When it comes to a precision rifle for peace officers and the public at large, the .308 Winchester cartridge reigns supreme.
While I realize that such cartridges as the .308 Winchester Magnum and .338 Lapua hit harder and at longer distances, the fact is that most law enforcement shootings are within 100 yards—many much closer. The .308 Winchester has more than enough accuracy and power to take care of most of these situations as well as reach out and neutralize a bad guy at hundreds of yards if necessary.
Further, while many 5.56x45mm carbines are more than adequate for the majority of circumstances, few have the intrinsic accuracy of a bolt-action rifle, and the lighter bullets may disintegrate when trying to punch through glass or other barriers.
Two problems with bolt-action rifles— whether perceived or real—are the length and weight. Many “tactical” rifles can easily tip the scales at over nine pounds without optics and a 24-inch barrel.
KIMBER MODEL 8400 PATROL
I recently had the opportunity to evaluate a bolt-action rifle that is handy without sacrificing accuracy—Kimber’s Model 8400 Patrol.
The Model 8400 Patrol is relatively light for a tactical rifle, weighing only about 8.5 pounds without optics. With a 20-inch barrel, it is also four inches shorter than many tactical rifles—and space is at a premium in today’s smaller patrol cars.
The 20-inch fluted bull barrel has a 1:12 twist and features a match chamber and recessed match target crown at the muzzle. Fluting a barrel increases rigidity and reduces weight. Since the surface area of the barrel is increased, fluting also allows better heat dissipation.
The bolt has an oversized handle, which makes it easy to manipulate the bolt from the shoulder while staying on target. Like the barrel, the bolt is fluted to reduce weight. The bolt uses the time-proven Mauser-type claw extractor.
The Model 8400 Patrol uses a three-position Model 70-type safety.
The stock on the Model 8400 Patrol is laminated wood with a tough black epoxy finish and features both pillar and glass bedding. Length of pull is 13.75 inches. The stock has three sling swivel studs—two for a sling and a front stud for attaching a bipod. A oneinch Pachmayr Decelerator recoil pad completes the stock.
For mounting a scope, the rifle has a milspec Picatinny rail that will accept all standard tactical rings.
Capacity of the non-detachable magazine is five rounds.
The adjustable trigger has a factory setting of 3 to 3.5 pounds. I believe the factory setting is about ideal for a precision rifle—not so light to be touchy even when wearing gloves, but light enough to allow precision fire. The trigger broke cleanly with no creep or take up.
ON THE RANGE
For the evaluation, I mounted a Millett TRS (Millett Tactical Rifle Scope) 4-16X50 on the Model 8400 Patrol using Warne Maxima Tactical rings. This scope has a 30mm tube and features a side focus knob and lockable target turrets. Each click is worth 1/8 inch at 100 yards, allowing a very precise zero.
The reticle of the Millett TRS is their Mil-Dot Bar system, which functions as a standard Mil-Dot with the addition of thin crosshairs for easier alignment for rangefinding and holdover. The reticle of the TRS also has adjustable green illumination for precision in varied lighting conditions.
In all honesty, this is more scope— both in size and power—than the mission the Model 8400 Patrol is intended for, but I wanted to see how much accuracy the rifle is capable of. If I were to actually use the Model 8400 in its intended role of a light, handy rifle, I would likely go with a smaller and lighter optic.
For the evaluation, I gathered Match ammunition from Black Hills, Federal, Hornady, Remington and Winchester. The Black Hills and Hornady loads both use 175-grain bullets, while the other three employ 168-grain pills.
After I attached a Harris HBLS bipod, I was ready to begin shooting.
There are many proponents of breaking in a barrel, and there are just as many who say it is not only unnecessary, but actually decreases the life of a barrel.
While I don’t subscribe to the “shoot one round and clean and then shoot another round and clean” routine, when testing any precision rifle, I usually fire five rounds and run a solvent-soaked patch down the bore, followed by dry patches until they come out clean. This accomplishes two things.
First, every load tested starts out with a clean bore. Second, cleaning allows the barrel to cool between firing sessions. Some barrels will begin to “string” shots—even though it may be barely perceptible—when the barrel heats up. A cool barrel levels the playing field to determine if a rifle prefers one particular load to another.
While I don’t consider myself an expert marksman, the Shooting Gods were smiling down on the day I shot, with the planets in perfect alignment and just the right combination of caffeine and nicotine in my system.
In short, it was a perfect day for shooting, with blue skies, 72 degrees and a gentle breeze coming in from 12 o’clock.
The smoothness of the bolt on the test rifle was apparent from the first time the action was worked. While subjective, on a scale of one to ten (with a ten being like glass), I would place the smoothness of the bolt at a nine, allowing the bolt to be run from the shoulder effortlessly.
Every load fired was easily capable of making a precise head shot. The best group fired was with Black Hills 175-grain Match and measured .48 inch, while the 168-grain Remington load came in at just short of MOA at 1.05 inches.
This illustrates the phenomenon that almost any firearm often favors one load over another. If you are not bound by a department bid or other considerations, it behooves you to find out which load your rifle prefers.
Kimber’s Model 8400 Patrol rifle performed as good as or better than any precision rifle I have tested in recent memory.
It’s relatively light, handy and built like a tank. Accuracy-wise, it will hold its own against any other rifle at and beyond the ranges it will likely be used, and the reliability of bolt-action guns is legendary.
You choose the optic, and the Model 8400 Patrol is ready to go on patrol with you.