Earlier this year I had the opportunity to run a 22 Nosler rifle. I was given the choice between running a bolt action and semi-auto (AR platform). Since I was getting ready to take the Precision Long Range 3 class at the NRA Whittington Center, I opted for the bolt action, specifically the M48 Liberty model from Nosler themselves (though it is important to note that the concept for the round is based around making the “most powerful .22 caliber centerfire cartridge that would reliably function in the AR platform”; a bolt action is not the primary reason for the 22 Nosler).
My rationale for running it in a bolt gun is that it should technically allow for more precise shots and allow me to explore some longer distance shots with greater accuracy than I would expect from a semi-auto platform. Plus ARs have become so “…yawn…” these days… 🙂
The Nosler M48 Liberty is a short action, bolt action rifle, with a 24-inch barrel and a 1:8 twist.
Bolt face dimensions are identical for the 22 Nosler and the 223 Remington / 5.56 NATO at .378”.
Nosler is claiming 2000 rounds on barrels used for competition, and 4000 rounds if you are just plinking. My assumption is that is based on the specific round you are using.
If you have the desire to run it in an AR Platform (as conceptualized), the conversion is super simple. You take your existing AR-15, swap the barrel, and use 6.8 Remington SPC magazine.
The round itself is fairly interesting as it has 25% more case capacity than a .223 Remington, which adds roughly 300 feet per second (at the muzzle). Unfortunately, my chronograph had met with an unforeseen high-velocity circumstance and my replacement (I upgraded to the Magnetospeed 3) had not been delivered in time.
Zeroing was the first thing in the queue. I had borrowed a truly ancient Leupold Mark 4 scope from Walt at BMC Tactical. The scope had a reticle in milliradians but turrets in MOA, a fact I failed to note during my first few shots, and which initially made me think I was going to have to delay the review. I had bore sighted the rifle and hit paper (though not remotely tight). As this was a new rifle, I anticipated having to run a couple dozen rounds to tighten up the groups. After several sets of shots, after dialing my perceived correction, points of impact were not moving at all—not the direction I was intending accuracy-wise. I had just zeroed my .308 Win rifle (which also had a Leupold Mark 4 but the turrets were both in mils). Without thinking, I had been mentally dialing the scope in mils. I was moving an eighth MOA (0.125 inches) and not a tenth mil (0.36 inches) per “click”. Once I figured that out rounds started impacting where I wished them too, and I ended up with a pretty decent group—enough to work with. Not a huge deal at this short distance, but I burned a lot more ammo than I intended to for the zero, and illustrated an important concept of confirming your gear, and running through troubleshooting practices.
I used Ballistic AE (in conjunction with my Kestrel 5700 AB) to calculate trajectory solutions for the 77gr Custom Competition 22 Nosler ammunition. At the 8459ft density altitude, I was shooting at NRA Whittington Center, the data showed the round dropping to transonic at 1250 yards (before truing; this was just raw calculations). That made me comfortable pushing the round out to the 1400 yard targets as I always figure in about 10% more distance.
We warmed up with some targets around six and eight hundred yards, and the 22 Nosler handled those with no problems.
The final salvo of the day was out at the 1400 yard target. I was also playing around with TargetVision’s ELR system and I had set it up on the targets at 1400 with the intention of testing out both the rifle and camera together. Despite the weight of the super light round, it had no problem reaching the target and had enough juice to mark the steel. The winds up there didn’t make much of a difference, and I probably could have pushed the round out a little further if we’d had time.
My only complaint (which is really nit-picky) is with these boat paddle gunstocks, especially for review guns. Out of the box I just cannot get a good cheek weld, and my gloves make for a poor modification (and those strap-on abominations that pad the comb are no better in my opinion; I’ve not yet found one that doesn’t eventually mimic the surface of the sun or has fine enough adjustment to give consistent positioning through the course of the day).
Having not had any history, or real knowledge, of the 22 Nosler beyond some casual reading on the internet, I found the cartridge to be exceptionally performant. Per Nosler, making this “the most powerful .22 caliber centerfire”, and adding 300 feet per second (at the muzzle; compared to 223 Remington, which equates to roughly a 10% increase, definitely allowed me to reach out and ring steel at 1400 yards.
I realize that this round is really designed for a semi-auto platform, but I definitely saw good performance from the bolt action M48 Liberty. I also anticipate the sentiment of “Why do we need another round?” and “Is this a solution looking for a problem?”. And while I do agree that there are a staggering number of cartridges that are available, I also like to see companies refining and tweaking, and innovating. I’d be willing to bet there were some “old-timers” that complained about those new-fangled rifled bullets and why do we need them; our musket balls are just fine… 🙂
In any case, I feel pretty confident that I could enjoy some “ELR” whack-a-mole on the various field varmints of New Mexico (within the range of this cartridge, obviously).
Many thanks to Nosler for providing both the rifle and hard to find ammo for the review. You can learn more about the M48 (which you can have in several different calibers) at https://www.nosler.com/m48-liberty-rifle/ for MSRP of $1795.