One of the higher end acquisitions by the Freedom Group in recent years is the rifle maker Nesika. Purchased in 2009, the rifle maker has continued to churn out guns with some pretty great specs and a price to match. New for 2014 Nesika is releasing a “tactical” version of their rifle in both .308 Winchester and .338 Lapua, and when I first read the spec sheet my mouth was watering. It seems to check every box for a truly great bolt action rifle. I had to get my hands on one and see if it lived up to the hype.
Let’s get the low hanging fruit out of the way: the stock is great. But the reason the stock is great is that it’s a standard Bell and Carlson Medalist fiberglass stock. I’m definitely not faulting Nesika for reaching up to the top shelf when choosing a chassis, but since it’s a known component it doesn’t make much sense to dwell on it for the review. Instead, I will stipulate to the fully adjustable awesomeness of the chassis and move on to the parts that they actually make.
What surprised me was that Nesika actually manufacture their own actions in-house. Most custom rifle makers buy their actions from Surgeon or Remington, and then produce their own barrels to finish out the gun. Nesika flips that expectation on its head, producing the actions in-house and using Douglas barrels for their guns.
The receiver is nearly identical to the Remington 700 setup, which was derived from the Springfield 1903, which was a blatant rip-off of the Mauser action. The Remington improvements are all present though, including the safety selector placement being conveniently located near the shooter’s thumb. A nice improvement over the plain Jane Remington 700 is that the bolt handle comes threaded from the factory, meaning that you can remove the existing bolt knob and replace it with whatever strikes your fancy.
The “tactical” version here uses detachable Accuracy International (or less expensive equivalent) magazines to keep the gun fed instead of the standard hinged floorplate. Also changed from the normal line of guns is the addition of a Picatinny rail across the top of the receiver, allowing a wider array of optics to be mounted. Or, you can remove it and get back to the straight bolt-on scope bases and rings.
The barrel on this gun is both long and heavy. At 26 inches it is easily one of the longest guns I’ve tested, beaten only by the Armalite AR-50 which I could not find a cleaning rod long enough to wipe down the barrel. The length does add some velocity to the projectile, which is useful when you’re trying to hit targets at distances measured in hundreds of yards and put them down for good. The muzzle of the gun is threaded, and (here comes the Freedom Group tie-in) comes with an AAC muzzle brake for a TiTan-QD can. Although you can crank that off and use whatever muzzle device or silencer you want — it isn’t permanently attached, unless you call locktite “permanently attached.”
The long rifle means that the gun is a bit front-heavy, and with a silencer it is even more unbalanced. Generally par for the course for long range guns, but just FYI.
Out on the range, the gun is pretty sweet. The action is butter smooth, opening and closing the bolt is easy as pie, and the Timney trigger does the gun well. But the rifle that was sent to me for testing was a .338 Lapua, and that recoil is an absolute beast. The single-chamber muzzle brake simply isn’t good enough — you really need a complete silencer to take the whollop out of the recoil. A mitigating factor was the adjustable stock though, which allowed me to focus that recoil onto the meaty bits of my shoulder instead of wherever the designers had decided my shoulder should be.
There is, however, a problem.
The rail section along the top of the gun raises the level of the scope quite a bit. In order to get the proper eye relief and cheek weld, I needed to raise the cheek piece a corresponding amount. Unfortunately it looks like this was not taken into account when putting the gun together, as with the cheek rest raised the gun doesn’t cycle. The bolt hits the cheek piece before it has come backwards far enough to pick up the next round in the magazine, and the only way to get the gun to feed is doing it by hand. I have notified the guys at Nesika about this issue and they’re working on a fix, so hopefully those who order their guns form now on will have this all ironed out.
Nesika claims that the gun is guaranteed to shoot a 1 MoA group or better with proper ammunition. After testing the rifle at 100 yards with Hornady match grade ammunition (and that ain’t cheap), I can say . . .
Confirmed. The gun shoots almost exactly 1 MoA when measuring the shots from one center to the furthest center. However, the spread isn’t all that much better than the guaranteed 1 MoA. There is some wiggle room in the .338 caliber, with some guns liking one bullet weight much more than another, so the straight off the shelf Hornady rounds might not be giving the very best group possible. As always your mileage may vary, but I can at least confirm Nesika’s marketing claims.
Overall, the rifle is great. The action is very nice, the stock choice is good, and the features are what one would expect from a “tactical” rifle. But there are some minor issues, like the cheek piece getting in the way on the stock, that keep me from professing my undying love for it. I always appreciate seeing people actually manufacturing things instead of buying something off the shelf, so I do give Nesika some love for their well made action. But the rest of the gun is, in fact, off the shelf parts. Parts that generally work together pretty well and make a nice looking gun, that is.
Nesika Tactical Rifle
Caliber: .308 Win / .338 Lapua
Weight: 13.75 lbs.
Operation: Bolt action
Finish: CeraKote matte black
(Rifle DOES NOT come with bipod or scope)
MSRP: $4,499 (Website)
Special thanks to Alamo Tactical in San Antonio, Texas for being an awesome FFL.
Ratings (Out of Five Stars)
Accuracy: * * *
The 1 MoA target meets the spec for what the manufacturer claims, but 1 MoA from a $4,500 gun doesn’t seem like that much of an achievement.
Ergonomics: * * * * *
I have no complaints whatsoever. The stock puts your eye at the perfect position to look down a scope, and everything about this rifle feels solid and smooth.
Ergonomics Firing: * * * *
Gotta take a star off for the recoil. The muzzle brake isn’t really all that effective.
Reliability: * * *
The cheek piece gets in the way of the bolt, and leads to failures to feed. However, when I told the guys at Nesika they said they would fix it. So 3 stars as-is, five with the fix.
Customization: * * * *
The rail on the receiver opens up all kinds of mounting options.
Overall Rating: * * * 1/2
Take into account the cheek rest issue and the 1 MoA groups and I’m not entirely impressed. The rubric says three stars is average for the category, and that’s what we have here — perhaps a hair better. It’s a rifle twice the price of a Weatherby, but without any major improvements in either accuracy or features. I can upgrade a Weatherby with all the same parts as this rifle and still have a grand left over. Then again, that takes work, and this action is really nice…