Product Review: Review of the Christensen Arms Mesa Long Range Rifle .338 Lapua
Updated: Apr 22
A new company produces a new rifle that is going to be a hit with hunters in an exciting new caliber.
Those of you who are military history buffs probably well know who Chris Kyle was. Likewise, you may have heard of the new caliber 338 Lapua. Many long-range hunters have long been fans of the .300 Winchester Magnum rifle. Kyle used both calibers in his service to our country. The range of this caliber in the MacMillan TAC-338 allowed him to make his longest documented shot of just over 2,100 yards.
My First Impressions
This is Christensen’s match-grade rifle that was first introduced in 2017. With an MSRP of $1695, this rifle will give many a chance to experience the level of quality and accuracy not obtainable in comparable rifle brands.
Tech and Performance
This rifle has an in-house made Christensen Arms 416R stainless steel button-rifled barrel with heavy contour, removable stainless steel seamless radial brake coated in a tungsten Cerakote finish, with a match chamber, and has been hand lapped. The barrel is free floating. Likewise, the action is a Christensen Arms 416 stainless steel billet receiver with an enlarged ejection port and side bolt release, also with a tungsten Cerakote finish.
Pros and Cons
The bolt itself has been nitride treated and has been fluted, as well as the bolt knob and bolt shroud. A Triggertech trigger on the model presented for review is adjustable from 2.5-3.5 lbs. The action has been spot bedded into a sporter-style Christensen Arms carbon fiber composite stock that is fitted with a Limbsaver recoil pad. It has a billet aluminum machined hinged floor plate bottom metal. The Mesa will weigh 6.5 lbs for a short action and 7.3 for a long and comes with a one MOA guarantee.
Now let’s go over my initial impression of, and thoughts about, the rifle. My rifle is chambered in 6.5 Creedmoor. The rifle comes in a cheap plastic gun case, which is more than any other rifle I have seen at this price point. It will suffice for short trips to the range. The fit and finish are on par with most customs I have had my hands on. The action has been, what Christensen calls, spot bedded. There is a little dab of bedding material in the recoil lug area and rear pillar. This by no means is a replacement for a complete bedding job but is,
In my opinion, better than nothing. I have no doubt this, in combination with the free-floated barrel, is a contributor to the rifle's accuracy. The trigger was set at 3 lbs out of the box. I immediately adjusted to as low as it would go, which was 2 lbs. As mentioned above, Christensen says it is adjustable from 2.5-3.5 lbs. This brings me to my first issue with the rifle. Triggertech says this trigger should adjust to 1.5 lbs. This is my fifth Triggertech, and only two would meet the spec. Christensen has covered their bases with their higher advertised weight. Having said that, they are great triggers, and I think most would be more than happy with them. They are much nicer than Timneys. My rifle weighed 6lbs 12oz, which is over the 6.5lbs advertised by quite a bit, relatively speaking. The side bolt release is nice and really should be the standard in a rifle built today.
The M-16 extractor is a nice feature, and I feel is the best extractor, next to the Mauser claw. The nitride bolt adds a very welcome slickness to the cycling of the action, and I would say the bolt cocking effort is on par, if not a little better, than a factory Remington 700. Every custom action I have cycled is a little easier than the Christensen to cock, but I see little real-world advantage to this in a hunting rifle. The ejection port has a larger area relieved at the rear, but I struggle to see the purpose since they chose to use a 2.850 magazine box, bringing me to my second issue with the rifle.
I see no need for a semi-custom, or a factory rifle of any kind for that matter, to have such a short magazine box in this day in age. As you can see in the pictures, the magazine cutout is no different than a factory Remington 700. I checked the three bullets I had on hand, and none of them would really be able to touch the lands and be fed from the magazine.
I started the review with five different boxes of factory ammo. I shot 140gr American Eagle OTM, 143gr ELD-X Hornady Precision Hunter, 120gr ELD-M Hornady Match, 140gr ELD-M Hornady Match, and 142gr SMK Atomic Ammunition. The rifle appears to like both weights of the Hornady Match Ammo. I know a couple of three-shot groups are not absolute proof, but it shows promise, and I really could not care less what the 100-yard groups look like. When weather permits, I will test more at 600 yards. I just received Copper Creek ammo loaded with 140gr Berger Elite hunters, 130gr Berger hunting VLDs, and 143gr Hornady ELD-Xs. I will be testing those as time permits. After I have tested the Copper Creek ammo, I have some Berger 140 Elite hunters and some 143 Hornady ELD-Xs I will load with some H4350. I will do at least one follow-up review after some more shooting with the different ammo and hand loads.
With the brake and the Limbsaver recoil pad, this rifle recoils slightly more than my 20 Cal varmint rifles and makes seeing hits easy. This rifle is really intended for what I would say are many hunters’ styles. It is more of a spot-and-stalk or backpack hunting rifle, and indications are it will be able to stretch the distance a little bit with the classic style stock. It obviously is not going to be the best rifle for long-range shooting.
The Final Score
When I think of the rifles I would own that might compete with this, the only one that really comes to mind would be the Tikka. If I did go that route, I would most likely put it in a Bell and Carlson stock, and It would be a few hundred dollars cheaper but would not have the brake. The Tikka in a Bell and Carlson stock would also be a few ounces heavier, and if you went with one of the magnum calibers, the Tikka would be hindered by the even shorter magazine box and ridiculously slow twists. If you absolutely know you will not be shooting over 200 yards, I can’t see the justification for the price of this rifle, but for those who hunt out west and are willing to practice or are already capable of long-range shooting, farther this is a great rifle at a great price for what you get. In the end, you must seriously consider your wants and needs to decide if this is the rifle for you. As stated above, I will be doing further testing with factory ammo, Copper Creek ammo, and some hand loads. I will update as I get more data. My overall initial impression is this rifle pleasantly surprises me. I like it much more than I thought I would. Please feel free to ask any questions. I will try to answer as soon as possible. Thanks for reading.
As your mileage may vary, I encourage readers to leave comments and share their experiences.