January 25, 2024
Gunwerks has a solid reputation among serious big game hunters and long-range shooters, and its rifle systems offer a one-stop option for those who want a gun that’s capable of shooting 1,000 yards right out of the box. But recently Gunwerks unveiled its Nexus rifle, a sophisticated gun built almost entirely in-house that offers many of the benefits of their rifle systems at a lower price.
The Nexus is a bolt-action centerfire rifle composed of parts that are almost exclusively machined or manufactured in the company’s Cody, Wyoming, facility. This control over components—known as vertical integration in the world of manufacturing—gives Gunwerks the ability to ensure every part is built to its high standards. At the same time, it ensures the company has control over the supply chain so it will have the parts it needs when it needs them.
Owner Aaron Davidson has built his company on producing rifles that perform at the highest level, and to do this he wanted to make certain there was no weak link in the production chain.
“To get where we wanted to be, we had to control the whole process,” says Neal Emery, Gunwerks’s head of distribution and public relations.
When I toured the Gunwerks factory in anticipation of the release of the Nexus rifle, I could see this vertical integration process at work. The factory feels more like a lab, and every detail of each rifle is dissected to produce guns that are worth their price tag.The Cody facility is home to several engineers who are working on everything from stocks to barrels and even electro-optics. It’s interesting to see the entire process, which is rather like seeing barrel, action, stock and optics companies housed under one roof.
The heart of the Nexus is the Gunwerks action. The NXT receiver is made from 7075-T6 aluminum, and the bolt is constructed from precision-machined steel. The latter features six lugs in two rows of three, which shortens the bolt lift, and these lugs lock into a steel extension on the carbon-fiber barrel.
This steel-on-steel lockup between the bolt face and barrel extension is what allows the use of aluminum for the receiver, which reduces the gun’s weight. Nexus weights vary from seven pounds, two ounces with a 20-inch barrel to seven pounds, 10 ounces with a 24-inch pipe. The system also allows barrels to be swapped easily and quickly.
The bolt comes with a proprietary extractor and dual plungers that extend through the face of the bolt. The extractor rides alongside the outboard lugs and uses a durable C-spring. Like so many other parts of this rifle, it’s made in-house, and it’s actually 3D printed. The bottom lug points downward when the rifle is being cycled, and the third set of lugs rides in a cutout in the raceway.
The scalloped honeycomb pattern on the bolt body is attractive and reduces surface area for smoother operation and reduced weight. The bolt is also extremely practical; it’s very easy to field-strip, and the bolt face is removable.
The top of the receiver has two integral 20 m.o.a. rail sections for mounting optics. The rifle features a three-position wing-type safety that blocks the firing pin. Its TriggerTech trigger broke at 2.6 pounds.
The Nexus is currently available in 6.5 PRC, 7mm PRC and .300 PRC, with more options on the way. All these rounds use the included magnum bolt face, but Gunwerks is already in the process of producing non-magnum bolt faces for other cartridges.
The caliber swapping requires different magazine boxes, and Gunwerks has you covered. The Nexus uses a proprietary double-stack design that offers Gunwerks the flexibility to use the same design for a range of calibers. It’s innovative, and it’s a design that’s past due.
The test rifle came with 7mm PRC and 6.5 PRC barrels and magazines, the primary difference between the two magazines being that the 6.5 PRC mag has a spacer to accommodate the shorter round. The magazine is made from billet aluminum and fits flush with the bottom of the rifle. Plenty of headroom and good shoulder support ensure the cartridge’s performance won’t be impacted by heavy recoil.
Gunwerks makes its own barrels using bar stock, and the barrels are cut rifled. The carbon-fiber barrel wrapping is also done in-house using the company’s own filament wrapping process. The barrel is threaded 5/8x24 and is tipped with a Gunwerks directional muzzle brake with ports on either side.
The carbon-fiber stock is another Gunwerks exclusive, and it’s outstanding. The stocks are hand-laid in-house, and the unique monocoque design is both light and incredibly durable.
Gunwerks has spent a great deal of time working on the ergonomics of the stock design. The grip is lengthened, allowing for more engagement of the hand with the pistol grip.
There is also a series of built-in thumb shelves that help prevent shooters from wrapping their fingers around the stock. The thumb naturally rides in the correct position, and with a half-inch of trigger adjustment you can tune the trigger to fit your hand.
The stock features very cool leather inserts on the pistol grip and comb that are stitched to a backing and then adhered to the stock using a heat-activated adhesive. The leather is one of the few items that is outsourced, and it is designed to patina with age.
The fore-end incorporates an Arca rail with a Picatinny front portion and flush cups to accommodate QD slings. There are also flush cups on both sides of the buttstock.
Davidson says traditional glass bedding is a “half measure,” so instead of that process the Nexus employs a one-piece aluminum V-block and a wedge system. The wedge secures the recoil lug to the bedding block, ensuring consistent accuracy and reliable performance.
The Nexus is an appealing rifle built to the highest quality standards, and it’s extremely refined—but it isn’t cheap. Starting price is $5,975, and you can add on extras like a scope or custom turrets that cost extra. Extra barrels sell for $1,495, and magazines—either for switching chamberings or for a spare—cost $106. So no, this level of performance doesn’t come at a bargain price, but the Nexus is far from your ordinary rifle.
My first experience with the Nexus rifle was at an event in Cody, Wyoming. After touring the factory, we headed to Gunwerks’s Sheep Mountain shooting course not far outside town. Not only does the company sell rifles, ammunition and optics, but its also offers courses that teach owners how to shoot their Gunwerks guns effectively out to extended ranges.
It was cold and windy during our time on Sheep Mountain, and this made conditions tough. But it also lent an air of authenticity to the gun test: This is exactly the type of terrain and conditions you must face when making a cross-canyon shot on a bull elk or trying to fill your bighorn tag during the last hours of the season. Steel targets ranged from a couple hundred yards out to more than 1,000, and almost every shot was presented at an angle, some of them quite steep.
The Nexus rifle is light and easy to carry, and the ergonomics are simply outstanding. In my opinion, Aaron Davidson was correct when he said the geometry of this stock is better than anything else on the market. The long, nearly vertical grip promotes the proper thumb position to prevent choking the wrist of the stock, and the soft-touch leather surfaces were a welcome touch in the blustery conditions in Wyoming.
The Nexus proved to be quite accurate, and it was no problem hitting steel targets positioned on the opposite hillside out to 700 yards. But I wanted to do a more thorough test of the rifle, and I had the chance to do that in my home state of Ohio.
Conditions couldn’t have been much more different when I evaluated the rifle at my home range. July in the Midwest can be miserably hot, and it was 81 degrees with dead-still, humid air that hung over the range like a blanket. But the Nexus didn’t seem to mind. It performed every bit as well as the prototype rifles had done in Wyoming—better, actually, thanks to a few last-minute tweaks the team added between testing and production.
Townsend Whelen wrote that only accurate rifles are interesting, so he probably would have been enamored with the Nexus. After the fouling and warm-up shots, the first group of the day measured 0.41 inch for three shots with Hornady’s ELD-X 143-grain 6.5 PRC load.
Gunwerks’s own 140-grain VLD load managed to group four shots into 0.38 inch. The only reason I fired that fourth round was because I thought I’d missed off the corner of the paper, but later when I walked downrange I found the third shot had keyholed the second.
Shooting groups became a game to see just how tightly I could cluster three shots, and when the test ended I fired a five-shot group using Hornady 147-grain ELD Match ammunition. I called one shot off left, which is exactly where it landed, and the group still measured 0.8 inch. The other four rounds were clustered in a 0.45-inch group.
After testing the 6.5 barrel, I went home and swapped it out for the 7mm. Removing the barrel is simple, thanks in part to a quick-start trifold that Gunwerks includes in the hard-sided locking case the gun ships in.
Simply remove the front and rear action screws from the unloaded rifle, lift the barreled action free, and loosen the barrel retaining screws to slide the barrel out. Other than making the mistake of loosening the wedge screw in front of the front action screw (which is not required, by the way), everything went smoothly. I could have accomplished this task at the range.
Neal Emery warned me there might be impact shift after swapping barrels, but it was only about the 1.5 m.o.a. he said might occur. In 7mm PRC configuration, the rifle did 0.71 inch for the first three shots, with two rounds touching.
There’s a lot to love about this gun and very little I didn’t like. The three-position safety functions well, but it’s tight, and the box magazine requires dedicated effort to install the first few times.
Other than that, the rifle is rock solid. The trigger broke at just over two pounds, and the brake did an admirable job settling recoil. The action is silky, and the fit, finish and build quality are outstanding. Accuracy is, as I said, superb.
The non-continuous Picatinny rail offers lots of space for top-loading, and the leather inserts are equally comfortable when shooting in hot weather or cold. Having an Arca rail plus a Picatinny rail and flush cups makes the most of the fore-end space.
But is it worth $6,000? That’s up to you. You can pay one-tenth of what the Gunwerks Nexus costs for a serviceable deer rifle that does everything you want. For me the difference has to do with the design intention. Most hunting rifles are built to shoot at moderate ranges and can be stretched out to several hundred yards. The Nexus, however, was built to shoot accurately at extreme ranges from the start, so dialing back to 200 or 300 yards is no issue.
The Nexus also offers versatility few other guns can promise. You can buy one today in 6.5 PRC that shoots half m.o.a. groups and purchase an extra barrel in 7mm PRC or .300 PRC, effectively turning one premium rifle into two and allowing you to hunt virtually every game animal on the planet. I can’t tell you that alone is worth the price tag, but if you want a rifle that can do everything it promises, the Nexus does not disappoint.
GUNWERKS NEXUS SPECIFICATIONS
- TYPE: Bolt-action centerfire
- CALIBER: 6.5 PRC (tested), 7mm PRC (tested), .300 PRC
- CAPACITY: 3
- BARREL: 20 in. (as tested) carbon fiber, threaded 5/8x24, Gunwerks brake
- OVERALL LENGTH: 40.75 in.
- WEIGHT: 7 lb., 2 oz.
- STOCK: Gunwerks Nexus carbon fiber w/ leather inserts
- RECEIVER: Type 3 hard-coat anodized 7075-T6
- TRIGGER: TriggerTech single stage; 2 lb., 2 oz. pull (measured)
- SIGHTS: None; integral 20 m.o.a. rail sections
- PRICE: $5,975 (base)
- MANUFACTURER: Gunwerks, gunwerks.com
Gunwerks Elevate Bipod
If you own a Nexus rifle you’ll probably want a bipod, too, and Gunwerks has you covered. Its new Elevate bipod ($375) is made from carbon fiber and billet aluminum, and it attaches securely to the rifle in seconds thanks to the NeoLok system.
Simply press the button on the top of the bipod, rotate the head 90 degrees, attach to the front Picatinny rail of the rifle, and rotate it back into position. Adjustable cant, leg splay adjustment and quick-deploy legs get you on target in a hurry.
This is the most stable bipod in its weight class. The Elevate weighs just 12 ounces, and the legs extend from 5.5 to 19 inches, perfect for a variety of field shooting positions. There are also options for Arca mounts, and the feet can be replaced to match the terrain.