I love the bolt action rifle. Yes, a lever gun is cool, and a single shot speaks to the prowess of the hunter. The semi-autos perform their duties very well, and I have a definite soft spot for the romance and nostalgia of the double rifle, but to me a bolt action rifle is what feels the most universal and natural in my hands.
The Mauser 98 action – still completely viable after 120 years – has spawned many copies, some good, some not so good, and some great. Sniffing around the SHOT Show, I found some 2019 releases that were really interesting; some were a new cartridge offering in a proven model, others were a slight twist on an existing theme, but all had me pausing to take a closer look.
1. The Mauser M18 in 6.5 PRC
Last year’s Mauser M18 release made some waves, as some were shocked that the prestigious Mauser name was put on such an affordable rifle, and others rejoicing at the opportunity to own a rifle with the Mauser name. I find the M18 to be an incredible value, as it’s accurate, rugged and well-designed. For 2019, Mauser has chambered the M18 for the 6.5PRC cartridge, a flat-shooting cartridge that gives a definite advantage over the Creedmoor. The synthetic stock and weather-proof metal finish make a perfect companion to an all-around choice like the 6,5 PRC; the pair make a light, yet useable combination that will be accurate enough for longer shots, yet easy to pack up the mountain side. www.mauser.com
2. Nosler M48 Mountain Carbon
The Nosler M48 is a serious rifle, and for those who like high-velocity performance, the Nosler line of proprietary cartridges are equally serious. New for 2019, the Nosler M48 Mountain Carbon puts a lightweight spin on the M48 line, giving accurate performance from a very light rifle. Weighing in at six pounds, the M48 Mountain Carbon uses a carbon fiber barrel fitted to the M48 action, and pillar bedded into a granite green ultra-light Mountain Hunter stock. The result is a rifle that carries incredibly well, yet balances properly. The textured stock finish gives a good grip, and the Timney trigger – I have a weakness for them as well – breaks cleanly and crisply. Available in .26, .28, .30 and .33 Nosler. MSRP $3,140 www.nosler.com
3. Savage 125th Anniversary Model 110
Arthur Savage was an interesting and successful man, and the company he founded is celebrating their 125th Anniversary in 2019. Accordingly, Savage is releasing 1,894 (the year they were founded) Anniversary Model 110 rifles, complete with engraved receiver (with anniversary logo), grip cap and detachable box magazine. Featuring a rather handsome stick of walnut in a Monte Carlo finish and offering five different chamberings – including the classic .300 Savage and the .250 Savage (.250/3000 Savage) – the Anniversary Model 110 may be an interesting choice for those who like rifle with a familiar feel in a classic cartridge. Available in .243 Winchester, 6.5 Creedmoor, .308 Winchester, .300 Savage and .250 Savage. www.savagearms.com
4. Montana Rifle Company Dangerous Game Rifle “The African”
The Montana Rifle Company Model 1999 Professional Hunter action has been dressed for safari in the new Dangerous Game Rifle. Fitted with the appointments that those who enjoy the sport of the Dark Continent prefer – like a controlled round feed action, three-position safety, barrel band sling attachment and a stock that can handle the recoil of those hard-kicking cartridges – the Dangerous Game Rifle offers a solid platform for hunting those game animals that can turn the table quickly. Available in .375 H&H, .378 Weatherby, .404 Jeffery, .416 Rem Mag and Rigby, .458 Win Mag and Lott, .460 Weatherby and .505 Gibbs. www.montanarifleco.com
5. The Savage Model 110 Prairie Hunter
New for 2019, Savage has announced the Model 110 Prairie Hunter will be chambered in .224 Valkyrie. The cartridge has been gaining a fan base in the MSR platform since its debut in 2018, but is now available in the versatile Model 110, with the AccuFit system and AccuStock, for a very versatile package that allows the shooter to customize the length of pull and comb height.
The AccuTrigger gives a crisp clean break every shot, and the threaded 22-inch barrel, combined with a 20-MOA rail, take full advantage of the long range potential of the .224 Valkyrie. The gray synthetic stock – with a beavertail forend – has three sling studs, for the easy attachment of a bipod, and a cap is provided for the threaded barrel end if you choose not to use a suppressor. Varmints, predators, deer and antelope beware. www.savagearms.com
6. The Sauer Model 100 Fieldshoot in 6.5 PRC
Sauer has had great success with the Model 100, as it’s both accurate and reliable, if more affordable than the Model 101 and 404. I used the 100 on a prairie dog hunt in Wyoming, and will happily attest to the accuracy of the rifle; we were sniping dogs out past 700 yards routinely with it in .223 Remington. The Fieldshoot variation has a rather unique stock – with is actually more comfortable than it looks – and is available this year in 6.5 PRC, offering a very flexible package for both the target shooter and hunter. The oil-finished laminate hardwood stock is adjustable for comb height and length of pull, and is ventilated along the forend for heat dissipation. A 24-inch heavy-contour barrel is mated to the smooth, push-feed bolt-action receiver, with two plunger ejectors on the bolt face. When chambered in 6.5 PRC, this rifle is equally at home at the shooting range as it is in the hunting fields and deer stands. Available in .223 Rem., .243 Win., 6.5 Creedmoor, 6.5 PRC, .308 Win., .30-’06 Springfield, and .300 Win. Mag. www.sauer.de
7. The Browning X-Bolt Pro Tungsten
The excellent Browning X-Bolt design has been with us for a while now, but for 2019 has been lighter in the X-Bolt pro Tungsten. The button-rifled barrel is fluted for weight reduction and covered in a Tungsten Cerakote to protect the steel from the elements, and terminates in a muzzle brake to tame recoil. The bolt has a large knob, yet is spiral fluted to keep things light. A carbon fiber stock – with a compressed foam core - gives plenty of rigidity no matter the conditions, and will not warp. The classic Browning palm swell is there, and the Pro Tungsten utilizes a rotary magazine. Weighing between six and seven pounds, depending on the caliber, the X-Bolt Pro Tungsten is available in the usual suspects – the Creedmoor, .308, .270, 7mm Rem. Mag. and .ought-six – as well as some of the new kids at school like the 6.5 PRC, .26, .28 and .30 Nosler, and the .300 RUM. www.browning.com
8. The Kimber Mountain Ascent (SubAlpine)
If you want a light rifle – seriously light – few can rival the Kimber Mountain Ascent. Coming in under five pounds (without scope or ammo) the Mountain Ascent rifle is now available in the Gore Optifade SubAlpine pattern in five highly useful cartridges. Kimber has skeletonized the action, fluted the barrel (providing a muzzle brake to tame the beast in a rifle this light), and has used a carbon fiber reinforced stock. Other features include an adjustable trigger, pillar bedded action, and controlled round feed bolt (with fixed ejector and claw extractor). Many of the truly light rifles out there are indeed light, but the Kimber Mountain Ascent maintains balance; it comes up nicely to the shoulder, and in spite o fthe light weight, settles down for the shot faster than others models I’ve spent time with. Available in .308 Winchester, .30-’06 Springfield, .300 WSM, .300 Winchester Magnum and .280 Ackley Improved. www.kimberamerica.com