stiffness and binding. He cycled the bolt again to get everything reset and was able to line up for the third shot, but the adrenaline of trying to chamber that round caused him to jerk the third round left which he called immediately after he fired it. We were all surprised about the chambering issue as the rifle had fed very well throughout all the rest of the tests and the control round feeding should also handle feeding issues. Then we noticed that on that second round, it had completely blown out the primer! What the shooter likely felt was primer fragments coming through the gas safety port! Wow. This is not typical behavior of factory loaded ammo, though none of the other pieces of brass showed any signs of over pressure. We do not know if that one round had a faulty primer or if it was something else, but we figure the issue with chambering that third round had to do with some primer fragments in the chamber area of the rifle. When we went to check the target, the first two rounds were 4.4″ inches apart (1.4 MOA) and centered nicely on the head, but the third round was thrown to the left just as the shooter called it. The total group size was 6.620″ which equates to 2.108 MOA. It was an unfortunately incident that hurt the performance of the rifle during the test. The test was completed in 24 seconds even with the third round chambering issue and we would say the performance was still acceptable given the issues encountered. But one of the rules of the test is that it is fired as is and only one time. The accuracy was the major thing that hurt the total score fore this test.
|300y Head Target Test|
|Time Score (24 secs)||30|
|Accuracy Score (2.108 moa)||21.3|
|Energy Score (631 ft-lbs)||9.6|
During our shooting evaluations we noticed that the rifle is indeed comfortable to shoot. There was a bit more recoil than anticipated for a 223 Remington rifle, but that is attributed to the hard half inch thick recoil pad. Still, the recoil is light and with the new version of the LPT there is a one inch decelerator pad which should make it very mild. During bolt manipulation there was occasionally some very slight bolt chatter cycling the bolt. It was very light and up here in the very dry inland northwest, we store our bolts and rifles dry without any oil on them, which may have contributed to this. Continuing to wear the bolt by using it should clean that right up as well.
Overall the rifle shot well. It is still considered a light weight tactical rifle and it is a very feasible 600 yard rifle, though energy and penetration at those ranges is very minimal. It should be mentioned, though, that these ranges are done often with the Special Purpose Rifles (SPR) in the military like the Mk12. Accuracy is good and there are some good features on this rifle. When chambered in 308 it should make a very capable tactical rifle, especially for the $1500 list price. The laminated wood stock should work well enough, though a synthetic would be preferred and we like the quality steel floorplate, trigger, and control round feeding. Its not a perfect rifle, nothing usually is, but its a solid effort and when it ran a few young adult girl students through our Basic and Advanced courses, it functioned flawlessly and performed acceptable for a tactical rifle. Though wind was always a challenge with the 223. All in all, its not a bad rifle.
Sniper Central 2016
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