2023 Editor’s Choice Award – Wilson Combat NULA Model 20

Wilson Combat NULA Model 20

Great things can happen when legendary gun makers join forces.

Mergers and acquisitions don’t always work out well in the firearms industry, but it’s difficult to imagine a more perfect union than New Ultralight Arms (NULA) and Wilson Combat. Melvin Forbes of NULA stunned the hunting world decades ago with custom rifles weighing less than five pounds. Bill Wilson of Wilson Combat has long made exceptional pistols and ARs. With its acquisition of NULA, Wilson Combat has added a great ultralight bolt action rifle to its lineup with the new NULA Model 20 rifle, which offers some improvements over the original and does so at a more affordable price.

NULA rifles are available in five different chamberings as of writing this, and with either a 22, 20, or 16.25-inch barrel. Our .308 Win test rifle wore the shortest of barrel options, helping it come in under the five-pound mark. The 416R stainless-steel barrel is Armor-Tuff coated and threaded at the muzzle; also shown is Wilson Combat’s own Quell Ultralight Titanium suppressor.

The rifle is initially available in five chamberings, including 243 Win. with 20- or 22-inch barrels; 6.5 Creedmoor with 20- or 22-inch barrels; 7mm08 Rem. with 20-inch barrel; 308 Win. with 16.25- or 20-inch barrels; and 358 Win. with 16.25- or 20-inch barrels.

The 4140-steel receiver and 4340-steel bolt are protected by a diamond-like carbon coating called Armorlube DLC. Springs are stainless-steel throughout. On the bottom side, you’ll find Timney’s Elite Hunter trigger — which broke at a clean and consistent at three pounds — and an aluminum hinged floorplate. The optic used for testing was Trijicon’s light and rugged 2-10x36mm Credo (www.trijicon.com).

Designed to handle the elements and go anywhere, the Model 20 has an EDM-cut 4140 steel receiver mated to a free-floated, button-rifled, double-stress-relieved stainless barrel that’s threaded 5/8×24. Weight varies from 4 lb. 15 oz. to 5 lb. 4 oz. depending on chambering and barrel length. The action and bolt are protected by a diamond-like carbon coating called Armorlube DLC, while the barrel is protected with Wilson Combat’s proprietary Armor-Tuff coating. Springs used in the rifle are stainless steel, and swivel studs and thread protectors are nitride coated.

The small-diameter machined bolt cycles smoothly, and the rifle’s Timney Elite Hunter trigger is an absolute joy. It broke crisply and consistently at a pull weight of 3 lbs. I especially liked the trigger’s wide surface, which contributes to a consistent trigger pull. The rocker-style safety locks the bolt down when engaged, preventing inadvertent opening of the action from snagging on brush.

Contributing in no small way to the rifle’s sub-five-pound dry weight is its all-carbon-fiber stock. The stock wears a one-inch Pachmayr Decelerator recoil pad and nitride-coated sling-swivel studs. Finish options are Kodiak Rogue (pictured), Canyon Rogue, or Charcoal Grey.

The rifle sports a lightweight carbon fiber stock with straight, classic lines and reinforced receiver walls. It has a one-inch Pachmayr Decelerator recoil pad. Stock color options include Kodiak Rogue camo for forest environments, Canyon Rogue camo for desert or mountain environments, and Charcoal Grey. Bottom metal is, happily, actually made of metal (hard anodized aluminum). The floorplate release latch is protected inside the trigger guard, which is big enough to accommodate a gloved finger.

The author put the NULA Model 20’s sub-MOA accuracy guarantee to the test with four common 308 Win hunting loads versus match ammo. Three of the four loads easily met that standard, and the fourth missed it by less than a quarter inch. The small-diameter bolt cycles exceedingly smoothly, and there were zero issues with feeding, firing, extraction, or ejection.

Despite its light weight, the rifle balances nicely between the hands with a scope installed, and it’s quick to the shoulder. The 308 Win-chambered rifle sent to me for testing, with a 16.25-inch barrel, ran like a champ. There were no issues with feeding, firing, extraction, or ejection. On average, the velocities of four tested factory loads were 200 fps slower than factory-stated numbers, but that was expected with the short-barrel version of the gun.

The rifle comes with a sub-MOA accuracy guarantee. That’s a bold move, considering that many shooters have a hard time shooting tiny groups at the range with an ultralight rifle. I put the accuracy guarantee to the test with four common hunting loads (versus match loads), and the rifle passed with flying colors. Three of four tested loads produced sub-MOA 100-yard groups, and the fourth missed the mark by less than a quarter inch. Best average groups, of 0.72 inches, were with Hornady’s 178-grain Precision Hunter load, while the best single group, measuring 0.46 inches, was turned in with Winchester’s 150-grain Deer Season XP load.

The NULA Model 20 produced outstanding accuracy — especially for an ultralight rifle. Hornady’s 178-gr. Precision Hunter load turned in 0.72-inch average groups and a best group of 0.56 inches.

When you find a rifle this light that shoots this well, grab it and run. It’s worth the MSRP of $3,295 and very deserving of an On Target Editors’ Choice Award. For more information contact Wilson Combat; Tel.: 800-955-4856; Web: https://wilsoncombat.comMike Dickerson


Caliber:                      .308 Win.

Action Type:                Bolt

Barrel:                        16.25-inch Stainless Steel

Rate of twist:              1:10” or 1-11.25”

Finish:                        DLC and Armor-Tuff

Stock:                         Carbon Fiber

Capacity:                    4+1

Sights:                        None

Weight:                      4lbs, 15oz.

MSRP:                       $3,295