Rifles of Interest: Montana High Country Series Ridgeline

Montana Rifles started out as a barrel maker in the early 1990s, but shortly after that began development of its own action, a highly refined version of the Winchester Model 70 which it calls the Model 1999. (The list of refinements is too long to cover here; you can see it on their website.) This action is living proof of why so many people are so dippy about the Model 70. The M 1999 is a Model 70 to the 10th power. It is the slickest, greasiest, most-positive-in-operation action that you have ever used. Watch the cartridges slither into the chamber and the empties come flying out, and feel your heart fill with joy.

The M 1999 employs the original Model 70-design trigger, which is the best ever made for a hunting rifle, period. It's stainless steel, and is turned out on EDM machinery that keeps tolerances to within .00003.

Montana Rifles makes a wide variety of hunting and tactical rifles, and the High Country Series is its synthetic-stocked lineup, which consists of the Ridgeline (above), Timberline, Alpine and Summit models. They differ only in cosmetics. The rifle I got to try out last fall is a Ridgeline in .270. It has a tan, pillar-bedded synthetic stock (Montana stocks are made by Lone Wolf and Oregunsmithing) a 24-inch barrel, a blind (God be praised!) magazine, and even though the barreled action is stainless steel, it is sent off to Falcon Gun Finishing for a dull black Teflon coating. Weight, with a Leupold VX3 3.5X-10X scope aboard, is 8 pounds even.

Because I got it so soon before hunting season, I worked up only two loads: one is 150-grain Hornady SSTs; the other is 150-grain Swift A-Frames. The first shoots into .970-inch; the second into 1.030. I didn't go any further because what more do you need?

The price for a Ridgeline is $2,890, which is a lot of money, and there are two ways to look at this. Number One: You can get a new Winchester Model 70 Extreme Weather SS for about one-third of the Ridgeline, and it will probably be a very good rifle. Or, you can buy a Ridgeline that was made by hand by people who hunt a lot and are nuts about guns. And compared with other rifles of similar quality, the Ridgeline is anywhere from $400 to $3,000 less. Get one in .270 or .280 or .30/06 or .338 and you can go anywhere and shoot anything and it will never fail you.