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