GUNS Magazine May 2013 Digital Edition - Page 48

B John BaRSneSS etween mass-production and custom rifles lies a relatively narrow category we might call limitedproduction rifles. These don’t roll out of factories like Twinkies used to, but they also don’t offer individual-order options. They’re put together with more precision than the “affordable” rifles found racked by the dozen in big-box sporting goods stores, feature above-average barrels and, often, proprietary actions. Naturally, they aren’t as affordable as low-end assembly-line rifles, but don’t cost any more than some high-end assembly-line rifles. What sort of prices are we talking about? The Montana Rifle Company offers several of what they term “production rifles.” The test rifle was an XWR (Extreme Weather Rifle) in .270 Winchester, with a listed price of $1,199. The Forbes Rifle is a production version of New Ultra Light Arms (NULA) custom rifles. The test rifle was a right-handed model made of chrome-moly steel, listed at $1,399. Both are synthetic-stocked bolt actions, but other than that differs considerably in just about every way. Let’s do this alphabetically and start with the Forbes. The Forbes .30-06 is just about an exact copy of this NULA .30-06 John has hunted with around the world for the past 15 years. The Forbes is just a lot less expensive! In the mid-1980s a young gunsmith in West Virginia named Melvin Forbes grew weary of trying to turn factory bolt actions into the truly lightweight rifles many of his customers wanted for traipsing up and down steep landscapes. He was also tired of fixing the dimensional flaws of mass-produced actions so his rifles would shoot accurately. He decided to make his own action, both lighter in weight and more precise right from the get-go. He called his first action the Model 20 because it weighed 20 ounces, almost a pound less than a Remington 700 short action. Forbes accomplished this by keeping steel where it needed to be, in the front end of the bolt and receiver, and eliminating it as much as possible everywhere else, so the action didn’t sacrifice strength for lightness. The strategy worked; Nosler has long used Ultra Light actions in their ballistics lab, and reports they last far longer than any other action they’ve tried. The Model 20 is a push-feed action with a toggle-style extractor and plunger ejector. Some people say it resembles a slimmed-down Remington 700, but the bolt release resembles the Model 70 Winchester’s, a thin extension of the stop on the left side of the tang. Forbes also built a very strong yet lightweight synthetic stock, using techniques suggested by friends who worked on Hercules rocket development (actual rocket scientists) with full-length carbon and Kevlar fibers. He also had a machining company produce very light but strong aluminum scope rings he’d designed. That company eventually folded, so today the rings are made by Talley Manufacturing, and are available for many other rifles as Talley Lightweights. Together the light action, stock and mounts allowed Forbes to use full-sized barrels, improving balance and accuracy while still offering a very light rifle. Unless a customer wants another 48 W W W . G U N S M A G A Z I N E . C O M • M AY 2 0 1 3

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