Alexander Arms Ulfberht at SHOT Show

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When Bill Alexander left the UK he was considered one of their top armorers. And yet he left, because he wanted to see the designs and plans in his head come to fruition, and that meant a big change: a move to the United States. In 2001 Bill founded Alexander Arms which is operated from the Radford Arsenal in Southwest Virginia. The company has been growing steadily practically since the moment of its inception, and their goals are made clear on their website under the “company history” heading: “We build rifles without compromise. Every effort we make is made with the understanding that not only the operator’s life depends on it, but the freedoms that allow us to make these rifles also depend on it. We do nothing without that basic tenet in mind.” Such is the story of Alexander Arms, and that dedication shows with each rifle and every round created by Bill Alexander.

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When it comes to this particular company there’s quite a bit to choose from whether it’s their .50 Beowulf, 6.5 Grendel, or one of their many firearms. But for the sake of space we’re going to focus on their Ulfberht, a rifle that just happens to be chambered in the round that’s my personal favorite: .338 Lapua Magnum. (After all, we can take a look at some of their other offerings at a later date. This is just a good starting point.)

The Ulfberht is a semi-auto .338 Lapua Magnum that was designed with care by Bill Alexander himself. This is not just another big gun. In fact, this .338 Lapua Magnum won Shooting Illustrated’s 2015 Golden Bullseye Award for Rifle of the Year. The Ulfberht was designed for simplicity with 48 individual parts and 10 moving parts. It has a gas piston operating system and was designed based on the Russian DP 28 machine gun. The gas system is adjustable which allows shooters to run their rifle in extreme temperatures. The gun itself is made with an eye for durability and longevity as well as safety; this rifle cannot be fired out of battery. An excellent example of that longevity is the fact that all the springs on this gun with the exception of the ejector spring are rated for 6 million cycles.

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This is a big rifle as you’d expect from a .338 Lapua Magnum and weighs in at 19.0 pounds empty. It’s 50″ in length fully extended and 41.25″ collapsed; height is 8.5″ while width is 1.75″. It has a forged receiver made of 9310 steel alloy with a Melonite finish. The barrel is listed as 27.5″ installed with a 1:9.3-inch twist, six-groove deep Enfield pattern rifling and M18x1.5 muzzle threading. Other features include a Magpul PRS buttstock, Ergo Deluxe pistol grip and two-stage Geissele SSA trigger. The trigger has a 4.5 pound pull and is not adjustable. Magazine is a double-stack with a  capacity of 10 rounds.

I was fortunate enough to spend some time talking to Bill Alexander at SHOT; even better, he walked me through the Ulfberht. According to him the felt recoil of this rifle is more along the lines of a .308 Win than a typical .338 Lapua Magnum, a detail that caught my attention. Another interesting feature is that he specifically designed the rifle to perform that way without needing a muzzle brake. Intrigued? So was I, and I’m looking forward to some trigger time with this gun in the near future.

Visit Alexander Arms’ website at www.alexanderarms.com

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A word from Alexander Arms on the Ulfberht:

We have designed and produced each component to the very highest quality possible to ensure a very long life. To absorb the stresses of high pressure loads, the barrel is press-fitted into the receiver effectively providing a breach of 1.75 inches in diameter. The bolt does not rotate, but is locked into the receiver by two heavy, steel flaps. The receiver is made of steel and this was selected as the best method to support the long, heavy barrel; to resist the operating pressure in the barrel; and to lock the bolt. By combining these functions and not relying on a barrel extension and light alloy receiver, we achieved the best optimization for the strength and weight of the weapon. It is possible to build a lighter weapon at the expense of durability. It is not possible to build a lighter, stronger weapon.


katie.ainsworth

Katie is an avid shooter, hunter, military journalist, and Southern girl. Firearms are her passion whether at the range or on a spot-and-stalk after a big buck. She’s a staff writer at The Firearm Blog and writes about guns, hunting, and the military for various publications both online and in print such as Outdoor Life, Handguns, and Shooting Illustrated. Shoot her a message at ainsworth.kat@usa.com


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  • Nick

    For those interested, MSRP is $5800. Probably wouldn’t hurt to slide that into the article.

    • Full Name

      Pricing a rifle like this is like pricing a Ferrari. If you have to ask…

    • Phaideaux

      That’s honestly less than I would have expected.

  • Mario AK

    “It is not possible to build a lighter, stronger weapon.”

    I’m pretty sure a good 20″ barrel would make short work of that argument.

    • Kevin Collins

      Cutting 7.5″ off of the barrel would reduce weight, but you would lose a lot of muzzle velocity and downrange performance. The 338 Lapua Magnum cartridge was designed around a long barrel. To make the most of its potential, you need a long barrel for all of the powder to burn in. If you are not concerned with taking shots past 1200m, then you don’t need to use this cartridge.

      • Mario AK

        The shorter barrel doesn’t affect range nearly as much, the 338 performs just fine from 20″, with more consistent accuracy.

        • JumpIf NotZero

          lol, Mario AK: YOU are TFB. Congrats.

          • Mario AK

            I didn’t know who the guy was as I replied… I still stand by it though.

        • Kevin Collins

          When shooting past 1000 yards, the additional 200ft/s from the 27.5″ barrel can be a big advantage. The faster bullet would have less drop and wind drift. The long barrel also produces less muzzle flash and blast.

          For most shooters in the US, a 20″ barrel is okay because they don’t have access to big, open spaces to shoot in.

  • It should also be mentioned that Kevin Collins contributed a tremendous amount of work in designing the Ulfberht. Unfortunately he hardly gets any credit for it.

    • Kevin Collins

      Thanks for the acknowledgement! It is a rare occasion when my name is mentioned in association with the ULFBERHT rifle, particularly if it is in a published article or internet blog. I did a bulk of the design work (i.e. drawings, models, etc.), but Bill has done all of the development and design improvements. Bill Alexander has put in a lot of time and effort into the project, and all of that certainly wasn’t cheap. I’m guessing that hundreds of thousands of dollars have been spent on prototype parts and ammunition. I am thankful for what he has done for the rifle. I am happy with how successful the ULFBERHT rifle has been.

      • BrandonAKsALot

        Glad to see someone mentioning you. I watched a good bit of your progress on this on one of the forums.

      • JumpIf NotZero

        Was the intention mil contract? I mean I know someone there has got to be considering it for that latest disaster of a contract re-design, not sure if that’s public yet.

        Or was it intentionally designed for civ?

        • Kevin Collins

          I started the project because I wanted a semi-auto rifle for the 338 Lapua Magnum cartridge for myself. At the time, no one made such a rifle. If I wanted one, then I had to start designing one.

          I knew that such a weapon had military potential. The rifle had to be robust and reliable enough for military use. I have no doubt that the ULFBERHT rifle will serve well as a military firearm.

  • Giolli Joker

    I suggest to all the readers to search Ulfberht on this website, there’s a previous post, few months old, were Bill Alexander himself gave some background about the rifle development.
    It’s worth reading.

  • Major Tom

    Maybe it’s just the way the pic is but the one at top made it look like the rifle had a warped barrel!

    • Aahs

      top pic of of a poster or back drop not the actual gun… its a picture of a picture… same image is in the background of the 2nd from last photo

    • JumpIf NotZero

      Those are CLEARLY flutes.

  • iksnilol

    I dunno, 9 kg. That’s 3-3.5 kg more than a bolt action such as the Sako TRG. I don’t know if it is worth it for the reduced recoil and semi auto operation.

    • JumpIf NotZero

      No, it’s not. But that’s not the point.

      There are mil contracts for 338 semi upcoming. Why? I have no idea. Too many decision makers stuck on “bigger is better” theory I suppose.

      There is a market for 338 big boys for some reason. Probably because every mfg has a 556 AR line and even now 308 AR lines, so everyone is just moving up the chain?

      • iksnilol

        I guess.

        I just find it pointless, sure, it is nice when it is mounted on a tripod or something. But I expect to carry that sucker. And while .338 is heavy, I reckon I can carry “enough” of it + the rifle for less weight than the semi auto alone.

  • JumpIf NotZero

    I have a little time handling one of the early ones. I don’t see a need for 338 semi-autos, but I found it to be reasonably smooths and appeared to be well made.

    I have no idea how these perform in extremes or for accuracy in reality, but I like the idea of a special built platform a lot more than I do the idea of retrofitting the AR-10 into 300/338 magnum calibers. And we’re about to see a LOT more of those.

    Stupid name tho.

    • LCON

      It’s named after a archaeological enigma, Viking swords forged of Crucible steel far superior to that that should have been available in europe at the time. Low Slag High Carbon Steel not normally found in Europe until the Industrial age made these the deadliest swords of the age. these rare unique swords were marked Ulfberht 170 have been found dating from the 9th to 11th century ad

      • JumpIf NotZero

        I don’t care if it’s named after my mom. Hard to say stupid name is hard to say stupid name.

        This is marketing 101. Don’t have a stupid hard to say name. If someone can’t find your product without the help of google’s “Did you mean…” then you’ve made a mistake.

        • BattleshipGrey

          Have you had your Snickers bar today :).

          I don’t think it’s a bad marketing ploy. It’s a strong name with lots of historical significance. It’s not like they’re trying to reach out to Beanie Baby collectors, they’re trying to reach guys that like weapons, who have an appreciation for weapons of various strange names.

          • LCON

            Exactly. Alexander Arms has an established naming convention, .50 Beowulf and 6.5 grendel both named after characters form the early english epic that was set in scandinavia, “Ulfberht” follows the same. A weapon of scandinavian myth and legend. It’s like naming your rifle excalibur or Katana.
            It’s meant to harken to a weapon that embraced power prestige and warriors who charged into battle to the death.

        • Abram

          You’re feedback is so valuable, you’re giving it away. You’re wasting your ability to speak by whining, and it’s cluttering up the place.

          • Abram

            Your. Ha!

  • Edeco

    Long hose, no muzzle brake?! Good thinking, if it’s anywhere near useable.

    • ostiariusalpha

      Everyone that’s shot one says it’s a crazy mild shooter. The weight probably doesn’t hurt that aspect of it.

      • JumpIf NotZero

        It’s 20lb gun. It HAD BETTER shoot like a 308.

  • Patriot Gunner

    Cool gun but I can’t help think this is an answer to a question no one asked. I got a chance to shoot one last year and the 19 pound listed weight is optimistic, but let’s accept it at face value. 19 pounds empty + ammo = stationary 90% of the time and if your going to have a gun be stationary then might as well get a Barrett M107A1. Plus the 50 BMG is a much more versatile cartridge.

  • Monty01

    This is an extremely interesting weapon. Bill Alexander and his team are to be congratulated for taking the time and trouble to develop it. The .338 Lapua Magnum is about to be / has been accepted as a NATO Standard Cartridge for sniping and is already used widely by European members of NATO. The range and hitting power versus .308 is significantly greater makng this an ideal long-range weapon system for dismounted infantry. With GD having developed a .338 Norma Magnum Medium Machine Gun, the potential of this calibre to go beyond just sniping applications is beyond doubt. Fired from a semi-automatic rifle, you can get close to .50 Cal performance with a lighter ammunition and significantly lighter weapon. A .50 Cal BMG simply isn’t man-portable, but a weapon like this is, even if it weighs 10-12 kg (22-24 lb). Add incendiary, AP and other ammunition natures, and the ability of the squad to deliver lethal effect is enhanced considerably. For all these reasons, I think there will be serious military interest for semi-auto .338 weapons. I can see .338 weapons replacing .308 / 7.62×51 mm NATO across many dismounted applications, just as 30×113 mm cannon ammunition (from the Apache attack helicopter) is starting to replace .50 Cal in vehicle applications. To fully validate .338’s worth, we need weapons that allow its capabilities to be fully explored. That’s what AA’s rifle does. (And I agree the name is stupid, because it is difficult to remember and spell. I don’t care if it is rooted in Ancient British mythology, make it easy on customers please!).