NoslerCustom: A Rifle for Riflemen
By Dave Campbell
In his introduction to The Rifle Book, Jack O’Connor wrote: “I like the handgun. I hold the shotgun in high regard, but rifles—well, I love the darned things. To me they stand for wilderness, mystery, romance... .” I bought that book on November 22, 1974, and I cannot begin to estimate the number of times I have read it, nor can I accurately measure the impact those few simple words within that introduction have had on my life. Like O’Connor—and many others—I developed an early fixation on the rifle. Somewhere along the line, someone coined the term “rifle nuts” for guys like me. It is a term of endearment to me, and I wholly embrace it. But maybe it would be best to call us “riflemen.” So when the assignment came to wring out the NoslerCustom Rifle, I couldn’t say “yes” fast enough.
The NoslerCustom Rifle was born in 2005 with the goal of producing a limited run of 500 rifles per issue in a single caliber ready to take afield and guaranteed at 1/2-m.o.a. accuracy for three-shot groups with NoslerCustom loaded ammunition. Launching the project, the company chose .300 WSM as the initial offering. This year Nosler continues its eclectic mix of classical styling and modern technology in producing the second edition in .280 Ackley Improved.
The receiver, made from an investment casting, is tastefully executed in an octagonal cross section and features a massive, integral recoil lug at the front of its flat underside. It is drilled and tapped, as is the tang at the receiver’s rear, for one of the two Torx-head action screws. Matching square bridges fore and aft incorporate round sockets that accept the posts found on Leupold QR detachable scope rings. Throwlevers lie on the left side of each bridge and are attached to locking bars pinned in place in the receiver. A divot in the locking bar allows the rings’ post to seat fully into the receiver’s sockets and, after being rotated about a quarter turn, the locking bars then rotate to their full diameter to engage a divot in the rings’ posts. A pivoting bolt-release lever, its rear surface serrated for better purchase, is integrated into the receiver’s left rear wall.
Like the Mauser, the bolt retains the time-proven twin opposed front locking lugs. It features an M-16-style pivoting extractor and a plunger ejector in its recessed face. The wear pattern on the locking lugs’ finish indicates that they were hand-lapped to the receiver to ensure a square and secure lockup. The bolt body measures 0.682" in diameter but steps down 0.010" in the locking lug area. The lugs are 0.422-" wide and 0.100-" deep, providing ample surface to restrain any bolt thrust. Three large holes in the bottom of the bolt body safely vent any escaping gases into the magazine in the event of a blown primer or ruptured case head.
The bolt handle is 3/8" to 1/2" longer than the other sporting rifle bolt handles in my safe, reflecting a bit of modern tactical rifle influence. Its knob is a rounded tetrahedron with teardrop panels of checkering on each facet and the stylized “NC” on its bottom. According to my Lyman Digital Trigger Pull Gauge, the Timney fire-control system came to me factory set at 3 lbs., 3 ozs. A stainless-steel magazine box, again utilizing the classic Mauser staggered-feed design, completes the metal work within the stock.
The 24-inch stainless-steel sporter-contour barrel is hand-lapped and held to match tolerances with a breech diameter of 1.150" for the first 1 1/2", then gently tapering to 0.675" at the muzzle, bucking the more recent trend of lighter-weight barrels. This is no doubt tied to the 1/2-m.o.a. accuracy guarantee. The barrel is ceramic-coated with a matte-black finish, as is all the metal work except the magazine box. A one-piece steel Ted Blackburn bottom-metal unit features an Oberndorf-style, in-the-bow floorplate release. The floorplate itself also carries the same stylized “NC” logo. The rifle is stocked in a fancy grade of Turkish walnut. My sample was well-figured and substantial in weight, with a slight right-hand Wundhammer swell in the pistol grip. The cheekpiece is American in style with a shadow line. Twenty-two-line-per-inch checkering in a classic point pattern provides ample purchase to the stock, and it is topped off with an ebony fore-end tip and grip cap. For the more practical or economy minded, Nosler offers a synthetic stocked version for $2,595.
A pair of twin-screw, inletted swivel bases serve as anchors to the sling swivels. To ease what little shove is left from a .280 Ackley Improved in a 9-lb., 10-oz. rifle, the buttstock is finished with a Pachmayr Decelerator recoil pad. The barreled action and bottom metal are epoxy-bedded front and rear at their stress points, and the recoil lug seats against a 1/8"-thick aluminum plate imbedded in the compound.