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Tested Tough: Nosler Model 21 Rifle Review

We put the Nosler Model 21 hunting rifle to the test on late-season Wyoming antelope.

This fall I was fortunate enough to be invited to an annual Wyoming pronghorn hunt that has been taking place well before my time as an outdoor writer. I’m not the first Petersen’s Hunting staff member to be given a cot underneath a canvas tent on this ranch, but, personally, it was my first antelope hunt. Heck, this was my first time hunting Western big-game in such open landscape. But lucky for me, the bowhunting-and-buckshot kind of deer hunter that I usually am, I’d be sent afield with Nosler’s latest sporting rifle—the Nosler 21.

Nosler introduced this rifle in September of 2021 as a premium and durable option for big-game hunters and accuracy-minded shooters alike. A few of the hunter-friendly features include a crisp, single-stage trigger for accurate long-range shots, a match-grade barrel with threaded muzzle for those who wish to screw on a suppressor or muzzle brake and a lightweight carbon fiber stock for the inevitable wear and tear of backcountry hunting.

Tested Tough: Nosler Model 21 Rifle Review

The Model 21 is available in Nosler’s proprietary, high-performance calibers from 22 to 33, plus other popular chamberings, including:

  • 22 Nosler
  • 6.5 Creedmoor
  • 6.5 PRC
  • 26 Nosler
  • 27 Nosler
  • .280 Ackley Improved
  • 28 Nosler
  • .308 Win
  • .300 Win Mag
  • 30 Nosler
  • 33 Nosler
  • .375 H&H
Tested Tough: Nosler Model 21 Rifle Review
The Model 21 is built to meet the standards of just about any big game hunting. (Photo courtesy of Sam Forbes)

“It’s been nearly two decades since we introduced the very first Nosler rifle on our popular Model 48 platform” said John Nosler, President of Nosler Inc. “From day one, we set out to produce some of the most reliable firearms in the industry and our new Model 21 is no exception. This new firearm marks an exciting expansion of the Nosler rifle brand, offering an economical option that bridges the gap between standard production assembly rifles and feature-rich customized builds.”


Premium Features

The Model 21’s action was designed in collaboration with the Mack Brothers of South Dakota. Many precision shooters have trusted this sibling duo to build some their competition-style actions, and this collaborative design is nothing short of the same custom build. The Model 21 action blends the best features of the Mack Brother’s EVO  with a handful of Nosler-engineered customizations for a solid foundation for peak performance right out of the box.


Nosler has dropped in a spiral fluted, one-piece bolt made of 4340 chrome moly steel. In addition to its sleek aesthetic and easy functioning, the fluted design of this bolt provides reduced weight while simultaneously helping to channel debris away from the inside of the chamber. This means that the inevitable dust of windy Western landscapes will be pushed away, ideally preventing the bolt from slowing down or grinding to a halt at an inopportune time. To improve the functioning even further, Nosler had coated this bolt with NIB-X (Nitride).

Tested Tough: Nosler Model 21 Rifle Review
The Model 21 is built to withstand the rigors of worldwide hunting adventures. (Photo courtesy of Sam Forbes)

The stock on the Model 21 comes from McMillan in their Hunters Edge Sporter design. Constructed of 100% carbon fiber to ensure lightweight dependability hunters seek, the stock utilizes aluminum pillars for included strength. It’s also designed to push recoil away from the shooter’s face for a more comfortable experience, especially when shooting magnum calibers. The 1-inch recoil pad set the length of pull at a standard 13.5-inches. The stock comes standard in an all-weather epoxy gray that is designed to guard your rifle from the elements you will eventually encounter in the field.

Each barrel features a precision recessed crown with a threaded muzzle (1/2-28 or 5/8-24). Simply remove the knurled thread protector and slap on your favorite suppressor or muzzle brake for a totally kick-ass set up.

The TriggerTech trigger is externally user adjustable from 2.5-5.5 lbs. so you can dial your rifle in to whatever pull best fits your comfort-level and shooting style.


In the Field

As I mentioned previously, I’m an East-coast guy. I’ve never shot a big game animal from more than 100 yards away. Not because I can’t, but simply because a farther shot has never presented itself to me. My furthest kill shot in the Virginia woods I hunt falls somewhere inside eighty yards.

I’ll admit, I was nervous about having to shoot at an antelope 200+ yards away. The last thing I wanted to do was fly all the way to Wyoming just to step outside of my comfort zone and wound an animal trying to be someone that I’m not. So, as we moved in on a large group of antelope and my guide, Brian, turned to ask me what distance I was comfortable shooting. I responded: “Get me there first, and I’ll tell you. I won’t take a shot I’m uncomfortable with.”

The herd was mulling around in some open pastures just below the ridge we started our morning glassing on. But we were skylined, so it required a little bit of strategic maneuvering to make our way down to the west side of the herd and begin our stalk proper. By using the cover of draws and foothills to close the gap, we eventually made it to the last little ridge before open land exposed us. We were forced to crawl into a prone shooting position and inched forward to the crest of the hill.

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When we crested the knoll and I found my buck in the crosshairs, and Brian told me he was 432 yards out. I turned to Garrett, the designer of the Nosler 21, and asked what my hold over needed to be. “24 inches,” he said.

When the rifle jumped, I lost my target, but the immediate cheers from my left and right assured me that the shot was a hit. My first pronghorn lay dead in the open country over 400 yards away. I was beside myself.

Tested Tough: Nosler Model 21 Rifle Review
Digital Editor Sam Forbes soaks up the excitement of his first antelope. (Photo courtesy of Sam Forbes)

The Nosler 21 gets most of the credit for my very first antelope. With the proper bipod attachment and a few deep breaths on my part, I cracked off a shot from the prone position and delivered a lethal hit at a distance farther than I ever imagined. The most notable aspect was my comfort behind the rifle. The stock sat comfortably in my shoulder and the trigger let off with surprising ease. Combine all of that with the flat shooting 28 Nosler the rifle was chambered in, and you can see how these design features allowed me to remain comfortable and confident in a new hunting situation.

For those looking to learn more about the Nosler Model 21 rifle, be sure to visit nosler.com  

Nosler Model 21 Specifications

  • Capacity: 3-4
  • Stock: MCMILLAN® Hunters Edge® Sporter Stock
  • Srock Material: Carbon Fiber
  • Finish: Grey All-weather Epoxy 
  • Weight: 6.8-7.1 lbs
  • Overall Length: 41.725"-44.5"
  • Length of Pull: 13.5"
  • Barrel Length: 22"-24"
  • Barrel Thread: 1/2-28 or 5/8-24 Tpi
  • Barrel Contour: #3 (#5 375 H&H Mag)
  • Twist: 1:8, 1:8.5, 1:9, 1:10, 1:12 (Calibur Specific)
  • Suggested Retail: $2,795
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