December 19, 2023
I can’t put a finger on exactly when the lightweight hunting rifle craze began, but I know it was during the 1980s and 90s when folks really began putting a priority on cutting weight. With the lightest versions of factory bolt-actions still tipping the scales at close to seven pounds, a number of custom gunmakers took over. Synthetic stocks, skeletonized actions and pencil-thin barrels helped a few niche makers meet the weight goals their customers required. It didn’t take long for factory rifles to join the fray and Kimber was one of the first to really do it well with the Montana series of synthetic-stocked ultralight rifles. These rifles were as light as any custom gun and available at a fraction of the price. With the new sub-five-pound Mountain Ascent Caza, Kimber carries that tradition one step further.
The Mountain Ascent Caza is an ultralight sporter designed for big-game hunting in the roughest terrain. It is currently available in 6.5 Creedmoor, .308 Winchester, .270 Winchester, .30-06 Springfield and .300 Winchester Magnum. Our test rifle came chambered in the 6.5 Creedmoor cartridge. In that chambering, the rifle weighs in at 4 pounds, 14 ounces, which makes it extremely comfortable to carry over long distances when compared to heavier guns.
Though the core Mountain Ascent rifle is nothing new, there are some features on the new Caza and Skyfall versions that make them very attractive. The Mountain Ascent starts with the company’s 84M action, which is machined from stainless steel and includes a two-lug bolt. The slender but sturdy receiver uses a full-length Mauser-style extractor. This feature is a real aid to reliability, an often-overlooked virtue on a hunting rifle. By my definition, it is not a true controlled-round-feed action since the extractor does not snap over the cartridge rim until the round is chambered. Nonetheless, it provides plenty of extraction power.
The bolt itself is a great example of the lengths that Kimber went to in order to minimize the Mountain Ascent Caza’s weight. The bolt body is spiral-fluted and three longitudinal grooves are cut away from the extractor. The bolt handle is fluted and the bolt knob is hollow. Though seemingly trivial, over the entirety of the rifle these grams turn into ounces shaved off the weight.
The controls on the Mountain Ascent Caza and the broader 84M family are borrowed from some of the most legendary hunting rifles in history. The Model 70-style three-position safety is easy to manipulate and, at the middle position, allows the action to be cycled with the safety engaged. Since the Mountain Ascent Caza uses a four-round blind magazine, the ability to run loaded cartridges safely in and out of the chamber is a necessary step of unloading the rifle. The single-stage trigger broke at just over four pounds with no discernible creep. Though a lighter trigger would have made bench testing easier, this one is just right for most hunting applications. The trigger can be adjusted via a pair of screws, but I left this one alone.
The stainless-steel barrel on the Mountain Ascent Caza is a very thin contour and is also fluted. At 22 inches in length, it strikes a good balance between maintaining portability and maximizing muzzle velocity. This button-rifled barrel is rifled with four grooves at a twist rate of 1:8—ideal for the Creedmoor chambering. The barrel is threaded 7/16-28 at the muzzle and equipped with a multi-port muzzle brake. This device cuts recoil, of course, and is a must-have in the rifle’s most powerful chamberings including the .300 Winchester Magnum. Though some users might opt to mount a suppressor to this rifle, note that 7/16-28 is not a common thread pattern among suppressor manufacturers. Though an adapter could be used, I personally wouldn’t mount a suppressor to a barrel of this contour and length.
The stock on the Mountain Ascent Caza is a high-quality synthetic. Kimber describes it as a “reinforced composite” and it is lightweight but very rigid. The shape of the stock is traditional American sporter with a drop at comb of 0.43 inch and a drop at heel of 0.54 inch, making it ideal for scope use. The entire stock, with the sling swivel studs, recoil pad and aluminum trigger guard installed weighs just 1 pound, 9.6 ounces. Aluminum pillars provide a steady mounting surface for the action—ours came with guard screws torqued so tightly it would have no doubt crushed a stock without them. Three sling swivels, two at the forend and one at the toe, are securely mounted to the stock. The double studs at the forend allow for the simple mounting of a bipod without disrupting the sling. Since a bipod can put a great deal of force on a sling stud, it was nice to see the secure way in which Kimber installed these to the stock.
The Caza element of the rifle’s name comes from the Pnuma Outdoors camo pattern used on the stock. This swirling tan, brown, black and green pattern is effective and attractive camouflage. A Mountain Ascent Skyfall version, the stock of which is wrapped in Kryptek’s pattern of the same name, is also available. All of the exposed metal components are finished in a satin black KimPro II finish. This finish provides lubricity as well as corrosion protection and helps camouflage the otherwise bright stainless-steel parts underneath. The combination of the black metal finish with the Caza camo stock is an attractive and subdued package unlikely to spook game.
ON THE RANGE
The Mountain Ascent Caza is drilled and tapped for scope mounting, allowing for the use of heavyweight 8-40 fasteners. Wishing to set up the rifle for practical use afield, I used a set of Talley Ultralight aluminum mounts to secure a Trijicon 3-9x40mm Accupoint scope as low as possible above the bore. With low mounts, the objective lens just cleared the barrel shank and still allowed enough room for the bolt handle to operate. The entire package was light, handy and balanced well—weighing just 5.87 pounds with the scope and mounts installed.
Kimber guarantees sub-MOA accuracy that it met that standard with two of the three loads we tested. Featherweight rifles can be tricky to shoot from the bench since they are extremely sensitive to any inconsistency in how they are positioned and held. Nonetheless, we were able to shoot several respectable groups with the Mountain Ascent Caza. Recoil was mild thanks to the 6.5 Creedmoor chambering and the muzzle brake. The brake, of course, added plenty of muzzle blast to the mix.
I took the time to survey both the factory and custom ultra-lightweight rifle offerings and could not find one readily available that is lighter than the Mountain Ascent Caza. Even the much-sought-after and long-discontinued Remington 700 Titanium rifles weighed more than five pounds. A few custom rifles come close in terms of weight but at $4,200 for a New Ultra Light Arms Model 20, $5,625 for a Rifles, Inc. Strata and $3,199 for a Proof Research Elevation, none can match the price point of the Kimber. When compared to those rifles, the $2,370 sticker price on the Mountain Ascent Caza seems a bit more palatable.
Ultralight rifles are not ideal for every hunting scenario—like anything, there are trade-offs. They can be a challenge to shoot in field positions and the barrel contours heat up quickly. If you are seeking the absolute minimum in terms of mass, though, they are an attractive option. The factory hunting rifle is as diverse as ever with countless models available for consumer to choose from. For those seeking the ultimate lightweight big-game rifle, the Kimber Mountain Ascent Caza needs to be in the conversation. This rifle is unbelievably light and, despite that, performed well in all of our testing.
KIMBER MOUNTAIN ASCENT CAZA
- Type: Bolt-action repeater
- Caliber: 6.5 Creedmoor (tested)
- Barrel: 22-inches, threaded 7/16-28 with a removable brake
- Weight: 4.8 pounds Capacity: 4+1
- Stock: Pillar-bedded composite
- Finish: Black nitride/Cerakote Sights: None, drilled and tapped for scope mounts
- Trigger: 4.1-pound single-stage
- Price: $2,370