Long Range Powerhouse: Christensen Arms Ridgeline in 28 Nosler – Review

The first elk the author harvested with his Ridgeline in 28 Nosler.

EDITOR’S NOTE: I had written a review of this rifle back in 2018. I have completely updated and replaced the review.

In 2017 I decided I wanted to hunt with a lighter long-range rifle. My first thought was to build one because I’ve had success building in the past.  I soon realized I was going to spend over $3500 in order to build a magnum rifle that weighed in around 6.5 lbs. and that was still capable of consistently making a 1000 yard shot on game.  

The other issue is that most gunsmiths worth their salt are backed up at least six months and there was no way I could build something and have it in time for hunting season.

The next time I was at my local Cabela’s I checked out the line of Christensen Arms rifles and was impressed. After doing some homework and putting a pencil to it, I determined that I couldn’t build a lightweight rifle cheaper than I could buy a Christensen Arms Ridgeline.  Additionally, when building your own rifle you run the risk of spending money on expensive components with no guarantee that it will shoot well. The Christensen Arms Ridgeline came with a sub MOA guarantee.  To make a long story short, I bought the Christensen Arms Ridgeline in 28 Nosler.

Picking up the Christensen Arms Ridgeline in 28 Nosler from Cabela’s. It comes with a hard case lined with foam.

Christensen Arms

Christensen Arms is a bi-product of the aerospace industry, an industry that they are still very involved in. They were the first company ever to produce a carbon fiber barrel and are still at the cutting edge of carbon fiber technology.

Today, anything you buy from Christensen Arms has at least a sub-MOA guarantee and many of the models carry a ½ MOA guarantee.  That’s an impressive feat for rifles that are extremely lightweight.

Barrel

Christensen Arms currently makes all their barrels in-house, meaning they buy 416 Stainless steel bar stock, drill it, contour it, add riflings, and hand lap every barrel. They made a huge investment in top of the line machines. All barrels used on rifles or sold as blanks are select match grade and are air gauged with tolerances typically within ten-thousandths (.0001). All the barrels are double stress relieved (once as bar stock and again after riflings). All chambers are cut with JGS match minimum diameter reamers.

The carbon fiber isn’t just glued to the barrel. There is an engineered layup that is designed to control harmonics, reduce stringing, and move heat away from the throat and chamber area.  In other words, the carbon fiber isn’t just to add mass after contouring a barrel down.

Incredibly, carbon fiber distributes heat directionally faster than any other material including aluminum. The heat moves directionally with the fiber, much like an electrical wire.  Resins are what hold the carbon fiber together and they can have an insulating effect.  Due to the process that Christensen Arms uses in laying their carbon fiber, heat is pulled from the chamber and throat area of the barrel. Christensen Arms claims that their carbon fiber-wrapped barrels may last up to 25% longer than their steel barrels due to the engineered carbon layup and resulting heat transfer. Barrel life is a very subjective topic but everything else being equal, the carbon wrapped barrels should last longer.

The amazing part is that you get the exact same barrel (not a lower grade) on a Ridgeline that you would get buying one of Christensen’s $5000 models.

The action comes with a Picatinny scope mount rail.

Action

The Christensen Arms Ridgeline action is a custom 416 stainless action with a stock footprint similar to a Remington 700. All the Christensen actions are machined in-house. Thread to center bore, the actions hold better than three-thousandths (.003) tolerance.  The magnum bolt has dual ejectors, which help ejection on the bigger calibers and which help keep from beating your scope with brass. Bolts are made from 4340 steel, are fluted, and coated with black nitride. The bolt also features an AR/M16 style extractor, which is a great upgrade in extractor reliability and is a custom feature.

Trigger

My Ridgeline rifle came with a Trigger Tech trigger installed from the factory. It’s the one component not made by Christensen Arms. It’s a great trigger with some interesting features. The trigger is very resistant to dirt and lock-up due to debris. It’s much more reliable than most Rem 700 style triggers. Also, it has the ability to adjust the pull weight while the action is installed in the stock by using an Allen wrench.  The adjustments are similar to a scope turret. They “click” and each click is equal to approximately one (1) ounce.  The trigger feels great right out of the box but can be adjusted lower, which I did. I absolutely love Trigger Tech’s bolt gun triggers. Check out Trigger Tech Triggers

Stock

By now you should be wondering why the Ridgeline costs less than the other models of Christensen Arms rifles. It has the same barrel as the $5,000 models and still features a custom action. The major savings on the Ridgeline come from the action being made of stainless steel rather than titanium and from the use of a less expensive stock.    

The Ridgeline stock is a carbon fiber and fiberglass composite stock and it costs less to produce than the other Christensen Arms full carbon stocks. Also, the stock doesn’t come fully bedded to the action like the more expensive models. It is, however, spot bedded around the recoil lug.  In my opinion, the bedding is critical to consistent accuracy, so I highly recommend that you do what I did and full-length bed before you mount a scope.  It’s the only major difference (that might matter to accuracy) I can find between the Christensen Arms rifles that are guaranteed ½ MOA and the Ridgeline that is guaranteed one MOA. Even though the Ridgeline stock isn’t as nice as the more expensive CA models it’s still a very good stock. It’s very light, very stiff and it fits me well

The stock comes with a Limbsaver recoil pad

The stock doesn’t use standard aluminum pillars but uses invar pillars. Invar is a high nickel content steel that doesn’t contract/expand the way aluminum does during temperature changes. I also drilled my stock and mounted flush mount QD’s on the left side of my stock because I like slinging it flat on my back.

The stock/action screws should be torqued using a torque wrench to between 55 and 65-inch lbs.

Bottom Metal

Like everything else, the bottom metal is made in-house at Christensen Arms. The bottom metal on the ridgeline is aluminum and has a hinged floor plate allowing you to unload the rifle without cycling the action. My 28 Nosler holds three rounds plus one in the chamber.

Muzzle Brake

Recoil is the enemy. It causes pain and discomfort and eventually it will make the best shooters develop a flinch, which will ultimately affect accuracy. Also, if you shoot long-range you need to have the ability to spot your own shot. The Ridgeline comes with a very effective radial brake installed that will help with all of the things I just mentioned. Radial brakes are effective but if you shoot near the ground (prone) they have a tendency to blow dirt, dust, snow, pine needles, and other rubbish everywhere.  I replaced the radial brake on my Ridgeline with a Christensen Arms side baffle brake.  The barrel is threaded 5/8 -24 which is a common thread that will fit many brakes and most suppressors.

In the last two years, I haven’t shot my Ridgeline without a suppressor. In fact, I don’t hunt at all without suppressing my rifles. My hearing has already taken a beating and so I’ve determined that the healthiest way for me to hunt is suppressed. My horses also really appreciate it.

That said the CA Side baffle muzzle brake is extremely effective and tuneable.

The Christensen Arms Side Baffle muzzle brake has set screws in the top that allow you to tune the muzzle rise for spotting your own shot. *Note – this is not the muzzle brake that comes installed.

Guarantee

As I’ve already mentioned, the Ridgeline comes with a sub MOA accuracy guarantee. If it doesn’t shoot one MOA or better, Christensen Arms will replace the barrel or gun. They test fire every tenth Ridgeline for accuracy and all of them for function. Christensen’s ½ MOA rifle models are all tested for accuracy.  Christensen Arms uses match grade ammunition for testing and you shouldn’t expect match-grade groups without using match grade ammo.

Accuracy

The Labrador is showing 6 shots from my 28 Nosler. The average velocity is 3150, the extreme spread is just 17 fps with Std Deviation of 6.1.

My 28 Nosler Ridgeline shoots under ½ MOA. My handloads use Nosler brass, CCI Magnum Primers, Retumbo powder, and Hornady 175g ELD-X and Hornady 180 ELD-M.   I use the same powder charge for both. The 175 ELD-X’s shoot at 3150 fps and the 180 ELD-M’s shoot at 3100 fps. The very first load I tried shot fantastic. My extreme spreads and SD are very low, especially considering the case capacity of the cartridge. The Hornady 180g ELD-M’s have a b.c. of .796 and shoot like lasers. If you run the ballistics no other production caliber even comes close, especially when you consider the recoil. 

My handloading recipe comes directly from Nosler and you can find it HERE. The only major difference is that I seat the bullet out longer than Nosler’s load data. 

There are four bullets in the one big hole.
This group is with the Hornady 180g ELD-M going 3100fps and suppressed with a SilencerCo Omega
800-yard group off of my Snipe Pod lightweight bipod and no rear bag.

Recoil

The Ridgeline is a relatively lightweight magnum rifle, however, the recoil is very mild. I’ve never shot it without a muzzle brake or a suppressor but with either, I can spot my own shot. In my opinion, it’s much easier to shoot than a .300 Win mag. Comment below, and if there’s a enough interest I’ll post a video showing what the recoil looks like.

Hunting Sucess!

I’m a do it myself, over the counter tags, public land hunter. I’ve hauled this 28 Ridgeline hundreds of miles on a horse, quad, and packed it on my back. It has served me well. Below are a few pictures of some of the game I was blessed to harvest with the Christensen Arms 28 Nosler.

This cow elk was shot at 960 yards on a day without any wind.

Complaints

I think the bolt throw should be smoother and easier from the factory. There’s nothing wrong with it I just think it should be better. I modified the geometry on my bolt with a file and a Dremel and it’s substantially better now. It should come that way.

My other complaint is the barrel twist rates that are offered by the factory. Christensen Arms only offers the 28 Nosler in a 1-9 twist rate, which is fine if you shoot lighter fast bullets. I want to shoot heavy high B.C. bullets and a faster twist rate would be more optimal. I live at about 2000 feet above sea level and hunt substantially higher than that. The 180g bullets are likely right on the edge of not stabilizing at 2000 ft. I really wish the barrel was a 1-8 twist. Due to the high velocity and elevation, it seems to be working but I still wish it was a faster twist barrel.

I’m 100 percent in the “hunt with a suppressor” camp. I’m going to either build up another 28 Nosler with a shorter barrel or get Christensen Arms to re-barrel this one. The barrel is currently 26 inches long and with a suppressor on the end, it’s cumbersome. I’m thinking 21 or 22 inches would be perfect. I can’t be the only one thinking this and am hoping that some rifle makers start offering suppressor friendly barrel lengths. I’m happy to sacrifice the 100 fps of velocity. The bullets have such a high B.C. that it really won’t matter.

Conclusion

The Christensen Arms Ridgeline is an outstanding value. MSRP on Christensen’s website is $1995. You’re getting a custom action, custom match-grade carbon fiber barrel, custom Trigger Tech trigger, and an excellent stock for a bargain price. The entire rifle is made in the USA with the exception of the trigger and it’s made in Canada. On top of that, you’re guaranteed to have a rifle that shoots well and that won’t break your back carrying it around.

Learn more about the Christensen Arms Ridgeline and see the specs and caliber options HERE

My horse patiently waiting while I was glassing. The Ridgeline is in that saddle scabbard. Even the horse appreciated the lighter rifle.
I installed the flush cups on the stock. The scope is a Leupold Optics Mark 6 3-18×44 with a first focal plane TMR mils reticle. The scope only weighs 23 ounces and has a zero stop and locking turret which is perfect for a saddle scabbard. The scope rings are Seekins Precision 34mm .92 low
Complete rifle with scope mounted 8.66 lbs
This is the original radial muzzle brake that came on the Ridgeline from Christensen Arms

About the author: True Pearce is the Managing Editor at GunsAmerica. He’s a competitive shooter, hunter, instructor & attorney. You can see and follow his adventures on Instagram. @true1911 https://www.instagram.com/true1911/

{ 15 comments… add one }
  • Earl Owens December 31, 2020, 10:52 pm

    I am looking at the Christiansen Arms Ridgeline and so have read a lot of reviews, including your excellent contribution. But I do have one question/comment. In my research on the rifle I read the Product Manual for the Ridgeline and under the Ammunition section it clearly states that using reloaded ammunition voids all warranties. And nearly every review talks about reloading ammunition for the Ridgeline.
    So what is up? For reloaders, does no one read the warranty information or does no one really care about the warranty?
    Thanks

  • Stanley White May 13, 2020, 8:33 am

    Do you make a 7 mm Magnum Weatherby . If so how much

  • Ricky Price May 12, 2020, 10:17 am

    Wish i could afford one.

  • Rich Winkler May 11, 2020, 11:43 am

    Good article.
    I have a Ridgeline in SixFive CM.
    I haven’t bedded it yet, but I took it down, made sure the mating surfaces were clean and uniform, torqued the action screws on reassembly, and adjusted the trigger down to 2.5lbs.
    I’m shooting pretty consistent .75 MOA with Hornady factory ELDX.
    Like you, I really love this little rifle, but I wasn’t in love with the feel of the action.
    I replaced the tiny little bolt knob with a larger round one, which gives me a little more purchase and leverage, but I’m wondering what you did when you say you “modified the geometry” ?
    Thanks,
    Wink

  • Chris May 11, 2020, 9:40 am

    You said in the article “many of the models carry a ½ MOA guarantee.” I am only aware of 2 models that carries the 1/2 MOA guarantee, the summit TI and the TFM. Are there others? I would not consider this “many” models.

    It’s annoying when writers skew the facts in order to kiss a gun manufacturer’s butt so please help me understand what the other models that carry this guarantee are or why 2 out of 16 models (including MSR’s, 2/12 bolt guns) are considered “many”?

    Or maybe it was just a simple oversight on your part? I own a ridgeline and really like it, so I agree that it is a fantastic rifle. but come on man!

    I’ve never read a negative review on this site. It makes it tough to believe you guys are being objective and not just trying to get sponsors or something. If I wanted to read nothing but positive reviews I would get one of the million different gun publications on the shelf.

    • True Pearce May 18, 2020, 12:29 am

      Hi Chris,
      I appreciate your comment. Back when I originally wrote this article the Ridgeline was one of the only models that didn’t carry the 1/2 MOA guarantee. They’ve since introduced a number of rifles (some aren’t even carbon) that are sub moa guaranteed and discontinued some of the more expensive titanium models with the 1/2 moa guarantee. The article clearly states at the beginning that it is an update from 2018. I probably bought the rifle and did the homework in 2017. I didn’t go back and look at how many models there are of each now. However, the statement about bedding is still accurate. It’s the only thing that’s different between the moa guaranteed rifles and the 1/2 moa rifles.

      I bought and paid for the rifle and am not trying to kiss anyone’s butt here. I’m the editor at GunsAmerica and could use pretty much any rifle I wanted to but that rifle is still my “go-to” personal rifle.

      You made the statement that you have never read a negative review on the site. Trust me there are some on here. If guns are so bad that they don’t function we won’t even write a review. I have the same pet peeve which is why if you’ll look in the article (“Long Range Powerhouse: Christensen Arms Ridgeline…”) there is an entire section titled “COMPLAINTS.” It’s right before the “CONCLUSION.” I detail out what I think is wrong with the gun and what I wish was different. There is literally nothing else negative for me to say. Lol.

      Almost none of my writers want to shoot or test garbage, let alone write about it. We’re not out looking for garbage to write about. However, if you read carefully we have sent guns back to manufactures and they’ve sent us ones back that worked. That is always disclosed in the article if it happens. My take is that every manufacture has had a problem, the question is, is it indicative of the entire brand, line, model, or is it just a prototype that didn’t have an updated part? I promise you that if we get a gun with a problem that we will disclose the problem and remedy or you won’t find a review of the gun on our site at all.

      Honestly, the majority of the guns we get in function 100%. Negativity would largely be based on accuracy or the opinion of the writer. Then it’s just that, his/her opinion.

  • mtman2 May 9, 2020, 7:06 pm

    Yeah I get you – my Swedish Carl Gustafs hand made M96 with 28″ barrel with gorgeous striped walnut stock has shot 1″ groups at 250yds.
    Yes slower then a 28 but absolutely deadly well past 300-400yds using 140gr. BTSP in a 7.9″ twist a 2.7k-fps
    Rem. wisely emulated the Swede’s by necking down the .308.

  • Anti-Pattern May 6, 2020, 2:13 pm

    The 26 Nosler has the faster twist rate and is throwing 147’s over 3000 fps. Now it looks like they’ve come out with larger 150’s for the 260’s/6.5’s. Do you think it might be better to go with the 26 instead of the 28 at this point? If you want really big bullets, it looks like the 300prc is running a 1:8 in the big bore. That could be really interesting!

  • G Gardner May 6, 2020, 9:58 am

    Great article. I have a similar set up with a Christensen Arms BA tactical (I like the magazine) in 300 Win Mag and a DeadAir Sandman suppressor. I love my CA, but share your desire for a shorter barrel and smoother bolt. Are you listening Christiansen Arms??

  • robert May 5, 2020, 11:07 am

    WHAT,when,where,HOW… WHAT caliber? HOW far was the test firing done?

    Guess I’m just an old stick-in-the-mud… But I miss the .260 Rem in newer rifles. It was, is, a great caliber. Just my two cents…

  • Karl Markiewicz May 5, 2020, 8:04 am

    Good article and nice rifle but at almost 1/3 of price I’ll take a Tikka T3X Lite. Same weight and guaranteed sub-MOA with adjustable trigger (2-4 lbs). Bolt slide is pretty damn smooth especially at the sub $700 price. Not threaded so no muzzle break/can but that can be remedied by your smithy. They don’t offer 28 Nosler but 270 WSM or 300 WSM will do the trick on all species in your article. I also prefer a short action because cycles so nicely. Yes- Cabela’s carries these and you can special order other calibers – but better deals are available. As they say – get the CA 28 Nosler and a T3X lite and tell the wife that one is for her.

  • Joe wilkin May 5, 2020, 7:02 am

    What cal is the rig line available in an how long to get one after ordered thanks. Joe wilkin

    • Brisco May 5, 2020, 8:54 am

      From https://christensenarms.com/ridgeline/:

      Standard Chamberings

      450 Bushmaster*† 20 in. 1:16 LH
      22-250 Remington 24 in. 1:14
      243 Winchester 24 in. 1:10
      6.5 Creedmoor 20 in. 1:8
      24 in. 1:8
      6.5 PRC 24 in. 1:8
      6.5-284 Norma 26 in. 1:8
      26 Nosler 26 in. 1:8
      270 Winchester 24 in. 1:10
      270 WSM 24 in. 1:10
      7mm-08 Remington 24 in. 1:9
      280 Ackley 26 in. 1:9
      28 Nosler 26 in. 1:9
      7mm Remington Magnum 26 in. 1:9
      308 Winchester 20 in. 1:10
      24 in. 1:10
      30-06 Springfield 24 in. 1:10
      30 Nosler 26 in. 1:10
      300 WSM 24 in. 1:10
      300 Winchester Magnum 26 in. 1:10
      300 PRC 26 in. 1:8
      300 RUM 26 in. 1:10
      243 Winchester (left-handed) 24 in. 1:10
      6.5 Creedmoor (left-handed) 20 in. 1:8
      24 in. 1:8
      7mm-08 Remington (left-handed) 24 in. 1:9
      308 Winchester (left-handed) 20 in. 1:10
      24 in. 1:10

      *.450 Bushmaster does not qualify for our Accuracy Guarantee
      † MSRP of $2,095

  • William Lemler May 5, 2020, 6:43 am

    Any pressure issues with once fired brass? I have the exact same rifle and I am shooting 195 gr Bergers w/ 84 grains of RL33 and I have tried Nosler and Hornady brass and have had pressure issues with once fired on both, ( heavy bolt lift, extractor marking) I have some ADG brass I just set up in the same fashion and I am hoping it can handle the pressure after one firing. Rifle is extremely accurate and CA makes a great gun, I enjoyed the article very much, and I too like the heavier bullet and would like to know if you have heard anyone else mention this issue, I have backed the powder off and as the issue has persisted 84 grains of RL 33 isn’t the first load I tried. Please let me know if you have any info you could share?? Thanks again.

    • True Pearce May 18, 2020, 12:04 am

      Hi Will,
      I haven’t had any issues with Retumbo which is all I’ve used. Sometimes changing primers will make a difference. I’ve been CCI.

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