Pushing The Precision Envelope

The New Model 48 Nosler Custom Handgun

If you must shoot offhand, knock yourself out. But considering the Nosler’s length,
weight and long-range potential, why not use a Bog-Pod?

Two-hundred yard accuracy results with Nolser 120-gr. BT ammo were extremely impressive.
Key contributors were the fully adjustable 2-stage trigger and heavy-contour Shilen match barrel.

It was a freezing cold December morning as I sat in a deer blind wondering if I’d lost my mind. With temperatures below zero, I wasn’t having much fun. While shivering uncontrollably, I watched a rabbit run out of the woods, cross in front of my stand, and run up a hill in a small clearing.

A few minutes later I caught movement at the edge of the woods and, wouldn’t you know it? A bobcat came sneaking out of the brush. I eased the gun out of the window and took a good rest. The cat stopped to look around — probably wondering where the rabbit had disappeared. When the crosshairs settled — I gently tugged the trigger. The cat never knew what hit him. I’d just confirmed what I had been thinking all along to Mike Lake, Senior Manager of Engineering, Research and Development. This new Nosler handgun is going to be a winner! Mike had originally designed a prototype and shortly after, we began collaborating. He’d made a single-shot, bolt-action handgun chambered in 6mm Bench Rest for his own personal use and had even tagged a nice antelope at 308 yards with it using a 90-grain Accubond. And that’s how things began.

Mark’s Model 48 NCH wears a Leupold 4.5-14X scope in Leupold rings. Either a short-action
Nosler M48 mount or a Remington 700 2-piece base will work.

The bolt knob has a flattened bottom with textured checkering on the top portion.

A .22 Prototype

After the handgun project was launched, Mike sent me a prototype of the Model 48 NCH in .22 Nosler topped with a Leupold 4X scope. When I received it the fun began. A trip to the range turned out to be a real eye-opener. I was shooting Nosler’s 55-gr. boattail and 77-gr. Custom Competition loads. With the little scope I was able to keep 3-shot groups inside an inch – all day long — at 100 yards. The best group came with the 77-gr. load and measured 0.470″ on a blustery winter day. I don’t think I can do any better at 4X!

During our Alternative Method season here in Missouri, I hunted with the prototype but never did see the buck I was after. Unfortunately for the bobcat, he made a miserable day seem better. When you spend hours in a deer stand, you have time to think about a lot of things. I pondered on the Nosler handgun — and what could be done to make it even better. In an effort to build a better mousetrap, Mike and I started bouncing ideas off one another.

So, with several modifications in mind, Mike went back to the drawing board. We both were already impressed by the accuracy, so this wasn’t our focus. There were a few minor adjustments in stock design, barrel contour, safety and cosmetics to be considered.

When I received the second version I was blown away. It was chambered in 6.5 Creedmoor with a 1:8 twist and based on the company’s M48 rifle action. Mine had a 16″ barrel, giving the handgun an overall length of 22″ and a weight of 5.8 lbs. (without scope or mounts).

While the handgun is a factory production item, it’s loaded with custom features. A single-shot, bolt-action fed from a solid-bottom receiver, the handgun’s action is constructed from AISI 4140 steel, CNC machined in-house from a precision investment casting. The dual-locking lugs are lapped to the receiver for even load-bearing with a 90-degree bolt lift. The bolt itself incorporates a Sako or AR-style extractor. The bottom portion of the bolt knob is flattened. The top is finely checkered for a secure grasp.

For optics, standard Nosler short-action mounts or a Remington 700 2-piece base will work. I mounted a Leupold 4.5-14X variable in Leupold rings.

The stock — machined from 6061-T6 billet aluminum — utilizes a forward grip style which is ideal for hunting. A Cerakote finish in a variety of colors is available including those options on both the action and barrel. A Hogue rubber overmolded AR-15 grip with finger grooves come standard (any AR grip will fit). The stock features three front sling-swivel stud holes for bipods or slings. One rear sling swivel stud hole allows a sling to be employed.

Nosler designed and manufactured a two-stage trigger that’s adjustable for engagement, overtravel, and pull weight. All triggers leave the factory pre-set to a crisp 3-lb. pull. Overtravel is adjusted by a small screw in the trigger shoe itself. By removing the stock, engagement is adjusted via a screw in the back of the trigger housing. The pull weight is adjusted externally by reaching up through the small hole in the bottom of the rear portion of the stock. This range of trigger adjustment is but one of the many desirable features found on this handgun.

Unlike the discontinued Remington XP-100 or other similar bolt actions, the push-button crossbolt safety is located — perfectly — above the trigger. It’s incorporated in the stock and positively blocks trigger movement — a clever and user-friendly arrangement.

Another accuracy-enhancing component is the Shilen barrel. Current offerings come standard with 15″ barrels but other lengths will be available as an option. I appreciate the heavy-contour, 0.825″ diameter at the muzzle — not to mention the thread protector. If a muzzle brake is desired, a Harrell Precision side-port brake is an option. Fluting is available as an option too. The barrel is fully free-floated and the receiver is 2-point bedded into the billet aluminum stock with Marine-Tex under the recoil lug and rear tang.

Chamberings include .22 Nosler, .24 Nosler, 6mm Creedmoor, 6.5 Creedmoor, 7mm-08, and .308 Win. This lineup covers everything from varmint hunting to target shooting to steel banging to serious big-game hunting. I’m sure other offerings will soon follow, but for now there’s plenty to keep us occupied.

One shot, one nice Texas hog. Next up? An Alaskan Dall sheep.

On Paper, On Hogs

My test gun was a pleasure to shoot. The effective muzzlebrake and added weight of the non-fluted barrel dissipated any noticeable recoil. Although I didn’t have any issues using a riflescope, I didn’t get a full field of view. So I just backed off the eyepiece a bit and kept the crosshairs in the center.

Bolt manipulation was as smooth as any high-end custom rig. Most impressive was the accuracy. Shooting factory Nosler ammo, my 3-shot groups fell inside 1″ all day long while doing a bit of barrel break-in at 100 yards. My big surprise came when I moved out to 200. Nosler 120-gr. BT ammo performed well beyond my expectations — and what I’d hoped for. The first group yielded an impressive 0.440″. Since I really didn’t believe my eyes, I tried another. The second group measured 0.300″! To say I was surprised would be an understatement. This thing shoots.

My 6.5 Creedmoor Nosler hit the field for the first time on a hog hunt in Texas. On a hot afternoon, a black boar came meandering down a clearing without any concern. When the crosshairs settled, the 120-gr. BT dropped him in his tracks. Later this year I’ll take it to Alaska for dall sheep.

Over the years I’ve shot most every single-shot handgun manufactured, including some high-end custom Remington XP-100s. The Model 48 NCH will keep up with the best of the best — at an MSRP of $2,495, which is reasonable for what you’re getting.

Compared to long guns, it’s not often handgun hunters have new innovations to cheer about. But thanks to Mike Lake and the crew at Nosler, we have reason to celebrate.

Ph. (800) 285-3701

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