- By Pete Moore
- 0 Comments
- Last updated: 06/10/2023
When we think of top-end European rifles, a name you might not recognize is Schultz & Larsen (S&L) of Denmark, a well-respected brand in the Scandinavian countries, but not in the UK. That is until 2016 when Alan Rhone Ltd started importing them. Not long after, I tested their wood-stocked Victory model and was seriously impressed. Plus, it was a switch barrel/calibre design at very good money, with some practical features, too.
On test is their Classic Synthetic (Traveller) version, with its green, fibreglass-reinforced sporter stock. You could argue all turn-bolt rifles are the same and, in some ways, you would be correct. However, initial handling left me with a feeling of real quality and shootability. Sometimes, you just know when something is right!
The rifle is pleasingly plain, and the attractive sporter-type stock is well proportioned, showing a 14” length of pull, with a rubber recoil pad and raised comb. The pistol grip is nicely angled and proportioned, with slight thumb channels on either side for a comfortable hold. The forend free-floats the barrel and shows fingerboards on its top edges. Cast-in chequering provides a firm, non-aggressive hold. The action void shows plain, integral pillars, but with no aluminium inserts. Finishing off, there are quick detachable (QD) sling studs front and rear, but in this case, importers Alan Rhone Ltd supplied the S&L-badged, (Javelin Pro-Hunt) bipod in a magnetic socket, along with a Superdome reflex moderator.
The all-steel action shows a 3-position rolling safety on the rear right, so forward for FIRE, middle for SAFE with bolt operation, and rear for SAFE with bolt lock. The top of the receiver is machined for S&L’s dedicated, Nitrate-hardened, steel (slide & Lock) mounts, which offer a simple, yet effective QD solution. A T15 Torx key is included. They can also be positioned 0.5” forward or back to account for light and heavy clothing, which could affect the LOP and therefore eye relief. Well-priced, when compared to other QD systems, and if you don’t want them, the action is drilled and tapped for commercial bases.
The trigger was sublime and is fully and easily adjustable. Mine came from the box at a light and crisp 2 lbs. Match-like in feel, it nonetheless does not feel light, but assured in operation. The steel bottom metal/trigger guard supports a single-column, 3-round magazine. A 5-rounder is also available. Release is by a push button at the front of the well, and it’s ejected by a sprung plunger.
The bolt is a big bar of steel that shows three locking lugs and the usual sprung plunger ejector and claw extractor. The long, straight handle is dovetailed in and angled back slightly. It is easy to manipulate with its low lift angle. At the rear is a round shroud with a cocked action pin that can be seen and felt. Chambered in 6.5x55 SE, the rifle shows a long action receiver, with cartridge overall length (COL) being taken up by a rear filler block in the magazine in the case of shorter calibres like .308 Win etc.
Now we come to the heart of the gun, the 22” barrel (on test), which is threaded 14x1mm, with a protector. S&L uses a cut rifling process, as opposed to the more prolific, cold hammer-forged technique, which is doubtless better for mass production. The end result is tin-lapped and does produce a more consistent tube, that tends to better resist the negative effects of torsional stresses and rapid heating. This means less thermal migration and more consistent groups etc.
All S&L rifles are switch barrels, although they don’t really look like it. The retention system is the same, but there are two options. Standard means the stock must come off in order to access the clamping bolts, and the Classic shows what they call the ‘Traveller’ system, which can be identified by two holes in the stock. These allow access, without having to take the furniture off.
S&L’s system is similar to the Sauer 202/404 concept, with the front of the receiver split at 6 o’clock with two transverse locking bolts on the right side. The barrel’s chase slides in and locates by notch and pin, and then the bolt is closed to set the head space. As you insert it, put the serial number at 12 o’clock, so it’s pre-positioned.
The fit is snug, so you will feel a bit of resistance as it comes in and out, and S&L say you should also slacken off the front action screw. They don’t say anything about torquing them down, just nip all three tight then apply a final 1/4-turn to lock, which I discovered is all that’s required. A T-key is provided.
The Classic puts me in mind of my beloved M03, in terms of fit, feel, and handling, so I was off to a good start. The action is smooth and slick, and the feed from the magazine is 100%. The ejection port is large, and you can simply drop a round in and close the bolt if required. However, you cannot top up the mag in situ, due to its single-column design. The stock is comfortable, with the medium raised comb giving good head support and eye/scope alignment.
As I said, the single-stage trigger was sublime. When you’re ready to release the shot, there are no surprises, just a smooth and predictable break every time. The Slide & Lock rings are clever, and all you do is decide which position you want them in, align the lugs in the claw base in the slot, then push forward to butt them up before tightening the cross bolts with the T15 Torx key provided. As before, take up the slack and give an extra 1/4-turn. S&L provides a series of instructional videos on their Great Dane Rifles website, as to this process, trigger adjustment, and barrel fitting.
I was expecting good things from the Classic and used three loads. These were Lapua Naturalis (140-grain, non-lead), Sellier & Bellot TXRG Blue (120-grain, non-lead), and a lead-cored reload using a Sierra 140-grain Game King over 47-grains of Hodgdon H4831, with a COL of 3.025”. Not fast, but accurate, and like any 6.5mm cartridge, it’s highly effective.
Lapua quotes 2625 fps and I achieved 2685 fps, a 0.6” group, and the SD was 14.1 fps. S&B says 2829 fps, actual was 2767 fps with an SD of 10.1 fps. The group was 1.02”. My M03 shoots the reload at 2558 fps and .07”, while the Classic produced 2623 fps, with a 0.7” group. It’s plain to see that the cut-rifled barrel does have a beneficial effect on performance. Across all three loads, there was also a lot less group dispersion as the rifle got hot, too.
Being a switch barrel, one of the major concerns is returning to zero after a scope or barrel change. The objective bell diameter and the height of the mounts might necessitate scope removal too, to allow the barrel to come out, as it did in this case.
I tried two scenarios here, both at 100m, using a 140-grain Hornady A-MAX reload that shot a 0.9” group: 1 - scope off/on, and the second 3-round group pretty much fell onto the first one, with negligible dispersion. 2 - scope off, barrel off, with near the same results. Very comforting and confidence-inspiring. However, no matter what take-down system you are using, if the rifle has to be reassembled before hunting, I will always advise a check zero first! If you can’t, then the above results will be a big confidence boost.
Overall, I am very impressed, as this is a great rifle. It’s accurate, shootable, and is a very cost-effective package in its class. The price point is £1860, which makes it the cheapest switch barrel system out there that’s level pegging with other top makes in terms of ability. Another £175 will get you the Slide & Lock rings, so, all in for under £2000. By comparison, Sauer’s 404 Classic XT Synthetic is £4030, plus a QD scope base at £340. A great design, no doubt, but at twice the money.
Calibre options include the usual numbers, a good number of Europeans, and an eclectic choice of magnums. The solid bolt means a full replacement if you step outside the case head size. For most needs, stick with 308 size, as that will cover .243, .270, .30-06, 6.5 x 55, 6.5 Creedmoor, 8x57 etc. Depending on the calibre, barrels come in three lengths - 56, 60, and 65cm, in a number of weights. If Slide & Lock mounts aren’t your thing, Alan Rhone can supply Picatinny bases and Ziegler’s claw mount system, too.
I think the highest accolade I can give the Classic is this - if when I bought my M03 I had the S&L to compare it to, I would have gone with the latter and not just for reasons of cost! If I were to buy one now, then it would be this model in 7x57mm Mauser with the 60cm barrel.