I have an embarrassing confession to make. I have used Nosler products – ammunition, brass and bullets – for 25 years. But somehow, until 2018, I did not know that Nosler built rifles. When I found out that they had been selling rifles since 2005, I contacted Zach Waterman, Nosler’s Public Relations Manager about reviewing a rifle designed for deer hunting. Zach sent me an Model 48 Heritage rifle chambered for 30 Nosler.
Fast forward to the present and, including the rifle described in this review, I have handled three Nosler guns. The first two were both Model 48 Heritage rifles. The current review describes my findings with the Nosler Model 48 Mountain Carbon rifle, chambered in 26 Nosler.
Released in 2019, the Model 48 Mountain Carbon was designed to be an ultra-lightweight rifle for, well, lugging up mountains in pursuit of game. The rifle, sans scope, weighs a mere six pounds. Nosler accomplishes this by pairing the 24” Light Sendero Contour, carbon fiber-wrapped, cut-rifled barrel (1:8″ RH rifling) with their…
…granite green, 100% carbon fiber, aramid-reinforced, mountain hunter stock.
The stock and barrel are mated using glass and aluminum pillar bedding. The barrel is threaded (5/8 x 24) to accommodate a suppressor.
The pistol grip comes with a palm swell.
The pistol grip is lightly textured.
The texturing on the pistol grip and forend really help here given the slickness of the finish of the carbon fiber stock.
The action-type is Nosler’s proprietary Model 48.
All of the metal on the Model 48 Mountain Carbon rifle is finished with tungsten grey Cerakote finish.
The rifle’s internal magazine accommodates three rounds of 26 Nosler ammunition.
Nosler selected a Timney trigger as standard equipment for the Model 48 Carbon Fiber with a two-position safety.
I tested the Model 48 with a Leupold VX-6 3x18x44 riflescope. The Model 48 Carbon Fiber’s receiver will take any mounting hardware designed for the Remington 700 platform.
26 Nosler is the ‘Hot’ 6.5mm
I had the choice of testing two Mountain Carbon rifles, one chambered in 26 Nosler and the other in 6.5 Creedmoor. I chose the 26 Nosler partly because I was tired of reviewing rifles chambered to 6.5 Creedmoor. Also, I knew that the 26 Nosler is not your normal 6.5mm cartridge.
The 26 Nosler is based on the .404 Jeffery case that has been shortened to .30-06 length and then blown-out and necked down, resulting in a sharp shoulder and a short neck. The final product is a cartridge with the bullet (6.5mm/.264) and the length of a .264 Winchester Magnum cartridge, but with even more powder capacity.
It’s then no surprise that the 26 Nosler is significantly faster than the 6.5 Creedmoor. For example, two types of 6.5 Creedmoor (Hornady) ammunition I recently chronographed had muzzle velocities of approximately 2700 fps. I tested two types of 26 Nosler ammunition, 120 grain E-Tip and 140 grain Accubond. The E-Tip bullets left the muzzle at 3300 fps, and the Accubond projectiles departed at 3100 fps. That’s a great deal more speed — and energy — than the 6.5 Creedmoor.
Obviously, that means there is significantly more recoil shooting the lightweight Model 48 Mountain Carbon rifle than shooting heavier 6.5 Creedmoor rifles with which I’ve worked. But it wasn’t enough recoil to be a problem for me, even off the bench.
Range Work: Accuracy
Since the Model 48 Mountain Carbon was specifically designed for hunting, I wanted to simulate its accuracy when used for shooting at game. To do this, I shot the rifle using a 4StableSticks, standing-position, field rest. My baseline for the rifle’s field accuracy was that obtained from the bench.
I fired both types of ammunition from the bench and field rest at 100, 200, 300 and 400 yards. The bar graph below shows the data generated by three-shot groups for all combinations of ammunition, rest type, and distance.
The first observation to make here is that the Model 48, in combination with both types of 26 Nosler ammunition, is inherently very accurate. I draw this conclusion from the fact that only three of the 16 combinations produced group sizes larger than 1 MOA, and only one of the three (300 yards using the standing rest and the E-Tip ammunition) exceeded 1.2 x MOA.
To remind ourselves, 1 MOA group diameter is approximately 1, 2, 3 and 4 inches at 100, 200, 300 and 400 yards, respectively. Given that my goal was to estimate whether the accuracy from the Model 48 Mountain Carbon would be sufficient for ethical hunting, the answer is a resounding ‘yes’.
Even the largest group size was only 6 inches at 300 yards, which is within the size of the heart-lung area of a deer-sized animal. Furthermore, most shots at game will be taken at distances of less than 400 yards. However, if it were not possible to stalk closer, I would be more than willing to use the Mountain Carbon, with either of the ammunition types.
Specifications: Nosler Model 48 Mountain Carbon Rifle
Weight: 6 lbs
Action: Nosler Model 48 Bolt Action
Caliber: 26 Nosler (also available in
Twist Rate: 1/8″
Barrel Threaded: 5/8 x 24 TPI
Barrel: 24″, Light Sendero Contour, Carbon Fiber-Wrapped, Cut-Rifling
Stock: 100% Carbon Fiber, Aramid-reinforced, Mountain Hunter Stock, Granite Green
Trigger: Timney Trigger with 2 Position Safety
Metal Finish: Tungsten Grey Cerakote
Ratings (out of five stars):
Style and Appearance * * * *
Though I always prefer the appearance of a wooden stock on any rifle I carry, I can’t bring myself to complain about the look the Mountain Carbon. The granite green stock, the carbon fiber-wrapped barrel and the tungsten grey metal finish actually complimented one another well. Also, having a green stock would likely reduce a hunter’s visibility to game animals in most settings.
Ergonomics * * * * *
The ergonomics of the Mountain Carbon were most apparent when using the field rest. Most important is its 6-pound weight makes the rifle easy to strap onto a pack and carry overland without being thrown off-balance on steep inclines.
Reliability * * * * *
I experienced no mechanical issues with the rifle at all. The Nosler Model 48 action worked very smoothly in chambering cartridges and ejecting the brass, as you’d expect.
Accuracy * * * * *
As mentioned in the review, I was most interested in seeing how the Mountain Carbon would perform in its role as a hunting firearm. The data suggest that this sub-MOA rifle is as accurate as a hunter should ever need, out to any ethical shooting distance.
Overall * * * * 1/2
The Nosler Model 48 Mountain Carbon rifle produced excellent performance, a highly effective combination of good ergonomics, light weight, dependability, and accuracy. I would definitely prefer to carry the 6 pound Mountain Carbon over rough terrain rather than a much heavier, wooden-stocked rifle. But it’s not just due to the weight. It is also because when taking a tumble, landing on that carbon fiber stock won’t make me wince nearly as much as skidding down a slope on a nice piece of walnut. If only I could afford a porter who would carry a beautiful wooden stock with them to switch out for the photos.
Mike Arnold writes for a number of outlets; links to other articles can be found here.
All images courtesy the author.