Discovering Your LimitsNovember 6, 2018
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Review – Nosler M48 Long-Range Rifle
By Kevin Madison, WHJ Shooting Editor
NOSLER FIRST JUMPED INTO THE gun-manufacturing world back in 2005 with its initial introduction of the Model 48 rifle. Since then, the Bend, Oregon company has carved out a niche with hunters and shooters by continuing to offer quality rifles that stand up to the conditions hunting throughout the West can throw at them.
In 2017 Nosler introduced its Model 48 Long-Range Rifle. I first was introduced to it at SHOT in Las Vegas and made initial plans to review it and finally got the chance this summer. It comes in six different offerings: 6.5 Creedmoor, 300 Win Mag, 26-, 28-, 30- and 33 Nosler. For this review, I tested the 30 Nosler.
I have always counted on Nosler to produce consistent and reliable ammunition. It is, after all, the hallmark of the company. To say I was excited when the M48 Long-Range showed up at my FFL would be an under- statement. Opening the box, it was clear my assumptions about the quality of the rifle were going to be met. This rifle is a thing of beauty. The fit and finish were immaculate and my first impression was that it was go- ing to handle beautifully in the field.
Built around the Nosler-designed M48 action, the M48 Long-Range features an integral recoil lug and a flat bottom to help minimize rolling upon recoil. The action is also drilled and tapped to accept widely-available scope bases designed for the Remington 700 long actions. The action comes with a left, rear-side bolt release but-ton. The six-fluted bolt action, and bottom metal, are all coated by Cerakote, which is the leader in thin-film ceramic coating. This gives it the added protection against wear and corrosion regardless of what Mother Nature dishes out.
The 26-inch, Shilen Match Grade barrel has a 1:10 twist ratio. Shilen has a long-standing reputation for quality barrels and these are fully free-floated to ensure maximum accuracy from shot to shot.
The barreled action sits in a Manners MCS-T Elite Tac carbon fiber stock that is both glass and pillar bedded to reduce weight and ensure accuracy from shot to shot. Texturing on both the fore-end and pistol grip ensure a secure hold in nearly any weather condition. Dual sling swivels allow for attachment points for various accessories if necessary such as a bipod and shoulder sling. To help tame the recoil of the 30 Nosler chambering, the stock also features a PachMayr Decelerator pad as well as a muzzle brake on the barrel.
The Timney trigger tops off the array of quality components. It came preset from Nosler at 3.2 pounds according to my Ly- man Digital Gauge it broke nice and clean with no creep. This felt a little heavy for me; my preference is in the 2-pound range. Al- though the owner’s manual suggests other- wise, the Timney trigger is user adjustable and could be adjusted lower.
The two-stage safety, reminiscent of the Remington 700, allows for the bolt to be cycled for unloading and loading while still kept in the ‘safe’ position.
The 30 Nosler caliber that I tested shares many of the same performance qualities that lovers of the 300 Win Mag have grown accustomed to. What is missing, though, is a belted magnum, which some shy away from. What is added is a little more horse- power.
The magazine on the M48 Long Range holds three rounds plus one in the chamber and is supported by a one-piece, all aluminum bottom metal.
The muzzle brake is a radial brake design with gas ports covering the entire circumference, which if shot from the prone position has a tendency to kick up a lot of dust and debris. This can be a problem while try- ing to keep on target, especially if you are in a hunting situation and your target may be moving after the shot.
Nosler instructions say that there is no need for any barrel break in, so after a good barrel cleaning on my bench at home, I took it to the range for my initial test where I shot 180 grain Nosler Trophy Grade Accubonds, which is plenty of bullet for any North American big game animal except for perhaps grizzlies. On subsequent tests I shot 210 grain Nosler Long Range Accubond in Nosler’s Trophy Grade ammunition. Throughout the testing process, I used a SigSauer Sierra3BDX 6.5-20×52 rifle scope.
Nosler guarantees 1 MOA accuracy and I had no problems staying within that. After a few initial shots, to both foul the barrel and get the scope near zero at 100 yards, my first three-shot group was right at .80 inches at 100 yards. Three more subsequent groups were all in the .75- to 1-inch range, which is more than acceptable for factory hunt- ing ammunition. Once the accuracy was established and I was comfortable with the rifle, I moved to 300 yards to ring some steel targets. The 8-inch target, well representative of a big game vital zone, proved nearly effortless to hit from a variety of field positions. During the review, I particularly liked that the muzzle brake and recoil tamed the recoil enough for me to stay close enough to target to spot impacts.
While the rifle exceeds expectations, the price point will be a shock to many hunters. Make no mistake, this is not an off-the-rack gun, and therefore won’t appeal to the masses. But if you’re a hunter who is looking for a gun that is keenly accurate, has long-range capabilities, can withstand the rigors of hunting in the West, and don’t want to go through the hassle of building a fully customized rifle, you’d be doing yourself a favor by seriously considering the M48 Long-Range Rifle. This is a gun that can accurately shoot at distances of 500-plus yards with consistency and with the right ammunition will kill any big game animal in the West (grizzly bears being the exception). It is tailor made for mountain hunting and back- country hunts where you need a rifle that’s light enough for carry all day, or potentially for many days, and also where reliability and accuracy are a must.