Even though my job involves firearms, it's rare I get to shoot something as cool as a .50 BMG bolt rifle. At 1,000 yards. And actually hit something. My chance came recently on a media trip to Montana, where I was introduced to Noreen Firearms. Based in Belgrade near Bozeman, it's family-run operation employing a dozen or so people.
Noreen concentrates on what you might call novel firearms. Heard of an AR chambered in .25-06? Neither had I. Well, Noreen makes one, as well as ARs in .270 Win., .30-06, .300 Win. Mag. and other hunting cartridges, in addition to a powerful .338 Lapua. With the exception of barrels, all major components are built on the firm's CNC machines. Barrels arrived rifled; Noreen's employees turn them to the proper outside diameter, and cut the receiver threads and chambers.
The firm's big .50 is called the ULR, and it's also available in .416 Barrett, .408 CheyTac and .338 Lapua. The rifle is a picture of simplicity. It's essentially a barreled action set in a metal frame that serves as a stock. A cylinder of metal at the front, the "fore-end," provides a place to mount the supplied bipod. The pistol grip is your basic A2, and the "buttstock" is comprised of two metal rods that attach to a buttpad and a piece of metal that serves as a cheekpiece.
The action is even simpler. The bolt face is set up like a shell holder on a reloading press. To load, withdraw the bolt from the rifle, slide a round into the shell holder, gently push the bolt assembly into the tubular receiver and close it. The trigger is a Timney Sportsman adjustable, an excellent choice for a rifle designed for long-range accuracy.
The ULR may seem dead-nuts simple, but when you look closely at the rifle (visit www.onlylongrange.com for a better view than the accompanying photos provide) you'll see those rods in the stock mate up with springs mounted on the sides of the receiver. These are designed to soak up the .50 BMG's fearsome recoil. Between the springs and the Noreen-designed brake on the 34-inch barrel, and the gun's 32-pound overall weight, the ULR is not punishing to shoot.
I'd be a liar if I said I didn't concentrate extra hard on the first shot I fired to ensure I didn't flinch. But when I touched off that first round, I discovered the bark was indeed worse than the bite. Recoil was minimal, although the muzzle blast was formidable.
I was the second or third person to fire the gun, and Phil Noreen, who runs the company along with his dad, Pete, had the scope dialed in and the wind figured out. I missed the first shot but rang the 24-inch gong on the second shot, striking the edge at three o'clock. I adjusted my Kentucky windage and nailed the target dead center on the third shot.
Always quit while you're ahead. I could've shot more, but probably not a ton more. I think after a while the muzzle blast/concussion would've worn me out. However, if you were shooting with a buddy or two, switching back and forth, I'll bet you could shoot it all day, if you can afford that much ammo. But for what it is, the rifle is a heck of a deal at just over $2,000, so you should have some bucks left over to feed it.