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The long-range craze remains the current driving force behind the design of most new hunting rifles. Serious big-game hunters are looking for rugged, lightweight rifles that will stack bullets on top of one another at extreme distances. But there’s more to trend than minimal weight and precision. Many of today’s long-range hunters also want adjustability in the stock, a vertical grip, seamless integration with modern bipods and tripods, detachable magazines, M-Lok capability, and lightweight carbon fiber-wrapped barrels. It’s rifles like the Bergara MG Lite that we tested last year that exemplify this trend, and this year’s new Nosler’s new Carbon Chassis Hunter is another prime example. During our annual rifle test, we got a chance to put it through the wringer. Here’s how it fared.
Nosler Carbon Chassis Hunter Specifications
- Length: 43.0 inches
- Weight: 6.55 pounds
- Barrel: 24 inches
- Action: Bolt, two-lug
- Trigger: Trigger Tech Primary Trigger (2.0 pounds as tested)
- Capacity: 5+1 (4+1 in 6.5 PRC)
- Finish: Cerakote
- Stock: Magnesium chassis, with carbon-fiber handguard and collapsible carbon-fiber butt stock.
- Chambering: 6.5 Creedmoor (tested), 6.5 PRC, 28 Nosler, 300 Winchester Magnum
- Price: $5,395
The heart of Nosler’s new Carbon Chassis Hunter is their Model 21 action, which is one of the best-engineered bolt-actions currently available from any manufacturer. We tested Nosler’s Model 21 last year and were very impressed with it. This buttery smooth push-feed action utilizes a two-lug bolt with an M16-style extractor and plunger-style ejector. It’s also fitted with a Trigger Tech Primary trigger that uses 440C stainless steel internal components with an adjustable pull weight from 1.5 to 4.0 pounds.
The action rests in a magnesium-alloy chassis that contains a V-block bedding system. The chassis is outfitted with a very ergonomic carbon-fiber vertical grip that fills the hand, and there’s a magazine well configured to accept AICS-pattern detachable magazines. (The rifle comes with a five-round MDT magazine—four rounds in 6.5 PRC.) Its most impressive feature is the 180° folding aluminum/carbon-fiber butt stock, which by virtue of butt-pad inserts, is adjustable for length of pull. It’s also outfitted with an adjustable, foam-padded comb that’s locked in place with two hex-head set screws.
The Carbon Chassis Hunter has a Sendero-contour carbon-fiber-wrapped barrel with a muzzle that’s threaded at 5/8×24. For the 6.5 Creedmoor chambering, the barrel is 24 inches long, but it’s 26 inches long for all other chamberings, and a thread protector comes standard. The barrel is free-floated over its entire length and the fore-end/handguard of the rifle is a squared carbon-fiber tube that has multiple M-Lok slots on the bottom and sides. There’s also a molded 9-inch ARCA rail on the bottom for attaching a bipod or tripod.
There’s a standard sling-swivel stud near the tip of the handguard and at the bottom rear of the folding buttstock. But there’s also a quick-detach swivel socket on each side of the end of the handguard and one on each side of the buttstock near the buttpad. Not only do these allow for multiple carry options, but you can also attach a shooting sling and torque into it very tightly without worrying about a point-of-impact shift.
Nosler Carbon Chassis Hunter Test and Range Results
- Long barrel for maximum velocity
- Extreme precision
- Collapsible stock
- Expensive as hell
- Not ideally suited for snap shooting
- Safety does not lock the bolt closed
This rifle shot exceptionally well from the bench, but its overall average does not do it justice. With the Federal Fusion and Hornady Precision Hunter loads, it averaged 0.80 for multiple five-shot groups. The best five-shot group we fired with this rifle measured 0.53 inches and was shot with the Federal Fusion load. It was the 120-grain Barnes load that hurt the average, but that particular load had a hard time in many of the 6.5 Creedmoor rifles we tested. The rifle was also very comfortable from the bench. Its adjustable comb, length of pull, and vertical grip are ideally adapted for supported shooting. But we struggled a bit shooting the rifle off-hand. The rifle was not unmanageable off-hand, but the thumb safety was a bit out of place in relation to the grip for fast deactivation, and the adjustable comb is not really a set-as-you-go system—you lock it in place in one location and run with it no matter the position you’re shooting from. None of this suggests you can’t get hits with this rifle while shooting off-hand, and we did. It’s just better configured for shooting from bags, a backpack, or a tripod or bipod rest. A quick adjustment on the comb would be a good idea and would allow the shooter to better fine-tune the interface regardless of the shooting position.
Final Thoughts of the Nosler Carbon Chassis Hunter
This rifle operated perfectly. It fed perfectly from the detachable 5-round AICS magazine, the bolt operated with the smoothness of warm molasses, and ejection was easy and positive. The adjustable trigger broke very crisply at 2.0 pounds with minimal overtravel right out of the box. The folding stock was easy to operate and reduces the length of the rifle by about 9 inches when collapsed. This should make it a bit easier to pack in or out during a hunt, and it can be deployed very fast.
The stock appears to be an MDT HNT26 Chassis System designed for the Nosler Model 21 action with the MDT logo removed. You can purchase one of these aftermarket MDT stocks for a Remington 700 for about $1,400. This is not a knock on the rifle or Nosler—it’s an excellent rifle stock that only weighs 31 ounces. But with the Carbon Chassis Hunter, you gotta pay for all that goodness.
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At $5,395 this rifle is hellaciously expensive. If you like a more traditional-looking hunting rifle but still want something lightweight and very accurate, check out the Wilson Combat NULA Model 20, which shoots almost as well, is more than a pound lighter, and goes for couple thousand less. On the other hand, if you love the idea of a folding stock and the other features that set this rifle apart from more traditional models, and you got to have that extra bit of precision, the Carbon Chassis Hunter is one damned fine rifle that also looks cool, will help you reach out and touch something, and you won’t get tired of carrying it.