25 Years: Christensen Arms

PRESENTED BY Christensen Arms

WORDS BY Bill Roden

I come from humble beginnings, and there’s an old saying in my family: “We’re too poor to buy cheap.” This tenet was usually reserved for everyday workhorse essentials like vacuum cleaners and snow shovels. On a waning afternoon on the last day of a frigid late -season hunt in Colorado back in 2008, this credo lingered as we hunkered down behind a natural blind 200 yards away from an elusive pair of cow elk. My friend had recently purchased a 300 Win Mag just for this hunt from a company that shall remain nameless out of respect. This rifle was an entry-level, hammer fired platform that many owners hot rod with aftermarket parts. Following pseudoscience forum advice, my friend added a heavier hammer and hammer extender. With the wind working in our favor, we set up for his opportune shot locked on to a healthy cow, and my friend pulled the hammer back. Then we both heard an audible snap that seemed to reverberate across the canyons. In that rare moment, when the cosmos pulled everything together for us, my friend’s hammer and extender sheared clean off, rendering his rifle as useful as a makeshift club. In that moment, his eyes widened into dinner plates and broadcast the same stunned gaze of a bull rider bucked under 2,000 pounds of testosterone as he grasps the true gravity of the situation in slow motion. Two ungulate noses, each with over 300 million olfactory receptors and powered by a sixth sense, lifted into the air and disappeared into the aspen on high alert.

We laugh about it now around the campfire while one-up­ ping each other with yarns about epic hunts gone side­ways. All those weekends away from family spent scouting and marking maps. All those scorching-hot days and dollars spent get­ ting dialed in at the range in the high desert. The hours at the gym; the night my friend slept on the couch after his wife eye-balled pricey binos and a winter layering system on the credit card bill. All of the time, money, sacrifice and energy we exhausted prepar­ing for my friend’s first elk hunt ended with a minute sound that remains forever in my ears. In that instant, our family doctrine proved itself true yet again.

Meanwhile, one state over in Gunnison, Utah, the women and men of Christensen Arms were hard at work crafting rifles that reimagined every inch of a firearm from the ground up, so that you don’t have to. They concept, design and build hard-use ri­fles in-house that incorporate aerograde materials like carbon fiber and titanium under the critical eyes of former aerospace engineers. In the fall of 2020, Christensen Arms celebrated their 25th anni­versary – a significant milestone when you consider the intense competition and the fragmented and entrenched subcultures with­ in the firearms world, and an unforgiving audience quick to jetti­son high-end brands if they fall short even once. If you look past Christensen Arms’ legendary firearms and make your way through their brand and company, one word comes to mind: balance. Precision and balance are table-stakes when it comes to premium firearms, but ‘balance’ takes on deeper dimensions in the world of Christensen Arms. They craft true shooter’s rifles, but spend the necessary time working with new shooters to provide the purpose-built firearms they need, not just what they think they need. They apply the world’s most innovative materials, normally reserved for satellites and fighter jets, with old-world attention to detail and customer service. They employ and continue to train expert craftsmen in the industry, but reserve those cherished jobs for the very town they started in, never forgetting their humble beginnings in Roland Christensen’s garage. They put customers, employees and their families first and their stellar products a close second. Christensen Arm builds rifles with the biggest hearts.

Founders Roland and Jason Christensen are aerospace engi­neers with a long history of building prosthetic limbs and other meaningful products using the very same materials and techniques they put into every firearm. All of this is bound together by Julia Christensen, a supportive mom, wife, friend and family rock who never wavered from her family’s lofty mission to build the world’s most accurate, lightweight rifles in America. A family business to this day, what began in their garage quickly scaled to a meticulous operation that caters to professional shooters, hunters, celebri­ties and demanding owners alike. Originally pioneers of carbon fiber barrels, they ushered in an era of lightweight, high-perfor­mance rifles that opened up more terrain and greater distances for shooters and hunters. Each piece earns it keep; when you find it outperforms custom firearms right out of the box, modifications aren’t mandatory. Starting with 25 rifles a month, they’ve upgrad­ed to over 1,000 due to proven demand. Every build leaves the shop having passed through many proud, callused hands. Each employee I’ve spoken with exudes a sense of pride with an ex­plorer’s sense of wonder as they continue to challenge the sacred cows of the industry.

Christensen Arms doesn’t waiver from their core technology and company values. Jeff Bradley, a Christensen Arms team member, recently stated, “One of my favorite things to hear from a customer is that they have many rifles, but the majority are Christensen Arms. When your brand is lucky enough to be in a gun safe more than once, we feel that says something and we don’t take it for granted. Our production and assembly team handles each firearm, knowing that it has to be worthy of the “that’s-a-Christensen-Arms-rifle” reputation we have built. Our production and assembly teams never want to hear anything different, so every firearm piece is handled with the utmost care and pride.” There’s a characteristic feel-in-hand when you pick up a Christensen Arms rifle that proves out their ethos. The feeling of innovative design brought to life through advanced materials and machining is on par with the visceral feeling one gets when step­ ping into a luxury car for the first time. Their MPR rifle recently won 2020 Rifle of the Year. Yet every rifle they make has the right amount of familiarity that’s simple to dial-in for pros and novic­es alike. Christensen Arms is equally at home both in high-end gun safes and national retailers. This makes their rifles the per­fect companion for anyone embarking on a late-season elk hunt in Colorado.

Customers shop differently these days, putting greater pres­sure on firearm companies to adapt at the speed of the fickle con­sumer. Barrel whip, stiffness, and how much nickel is incorporat­ed into the steel are now on an equal consideration plane as to how well a company treats its people and overall customer service. Many manufacturers are buckling under the pressure to innovate while developing greater community management. Everything a company does talks. A few giants of the industry have fallen as a result, while people-first brands like Christensen are moving at breakneck speed to take their place.

After 25 years in an industry and culture that has seen a mon­umental amount of change in both culture and product advance­ments, Christensen Arms is just getting started. New innovations like their Modern Precision Rifle are indicators that listening to their consumers, not the industry, is setting the talented people of Gunnison, Utah on a course to become not only a great Amer­ican firearm brand, but one of America’s next great brands over­ all. Wherever they go, many are sure to follow – consumers and competitors alike.

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