Christensen Arms Ridgeline
- By Pete Moore
- 28 Comments
- Last updated: 18/01/2019
There’s little doubt that there’s quite an obsession with light rifles, mainly from those adventurers who hunt exotic species well off the beaten track, but weight, or the lack of it, is always a compromise! The simplest way is to reduce barrel length, dimensions and material on a standard model, or slap on a plastic/ polymer stock. Job done? Well not really, as with the former you can lose ballistic performance, which on a longer shot is not good, plus recoil will be increased. I recall a guy on a Riflecraft Module 1 turning up with a Remy 700 Mountain in 7mm Rem Mag. Synthetic stock and whip-thin barrel and it kicked like a mule, so much so, that he developed a flinch and could never shoot it well.
The other route is to look at the problem and build something that addresses it, and this is what Christensen Arms have been doing for some time now. Their rifles are radical by concept, making maximum use of carbon fibre (CF), which is a light and strong material on both the stocks and even the barrels. My friend Tomo Svetic (Artemis Hunting) showed me one of his guns that had been re-barrelled with one of their CF-wrapped tubes.
This process is most interesting, with a full-sized chamber area that reduces down to a slim, rifled liner, finishing at the muzzle with a thread and a front plate behind it. The free space along it is then wrapped with CF and the whole coming together as a light, rigid and full profile assembly. The thread allows the fitting of a simple protector, moderator or muzzle break. Further weight is saved in the stock, with a hand-laid build complete with Invar pillars and a bedded recoil lug. Finally, Christensen have removed weight from the receiver by machining, which is logical. So, let’s take a closer look.
Unsurprisingly, the Ridgeline has a Remy 700 style action. It shows a 416 stainless steel billet receiver with a machined out section on the left and an enlarged ejection port on the right. The biggest difference is the bolt release catch rear/left of the action, as opposed to the 700 with a push-up plate inside the trigger guard. Bolt and shroud are both Nitride-treated and fluted, the long bolt lever is flattened and fitted with a smaller/fluted knob. The enclosed bolt face shows an M16-type extractor claw and a single, spring plunger ejector (twin plungers on the Magnums). The bottom metal is cut from billet aluminium and consists of the typical hinged floor plate, with a top-loading magazine box that offers a 4-round+1 capacity in standard calibres and 3+1 in the Magnums. The guard is deep and will accommodate a gloved finger easily. The magazine box is stainless; I thought they would have gone for CF there too?
Christensen also fit as standard a Trigger Tech Primary Trigger, which is adjustable from 1.5-4lbs, and comes pre-set from 2.5-3.5 lbs. It can also be adjusted through the trigger guard without removing the action. The top of the receiver is compatible with all Remy 700 STD 6-48 optics bases. Importers Rifleman Firearms fitted a 0MOA Britannia Picatinny rail, which is not included.
They use a 416R stainless steel Aerograde CF-wrapped barrel that comes with a stainless radial muzzle brake and thread protector. It’s threaded 5/8th x 24 UNEF. Inside is a Match chamber, with a handlapped, button-rifled bore, with the tube lightly free-floated. Barrels come in both 24 and 26” options (depending on calibre), my tester was in 308 Winchester with a 1-10” rifling twist 24” tube. I have always liked longer barrels and even though 308 is very flexible ballistically, the lighter weight of the rifle allows for what I consider a maximum, practical hunting carry length. Bare-backed, the barrelled action complete weighs 4 lb 5oz.
The stock is a Carbon Fibre composite sporter style with a long and well angled pistol grip. The build is ambidextrous with a low comb and thick, Limb Saver recoil pad. The material used, as you might expect offers a rigid design with ZERO flex. The action void looks a bit bare, with only a dollop of bedding compound under the start of the re-enforce at 6 O’clock and a bit inside the pocket for the recoil lug and none at the rear. I don’t doubt it can shoot, it just looks a bit basic, given the rest of the build. I mentioned the pillars are made of Invar, which, as I discovered, is a 36% nickel iron alloy, which has the lowest thermal expansion among all metals and alloys in the range from room temperature up to approximately 230°C. So, one must assume that it’s an ideal material for the job!
QD sling studs are fitted front and back and I thought the ideal bipod solution would be a light weight Javelin, as that’s CF and aluminium. But the front stud looks to be bonded in and if removed the hole would need cleaning up. On its own, this furniture weighs 2 lbs and has a medium length of pull (LOP) of 13.75”. The colour is black with a grey web on top and puts me in mind of some of the HS Precision offerings.
With stock and barrelled action together and less scope and mounts, the Ridgeline weighs 6.3 lbs (short action) and 6.8 (long action) not too bad! Christensen Arms states ‘a sub-MOA guarantee’ though go further to say; ‘.450 Bushmaster does not qualify for our accuracy guarantee!’ Calibre choice is generous, ranging from 22-250 Rem, 243 Win, 6.5 Creedmoor, 6.5 PRC, 6.5 x 284, .26 Nosler, 270 Win, 270 WSM, 7mm-08, 280 Ackley, 280 Nosler, 308 Win, 30-06, 30 Nosler, 7mm Rem Mag, 300 WSM, 300 Win Mag and 300 RUM. That 280 Ackley will bring a smile to Bruce Potts face. Equally, with a minimum barrel length of 24” (.450 Bushmaster excepting, which is 20”) numbers like the 243 Win and 6.5s etc will achieve near maximum performance, as opposed to the seemingly new thinking of keeping everything that’s not a magnum at 22”.
Visually, and in the hands, the Ridgeline looks good (apart from that huge CARBON FIBER sticker on the barrel) and feels competent and very shootable. The 2-position 700-style safety means easy operation with minimal firing hand disturbance. The long bolt handle offers slick operation in the shoulder too. And the trigger is excellent and that’s just Trigger Tech’s entry level offering.
I fitted it up with a Minox 3-15x50 ZP5 tactical scope (34mm body tube) in Sportsmatch mounts. I added one of my favourite moddies, a Wildcat EVO 10 modular reflex. Ammunition went to Hornady TAP 168-grain A-MAX, Winchester 168-grain Ballistic Silver Tip and Browning’s new 168-grain BXC controlled expansion fodder. For something lighter, I loaded up Sierra 155-grain Tipped Match Kings (TMK) over 45-grains of Ramshot TAC in Peterson Match brass.
First impressions are of a light, well balanced and handy rifle; I like the fact that it wears a 24” barrel as standard. The Remy 700 layout is familiar, but I must admit I have not used a top-loading magazine in a long time and it took a bit of re-learning. Being a 308 Win, I was keen to see how it recoiled, as they can be a bit jumpy. Without the brake, it was surprisingly comfortable, doubtless due to the Limb Saver pad, and with the counter-measure a real pussy cat! Christensen states a sub-MOA guarantee and I thought three out of four wasn’t bad.
What surprised me though, was what I thought would be the front runner came in at an inch, so technically sub-MOA, unusual for Hornady’s 168 TAP load not to go to around the ½”, go figure! However, it’s always a case of experimenting with factory fodder and reloads to find what works best in your particular rifle, that’s just the way it is. Testing was done at 100m.
Although I have little use for the Ridgeline, as I don’t need a lightweight rifle, I do like the recipe and build, which translates into sweet handling and maximum ballistic ability as to calibre. The price is what it is, as there’s a fair bit of technical material being used and crafted to produce a very specific firearm.