Lithgow Arms LA102 Hunter rifle review

Review: Lithgow LA102 Hunter centrefire rifle


After a few quiet years, Australian gun maker Lithgow Arms has come alive, launching three new LA102 centrefire models: the Outback with a Southern Cross chassis, the Varmint with heavy barrel and laminate stock, and this one, the lightened Hunter with thin, fluted barrel.  

This lighter rifle is built for stalking hunters who had demanded a handier longarm to carry around in the bush, and at 3.3kg bare it is noticeably lighter than the LA102 Crossover from which it came. 

Lithgow Arms LA102 Hunter rifle review
The Lithgow Hunter is a very nice rifle to shoot offhand

Most of the nearly 500g shaved from the Crossover have come out of the barrel. 

Unlike the Crossover’s barrel, the Hunter’s tapers quickly to just 17mm in diameter all the way to the muzzle. It has also been shortened 5cm to 51cm (20”) and is fluted along most its narrowed length.

Not only does this make the Hunter lighter, it brings the centre of mass back, resulting in appreciably faster handling and quicker pointing. 

The receiver is the same as all LA102s but it contains a fluted bolt, something only previously fitted to special-edition LA102s. 

Lithgow Arms LA102 Hunter rifle review
Its shorter fluted barrel, fluted bolt and minimal scope mounts make the Hunter a noticeably lighter rifle than the LA102 Crossover

A little more weight came out of the scope bases that come with the rifle: the Crossover has a single rail on top but the Hunter has a two-piece setup.    

You can get the Hunter in .223, .243, 6.5 Creedmoor and .308, and a .204 version is due soon. 

Rounds feed very smoothly from the three-shot Tikka-style magazine (four in .223).

The bolt’s movement is very smooth, and lift is a nice, short 60 degrees. 

Lithgow Arms LA102 Hunter rifle review
The strong polymer magazines hold three rounds, except for the .223’s four-shot capacity

The bolt body is a full 22mm in diameter and the head has three locking lugs that engage with a bushing sandwiched between the receiver and the screw-in barrel. 

The face of one lug houses the tiny extractor claw, which is held in place by a spring-loaded ball bearing inside the lug. A plunger ejector sits inside the counterbored face. 

The bolt’s handle is polymer and swept back very slightly. The knob is also polymer, and it is large, spherical and knurled to aid a firm grasp. 

The Lithgow’s single-stage trigger is adjustable for weight, over-travel and sear engagement. I adjusted it to 1.3kg and gave the sear a small tweak until let-off was very nice.

Lithgow Arms LA102 Hunter rifle review
The LA102 receiver is a solid design. The trigger is adjustable for weight, sear engagement and over-travel

The LA102’s safety is a wing-type on the back of the bolt which blocks the firing pin. Its three-position design is particularly sensible. From the firing position, swing it back one notch and both the firing pin and bolt are locked; one little push forward and you’re ready to fire. If you swing it back two steps, the firing pin remains locked but the bolt is unlocked so you can safely empty the chamber of loaded rounds. It’s the way all three-position safeties should work.  

The metalwork is Cerakoted in dark grey, making it attractive and, more importantly, impervious to weather and heavily knock-resistant. 

With the polymer stock — walnut isn’t an option, at least for now — the Hunter is a rugged, all-weather rifle that will stand up to plenty of punishment in the field.  

The Hunter’s stock is straight from the LA102 Crossover without changes. It is part sporter, part benchrest in its profile. 

Lithgow Arms LA102 Hunter rifle review
Being shorter and lighter, the Hunter is the most portable centrefire rifle Lithgow Arms has yet made

It is comfortable and suits shooting from field positions as well as from various kinds of rests. It has an extra swivel stud for attaching a bipod, too. 

With both butt spacers fitted as you see here, the length of pull is 355mm, which you can reduce by 10mm or 20mm by removing spacers. The stock is designed for ambidextrous use. 

Because it’s the same stock as on the Crossover, the barrel channel is wider than the Hunter’s barrel requires. There’s no doubting the barrel floats clear of the stock but it’s not the prettiest outcome. 

Lithgow didn’t sign a new stock to fit around the barrel because of the very high cost of tooling up for it. 

Lithgow Arms LA102 Hunter rifle review
Bolt disassembly is quick and easy without tools

Aesthetics aside, this is a good, solid stock and the action is mounted into it on a couple of aluminium bedding pillars which impart even more stability. 

A recoil lug slotted into the stock engages a notch in the base of the receiver. 

Between this, the trigger’s crisp release, the rigidity of the action and the quality of the hammer-forged barrel, the Hunter is a very accurate rifle that produced far better groups than you’d expect of a rifle designed for dropping animals in the field. 

Lithgow warrants the Hunter to shoot sub-MOA three-shot groups with quality ammo. I had no premium ammo to try but the four typical hunting loads I sourced for the test averaged an outstanding 0.85 MOA between them and there was the odd clover-leaf group in the mix.

Lithgow Arms LA102 Hunter rifle review
Lithgow accuracy: That group was shot at 100m. Afterwards, a few clicks to adjust right and down landed the fourth shot bang in the bull

When I did try some five-shot strings, the fourth and fifth shots had no more chance than the first three of being the ones that defined the group size, so the hammer-forged barrel appears to handle the extra heat well. 

Certainly the light barrel does nothing to hinder the accuracy inherent in the LA102 design. 

This rifle shoots far better than a hunting rifle needs to and better than most of us can shoot in the field, by a long way.

The Hunter feels good to shoot, too. The way it comes to the shoulder and sits there securely, the centralised mass as you find your target and take aim, and the finely-adjustable trigger come together for an excellent hunting firearm. 

Lithgow Arms LA102 Hunter rifle review
Reaping the rewards of hunting with a fairly light, very accurate rifle

The Hunter is a straightforward, top-quality and supremely accurate rifle. 

Throughout the test it didn’t falter at all, proving itself utterly dependable in every respect. 

Lithgow has done a very good job of making a lighter rifle from its LA102 platform and any hunter would be extremely happy with the way it performs. 

SPECIFICATIONS

  • Manufacturer: Lithgow Arms, NSW, Australia
  • Action: Turn-bolt
  • Calibres: .204 (in the future), .223, .243, 6.5 CM (tested), .308
  • Barrel: 51cm (20”), fluted, light sporter profile, 1:8” twist, threaded muzzle
  • Finish: Grey Cerakote
  • Magazine: 3-round detachable box
  • Safety: 3 position
  • Trigger: Single-stage, adjustable
  • Stock: Polymer
  • Length of pull: Adjustable 335mm, 345mm, 355mm with spacers
  • Sights: None; scope-mount base provided
  • Price: Around $2200
  • Distributor: Spika 
Lithgow Arms LA102 Hunter rifle review
The safety lever is in the central position, which locks everything including the bolt. Note smaller scope mount as well as the receiver-mounted bolt release button

 

 

 


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Mick Matheson

Mick grew up with guns and journalism, and has included both in his career. A life-long hunter, he has long-distant military experience and holds licence categories A, B and H. In the glory days of print media, he edited six national magazines in total, and has written about, photographed and filmed firearms and hunting for more than 15 years.

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