Whether it’s an accent on a BMW M car, the barrel of a Dunhill foundation pen, or a precision rifle barrel, I love me some carbon fiber. When used right, carbon fiber imparts strength, light weight and looks good while doing it. So when I first saw the Christensen Arms Tactical Force Multiplier (“TFM”) at SHOT Show earlier this year, it was love at first sight. The big question: does it shoot as well as it looks?
Short answer: heck yeah. As this three-shot, sub-two-inch group I shot at 800 yards demonstrates, the Christensen TFM more than backs up its promise of ½ MOA performance.
And that was shot with with factory Hornady 140 grain ELD Match ammunition.
I’m sure you are asking: Was that a typical group? Actually, no. But more on the rifle’s accuracy later. First a little about Christensen.
Christensen Arms grew out of Dr. Ronald Christensen’s experience in the aerospace industry. The Christensen family started this business because of their love of firearms and hunting and they figured their experience with carbon fiber aerospace technologies would translate well into the firearms business. The Gunnison, Utah-based company wanted to make hunting rifles that were lighter and stiffer than the other guns on the market.
In the past, Christensen Arms made a variety of different gun-related products, including carbon barrels for Ruger 10/22s, the Carbon-One single shot pistol (based on T/C Contender), the Carbon One R-93 (based on the Blaser 93 action), and a .50 BMG rifle based on a McMillan Action.
But over the years, Christensen has honed in on their niche by focusing their efforts in three areas: (1) lightweight carbon fiber bolt-action hunting rifles, (2) high-end competition-focused AR-15’s and AR-10’s, and (3) high-end 1911s. Of the three, the bolt guns are their biggest sellers and form the backbone of the firm.
To be honest, I really didn’t really “need” to buy this rifle. I mainly bought it simply because I loved the look of the carbon fiber. But if you’re someone who needs to justify a purchase of this size, consider these fact that carbon fiber is:
- 3-4 times stronger than steel
- 4-5 times more rigid than steel
- 5-6 times lighter than steel
As we used to say in the military, “Ounces add up to pounds, and pounds add up to pain.” Despite having other precision rifles in my safe I eventually rationalized that the Christensen TFM would serve me well as a lightweight, packable long-range hunting rifle. And I might even shoot a PRS match or two with it.
The only remaining question: caliber. The TFM is offered in six chamberings: 6.5 Creedmoor, .308 Win, .300 Win Mag, .300 Norma, .338 Norma, and .338 Lapua. I decided to hop on the bandwagon and go with a 6.5 Creedmoor.
Part of me wanted a .300 Win Mag or .300 Norma for my dream elk hunt in Hells Canyon, but that trip is still aways off. But since I’m not a reloader and wanted to keep my ammo costs relatively low, 6.5 became the obvious choice.
Next up: optics and rings. I wanted keep the components as light as possible while still keeping the rifle set up for long range work. With scope, rings, caps, bipod and an empty mag, the rifle weighs in right 10 lbs, 5 ounces! Not bad, considering that my other precision rifles weigh in at 15-19 lbs.
To keep with the carbon fiber theme and minimize all the weight that I could, I opted for the Modular Evolution bipod. It has the same basic design as the Atlas, but features removable carbon fiber legs and weighs just shy of a pound.
As for the TFM itself . . .
Action & Bolt
The 416R stainless steel action is based on the venerable Remington 700 design. Christensen calls it the “Model 14” action. As expected, it’s a two-lug design with a 90-degree throw and an enlarged ejection port. The receiver face and bolt lugs are trued/blueprinted to ensure accuracy.
The action has a true Remington 700 “footprint,” which means it’s designed to work with Remington 700-compatible triggers, stocks, and barrels. It’s also designed to work with AICS magazines and uses the time-proven Badger-style extended tactical/paddle magazine release.
The action has a full-length integral 20 MOA Picatinny rail milled into the top, a welcome upgrade from a standard Remington 700 action. The action is finished in durable black nitride finish.
The bolt features Christensen Arms’ signature spiral fluting, which is also found on the bolt shroud and knob. The primary purpose of the fluting appears to be aesthetics, but it also serves to reduce some weight. This design seems to be consistently used throughout the Christensen Arms line, and serves as a branding feature.
The bolt features the excellent M-16-style extractor upgrade. M-16 and Sako-style extractors are the two preferred extractor types for push-feed actions, and are a definite step up from the standard Remington 700 extractor design. In fact, these are common upgrades found on most custom push-feed rifles.
Short action TFM rifles chambered in 6.5 Creedmoor and .308 Win feature a large single plunger ejector. Dual ejectors are used on bolts intended for magnum calibers such as .300 Win Mag and .338 Lapua.
The TFM is expertly glass bedded into the stock, and the stock features bedding pillars constructed of carbon fiber for the ultimate in light weight and thermal stability.
The TFM comes standard with the excellent Timney Calvin Elite single stage trigger. The Calvin Elite trigger is user adjustable for pull weight, overtravel, and sear engagement.
I played with the adjustments a bit and my sample is now set to break at 1 lb, 10 ounces. No creep. Very little perceptible overtravel. While I’m a big fan of this trigger, I’m more of a fan of the two-stage version. That’s a matter of personal preference. Of course, if the Timney trigger isn’t to your liking, you can swap it out for any other (dozens of) Remington 700 compatible trigger.
Christensen Arms was the first manufacturer to offer carbon fiber-wrapped barrels. Unlike many small arms manufacturers, Christensen Arms makes their barrels in house, which is why they have confidence in their ½ MOA accuracy guarantee. The match chambered target profile barrel consists of a 416R stainless steel core wrapped in aerograde carbon fiber. The barrel is button rifled and hand lapped, and threaded at 5/8×24 to accept muzzle devices and silencers.
Carbon barrels are light, rigid and quickly dissipate heat. That translates into longevity, durability and successive shot accuracy. Carbon barrels also reportedly last 20% to 25% longer than steel barrels on average and have no built in residual stresses, and their accuracy is not affected by temperature. They tend to shoot straight in both hot and cold conditions.
Christensen sells the TFM in various barrel lengths, including 16, 24, 26, or 27-inch options. My sample featured a 26-inch barrel, which is ideal for the type of open country we see here in the West. The photo above shows the TFM in .308 Win fitted with a 16-inch barrel and the titanium radial brake. That could make the perfect urban sniper when paired with a suppressor.
The rifle ships with Christensen’s in-house adjustable titanium four-port, side baffle muzzle brake. As is typical with these types of brakes, recoil reduction was significant, but so was noise.
Besides the use of Titanium, what really sets this brake apart from the competition is the addition of four adjustable top vents. These vents are opened by removing small Allen screws, as shown in the photo above.
For the most part, I didn’t bother to use the top vents because 6.5 Creedmoor naturally has light recoil. However, for testing purposes, I did try shooting the rifle without two of the top screws in place. It does indeed function as advertised.
Adjusting the rear screw had the greatest effect. I could see how opening all four of these top vents could really help tame muzzle rise on a larger caliber such as the .300 Win Mag. I speculated that the top vent might cause the upward escaping exhaust gases to “cloud” my vision briefly, but I really could not notice a difference.
Besides the barrel, the other key component that really makes this rifle special is the carbon fiber stock. It features built-in carbon fiber bedding pillars, which keeps everything stiff under recoil and obviates the need for glass bedding. At 2.5 pounds and 32 inches of overall length, this stock is almost half the weight of a similar fiberglass stock. Oh, and the by the way, that 2.5 lbs includes the bottom metal and a 4-inch section of picatinny rail!). While similar in weight to an average hunting rifle stock, it has all the benefits and adjustability of a precision/tactical stock.
For example, the generous and comfortable palm swell reminds me of the Wundhammer design on Anschutz rifles. The fore-end of the stock is a variation on a beavertail design, and has a flat bottom which is perfect for shooting off of packs, bags, or off the bench. These two features really sealed the deal for me.
The cheek piece is adjustable from 0 to 1.25 comb height. Length of pull can range from 13 to 14.25 inches. One of the few criticisms I have of this rifle; there’s some play in the interface between the butt-plate and the stock. In fairness, my MPA BA competition chassis also has some similar play, so maybe that’s by design. But this is an almost $5000 rifle and my Magpul PRS stocks are a lot tighter, (albeit heavier).
The soft Limbsaver recoil pad is under-utilized on this 6.5 Creedmoor gun, but would be highly appreciated on a .300 Win Mag. or .338 Lapua.
The stock comes standard with a rear sling stud and a single front stud. I wish it came with QD flush cups. It would be nice to be able to use QD attachment points for a sling and to hang a rear support bag. The factory adds a four-inch section of Picatinny rail for mounting a bipod.
If you already have a Remington 700, Christensen Arms will also sell this stock separately for around $1,200. The barrel channel is typical with a 1.25″ straight taper with .920 at the muzzle end.
Features and light weight are important, but at the end of the day, the most important question for a hunting rifle: Can you count on it shot after shot? The five-shot five-inch group at 700 yards shown above (on a 2/3 IPSC) typical of what I can do with this rifle in the usual 5-10mph variable wind conditions at my favorite long-range spot. The wind has caused some lateral dispersion, which isn’t unusual. Still, that’s a very solid group.
It takes a lot of factors lining up just right to make groups like that happen, not the least of which is accurately reading the wind. And at these distances, having good handloads with single digit SDs would greatly improve my chances of making tiny groups at distance.
Most of the factory match ammo I’ve been shooting has SDs in the neighborhood of 20 to 30 for 10-shot strings. As a result, I have had some pretty nice groups open up when a gust of wind takes the bullet 6 inches to the right or left, or a shot drops a foot lower than the others due to the ammo.
That, of course, is why we do our range testing at 100 yards. I’m to the point where shooting at 100 yards is less than exciting, but it’s still important for determining zero, load development, etc. The TFM certainly lived up to its three-shot, 100-yard accuracy guarantee. The test target shipped with the rifle shows a .4-inch group shot at 100 yards.
Most of my five-shot groups hovered right at ½-inch. As an example, the ½-inch center-to-center, group shown above is a typical group for me at 100 yards using Hornady 140 grain Match ammo. Not all of my groups look quite that good, and a few are better. But it’s safe to rely on Christensen’s ½ MOA claim with factory ammo.
There have been a number of guns I’ve pined for in the past but disappointed me when I actually bought them. The Christensen TFM isn’t among that group. The more I get to know this rifle, the more I appreciate it.
At $4,895 MSRP, this is undoubtedly an expensive rifle. But given that the TFM used to be priced right at $6000, I actually think it’s now something of a value buy. I have other comparable rifles cost more than a grand above the TFM’s price…and are five to six pounds heavier.
The only negative: the TFM is almost too pretty to take on a hunt! If and when I do, I will be sure to wrap it in camo tape to protect it from the inevitable dings and dents.
Specifications: Christensen Arms TFM (Tactical Force Multiplier) Rifle
Action: Enhanced Remington 700 style action
Caliber: 6.5 Creedmoor (as tested), .308 Win, .300 Win Mag., .300 Norma, .338 Norma, .338 Lapua
Magazine / Capacity: 5 rd. Accurate Mag (AICS compatible) mag (provided); 10+ round mags (optional)
Barrel Length (inches): 16, 24, 26, 27 (caliber dependent)
Overall Length (inches): 46.5 (as tested with LOP collapsed)
Weight (rifle only): 7 lbs, 5 ounces (short action)
Weight (as tested): 10.5 lbs (with empty mag, scope, scope caps, rings, bipod, Picatinny rail)
Ratings: (out of five stars)
Ergonomics: * * * * *
The adjustable cheek rest and buttstock go a long way towards making this rifle very comfortable to shoot. That big Anschutz-style palm swell places my trigger finder at exactly the right spot to ensure consistent shot-to-shot accuracy.
Accuracy: * * * * *
It lives up to Christensen’s three-shot ½ MOA guarantee with factory ammo. Easy to bang steel at 1000 yards and beyond with this rifle.
Reliability * * * * *
High-end bolt action rifles leaving the factory with any reliability issues are rare as hen’s teeth. The Christensen Arms TFM performed perfectly.
Fit and finish * * * *
The stock and barrel are works of art. The workmanship is also top notch. The butt-plate has some play that I would ideally like to see tightened up.
Overall: * * * * *
This is a truly excellent rifle. Even with a price just shy of $5000, the TFM may still be a value purchase. You’re pretty going to pay $3000 to $6000 for most bolt guns of similar pedigree, and this one shaves roughly five pounds off the weight of a typical PRS/tactical rifle.