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American Rifle
Rifle Magazine
November - December 2004
Volume 36, Number 6
ISSN: 0162-3583
Number 216
On the cover...
The new Nosler Custom Rifle features a Leupold 3.5-10X VX-III scope and is chambered for the .300 WSM. Mule deer photo by Donald M. Jones.
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Something new from an unexpected source is always an eye-opener, especially when the concept is quite different from what folks might expect.

Nosler, Inc., long noted for its premium bullets, has introduced more than just a quality rifle that shoots, but an entire shooting/hunting system that is guaranteed to be an heirloom. Designed by hunters who know what quality equipment in the field means, the new Nosler rifle shoots and functions as reliably as any rifle on the market.

This is a limited production rifle. Only 500 will be made each year and in only one caliber. The first year’s rifles will be chambered for the popular .300 WSM. Each year thereafter will be in a different caliber. Each rifle’s serial number will be registered to its owner, and he/she will have first right of refusal for that serial number each year. We are always looking to pass something meaningful to the next generation, and this series of rifles could well be it.

When the word system is used, it usually means everything needed is included. This is a complete system. What the owner receives is the rifle, scope, ammunition, sling and letter of authenticity. All this is packed in a quality metal storage case that is engraved with the owner’s name. It’s not just an accumulation of products, but each is matched to the other, ensuring the rifle’s accuracy, function and collectability.

The rifle itself uses a custom action designed by Nosler, a push-feed system that performed flawlessly during initial range tests. Integral scope bases that accept the Leupold QD rings are used for the scope mounting system. The Wiseman stainless barrel is match grade, hand-lapped and ceramic coated to resist corrosion. The custom trigger, set at 3 pounds, breaks so cleanly you can’t use it as an excuse for errant shots.

The fancy-grade Turkish walnut stock is well designed with a slight palm swell and checkered 22 lines to the inch in a pattern that is not only attractive but also feels good. It is obvious the rifle was designed by hunters who have spent time in the field. When you put the rifle to your shoulder, it fits and balances as a quality rifle should. Weight distribution is where it should be, between your hands, making it feel lighter than the 9 pounds it weighs.

The Leupold scope was specifically designed for the Nosler rifle. It is a matte-finished variation of its top-of-the-line VX¨-III 3.5-10x 40mm. The reticle is Leupold’s new easy-to-use Boone & Crockett sighting system. What you see when looking at the target is the standard crosswire, but the lower vertical wire has three short crosswires that are spaced to accommodate range and provide a sighting point. The serial number on the scope matches the serial number on the rifle.

Quite a few custom rifles come with an accuracy guarantee. This new Nosler rifle is no different; three-shot, .5-inch accuracy is guaranteed, a bold claim for any rifle. With today’s advanced machinery and talented operators, however, the tolerances needed to manufacture precision parts makes the guarantee doable in most cases - doable only if the parts are assembled by hand by a knowledgeable gunmaker who knows what he is doing. I guess that’s why they call it a custom rifle.

While you can read all about function and accuracy claims in magazines, the bottom line is how the rifle performs at the range. A box each of handloads using 150-, 165- and 180-grain bullets was assembled for a day at the range. Also included was a box of Nosler’s Custom Ammunition using its new 180-grain AccuBond.

The day at the range was not particularly conducive to wringing the best out of the rifle. The temperature was 97 degrees Fahrenheit with a 10 mph headwind. The mirage at 100 yards looked like dancing snakes between the bench and the target. Expectations would be satisfied, considering the conditions, if everything stayed within an inch or less.

Four groups of three shots each were fired with each of the handloads using 150-, 165- and 180-grain bullets. All were loads taken out of the Nosler Reloading Guide using IMR-4350; seating depth was set at the factory overall length of 2.860 inches.

The barrel was cleaned after each 12-shot string. No particular procedures or precautions were followed concerning barrel heat. Needless to say, in the 97-degree weather, after 12 rounds you could singe your fingers on the barrel.

When the targets were retrieved, there was a pleasant surprise. Of all 12, three-shot groups, the largest measured a little less than an inch, and the smallest was right at .5 inch - very good considering.

The last series of targets was fired with the Nosler Custom Ammunition loaded with the 180-grain AccuBond. Loaded in the Nosler ballistics lab, Nosler Custom Ammunition comes in a sturdy plastic box with an attractive label that has a ballistic chart on the back so you know what that specific load is doing. Good idea.

After 36 rounds of .300 WSM, one might have a tendency to be a little flinchy, but the excellent stock design and an additional recoil pad tamed it nicely. The first group suffered, as the second shot was called out, and stretched the group to .75 inch. The other three groups measured .5 inch or less. Had the second shot in the first group gone where it was intended, the .5-inch guarantee would have been met under some fairly challenging conditions. As it was, three out of four clusters at .5 inch or less isn’t bad.

With the accuracy attained under those conditions one can only imagine what the rifle might do in ideal weather. I don’t know if you could brew up a handload that shot as well as the new Nosler Custom Ammunition, but it sure would be fun to try.

If you have been paying attention, your antenna should have gone up with the mention of Nosler Custom Ammunition. The rifle package is just part of the new product news coming out of Nosler. It is a lot more than the loading for the new rifle.

For years the Nosler ballistic lab has been providing loaded ammunition to writers and industry dignitaries for seminars, factory sponsored hunts and different shooting events. This service is now being offered to everyone but with a different approach.

When you go through the listing of over 200 different loadings, notice the absence of some of the most popular cartridges. Missing from the list are .22-250 Remington, .243 Winchester, .270 Winchester, .280 Remington, 7mm Remington Magnum, .30-06, .300 Winchester Magnum and the three (.270, 7mm and .300) Winchester Short Magnums. Sounds odd to leave out some of the most popular cartridges on the market, but it was done by design.

The reason for their absence is that each is available loaded with Nosler bullets in the Winchester Supreme, Black Hills Gold, Federal Premium and Norma lines of ammunition. It was felt there was no need to duplicate what is already available.

What is offered includes almost everything else from .218 Bee to .416 Rigby and multiple loadings for most of them. A few examples are: six different loads for the .257 Weatherby, five .260 Remington loads, eight .270 Weatherby Magnum, nine loads for the 7mm SAUM and 7mm STW and more loadings for the Ultra Mags than Remington offers.

All three types of Nosler bullets - Ballistic Tip, AccuBond and Partition - are loaded in most all the cartridges listed. As the AccuBond bullets are offered in different calibers, they will be added to the Custom Ammunition line.

The technicians Nosler has in its ballistics lab are some of the best in the industry and enjoy what they are doing, so there is no reason not to expect an outstanding product. If the ammunition shot in Nosler’s new rifle during the testing is an example, you will be hard-pressed to duplicate it with handloads.

In a conversation with Bob Nosler, president of Nosler, Inc., it was apparent they had been working on this project for a long time. Like most things that turn out well, the old saying of “take your time, think it out, and do it right” proved to be true.

The design, development and manufacturing of any new product are just part of the master plan. The marketing and sales efforts are what put product in the consumers’ hands. Here again is a different concept for the new rifle and ammunition.

Don’t look on the gun rack of your local dealer for the rifle or on his shelf for the ammunition. You won’t find it. The only way to get your hands on either is to call Nosler or visit its web site. All sales will be factory direct and shipped to an FFL dealer designated by the customer.

Price for the rifle package is $3,995 and will be available in January 2005. Considering the cost of a rifle from most custom gunmakers, the Nosler package is a very fair bargain, especially when the price of the scope, rifle, gun case and ammunition are considered separately.

A quote from Bob Nosler: “If our customer is not completely satisfied with the accuracy, craftsmanship and the function of our new rifle, I will personally buy it back from him within 30 days. No questions asked as long as the rifle is not damaged. That’s a promise from one hunter to another.”

That sums it up nicely.

For more information contact Nosler, Inc., 107 Southwest Columbia, PO Box 671, Bend OR 97709; toll-free phone: 1-800-285-3701; or visit the company web site online at:

Big Game Rifle
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