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nosler model 21 review
(Photo: Brian McCombie)

The Nosler Model 21 is a truly fine and functional hunting rifle. Hook & Barrel’s Firearm Editor, Brian McCombie, tested the rifle chambered in 6.5 Creedmoor.

This impressive rifle series from Nosler performs with aplomb. The Nosler Model 21 debuted in 2021, and we took an in-depth look at it — from the impressive trigger to sharply accurate groups at the range. 

Read on for our take on this excellent lightweight rifle. 

Nosler Model 21 6.5 Creedmoor Review

Specs: Nosler Model 21

nosler model 21
  • Action: Short Action, Bolt
  • Chambering: 6.5 Creedmoor (As Tested)
  • Receiver: Stainless Steel, Nitride Finish
  • Stock: McMillan Hunters Edge Sporter, Carbon Fiber w/Internal Aluminum Pillars, 1” Recoil Pad
  • Barrel Type: Shilen Match-Grade Stainless Steel,1:8 Twist, Nitride Finish, Threaded
  • Barrel Length: 24” 
  • Magazine: Internal, 4 Rounds 
  • Trigger: TriggerTech Field Model, User Adjustable 2.5 to 5.5 lbs., 1.5 lbs. Pull As Tested
  • Sights: None. Scope Mounts On Receiver.
  • Weight: 6.8 lbs. (As Tested)
  • Length: 41.6”
  • MSRP: $2,895.00

Nosler 21: True Match-grade Barrel

For the last six decades, Shilen Rifles maintains its status as a major player in the manufacture of competition-grade rifle barrels, and the Nosler 21 holds a Shilen match-grade stainless steel barrel.

The Shilen on my test rifle was 22 inches long, with a precision recessed crown and a threaded muzzle. The rifle chambered in .308 Win and .375 H&H Mag. also sports a 22-inch barrel, while the other calibers (see list below) hold 24-inch Shilens. 


Nosler 21: Trigger and Bolt of Note

nosler model 21 bolt action rifle
Nitride coated and made of 4340 chrome moly steel, the Model 21’s fluted bolt action worked flawlessly..

The Model 21 features a TriggerTech Field model trigger that is externally user adjustable from 2.5 to 5.5 pounds. TriggerTech triggers utilize the company’s Frictionless Release Technology. That, according to TriggerTech, is “comprised of a patented, free-floating roller that is captured between the sear and the trigger.”

Instead of the traditional bolt-action trigger where the sear and the trigger slide against each other, the TriggerTech free-floating roller separates the two components for a very smooth release.

The trigger on my Nosler 21 averaged 1.5 pounds of pull. The trigger had no uptake. I squeezed the trigger, the sear released nearly effortlessly, and away went my shot.     

The bolt operates smoothly. The rifle’s one-piece bolt body was machined from a hardened 4340 Chrome Molybdenum steel billet. The fluted bolt decreases the contact of bolt to receiver for a smooth open and close. The unit is nitride-coated, which promises to extend its life. 

The threaded bolt handle allows a shooter to change out the handle to a preferred style. 

Nosler 21: Stock and Look

The Model 21 boasts a rugged, lightweight stock. Specifically, a McMillan carbon fiber Hunters Edge Sporter, constructed of 100% carbon fiber. For additional strength, aluminum pillars are positioned inside the stock bed. A one-inch recoil pad is set at a standard 13.5” length of pull.

I really liked the “paint-splatter” pattern of the McMillian stock. More importantly, the stock boasts an all-weather epoxy style paint to shrug off the elements. 

Testing the Nosler Model 21: Extreme Accuracy

It’s very accurate. I used three brands of 6.5 Creedmoor hunting ammunition in my test Nosler Model 21, and all three printed groups of one inch and better. Much better.

I shot at 100 yards from a sandbagged table. My very best three-shot group was with Federal Premium’s Non-Typical Whitetail at .40-inches. I used a 140-grain soft-point bullet.

Second place was taken by Nosler Trophy Grade launching a 142-grain AccuBond Long Range bullet: .60-inches.

And Sig Sauer’s Elite Hunter and its 130-grain Controlled Expansion bullet pegged two groups at .80 inches. 

The rifle and ammunition had optical help thanks to the exceptional Leupold VX-6HD 3-18×50 scope I mounted only the Nosler 21. With its edge-to-edge clarity, very precise .25 MOA elevation and windage controls, and handy side parallax adjustment, the VX-6HD kept me dialed in during three shooting sessions.

Nosler Model 21: Things to Consider

nosler model 21
Federal Premium’s Non-Typical Whitetail and the rifle made this .40” group at 100 yards. (Photo/Brian McCombie)

The rifle’s lightweight, slim contour barrel heats up fast. When I fired five rounds in a row, the heat was on and round #5 definitely had a tendency to go wider. Round #4 could do this, too. Not usually an issue for most hunting scenarios, though, where a shot or two is the norm–at which point, the animal is either down or has split for the thick brush.

But the heat factor is something to keep in mind when practicing with the Model 21.  

Price is an issue most of us need to consider, and the Nosler Model 21 requires a thick wallet. The suggested retail is $2,895. A quick web search found the Nosler for sale at $300 to $400 under the suggested retail, but let’s face it, that’s still custom rifle money. 

Given its features, I do consider Model 21 a custom rifle. And custom isn’t cheap.

Options for the Model 21

Nosler also offers the Model 21 in 6.5 Creedmoor, 26 Nosler, 27 Nosler, 280 Ackley Improved, 28 Nosler, 308 Win., 300 Win. Mag., 30 Nosler, 33 Nosler and, for the large and extremely dangerous game, the 375 H&H Mag. 

Final Thoughts: Nosler Model 21

The Nosler Model 21 is out-of-the-box ready for hard hunting. Additionally, it offers great accuracy and custom features including the trigger and stock. As hunting rifles go, it’s expensive, but it also performs very, very well.  

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