In 1946, John Nosler had a dilemma. He needed a bullet that could be counted upon to expand reliably and consistently and varying velocities and ranges, and since he couldn't find anything that suited his needs on the market at that time, he set about designing his own. A year later the Partition arrived, and for almost 70 years it has remained a popular and dependable choice for hunters around the world.
Fast forward six decades. The company John Nosler founded became one of the world's leading producers of bullets, ammunition and brass. All that experience developing ammunition and components afforded the folks at Nosler a thorough understanding of not only bullets and cartridges but of the rifles that fired them. So in the late 2000s Nosler introduced its Model 48 Rifle, a high-end bolt action that promised to be extremely accurate and durable enough for years of abuse in the field. And, like the Partition, the Model 48 was a hit.
This acceptance by the hunting community has allowed Nosler to expand the Model 48 lineup, and the newest version of the Model 48 is the Outfitter, which incorporates all the hallmark features of the Model 48 into a short, light package.
My test rifle, which was chambered in .338 Win. Mag., wore the same aramid fiber-reinforced composite stock with straight comb and rollover cheekpiece that you'll find on the company's popular Trophy Grade rifle, and the same blind internal box magazine and the metal work had the same Cerakote finish to protect the rifle from the elements. The major difference on the Outfitter is that the barrel has been chopped to 22 inches and the rifle comes equipped with auxiliary iron sights.
The solidly built M48 receiver is bedded into a good-looking aramid-fiber stock. The base geometry is set up to handle Remington 700/Weatherby Mark V bases.
As a purpose-built rifle, the Outfitter includes rugged, adjustable iron sights via a blade rear. The front is fiber optic.
Like other Model 48s, the Outfitter is guaranteed to fire 100-yard three-shot groups into an inch with prescribed Nosler ammo. The author's test rifle didn't disappoint.
The action of the Model 48 is Nosler's own creation and incorporates an AR-15 style spring-loaded extractor and a plunger-type ejector. It has dual opposed locking lugs that are hand-lapped and a recessed bolt face that locks up tightly and hugs the base of the cartridge securely. The one-piece bolt body is CNC machined and heat treated for tight tolerances, and the bolt has shallow flutes that allow it to run smoothly through the action and resist binding.
Large gas vents are cut into the bottom of the bolt body for safety, and the bolt is one of the easiest to disassemble that I've ever seen; simply rotate the rear of the bolt 90 degrees and the assembly comes apart for cleaning and maintenance. The spring and firing pin are both treating with a Micro Slick coating to protect from wear.
Like other Nosler rifles, the action is blueprinted and trued and has a large, square-bottomed recoil lug that fits into the aluminum bedding of the stock. The edges of the receiver are scalloped to reduce weight, and the receiver is drilled and tapped to accept bases for a Remington 700/Weatherby Mark V.
The side-mounted, rocker-style, two-position safety allows the action to be operated in Safe mode, and a large red dot indicates when the rifle is ready to fire. The top of the safety lever is serrated for a secure grip even with gloves or when the fingers are wet and cold.
The 22-inch, button-rifled, match-grade barrel is hand-lapped and has a radiused target crown. The Outfitter comes with a crisp, clean three-pound trigger that breaks cleanly without any creep, which is what you'd expect in a rifle built to these standards. The trigger guard is oversized to accommodate gloved fingers.
Unlike the cheap sights that are sometimes placed on carbine-length rifles — seemingly as an afterthought or a decorative touch — the Outfitter has a legitimate set of irons. They're easy to adjust for windage and elevation by loosening screws on the rear sight and moving the notched V-blade. The front sight features a bright fiber-optic bead that is easy to find, especially in low light.
With all of the features that Nosler packs into this rifle, you'd expect it to be very accurate. Well, you wouldn't be disappointed. With two of the three ammunition types tested, the Outfitter grouped under an inch on average, and there were three groups under three-quarters of an inch. Nosler sent the rifle topped with a Leopold VX-R 2-7X scope with Leupold QD bases, an excellent setup if you're actually planning to use the iron sights.
Well-built and deadly accurate, the Nosler 48 Outfitter is a top choice for anyone looking for a short, light rifle. It's available in six caliber ranging from .30-06 to .458 Win. Mag., so whether you're after a rifle to hunt deer and bear in the forest or elephants in the thorns of Africa, you'll be covered. My primary complaint? I had to send this rifle back at the end of the test.