For years, Christensen Arms has been producing top-notch rifles that are seen everywhere from the hunting fields to precision matches. Despite being very familiar with the company and its rifles that are practically made next door to me, I never had the opportunity to get behind one of its rifles. But now that I got my hands on a Chirstensen Ridgeline rifle chambered for .300 Winchester Short Magnum, I finally got my chance.
I was born and raised in the dry desert state of Utah. Hence, I am no stranger to the fine firearms manufacturers in the Beehive State. One of the more famous firearms companies comes from the beautiful little town of Gunnison, Utah. I have known about the Christensen Arms company for some time, but several years ago I was offered a tour of its facility.
Its famous carbon fiber is just part of the whole Christensen production system, which also boasts titanium, stainless steel, and aerospace technology. Many manufacturers, particularly those with higher price points, source their barrel blanks from well-known barrel producers. Christensen cuts its own barrels and wraps them in carbon fiber before mounting them to its custom actions. Then Christensen marries them to a stock or chassis that might also be built from carbon fiber molded right there in the factory.
Things may have changed even more since my visit to the factory, but ever since then, I have been wanting to try out one of these rifles. The Ridgeline offered the perfect opportunity, let’s take a look at what makes it special.
The Ridgeline from Christensen is built from a stainless-steel action, which shares many dimensions with the Remington 700 pattern. This allows users to utilize the large aftermarket support enjoyed by the 700 series. The action features additional cuts to reduce weight and enhance performance, and things like an enhanced bolt release make it superior to other designs.
The Ridgeline comes from the factory with a Trigger Tech trigger, which are very well-known for quality and performance. The fluted bolt uses an M16-like extractor and a plunger ejector. The threaded bolt handle comes with a petite bolt knob that you can also change out if you desire.
The carbon-fiber-wrapped barrel on this rifle is chambered in the powerful .300 WSM, which is a cartridge that is very familiar to me. The 24-inch barrel features a 1:10 twist, and it’s threaded 5/8-24 at the muzzle where you will find Christensen’s radially ported muzzle brake.
The stock for the rifle is a composite construction, which uses a pillar-bedded design to improve the accuracy and performance of the gun. A comfortable recoil pad and sling studs are of course standard.
As I lifted the Ridgeline from its box, the definitive feature of these rifles was immediately evident. This thing is quite light! A rifle this size feels impressively light at under 7 pounds, which is very desirable for a hunting rifle like this. I ran the bolt a few times and squeezed the trigger to make sure everything looked good. Then it was time to get things ready for the field.
I installed a Nightforce 30-MOA scope base that made mounting my scope easy. I used one of my favorite scopes, and one that I frequently switch back and forth between for many great rifles. The TS-20X from U.S. Optics is an excellent choice for a long-range hunting rifle like this. The 2.5x is useful for an up-close encounter should you be a stealthy sneaker, and if you get a shot that is way out there, 20x is plenty for making those long-range hits. I mounted up the scope with a set of 34mm scope rings. I would have preferred a bit lower set to better fit me, but these would do for now.
I also attached a Harris bipod to the front of the stock because a good bipod almost goes without saying on a long-range hunting rifle. The three-round magazine looked rather vacant without anything to fill it, so it was time to find some ammo. As I mentioned, I am no stranger to the .300 WSM. I’ve probably shot several thousand rounds of it over the many years I’ve spent chasing Utah’s big game and while preparing for the hunt.
I had everything on hand to make my own ammunition for the Ridgeline, but I also wanted to shoot some factory-produced ammunition for those that want to know. I had some Federal Fusion .300 WSM loaded with 180-grain bullets on hand. It is a perfect representation of what a Rocky Mountain hunter would want to use for elk or deer.
Besides that, I loaded up some Norma brass with my favorite load featuring Sierra 190-grain Match King bullets. This load is responsible for dropping a dozen or so big game animals from my first antelope at 880 yards to big cow elk at 400 yards.
The Ridgeline is a hunting rifle. Everything about it is optimized for a hard-core hunter who chases big game. I can imagine it in the frigid-cold hands of a sheep hunter in the Northwest Territories or over the shoulder of a backcountry elk hunter leading mules to a distant basecamp. I wanted to see how it would do in exactly that situation, so I took it deep into the high Rocky Mountains.
After zeroing the rifle at 100 yards, I wanted to see how accurate the rifle would shoot considering Christensen rifles come with a sub-MOA accuracy guarantee. The Federal Fusion shot a sub-MOA three-shot group. But when I fired two more rounds, it opened up what I would call considerably. I assume this is likely due to the barrel heating up from the magnum cartridges and pressure.
Next, I installed a suppressor on the rifle. In my experience, most rifles seem to shoot better when suppressed. The Desert Tech Sound Suppressor (DTSS) was a perfect match for the lightweight Ridgeline. Its titanium construction doesn’t add much weight to the rifle. It also easily handles the pressure of the .300 WSM, reducing the noise to a reasonable raucous.
I then stretched out the rifle to some more realistic distances. This open country allows for long shots. It isn’t uncommon to find big game a mile or two away and then stalk to a closer distance. It’s also not uncommon for the terrain to keep you from getting within a certain distance, so being able to make shots at long ranges is helpful.
Making hits with this rifle at 500 and 700 yards was not difficult, but I again noticed that after a few shots my hits began to wander despite the nonexistent wind.
Pros & Cons
The Ridgeline is a very handy rifle. Its lightweight makes it comfortable to carry and easy to manipulate. The smooth stainless action pumped cartridges with only a slight hiccup. On several occasions, I had some hang-ups feeding the fat WSM cartridges. I expect this is from running them in this very short action.
The .300 WSM is a fantastic hunting cartridge and an obvious choice for a rugged hunting rifle like this. I did feel the chamber was so short-throated as to curtail the cartridge performance some. This is likely required in order to fit the very short magazine space.
The trigger and feel of the rifle are fantastic, and the balance is much better than rifles with all-steel barreled. I’m not sure if the carbon barrel is the culprit for the wandering accuracy, but it seems like a sound analysis to me. A significant amount of shooting would seemingly be a challenge with that issue, but if you make the first shot the only one, perhaps that might not be an issue.
Extremely lightweight and wieldy
Great accuracy on first shots
Very nice trigger out of the box
Perfect for rugged backcountry hunting
Action had some hang-ups feeding rounds
Accuracy loosened up after a few shots, likely due to the carbon-fiber barrel
The Christensen Ridgeline was a great experience to shoot. There were plenty of things I liked about it. Of course, there were some things I would change. Depending on your hunting needs, it may be just what you need or want. The great balance and lightweight were a pleasant change from other rifles I’ve hunted with before. I only wish it was a touch more reliable when it came to hitting my point of aim during longer strings of fire.