New Ultra Light Arms .308 Winchester
Date: Dec 05 2014
The first three-shot group at 100 yards with a New Ultra Light Arms (NULA) Model 20 .308 Winchester measured .5 inch center to center, assuming correct graduations on a well-used ruler. The load was fairly mild, using Hodgdon H-4895 and Nosler 150-grain E-Tip (no lead) bullets. The next group, using a slightly increased powder charge, measured 1.25 inches.
NULA has been around a good while and is run by Melvin Forbes. (New Ultra Light Arms, LLC, PO Box 340, Granville WV 26534; www.newultralight.com) Forbes is an “original thinker.” Many people are opinionated and perhaps not easily influenced by others, like Forbes, but lack creativity, unlike Forbes. Remarkably straightforward in his approach, nearly three decades ago, he created what others in the industry probably wished they had created: a lightweight bolt-action hunting rifle based on a receiver and bolt assembly with no more steel than necessary for ample strength and rigidity and a synthetic stock with the same characteristics. An excellent barrel and trigger were added to the mix with all tolerances held to minimum levels. The result was a 100-percent utilitarian rifle that was not only light but also had an accuracy capability rivaling that of a quality heavy-barreled varmint rifle.
Before this project, the only NULA guns I had seen or handled were at Forbes’ SHOT Show exhibit. When I received a review rifle, first glance left me a bit unmoved. Understatedly plain it was, but plain in the sense of having a strictly business appearance. As I slowly warmed up to the rifle, it became evident that “strictly business” went well beyond looks. The rifle was a Model 20 Series (20-ounce receiver for short-action cartridges) .308 Winchester complete with a Douglas No. 1 contour stainless 22-inch barrel. A Timney trigger is included in the package, and Talley lightweight aluminum scope mounts were ordered with the rifle.
Several actions sizes (right or left hand) are available from NULA, depending on the chambering selected. The Kevlar/graphite stock can be painted in about any color(s) one prefers, and the stock pull length is also up to the buyer. A recoil pad is fitted.
When scope selection was considered, I had all but decided a Leupold VX-3 2.5-8x 36mm would be perfect for the .308 as well as a standard duplex reticle. The Leupold weighs slightly more than 11 ounces and is just under 11.5 inches in length. The proportions and finish are very much in line with the compactness of the rifle.
Most of the load evaluation was done with the scope set on 8x, but some of the groups were fired using the 6x setting. I could tell no difference in group size between the two powers. While overall group sizes may have decreased with the use of a scope of greater magnification, it would have taken away from the “pure hunting rifle” spirit of the project. Besides, if 8x is ever insufficient for game shooting, the game is too far to shoot at anyway!
I used a .308 Winchester to take my first deer in the 1960s but had no real interest in the cartridge until many years later, when I discovered it was excellent for use with cast bullets in a number of rifles. The use of jacketed bullets followed, and after experimenting with many handloads (virtually all with bullets in the 150- to 180-grain range), it seemed there was no longer a “need” for rifles chambered for cartridges like the 7x57 Mauser, .300 Savage, .30-06 and maybe some others.
Lifting the bolt handle was the first indication of how tightly fitted various components are on the rifle. Closing it also resulted in a smooth resistance – noticeably more than with most other bolt actions. Though neither motion requires undue effort, it is the same with or without a cartridge in the chamber and takes a little getting used to. Mating surfaces are hand-lapped, and bolt lugs are in 100 percent contact with lug recesses. The sear-blocking safety is stiff but positive. The bolt is locked with the safety engaged. However, a slight downward push on the safety lever keeps the safety engaged but permits the action to be opened for cycling rounds from the blind magazine.
The barreled action is full-length bedded from tang to forearm tip. The stock is said to be incredibly strong, though I didn’t attempt any half-wit TV torture stunts to prove it. When asked if he had ever tried floating a NULA barrel, Forbes’ simple answer was “no.” He also mentioned a NULA barreled action can be removed from the stock and replaced with no loss of zero.