A model of simplicity, the Noreen ULR Rifle consists of just a few basic components: a premium steel barrel, machined receiver and bolt, Timney trigger, muzzle brake, shoulder stock and bipod, combined for one purpose — ultra-long range accuracy.
The Noreen ULR is a perfect example of form fol-lowing function. The func-tion is to deliver a bullet accurately to a distant target, and with one minor exception everything on the rifle is there to perform that job. In fact the ULR (Ultra Long Range) is the second-simplest rifle I’ve fired in over half a century of shooting, next to the J.S. Higgins .22 rimfire single-shot my father gave me on my 12th birthday.
The ULR is a bolt-action rifle stripped to its essentials. The action is a massive steel bolt inside a steel tube with no magazine or safety, just a trigger. Load a round into the chamber and the rifle is ready to go bang. There isn’t a bolt stop, extractor or ejector. To load the rifle, the bolt is opened and pulled back until it slides out of the action-tube. The rim of the cartridge is then inserted into a slot milled into the bolt face, resembling the shell-holder in a reloading press. The “assembled” cartridge-and-bolt is then slid into the action-tube and the rifle is ready to fire.
The barrel is massive and over 32 inches long, not counting the big muzzle brake. A 0.88 of an inch diameter steel bar is underneath the barrel, providing a “forend” for mounting the sturdy built-on bipod. The buttstock is a recoil pad mounted on a pair of 0.38 of an inch steel rods — the lone concession to any other function than shooting — the pad’s rods slide inside a pair of holes alongside the action, so that the buttstock assembly can be collapsed. When the pad is extended (and fixed in place by a pair of cotter clips) the entire rifle is close to 5 feet long.
The rifle is available in four cham-berings: .338 Lapua, .408 CheyTac, .416 Barrett and .50 BMG. I tested a rifle in .338 Lapua, mostly because even though I was familiar with several other .338 rounds I’d never had a chance to fool with one. I was also very interested in the ULR’s potential as a long-range hunting rifle, and the .338 Lapua is becoming more popular for that purpose.
Though there’s a lot of great long-range factory ammunition on the market today, handloading allows a load to be devel-oped for a specific rifle, and with a supply of powder and bullets on hand, more shooting can be done. (More shooting, to many of us, is always a good thing.) A set of dies was ordered from Redding Re-loading Equipment, a company known for its top-quality loading tools. Some Norma brand .338 Lapua cases were also obtained from Black Hills Shooters Supply, the U.S. distributor for the outstanding Norma line of brass, bullets, powder and ammunition.
The top of the action, of course, has a Picatinny rail attached. The Noreen team of father Pete and son Phil had mounted a Nightforce NXS 5.5-22x scope on the test rifle, which saved me the task of mounting my own. Phil even sighted-in the rifle at 100 yards, the distance of the first range session. Several different powders were tried with the 300-grain Sierra MatchKing, a super-accurate long-range bullet with a ballistic coefficient of over .700.