Is there an SCI member who’s not familiar with the Montana Rifle Co.? These are the folks who in 1999 came out with a hybrid action that combined the best features of the `98 Mauser and the Winchester Model 70, but also incorporated unique design features of their own, which improved on both of those iconic designs. Prior to that, MRC was making high-grade button-rifled barrels, so once they had their own actions, it was only logical that they sought out a source for stocks and thereby became the full-fledged firearms manufacturer they are today.
On cursory examination of a Winchester Model 70 and an MRC Model 1999 side by side, about the only readily observed difference is in the bolt stop/release. On the Model 70 it’s a simple lever made of sheet stock that pivots vertically in a slot on the left underside of the receiver bridge. A small extension of this lever juts up just behind the left bridge wall, and when pushed forward, pivots the lever downwards out of the left lug raceway. On the Montana action the bolt stop is more Mauser-like in that it’s housed on the side of the receiver bridge. It’s more obtrusive, but classier.
The differences not readily seen, even with both barreled actions naked, are nonetheless quite substantive. On close inspection we find that the locking lugs are slightly pie-shape in cross-section, i.e., dovetailed. We first saw this on the Swedish FFV/Carl Gustaf rifle that was imported here in the 1970s. By dovetailing the lock lugs and machining the raceways to match, it provides more lateral stability to the bolt, smoother operation, and less tendency to bind.
Other improvements as I see them consist of the bolt body being vented by two large 1”x1/4” vent holes whereas the Model 70 has only two 1/8” holes. Then there’s the flange on the bolt shroud that seals off the left lug raceway against particle-bearing gases in the event of a pierced primer or case head separation. The Model 70 does not. More safety venting is found on the receiver ring: on the MRC there are holes on both sides, whereas the Winchester is vented only on the right side.
And lastly, the Montana action retains the inner, annular ring of steel within the receiver ring against which the barrel breech abuts, just like on the original Mauser, and is interrupted only by the extractor cut. On the Model 70 there is no inner collar, and the cut required to accommodate the nose of the outrigger extractor is made in the barrel itself.
Since the founding of the Montana Rifle Co. in 1999, there have been a couple of owner/management changes, the most recent being the acquisition of the company by my old friend, Ron Petty. Ron’s been in the industry as long as I, and prior to his buying MRC, was the marketing/sales manager for Norma here in the States and singularly responsible for their resurgence here. With Ron at the helm I know there will always be exciting things happening at MRC to expand what was already a comprehensive line of excellent bolt action rifles.
New this year is the Model 1999 “Professional Hunter” that features a double square bridge magnum action. When I say “magnum action” consider: this baby will accommodate cartridges up to four inches in length! Other than the double square bridge, which is both dovetailed and drilled and tapped, it’s just the big brother to the short, standard and long Model 1999s. Standard accoutrements on this model are a sturdy set of machined steel iron sights, a dropped box 4-rd. magazine, barrel band front swivel base, and a Decelerator recoil pad.
The example Ron sent me was one of the first to come out of the shop and it was a show gun chambered in .416 Rigby. The stock is XX-Grade American walnut with two reinforcing cross bolts and is glass bedded the length of the receiver and the chamber portion of the barrel. There’s a modest amount of 22 LPI checkering in a classic point pattern.
All in all a beautifully-made, well thought-out dangerous game rifle. If it were mine, the only change I’d want made is to reduce the 24” barrel to 22”. Other than that, it’s perfect. And with an MSRP of $2,899, it’s one helluva lot of gun for the money. And if you could live with just the long version of the standard Model 1999, you can have the “African” model which starts at $1,849 and is available in .375 H&H, .404 Jeffery, .416 Rem. Mag, .458 Win. Mag and .458 Lott. The Professional Hunter is offered in .378 and .460 Weatherby, .416 Rigby and .505 Gibbs.--Jon R. Sundra