Great stories have been passed down through the years at American Rifleman, and some of them take on the stuff of legend. Take, for example, former Rifleman Editor Walter J. Howe wordlessly smashing a coffeepot with repeated blows from a hammer because too many staffers congregated around it for far too long (which apparently reduced productivity). In Howe's defense, they had been repeatedly warned.
Then there's the saga of former NRA Publications Executive Director George Martin's quest for a minimalist, lightweight dangerous game gun. Martin, an experienced African hunter willing to take a bit of pounding for the sake of an easier-carrying, lightweight dangerous game rifle in .458 Win. Mag., had a delightful, petite gun with a nice stick of custom-made walnut. Time and exaggeration have reduced its weight through the years to a mere 6 ½ lbs., a rifle that would literally dance in your hands. When handloads were being worked up, legend has it, the elegant little rifle exploded in a shower of splinters, leaving it shattered and broken clean through at the wrist. In a recent conversation with George, now retired, the story is just that—a story—one that has no basis in fact. The actual rifle, a 10¼-lb. Whitworth in .375 H&H built by Dave Yale (February 1984, p. 28), made two safaris with George and then, with recoil reducers, was used in Africa by his petite and elegant wife Mary.
True or not, I've always kept that story in mind every time I look at a lightweight, hard-recoiling gun. And the new Kimber Talkeetna—chambered in the "medium-bore".375 H&H Mag., the minimum for hunting the "big five" in Africa and an ideal cartridge for big Alaskan bears—fits the description of a lightweight heavy hitter very well indeed. In a trend pioneered by Ultra Light Arms' Melvin Forbes, extremely light or "mountain" rifles have become all the rage; they're not just for sheep hunters anymore. My opinion of synthetic-stocked rifles has moderated through the years. At one time, I wouldn't have such a contrivance in my house, let alone in my gun safe. In short, because of Forbes, I'm a convert and believe Kimber's .308 Win. 84M Montana sets the standard for the class in lightweight American-made production rifles.
But dangerous game rifles are different. A magazine rifle in .375 H&H Mag. or better needs weight to tame recoil. Many authorities give an ideal weight of around 10 1/4 to 10 ½ lbs. Named for a town that begins many a backcountry Alaskan adventure, the Model 8400 Talkeetna shaves about 2 lbs. off the "ideal" number, weighing in at 7 lbs., 9 ozs. unscoped. With a Leupold VX-7 1.5-6X 24 mm and accompanying steel Talley bases and rings, the rifle tips the scale at 8 lbs., 13 ozs. So is the Talkeetna too light? The answer is an unequivocal "no." Does it kick? Yes, briskly. Can it be managed? Yes, quite well. And can it be carried comfortably? Yes, all day every day.
If there is such a thing as an all-around cartridge, it is likely the .375 H&H Mag., which dates to 1912. In his 1936 book Big Game Rifles And Cartridges, and after praising the .350 Griffin & Howe Magnum and the .350 Newton (good luck finding brass), Elmer Keith wrote the following about the .375 H&H: "The .375 Magnum will do the same thing at any range needed on big game, and is also one of our most reliable rifles for larger game. It will also kill the smaller game cleanly, with little waste of meat, if the shots are placed where they should be whenever possible… One's choice of these larger caliber weapons is mainly a personal one, and one subject to the individual choice as regards the weight the user cares to carry. "For me, after having carried far heavier rifles in the game fields of Alaska and Africa, the scoped Talkeetna, at slightly less than 9 lbs., is a rifle I indeed "care" to carry. Most hunting rifles are carried a lot and shot a little, but even then recoil has to be manageable, as a rapid second shot is often required, and you need to be more afraid of an animal that can maul or gore you than the recoil of your rifle. The Talkeetna's stock design makes that possible.
More Than The Right Lines
The stock has a gentle, almost subtle, shadbelly shape forward of the trigger guard where the magazine area is expanded to accommodate four rounds of .375. Inside the blind magazine, there's a steel box that engages recesses cut for it in the underside of the receiver. The follower is aluminum, and tension is provided by a W-shaped flat spring.
A Trim, Proven Action
The recoil lug, sandwiched between the receiver and barrel when the latter is screwed into place, measures 0.226" deep and is 1.05" wide. On the test rifle, the lug was well glass-bedded, then, oddly, the bedding was painted over in the same gray as the rest of the stock. Two screws, which have aluminum pillars chamfered to meet the inside contours of the screw heads, secure the action to the stock. One passes through the rear of the aluminum trigger guard while the other threads into the bottom of the receiver ring.
A Barrel With The Right Features
At The Bench And In The Field