The History of Kilimanjaro Rifles

Kilimanjaro Rifles traces its roots back to the Montana master gunsmith/stock-maker of more than 50 years experience, Merlin "Mel" Smart. It is Mel that originally developed and patented Kilimanjaro's proprietary Stealth Lamination technology which provides greater strength and stability while preserving the full beauty, figure and feel of our best grade Turkish Walnut stocks. Back then, it was called the ACRA-Bond Laminate.

For several years, Serengeti founder Rod Rogers had been a customer and friend of Mel Smart. Rod had a long career in high technology equipment with Digital Equipment Corporation, but had realized his dream of relocating to Montana and pursuing his interest in rifle design and development. Mel's health unfortunately began to decline, and Rod was asked to keep the business running. Mel passed away on Sunday, April 13th, 2003.

During the preceding years, Rod had helped design and develop the Montana 1999 action as one of the founders of the Montana Rifle Company. The M1999 action incorporated and blended the best attributes of the Mauser 98, Winchester pre-64, and Sako actions for the ultimate hunting action. It did so using investment casting rather than more costly machining in order to achieve a superior action at an affordable cost.

Despite the success of the M1999 action, Rod disengaged from Montana Rifle Company to assist Mel's widow in keeping ACRA-Bond Laminates in motion. Because of the need for investment in supplies, tools, inventory and equipment, Rod formed Serengeti Rifles, Inc. and purchased ACRA-Bond Laminates in January of 2004. Rod partnered with Larry Tahler, an exceptional marksman and the former leader of U.S. Army sniper teams in Viet Nam. Together, Rod and Larry embarked on the development and building of the company destined to become the premier custom rifle maker in the country through dedication to several core principles: outstanding craftsmanship, technical research and development, complete customization to achieve each customer's perfect custom hunting rifle, 100% customer satisfaction, and un-paralleled customer service.

Over the next five years, Serengeti introduced an array of products and services. In addition to the proprietary ACRA-Bond lamination process, Serengeti introduced the Serengeti Action, a refinement and improvement on the M1999 action that Rod had helped design and develop which eliminated the imprecision limitation of the investment casting process to yield an action of extraordinary tight, smooth, piston-like operation. The Serengeti action, which Kilimanjaro continues, provides full controlled-round feed, full-length claw extractor, three-position bolt-mounted safety, Sako style bolt release, and an exceptional trigger making it one of the finest big-game/dangerous-game actions available. Serengeti Rifles also introduced numerous new stock geometry designs and custom rifle packages tailored to all types of hunting and bench-rest shooting, and individual shooter preferences.

In 2007, Serengeti Rifles launched an effort to build a national dealer network. This was an unfortunate mistake as it significantly increased overhead, and lowered revenue from necessary dealer discounts. Serengeti's outstanding craftsmanship, and full customization offering, was just not right for the less personal multi-tier distribution system. Just as Serengeti began to recover from this, the bottom fell out of the economy in 2008. Serengeti's financial constraints began prolonging the delivery of its customers' orders, and eventually, Serengeti was simply unable to fund the continued production of its customer custom rifle orders.

Kilimanjaro founder Erik D. Eike was a long-time (and frequent) customer of Serengeti Rifles. In 2008, recognizing the problems that Serengeti faced, Erik began a research and development project for a new flagship line of full custom rifles. Employing Serengeti's Master Gunsmith directly, Erik undertook the production of approximately twenty experimental prototype rifles to evaluate different actions, production techniques, finish procedures and more rigorous quality assurance standards. During this time, the proprietary "Kilimanjaro Standards" production, testing and quality assurance manual was created, and the Kilimanjaro Rifle was born.

In August 2009, Erik announced the launch of the new company, Kilimanjaro Rifles. Under his leadership, Kilimanjaro purchased the Serengeti name, model lines, patents and certain other assets so that Kilimanjaro could continue the fine tradition of Serengeti and Jaguar Rifles in addition to the new flag-ship Kilimanjaro Rifle. Kilimanjaro also introduced its Kilimanjaro Lever-Action Rifle and a line of new creations of historical custom rifles. At significant cost, Kilimanjaro undertook the completion and delivery of Serengeti's outstanding orders. As Erik puts it, what Serengeti Rifles achieved was simply too fine to allow to perish.

Serengeti's founders continue to serve as technical consultants to Kilimanjaro Rifles. While Kilimanjaro is administratively based in Erik's long-time home of Honolulu, all production continues in Kalispell, Montana under the supervision of both Erik and Kilimanjaro's Master Gunsmith.

Kilimanjaro introduced a number of improvements to make the Serengeti and Jaguar Rifles even better, including more stringent accuracy standards, improved blueprinting of actions, multiple testing and quality assurance examinations at various stages of production, full-barrel conditioning and load development for each custom rifle, a new and better "museum grade" wood finish protocol, Turkish Walnut stocks and deluxe hand checkering as standard, and other measures developed in the Kilimanjaro Standards R&D program. The Kilimanjaro Rifle, however, takes full custom hunting rifles to the highest level.

Kilimanjaro's philosophy is "All Custom — All the Time". We intend each and every rifle to be unique and custom tailored to its owner's specifications and desires. Kilimanjaro Rifles appreciates your patronage as we move forward crafting the finest custom hunting rifles in the industry.