Rifle School and the Professor


Rifle school. I’m not talking about a rifle school where you learn to shoot; I’m talking about a school where you learn how a rifle works. I’m not sure a school like this actually exists but because I have a friend who could be the lead professor of that school, I’m unofficially enrolled.

You see, about once a month I come across something about a rifle I do not understand. This usually results in a call to telephone number (304) 292-0600. That’s the direct line to New Ultra Light Arms in Granville, WV and when you call that number Melvin Forbes answers. We talk about the kids, the weather, if the beans in the garden are ready to pull…and then we get to the rifle question.

When you call Melvin Forbes, be prepared to take notes.

This happened today, like it usually happens about every 30 or so, and about halfway through an explanation of pure logic – logic so simple no one seems to ever think of it – I stopped Melvin and said, “Do you know the difference between you and everyone else making rifles?” I then answered the question for him, “You operate on the principle of how the rifle is made, everyone else operates on the theoretical concept of what they believe works.”

To quote Sherlock Holmes – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, The world is full of obvious things which nobody by any chance ever observes.” 

Melvin builds rifles on a centerline he can control with the machinery he uses. Everyone else builds rifles and tries to incorporate procedures and features that have – been deemed through examples of one – to enhance performance. Melvin does not mess with foolishness like 11° target crowns or fluted barrels, because regardless of how much you might think these things help rifles shooter better and weight less, they cannot be accomplished with the perfection needed to meet the centerline requirements Melvin demands.

Melvin Forbes at his workbench.

This is of course one of the reasons his rifles have never been successfully copied, even with stolen technology. It is the reason serious rifle folk like me own multiple rifles built by Melvin. And, it’s the reason there is not a better example of a lightweight sporting rifle available for purchase. Building rifles is not just about building what is cool and en vogue, it is about the meshing of the tools used, to the steel being crafted, into a finished product.

Impala ram, 330 yards from seated position, NULA model 20 in 243 Winchester.

I don’t know if Melvin will let you enroll in his “rifle school” that really even does not exist. But I do know that if you call him and ask about ordering a rifle, and ask about why he does this and that, the way that he does, he will tell you. The education you can receive about rifles, just by ordering a rifle from Melvin Forbes, is worth the price you will pay to get the pinnacle of bolt-action rifle exceptionalism.

The professor with someone’s graduation certificate.

The conversations you’ll have with Melvin during the ordering and building process is the education, the invoice you receive is the tuition, and the rifle he builds you is the graduation certificate.