Blaser R8 Professional Success
Pete Moore sticks his thumb in the latest incarnation of the Blaser R8 straight-pull rifle and is most impressed
Though admiring the Blaser R93’s straight-pull action, switch barrel rifle I have always been put off by its fixed, top-loading only magazine system! I think what people really wanted was a detachable box magazine, which they finally offered with the R8. Looking near identical to the original and not sacrificing the positive areas they took the unprecedented step of incorporating the magazine into the lower trigger mech housing (TMH).
Me; I have never owned a Blaser, but if I did it would definitely be the latest R8 version the Professional Success! I have tested the R8 and the synthetic-stocked Professional is the best choice for the serious hunter. Working guns get wet and sometimes even dinged and that’s the way it is!
So this year at the IWA Blaser took the R8 Professional a stage further with the new, thumbhole (TH) stocked Professional Success. Though not mechanically different, as we shall see the major change is a total re-think on the butt with a full, TH layout. The ideas is to offer a comfortable, natural and superior shooting position, which is very much the case!
I like TH stocks and the new furniture makes the R8 Success a different animal. In the past this layout was more for varmint-type use where shots are calculated and generally off some sort of rest. The Success could be about that with the right choice of barrel and optic, but the pistol grip offers a level of control and precision not found on a standard sporter. Add in the high comb shape with its slight roll-over cheek piece and you have good eye/scope positioning too.
Given that Blaser, Mauser and Sauer though separate entities are owned by the same company, cross pollination is common. I say this as in July I shot the new Sauer 303 Synchro XT semi-auto rifle, which showed a similar stock to the R8 Success though offered an adjustable comb. Who came up with the idea first remains to be seen, but it’s a good one!
The layout shows vestigial thumb and palm shelves and a R/H palm swell; all serving to position and lock the firing hand where it needs to be. Elastomer inlays on forearm, pistol grip and cheek piece further aid hold. The build is sporting with a mid-weight semi-Schnable forend with a slight, free-float on the barrel. For the US and UK markets the Success comes fitted with a QD bipod adaptor stud and is threaded too, which is included in the price.
The stock is polymer in a choice of dark green/black and brown/black. Their rifle configurator programme shows it’s possible to get the Success in dedicated right and left hand options plus combined L & R
SOMETHING OLD, SOMETHING NEW!
Both R93 and R8 are popular worldwide. The action uses a multi-collet, radial locking head, when closed the collets are pushed out to engage in a ring in the chamber extension so giving a 360° engagement. The bolt handle drops vertically and shows a ball end and simply pulls back to unlock and then pushes forward to feed and chamber.
There’s no safety catch, instead a de-cocking lever. This large lug sits on a ramp at the rear of the bolt carrier and is pushed up by the firing hand thumb to cock the action. When set it stays in this position and every time you fire and cycle the action the mech re-cocks. However, it can be de-cocked by pushing the lug in and further up, where it will spring back to its de-cocked position. This gives a safe carry with one up the spout and makes moving with the rifle over obstacles fast and above all safe. With the de-cocker down the bolt cannot be opened unless you push it up a fraction first.
The R93 used a drop-in, 3-round rotary magazine clip (insert), which could only be loaded/unloaded through the receiver. The R8 uses a detachable magazine box with the trigger guard, lever and lower linkage incorporated, which accepts a re-designed, interchangeable magazine insert. This now offers a capacity of four in 308 head-type sizes. Generally across the calibre range payload is increased by one, which on the big bores pays dividends.
MAG GONE, ALL GONE?
Detractors say if you lose your magazine you can’t shoot. Undeniably true, but to a greater extent the same could be levelled at a normal detachable box mag. It’s Marmite again as you either do or don’t like the feed system! The magazine is retained by twin, press-in latches, which have to be operated simultaneously to unlock. If you are cocked and remove the mag the mech automatically de-cocks! Like the R93 you can still top-load and Blaser have incorporated a manual catch that allows you to lock the magazine in place if you wish.
Different too is the fact the scope attaches to the barrel as there is no solid receiver as the bolt locks directly into the chamber. Blaser offers a QD scope mount to suit. Most owners seem to have more than one, so with its removable barrel either R93 or R8 can be packed down for travelling. Equally with a common receiver you can chop and change barrels/calibres/magazine inserts to make a multi-calibre/barrel, one gun solution.
ts and studs in the underside of the forend, all you do is open the action, unwind the nuts and lift the tube off. Equally the bolt head, if required can be swapped in seconds once the body has been removed.
The test rifle came in 243 Winchester with a 22” standard weight barrel threaded 15x1mm with spigot. A QD Zeiss rail was supplied to which I fitted the new Victory HT 3-12x56 scope. Keeping it in the family I added a Trident, muzzle-mounted modular moderator, which is designed and manufactured by Open Season.
Ammunition went to Winchester Power Max Bonded (100-grain HP) along with Hornady 95-grain SST and 80-grain GMX Superformance, Geco 105-grain SP, Lapua 100-grain Mega and PPU 100-grain SP. If you want to see the Success being shot then I will be uploading a video of it soon on our website www.gunmart.net along with some other guns in action too.
Blaser’s has succeeded as the new T/H layout really does give a comfortable, relaxed and efficient shooting position. You flow into the rifle or it flows into you, instinctive pointability and control is effortless. Length of pull is good too, with a decent trigger finger position. Bolt movement, with me stops just before the tip of my nose, it takes a little getting used to but you can soon cycle the action without breaking your cheek weld. Though I have no complaints with the original R8 Professional, the Professional Success for me is the better design!
Ammo and accuracy testing was interesting and came up with a few surprises. With 243 Win one of my major concerns is barrel length Vs muzzle energy, I have shot some 21-22” guns with lighter loads and they have not made 1700 ft/lbs (large deer legal). I did not have any light, varmint-type loads (58-70-grains) so the 80-grain Superformance represented the lighter option. All made deer legal, with the PPU just over 1700, which is good enough and offering by far the best group at an impressive .65”.
Hornady’s SST has it on both factors and no complaints at 3/4”. The GMX is a lead-free design and in Superformance spec drops 144 fps over the factory quoted 3425 fps. Big group too, but I have found with this one accuracy does vary greatly from calibre to calibre. The 105-grain Geco shoots well for what is a heavy weight in 243 and the Winchester and Lapua at an inch represents quality, game getting ammo too.
The R8 Professional Success is a hard gun to knock; it’s tough, looks good, handles even better and can shoot. I have been considering an R8 since they appeared and this new thumbhole could tip me over the edge.
|Name||Blaser R8 Professional Success|
|Calibre||243 Win (on test)|
|Capacity||4 + 1 (DM)|
|Barrel||22” (on test)|
All Prices Are Guides Due to the Changes in US & European Exchange Rates