Christensen Arms and Nightforce Product Review

By Robert Hanneman, March 2016

I get a lot of questions here at Huntin’ Fool about what rifle I hunt with. Over the years, I have hunted with many different rifles and calibers. In 1999, Remington introduced the 300 Ultra Magnum. I jumped on the bandwagon and have enjoyed hunting with a 300 Ultra Magnum ever since. I have used many different makes and models chambered in the 300 Ultra Mag, but I finally found the rifle that had everything I had been looking for.

Last year, I had Christensen Arms build me a Summit-Ti, which is their carbon-wrapped barrel, Titanium bolt-action rifle. I went with a 300 Ultra Magnum with 26" barrel and a Titanium muzzle brake. This gun weighed 6 1/4 pounds out of the box. The next item I had to decide on was which scope I should put on top of this high-end rifle. After a lot of research and some major testing, I decided on the Nightforce NXS 5.5-22x50 with a zero stop turret. Unbelievably, this setup weighs in at a mere 7 3/4 pounds. Yes, you read that right, a Christensen Arms rifle with a Nightforce scope weighs under 8 pounds. With such a lightweight setup, you would expect it to have a tremendous recoil, but with a builtin Titanium muzzle brake, it actually tames the rifle down to that of a 30-06’s recoil. Like with any rifle with a muzzle brake, always remember to wear hearing protection.

A lot of people tend to feel like the 300 Ultra Mag is overkill for smaller game animals like Coues deer and antelope, but I was cut from a different cloth and have followed my grandfather’s advice. He always used to say, “Beware of the man that only hunts with one rifle because he knows everything about it inside and out.” That is why I chose a Christensen Arms rifle. I am mainly a mountain hunter, and every fall, I spend a lot of time living out of a backpack, so weight and accuracy are major concerns of mine. Christensen Arms’ carbon-wrapped barrel makes those tough backpack hunts much less strenuous, and as an added bonus, the barrel dissipates heat faster than a steel barrel. They also have a HALF MOA accuracy guarantee. The rifle handles and balances really well in my hand and as I shoulder it. It held up extremely well in some brutal weather conditions that I faced this past fall.

I do not consider myself a long-range hunter as I enjoy getting close to my quarry, but if I had to, I could make a follow-up shot up to 1,000 yards. A key component to accurate longrange shooting is having a solid custom load. Currently, almost all of the longrange rifle companies on the market today use a load that has already been developed for that specific rifle. There are a ton of long-range rifle companies that are using Nosler or Berger bullets due to the higher ballistic coefficient. I am a fan of Barnes bullets and was able to develop my own load for my rifle. I ended up using a 175 grain Barnes LRX bullet. I like the performance of Barnes bullets on any size of animal due to the fact that they will break any bone they hit and usually exit the animal. This makes the hunt a bit easier as an entrance and exit wound leads to a better blood trail to follow while tracking. The setup I am shooting is pushing that bullet out of the barrel at 3,300' per second.

Years ago, I worked behind the gun counter at a Sportsman’s Warehouse. It was always surprising to me how many people would come in and spend $700-$1,500 on a new rifle only to turn around and put a $100 scope on it. I learned early on that when it comes to buying a scope, you get what you pay for. It is well worth it to get a scope that can hold up to your rifle’s capabilities. I was introduced to the Nightforce line of rifle scopes while working at Sportsman’s. For my Christensen Arms rifle, I narrowed it down to two different long-range options, the Nightforce or the Huskemaw scope. Each of these rifle scopes is an excellent option, and both have their purpose.

In the end, I figured that since I am so hard on my gear and Nightforce is trusted by our military snipers, it was good enough for this guy. After using Nightforce scopes for many years without fail, I believe there is not a more durable, high-quality scope available on the market today. I have used the Nightforce NXS 5.5-22x50 with the zero stop turret religiously. The NXS scopes are very easy to use. They are calibrated with 1/4 MOA increments and also have a side parallax adjustment. Another option Nightforce offers is reticle illumination. One of the best things about Nightforce rifle scopes is their lifetime warranty, which is transferable if you ever sell or buy a used rifle scope.

There are a lot of great options on the market today for hunting rifles. What I use may not be perfect for everyone, but it’s perfect for me and the style of hunting I do. If you have any questions about Christensen Arms rifles or Nightforce optics, give me a call.