Sadly, hunting rifles have earned a reputation for being nothing more than crude utilitarian tools. For whatever reason, the concepts of comfort, manageability and even accuracy elude this type of firearm under the assumption that it will only be fired once. Well, if you’ve been waiting your entire life to take that shot, wouldn’t it make more sense if that gun keeps pace with your favorite target rifle? Better still, why not make them one and the same so they see a little life in between hunting seasons? Such is the idea with the Christensen MHR or Modern Hunting Rifle. This futuristic bolt-action repeater exhibits the finest modern features, is constructed from top-tier materials and carries a sub-m.o.a. guarantee, ensuring that it sees the outside of the safe far more than the rifles our grandparents carried afield.
The first thing you might notice when you pick up the MHR is its weight-to-size ratio. From muzzle to butt, this rifle stretches more than 45" yet only tips the scale at 7.5 lbs. This is achieved mainly through the use of carbon fiber, both in the stock and the barrel. While this material is far from novelty these days, Christensen works with it quite differently than other companies. Using a technique dubbed “Flash Forged Technology,” or FFT, it's able to build stocks that are a full pound lighter without sacrificing rigidity. During this forging process, an abbreviated aluminum chassis and V-block bedding system are incorporated for rock-solid adherence to the barreled action. The company also boasts a zero-waste manufacturing process that recycles leftover material in an effort to reduce its footprint. Aside from light, this stock is entirely modular, with additional parts available from christensenarms.com. These include length-of-pull spacers, grips, and even fore-ends. Out of the box, the gun comes with an adjustable cheekpiece, allowing it to be fit to the shooter.
The closest contender to a stock for heavyweight champ is a rifle’s barrel, and plenty of work was done here to shave down its mass. Again, carbon fiber was used for this task, and several layers are wrapped around a button-rifled stainless-steel core. The final assembly is threaded in 5/8X24 TPI and is capped with a three-chamber muzzle brake to control recoil.
A touch of familiarity is retained in the Remington 700-style action, with which most have some experience. Many argue that perfection was achieved within this classic dual-lug configuration and see little reason to deviate. Aside from its time-tested reliability, it is easily the most common setup in the U.S., vastly opening up the aftermarket. This includes the receiver screw pattern, but being that the MHR comes stock with a one-piece Picatinny rail, you likely won’t be seeking a replacement in this area. Those looking to keep the rifle light will feel the same way about the interchangeable bolt knob, as its monocoque shell's carbon-fiber composition is nearly weightless. Other details, such as skeletonizing of the bolt handle and the reversion to an internal magazine, help to keep weight at a minimum without surrendering its full-figured stature.
All that I needed to do to make my sample range ready was pick out a scope and slap it on. Sitting toward the end of my bench was a Primary Arms GLx 3-18X 44 mm first-focal plane optic, which makes a perfect candidate for a multi-use rifle like this. Joined with its illumination, its 3X setting is ideal for close-quarter whitetail, while at 18X, the ACSS Athena Reticle blows up large enough to clearly see the holdovers for both windage and elevation. After using a pair of Talley rings to secure it to the rail, I turned my attention to ammunition.
Just like the company’s target rifles, the MHR carries a sub-m.o.a. guarantee. This is typically met with target ammunition, which is fine if you only plan on banging steel. However, bullets built to harvest meat give up a portion of that accuracy to ensure lethality. To that end, I selected some of the most consistent hunting loads that I had to see if I could milk a few tiny groups and satisfy that claim “the hard way.” Being that my test rifle was chambered in .308 Winchester, I chose Hornady’s Precision Hunter, Fiocchi’s Hyperformance, and Federal’s Premium Scirocco II loads. Each of these rounds features a ballistic-tipped bullet to ensure that they make it to their intended target unscathed by wind. I purposely picked cartridges loaded with projectiles of varying weight to put the odds in my favor, as certainly, one would do the trick.
Before firing my first shot, I raised the cheekpiece a might by depressing the spring-loaded button and clicking it into place. This is one of the best systems that I’ve ever seen for this operation, as it’s both positive and toolless. Christensen outlines a specific break-in procedure, which I adamantly adhered to. During the process, I zeroed out my optic and gathered a feel for the adjustable trigger. Utilizing a TriggerTech unit meant that it could be tuned through the trigger guard without having to remove the stock. Most don’t realize this, but pulling an action out of the stock typically means you’ll have to clean up the zero after you reassemble it. That’s a lot of work just to add or remove a pound of pull weight. Out of the box, it was set to a touch over 4 lbs., so I cranked it down to its minimum and commenced accuracy testing from a bench rest position.
Using the magazine for the first time, I found that it held five rounds of .308 Win. while allowing enough play to press them down, slip a sixth into the chamber and close the bolt. This enabled me to fire two consecutive three-shot groups during my testing. Although this generated considerable heat for a hunting rifle, I was delighted to see that my point of impact didn’t shift and that the barrel remained cool to the touch. As you’d expect, the overall function was flawless, and the brake cut that .308 kick down to a slight nudge. However, I did have one minor gripe. It seemed that the only round that it shot well was the Hornady Precision Hunter. While I would have liked to meet the sub-m.o.a. guarantee with all three of these precision hunting rounds, at the end of the day, we really only need one to do the trick. Additionally, a seasoned handloader won’t even think twice about this statement, as once they tune a load, they never have to think about it again.
I finished my day by sending a few rounds out to 200 yards, where I hung a Caldwell AR-500 deer target. As this deviates from a circular gong, it promoted targeting the vital area and represented what I could do in common field positions. Clamping the gun into a tripod made neck shots a snap, but I found that I was perfectly capable of placing rounds into the greater vital area completely unsupported, thanks to the balance and lightweight nature of this rifle.
Christensen’s MHR turned out to be the real deal, providing improved accuracy in a package that you won’t mind humping along on an endurance hunt. I found it excelled in every area that it claimed while providing excellent modularity to form it to the hunter or the situation. A little ammo sensitivity is easily overlooked when you consider the feature set, and although pricey, one ought to consider that it could potentially consolidate two or more rifle purchases into one. Overall, it’s just plain fun to shoot, and you’ll find yourself knocking around steel a little more often, making you a better shot when the moment comes.
Christensen Arms MHR Specifications
Manufacturer: Christensen Arms
Action Type: bolt-action, repeating, centerfire rifle
Chambering: .308 Win.
Barrel: 22" carbon-wrapped 416R stainless steel; bull contour
Rifling: five-groove, button; 1:10" RH
Receiver: black-Nitride finish
Magazine: five-round capacity, internal box; hinged floorplate
Sights: none; Picatinny rail
Stock: chassis-style; adjustable comb and LOP; carbon-fiber finish
Trigger: single-stage, adjustable; 2-lb., 10-oz. pull
Overall Length: 45.25"
Weight: 7 lbs., 8 ozs.