Review: The M48 Nosler Custom Handgun. Steady As She Goes!

I was halfway into my third box of 22 Nosler ammunition and I still hadn’t hit a bullseye at 100 yards. I’d run through my usual list of excuses—the gun, the ammo, the optic—and now had to examine the real problem.

Me.

I was shooting the new Nosler M48 Nosler Custom Handgun (NCH) bolt-action, this particular one chambered in 22 Nosler. I was firing the pistol off my shooting range’s benches, a sandbag under the front of the M48’s handguard, while my right, shooting hand, and arm rested on a pad. But that still left my left arm and hand unsupported, and— the light bulb went off!—that slight shake helped pull my shots time and again.

So, I took my shooting table and angled it to the left, giving me more surface on which to rest both arms and hands. Plus, I slid a bench up behind the table to get off the shooting tables smallish uncomfortable seat. My range features several of these one-piece shooting platforms with built-in seats, and while they are solid, the set-up is too small for anyone whose last name isn’t “Baggins.”

Then, I re-positioned my sandbag, braced it with another bag, and laid out a pad behind the handgun to support both my arms.

With some rearranging of his range’s shooting table, the author finally found a very stable set up for testing Nosler’s M48 Handgun.

And the bullseyes started to pop. Not at every shot by any means. But as long as I was steady, the M48 NCH proved to be an MOA handgun at 100 yards.

Nosler debuted its line of M48 rifles in 2006, featuring a push-feed bolt-action system.  The bolt itself has two large, Mauser-style front lugs which lock in place very solidly, and a beefy extractor which flings out the spent brass.

The new M48 handgun employs the same stout bolt-action as the rifle, but with, of course, a shorter barrel. Not terribly short, though. My model M48 has a 15-inch barrel and can be had in lengths between 12- and 18-inches. The M48 NCH is a single-shot; available calibers are all center-fire short actions, from 22 Nosler up to .308 Win.

The M48 Nosler Custom Handgun is a single-shot, bolt action that should be able to take down deer-sized game out to 200-yards without a problem.

The stock is a single piece, made from billeted aluminum and very rigid. The handguns come Cerakoted, with many color options available; mine was made in Desert Tan. A push-button safety is located in the stock, just above the trigger. The Hogue OverMolded pistol grip has finger grooves and provides a solid anchor point, though some texturing or stippling along the backside of the grip would add stability.

The M48 has no sights. I installed a scope on mine, a 3-12x32mm Burris Handgun Scope, attaching it with a set of Burris Signature Zee Rings. First, I mounted a Leupold Picatinny rail atop the receiver, a Backcountry Cross-Slot, Short Action, 20 MOA (P/N 175218).

The 3-12x32mm Burris Handgun Scope complimented the M48 NCH well, helping to deliver many sub-MOA groups.

All my ammunition was provided by Nosler because, well, they are the only ones making 22 Nosler ammo! For my general shooting and accuracy testing, I used three different 22 Nosler loads: the 55-grain E-Tip hunting rounds, 62-grain Varmageddons, and Match Grade 77-grain Custom Competition rounds.

I also ended up using three-shot groups versus five-shot groups, as I felt it would give a better sense of the M48 NCH’s true accuracy potential—given how steady the pistol needs to be for precision shooting and my tendency to shoot too fast, three shots pretty steady were better than three steady and two not so much (which is what invariably happened when I tried five-shot groups).

My best three-shot group was .706-inches firing the 77-grain Custom Competition rounds, followed very closely by a .712-inch group with the 62-grain Varmageddons. In both groups, by the way, two of the bullet holes were touching each other. Best group with the 55-grain E-tips was a very respectable .869-inches.

The author’s best three-shot group with the M48 NCH, at 100 yards, was this one at .706” with Nosler’s 77-Grain Custom Competition load.

Group averages were based on five, three-shot groups fired from 100 yards.

By the way, while all the 22 Noslers are speedy, the E-Tip rounds are screamers. My PACT Professional-XP Chronograph measured 10 shots of the E-Tips at an average of 3,036 feet per second (fps).

The trigger on the M48 NCH is a very good one, and my Lyman Digital Trigger Pull Gauge measured it out at an average of 1.75 pounds of pull. I do wish the trigger had slightly less take up. I adjusted the trigger via the hex head screw on the front and top of the trigger, and it helped. But I’d still like a bit crisper trigger to help tweak up the accuracy.

A friend of mine thought Nosler should’ve positioned the bolt on the left side. For a right-handed shooter, he argued, a lefty bolt would allow the shooter to keep the right hand/trigger finger in place, open the bolt and load with the left while keeping his or her eye on the target.

I don’t think so. The bolt on the M48NCH isn’t hard to work, but it takes some strength and practice. For me, a left-sided bolt would be so awkward, there’s no way I could somehow keep the handgun on target and open the bolt, load a new round, and then push the bolt back into place.

As far as working the bolt, mounting an optic on the M48 NCH does make the process a little trickier. When fully opened, there’s only a half-inch of space between the bolt handle and the right side of the Burris scope. The best way I found to open the bolt? By placing my right thumb on the back of the bolt itself with my index and middle fingers around the bolt handle, and using the end of my thumb as a leverage point to begin opening the bolt. As the bolt came up and the tension on it was released, I removed my thumb and completed the cycle.

Best way author found to work the bolt: right thumb at the rear of bolt for leverage, index, and middle around the bolt handle.

All the while, my left hand grasped the handgun mid stock.

Given the power of the 22 Nosler rounds in general, my M48 NCH rocked back from the recoil and muzzle blast. I assume the other calibers available for the handgun will produce similar recoil. My suggestion? Don’t even try to hold the pistol down and in place.

I found my best grip on the M48 NCH was to hold it pretty much like I would a 1911 semi-automatic pistol, with the handgun’s fore end resting on a sandbag.

But won’t the handgun come back and up off your rest? Yes. But with at least eight-inches of eye relief on the Burris handgun scope, you won’t scope-cut your face. Also, given the angles of your hand to the handgun, holding it still is likely not possible, anyway.

I see the M48 NCH as a hunting handgun which challenges the hunter to substantial practice, finding suitable rests afield and get closer than he or she would with a rifle. It’s also a lot of fun to shoot, once you get used to it, and yes, it is pricey. But it truly is a custom handgun—not exactly what every hunter wants, needs or can afford. With the right ammunition, it should be a 200-yard deer killer, and capable of taking down coyotes and other varmints at even further ranges.

Visit Nosler to learn more about the Model 48 Nosler Custom Handgun by clicking HERE.

***Shop GunsAmerica for your next handgun***

About the author: Brian McCombie writes about hunting and firearms, people and places, for a variety of publications including American Hunter, Shooting Illustrated, and SHOT Business. He loves hog hunting, 1911’s chambered in 10MM and .45 ACP, and the Chicago Bears.

{ 18 comments… add one }
  • Joe March 31, 2019, 6:44 pm

    Desert Tan? Looks like burnt bronze to me.

  • Roger October 22, 2018, 4:50 pm

    I owned a WICHITA in 308, I was able to hit chickens at 200m. Left hand bolt.

  • Jd October 22, 2018, 4:15 pm

    HAHAHAHAHA! Wait………HAHAHAHAHA! $2,495msrp?????? For a singleshot. Yeah, no. This thing better drag my meat back to the truck & process the meat for me at that price. Why does something new have to be affordable only to people who are loaded. I just don’t get it, sad.

  • James Fry October 22, 2018, 12:42 pm

    For that kind of money, it better come with a woman to steady my nerves between shots.
    There’s other stuff as good out there for 1/3 the price.

  • Frank October 22, 2018, 11:49 am

    A beautiful arm, to be sure. However, I’ve got to agree with what others have said: “needs to be a left bolt/port”. Price is another stickler. Close to $2500 is a fair chunk of change, but apparently worth the outlay if you don’t want to build your own. I put together a full on leftie bolt pistol last year for about half that and it will stack them nose to tail when you do your part.

  • Arrowslinger October 22, 2018, 11:02 am

    I used a Remington XP-100 in 7mm International-X straight from IHMSA to take mule deer cleanly at 100 to 200 yards in New Mexico. 130 grain Nosler ballistic tips always did a very good job, some dropped in their tracks. I also chambered one Remington in 338 x 284 win. and shot mule deer with authority with some 180 grain Nosler ballistic tips. I always hoped to shoot and elk with that gun I just never got the opportunity it was some of the most exciting hunting. I have several XP-100’s and will never trade them…I may have to re-barrel one to 6.5CM as I think that would be an ideal hunting cartridge in that firearm. Nosler might consider an option for hunters as well, some thinking hunter will not want to hold on to a cold metal stock. BTW all of my Remington XP-100’s group under a MOA at 100 and most 1/2 MOA. Took a prairie at 400 yards with my custom shop Remington 6mmBR it took two shots one to notice the dog looked to the left indicating the wind blew me off target and the second shot with only windage hold adjustment to produced red mist.

  • archangel October 22, 2018, 10:00 am

    I had an XP-100 many years ago that was originally chambered in .221 Fireball, but was re-chambered to .223 before I got it.
    Hardly ever shot it, but it left a bunch of brass flakes on the bolt face after being fired.
    I still have the rear trigger walnut thumb-hole stock that I never installed.

  • Steve October 22, 2018, 9:53 am

    Yep! I’m a right hander and I wouldn’t even look at it without the bolt being on the left and being able to slip one in from the left. I’ve often wondered why more bolt guns weren’t left bolt and right eject. I guess that would just make shooting a bolt gun way to easy and to much fun. Just think, being able to rack your bolt without moving your right hand and only having to move your head a little. I think I’ve seen some high end single shoot bench guns like that but are very expensive. They are also very heavy as you would expect. Maybe someone will break the mold, think out of the box and build something like for the everyday shooter. I think by then the left will have taken over and guns will be banned all together. Oh well.

  • Johnny Raygun October 22, 2018, 9:36 am

    Mauser and Push Feed??????

  • George S October 22, 2018, 8:44 am

    I have an XP100 in 7mm BR with a custom two handed Fajen stock (had a kind of loop at the back). If you push with the right hand pull with the left, it was pretty steady in the field. I could shoot jack rabbits at 100 yards. More accurate than my deer rifles.

  • Paul Harwell October 22, 2018, 8:29 am

    I have owned both the Remington XP100 and Thompson which was configured for a TCU 7mm in 10″ Bull barrel. I loved both. The TCU as you may know is a wildcat and once all the brass had been fireformed was extremely accurate when teamed with a Leupold scope. I eventually sold it when I later found out that there had been a factory recall due to a tendancy to misfire.
    I still have the XP100 and to this day I would not trade for it. I have not had any issues with it ever. Extremely accurate as all I ever did was boresight the scope. While not always available the Remington Fireball .221 was at one time the fastest commercially available ammo on the shelf. I agree, however, that the plastic stock could have been better thought out.
    Given my experiances with single shot specialty handguns, I would be more than willing to give the Nosler M48 a “shot” or two, or three!

  • Michael October 22, 2018, 7:31 am

    Great article but I too would rather see the bolt on left side . Anschutz made their Exemplar starting with right handed bolt but shooters asked for a left handed one. Since the pistol was marketed as a silhouette gun you hold it right handed run the bolt left handed and don’t have to change position . Since I found a left handed bolt pistol it has become my go to squirrel pistol. Very fast to run the action and it just works hope Nosler does the same.

  • Victor Jankowski October 22, 2018, 6:46 am

    Back in the 1960’s, I owned a Remington XP-100 pistol. Loved the factory round but hated the plastic stock. The gun turned out to be extremely dangerous since it would fire (at times) by just closing the bolt. The trigger had not been fooled with. Ultimately I sold the gun to a gunsmith and he dealt with the problem. Presently I own two Thompson Center pistols. One an Encore in 223 Remington, 44mag, 32mag from the old custom shop. My 223 has a 15inch barrel. The others have 12inch barrels. I also own a Thompson Center G2 in 22 Hornet, Custom Blueberry, 12inch barrel. I find the Hornet to be the perfect field pistol and it does not feel awkward in my hands while hunting. The new M48 is eye candy and I will most likely buy one just to see what it can and cannot do. I find 15inch barrled pistols awkward and just too long to carry in the field. But that’s just me…

  • Pete October 22, 2018, 6:24 am

    I would prefer a bolt on the left, although it probably doesn’t matter with a single shot. Overall the gun sounds like more trouble than it’s worth.

  • bill strickland October 22, 2018, 4:56 am

    handgun?? Show me the shoulder holster for it and a video of a fast draw,,,,otherwise, its a short carbine

    • Alan Robinson October 25, 2018, 3:14 pm

      Calling it a ‘Short carbine’ is redundant, and silly.
      And technically, a carbine is still a shoulder fired weapon.

  • Matt Mehlman October 22, 2018, 4:51 am

    I love my old XP100. I think the aluminum stock is sad to see on this. Unless they make it adaptable to a arm brace system. That would be nice to see.

  • James Hamel October 20, 2018, 4:40 pm

    Not a single mention of the predecessor… the venerable Remington XP-100..
    Still,.. interesting to see the bolt action pistol back in the view of target shooters and hunters.

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