Rifles photo

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On April 30, at the NRA Convention in Pittsburgh, The American Rifleman magazine presented its Golden Bullseye Pioneer Award to Melvin Forbes, who founded New Ultra Light Arms in 1985 and revolutionized the way sporting rifles are built. Prior to NULA, a lightweight rifle was a standard-weight gun that had been chopped, hacked, gouged, bobbed, and gutted. It would be twitchy, inaccurate, and kick like the hammers of hell.


But in the early 1980s, Forbes, who is the most mechanically aptituded human being I’ve ever met, took what he had learned in two decades as a country gunsmith and designed all the excess weight out of the bolt-action rifle he planned to build. He eliminated ounces here, and fractions of ounces there, and when he built his very first rifle, a .308, it weighed 5 pounds and a few ounces with scope, and it shot. Nothing was chopped, hacked, or gouged. The actions are as strong as anything you can buy, and the barrels are all No. 1 contour or heavier if you want it.

How well do NULAs shoot? At one time, I owned 13 of them (and paid for them all) in calibers from .22/250 to .340 Weatherby, and I can tell you that they are as accurate as anything you can buy. Their extreme rigidity, lack of internal stress, and perfect concentricity make that inevitable. And they kick very little for their weight because their stocks are full-sized and correctly designed.

Melvin is the best whitetail hunter I know. He can also build you a house in which everything will work, take your car apart and put it together, and pick any lock that ever existed. But he turned his hand to guns, and for that we should be thankful, and to the editors of The American Rifleman, for recognizing a guy who truly deserves the honor.