August 14, 2020
Christensen Arms is quickly becoming one of the premier manufacturers of bolt-action hunting rifles. The company’s excellent components and attention to detail make its guns attractive to serious shooters and hunters, but despite the cutting-edge design and excellent accuracy potential, these rifles aren’t so pricey that they’re out of reach for the average person.
This year, the Gunnison, Utah, company is offering two new titanium-action models to its bolt-action rifle lineup. The Mesa Titanium Edition comes with a sporter-profile stainless steel barrel, and the Ridgeline Titanium Edition features a carbon-fiber-wrapped barrel.
I had the opportunity to test the Mesa Titanium, which with its 22-inch barrel and a starting weight of just 6.1 pounds is a mountain rifle in the purest sense. Excessive mass has been shaved, the stock is trim and slender, and it’s built from durable components that can handle the most brutal high-mountain weather conditions imaginable.
When I first saw it at SHOT Show 2020, I found it to be a refreshing departure from a show floor dominated by heavy hybrid hunting/tactical rifles. The Mesa Titanium isn’t designed to serve double-duty as a competition target rifle and hunting gun. Rather, it’s designed with one very specific goal in mind: to be a lightweight, accurate sporter that offers the accuracy of a target rifle distilled into a handy hunting package that, despite its many class-leading features, costs well under two grand.
“For too long rifles built with lightweight titanium actions have been beyond the financial reach of most hunters,” says Jason Christensen, president of Christensen Arms. “We’re excited to change that starting with these two new titanium editions.”
With a suggested retail of $1,795, the Mesa Titanium Edition is billed as the most accessible titanium action rifle ever built. It’s about $1,500 less than the new Weatherby Mark V Backcountry Ti, and the Mesa Titanium Edition rifle is only a few hundred dollars more than what you’ll pay for many titanium actions alone.
With such a low cost of ownership relative to other titanium rifles, you might expect that Christensen Arms has cut corners on the construction of the Mesa Titanium, but that’s not the case. The cylindrical machined titanium action is mated to a Christensen Arms 416R stainless steel, featherlight contour, bead-blasted barrel with removable stainless steel radial brake. The button-rifled, hand-lapped barrels on these rifles feature a match chamber, 1/2x28 threads on the muzzle and come with a recoil lug sandwiched between the barrel and action.
Four chambering options are currently available: 6.5 Creedmoor, 6.5 PRC, .308 Win. and .300 Win. Mag. Both the 6.5 Creedmoor and the 6.5 PRC have 1:8-twist barrels, ideal for stabilizing popular heavy-for-caliber 0.264-inch hunting bullets, while both .30 caliber versions feature 1:10- twist barrels. The three short-action offerings come with 22-inch barrels while the .300 Win. Mag. has a 24-inch barrel.
Those barreled actions rest on Invar pillars. Invar, a nickel-iron alloy, is notable for its low coefficient of thermal expansion (its name is derived from the word “invariable,” a nod to the alloy’s uniformity in widely varying temperatures). This resistance to temperature-induced change helps improve shot-to-shot consistency.
The pillars rest in a sleek Christensen Arms carbon-fiber-composite sporter stock with a straight comb, and the base color is a glossy metallic gray that is accented by black epoxy resin spiderwebbing. In addition to giving every stock a unique look, the epoxy also offers added texturing to improve the shooter’s grip on the rifle. Also included is a soft black LimbSaver recoil pad with cutouts that look and act like spring chambers to dampen recoil.
Bucking the popular trend toward three-lug, full-diameter bolts, Christensen’s Mesa Titanium features a dual lug bolt that is nitride treated and spiral fluted. The team at Christensen seems particularly fond of spiral fluting, for it appears not only on the bolt body but also on the bolt shroud and bolt handle.
The bolt comes with an added ring of steel that encircles the head of the cartridge—an added measure of security—and magnum models feature dual spring-powered ejectors. An M16-style extractor takes a healthy bite on the case to ensure reliable cycling. The bolt’s flattened, skeletonized handle comes with a removable bolt knob, and there’s also an option to purchase an oversized tactical-style bolt knob.
A billet aluminum machined hinged floorplate with “Titanium Edition” in bold lettering keeps loaded cartridges (four in standard calibers, three in magnums) locked within the rifle’s internal box magazine. The Mesa Titanium Edition’s receiver has a generous ejection port cutout that allows you to top-load the gun, and the receiver is drilled and tapped to mate with Remington 700-pattern bases. Christensen also sells its own top rails in either zero or 20 m.o.a..
The Mesa Titanium Edition’s controls are easy to operate and well laid out. There’s a two-position rocker-type safety that is angled slightly downward so it’s easier to access than competing designs. There’s a surprising amount of travel between the Safe and Fire positions, which is a good thing since that reduces the odds that the safety will move inadvertently from Safe to Fire when carrying the rifle in the field.
What’s more, the safety is easy to manipulate with your hand in the firing position, and it can be toggled between the safe and fire positions silently, an important feature on a hunting rifle. Other controls include a rocker bolt release on the left rear portion of the receiver and a magazine floorplate release located within the oversized trigger guard.
Christensen Arms doesn’t put lousy triggers in any of its guns, and the Mesa Titanium is no exception. The factory match trigger comes set between 2.5 and 3.5 pounds, and my sample’s trigger gun measured 2.7 pounds on a Wheeler gauge. There was not a hint of creep or take-up. The trigger is not only consistent but also well engineered, with a narrow, curved face that’s easy to manipulate.
As I mentioned, the action is easily top-loaded; you can top off the rifle as easily as you would a Remington 700 or a Model 70. Magazine capacity is listed at three rounds for the magnum calibers, which includes 6.5 PRC. It’s possible to jam a fourth round in the magazine, but “jam” is the operative word. It won’t feed, so don’t try it.
The Mesa Titanium’s grip diameter is slightly smaller than some competing rifles, and it’s certainly slimmer than most of hybrid tactical/hunting rifles. But there’s plenty of room for your hand on this gun, and the grip angle naturally aligns the shooter’s finger with the trigger face.
The test rifle came with Christensen’s zero m.o.a. top rail, which utilizes beefy screws and has two machined buttresses that secure it fore and aft on the action opening to act as stabilizers. It’s a $60 upgrade, but it’s worth it.
I’d also suggest upgrading to the oversized bolt knob if you can spare the extra $50. It’s not an absolute necessity, but the smallish bolt knob that comes standard is one of the few design elements that wasn’t completely to my liking. The good news is it’s easy to swap out. What’s more, the bolt knob is held in place with plenty of robust threads, so it won’t be working its way loose at inopportune times.
The Mesa Titanium I tested weighed six pounds, eight ounces with the company’s top rail included. With Trijicon’s new Huron 2.5-10x40mm scope in place, the gun weighs just under eight pounds. I think that’s plenty light for most hunting. Any hunter fit enough to scale cliffs and cross shale slides all day won’t find the Mesa Titanium much of a burden.
In addition to being one of the best-looking new guns on the market, the Mesa Titanium is also very accurate. I tested two different loads in the rifle—Hornady’s Precision Hunter 143-grain ELD-X and Hornady’s 147-grain ELD Match—and both held under an inch for three shots throughout the test.
The ELD-X load fired groups of 0.61, 0.74 and 0.81 inch for an average of 0.72 inch, while the Match ammo produced three groups in the 0.7-inch range. As you can see, the Mesa Titanium performs extremely well for an off-the-shelf hunting rifle, and there are plenty of guns that cost substantially more than $1,795 that can’t match those accuracy figures.
After firing the three-shot groups required by the RifleShooter testing protocol, I decided to test five shots. That group measured 1.05 inches, and it included one shot that I knew I pulled high and left.
With its screw-on radial brake and LimbSaver pad, the Mesa Titanium is a soft-shooting rifle. Sure, muzzle blast is pretty dramatic, but recoil is light and the gun’s straight-comb design and comfortable, secure gripping surfaces make it easy to manage.
The 6.5 PRC is a wonderfully versatile hunting cartridge, but in really light rifles, it does generate recoil that could frighten away new shooters. The Mesa Titanium manages recoil well, and I wouldn’t hesitate to purchase one of these rifles chambered in a hard-hitting caliber like .300 Win. Mag.
Considering its beefy M16 extractor and dual ejectors, you would expect that the Mesa Titanium is a reliably cycling gun, and you’d be correct. The bolt stroke is smooth, and there were no issues in feeding, extraction or ejection. There’s no gentle flop of empty brass from the receiver following the bolt stroke, either. Instead, the Mesa hurls empties well away from the shooter—a feature that will appeal to everyone except brass hawks.
Hybrid tactical/hunting rifles are popular right now, but the truth is the practicality of a heavy gun with a long barrel for hunting is limited. Are those guns good for making long shots? Sure. Do they make sense if you must hike up mountains or maneuver in the confines of a tree stand or ground blind? Not hardly.
The term “mountain rifle” brings to mind a specialized gun for a specific hunt, but light, accurate, weatherproof guns like the Mesa Titanium are well suited to any pursuit. With an overall length of 43 inches and a weight of just over 6.5 pounds, the Mesa Titanium is handy enough for hunting in a blind or stand, and it’s also ideal for making fast shots in relatively dense cover.
And, of course, this gun is built to perform under the most extreme conditions. It’s tough enough for a moose hunt in Alaska or a high-altitude sheep hunt, regardless of the weather conditions. What’s more, despite its light weight, the Mesa shoots just as well as most of those heavy-barreled hybrid rifles that are so popular today. The Christensen Arms Mesa Titanium Edition is one of the best all-around hunting rifles I’ve seen in some time. And even at $1,795 it’s a bargain.
Christensen Arms Mesa Titanium Edition Specs
- Type: Bolt-action centerfire
- Caliber: 6.5 Creedmoor, 6.5 PRC (tested), .308 Win., .300 Win. Mag.
- Capacity: 3+1 (as tested)
- Barrel: 22 in. w/removable radial brake
- Overall Length: 43 in. w/brake
- Weight: 6 lb., 9 oz. (top rail in place)
- Stock: Christensen Arms carbon-fiber composite
- Finish: Natural bead blast
- Trigger: 2.7 lb. pull (measured)
- Sights: None; drilled and tapped (Remington 700 pattern); optional top rail
- Price: $1,795
- Manufacturer: Christensen Arms, ChristensenArms.com
Christensen Arms Mesa Titanium Edition Accuracy Results