While military sniping has diverged into two paths due to modern battlefield conditions–precision semiautos such as the M14 in Iraq where snipers are often faced with multiple targets at short to medium ranges; big magnum bolt guns in Afghanistan where troops often engage the enemy at extreme distances–the challenges of the law enforcement community haven’t changed.
Usually officers are confronted with a single adversary, sometimes behind glass and more often than not well inside 100 yards. For years the phrase, “The average police sniper shot is around 70 yards” was repeated like gospel, but when the American Sniper Association (consisting mostly of police snipers) looked into it in 2005, researchers realized that number was just an urban myth.
They found the FBI didn’t collect any statistics specific to police sniper shootings. So the ASA performed its own survey of 664 agencies and studied reports of 219 sniper shootings occurring between 1984 and 2004. The ASA discovered that the average police sniper shot was just 51 yards, and 95 percent of the shootings took place at 100 yards or less.
Where the military sniper is just trying to hit his target–and sometimes a leg hit is good enough (or at least better than nothing)–the police marksman is trying to stop someone, and stop them immediately because lives are at stake and sometimes hostages are involved.
|Specifications | KIMBER MODEL 8400 PATROL|
|Type:||controlled-round-feed centerfire bolt action|
|Capacity:||dual-lug bolt-action centerfire|
|Capacity:||5-round internal magazine w/hinged floorplate|
|Overall length:||39.5 in. (13.75-in. length of pull)|
|Barrel:||20 in. matte blue, fluted; 4-groove, 1:12 RH twist|
|Stock:||laminated with black epoxy finish; pillar and glass bedded; Pachmayr Decelerator pad|
|Safety:||3-position Model 70 type|
|Trigger:||adjustable; factory set at 3 to 3.5 lb.|
|Manufacturer:||Kimber Manufacturing, Inc., KimberAmerica.com, 914-964-0771|
Of all the police shots taken, 80 percent of them were fatal, most likely due to the fact that the overwhelming caliber of choice is .308 Winchester. The .223 with modern expanding bullets works pretty well, but many police sniper shots are taken through intervening barriers (23 percent in the ASA survey), which tend to deflect or deform lighter bullets.
Significantly, none of the shootings reported involved multiple suspects. Given all this, it should come as no surprise that police agencies for the most part have stuck with bolt guns in .308 for their tactical rifles.
Fifteen years ago, long and extra-long barrels in precision rifles were all the rage in order to wring out every possible foot per second from a cartridge, but officers soon found that getting 26-inch and longer barrels in and out of cars and buildings was awkward at best.
Add to that fact agencies were putting rifles out in the field–into the trunks of patrol cars as opposed to just in the rifle bags of SWAT teams–and soon short-barreled precision rifles were becoming popular.
Numerous manufacturers have come out with precision rifles with 20- and 22-inch barrels. Shorter barrels mean reduced velocities (25 fps per inch of barrel shorter than 26 is the average), but as almost all police sniper shots are taken at close range, this reduced velocity is not an issue.
Today, a sizable percentage of precision rifles sold to the law enforcement market come with short tubes. And Kimber, which has a history of giving the consumer exactly what he or she needs and wants, now joins those ranks with the introduction of the Kimber Model 8400 Patrol.
A new variation of the excellent Kimber Model 8400 bolt action, the Patrol, is aimed squarely at the law enforcement market and more specifically designed to be at home in a squad car trunk.
I received a pre-production prototype for testing. Pulling it out of the box, I saw the rifle looked built for business, with a no-nonsense non-reflective finish and what I first took to be a black synthetic stock. Later I learned that it’s actually a laminated wood stock covered with a black epoxy finish, a
construction that reduces the cost of a rifle without sacrificing quality or accuracy.
Model 8400 rifles feature both pillar and glass bedding for superior strength and accuracy. All Model 8400 Patrols have match-grade barrels, chambers and triggers and Picatinny rail mounts on the receiver with 20 m.o.a. worth of adjustment built in.
The 8400 Patrol’s heavy-contour barrel is fluted to reduce weight, increase rigidity and speed up cooling. The fluting also makes the rifle look downright cool. The barrel tapers from 1.25 inches at the receiver to 0.94 where the fluting begins to 0.8 at the muzzle.
After I installed the bolt–which sports an extended handle with an enlarged knob to aid operation under stress or with gloved hands–the first thing I did was try the trigger. Yow. A quick measurement on a trigger-pull gauge showed it to weigh 11⁄2 pounds. It was very crisp, with no takeup or overtravel, so it actually felt lighter than that.
A quick check of the Kimber catalog showed me that the standard trigger pull on the Patrol is set at the factory at between three and 31⁄2 pounds. That is much more acceptable on a rifle meant to bounce around in a trunk for weeks on end and be used in stressful situations.
I spoke with one of the Kimber reps about the pull weight on my sample and learned that apparently one of their gunsmiths had been experimenting with the trigger, and they wouldn’t have sent it out to me had they known it was set so light.
|Accuracy Results | Kimber Model 8400 Patrol
|.308 Winchester||Bullet Weight (gr.)||Muzzle Velocity (fps)||Standard Deviation||Group Size (in.)|
|Remington Swift Scirocco||165||2,595||17||0.63|
|Nosler Ballistic Tip*||165||2,674||9||0.69|
|Federal Match BTHP||168||2,589||11||0.53|
|WARNING: The loads shown here are safe only in the guns for which they were developed. Neither the author nor InterMedia Outdoors, Inc. assumes any liability for accidents or injury resulting from the use or misuse of this data. Notes: *Handload. Accuracy results are the averages of four five-shot groups at 100 yards from a sandbag rest. Velocities are averages of 10 shots measured with an F-1 Alpha chronograph from Shooting Chrony 12 feet from the muzzle. Abbreviations: BTHP, boattail hollowpoint; FMJ, full metal jacket.|
But as an aside, I attempted to get this light trigger to go off by banging the buttstock on the floor as hard as I dared (rifle unloaded, of course), with zero success, which is a good testament to its design.
Kimber describes the trigger as adjustable, but I really think that’s a misnomer as the company recommends it be adjusted by a professional gunsmith and should be adjusted down only to about 23⁄4 pounds.
The Patrol sports a one-inch-Pachmayr Decelerator buttpad, which helps cushion the recoil, which isn’t that bad on a gun this weight in the first place. It’s worth noting that I didn’t damage the pad while banging the rifle on the floor during my trigger “test,” so it’s plenty tough as well.
The Kimber features a three-position Model 70-type wing safety, with the middle setting allowing the bolt to be worked to unload the weapon while still on Safe. The small magazine floorplate release is located out of the way in the bottom of the trigger guard.
The rifle features two sling swivel studs on the fore-end, so the user can mount a bipod on the far one while still having the option of using a sling attached to the rear stud. The bottom of the fore-end is flat with a slight slope, which can be used for crude elevation adjustments in the field, but for range work I mounted a Harris bipod to the rifle.
The Patrol has a full-length Mauser claw extractor for true controlled-round feeding. After loading the magazine, I would occasionally experience a problem chambering a round: The rear of the topmost cartridge would sit below the bolt, so the bolt would ride over it. This was true no matter how many rounds I had loaded into the magazine.
The follower had a lot of tilt, and the magazine spring didn’t seem especially strong, so maybe the issue was due
to a combination of the two. After the first round was chambered and the shooting began, I experienced no feeding problems while working the bolt. It was just getting the first round into the chamber that was occasionally troublesome.
I also had some problems working the bolt quickly. With the bolt all the way to the rear, there was what I consider significant play at the back end–0.2 inch laterally and 0.17 inch vertically. This might not seem like much, but it was enough for the bolt to tilt and bind from time to time when I was pushing hard on the oversize knob. I had this problem whether the bolt was dry or slick with oil.
The metal is finished in a matte blue, and I found a number of small rust spots. I found tiny areas of rust on the crown and back near the receiver–as well as a line of rust in the middle of the barrel exterior that was just over 1/16-inch long and half that wide. Plus there were a few flecks of rust just inside the crown.
That concerned me, so I called Kimber again and learned the prototype was a “show” gun that had made the rounds of various trade and consumer shows–banging around from rack to car trunk to airplane cargo hold and back again for months, plus being handled by countless sweaty hands and probably having seen little if any preventative care.
When the people at Kimber learned that the rifle they had sent to me was less than pristine, they were horrified, but this is a great unintentional simulation of how these rifles are certain to be abused by police departments in the field, and I think I learned more about the design than if they had sent me a new gun. The rifle still looked new, and even with a little rust on the barrel it shot better than custom rifles costing twice as much–even after everything it had been through.
Shooting the Kimber Patrol was easy. The 11⁄2-pound trigger was like a glass of ice-cold lemonade on a scorching summer day. With every type of premium ammo I tried, the rifle shot between 1/2 and 3/4 inch. The best groups came with the well-known Federal 168-grain BTHP Match load, which is far and away the most commonly used load by police–even though this projectile is not designed to expand and therefore risks overpenetration.
I think most agencies would be better served by polymer-tipped rounds such as the Hornady A-Max, which will penetrate barriers but is actually designed to expand, so I made sure to test that load.
As a lark, I tried some 20-year-old Winchester white box 147-grain FMJs (which were government contract overruns, if I recall correctly) just to see what they would do. Not only were the groups three times the size of the other ammo, they were hitting two inches higher than everything else at 100 yards. This is a good example that you get what you pay for.
A few minor issues aside, the Kimber Patrol is exactly what I would come up with if I were to design a police bolt-action sniper rifle. It’s beefy enough that it will stay steady for the shot but not so long or heavy that keeping it trained on the target for an extended period will make you rupture a disc.
It’s more than accurate enough to get the job done, the designated trigger pull weight of three to 31⁄2 pounds is just about right, and I dare you to find a more accurate rifle for the money.