Gun Talk: High-performance rifles

M21 RIFLE from Nosler is sleek and ready for serious hunts. It weighs-in at roughly seven pounds, depending on the cartridge for which it is chambered.


It is fascinating to watch as the shooting sports industry evolves, following trends that often last for decades, if not longer.

Currently, the big deal is long-range. This is because it is now possible to make guns, ammo and sights that can deliver precise bullet placement at distance.

I began giving this topic a little more thought recently when I learned about Nosler’s new Model 21 rifle.


“Blueprinted from birth on advanced wire EDM equipment, the Model 21 action was thoughtfully designed to deliver exceptional performance in a user-friendly platform with several built-in custom features throughout,” Nosler reported.

“This new firearm marks an exciting expansion of the Nosler rifle brand, offering an economical option that bridges the gap between standard production assembly rifles and feature-rich customized builds,” explained John Nosler, President of Nosler Inc.

The all-new Nosler Model 21 rifle retails for $2,495 and will be released in popular chamberings including 22 Nosler, 6.5 Creedmoor, 6.5 PRC, 26 Nosler, 27 Nosler, 280 Ackley Improved, 28 Nosler, 308 Win, 300 Win Mag, 30 Nosler, 33 Nosler and 375 H&H.

This is one of the most recent rifle introductions into the high performance, long-range world. In addition to the big-name manufacturers like Ruger, Savage and Winchester, there is a whole sub-industry evolving that includes companies that make high-performance rifles as semi-custom or full-custom units.

WON readers may recall around a year ago or so when I reported on Benelli’s Lupo rifle. Although it looks and handles like a standard hunting rifle, it truly is a factory-made, high-performance firearm.

Weatherby also offers several high-performance rifles. And then there are numbers of specialty shops that can take the concept about as far as is humanly (and machine) possible.

M21 ACTION was designed in collaboration with Mack Brothers of South Dakota and has features of their EVO design.

These are companies like AllTerra Arms, Christensen Arms, Springfield Armory Model 2020, Best of the West and H-S Precision. The point is that the market for rifles designed to be used at long range is expanding with no slowdown in sight.

Yes, the price of poker goes up as rigs include more and more features. But that doesn’t seem to be putting a damper on sales. It can take a while to get one of these new wonders, especially if it comes from a company that makes their rifles, one at a time.

It wouldn’t be so interesting if just the riflemakers were turning out really high-performance products. What is fascinating is that the trend is a result of everything coming together – rifles, ammo and scopes – even wireless apps that can interact with scopes to determine the precise aiming point under any conditions.

That’s right. Many telescopic rifle sights now interact with mobile devices (cell phones and tablets) to take the guesswork out of making long shots. Although I do not personally understand how to use them, I have watched them in use and it seems as though they work as advertised.

More important than the techy gadgets, though, is the precision possible now for scopes. Top quality scopes always have been precision pieces of equipment.

The biggest advancement in recent times involves the adjustments within the scopes. Now, the adjustments can be much more precise and repeatable than ever before, and the better scopes now are made to take a beating and keep on working.

It is devastating to have a scope come loose on the inside during a hunt because that literally puts that scope out of business.

Fortunately, I have never had that happen, but have been in hunting camps where it has and the only way to describe it is “ugly.”

M21 ACTION was designed in collaboration with Mack Brothers of South Dakota and has features of their EVO design.

And never before has ammo quality been so good as it is right now, assuming hunters are fortunate enough to find the ammo in the first place, given some of the supply line challenges of late.

Like the rifles and scopes, computerization of manufacturing is the key to this level of quality and performance. Bullet and ammo makers are able to use computerized programs to design low drag bullets that perform both on the way to and in the target animal at a much wider range of velocities than ever was possible before.

This means that when the hunter places the bullet precisely at distance, that the bullet itself will perform well terminally in the game animal. Truly, it is a win/win/win situation.

For me, these kinds of enhancements do not represent replacements for good old shooting skills. However, there certainly is nothing wrong with anyone using precision rifles, superb ammo and outstanding sights.

The way I view that part of the equation isn’t that hunters should figure their equipment alone will be able instantly to transform a 100-yard shooter into a 600-yard shooter. That ain’t gonna happen and it would be unethical to do so when hunting.

Rather, I like to think of it as a situation in which a 300-yard shooter will be able to make truly precise shots at that distance. In other words, essentially surgically implant the bullet at that distance.

Under that scenario, everything is better. The hunter is fully successful and the game animal is dispatched quickly and cleanly.

In addition to being extremely accurate, this new breed of rifle also is being offered in lightweight models, which means the hunter doesn’t have to lug a boat anchor around the mountains to be able to make a precise shot. That, truly, is nice.

As I suggest often, it is the hunter’s responsibility to address the things over which he or she has control because there are enough things, we can’t control to make hunting anything but a sure bet.

We do have control over the equipment we take on hunts and we have control over our personal levels of competency.

This new genre of hunting rifles, scopes and ammo merely helps provide us with viable options that can allow us to realize our own levels of competence.

Or, put another way, it doesn’t make sense to use a rifle, scope or ammo that performs at a level lower than the hunter.

With this new genre of gear, it truly is possible to have a situation where the limiting factor is the human involved. It doesn’t get any better than that, because then, so long as the human takes only shots that are within his or her level of competency, all will be well with the world.

Steve Comus is a nationally recognized hunting editor with Safari Club International and a WON Guns and Hunting Guns Editor. His column appears every other week in WON and he can be reached at