August 07, 2015
When my hunting partner Steve Bell and I decided to head back to Alaska in search of big moose, deciding to use an AR was kind of a nice twist. Steve and I have known each other for years and actually met while shooting 3-Gun competitions. The reason this fact is important is we are both very comfortable with the AR platforms in .223 that we use in 3-Gun, so stepping up to .308 for this hunt was an easy transition.
Steve would be using the Christensen Arms Model CA-10 DMR. This rifle is really something when you consider what you have in your hands. Most .308 ARs are downright heavy and clunky. The Christensen Arms rifle is anything but, weighing in at a scant 7.8 pounds.
The key to the lightweight design is the carbon wrapped barrel. These barrels provide the rigidity and accuracy of a heavy barrel rifle without the heavy part of the description. To back up their claims Christensen Arms CA-10s come with a 1 MOA or better guarantee.
Not only is the stainless steel, 1:10 twist barrel wrapped with carbon fiber, but also the hand guard is made from extremely strong and light carbon technology. This particular rifle has an 18-inch barrel that is perfect for a hunting AR.
The brains behind Christensen Arms is a fella with a PhD in Mechanical Engineering, Roland Christensen, who just happens to be a recognized industry expert in composites. He holds more carbon fiber prosthetic feet patents than anyone.
The Christensen family also runs a company called ACT Aerospace, which makes high-tech aircraft parts. Roland's son, Jason, leads the team at Christensen Arms; he also has a Masters in Mechanical Engineering and a background in Aerospace Composite engineering.
Long story short, they make airplane parts for a living, and they just happen to also be hunters and shooters that have applied their favorite technologies to the firearms industry. When it comes to knowing the ins and outs of carbon, there isn't another company in the firearms world that comes close to their knowledge.
Starting with 416 stainless, all barrels are button rifled in-house at Christensen Arms. All of the barrels are held to aircraft tolerances, so meeting the 1 MOA guarantee is all in a day's work. Their bolt guns come with a ½ MOA guarantee. I found that with the right factory ammunition from Hornady, getting ½ MOA groups with this rifle was absolutely possible.
Made from aerospace-grade carbon fibers, the free-float tube is a patented integral rail design. The orientation of the fibers is such that stiffness is controlled, which helps to support accessories, such as bipods, lasers, and vertical grips.
The trigger in this rifle is a Timney that breaks clean and crisp every time. It is a single-stage trigger, which I prefer in most AR platforms.
The Christensen Arms carbon wrapped barrel is what really sets this platform apart. It uses a precise material placement technique that is fashioned to control dampening along the long axis of the barrel. Orientation is key to rigidity and eliminating flex. It uses an exact wrap, not a random wrap, technique. Shot patterns from their barrels are repeatable, accurate, and precise.
The determining factor in choosing an AR with a carbon wrapped barrel would be heat. Carbon fiber is much more efficient at wicking heat away from the bore of your rifle. Aluminum is three times more efficient than steel, carbon is five (or more) times more thermally conductive than steel, depending upon which carbon fiber you use. Some are even into the double digits. When you shoot this rifle, the outside of the barrel is hot, but the inside of the barrel is cooling faster than a standard steel barrel of equal diameter.
While never an easy hunt, Alaska proved to be the ultimate rifle proving ground. After six days of hunting, I was able to shoot a very nice bull within 50 yards of our meat pole. We worked well into the night to get the meat hanging at a safe height and then hit the rack.
Early the next morning, while boiling water for coffee, I spotted another moose about 1,200 yards from camp. After rousting my moose hunting buddies, Steve and Jeff (or "moose whisperer," as I like to call him), Jeff started his sexy moose intoxicating slurs.
As though this behemoth was on a string, he swayed and swaggered toward our camp, grunting and groaning like an old man getting out of bed in the morning. When the bull finally turned broadside, he was a mere 40 yards from our fire pit. Steve put him down with one round of Hornady's 165-grain SST. A rare shot only capable by a few hundred thousand shooters.
We had chosen the CA-10 because of the incredible accuracy and decreased weight. You may not think a lightweight rifle is that important for a fly-in moose camp, but every ounce saved trouncing through the tundra equates to pounds over time.
As it turned out, this rifle fit the bill perfectly. Rumor has it that Christensen Arms is now working on a .308 AR that might just tip the scale at under seven pounds. Now if we can just convince them to build one of these in .260 Remington, we may have a winner for Dall sheep.