March 22, 2022
The sunset cast a pink glow across the December landscape. Snow-covered trees, backlit drifts, and mountain peaks composed a scene straight out of a fairy tale. The herd of elk we had been tracking traversed the landscape in single file 150 yards away, their heads bowed into the wind. We had hunted in negative temperatures and blinding ground blizzards many times this winter with Christensen Arms’ new Scout rifle trying to catch up to them. My wife dropped to a knee, steadied the crosshairs, and piled up the lead cow.
The Ridgeline Scout is Christensen Arms’ new lightweight, compact, magazine-fed rifle. It is a practical firearm that can be called on to do anything from hunting and plinking to self-defense. The “Scout” moniker is a nod to the rifle designed and made famous by Colonel Jeff Cooper in the ’80s. He designated a list of specifications for the perfect rifle to arm a scouting patrol. Those ideas ranged from detachable magazines to the ability to hit man-sized targets at 450 yards and take down a 1,000-pound animal. Christensen Arms’ rifle doesn’t follow that list to the letter, but it captures the hiking, hunting, and recon spirit of Cooper’s Scout in a modern way.
From the carbon-wrapped barrel to the in-house machined, nitrided action the Scout is an engineering and manufacturing marvel. After hunting all over Wyoming with the Scout, and having it produce such excellent results at the range and in the woods, I decided to visit the Christensen Arms plant in Gunnison, Utah, to see for myself how it is built and meet the people behind it.
Christensen Arms Background/History
Christensen Arms was founded in Roland Christensen’s garage back in 1985. Roland used his carbon-fiber expertise from the Aerospace industry to make the first carbon-wrapped barrel. In the 25 years since, Christensen Arms has perfected their craft, expanded, and have become the name for high-quality hunting, competitive shooting, and tactical rifles. They now employ close to 300 people from the surrounding area. Jeff Bradley, Christensen’s brand ambassador, gave me the tour of their facilities. He was proud of their evolution, growth, and how much Christensen Arms gives back to the rural community.
Carbon fiber is Christensen Arms’ forte, and the 16-inch barrel on this new Scout rifle is a great example of their craft. The barrel starts as 416R stainless bar stock. It is then drilled, button rifled, and stress relieved by heating it in an oven. The barrels are then turned down to an ultra-lightweight contour, chambered, hand-lapped, and borescoped to check for quality. The technicians at Christensen then take the steel blank and wrap it radially and laterally with alternating layers of carbon fiber cloth. The assembly is then stabilized with a proprietary compound and aesthetically finished.
I was amazed at how many people are employed in the quality control division of the process and how many steps they take to ensure tolerances are tight. They do a good job too, as my Scout barrel shot consistent one-hole groups with Black Hills match ammunition. The Scout ships with a three-prong flash hider on its barrel, which helps dissipate hot gasses and burning powder, looks good, and gives a tip of the hat to the Scout rifle’s tactical roots.
The finished barrel is then mounted to Christensen Arms’ Model 14 action (the 14 is from the year 2014 when it was introduced). The action is machined in house of stainless steel or lightweight titanium for some models. The Model 14 is a Remington pattern action but has several upgrades, including an M16-style extractor, double plunger ejector on the magnum cartridges, and an enhanced, easier-to-use bolt release located on the side of the receiver. It will accept any Remington trigger and scope base. The Scout ships from the factory with a pre-mounted 0-MOA rail. Its action is nitride finished. The nitride action looks good, is slick, and the process adds another level of durability.
The Scout ships with a TriggerTech, flat-shoe trigger that breaks cleanly and consistently at 2.5 lbs. Christensen Arms offers several types of bottom metal on their rifles. The Scout is built to accept AICS-pattern, short-action magazines. It ships with a 10-round, Christensen Arms branded magazine and a tactical mag release.
The Scout rifle ships with a composite stock that is made right there in the factory. It is hand painted tan with black webbing and has some great features. I like its no-nonsense, American style. There is a small rubber buttplate for secure placement on your shoulder, a rear sling swivel stud, and great grip geometry. Mounted up front is Christensen Arms’ barricade stop that is machined with a short section of picatinny rail for attaching lights, lasers, a bipod, or a sling swivel. It paired nicely with my Magpul 1913 bipod and is a nice hand stop/reference point for quick shooting. The stock attaches with stainless pillars and is spot bedded at the recoil lug.
In keeping with the handy, lightweight profile of the Ridgeline Scout, I mounted a small, 2.5-8X VX-3HD Leupold scope. This scope only weighs 11.8 ounces but, at 8X can shoot big game at distance. The CDS dial makes getting on target easy and instinctive. When turned down low, it has ample eye relief and field of view to swing onto a running bull in the timber.
With its short, stiff barrel, the Scout rifle lived up to, and exceeded, its MOA accuracy guarantee. The Black Hills 168-grain match ammo produced several one-hole groups, and the two factory hunting loads I tried shot well. I wanted a light recoiling, deep-penetrating bullet for my wife to use on elk, so I loaded some Barnes 130-grain TTSX bullets ahead of 45 grains of Benchmark. When it impacted her elk, it broke the near shoulder, cut the heart in half, and jellied the bottom of the lungs. It then shattered the off shoulder and stopped just under the hide. That is perfect terminal performance. The elk didn’t take a step.
I set up my Scout to be a lean, mean, hunting machine. The 12.5 MOA of adjustment in the custom dial of the small Leupold scope, combined with the ballistic coefficients of the lighter weight hunting bullets, give the Scout terminal thresholds out to about 650 yards. If one bumped up to a higher BC bullet and a heavier, long-range specific scope, the Scout could be a 1,000-yard gun. Over the course of a few months, we packed the Scout over 50 miles hunting deer, antelope, and elk. We loved it. Its light weight and short overall length were helpful when traversing the steep, rugged Wyoming terrain. The minds and machinists at Christensen Arms have produced an amazing, do-all rifle.
Ridgeline Scout Specifications
- Type: Bolt-action repeater
- Cartridge: .223 Rem., .300 BLK, 6.5 CM, .308 Win. (tested)
- Capacity: 10 rds.
- Barrel: 16-in. 1:10 twist carbon fiber, wrapped
- Overall Length: 37.125 in.
- Weight: 5.9 lbs.
- Stock: Composite
- Finish: Nitride
- Bolt Finish: Nitride
- Trigger: TriggerTech Straight Shoe, 2.5 lbs.
- Magazine: AICS pattern
- Sights: None
- Muzzle Device: Three-prong flash hider
- MSRP: $2,199
- Manufacturer: Christensen Arms, christensenarms.com
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