The long-awaited Montana Rifle Company’s Model 1999 Professional Hunter is finally here, and it was definitely worth the wait. This is a rifle that’s based on what you’d swear was a Winchester Model 70 on steroids, but with a flat top receiver ring and bridge, just like the old #20 Magnum Mauser action. And you wouldn’t be far off in that assessment.
For those unfamiliar with MRC, the company was founded by Keith Sipe back in 1999, just after he
completed designing his own actions, both of which were put into production shortly thereafter. Prior to that, Keith’s company was known as the Montana Rifleman, and had established a reputation for producing excellent button-rifled
barrels, and for general gunsmithing expertise.
Keith’s original Model 1999s are virtually clones of the Winchester Model 70 Classic short and long actions in that they have the same external receiver dimensions and geometry, the same magazine lengths, the identical trigger and 3-position safety, and almost identical bolts. That said, there are several minor yet important differences that in my opinion make the Model 1999 an improvement
over the Model 70.
For one, the MRC actions feature the Mauser-type inner collar within the receiver ring against which a flat breech face abuts. This collar, which is slotted for the nose of the extractor, adds to the strength of the receiver ring, and eliminates the coned breech and extractor cut found on the breech face of Model 70 barrels. And while the Model 70 employs a groove at the lower edge of the right locking lug riding a rail in the lug raceway to provide added bolt support, the ‘99’s left locking lug is dovetailed in cross section. In other words, the base of the lug is narrower than at the outer edge. This dovetail arrangement provides enough bolt stability so that even when it’s fully withdrawn, there’s almost no lateral play in the bolt.
Other departures from the Model 70 are found in the bolt stop/release and in the bolt shroud. The ‘99 has an integral boss in the left wall of the receiver bridge in which a beefy chunk of steel acts as the bolt stop. When its serrated rear half is depressed, it pivots out of the raceway, allowing bolt removal. As for the bolt shroud, there’s a flange on its left side that extends far enough to completely cover the left lug raceway to deflect any particle-bearing gases flowing rearward in the event of a blown primer or case head separation.
Further addressing gas containment, the receiver ring on the MRC action is vented with holes on both sides, and the bolt body is vented with two huge 1” x 1/8” holes. In contrast, the Model 70’s bolt is vented by just two 1/8” holes, and the receiver ring by but one hole on the right side.
Now that we’ve dispensed with the differences that distinguish
the Model 1999 from the Model 70, let’s check out this newest member of the MRC family. The example sent us for T&E was chambered in .505 Gibbs, a humongous cartridge originally introduced a mere 101 years ago in 1911! It was for this cartridge and the .416 Rigby, which was also introduced that same year, that Waffenfabrik Mauser designed its #20 commercial action, primarily at the behest of British gun makers.
The two characteristics that immediately set this PH version visually apart from the short and long Model 1999s other than its sheer size is that it has a modified double square bridge similar to that of the original Magnum Mauser, and an extended or “dropped box” magazine. When I say “modified” in reference to the double square bridge, Mauser actions were not dovetailed or tapped for any type of scope ring bases; the ring and bridge were
simply flat on top. With this action, however, the flats are dovetailed to accept dedicated Talley scope rings. These dovetails are not tapered like the Sako’s, nor are they grooved in any way for engagement by recoil studs on the scope rings like the Ruger system, both of which are designed to preclude slippage of the rings from recoil forces. Rather, the dovetails on this action end about ¼” short of their respective front surfaces so that the ring clamps butt up against the end of the dovetail and cannot slide forward. Because of the recoil forces involved with the kind of cartridges this action was designed for, these dovetails are considerably deeper than those of the Sako or Ruger.
Without a dropped box, rifles chambered for corpulent cartridges like the .416 Rigby, .450 Dakota, .505 Gibbs and the big, belted Weatherbys would hold only two backup rounds in the magazine. That’s only a one-round advantage over a double rifle. This rifle stores 3, so with one up the spout you’ve got 4 rounds at your disposal.
All other aspects and design features describing the short and long Model 1999 actions apply to the PH; it’s just that everything’s bigger! Consider: with a head diameter of .640” and an overall length of 3.850”, you can imagine how much larger everything’s got to be — the receiver, bolt, bottom metal unit, magazine and barrel — to digest a cartridge like the .505 Gibbs. Just a side-by-side comparison of the PH bolt next to the standard 1999’s is sufficient to illustrate the difference. In addition to the PH action being offered with a .648” bolt face for the .505, it can also be had with .534 and .604” bolt faces to accommodate the H&H and the big Weatherby belted cases, respectively.
As it came from the box, the test gun weighed just over 10 pounds with a 22” barrel that measured .825” at the muzzle. As far as I’m concerned, 22” is as long as I want a barrel on a DGR. A good set of sturdy iron sights is standard, as it should be on a gun of this type. The front consists of a brass bead that’s dovetailed to the ramp; the rear, which is fully adjustable, looks like a copy of the Remington 700’s.
The test gun, however, came with a Leupold VX-7 30mm 1.5-6×24 scope in Talley QD lever rings. Ready for business the gun weighed just over 11-1/2 lbs.
The walnut stock is of a rather plain grain, nicely machine-checkered, and comes with a Pachmayr Decelerator recoil pad. The receiver and the first 1” or so of the barrel shoulder are glass bedded, and there are two reinforcing cross bolts, one behind the recoil lug area, the other through the web between the magazine and trigger mortises. Overall, the quality of the stock — the shape, the inletting and finishing — were first class, as was the machining and finish of all metal work.
I wasn’t really anxious to do a lot of shooting with the .505, but I of course had to do some, so I contacted Ron Petty at Norma-USA. This prestigious ammo manufacturer based in Amatfors, Sweden, is one of the few sources of .505 ammo (others being Kynoch and Corbon). Anyway, Ron was kind enough to send us one box each of the two loads offered in their African PH line: a 600-grain Protected Point, and a 600-grain FMJ. Packed 10 rounds to a box and priced at $237 per box, I considered myself lucky to get 20 rounds. Besides, that was about as many rounds as I wanted to shoot! Though I found the recoil to be not as severe or as sharp as, say, the .460 Weatherby, any load that generates 5,877 ft. lbs. of energy and 82.5 ft. lbs. of recoil as these Norma loads do, is not my idea of recreational shooting! That’s roughly four times the recoil of an 8-1/2-pound .30-06.
With a gun like this, talking about accuracy off the bench is a little silly, so suffice to say this gun will punch 1” groups at 50 yards all day if you can hold it that well. Though running 20 rounds through a gun is hardly sufficient to establish reliability, the test gun handled those 20 rounds with aplomb.
I have been a fan of the Montana Model 1999 action ever since I
first saw it over a decade ago, and this newest addition is simply a larger version. About the only thing I’d change on this gun would be to replace the stock-mounted front swivel stud with a barrel-mounted one. As far as I’m concerned, that’s quite a testimonial.
What makes this rifle even more appealing is its extremely reasonable MSRP of $2,299. Moreover, you can purchase the action only for $1,100 in blue chrome-moly, $1,200 for stainless, and complete barreled actions for $1,570. As a complete rifle or as barreled actions, the Professional Hunter is also available in .338 Lapua, .378 or .460 Weatherby, or .416 Rigby. Also, left-hand models will soon be available. To check out MRC’s extensive line of production rifles of all types, visit their website at www.montanarifleco.com.– Jon R. Sundra