December 23, 2022
Whether you ever plan to hunt at thin-air altitudes, we can all appreciate a light, accurate hunting rifle that’s built to withstand the elements. Perhaps that’s why the popularity of mountain rifles is out of all proportion to the number of hunters who actually venture above tree line, where the views are magnificent and the accommodations are spartan. Regardless of whether you’re planning a mountain hunt this fall or simply aspire to hunt the high country, though, you have to appreciate the new Christensen Arms Ridgeline FFT. Built with the lightest materials and constructed with attention to every detail, the Ridgeline FFT is engineered to impress—even if your hunting adventures never take you higher than the seat of your tree stand.
Mountain rifles must be light, and the Ridgeline FFT certainly fits the bill. The standard Ridgeline rifle weighs as little as 6.3 pounds, which certainly qualifies it as a mountain rifle. The new Ridgeline FFT, however, tips the scales at a minimum of 5.3 pounds. The difference in mass is a result of the new Flash Forged Technology stock that utilizes a high-tech carbon- fiber weave from which the Ridgeline FFT derives its name. Traditionally, to make lightweight stocks more durable and rigid, more material had to be added to the interior of the stock, which, ironically, added weight. Christensen Arms’ Flash Forged Technology takes a different approach to strengthening the stock—one that doesn’t offset weight savings.
“Flash Forged Technology represents the latest in carbon-fiber structural manufacturing,” said Jason Christensen, CEO of Christensen Arms. According to Christensen, stocks were traditionally overbuilt to meet safety standards, but Flash Forged Technology is proving there’s a way to build stocks lighter without risking failure. “Flash Forged Technology employs an engineering approach to achieve the lightest possible structure while exceeding crucial strength and safety margins,” he said.
Christensen Arms accomplishes this by using a monocoque shell design for its stocks. A monocoque is a structural skin that serves the function of a load-bearing internal frame. The monocoque design is used by boats and airplanes, and in 1962 the Lotus 25 was the first Formula One race car to use a monocoque design. The design appears in nature, too. Consider the chicken egg, which has a lightweight exterior shell that supports and protects its interior contents. We don’t typically consider the ramifications of waste produced by gun manufacturers on the environment, but as hunters and conservationists, the team at Christensen Arms recognized that if they could reduce waste during production those efforts could in help conservation efforts. Christensen builds its FFT stocks using virgin recyclable material and automated machining. Trimmed composite parts are repurposed without producing toxins or emissions. This, according to Christensen, helps “support Christensen Arms’ goal of wildlife conservation by reducing our environmental impact and protecting our lands and wildlife for the enjoyment of future generations.”
It should come as no surprise that Christensen Arms is the first to employ a monocoque stock design. This is, after all, the brand that established itself in 1995 by incorporating aerospace materials and production methods into firearms production. But the new FFT monocoque stock is just one of the high-tech features that have found their way onto the Utah rifle maker’s newest mountain gun. An accurate bolt-action rifle is the sum of its parts, and the Ridgeline FFT certainly has a long list of class-leading standard features. The precision-machined 416 stainless steel action is available in either right- or left-handed configurations. Receivers are drilled and tapped to accept Remington 700 footprint bases, and rings with 6-48 screws and stainless steel bedding pillars are standard.
An enlarged ejection port allows you to easily load the rifle, and unlike many of its competitors, the Ridgeline FFT comes with an internal box magazine that holds four rounds (three rounds in magnums) and an FFT hinged floorplate. The bottom metal is made from billet aluminum, and the floorplate release blade is located within the trigger guard. Ridgeline FFT rifles use a dual lug, spiral-fluted bolt with a flattened, skeletonized bolt handle and an interchangeable FFT bolt knob. TriggerTech triggers are standard, and they offer a smooth, crisp break that improves accuracy. The test rifle’s trigger broke at 3.1 pounds for an average of 10 presses on a Wheeler gauge, and the trigger guard is large enough that you can still operate the rifle effectively when wearing gloves.
Mated to every Ridgeline FFT action is a button-rifled Christensen Arms carbon-fiber barrel with match chamber. The 416R stainless barrel is wrapped with aerospace carbon fiber, and all Ridgeline FFT rifles come with a removable stainless steel side-baffle muzzle brake. The test rifle, which was chambered in .308 Win., had a 20-inch carbon-fiber barrel with a 1:10 twist. So equipped, the rifle measured just 413/8 inches from recoil pad to brake. The Ridgeline FFT carries a suggested retail price of $2,400, which places it in competition with Springfield’s Waypoint 2020 ($2,394 in .308 Win. with fixed carbon-fiber stock) and Kimber’s Mountain Ascent ($2,302). The Ridgeline FFT doesn’t offer an adjustable stock like the Springfield, and it weighs about a half-pound more than the Kimber, but neither of those rifles offers the Christensen’s monocoque stock design.
The Ridgeline FFT also offers more chambering and color options than those two rifles. While the Springfield is currently available in four chamberings and the Kimber in 10 chamberings, the Ridgeline FFT is available in 19 chamberings, ranging from .22-250 Rem. all the way to .450 Bushmaster. The list includes the hottest long-range hunting rounds like the 6.5 Creedmoor, 6.5 PRC, .300 PRC, .28 Nosler and .30 Nosler. There are also several classic chamberings like .243 Win., .308 Win. and .30-06. There’s even a 6.5-284 Norma chambering for those who thumb their noses at the crop of hot new 6.5s.
Tons of Options
Stock color options are based on action finish. Natural Stainless Cerakote actions are available with stocks in either carbon with gray accents or carbon with green and tan accents. The latter stock color is also paired with the Burnt Bronze action finish, as on my test sample. There are also two black nitride finishes, and these can be had with Sitka Subalpine or Sitka Elevated II stocks. Christensen Arms didn’t complicate this gun’s control layout. The TriggerTech trigger comes with a two-position rocker-type safety that does not lock the bolt when engaged. A new rocker-style bolt stop, which is located on the left side of the receiver, is easy to access, and the floorplate release is tucked neatly inside the trigger guard but isn’t long enough to thump the shooter’s finger.
Put this all together and you have a high-tech, low-weight mountain rifle that’s built to perform. So does the Ridgeline FFT live up to its m.o.a.-accuracy promise? For testing, I mounted a Leupold VX-5HD 3-15x44mm scope on the rifle. The Leupold offers a versatile 5X magnification range that might come in very handy for long shots in the mountains, but it’s also relatively light at just under 20 ounces. Three loads were tested, ranging from 150 to 178 grains, and two of the three loads managed to produce at least one sub-m.o.a. group at 100 yards, although the Black Hills 152-grain Dual Performance was the only load to average less than one m.o.a.
Recoil was mild thanks to the muzzle brake, but it also exaggerated muzzle blast. Still, the brake is easy to remove, and with a suppressor in place this rifle would still be manageable thanks to its 41-inch overall length. That compact design makes the Ridgeline FFT an excellent gun for the eastern hunter who’s in the market for a premium hunting rifle. Chambered in .450 Bushmaster, this gun is legal for hunting straight-wall states, and in areas where cover is thick and hunting from blinds and tree stands is popular, that rifle/cartridge combination would make an excellent choice. It would also work well on black bear over bait or hounds and for pigs, so despite the Ridgeline’s “go West and up” personality, it’s equally suited for Eastern hunting.
But it is primarily a mountain rifle, and in that category the gun excels. The high-tech FFT stock shares similar geometry with other Christensen stocks, so the pistol grip angle and width, rounded fore-end and straight comb will fit most shooters comfortably. The soft, squishy, black recoil pad worked fine on the .308, although a braked .308 is hardly a hard-kicking gun. However, I suspect it works equally well on harder-kicking rounds. Not surprisingly, the TriggerTech trigger performed well, breaking cleanly and smoothly. As I mentioned, the two-position safety doesn’t lock the bolt, but since the action operation is smooth without being sloppy, most hunters probably won’t have to worry about the action flopping open in cover.
The 1:10 twist .308 barrel should stabilize a broad range of .30 caliber bullets—including subsonic stuff—and seemed to work well with the loads I tested. Having grown up under the reign of the Models 70 and 700, I’m a fan of the internal box magazine/hinged floorplate design. You can easily stuff rounds through the action, and they click into place. Dumping the whole magazine is a matter of depressing the blade inside the trigger guard to deposit all the rounds into your hand. With the bolt handle elevated, the extractor is located at the one or two o’clock position, and there’s a plunger-type ejector mounted in the bolt face. Reliability was good with one notable exception. The last Black Hills round in every magazine would lock up and refuse to feed. I suspect it’s because the 152-grain Dual Performance bullet has an open-tip design, whereas the Winchester and Hornady ammunition both feature tipped designs.
Does the Christensen Arms Ridgeline FFT have the goods needed to carve out a place in the mountain hunting market? Absolutely. This brand has already won over fans in the western half of the country, but even if you never plan to hike up a mountain to hunt, you can still appreciate the work that’s gone into the development of this rifle. With a cutting-edge design, light weight, good looks and superb accuracy, there’s no doubt that Christensen rifles will be serving hunters for many years to come.
Christiansen Arms Ridgeline FFT Rifle Specs
- Type: Centerfire, bolt-action rifle
- Caliber: .22-250, .243 Win., 6.5 Creedmoor, 6.5 PRC, 6.5- 284 Norma, .26 Nosler, .270 Win., 7mm-08, .280 Ackley Improved, 7mm Rem. Mag., .28 Nosler, .308 Win. (tested), .30-06, .300 WSM, .300 Win. Mag., .30 Nosler, .300 PRC, .300 Rem. Ultra Mag, .450 Bushmaster
- Capacity: 4 rds. (tested)
- Barrel: 416R stainless 20-inch barrel with carbon-fiber wrap, threaded muzzle, side-baffle brake; 1:10 twist (tested)
- Overall Length: 41.38 in.
- Weight: 5 lbs., 5 oz.
- Finish: Cerakote Burnt Bronze
- Stock: Christiansen Arms FFT carbon fiber
- Trigger: TriggerTech adjustable 3.1 lbs. (tested)
- Sights: none; drilled and tapped for Remington 700 bases
- MSRP: $2,400
- Manufacturer: Christiansen Arms