Kimber’s surprising over-under

Kimber’s surprising over-under

Keefe, Mark A IV

What’s next from the firm that turned the M 1911 market on its ear and reintroduced the American-made classic .22 rifle? Not what you would expect. That’s right: a Kimber shotgun.

When Kimber Manufacturing rose like a phoenix from the financial ashes of the old Kimber of America in the late 19906, many observers weren’t sure what to expect. Kimber had built its reputation on classic, accurate .22 rimfire and centerfire rifles. Somewhat surprisingly, first out of the gate was a comprehensive line of M 1911 pistols ranging from plain-Jane guns with a few custom touches to fullblown race guns. Next came the new 22 Classic, a delightful must-have for the wellheeled rimfire rifleman (June 2000. p. 42). Kimber then followed with a petite, center-fire bolt-action, the Model 84M, that combined classic lines with the weight and performance of custom lightweights (June 2001, p. 48). So what’s next? It’s not what you might expect: The answer is the Kimber Over-Under shotgun.

Leslie Edelman, the firm’s owner, has built the company’s success on the rifles and handguns described above. But Edelman is also an avid shotgunner, shooting both clay games and birds. He wanted to be able to go to the range or field and unease a quality over-under that bears his company’s name. After a considerable amount of searching, he and his team found a gun not previously imported that they believe is, indeed, worthy of the Kimber name.

The Yonkers, N.Y.-based company has established a reputation for solid, classic designs produced with innovative manufacturing methods, so it is little wonder that it chose Investarm of Italy to produce the first shotgun to bear the Kimber name. Founded in 1975 by three Salvinelli brothers, the firm has garnered an international reputation for quality competition and, to a lesser extent, field over-unders that are gaining ground on long-established Italian names in winners circles worldwide.

Investarm’s guns are little known here in the United States. Its line of affordable Sky Stalker over-unders was briefly imported by Sile Distributors in the mid-1980s (November 1985, p. 52), but until Kimber decided to go with Investarm, it was a name almost completely unfamiliar to American shooters. That’s a shame-about to be rectified-as the Kimber Over-Under shows a level of quality fully in keeping with better known Italian gunmaking names. The firm’s guns are produced using a mix of modern technology, e.g., CNC machines, and old fashioned hand work. The first gun in the anticipated line is a sporting clays gun with obvious possible applications for hunting and other clay target games.

The basic action is a boxlock over-under that can trace its roots back to the early Boss over-unders, the first truly successful stackbarrels, patented in 1909, to come from that great British gunmaking house. As a matter of fact, from the side, the lines of the Kimber monobloc with its rounded step and the radiused lower external corner look very similar to a Boss. The basic action of the Kimber over-under itself was developed by Investarm for the Sydney Olympic games and named, appropriately, the Sydney 2000.

The barrels are assembled on a monobloc. When the action is locked, two lugs, linked together inside the receiver, protrude through the breech face into bites on either side of the lower chamber-just below the ejectors. Either can be replaced to compensate for wear. To prevent fore-and-aft movement two 0.374″-wide and 6.72″-deep lugs engage recesses in the bottom of the receiver. Ejection is selective automatic.

When opened, a single, rectangular cocking rod passing through the bottom of the receiver pushes the dual hammers rearward until the notches cut in the tops of the hammers are caught by corresponding notches in the front faces of the tang-mounted sears. Pulling the trigger moves the inertial block’s connector upward, which in turn lifts the sear up and out of engagement with the coil-spring powered hammer, allowing it to move forward and strike the rebounding firing pin of the selected barrel. Upon firing the first barrel, the inertia block moves rearward, the sear for the fired barrel moves forward out of the way, and the connector engages the notch at the rear of the other barrel’s sear. Pulling the trigger again lifts the sear out of engagement and allows the second hammer to move forward.

Barrel selection is via the tang-mounted safety/selector. With the selector pushed to the left, the bottom barrel will fire first and one red dot is revealed. Pushed to the right, two dots are visible and the top barrel fires first. The manual hammer-blocking safety, as befits a competition gun, is not automatic and is pushed rearward to the “on” position. An “S” is visible on the tang when it is engaged. When pushed reward, the connector and inertial block are moved out of contact with the sears.

One of the areas in which the Kimber departs from many other high-end competition shotguns is that it has the above-mentioned inertial, rather than mechanical, trigger system. Detachable triggers units and leaf-spring-powered hammers have been de rigeur in high-end competition guns for years. The theory behind them is that leaf springs deliver a faster lock time, but that they are also more susceptible to breakage than coil springs, so you need to be able to detach the trigger assembly to replace a spring if one should break during a match. The Kimber uses neither, as it and Investarm deem the likelihood of breaking a coil spring remote. The only tangible downside with an inertial trigger system is that if the first shell is a dud, you will be unable to simply pull the trigger again to fire the other barrel.

The 28″ vent-rib barrels are backbored to 0.736″, and the forcing cones are lengthened to reduce perceived recoil. The barrels are made of what the firm describes as 401NICRM02 “Tri-alloy” steel, and our sample’s bore measured 0.731″ just forward of the choke tubes. The crosshatched, vented barrel rib measures 0.426″ at the receiver and tapers to 0.309″ at the muzzle. It is topped by an orange fiber-optic front sight. There is an 0.06″ white mid-rib bead as well.

The buttstock, attached to the action with a throughbolt, and foreend are of European walnut coated with a resilient, glossy urethane finish. The buttstock design is a departure for most American shooters used to field guns and is reminiscent of those of Perazzi and other international competition guns. The figure of the sample’s stock was simply gorgeous. There is a generous palm swell for right-handed shooters and a generous pistol grip, and both it and the fore-end are hand checkered in a 28 line-per-inch bordered point pattern. There were a few overruns and flattened points that did not otherwise take away from the very nicely executed hand checkering. Topping the butt is a black, rubber Pachmayr Decelerator recoil pad with a black spacer. The heel has a harder rubber radiused insert at its top to facilitate a quick mount without hanging up on the shooter’s clothing.

Ornamentation is sparse and tasteful. There is a thin gold line running around the side of the action following the contour of the false sideplate, the Kimber logo in gold on the right side and the model “Sporting S-I” again in gold on the bottom of the receiver. There is light scroll engraving on the head of the hinge pin and the top lever. The metalwork is quite good, even for a gun in this price class. The blueing on our pre-production sample was even and showed a medium polish. Even with the wood completely removed there were only a few toolmarks visible anywhere, and the parts left in the white exhibited fine, even polish as well.

Wood to metal fit of both the foreend and butt was deliberately and uniformly proud with a radiused edge exposed above the metal around the action and trigger. The fore-end iron was flush with the bottom of the schnabel fore-end.

The blued steel trigger blade is not adjustable for weight or length of pull, though the base has a raceway that would permit an adjustable unit. That said, it was very crisp with only a minimal amount of take-up and broke at 3 1/2 lbs. for the bottom barrel and 4 1/2 lbs for the top barrel.

It is on the clays range, be it trap, skeet or sporting clays, where the Kimber comes alive. While it is seemingly sluggish compared to a lightweight field gun, that’s not what this gun is designed for nor is it a fair comparison. On skeet and clays, where recoil and fatigue can be a bane after several hundred targets, the weight of the Kimber did not seem a problem, and the 7-lb., 12-oz. weight helped in taming recoil. The somewhat heavy 28″ barrels helped my swing, and I found myself breaking target after target with just a little time to become accustomed to the gun, especially on long, fast crossing targets that I customarily have difficulty with. High marks are due its recoil pad, which aids coming to the shoulder from a low gun mount.

In general, the gun balanced extremely well and felt solid, yet fluid, on the clays. I function-fired it on skeet and sporting clays on two separate occasions with Federal, Remington and Winchester ammunition and patterned with Federal target loads. The gun also accompanied me to South Africa on safari where I was able to put it to use hunting ducks and Egyptian geese on the Orange River. While I bagged a couple of geese, the other birds simply wouldn’t cooperate and come within range of the Eley shells I had available. There were no malfunctions of any kind attributable to the gun with the more than 500 rounds fired in the field and on the range.

While somewhat surprising from an American maker best known for classic American handguns and rifles, the Italian– designed Kimber over-under is, indeed, a pleasant surprise. For competitive shooters there’s a lot to like without many of the bells and whistles expected on a sophisticated competition shotgun, but perhaps not necessarily warranted. The price is, admittedly, high, but for those who are looking for a competition shotgun in the mid range between field guns slightly modified for competition and fall blown custom target guns, the Kimber over-under is worth a hard look. And, like the rest of the Kimber line, it’s a shooter.

by MARK A. KEEFE, IV, Editor

Copyright National Rifle Association of America Sep 2002

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