September 23, 2010
Montana Rifle Company--which has been in the barrel and action business for more than a decade but is a relatively new maker of complete rifles--builds its guns around its own Model 1999 action--a strong, flat-bottom action with an integral, machined recoil lug.
And when I say strong, I mean strong. Montana's president, Jeff Sipe, told me they've tested the gun at pressures as high as 130,000 psi and saw only minor damage to the bolt face.
The 1999 features twin vent holes in the front receiver ring, plus a dual dovetailed lug that rides in a matching left-side raceway. A Mauser-style flange at the rear of the bolt--part of a casting that also incorporates the bolt handle--deflects any escaping gas away from the shooter's face.
The Summit is a member of Montana's High Country rifle series, and while most of the rest of this series tip the scales at a little more than six pounds, the Summit in .280 Remington I tested weighed in at nearly 7.5 pounds sans scope.
The 24-inch barrel is 1.22 inches in diameter where it's screwed into the receiver, 0.86 in front of the chamber and 0.62 at the muzzle. It features a match-style crown to protect the rif-ling.
The barreled action is glass- and pillar-bedded into the composite stock, creating--along with the flat-bottom design and integral lug--an extremely stable platform.
The Model 1999 action incorporates a number of Winchester Model 70/Mauser 98 characteristics. While the trigger is proprietary--it and the sear are produced via electrical discharge machining, which uses sparks to cut metal--it employs Model 70 geometry, so you can install an aftermarket M70 trigger if you wish. Not that I think you'd want to. The trigger on my sample had a super-consistent, creep-free, 3.5-pound break.
The controlled-round-feed bolt features a claw extractor, and the safety is pure M70, a three-position wing located at the rear of the bolt. But the push-button bolt release is Montana Rifle's design, located at the left rear of the receiver and handy as heck to use. The receiver is set up to accept Model 70 scope bases.
The handsome gray synthetic stock is nicely textured for a sure grip, and it's capped off with a Pachmayr recoil pad. The bottom metal is one piece and features a push-button floorplate release in front of the trigger guard. The floorplate engages solidly, and it releases smartly when the button is depressed.
Inside you'll find one of several different magazine boxes, depending on caliber. There are three lengths in long action and two in short, with special designs for Ultra Mags and Winchester Short Magnums.
All Montana Rifle guns feature one-piece bottom metal. The Summit comes with a handsome, nicely textured granite-green, gray or tan stock.
I mounted a Burris 4.5-14X Fullfield TAC30 with an adjustable objective on the rifle and headed for the range. At first I was perplexed, as I expected to get better accuracy than what I was seeing. It took me a while to realize that the Summit has more of a weight-forward balance than I'm used to. I began supporting the rifle a little farther out on the rest than I normally do, and the fliers that were ruining my groups disappeared.
I tested the rifle over the course of several range trips, and I also found that groups began to shrink as the barrel broke in (suggested barrel break-in procedures are included with the rifle). I confirmed that by reshooting some of the ammo I'd used in earlier tests. By my last session, the Summit was shooting great.
I function-fired the Summit from standing, cycling the bolt as fast as I could while still breaking shots as well as I could on the 200-yard gong. The rifle performed flawlessly, and hits came easily.
Last, I put a sling on the gun and sat on my butt to work over the 300-, 400- and 500-yard gongs. The rifle held solidly in a tight sling, and thanks to the rifle's inherent accuracy and its crisp, consistent trigger, I was able to ring even the farthest gongs with pleasing regularity.
There's no shortage of semi-custom rifles out there, and while I found the Summit a tad heavy for my taste in .280-class rifles, I think this is a hell of a lot of gun for the money. And if the Summit is any indicator of the kind of quality Montana Rifle builds into its rifles, I think the firm will do quite well.