When it comes to stock fit, Kilimanjaro Rifles caters to the female form like no other gunmaker, as implied by the name of their women’s rifle model: Artemis—the Greek goddess of the hunt. "This one was designed by women, for women, right here at Kilimanjaro," company president Erik Eike explained. "Yes, we incorporate all the usual Kilimanjaro features like our Stealth Lamination, Turkish walnut stocks, match-grade stainless-steel barrels and all the rest, but it’s the stock geometry that makes it perfect for women shooters."
That geometry, of course, includes shortened length of pull, open grip, and a trim fore-end stock, but the truly special lines are in the buttstock. "We toe-out the stock and give it a bit more cast off," Eike said. "This has the effect of directing recoil out and away from the sensitive areas of the feminine anatomy. The open grip, moved forward, positions smaller hands for accurate trigger control. All in all, it’s a trim, slim mountain rifle shape designed to be easy to carry and quick-handling."
"This Kilimanjaro African rifle in .375 Ruger fired a three-shot group at 100 yards that could be covered with a quarter.
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At the SCI Show in Las Vegas I was in a conversation with Erik Eike, President of Kilimanjaro Rifles, concerning a planned trip to Africa. The rifles he had on display were heavy on the "wow" factor—they all looked like pieces of art you would be afraid to get wet or put in a saddle scabbard. He had a hard time convincing me these were working guns and not just fancy rifles to impress your hunting buddies.
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Two things that make the Kilimanjaro rifle stand apart from other fine rifles are the stock and all-metal finish that will defy anything Mother Nature can throw at it. The stocks used are not only AAA Fancy Circassian Walnut but are formed from a lamination process they call Stealth Lamination. This process not only strengthens the stock but eliminates any chance of swelling or shrinking of the wood that can create a problem.
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In late July, my Kilimanjaro "African" rifle arrived. To say it was impressive would be an understatement. It had a beautifully figured walnut stock with ebony fore-end cap, flawless ribbon pattern checkering, fully adjustable open rear sight with hooded front sight, and wood to metal fit that was flawless.
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I settled in using Caldwell's Lead Sled and fired the first three shots from a clean, dry barrel before I looked through the spotting scope. What I saw made me open the bolt, put the rifle down, and walk 100 yards to retrieve the target. All three shots could be covered with a quarter.
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I also shot the rifle with a variety of other loads with a different selection of bullets, as well as factory Hornady ammunition, both solids and softpoints. Accuracy was spectacular with any load put downrange, even round-nosed solids.
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Quality is an understatement when describing the Kilimanjaro rifle. The perfect hunting rifle that meets everyone's criteria might be a wishful fantasy, but the Kilimanjaro African model I took to the Dark Continent is as close to perfect as I have seen. It is one of those treasures you pass on to the next generation."
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A Kilimanjaro rifle will stop traffic at any shooting range or hunting camp. My Tigercat Artemis model in .30-06, with its stunning exhibition-grade English walnut stock, caused quite a sensation at my local range during testing sessions. A beautiful rifle is nothing but an art exhibit if you can't hunt with it, though, and the gunsmiths at Kilimanjaro Rifles build their rifles to be both head-turners and serious all-weather hunting tools.
The good looks come not just from the beautiful wood but also from as many as twenty different coats of museum-quality oil finish, which also helps to protect and weatherproof the stock. All this beauty isn't just skin deep. The stocks are built with a special Stealth Lamination process that involves halving lengths of wood and bonding them together, creating significantly more resistance to moisture and temperature changes than solid wood. Stealth Lamination is a process that both strengthens and stabilizes the wood and enhances its grain and figure. It's almost like having a synthetic stock—but a lot prettier.
The Stealth Lamination process sets Kilimanjaro Rifles apart from other fine custom rifles, but the work doesn't stop there. Every stock is precisely fitted to and mated with the action and barrel by hand—a time-consuming process that produces exceptional accuracy. I tried several different loads in the .30-06 and settled on a Barnes VOR-TX 168-grain Tipped Triple Shock load that gave me the most consistent three-shot groups at 200 yards I've ever shot with any rifle, printing all the bullets in a nearly identical pattern under two inches apart at 200 yards every time I shot it.
Kilimanjaro's high-end mountain rifle model is known as the Tigercat, and it's a lightweight, compact rifle that is a pleasure to carry and shoot. I tried a Tigercat in .270 and I liked it, but in the end I fell head over heels for the Tigercat Artemis, which is the version of the Tigercat designed specifically for women. It's built on a Kimber 84L action, which Kilimanjaro modifies by shaving off some weight, contracting a new recoil lug, and smoothing and polishing the componenets. The rifle has a three-position saftey, custom-contoured Lilja stainless 22-inch barrel, and 13-inch length of pull, Diamond Fleur checkering, ironwood fore-end, grip, and cross-bolt caps, blue titanium ceramic metal finish with color-case hardened accents, and engraving on the floorplate.
The Tigercat Artemis differs from the standard Tigercat primarily in its stock configuration. Naturally, as these are custom rifles, they can be built to the shooter's exact dimensions and specifications. The Tigercat-Artemis fit me perfectly and was a joy to carry—trim, elegant, and perfectly balanced at 7.25 pounds with a Swarovski Z3 3-9x36 scope. As I've already noted, it shot beautifully, dropping both of my New Zealand animals with a single shot.—D.R.
The sporting pursuit of Syncerus cafer cafer, the Cape or Southern buffalo has long been my passion. So has been a study of the calibers, cartridges and bullets best suited for such activities. Over the past three decades I have seen many buffalo shot with a wide variety of ballistic combinations, from the .303 British and 174 grain FMJ’s (which were not at all impressive) all the way up to the various .500’s with quality soft points and solids (which are). From buffalo I have recovered bullets by the coffee can-full, and my veterinary background has allowed me the opportunity to look at ‘wounds’ (terminal bullet performance) for want of a better word, from a somewhat different perspective. What makes all this so interesting is that there exists out here in Africa, two different scenarios when it comes to buffalo, and the sport hunting thereof. The first is the perennial question of what is the best caliber, cartridge and bullet combination for safari clients, and the second is what is best for the Professional Hunter’s who guide and protect them?
To think that you can enter a field as traditional and crowded as custom rifles and expect to make a significant splash takes a bit of naiveté, a significant dose of faith and a hell of a bunch of work.
Erik Eike and the whole crew at Kilimanjaro have all that and more. Their full-blown custom Kilimanjaro rifle is, as advertised, "The Pinnacle of Strength, Beauty and Accuracy."
From its marbeled Turkish Walnut Stealth Laminate stock with Diamond Fleur wrap-around checkering to its lifetime guarantee, the Kilimanjaro bespeaks classic quality and performance. Its graceful, well-proportioned lines and precise wood-to-metal fit foreshadow its balance and slick handling qualities. Its stainless steel, match-grade barrel is softened by a deep, rich, protective metal coating that marries the look of traditional bluing with the durability of rust-proof, space-age ceramic. And, of course, each rifle is tailored to its buyer.
Whether chambered for a traditional, all-round cartridge like the .30-06, a flat-shooting super magnum or a dangerous game big bore, the Kilimanjaro rifle proves that old adage: There's always room at the top.
One recent offering from Kilimanjaro is the "Doctari", a dangerous-game rifle designed with major input from well-known African professional hunter, veterinarian, and writer Kevin "Doctari" Robertson. I'd gotten to know Erik Eike pretty well on a couple of safaris (he's a very avid hunter) and he asked me to test and review one of the new Doctaris. I started by talking quite a bit with Kevin Robertson at the 2011 Safari Club International convention.
The first thing Kevin emphasized was the fit of the stock. He's an enthusiastic sporting clays shooter, and strongly believes that a dangerous game rifle should fit a big-game hunter much as a fine shotgun fits a wing-shooter: When crunch-time comes with a Cape buffalo, the rifle can be quickly mounted and "aimed" like a shotgun, with no desperate searching for the alignment of iron sights, or a scope's field of view.
Kevin demonstrated this fit with his own Doctari rifle in .505 Gibbs, picking it up from the display table and aiming it at a distant point on the Reno Convention Center ceiling in one smooth motion. By his own admission, Kevin is not a shooter of typical build. Not only is he more than a half a foot taller than my own 5’8", but the "wingspan" (as he calls it) of his long arms is wider than normal.
Gene Gordner fitted the stock of the .505 to accommodate both this height and wingspan, and he is equally adept at fitting anybody else. He also personally fitted the stock on my wife's Artemis .308. Eileen always had problems with the fit of factory stocks, despite being tall enough to use the standard 13½" length of pull. Her only complaint about the Artemis is that it seems unfair to the animals, since when she shoulders the rifle the scope's reticle is right at their vitals.
[Editor's Note: We have the highest regard for Jerry Fisher, but Mr. Gordner did not apprentice under him as is mistakenly reported in this article.]
"Not many of us have need for a 505 Gibbs bolt-action rifle that throws 600-grain bullets 2,100 fps. Kevin Robertson does. The rest of us want to.
And Erik is offering to help.
Erik is Erik D. Eike, president of Kilimanjaro Rifles, custom crafted rifles of graceful line, stunning beauty and precision performance. Robertson is an African veterinarian better known for his exploits as a professional hunter. In that capacity he is expected to "sort out" various dangerous beasts improperly sorted out in the first place by his overly excited clients.
You can forgive us amateurs for getting overly excited when first facing our long-dreamed-of lions, tigers and bears, oh my. Not to mention buffalo and elephants. But stuff happens, and that's why there are sleek, slick, quick, dependable rifles chambered for 505 Gibbs cartridges. This oversized cartridge is a 1911 creation of modern shape, meaning rimless and bottlenecked with a shoulder, though there appears to be a lot more neck than shoulder in this big .50-caliber shell. The base is more than a half-inch across (.640-inch). Handloaders don't pour powder into this reservoir, they shovel it in. At 3.8 inches, the complete cartridge stands like a silo.
But that's okay with Robertson because he's more interested in what the cartridge does when some 128 grains of powder ignite. We have lift-off. The bullet explodes from the muzzle carrying roughly 5,900 foot-pounds of buffalo-stopping energy.
Power is just the start. It does precious little for you if you can't control it. At 6’3" and stout, Robertson has enough pwer to tackle the 505. What he needed was finesse. He wanted a rifle shaped and balanced to assist rather than hinder his efforts.
Kilimanjaro - The speed with which this new company has ramped up production while maintaining the highest standards is impressive. It's even more impressive when you see and feel the quality of Kilimanjaro custom rifles. Production staff at the Montana plant nearly tripled over the last year and several new rifles were added to the line.
The Artemis is a full-custom, bolt-action repeater crafted especially for women with special stock lines to fit the female form. The standard Artemis is built with a Lilja stainless barrel on a Serengeti action, with bolt jewelling, shadow-line cheekpiece, ebony or ironwood forend tip and grip cap, Dakota-style inlet swivel studs, Decelerator pad and Talley QD rings/bases. Options and upgrades abound. Sky's the limit ladies, and the Artemis will flat out shoot.
The new Serengeti Rifle has all of Kilimanjaro's quality, beauty, accuracy and lifetime guarantee, but at a semi-custom price. The Serengeti action combines the best of the Mauser 98, Winchester pre-64 M70 and Sako actions. You get the Stealth Lamination AAA American walnut stock in a wide choice of styles and geometries with custom LOP and many more features uncommon in a "semi-custom" rifle. Even wrap-around checkering is standard!
Finally, there's the new Doctari Rifle, a no-nonsense, hard-working dangerous game bolt-action designed in conjunction with PH Dr. Kevin "Doctari" Robertson. The Granite Mountain bolt-action is the heart of this beast, and it's mated to a Lilja barrel. Balance, speed and handling characteristics for immediate sight acquisition are emphasized on this stopper rifle. We'll review Robertson's personal rifle, Doctari No. 1 in 505 Gibbs, in an upcoming Rifles column.
There is nothing like taking a rifle on a grueling and rigorous hunt to shake out any bugs or to reveal weak spots. That is exactly what Erik Eike, President of Kilimanjaro Rifles, did with his guns recently. For five weeks and a full 27 days of hunting, including 21 days in the Selous Reserve of Tanzania. The rifles were subjected to what can only be described as the most strenuous field testing possible in the African wild.
Kilimanjaro believes strongly in field testing of its rifles in the harshest conditions to hone machining tolerances, improve design features and ensure rugged dependability. There is a big difference between taking a shot at a Whitetail and putting down a charging Cape buffalo and that difference gives a whole new dimension to the best design and craftsmanship of a rifle. Having returned from Africa, the next stop for Erik and Kilimanjaro is field testing for two weeks in the rugged Alaskan bush for Brown Bear this fall in Alaska's Unit 9.
"Okay, so it's a dream rifle. We all have them, don't we?
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Mine (one of them anyway) just happens to be a double-lug bolt action no manufacturer has, to my knowledge, ever cataloged. But in .243 Winchester it’s just what this doctor ordered.
This particular firearm is still not cataloged, and the one known example on existence was almost lost before it was completed. Its genesis was a Serengeti Tigercat I saw a few years back at a Safari Club International convention in Reno, Nevada, an annual shindig many of us hunting and shooting fanatics attend. You can find just about every dream rifle at this party, but not quite the little jewel I conjured up.
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A year later I had the pleasure of shooting a new version of the Tigercat in .338 Federal based on the Kimber 84M action and found it everything one could hope for in a sleek, perfectly balanced sporting bolt action. The stock belly was slim and slightly tapered, the grip open, the English walnut striking without being gaudy- even the Schnabel forend looked right, terminating the classy stock with just the right saucy attitude. The five-point checkering pattern was understated but wholly functional, the satin finish was perfect and the metalwork smooth, precise and richly blued. The icing was the unique laminated stock. Whoa now. How can a gorgeous English walnut stock simultaneously be laminated?
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I opened it slowly, expecting to be delighted, fearing I might be disappointed. As we say in deer hunting, there was no ground shrinkage; the little .243 Winchester rifle was gorgeous…
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…Compared to bolt-action sporters I've grown accustomed to over the years, the new Serengeti Tigercat felt almost like a Red Ryder BB gun. Maybe a bit too trim and light. Had I exceeded my intentions? No.
After test firing and then hunting with the rifle, I quickly adapted to its trim lines, superb balance and quick handling characteristics. It now appears this is indeed the rifle I was imagining.
The trigger snaps at a light 1.75 pounds with no perceptible creep nor overtravel. The oversized shoe makes it feel even lighter. I worried that this might be too light for effective control afield, especially in the cold with gloves on, but that didn't prove to be the case. During five days of coyote hunting with temperature ranging from 20 degrees Fahrenheit to the mid-60s, I fired six times and flattened five coyotes, missing one by pulling the shot right as it loped straight at me. It wasn't the trigger's fault. I credit the rifle's quick handling and instant trigger break with helping to catch fleeting coyote as it raced between brush patches at about 80 yards.
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"It just so happens that my wife Eileen and I tend toward the ballerina and football lineman in neck and shoulder dimensions. She's only a fraction of an inch shorter than I am, so we can use rifle stocks with the same length of pull, but otherwise the most comfortable stock for each of us is vastly different.
I didn't know this when she first started hunting, soon after we got married almost thirty years ago, because back then I was one of those who firmly believed (because so many "authorities" believed it) that a straight, classic-style stock reduced felt recoil for every human. It took more than twenty years to find out that wasn't true—and to appreciate what Eileen had been going through for a quarter-century.
A few years ago she had a custom-stocked .308 Winchester made for her by Gene Gordner of Kilimanjaro Rifles. Gene knows how to fit a stock, and Eileen's rifle has a very high Monte Carlo comb, along with a recoil pad that slants forward at the toe, to precisely meet her particular right shoulder. Now Eileen doesn't suffer when she pulls the trigger on a big-game rifle.
Men and women do tend toward the NFL lineman and ballerina body types, but there's also a considerable crossover. Some women have short necks and big shoulders, and some men are, ah, willowy. So it helps to acknowledge your body type when buying a rifle. The average factory stock is designed for the average guy, who's around 5'10" tall and 170 pounds, and if you're somewhere around there the average factory stock will work fine. But if you tend toward willowy, a Weatherby stock will suit you better than any classic-style stock—and in fact Eileen finds Weatherbys to be the most comfortable factory rifles, one reason she's hunted with my Ultra Lightweight in .240 Weatherby Magnum more than I have.
Unfortunately, many so-called custom gunsmiths really aren't. They're just as convinced as I was that a straight-combed, classic-style stock is The Answer, and so they only make that kind of stock. This is true not just of walnut-carvers but many gunsmiths who build synthetic-stocked rifles. So if there's a big height difference between your cheek and shoulder, you might look for a gunsmith who knows how to really fit a rifle stock. Gene Gordner can do the job in walnut, while Texas gunsmith Charlie Sisk frequently modifies synthetic stocks to fit individual shooters."
Q: Could you please specifically tell me what characteristics you added to the Doctari rifle by Kilimanjaro Rifles? I have read the website information and I do not understand what is new or improved. I also do not understand why it costs $14,000. That is the price of a new double rifle! I am aware that you know a great deal about rifles, and I am curious to know what specific modifications would be made to make this "the perfect rifle" for you.
A: I agree, $14,000 may seem a lot for a bolt-action rifle, but please let me explain why this is so.
First off, the heart of the new Doctari rifle is a Granite Mountain Arms magnum Mauser '98 action--one of the best there is, and those actions alone run about $3,500 apiece.
Then there is the stock, and this is what sets Kilimanjaro rifles apart. They use a patented process called "stealth lamination." Really fancy walnut, with lots of figure, looks lovely but in reality it is not as strong as straight-grained plain-Jane wood, especially in the grip area. The Doctari rifle will only be available in heavy recoiling calibers and it is my experience that if the stock on such a rifle is going to break, it will break in the pistol grip area. So to get around this problem, Kilimanjaro takes fancy AAA grade stock blanks and carefully cuts them into three slices. They then shuffle the pieces around and glue them back together under 50,000 pounds of pressure with a special glue which penetrates deeply into the wood. This de-stresses the wood and the end result is a really good-looking blank that is probably the strongest wood rifle stock anywhere. You have to look really hard to see the lamination. Most who inspect the rifles do not even see it until it is pointed out to them. As I'm sure you can imagine, this is not an easy or cheap process.
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These rifle are put together entirely by hand, which is many, many hours of work. They have beautiful checkering and a ceramic finish to the metalwork that is harder than nails and totally rust resistant.
So at the end of the day, you get a rifle that feels and handles like one which costs 10 times more, is as hard-wearing and rugged as a Land Cruiser safari car, and looks as good as it shoots and feels.
The amount of effort that has gone into getting this rifle right will, I think, surprise you. For more information, see Kilimanjaro's web page.
Any man with enough moxie to buy a failing custom gun company just as the economy lurches into the deepest ditch since the Great Depression is clearly a man who enjoys taking risks.
Erik Eike, owner of Kilimanjaro Rifles, sent me two of his magnificent creations, one chambered in 9.3x62mm, the other in .300 H&H, both with Mannlicher stocks, early 20th century cartridges married to early 20th century stock design. It was a move right in character for a risk-taker.
For five weeks, and a full 27 days of hunting, including 21 days in the Selous Reserve of Tanzania, Kilimanjaro Rifles recently subjected its custom rifles to the most strenuous field testing in the harshest African safari conditions. Many hunters are wary of subjecting rifles as beautiful as Kilimanjaro’s to the rough conditions of the field, but that is what we create and craft them to handle.
There are few words more evocative of adventure than Kilmanjaro, the name of Africa's highest mountain, the place Hemmingway said was the Maasai's "House of God." It is an inspired choice of name for a custom rifle company. Conjuring up images of black-maned lions, Cape buffalo with their arrogant, baleful stare, the graceful grand jete of the gazelles. Wall tents under the shade of fever trees, wood smoke and whisky, and above all, the glorious freedom and excitement of the hunt.
...The custom rifle makers are among the most interesting of all the exhibitors. The one that stood out for us, above all of the others, and we mean no disrespect, were the Kilimanjaro rifles of Erik Eike... Erik’s rifles are truly magnificent... In short, Jim would be willing to sell all of his hunting rifles to own just ONE of Erik’s guns; they are that good.
...My first contact with them was on a prairie dog shoot in eastern Montana, where I shot several Serengeti-stocked rifles. All shot very well, and looked great. Some of these were complete custom rifles on various actions. A couple of years later I ordered a complete Serengeti rifle, a 7x57 on a slightly fancy piece of American walnut and a Montana 1999 action.
It looked pretty darn good and proved to be very accurate as well as stable. One advantage of a laminated stock on a light sporter is the barrel channel can be fully bedded...
Serengeti Rifles established a renowned reputation for exceptional customer service. As an example, Clair Rees wrote an article titled Serengeti Walkabout in Successful Hunter magazine, www.successfulhunter.com, May-June 2006 edition, stating: "Serengeti provides the best customer service of any custom rifle-maker I’ve seen".
Serengeti has achieved recognition in numerous industry media articles by the most respected and widely read writers, including:
For all the past 'Latest News' stories we've featured on our website over the years, visit our News Archive.
At Kilimanjaro, we know that it takes only one less than perfect rifle to destroy the hard-won reputation built by all those before it. That is why we devote such intense attention to quality control and both in-house and independent testing of each and every custom rifle we build. The most satisfying reward for this commitment to excellence is the response of our customers.
For those who do not wish to wait the ten months necessary to give birth to their own Kilimanjaro custom rifle, we have the following custom rifles available for immediate delivery. These rifles were produced for field testing and display at the SCI and Dallas Safari Club conventions.
"Classy to look at and a pleasure to carry, the Kilimanjaro Tigercat functions flawlessly and promises consistent accuracy, outing after outing, year after year."
"My priority was to fullfil my hunting passion - to hunt down old buffalo bulls. I did, with great enthusiasm, with my new Kilimanjaro Doctari Professional Hunter rifle in .505 Gibbs..."
South Island Safari
A mountain-hunting adventure amid the soaring peaks of New Zealand's Southern Alps.
Award Of Excellence
Kilimanjaro receives the Sporting Classics' Award of Excellence. "The Kilimanjaro rifle proves that old adage: There's always room at the top."
The New Doctari Rifle
from Kilimanjaro is the ideal rifle for taking on the World's biggest game.
The Doctari 505 Gibbs custom rifle has the handling qualities of a fine double shotgun and ballistics of a howitzer.
Kilimanjaro's Walking Rifle - The Perfect Flyweight Hunting Rig
"Okay, so it's a dream rifle. We all have them, don't we?...
Kilimanjaro's latest masterpiece, Kilimanjaro African .375 H&H, shown on the cover of this issue, features an Exhibition Grade Bastogne Walnut stock...
Any man with enough moxie to buy a failing custom gun company just as the economy lurches into the deepest ditch since the Great Depression...
There are few words more evocative of adventure than Kilmanjaro, the name of Africa's highest mountain,
American Rifleman Patriot Review
Serengeti is unique among classic rifle builders because they build not just on super-fancy walnut stocks, but laminated ones as well...
David E. Petzal,
Field & Stream Magazine, February 2006
"Serengeti… builds laminated walnut stocks that are stable yet look like natural wood…. How natural? My gun dealer, who handles many high-grade firearms...
A couple of years ago an itch started for another rifle, thanks to Serengeti Rifles. These folks make what might be termed "cutting-edge classics," bolt-action hunting rifles...
Rifle Shooter Magazine,
"Montana craftsmen don't believe that strength must be sacrificed for beauty…. The rifle is, in a word, concise. It's as light as a thin cloud, yet its stock provides a sure grip...