The new Forbes Rifle
delivers a performance that's on par with far pricier custom rifles and comes
with 27 years of proven reliability and customer satisfaction.
Published on July 19, 2012 by Richard Mann
quarter-century ago a West Virginia gunsmith introduced a super-lightweight,
bolt-action hunting rifle to the world. The Model 20 rifle built my Melvin
Forbes of Ultra Light Arms (ULA) became the Nosler Partition of
lightweight hunting rifles. As the Partition offered wide wound cavities and
deep penetration, the rifle also was a combination of performance characteristics—light
weight and superb accuracy—previously unattainable. These custom rifles come
with a custom price but Forbes ultimately hoped one day his rifles would become
production guns offered at lower prices.
almost happened at the turn of this century when ULA was purchased by Colt, which in turn offered the Colt Light
Rifle (CLR). The CLR was a mass-produced version of the ULA Model 24. CLR
actions were machined by SACO Defense and housed in inexpensive, plastic
stocks. Both the ULA and CLR Model 24 were so named because the action, sized
for .30-06-length cartridges, weighed 24 ounces. But Colt crumbled. Forbes
bought back his company, renamed it New Ultra Light
Arms (NULA) and continued to make his custom rifles. And he
continued to dream of a high-performance production rifle that hard-working,
blue collar hillbillies like him could afford.
key to the light weight and performance of NULA rifles is partly due to the
tight tolerances to which they’re held and partly due to the state-of-the-art,
Kevlar/carbon-fiber stock that surrounds the steel. A stock off a NULA rifle
weighs less than a pound. It’s virtually unbreakable and through a proprietary,
tip to tang bedding process it actually increases the rigidity of the barreled
stock is so technologically advanced and misunderstood by others that he has
consulted with major manufacturers on how to build their stocks; he even
supplies stocks to a respected custom rifle builder. After 20 years, NULA sales
stay strong. On the down-side, NULA rifles are not cheap; prices start at
few years back Forbes was approached by defense contractor Titan Machine;
discussion revolved around, once again, turning the Model 24 into a production
rifle. Research and testing began, and ultimately Titan proved to Forbes it was
capable of mass-producing actions to his stringent specifications. Forbes
formed a partnership with Titan Machine, and his dream of a production version
of his rifle is once again in the works.
production rifle will be called the Forbes Rifle, and it uses an action that is
an exact copy of those built by NULA. These actions are similar in design to a
Remington Model 700: they are push-feed and have a plunger ejector, two locking
lugs, a tubular body and a recoil lug sandwiched between the barrel and action.
A Sako-style extractor, much tighter tolerances and a smaller-diameter action
body and bolt are the main differences. Contrary to what you might suspect, the
smaller-diameter action is not weaker because wall thickness is still
maintained. Nosler used a NULA action in their test lab to fire more than 4.5
neat feature is the safety. he closed position; push down on it and you can
open the bolt and unload the rifle while it is still on safe. This
Forbes-designed, two-position/three-function trigger mechanism is manufactured
by Timney for his NULA rifles. The new Forbes Rifle features this unit.
what are the differences between the more expensive custom rifle from NULA and
a Forbes Rifle? Actions of the Forbes Rifles are CNC-machined; the
button-rifled, carbon steel barrels come from a different supplier. And, unlike
with a NULA, which you can have chambered for any cartridge you want, the
Forbes Rifle will initially be available only in .270 Win. and .30-06.
Additional chamberings including .25-06 Rem., 7mm Rem. Mag. and .300 Win. Mag.
will soon follow.
like length of pull, custom stock painting and scope mounting are not an option
with the Forbes Rifle either. With it you get all of Melvin Forbes’ ingenuity
and experience but you cannot tune the rifle to suit your every whim. However,
you will be able to buy a Forbes Rifle off a dealer’s rack without waiting
eight months like you would for a rifle from NULA.
All parts between a NULA Model 24 and a Forbes Rifle Model 24B are
interchangeable. This is good for several reasons. It means that these two
actions are one in the same and ultimately it means that when Melvin Forbes
decides he would rather play with his grandkids instead of dealing with
demanding customers and tinkering with rifles, you’ll have a source for Model
24 parts and, potentially, even service.
known this project was in the works since the outset but was sworn to secrecy.
Ironically, in September I was preparing for a Sweden moose hunt and called
NULA to ask if I could borrow a .270. Forbes said, “How bout I let you borrow a
special rifle?” As it turned out, the rifle I took to Sweden was the second
Forbes Rifle ever assembled. I attached a Nikon African 1.1x-4x-24mm scope and
zeroed the rifle with 130-grain Federal ammunition. In Sweden, I found the
rifle shot to the same point of impact with 150-grain Norma ammo. This lack of
a point-of-impact shift, regardless of bullet weight, is a common
characteristic of NULA rifles that carries over to the Forbes Rifle.
24B shoots with hunter precision. It has the same balance, the same feel and is
just as rugged as any NULA rifle. It also has what few if any other new
production rifles have ever been able to boast: a 27-year history of proven
reliability and customer satisfaction at the custom level. The best part is you
can now own what may be the greatest lightweight hunting rifle of all time.
This new Forbes Rifle costs the same as the original ULA rifle in 1985! Reverse
inflation? Maybe, but more likely it’s just the result of Forbes not giving up
on his dream.
partnership between Melvin Forbes and Titan Machine comes together in a new
company called Forbes Rifle LLC. The interface works like this: Titan Machine
out of Westbrook, Maine, builds the actions and does all the metal work to Forbes’
specifications. Forbes builds the stocks in West Virginia and ships them to
Maine where they are fitted to the barreled actions by workers trained by
Forbes. Then the stocks are painted and shipped to dealers. They should be on
shelves by the time this is printed.
Type: bolt-action centerfire rifle
Caliber: .270 Win., .30-06
Barrel: 24"; button-rifled, chrome-moly; 1:10" twist
Trigger: Forbes-designed Timney
Magazine: blind box; 4-rnd. cap.
Safety: two-position, three-function
Stock: hand-laid, Kevlar/carbon fiber; LOP 13.50"
Overall Length: 43.75"
Weight: 5.25 lbs.
Metal Finish: matte
Accessories: Talley 1-piece aluminum scope rings