Rifle Review: The Nosler Mountain Carbon, Part One

Decades of gun-making experience went into this new 6-pound, sub-MOA rifle

Nosler M48 Mountain Carbon
The new Nosler M48 Mountain Carbon retails for $3,140.Nosler

It is now time to consider a very serious piece of hunting ordnance that represents the collective knowledge of three generations of fanatic hunters and shooters, plus a fourth party who has a long familiarity with fine rifles and what should go into them.

The rifle is the Nosler Model 48 Mountain Carbon. The three generations are John, Bob, and John Nosler. The original John founded Nosler Bullets in 1948 because he thought it would be nice if there was a hunting bullet that worked and invented the Nosler Partition. Bob Nosler, who is about as fine a human being as I know, took over from John in 1988 and guided the company to great growth and immense profit. In 2018, he passed the presidency to his son, John.

The fourth party is Jeff Sipe, who worked at Kimber and Montana Rifles, and joined Nosler last year as Division Manager of Nosler’s Rifles operation. (Jeff was also an All-American wrestler at Dickinson State University. I mention this because I wrestled, and it’s the toughest sport you can get into, and because I could not have made All-American if I’d had Ivan Yarygin* out on the mat to help me.)

What you get when you combine these decades of experience is a sense of what should go into a hunting rifle, and what should not, and what the gun should feel like, and what it should be able to do. The Mountain Carbon is based on the Model 48 bolt action (1948 being the year Nosler was founded), which debuted in 2006 and is a highly refined push-feed bolt. “Mountain” comes in because the rifle, minus scope, weighs only 6 pounds, and will not make you unhappy if you have to carry it up a mountain. “Carbon” because the barrel is a steel liner, carbon- wrapped in order to save weight.

Jeff Sipe, whose baby the Mountain Carbon is, wrote:

“My goal, when I designed this rifle, was to get a 6-pound gun that felt comfortable and maintained 1 MoA accuracy or better, all without costing $10,000. The issue as I saw it was that all rifles under 6 pounds were either not accurate or extremely expensive…. So we were able to get a 6-pound rifle with sub-MoA guaranteed and keep the price at around $3,000. We’re using the phrase ‘Worth the weight.’ Since we waited long enough to come up with it and the value for the weight is unmatched.”

At the heart of the Mountain Carbon is a carbon-fiber, aramid-reinforced (and pillar bedded) stock that weighs only 19 to 20 ounces. The 24-inch barrel is a cut-rifled steel liner wrapped in carbon fiber. Proof Research, which makes it, calls it a Sendero** Taper. To my eye it looks like a #5 contour, which would make it a varmint-rifle barrel. The fact that it’s mostly carbon enables you to get an extremely stiff, and therefore accurate, barrel for very little weight.

Sipe, at first, resisted the idea.

“I had fought the trend to use carbon-wrapped barrels for the last 8 years or so. I considered them to be unproven. But the fact is that they had proven themselves, and since the market is demanding them I couldn’t fight the trend any more. Being able to get heavy-rifle accuracy in that light a platform is hard to match.”

The Mountain Carbon I got to test is a special-order gun, a .30/06, which is not among the calibers offered for this rifle, and I asked for it because I prefer all my test rifles to be either in ’06 or .308. You can get one too, but it will be built by the Nosler Custom Shop, and will cost more than the standard Mountain Carbon.

Here’s how the groups stacked up. They’re all three-shot, five groups per bullet, averaged:

  • SIG Elite Match, 175-grain Sierra: .690"

  • Nosler Trophy Grade Ammunition, 165-grain AccuBond: 1.096"

  • Nosler 165-grain AccuBond, handload: .741"

  • Nosler Trophy Grade Ammunition, 165-grain Ballistic Tip: .743"

  • Nosler 200-grain Partition spitzer, handload: .883"

  • Nosler 180-grain Partition Protected Point, handload: .919"

It’s also worth noting that with the Mountain Carbon, I fired the smallest group I’ve ever shot with a hunting rifle. It measured .080, and was, to the eye, a very slightly deformed .30/06 hole. If I had been able to duplicate it, I would have had the rifle bronzed.

Next time: More on the Mountain Carbon.

* Ivan Yarygin, 1948-1997, called "The Siberian Hercules," was the greatest freestyle wrestler I ever saw, and maybe the greatest wrestler ever. He won Olympic gold in 1972 competing at 220 pounds and pinned everyone he faced, which is like batting 1,000 against major league pitching. Yarygin took another gold in 1976, wrestling with two broken ribs. He was killed in a car crash, and today there are monuments to him in Russia, and a wrestling school, and a tournament that bears his name. He was Superman without the cape.

** Sendero is a Texas term, south Texas brush country, specifically, that refers to a road cut through the brush. Smart Texas whitetail hunters keep an eye on senderos, and smart Texas whitetails avoid them during daylight.