Nosler has built rifles for more than six decades, but it wasn’t until 2005 that the company began selling them. Until that time, the rifles were employed primarily for bullet testing and evaluation. Since its initial offering, the NoslerCustom Rifle, the company has introduced subsequent models—48 Custom Sporter, 48 Varmint, Trophy Grade Rifle (TGR) and 48 Professional Rifle—to fulfill customer requests. The Model 48 Legacy, however, was designed by company founder John A. Nosler shortly before his passing, and thus stands as a tribute to the industry legend.
Like its brethren, the Model 48 Legacy is built on a push-feed action of Nosler’s own design, which combines the best attributes of several existing ones. Machined from an AISI 4140 steel investment casting, the receiver has a flat bottom, sides and upper quadrants; however, the top is round and drilled and tapped in the Remington Model 700 or Weatherby Mark V pattern (and screw size) for ease in locating suitable two-piece riflescope bases. There’s a large, integral recoil lug at the receiver’s front, but an appendage in the rearmost area that mates to a recessed area of the tang essentially serves as a second lug, too. In addition to the traditional raceway located on the receiver’s left side, there’s a full-length anti-bind rail on the right to maintain bolt alignment. The bolt-release lever, which is ribbed to aid purchase, is located on the receiver’s left side, at the rear. The receiver is coated with NIC Industries’ Cerakote—in “Midnight Blue” color—for wear-prevention and corrosion resistance.
As with the receiver, the one-piece bolt is machined from an AISI 4140 steel casting. It has dual-opposed locking lugs, the right of which has a groove that corresponds to the anti-bind rail. Six length-wise grooves both reduce surface area—for smoother cycling—and capture debris that could cause galling. Extraction is provided by an AR-style extractor, and ejection is by way of a Model 700 plunger-type ejector. The bolt handle sweeps rearward when nearing the knob, with the latter having a single band of checkering for grip. The bolt’s exterior surfaces receive Cerakote matching that of the receiver. Interior surfaces and components—the firing pin and firing pin spring, for example—are coated with the dry lubricant Micro Slick, also an NIC Industries product.
Attached via a single screw, the Rifle Basix trigger unit is fully adjustable. The test rifle trigger exhibited absolutely no discernible creep or overtravel, and broke with a 2-pound, 10.8-ounce pull—no tuning was necessary. The two-position safety enables the operator to cycle the bolt to unload when in the rear, or “safe” position.
Depending on the chambering, the hand-lapped, match-grade 24-inch Pac-Nor barrel is free-floating in either a “standard” or “magnum” contour. Included in the former are: .243 Win., .257 Roberts +P, .25-06 Rem., 6.5x55mm Swede, .270 Win., 7x57mm Mauser, .280 Ackley Improved and .30-06; the latter encompasses .308 Win., .300 Win. Mag., .338 Win. Mag. and .35 Whelen. The button-rifled stainless steel barrel is devoid of iron sights. Nosler deems the standard radius crown the best choice for an “all-around hunting rifle” and thus applies it to the muzzle. The barrel also receives a Cerakote finish, enabling it to match the rest of the metal.
The stock is made from Missouri-grown, No. 3 fancy-grade walnut; the stock on the test rifle exhibited good figure. There’s little doubt the wood’s density contributed to the rifle’s 7-pound., 15-ounce overall heft. Immediately noticeable are a thick pistol grip with a noticeable cast, a roll-over cheekpiece and extensive, finely executed 20-line-per-inch checkering on the pistol grip and fore-end—surely suggested by the guild-level stock maker who developed the patterns. The four basic groups (short- and long-action, light- and heavy-contour barrel) of the Legacy each have unique stock shapes to yield optimal balance with the rifle’s other parts.
Between the butt and Pachmayr Decelerator recoil pad is a tasteful black spacer. European-style sling swivel studs nicely complement the rifle; however, they are limited to the first 50 guns built. Beyond that number, standard screw-in-type lugs will be used. The stock has glass bedding in the bottom metal screw areas, the tang and the recoil lug. The company also uses pillars to avoid collapsing the bedding when the receiver and bottom metal are tightened by the two action screws.
Concerning the bottom metal, it is CNC-machined from billets of aluminum to save both weight and time. The hinged floorplate has John A. Nosler’s signature—a fitting feature—and is secured by a Winchester Model 70-type push-button release. The stagger-column magazine accommodates three magnum or four standard rounds. Tension is provided by a steel follower atop a leaf spring.
To test the .300 Win. Mag.-chambered Legacy, we fitted it with a Leupold VX-3 4.5X-14X-40mm riflescope in Leupold rings and bases and headed to the range with three hunting loads. In the standard chambering, Nosler guarantees the Legacy to shoot three-shot groups of three-quarters of an inch or less (standard cartridges), or sub-MOA (belted magnums) at 100 yards using Nosler ammunition. However, American Rifleman protocol calls for five consecutive, five-shot groups at 100 yards, so the Legacy was tested as such. That being said, after “formal” accuracy testing was completed, a single three-shot group using NoslerCustom 200-grain Partitions from a Caldwell Matrix rest was fired at the range’s maximum distance of 372 yards, and it measured 1.57 inches.
During testing, there were no malfunctions. I wouldn’t expect any either, given the Legacy’s $2,595 price and Nosler’s reputation for producing high-quality products.
The rifle’s heft, stock design and recoil pad work in concert nicely to help attenuate recoil—but make no mistake, a .300 Win. Mag.-chambered rifle produces plenty of recoil. And despite no liquid lubricants on the moving parts, cycling and feeding remained smooth and without issue—a testament to NIC Industries’ products. I simply cannot say enough about the Rifle Basix trigger; its performance was stellar.
The Legacy is what the late John A. Nosler envisioned the ideal rifle to be. It’d be difficult to argue anything but that he succeeded, especially for hunting. It is classically styled, elegant, thoughtfully designed and, during testing, proved flawless in functioning and quite accurate. Those who purchase the Legacy will discover this, too.
Type: bolt-action centerfire rifle
Caliber: .300 Win. Mag. (tested); 12 chamberings from .243 Win. to .35 Whelen
Overall Length: 44" (short-action); 44.5" (long-action)
Weight: 7 lbs., 4 ozs. to 8 lbs., 4 ozs.
Barrel: 1:10" RH twist (as tested); 1:9" to 1:14" twist depending on chambering
Sights: none; receiver drilled and tapped for scope bases
Trigger: Rifle Basix; adjustable; 2-lb., 10.8-oz. pull
Stock: Missouri black walnut; LOP 13½"; drop at heel 19/14"; drop at comb 1¼"