September 07, 2021
By Keith Wood
In 1948, John Nosler launched the company that would bear his name after developing the Partition controlled-expansion hunting bullet. Nosler’s Partition forever changed the hunting world, and seven decades later, it is still the big game bullet by which others are judged.
Under the leadership of John, his son, Bob, and later his grandson, John, Nosler Inc. has continued to innovate by developing new bullets, loaded ammunition, rifles and even its own line of proprietary cartridges. The newest of the latter category is the .27 Nosler, a round that pushes one of America’s favorite hunting cartridge diameters to new heights.
The Nosler family of cartridges began in 2014 with the introduction of the .26 Nosler, a high-velocity .264-inch/6.5mm capable of pushing 129-grain bullets at 3,400 fps out of a standard .30-06-length action. The cartridge was an immediate success and led to the subsequent release of Nosler cartridges in .22, .28, .30 and .33 calibers. The proven track record of these high-performance offerings and America’s long love affair with the .270 Win. led to the .27 Nosler.
Like most of the other cartridges in the Nosler family, the .27 Nosler is based off the beltless .404 Jeffery parent case, the same case used to create Remington’s line of Ultra Magnum cartridges. This large-diameter case with minimal taper and a 35-degree shoulder allows the .27 Nosler a 42-percent increase in powder capacity over its antecedent, the .270 Win. This translates to a 400-fps increase over the .270 with a 150-grain bullet. In practical terms, that’s nearly a foot less bullet drop at 500 yards, and getting there doesn’t require a longer action, merely a larger diameter bolt face.
One might ask why Nosler would develop another .270 when the original has reigned supreme in North America’s hunting fields for nearly a century. For starters, hunters are taking game at longer distances than ever before, which puts a strain on older technology. For instance, .270 caliber Nosler Partition and AccuBond bullets are designed to reliably expand at velocities as low as 1,900 fps. Nosler’s Trophy Grade .270 Win. load hits that expansion wall at around 600 yards, which means the bullet cannot be expected to reliably expand beyond that range.
I know what you’re thinking: 600 yards is a long, long way to be shooting at unwounded game, but the fact is that some insist on taking such shots. For those individuals there are only two options: a bullet designed to expand at lower velocities or an increase in bullet velocity.
Beyond the extended range, there are real advantages to faster cartridges in terms of bullet drop, wind drift and terminal performance. I saw the performance advantage firsthand when I used the monolithic 225-grain E-Tip in a .33 Nosler to take a huge-bodied Utah elk bull at 350 yards a couple of years back. I’ve never seen a bull drop so quickly. That rifle’s recoil was significant, but its performance in the field was unquestionable.
Though other rifle manufacturers have adopted the older .26 Nosler into their product lines, at this time the .27 Nosler is available only in Nosler’s own rifles. It’s not well known that Nosler built its own barreled actions in-house for many years before ever making its rifles available to the public. These rifles were used at the company’s ranges and in its labs to create the data for Nosler’s Reloading Guides, as well as to test various bullet designs.
The company currently chambers the .27 Nosler in two of its Model 48s: the M48 Long-Range Carbon and the M48 Mountain Carbon. I tested the Long-Range Carbon, which, as the name suggests, uses carbon-fiber technology in two of its major components.
The heart of any rifle is its action, and Nosler has been producing the Model 48 for the public since 2007. The Model 48 is a two-lug, turn-bolt repeater made from 4140 steel. The action feeds from an internal magazine and is available in short- and long-action footprints.
It is a push-feed design that functions reliably thanks to its M16-style extractor and plunger-type ejector. The spiral-fluted bolt has two generous gas ports on the underside so, in the event of a case head failure, hot propellant gases are forced downward and away from the user. This feature is a bit like a car with air bags: You won’t appreciate it until you need it.
The three-round magazine is top-loaded in the traditional manner with a hinged aluminum floorplate secured by a spring-loaded detent. Model 48 actions are compatible with two-piece scope bases designed for the Remington 700, which means you have lots of options.
Timney triggers, factory-set for a three-pound break, are standard as is a two-position safety. Actions are finished in Sniper Grey Cerakote, with NIC’s Micro Slick Dry Film Coating applied to the internals, including the bolt body, firing pin and firing pin spring, to reduce friction between the moving parts.
Visually speaking, the most prominent feature of the Model 48 Long-Range Carbon is the 26-inch carbon-fiber-wrapped Sendero profile barrel. There are several carbon barrels on the market these days, but Nosler uses one made by Montana’s Proof Research, one of the innovators in this field.
Proof starts with a full-profile stainless steel barrel and turns most of the length down to a small diameter to cut weight. That reduced section is wrapped in carbon-fiber thread that is epoxied into place. The carbon-fiber material adds rigidity back into the barrel without substantially increasing weight. The barrel maintains a full steel profile at the breech and muzzle, so it can be threaded and crowned.
I own several rifles with Proof barrels that I chambered myself, and not only are they all extremely accurate, but also they are lightweight without being pencil-thin. I like the way they handle.
Back in 2018, Guns & Ammo’s Tom Beckstrand tested three styles of barrels and established that besides being significantly lighter, Proof’s barrels shed heat faster than either fluted or hammer-forged all-steel barrels of similar diameter. The barrel on the Model 48 comes threaded 5/8x24 from the factory, shipped with a knurled thread protector in place.
Part of the secret to the Model 48 Long-Range Carbon’s lightweight of just seven pounds is its stock. This MCS-T Elite Tac is made by Manners. This company has built an excellent reputation among precision rifle shooters, and its products are among the most popular on the long-range competitive shooting circuit. Made completely of carbon fiber, the MCS-T Elite weighs only 28 ounces.
In terms of its design, the stock combines many popular features of tactical and hunting stocks. The fore-end is 1.75 inches wide and has a flat bottom. It’s broad enough to provide a stable rest but not enough to be clunky. The grip is more or less vertical, and the comb is raised.
The stock is finished in a Midnight camouflage pattern that complements the rifle’s overall look. The sides of the grip and fore-end are textured for a solid grip. Three sling swivel studs are included: one at the toe of the stock and two on the fore-end. This allows for both a sling and a bipod, and keeping with the carbon-fiber theme, I used Spartan Precision’s lightweight Javelin Pro Hunt bipod to shoot from field positions.
Bedding can be one of the most critical elements of rifle accuracy and consistency, and this is one area where I often see manufacturers cut corners, often bedding a stock to a “slave” barreled action rather than to the individual rifle. Not so here.
The Nosler Model 48 action has a flat bottom to provide a stable bedding surface, and the stock is equipped with aluminum pillars for both Torx action screws. Additionally, the rifle’s action was individually glass-bedded to the stock’s inletting at both the recoil lug mortise and tang. Thanks to this attention to detail, I detected none of the usual signs of a poorly bedded rifle during my testing.
My overall view of the rifle is that it is well designed and well executed. The fit and finish were very good, and the rifle balanced nicely between the hands.
Though ultralight rifles seem to be increasing in popularity, I prefer a traditional sporter-weight rifle for most of my hunting needs. Though ultralight rifles can be nice to carry, they are often difficult to shoot well in the types of positions one might have to use in the field. This rifle is right at the seven-pound sweet spot I look for. Physics also play a role here, and trust me when I tell you that in terms of recoil you wouldn’t want this rifle to be any lighter.
I mounted the new Trijicon Credo 2.5-15x52mm scope in Leupold mounts. I was impressed with this scope, as it provided a combination of crisp and clear optics, a useful and intuitive mil-based reticle and, most importantly, consistent and reliable adjustments. Total weight with the scope and bipod mounted was nine pounds, one ounce.
There are currently two factory loads available for the .27 Nosler: the Trophy Grade 150-grain AccuBond and the Trophy Grade LR loaded with 165-grain AccuBond Long-Range bullets. Nosler also provided reloading components, and I took the opportunity to create a slightly reduced load that would be more applicable to the type of hunting I normally do.
Due to the popularity of the .270, bullet choices are broad. The load I settled on combined Hornady’s 145-grain ELD-X bullet with a charge of H1000 that was suggested in Nosler’s load data as the most accurate. As you might suspect, this large case is best used with slow-burning powders and magnum primers.
All three test loads performed well, and they all have their own overlapping applications. The 150-grain AccuBond load would be a good choice for all-around hunting where shot distances can vary wildly. My toned-down handload would be perfect medicine for hunting whitetails at traditional ranges.
The handload provided the best average accuracy, weighed heavily by a three-shot group that measured just 0.15 inch! Though this tiny group might have been a statistical fluke, the single-digit standard deviation in velocity of this load suggests otherwise.
For strictly long-range pursuits, the 165-grain ABLR factory load provides the capability of bullet expansion all the way down to 1,300 fps. With an average muzzle velocity of 3,101 fps in the test rifle, that means that the bullet will expand out to 1,400 yards. I’m not suggesting anyone actually try that; the point is the bullet is capable of expanding at any distance you might need it to.
The trade-off is it might not penetrate effectively at close range. You can’t have it both ways. If you’re hunting the timber, hedge your bets with the standard AccuBond or another general-use bullet.
There’s no cheating physics, so anytime a cartridge burns as much powder as this one, recoil is going to be significant. The M48’s felt recoil was by no means insurmountable, but it wouldn’t be the best choice for the recoil-shy among us. In my own experience, recoil is a non-event in real-world hunting scenarios, but it certainly can be a factor on the bench. My rifle was not equipped with a brake, but they are available as an option, and adding one for range use would probably help significantly.
The .27 Nosler isn’t for everyone. It is a purpose-built tool designed to provide maximum velocity for performance on distant targets. The Model 48 Long-Range rifle is a great complement to the cartridge and helps ensure that hunters and shooters can maximize its performance in the field. My test rifle was well built, accurate and visually attractive. It fed, fired, extracted and ejected with 100-percent reliability. If you are a lover of the .270 and are looking for the maximum velocity available, the .27 Nosler is your huckleberry.
Nosler Model 48 Long-Range Carbon Specs
- Type: two-lug bolt-action centerfire
- Caliber: 6.5 Creedmoor, .26 Nosler, .27 Nosler (tested), .28 Nosler, .300 Win. Mag., .30 Nosler, .33 Nosler
- Capacity: 3+1, hinged floorplate internal magazine
- Barrel: 26 in., 1:8.5 twist; threaded 5/8x24
- Overall Length: 48 in.
- Weight: 7 lb.
- Stock: Manners MCS-T Elite Tac carbon fiber
- Sights: Sniper Grey Cerakote
- Safety: two-position
- Trigger: Timney single stage adjustable; 3.1 lb. pull (measured, as received)
- Price: $3,190
- Manufacturer: Nosler, Inc., nosler.com