Christensen Arms Classic ll by Morgan Haselau

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Christensen Arms Classic ll by Morgan Haselau: Lightweight, heavy on performance

Christensen Arms (USA) is well known for their custom firearms. Their founder, Dr Roland Christensen, combined his love of shooting with his scientific knowledge (he has a doctorate in mechanical engineering) and is credited with creating the first carbon-fibre rifle barrel. Since then, Christensen Arms has blazed a path through the firearm industry and is the go-to manufacturer for those who like their rifles light-as-a-feather, supremely accurate, and oh so pretty.

Firearm makers have been trying to reduce weapon weight since the first ‘handgonnes’. Anyone who has spent just a day or two lugging a heavy rifle through the bush or up and down mountains will know why rifle weight is an important issue. Synthetic stocks have played a major role, but many hunters argue that the steel barrel remains a serious weight factor, and it is here that weight reduction methods have been focussed. Shortening the barrel reduces weight, but can also reduce velocity, hence ballistic potential. Thinner barrels are lighter, but these increase the amplitude of oscillations (barrel vibrations) on firing, which opens up groups.

What then, is the answer? Dr Roland Christensen’s solution was to use carbon-fibre, a tough, strong, stable, lightweight material he’d been using in other industries for many years. His idea was to make a very slender steel barrel – its walls sometimes being only a couple of millimetres thick – and then wrap said barrel with hundreds of layers of extremely thin carbon “cloth”. The result is an ultra-lightweight, rigid and super-strong barrel. These barrels are what separate Christensen Arms from others.        

Magnum recently tested the Christensen Arms Classic II in .270Win. Let’s start with the aesthetics: it is an absolutely gorgeous rifle. The English style stock is made of carbon-fibre composite and our test model had a black finish with grey webbing. Combined with the stainless steel barrel and action, the product exhibits the best aspects of the modern style, drawing approving comments at the range, with an occasional glare from the more traditionally inclined.

The Christensen weighs just 2.94kg, admirably achieving the ultimate goal to create an ultra-lightweight rifle. This makes it ideal for walk-and-stalk hunting, especially in rough terrain, and explains its popularity with those who hunt in mountains. Furthermore, I have yet to think of any clear disadvantages of using carbon-fibre for this purpose.

Christensen Arms made their name with the quality of their barrels, and the Classic II continues this tradition. The .270Win has a free-floating 24" barrel with a 1:10 twist. The barrel begins as a select, match-grade, 416R stainless steel blank, which is machined down and wrapped in aerograde carbon-fibre. The carbon-fibre barrel sleeve is three to four times stronger than steel, making the rifle safe and reliable. These barrels are also more rigid, which enhances potential accuracy. The Classic II also comes with a removable titanium radial muzzle break.

Read the full article in the April 2018 issue of Magnum.

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