The first three-shot group I fired at 100 yards with a Nosler rifle measured 0.383 inch - and I was not really trying to shoot a small group. On the next day we would be hunting pronghorn antelope on a huge ranch in New Mexico, not far from the NRA's Whittington Center. In addition to headquartering there, we had access to one of the rifle ranges, and I was checking zero.
That was 2004, and the rifle was Nosler's first, the Custom, and it was chambered in .300 WSM. Long-action versions were eventually introduced, and after about six years of production, the Custom became the Model 48, which today is available in several configurations.
Like that first rifle I shot, the Heritage variant of the Model 48 featured in this report has a stock of black walnut. Unlike that first rifle, this one was chambered to the hot new .30 Nosler cartridge. More on this round in a bit.
The Model 48 production line already included two synthetic-stocked guns - the Liberty and the Outfitter - and the Heritage moniker for the newest addition is appropriate due to its wood stock, recalling the company's earliest rifle efforts. The attractive satin finish pretty much fills all pores in the wood. This, along with a generous coat of finish on all inletting surfaces, discourages moisture content fluctuations in the stock.
Wood-to-metal fit is quite good, and the inletting is as clean and precise as you will see on any rifle short of a full-blown custom job. The fore-end has no contrasting wood cap up front and measures a trim 4.25 inches around its midsection.
Generous coverage of 18-line cut checkering is in a wraparound, point pattern. Checkering coverage at the wrist is not as extensive but is nonetheless adequate. Grip circumference is 4.75 inches.
Also like the Model 700, the stainless steel magazine box has an interior length of 3.42 inches, which puts maximum overall cartridge length at about 3.41 inches.
The receiver rests atop two aluminum pillars, both encased in pads of synthetic bedding that add support to the receiver. Stock and barreled action are held together by a pair of Torx-head bolts.
In a world of cylindrical receivers, it is refreshing to see one with a flat bottom that reminds me of the Winchester Model 70. Also like the Model 70, the recoil lug is integral with the receiver rather than a separate part. Facets machined into both sides of the receiver reduce weight and add to the rifle's classic appearance.
A spring-loaded bolt release on the left side of the receiver bridge is both unobtrusive and easy to operate. All metal on the Heritage has a black Cerakote finish.
The bolt with its dual-opposed locking lugs has a body diameter of 0.685 inch. Lightly fluted, the body has three large openings positioned to vent propellant gas into the magazine in the event of a pierced primer or blown case. With the bolt closed, the root of its handle and the bolt sleeve partially block the rear of the bolt raceway.
The ejector is the spring-loaded plunger type with its business end protruding from the face of the bolt. The bolt face is counterbored although its wall is interrupted for the passage of a Sako-style extractor.
Bolt wobble is reduced by the engagement of a groove in the right-hand locking lug with a track machined into the receiver at the bottom of the ejection port. As a two-lug bolt should be, lift is smooth and easy.
The trigger is fully adjustable, but its factory setting is so good I cannot imagine a good reason for changing it on a big game rifle. It broke crisply at a consistent 2.5 pounds with no detectable creep or overtravel - without doubt, one of the best available on a factory rifle. The safety, a two-position lever attached to the side of the trigger housing, prevents trigger movement but does not block the sear. The bolt can be cycled with the trigger engaged.
Measuring 1.15 inches at the chamber and 0.64 inch at its nicely crowned muzzle, the 26-inch, six-groove, stainless steel barrel is of magnum contour and floats freely in the stock. Barrels chambered for other .30 caliber magnum cartridges are commonly rifled with a 1:10 twist, but Nosler technicians went with a bit quicker 1:9 twist to ensure in-flight stability of the finger-long 210-grain AccuBond Long Range bullet.
A Lyman Borecam revealed an extremely smooth bore, and while my shooting test left behind some bullet jacket fouling, it was easily removed with a couple of applications of Barnes CR-10. Streaks of black powder fouling building up in bottom of the grooves were chased away by a bore brush laden with Shooter's Choice solvent.
Fresh from its box the Model 48 Heritage weighed seven pounds, 12.3 ounces. The addition of a 3-12x42 Nikon Monarch 3 scope in a Talley lightweight mount and three cartridges in the magazine increased weight to nine pounds, six ounces.
The Model 48 uses the same scope mounts as the Remington 700, so every gun shop in the world will have at least one sitting on the shelf. The rifle is available in 20 different chamberings ranging from .22-250 to .35 Whelen.
During my shooting session the Model 48 fed cartridges from magazine to chamber like they were greased. The accuracy guarantee is three shots inside an inch with "prescribed" Nosler ammunition, and until shooting the rifle I had no idea which of the two loads that arrived with the rifle qualified. As it turned out, the 180-grain AccuBond load stayed inside minute-of-angle with the 200-grain AccuBond Long Range not very far out.
Two of my handloads rang the accuracy bell, which is not bad considering the fact that I simply plucked loads from Nosler Reloading Guide 8 and seated bullets to the recommended overall cartridge length: 3.34 inches. I tested maximum loads using Retumbo powder, Nosler cases (the only source at this point) and Federal 215 primers.
The usual caveat applies to these loads in that since they're maximum, your starting loads should begin at 4.0 grains under the listed weights.
The Model 48 Heritage test rifle was chambered for the newest addition to the Nosler cartridge family - the .30 Nosler - so perhaps a few words on it are in order. Whereas the previous .28 Nosler case was created by simply necking up the earlier .26 Nosler case, several dimensions of the .30 Nosler case differ.
In order to accommodate the extremely long ogives of the .30 caliber AccuBond Long Range bullets while keeping overall cartridge length short enough for the magazine box of the Model 48 action, maximum case length had to be reduced to 2.556 inches - compared to 2.590 inches for the other two cases.
Mike Lake of Nosler, who designed the cartridge, wanted the case neck to be at least one caliber long, and in order to accomplish that with the slightly shorter case, he had to push back the shoulder a bit. The head to body/shoulder juncture dimension of the .26 Nosler and .28 Nosler cartridges is 2.166 inches, but on the .30 Nosler it is 2.115. Relocating the shoulder reduced the net water capacity of the .30 Nosler case by about five grains from its two littermates.
And what does that put it close to? When filled to the brim with water, the .30 Nosler case holds two grains more than the Nosler-branded .300 Win. Mag. case.
To see how maximum velocities of the two cartridges compared, I again turned to the Nosler reloading guide. Maximums shown for a 180-grain bullet are 3,160 fps for the .300 Win. Mag. and 3,230 fps for the .30 Nosler, a 70 fps difference. Moving up to a 190-grain bullet and maximum velocities, we have 3,063 fps for the Win. Mag. and 3,185 fps for the .30 Nosler, a 122 fps difference. When both are loaded with 200-grain bullets, the .30 Nosler is 108 fps faster. Move on up to 210 grains and Mr. Nosler beats Mr. Winchester by 130 fps.
When shooting load data for the two cartridges, Nosler technicians used a 26-inch pressure barrel in .30 Nosler and a 24-incher in .300 Win. Mag. That probably gave the Nosler cartridge a velocity edge in the neighborhood of 50 fps.
Regardless of the cartridge, a pressure barrel with its absolute minimum bore and chamber dimensions will deliver higher velocities than most off-the-shelf rifles, and that held true for the Model 48 test rifle. Velocities of my handloads ranged from 112 to 196 fps slower than indicated in the Nosler manual.
Does the future hold more new cartridges from Bend, Oregon? As I gaze into my trusty crystal ball, I see a .33 Nosler just around the corner. A bit farther on down the road could be a cartridge that comes close to duplicating the performance of the .358 Shooting Times Alaskan but short enough for the Model 48 action. The other cartridges appear a bit hazy, but my guess is one might be the .37 Nosler and the other a .41 Nosler.