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Nosler Rifles Come Full Circle

Just like its projectiles, Nosler rifles give hunters an edge.

6/18/2001

In designing the Partition, John Nosler’s intention was to create a bullet that performed reliably no matter what—a goal he achieved with the 1946 concept. This development, or technology, if you will, in turn made sportsmen’s cartridges and rifles more effective on the quarry they pursued. With the introduction of the NoslerCustom Rifle (2005), and the Model 48 Custom Sporter (2006), Varmint (2008) and Trophy Grade Rifle (2010), the company has come full circle, making rifles that also offer an upgrade in terms of reliability and performance.

Beyond Bullets

Why would Nosler invest the time, capital and manpower into designing and building rifles? The answer might surprise you. “We have been making rifles for bullet testing for more than 60 years, and since we love to hunt, it was only natural that we would build a few personal rifles for our own use,” said Bob Nosler, president and CEO of Nosler, Inc. “Further, we wanted to put our years of ‘tinkering’ with rifles and testing bullets into an accurate, reliable package that every level of hunter could enjoy,” he added.

“While there are several very good rifles on the market today, the Nosler line is somewhat unique in that we use our rifles on every hunt—and we hunt a lot!” explained Nosler. “We have tested our rifles extensively in the heat of Africa, the cold of the Arctic, and just about every dirty, dusty or wet condition in between. If there is something that needs improvement, we expect to find it first and fix it.”

Although field-testing is standard procedure for armsmakers, Nosler augments endurance and reliability testing in an unusual way. “In addition to field-testing, we fire tens of thousands of rounds in our Ballistics Lab each year,” said Nosler. “This gives a unique, in-depth look at the accuracy potential and durability of the essential parts of a good hunting rifle. Whether we are looking at triggers, barrels or the NoslerCustom action, we know the reliability because we use them to test our bullets every day.”

So, how did the company transition into rifle manufacturing on a larger scale? In 2005, the same year Nosler unveiled the NoslerCustom Rifle, it added a 30,000-sq.-ft. warehouse, enabling expansion in the existing space in the original building. According to NoslerCustom Division Manager Mike Lake, “Although the project began with existing employees, the company has hired some highly skilled and educated people to help us grow, with some being graduates of gunsmith programs and others having many years’ experience in the field.” Currently, the NoslerCustom Division, which encompasses both NoslerCustom hand-loaded ammunition and rifle production, consists of 11 employees.

Although the NoslerCustom Rifle and Model 48s vary in their features and, ultimately, cost, there are commonalities among them. Let’s examine the rifles’ features.

The NoslerCustom Action

Seldom is it that a gun builder—semi-custom or custom—employs an action/receiver of his own design; rather, most use an existing design, such as the Remington Model 700 or Winchester Model 70, then “true” and/or modify it to fit his “style” and/or upgrade its performance, at which point it becomes the armsmaker’s foundation. The benefits of using an existing platform are many, including: parts commonality and availability; less capital involved; and field-proven performance and reliability.

Nosler took the road less traveled, which begs the question, “Why?” The reason is simple, and wise: It allowed the company to combine the best features of existing actions with its own ideas about what makes a great rifle. Foremost, “it had to be strong, robust in design, simple, tolerant of contamination, have standard—Remington Model 700—barrel threads, and offer ease of maintenance,” explained Lake.

Depending on action size, the NoslerCustom receiver is either investment cast (short-action) or machined from a billet (long-action). It’s done for the same reason the integral recoil lug—located at the front of the receiver—measures 3/16x11⁄16x1/2 inches on the short-actions, and 3/8x11⁄16x9/16 inches on the long-actions: design evolution. The short-action was introduced first and is investment cast; and the machined, long-action version followed, so the latter enabled the change. Regardless, both receivers are manufactured from AISI 4140 steel and a feature a flat bottom, the latter of which is widely acclaimed to reduce, if not eliminate, “rolling” in the stock—particularly during recoil. Also worthy of note is the use of an anti-bind rail that runs the full length of the receiver that, along with the traditional raceway, keeps the bolt in alignment. To protect it from premature wear and corrosion, the receiver is coated with NIC Industries’ Cerakote.

Depending on where the measurement is taken, the short-action’s loading port is between approximately 2.837 and 2.856 inches in length, and the long-action’s is between 3.300 and 3.315 inches. Considering that the .308 Win., the parent cartridge of many short-action chamberings, has a maximum cartridge overall length (COL) of 2.810 inches, and the .300 WSM, also the parent case of several offerings, has a COL of 2.860 inches, only minimal material is removed. This lends rigidity to the action and aids accuracy. The long-action cannot handle cartridges with overall lengths in excess of the rifle’s largest chambering, .338 Win. Mag., which has a COL of 3.340 inches. This eliminates such classics as the .375 H&H Mag. and .416 Rigby.

The NoslerCustom action differs slightly from that used in the Model 48 Custom Sporter, Varmint and Trophy Grade Rifle. The former has Leupold Quick Release (QR) bases machined into the receiver as one of the rifle’s upgrades, which adds slightly to its weight, but also eliminates a weak point in the attachment of an optic. In addition, the rifle is shipped with a Leupold Custom Shop riflescope—with a reticle calibrated to provide 200- to 500-yard zeroes with NoslerCustom AccuBond ammunition—fitted in Leupold rings and zeroed. Two boxes of the ammunition are also provided.

The downside, if it can be considered one, is that this design limits base options to one: Leupold QR. According to Lake, though, this is not a problem. “While the QR bases may take a bit of getting use to by some people who have no experience with them, all of our customers have grown to love the convenience of being able to ship their rifles without the zero being moved in transit.”

As for the Model 48s, because they too lack iron sights, the receivers are drilled and tapped for scope bases. Fortunately, the company chose the readily available Remington Model 700-pattern and screw size, enabling any two-piece base in that format to work.

Additionally, the bolt-release lever, which is ribbed to enhance purchase, is located at the rear of the receiver’s left side.

View the Nosler Custom Rifle Photo Gallery

 

Bolts, Barrels & More
The one-piece, investment-cast AISI 4140 steel bolt’s body measures 0.683 inches in diameter and weighs 12.8 ounces. It is machined, heat-treated and has six, 3.895-inch-long shallow flutes designed to reduce its surface area, thereby smoothing its travel, as well as allowing the egress of debris that would otherwise end up between the receiver and bolt, possibly causing galling or wear. In addition to the dual-opposing locking lugs, the right of which has a groove through it that corresponds to the anti-bind rail, the root of the handle serves as a third lock-up point.

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2 Responses to Nosler Rifles Come Full Circle

Charles wrote:
October 09, 2011

Wow, sour grapes! I was an engineering director and managed several tool shops during my 40 year professional career. Machinests and gunsmiths are almost always the employeess who feel that they are not paid enough, even when they are making more than most. 2. They always think that they know more technically than management or engineers and will tell you how they single-handedly saved every project from the stupid management team. 3. They have no loyalty and will quit over $0.50/hour. Plus, they always call their former employers "cheap" even though they make more money than anyone else who is an hourly employee. 4. Usually, the machinests who complain the loudest are the worst, most sloppy and least loyal employees. Lastly, Mark, you need to take a course in communication skills and learn to punctuate, spell and capitalise before you criticise everyone else!

mark ritter wrote:
November 21, 2010

as far as nosler's expansion goes, i can tell you this, the new kevlar design belongs to a small west virginia rifle maker "new ultra light arms". melvin forbes, the owner of ula worked with nosler to develop the nosler rifle. i was an employee at ula for three years and when i started in 06'we were just beginning the first production run chambered in 300wsm and 325wsm. basically, at the time, nosler had little knowledge of a functioning rifle. they had employed yet another outside maker to cast their actions and others to manufacture various parts. all of these parts were shipped to us at ula to rework and refine and fit with their lightweight stock[which we built]. there were a lot of problems with the action design an function on that first production run.i personally brought these issues to melvin forbes' attention since i was personally working these parts over and packing the completed rifles. the firing pin spring was the primary concern because it was of a low quality steel. we eventually went with wolf spring, about the best out there. basically, the action was so rough, we needed a spring with more tension to ensure a proper primer strike.there were also issues with the floating barrel.this was due to our problems with the stock [also brought to melvin's attention]. these problems were not dealt with properly for several months.i had told melvin that we neede more bedding under the recoil lugs to ensure proper float. eventually we corrected the problem,humbly, through my advice.if you haven't guessed yet,i am a gunsmith and other than melvin himself, the only one at ula at the time,and witout a fine machinist named "will", melvin could not have pulled it off. to make along story short, nosler is a penny pincher just like the rest. they have a fine rifle that works well, but, not without the help of others with greater knowledge. as far as ula goes, melvin needs to pay his people more and treat them with respect. as he now knows, "burn your bridges"?