In his book “Wilderness Hunting and Wildcraft,” Col. Townsend Whelen wrote, “A man will travel farther, hunt over more country, have a better chance of coming on game, and be in better condition when he does if his weapon is light.” For those who hunt on their hind legs as opposed to waiting out in a weatherproof blind, truer words were never written. As trendy as limiting rifle weight has become, few have mastered the art. The Kimber Adirondack comes close.
It’s difficult to find the words that effectively describe just how light this rifle is. The Kimber Adirondack might be the nimblest production bolt-action rifle on the market. Kimber shaved weight without mass skeletonization of parts or skimping on the foundation that makes a rifle a rifle.
The carbon/Kevlar fiber stock, with its gummy-feeling Optifade Forest camo covering, is full size. It has a 13.63-inch length of pull, and that includes a 1-inch Pachmayr Decelerator rubber recoil pad. The stock, with the triggerguard, weighs only 24.8 ounces. The action is stainless steel, and so is the 18-inch, pencil-thin barrel. At the muzzle, the barrel is only .58 inch in diameter. Screw the barreled action and stock together with the two guard screws, and total rifle weight is 4 pounds, 10 ounces.
It’s interesting that the muzzle on the Kimber Adirondack has been threaded and comes with a thread protector. Kimber says this is for a suppressor or muzzlebrake. Considering that the Kimber Adirondack is chambered for mild-mannered cartridges such as the 7mm-08 Remington and .308 Winchester, very few will have a need for a muzzlebrake.
Additionally, with the slow-twist barrel, the suppressor would only be suitable for supersonic ammo. That does not mean it’s a bad idea, but admittedly a suppressor would drastically change the handling qualities and weight of this svelte little rifle. Ironically, even with the added weight of a can, the Kimber Adirondack would still be lighter than many sporting rifles.
The Kimber Adirondack rifle, or carbine as it is, is built on Kimber’s proven 84M action. This is a two-lug bolt action that operates similarly to the controlled-round-feed (CRF) Mauser 98. However, there is a difference. With a true and properly tuned CRF action, ammunition can only be fed to the chamber through the magazine box. If you place a cartridge on top of the magazine follower and attempt to close the bolt, it will not go completely into battery because the cartridge rim cannot slip behind the large claw extractor. Kimber has engineered the 84M action so it can feed reliably from the magazine box or from on top of it.
The benefits of a CRF action are more imagined than real, but if you like this imaginary assurance, the 84M action used on the Kimber Adirondack is arguably one of the best. Kimber wisely engineered the action so that the ejector is positioned slightly in front of the rim of the cartridge in the magazine box. This limits the possibility of a short-stroke jam. Still, short stroking can produce a double feed because the bottom of the bolt face, by dragging on the rim of the top cartridge in the magazine box, can push it forward.
However, the reality is that the opportunity for this is so narrow, you’ll almost have to purposely engineer the condition to make it a reality. The 84M is a very reliable action. It has a three-position safety, a magazine that holds four cartridges and a single-stage trigger that breaks with an almost unperceivable amount of creep at 4 pounds on the nose.
The barreled action is pillar/glass bedded to the sleek stock, and the barrel is free floated past the primary taper, just forward of the action. The only skeletonizing, if you want to call it that, is an almost half-inch hole drilled in the bolt-handle knob and the deep, spiral fluting of the bolt. Overall fit is exceptional in every area, and the brushed stainless finish on the action and barrel contrasts nicely with the digitalized camouflage coating on the stock. However, it seems that if camouflage were the goal, another pattern might make more sense.
The 84M action is drilled and tapped for scope mounts, and the Kimber Adirondack does not come with open sights. Numerous mounting options exist, but we’d strongly suggest those available from Kimber.
First are the front-dovetail, rear-windage-adjustment, Redfield-style Kimber bases available in stainless or blue. Second are the all-steel, vertically split Talley rings, which, many argue, are the most rugged scope rings on the planet. Last, there are the aluminum Talley one-piece rings. Melvin Forbes of Ultra Light Arms engineered these rings about 30 years ago. Forbes sold Talley the design, and the company has reengineered them to fit many actions. They weigh only 2 1/2 ounces and are unworldly rugged, and Kimber offers them in blue or Optifade to match the Kimber Adirondack’s stock.
The Kimber Adirondack test rifle came with Talley one-piece rings in an Optifade Forest finish. The rifle was also equipped with a Zeiss Conquest HD5 3-15x42mm riflescope, dipped in camo to match the rings and stock. Kimber sells this scope and a 2-10x42mm option directly through its website with your choice of a Plex or Rapid-Z 600 or 800 reticle. Together, the rifle and scope were visually appealing even though the scope seemed a bit large on the carbine.
As an aside, these Zeiss products are excellent riflescopes and priced accordingly. At almost 15 inches long, the 3-15X is still moderately light at only 17.6 ounces, which is a consideration if a light rifle is your goal. The glass surfaces have the Zeiss LotuTec coating, which helps shed moisture and resist scratches. There is a fast-focus eyepiece and a side parallax adjustment. It’s waterproof, has a 75×50-MOA square adjustment range and comes with Zeiss’ five-year no-fault warranty.
Five loads were tested from a sandbag rest at 100 yards, and five five-shot groups were fired with each load. Though this has become the de facto standard for rifle accuracy testing, we were anticipating that with the thin barrel, shots might string as the Kimber Adirondack heated up. They did not.
The average group size for all 25 groups was less than 2 inches, and the most accurate tested was the Remington Managed Recoil load, which was a pleasure to shoot. None of the loads were seriously uncomfortable from the bench even though total rifle weight, with rings and scope, was right at 6 pounds. From field positions, the Kimber Adirondack was pleasant with all boxes of ammo, and with a hunting rifle, field-position shooting matters most.
One criticism of light hunting rifles is that they’re harder to shoot offhand. The reality is that the absence of weight is not the problem; improper balance is the culprit. Many light rifles are not balanced correctly for offhand shooting. If a rifle is butt-heavy, it’s swift to handle and feels lighter than it is (think back to a 94-type lever action). If a rifle is muzzle-heavy, like an old Kentucky rifle, it’s easier to hang on target but slower to get there.
Ideally, a rifle for field use should balance between your hands, about at the front action screw. A rifle so balanced will provide the perfect equilibrium between fast handling and target steadiness. It will come to shoulder quickly, and you will be able to hold it on target steadily enough to trigger an accurate shot, regardless of weight.
Without a scope, the Kimber Adirondack balances about an inch behind the front action screw. With the Zeiss Conquest scope installed, the balance point was about the same, making the rifle roughly a half-bubble off plumb as far as perfect balance is concerned.
Still, it was easy enough to keep shots inside the vital zone of a deer target out to 150 yards from the standing offhand position. Based on its balance, the Kimber Adirondack was very quick to get in action. If you’re a still hunter, stalker, ridge runner or wilderness hunter, you’ll want a rifle you can pack all day and that will find your shoulder in an instant. Things can happen fast when you hunt on hind legs.
The Kimber Adirondack is put together very well. We’ve tested and hunted with other Kimber 84Ms over the years, and, like those, the Adirondack was a bit finicky in choosing a load it liked to shoot. However, just like those other Kimbers, with a little looking, an accurate load could always be found. Two of the five loads tested in the Kimber Adirondack delivered better than 1½-MOA five-shot precision. The trigger is good, the action is well engineered and smooth to operate, and, if you like that modernized camo look, your eyes will fall in lust.
If we were decision makers at Kimber, G&A would change two things. We’d opt for a 20-inch barrel, which would still keep the rifle compact but would move the balance point slightly forward. We would also work with Zeiss to offer its more affordable, more compact and lighter 2-7x32mm Terra 3 riflescope with the Optifade camo. In our minds, that scope would be a much better fit to the Kimber Adirondack, a quick-handling, lissome carbine.
Would Townsend Whelen have liked it? We can only speculate, but during his lifetime he never saw a rifle like this. We don’t think the old boy would’ve minded packing it into the wilderness, and that’s where this rifle belongs.