For many, the name Kimber immediately conjures visions of an Oregon made, high-quality, semi-custom rimfire – the Model 82. This isn’t the case for me. The Model 82 was long gone by the time my love affair with rifles started.
Instead, my first introduction to the name Kimber came at a local sporting goods store and was in the form of a 1911 pistol. It was a beautiful handgun, but I’m not a pistol guy. I love rifles. I suppose it was my lack of experience with the original Kimber rifle that allowed me to fully appreciate their more current offering.
In 1999, the new Kimber, based in New York, and an entirely different animal from their Oregon roots, introduced a newly designed rimfire rifle. The Kimber 22 Classic, while maintaining the classic appearance of the Model 82, had an entirely redesigned action. The K22 was built with a Mauser-style bolt with full-length claw extractor and controlled-round feeding. The outstanding trigger was adjustable and factory set to break like glass at 3-3.5 lbs.
The wing safety was almost a dead-ringer for the famous safety found on the Winchester Model 70. The only difference being two positions – safe and fire – rather than the far superior three positions found on the Model 70. Kimber later realized their error and began including the 3-position safety on all models of the K22 rifle.
During the eight years of production (1999-2007), Kimber offered nine different versions of the rifle, ranging from the base model Hunter, with a clear finished walnut stock, to the SuperAmerica, with a highly polished blue metal finish and AAA-grade walnut stock with 24 LPI wrap hand-checkering and ebony forend tip.
Of the nine models produced, seven were sporters with the classic lines of a full-sized centerfire. The other two, the HS (Hunter-Silhouette) and SVT (Short Varmint/Target), were special purpose rifles, each wearing a high comb target style stock.
All K22 models had a free floated match grade barrel with a tapered match grade chamber and target crown. With the exception of the SuperAmerica, all barrels were finished in either a matte blue or satin stainless steel. All receivers were drilled and tapped for Kimber scalloped base sets and, with the exception of the SuperAmerica, were finished in a matte blue.
By 2006, Kimber was chambering four of the eight offered models for the 17 Mach 2 round. These rifles were designated as the K17. Each of these rifles, like their 22 counterparts, was tested for accuracy. Prior to being shipped, every Kimber rimfire was fired with match-grade ammunition and had to shoot a 50 yard, five-shot group, measuring .400-inch or less. The actual test target was included in the packaging.
During the time of their production, there is no question the Kimber 22 was the finest mass-produced, American-made, rimfire rifle on the market. With prices ranging from approximately $600 to $2000 depending on level of refinement, the K22 offered a “semi-custom” package at a fraction of the cost of a true semi-custom rifle.
There were and are several European-made sporters that compare well with the K22. The Sako Finnfire (now discontinued) and the Anschutz Model 1400, 1500 and 1700 series rifles are all terrific choices. I would even include the CZ 452 and 453 rifles in this group of deluxe, production-grade rimfires. Each of these rifles, however, shares a distinct European styling – even those designed specifically for the American market, like the CZ 452 & 453 American, fall short in delivering the classic lines associated with a true American sporting rifle.
Due to this lack of high-end American rimfires, there have been several articles comparing the K22 to the Cooper Firearms of Montana Model 57-M. While the K22 compares well in many ways with the Cooper 57-M (in similar versions), the Cooper is clearly a semi-custom rifle and is priced accordingly. The base model Cooper M57-M,without any custom options and stocked in AA claro walnut, matches up nicely to the K22 Classic (also stocked in AA claro walnut), but is priced nearly double what the Classic cost at the end of its production ($1,400 vs. approximately $800). A flattering comparison for Kimber, but not exactly fair.
If you don’t own a K22 and you happen to see one around, be sure to pick it up and give it a good look over. Notice the fit and finish of the parts and how the magazine sits flush with the floorplate. Make certain you test the trigger to see if it really breaks like glass at 3 lbs (it does). Don’t worry about dry-firing, the firing pin is actually centered in the bolt body so it works just like a centerfire (the receiver is drilled offset from the axis of the bore). Take note of the hand-rubbed oil finish and sharp checkering. Who knows, it just may remind you of your favorite classic centerfire.
I’m sure glad I own one…they just don’t make .22’s like that anymore.
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