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Kimber's New Model 8400 Sonora

Kimber built this rifle for hunters who have the need for long-range shots.
By Steve LaMascus

-- Kimber is best known for its lightweight, highly accurate rifles, and its Model 1911 pistols. However, it does make other guns. The newest, as this is written, is the Model 8400 Sonora.

The Sonora is a long-action rifle, currently available in .25-06, .300 Winchester Magnum, and .30-06, but there are subdued murmurs about other calibers that it may be chambered in. One of those whispered calibers is .280 Ackley Improved. I sure hope so; the .280 AI is an awesome cartridge and would be a great match for this rifle. Another is the .270 Winchester, also a fine choice.

The Sonora sports a laminated stock with a wide, flat forearm and two front sling swivel studs, allowing the use of a sling and bipod. The stainless steel barrel is 24 inches long, with a 1 in 10 twist, and is a heavy, fluted design that I would call a heavy varminter. The crown is deeper than any I have seen and is intended to prevent damage to the lands and grooves.

It has a three-position wing safety, like the Winchester Model 70, and has the full-length Mauser-type claw extractor. The butt is finished off with a nice, thick Decelerator recoil pad. Altogether it weighs a comfortably hefty 8 pounds, 8 ounces. Top it with a good scope, and with a full magazine it will tip the scales at just over 10 pounds. Retail price is $1,359.

The rifle is both pillar and glass bedded. That, along with the weather impervious laminated stock, makes the gun as consistent as it is possible to make a firearm. My test gun shot every load I could find into the same group at 100 yards. This is a rare quality in any rifle, but because of the great care in bedding that Kimber lavished on the Sonora, I expect that most of them will display this same indifference to different loads, within reason, but don't be too disappointed if yours doesn't.

Photo by Steve LaMascus
Target shot with 110-grain Nosler AccuBonds.
Photo by Steve LaMascus
The Sonora's trigger was also a pleasant surprise. These days when I receive a new rifle, I expect that the first thing I will have to do is adjust the trigger. The average gun will come from the factory with a trigger that pulls at least 5 pounds and some I have received checked out at over 8. Most will also be creepy, as the adjustment will have about three times as much sear engagement as necessary.

The Kimber website states that the guns will come from the factory with the triggers adjusted from 3 to 3.5 pounds. If you want it lighter than that, the triggers are fully adjustable. Just take it to a good gunsmith if you aren't experienced with such matters. It is easy to make the trigger dangerous if you don't know what you're doing.

I have seen accidents caused by do-it-yourselfers who don't know what they are doing and had the trigger so light that the rifle would fire if the bolt was closed too hard, if the rifle was accidentally dropped or the rifle butt contacted the ground.

My test rifle is a .25-06, one of my favorite calibers for Texas deer and pronghorns or coyotes anywhere. For testing, I mounted a new Bushnell Elite 4200 Firefly 2.5-10X, with a set of Leupold rings.

When I first shot the gun, it tended to string shots vertically in a straight line. It still shot pretty well around an inch, but I felt it could do a lot better. I suspected a minor bedding problem in the barrel channel. This is such a common problem that I have almost come to expect it on a new rifle. I keep a barrel channel tool in my cleaning kit for just such annoying situations.

Anyway, I called the Kimber tech staff and asked them if they would mind if I cleaned out the barrel channel. The gentleman I was talking with almost fainted. "No," he said. "We take pride in our customer service, and we want that gun to be perfect. You send it to us, we'll fix anything that's wrong and send it back to you. You'll get it back before you now it." And he was right.

Photo by Steve LaMascus
Target shot with 85-grain Nosler Ballistic Tips.
Photo by Steve LaMascus
I boxed up the gun and called UPS. They picked the gun up that afternoon. One week later the UPS guy was back with the repaired rifle. Now that is service! By the way, it is perfectly legal for a legal gun owner to send a gun to the manufacturer for repair and to receive the repaired gun without going through a licensed dealer.

After the Kimber technicians worked on the gun, it shot like a dream, grouping three shots into nice triangular clusters that averaged around 3/4 of an inch.

I really think this gun is capable of even better accuracy. The Bushnell 4200 scope, a very fine instrument, is not parallax free at 100 yards, but at 150 yards. At 100 yards it seemed to have a tiny bit of parallax both vertically and horizontally, which I think opened the groups by a fraction of an inch. Shooting game, or even prairie dogs, I would never have noticed, especially since the scope is parallax free at the longer range.

Besides, who is going to gripe about shooting 3/4-inch groups? If I was worried about it, I would change the scope, but I like the Bushnell Firefly, so it's still on the gun.

The Sonora is a perfect match for hunters who hunt deer from box blinds. Match it with a scope like the new Sightron Big Sky SII Hunter Holdover Reticle, or the Leupold VX-L with Leupold's bullet drop compensation turret, calibrated for your favorite load, and you will be ready when that monster buck steps into the clear 400 yards down the sendero. It would be equally at home on eastern bean fields or Kansas prairies.

It is a bit heavy for a walking varminter, but would certainly get the job done. I wouldn't be a bit afraid to take it on a hunt where I didn't have to walk more that a few hundred yards to each stand. Mount a bipod on it and you would be ready for those long shots I've had to take on the plains.

And while it is offered in calibers a bit powerful and hard kicking for shooting prairie dogs, it would work great for shooting rock chucks or ground chucks in sparsely settled areas, like the area around Encampment, Wyo., where I hunted last year. And the .25-06 is hard to beat in the wind-bucking department.

But in the final word the Sendero is primarily intended as a big game rifle for situations where weight and portability are secondary considerations, and power and accuracy are paramount. Kimber has really hit the nail on the head with this one.

-- Steve LaMascus

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@ Friday, April 27, 2012 5:46 AM
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