Legends Converge in the new Model 20

Legends Converge in the new Model 20

Although the majority of the business world is profit-driven, the firearms industry portrays several examples that break this rule. The greatest might just be the final sale of Melvin Forbes’s New Ultra Light Arms company, or NULA, as it would come to be known. Wanting his featherweight, ultra-rigid Model 20 rifle to be available to more hunters than he could satisfy himself, he believed relinquishing control to a larger manufacturer would provide the means of accomplishing this, but he was sorely mistaken.

Each attempt ended with Forbes reacquiring his brainchild on account of the receiving company simply disrespecting his products. What was needed was a purveyor that appreciated Mel’s work for what it was, not how much it could earn them, and one that put precision above all else. Forbes found this in Wilson Combat and finalized the paperwork toward the latter half of 2022, securing the future of this flighty grocery-getter. 

Wilson Combat NULA Model 20

Introduced to us at the 2023 Athlon Outdoors Rendezvous, it would be the first time that I came face to face with this legendary platform, let alone fire it. After picking it up off the table and closing the bolt, I knew that I needed to put some rounds through it. I asked, “What’s it zeroed for?” and was told, “600 yards. That’s the yellow DOA plate just past the brush line.”

Being I have handled those plates many a time, I knew it only measured 8-by-8 inches, so I filled the magazine expecting it would take a few rounds to connect. Admittedly, the trigger broke without me expecting it, and I heard the spotter confirm an impact on the left half of the plate. Correcting for wind, I placed the next four shots dead center–not bad for a rifle that weighs less than 5 1/2 pounds. 

In the coming weeks, I went over the gear that we saw at that event and knew I needed to get a better look at this firearm. Luck was on my side, as one was available to be shipped immediately. When it showed up, I spent a great deal of time looking it over on my bench, more than most other firearms when they arrive, simply because it was so unique. Instead of being another (insert common action here) clone, the NULA is built from Forbes’s proprietary design.

Trimming the FAT

Overbuilt actions were the craze 70 years ago, but through material improvements and engineering, Mel realized much of it could be eliminated. To sum it up in one sentence, the bolt body is barely wider than the 6.5 Creedmoor it was chambered for. Scaling it down shrunk the overall footprint of the rifle, and Wilson’s EDM cutting process only made it smoother than the original. A simple dual-locking lug system coupled with a Sako-style extractor ensures reliability through the best weight-saving method possible: simplicity. 

When Forbes released his rifle in 1984, composite technology was still in its infancy. However, he understood the value of a rigid stock and what it did for accuracy. Working closely with AG composites, Wilson was able to upgrade the Model 20 in a way that Forbes easily approved. Using pillar bedding, the pencil-thin barrel now floats, which deviates from the original design, which actually bedded the barrel along its entirety. In those days, it was the key to consistency; however, through the miracle that is modern carbon-fiber technology, this system would actually hinder accuracy. 

Unique Design

Being that the NULA’s action is like no other, scope mounting hardware is also proprietary. Wilson Combat offers a variety of direct-mount rings on its website. Some might balk at this, but let’s be honest: once you set a scope, you’ll likely never change it again. Besides, nothing is lighter than hardware that doesn’t exist, and this method of scope mounting uses the least amount of components. My test gun came wearing a pair of these with a Trijicon Accupoint 3-9x optic within their grasp. This optic would certainly be at the top of my list as it offers that classic magnification range plus a brilliant battery-less aiming point that is powered by fiber-optic and tritium. It’s also one of the lightest optics in this class, so it complements Wilson’s work perfectly. Being that it arrived ready to go, all I needed to do was pick out some ammo.

The 6.5 Creedmoor (one of six available offerings at the time of this writing) has gained tremendous popularity as a hunting cartridge, so I had plenty of established options to choose from. I grabbed some Hornady Precision Hunter, as it’s always a safe bet for any hunting rifle and excellent for long-range engagements. I coupled it with Federal’s TSX load, featuring Barnes Triple-Shock all-copper projectile. This is an excellent load, particularly if you’re limited to lead-free fodder. Lastly, I worked on a new-ish product from Wilson Combat’s Sister company, Lehigh Defense. Its 130-grain Controlled Chaos load is another solid-copper design and balances rapid expansion with deep penetration. It does so through a set of breakaway pedals that shed immediately after contact while the solid base continues on through the target. 

Round Downrange

My range day began with a touch of dry fire, as I wanted to get to know the bang switch more intimately. The Nula Model 20 is built with an adjustable Timney trigger that has a measured range of 2 pounds, 10 ounces to 3 pounds, 6 ounces. Built to be a push-to-fire design, I enjoyed the fact that it locked the bolt. Bolts have a habit of being flicked up when a rifle is slung over your shoulder, particularly the left shoulder, and this would mitigate that issue dramatically. This is of importance because you typically discover this nuisance occurrence the moment you are about to take a shot at a trophy. 

Accuracy was exceptional for a rifle built for weight reduction at (nearly) all costs. Each type of ammunition met the sub-MOA guarantee with three-shot groups and was even able to reach this benchmark in many five-shot groups. Arguably, this type of test isn’t particularly applicable to a hunting rifle, as you’re lucky to get a follow-up shot out there, let alone expend an entire magazine on one animal. More importantly, there was next to zero cold-bore point of impact shift, even between ammunition types. 

Field positions shooting the Wilson Combat NULA Model 20.

Built to Hunt

Shooting the NULA in typical field positions was an enjoyable experience. Chambered in 6.5 Creedmoor, the recoil was paltry. Aside from toning down the report, the addition of the Nosler SR-30K sound suppressor also played a role in reducing the unpleasant kick that comes with lightweight hunting rifles. With it attached, I finished the remainder of my ammo working over a Caldwell 33-percent AR-500 deer target that I placed at 200 yards.

From kneeling, I was able to score repeatable hits in the vitals and, in most cases, was able to spot impacts as bullets arrived on target. Being that the fully decorated rifle weighed less than 7 pounds, getting it stable on even the flimsiest of props took minimal effort, allowing for bench-grade accuracy in the field. No matter the awkwardness, the bolt manipulation remained uninterrupted; the overall balance defies description.

Continuing the Forbes Legacy

The Wilson Combat NULA marks the continuation of excellence from a design never meant to comprise a cookie-cutter rifle. Melvin Forbes selected Wilson for its adherence to precision, boldly demonstrated it the company’s 1911s and AR-15s. I can easily write that the same company values are present in the Model 20. The future of this bolt action is clearly going to be an extension of its chamberings, as purists are already clamoring for obscure favorites. The new change in ownership fully embodies the NULA made in the image of Melvin Forbes. The quality remains.

Quite often, we see things go the other direction, just as Ruger is doing with Marlin and Rem Arms is doing with Remington. Melvin Forbes and Bill Wilson come cut from the same cloth. Putting the Model 20 next to firearms like the X-Tac or the Protector illustrates that the NULA legacy lives on.

Wilson Combat NULA Model 20 Specs

  • Caliber: 6.5 Creedmoor
  • Barrel: 20 Inches
  • OA Length: 39.75 inches
  • Weight: 5.4 pounds
  • Stock: Carbon fiber
  • Action: Bolt 
  • Capacity: 4 + 1
  • Finish: DLC, Armor-Tuff 
  • MSRP: $3,295

Accuracy Results

Load Velocity Accuracy
Federal 130-grain TSX 2,831 0.95
Hornady 143-grain ELD-X 2,685 0.74
Lehigh 130-grain CC 2,776 0.87
Bullet weight measured in grains, velocity in feet per second, and accuracy in inches for best five-shot groups from 100 yards.

Nosler SR-30K Suppressor

Nosler SR-30K Suppressor

All of the engineering that went into the NULA would be for naught once one affixes an aircraft carrier of a can to the muzzle. When suppressing a rifle, it’s important to begin with the firearm’s overall purpose. Forbes, and now Wilson Combat, built the NULA for low-volume shooting in compromised positions and scenarios. The Nosler SR-30K puts a compact footprint before sound suppression, making it an ideal match for this rifle. Being that the phrase “hearing safe” is subjective, I can’t advise for or against wearing ear protection while using it. However, I was able to fire a five-shot group without setting off my tinnitus, which is my standard test protocol. Aside from that, it didn’t significantly upset the balance of the gun, and when it came to carrying it on a sling, I barely knew it was attached. (nosler.com)

Kryptek Njord Pants & Jacket

Kryptek Njord Pants & Jacket

In order to defend against cold weather, one must understand and address each of its complex components. Hunting in the Northeast has taught me that the ambient temperature is of little importance when compared to relative humidity and wind speed. Twenty degrees can be quite cozy with only a few layers; however, add a few snowflakes and even a 5 MPH breeze, and you’ll be calling it quits before the sun rises. The Kryptek Njord line is designed to be 100-percent windproof, highly water resistant, and dead silent. I wore it during this grueling 18-degree range day and observed the wind protection firsthand as a squall came rolling in toward the end. The fleece linings made them extraordinarily comfortable for the entire eight-hour session, and I didn’t find myself irritated by the textbook crinkling that is common among competing products. (kryptek.com)

On September 6, 2023, Ballistic reported:

Wilson Combat officially announced the release of its newest rifle, the lightweight New Ultralight Arms Model 20. The announcement follows up last year’s big news when Wilson Combat acquired New Ultralight Arms. The merger brought Melvin Forbes’ legendary, lightweight bolt-action rifle stable into the Wilson Combat family.

Wilson Combat Releases NULA Model 20

We’ve long been a fan of NULA rifles. Weighing in at 4-5 pounds without an optic, the rifles still deliver a sub-1-inch MOA accuracy guarantee. The new Model 20 is built from the ground up for big-game hunting, now turned out in a shop where quality and craftsmanship equal the promise from Forbes.

“The NULA bolt-action rifle provides an advantage for any hunter due to its lightweight design and extreme accuracy, giving hunters confidence that their shot will be on target every time,” stated a company release. “The lightweight construction of this rifle makes it easy to maneuver in the field. whether you’re hunting big game or small varmints, this bolt-action rifle provides the accuracy and dependability needed to get your trophy quickly and cleanly.”

Wilson Combat NULA Model 20

The NULA Model 20 comes with a precision Wilson Combat 416R stainless honed and double-stress relieved, button-rifled barrel. A Timney Elite Hunter trigger delivers a smooth 2.75-3.25-pound trigger pull. Wilson fully machines and EDM cuts the receiver from 4140 bar stock. An ultra-lightweight carbon-fiber stock includes reinforced receiver walls for added strength without adding weight, according to Wilson Combat.

The Model 20 offers five calibers: .243 Winchester, 6.5 Creedmoor, 7mm-08 Remington, .308 Winchester and .358 Winchester. Wilson Combat states many more new calibers will launch soon. For more info, please visit wilsoncombat.com.

The Wilson Combat NULA Model 20 comes initially in five calibers.

Wilson Combat NULA Model 20 Features & Specs

  • Base price: $3,295
  • Lightweight: 4 lb. 15 oz to 5 lb. 4oz (depending on caliber and barrel length)
  • Timney Elite Hunter Trigger (2.75#-3.25#) Safety locks the bolt closed when on safe
  • 8-40 Scope Base Torx Screws
  • Aluminum hinged floorplate with positive latch inside the trigger guard
  • Lightweight carbon fiber stock with Pachmayr 1″ Decelerator recoil pad and Nitride coated sling studs
  • Receiver machined and EDM cut from 4140 barstock with Armorlube DLC coating
  • Bolt fully machined from 4340 barstock
  • Button rifled Wilson Combat 416R stainless barrel, honed and double stress relieved
  • 5/8″x24 barrel threads with a nitride coated thread protector
  • Corrosion resistant 17-7 stainless springs
  • Weight: 5 Lb. 4 oz (.308 Winchester, 20″ barrel model)
  • Length: 39 3/4″ (.308 Winchester, 20″ barrel model)
  • LOP: 13.5″
  • Capacity: 4+1
  • Scope Base Screws: 8-40
  • Barrel: Lightweight profile Wilson Combat button rifled 416R stainless
  • Trigger/Safety: Timney Elite Hunter (2.75#-3.25#)
  • Accuracy Guarantee: Sub 1″
  • Finish:
  • Action and bolt – Armorlube DLC
  • Barrel – Armor-Tuff
  • Bottom Metal – Hard Anodized
  • Stock: Carbon Fiber
  • Available Stock Color Options:
  • Kodiak Rogue (Forest Environments)
  • Canyon Rogue (Desert / Mountain Environments)
  • Charcoal Grey

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Source link: https://www.athlonoutdoors.com/article/wilson-combat-nula/ by Frank Melloni at www.athlonoutdoors.com