July 18, 2019
By Tom Beckstrand
Photos by Mark Fingar
Finding a rifle that does everything well has always been a fool’s errand. For hunting, rifles should to be light and accurate. On the other hand, competition rifles need to offer flexibility while retaining accuracy across 10- or 20shot strings, usually at the expense of additional weight. There has been no solution to this impasse — until now.
Christensen Arms’ new Modern Precision Rifle (MPR) combines all of the features above into one very manageable rifle. Depending on chambering, the Christensen Arms MPR is everything from the ultimate generalist’s rifle to a highly effective and portable long-range tool.
The Balancing Act
Every rifle comes with a set of features that may or may not apply to the intended application. When in doubt, most consumers default to the “more is better” philosophy, which usually adds expense and weight.
What makes the MPR so unique is that Christensen Arms kept just about every feature you would want on a rifle without making it excessively heavy. They were able to do this through the use of carbon fiber and significant design work.
Carbon fiber is as diverse a material as metal. Just as there are an almost innumerable variety of metals and alloys, there are different types of carbon fiber and binding agents. There are varying techniques to shape and lay the fiber, with each method yielding different results.
As many readers already know, Christensen Arms is no rookie in the world of carbon fiber. Dr. Jason Christensen got his start in the medium several decades ago while making rocket fuselages and aircraft panels. He began experimenting with the material and rifle barrels back in the 1970s.
The MPR’s barrel is made entirely in-house. Christensen starts with stainless steel bar stock, drills the hole for the bore, and then pulls a rifling button through it. The barrel blank is then contoured to a small diameter profile and then wrapped in carbon fiber. The barrel contour is already very light prior to wrapping and is safe to fire without the carbon-fiber treatment.
The fibers around the barrel add rigidity. The problem that skinny barrels face is the loss of rigidity when they become hot. This is why heavy barrel contours are popular with precision shooters. As they heat, they hold onto accuracy longer.
While the changes in the barrel alone let Christensen Arms’ MPR shoot akin to a heavy match rifle, it would be egregious to overlook the exceptional work the company has done with their chassis. It’s a miracle that they were able to make such a light chassis while retaining the ability to offer easy adjustments to both length of pull and comb height.
Adjusting comb height and length of pull are vital elements to precision rifle shooting. A poorly fit rifle is uncomfortable and requires muscular tension to stay on target. Requiring muscular tension to hold the rifle on target leads to increased instability and fatigue on its user. As soon as the shooter’s head moves off the comb, it takes more effort to keep the eye centered directly behind the scope. This is one more detail that keeps the shooter from focusing on other fundamentals.
Another damaging aspect of a rifle not fitting well occurs during recoil. If the shooter’s head is floating above the comb to see through the scope (which is what happens on just about every rifle that doesn’t have an adjustable comb), it’s almost impossible to see the round impact or miss the target.
Being able to spot the round’s impact is vital. Not only do you want to know whether or not the bullet struck its intended mark, you need to know what adjustments are necessary for a successful follow-up shot. If the shooter can’t see where the bullet went, they’ll always be at the mercy of a spotter or friend to provide that critical information. This means it’ll take two shooters with their heads on straight to be effective in the field instead of just one with a good rifle.
Adjusting the length of pull and comb height on the MPR is pretty straightforward. Two screws loosen to allow either the buttpad or comb to slide back and forth or up and down, respectively. Tighten the screws when you find your sweet spot. The chassis’ toe is flat and threaded to accept a section of Picatinny rail for use with a monopod, if you’re into that type of thing.
The chassis folds and is held firmly in place with a strong magnet. It is a simple yet elegant approach. The older I get, the more I’m interested only in chassis systems that fold. Moving the buttstock out of the way makes cleaning the rifle easier. I also love the convenient transport and storage that a folding chassis allows.
The forend on the MPR is long enough for any and all types of positional shooting. Throwing this forend across an oddly shaped rock pile or reaching for an ideally placed limb to use as a rest is a snap due to the forend’s length. It is also flat on the bottom, so any and all rests have a lot of surface area to contact. All the corners are rounded and the overall profile is slender, making this forend extremely comfortable in the support hand. Numerous M-LOK slots are located on the sides and bottom of the forend for attaching any accessory that a shooter requires.
Meat & Taters
The center section of the chassis is an aluminum housing that attaches the butt assembly to the forend while simultaneously supporting the action. It is the classic chassis arrangement.
Christensen Arms put a lot of effort into minimizing the chassis’ bulk and weight. The center section that supports the action is minimalist and very low profile. They did put a lip just forward of the magazine well, which allows the shooter to push the chassis into the forend rest to help gain extra stability.
Removing the barreled action from the chassis is easy. Eight small screws hold the forend to the aluminum center section. Remove them and the forend comes off. A small screw behind the triggerguard comes out allowing the triggerguard to slide forward out of the chassis to expose the rear action screw. Remove both and the barreled action comes right out.
The action has a Remington 700 footprint and a detached recoil lug. The bolt body has an M16/AR-15-style extractor that rides atop the outboard lug, while the ejector is located opposite the same bolt lug. Extraction during testing was flawless, but rounds exiting the ejection port left at an upward angle that may contact the scope’s windage turret with long-action cartridges.
The entire action body is stainless steel that has been nitrided. It is very corrosion resistant.
The short-action model comes with a 20-MOA bias scope base as standard, but the MPR accepts Remington 700 bases, so swapping out the base for a two-piece or nonbiased rail is no problem.
The trigger that comes with the Christensen Arms MPR is a standard-model TriggerTech. It has a flat bow that gives the perception of a lighter pull weight and is adjustable from 11/2 to 4 pounds.
I spent a couple days shooting an MPR in 6.5 Creedmoor. The rifle’s accuracy during testing was both excellent and consistent. Best groups hovered right around half MOA for five shots at 100 yards for all loads tested and everything else still averaged well under 1 MOA. It is important to note that I did not stop to let the barrel cool during accuracy testing (other than walking down to look at the target or to load the magazine).
The decision not to let the barrel cool was deliberate. I don’t like to give any one rifle the advantage of an extralong cooling session between groups because it will likely result in an accuracy improvement, regardless of barrel type. I feel that starting the testing session with a good bore scrubbing and then letting the barrel cool completely between groups would have sawed another .1 to .2 inch off the group sizes.
After examining the test results, it’s fair to say that the MPR comes closest to emulating the term “do-everything” than any other rifle that I’ve come across. If I could pick only one rifle to use for dinging steel with my buddies to humping up the side of a mountain for elk, the MPR would be it. Its combination of light weight and a complete set of relevant features puts this one in a class by itself.
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