Pete Moore considers a selection of rifles that might break the bank but not your heart…
When your esteemed Editor asked me to do a round-up of ‘aspirational’ rifles, it occurred to me there’s expensive by design and quality, but also by decoration.
Depending on your views, both have an appeal; I have shied away from the pure indulgence guns where possible, as in gold inlays, Grade ridiculous wood etc. and concentrated on what I consider are a bit of a cut above the norm. So, let’s see what’s on offer. Price quoted are all ballpark.
If lightweight ARs are your thing, then try the 2A Armaments 22 semi-auto Aethon or Balios. With all-aluminium upper and lower, the barrel is a 16-inch fluted alloy outer with a stainless rifled liner, threaded 1/2 x 28 UNEF. There’s a 12-inch M-Lok forend, through-drilled titanium takedown pins, a BCM-mod4 charging handle, furniture is a Magpul MIAD pistol grip and Mission First, minimalist L-shaped butt. ALG Defence supply the trigger group with their ACT (Advanced Combat Trigger) that includes optional light and heavy hammer springs. The bolt is Grade 5, 6AL-4V Titanium, with stainless steel barrel collar and highquality polymer buffer. Feed is from a Black Dog, 15-round magazine. The upper receiver has no forward assist or ejection port cover, but a case deflector. This little lot weighs in (un-scoped) at 3lbs 3oz. Accuracy, well, with Hornady’s new 40-grain, Sub-sonic round nose, expect 1-inch at 100-yards
Contact: Edgar Brothers Ltd. shootingsports.edgarbrothers.com
Blaser K95 Stutzen
We are not really into single shots for hunting in the UK, but the Germans are and Blaser have managed to make a traditional looking Kipplauf rifle with a modern bias with their K95. The breakbarrel action is like a sporting shotgun with a top lever, although differs in having a cocking/de-cocking catch similar to their R8 straight-pull. Being a single shot centrefire, allows you to swap barrels and calibres. The standard rifle shows a short forend, but I chose the Stutzen, which has a full-length, add-on section, which just looks so good. This is the Black Edition, so a bit more than for the normal model. Wood is Grade 3, which is also nice. Iron sights come as standard and, if you want to scope-up, then Blaser’s QD mount is available. In terms of handling, the K95 is compact, fast and instinctive; pick your calibre and load and they will easily shoot sub-1-inch. Barrel length and calibre choice will vary from model to model, but you are getting something very different yet shootable.
Price: £6509 Stutzen Black Edition
Contact: Blaser Sporting Ltd. blaser-sporting.com and blaser.de
The DB 141 (Doppelbüchse) is a side-by-side double rifle. Decoration is minimal with good quality timber and a lightly engraved, silvered receiver. The furniture is two well-matched piece of oil-finished walnut, and the build is typically sporting shotgun with a top lever and automatic safety. The side-lock action features twin trigger blades. Barrels are 21.65-inches and easily regulated (zeroed to each other) less scope it weighs 6½lbs. This model shows ejectors, which solves the problem of having to pull the empties free with your hand. Iron sights are fitted as standard; on the wide rib are the scope bases, for an Appel swing-off system. You get a choice of calibres, but I opted for the classic 9.3x74R. In use, the 141 is not uncomfortable and, like all its class, natural and instinctive, the advantage of the automatic ejectors puts it above any manual system.
Contact: Viking Arms Ltd. vikingshoot.com and merkel-die-jagd.de
Blaser R8 Silence Success
The Silence is a first for Blaser, offering a fully integrated reflex moderator on the R8 chassis in a reasonably compact package. Barrel length differs as to calibre and model; in 308 Win, it offers a 16.5-inch tube (also 18.5-inch) with the moderator increasing OAL to 42-inches. The straight-pull action is slick and fast; feed is from a 4-round detachable magazine. The short barrel will reduce velocity, but felt recoil and moderation effect is excellent, Blaser quotes a noise reduction of 28dB in 308. The signature is very quiet compared to a muzzle-mounted system, with the Silence producing more a whoosh than a crack. Accuracy is good with the right ammo (½-inch recorded with Hornady 178-grain VLD-X), testing showed that all loads produced well over 2000 ft/lbs, so large deer legal. There are two models, both with Grade 4 wood, the standard and the thumbhole Success with leather gripping inserts. Other calibres and barrel lengths are available.
Price: Silence £4939, Silence Success £6237
Contact: Blaser Sporting Ltd. blaser-sporting.com
Merkel Helix Speedster
Merkel’s Helix is significantly different from others in its class, with its closed in action and short operating stroke, due to the mechanisms 2 to 1 mechanical advantage. Barrel/calibre change is very slick with no tools required and the return to zero is 100%. Feed is from 3 or 5-round box magazines and the receiver has integral Picatinny bases; so, no need to buy QD mounts. The Speedster is identical apart from its SpeedStock, which blends a traditional thumbhole with target/hunting build and a height adjustable comb with memory function. Made of an olive green, polymer with soft touch rubber inlays, it’s in two parts. The detachable, semi-Schnabel forend shows a slightly tapered, but hand-filling build. The butt is quite rectangular in profile, with a near vertical and ergonomically shaped pistol grip (OmegaGrip) with a right-hand palm swell and deep cut out. It’s essentially a thumbhole design without the top strap.
Price: £5000 (ball park)
Contact: Viking Arms Ltd. vikingshoot.com and merkel-die-jagd.de
Sauer 404 Synchro-XT
Sauer’s 404 replaces their long-lived 202; visually similar, it’s significantly different, as it offers a completely new trigger and safety system. There are many versions, but the one I like is the Synchro-XT, green, synthetic thumbhole stock with adjustable comb, which I find most shootable. New features include a Blaser-like de-cocker, a user-adjustable, 4-weight, Quarto trigger and magazine lock. The top of the receiver is now cut for a dedicated QD scope base – the SAUER Universal Mount (SUM). A clever feature is the SUK (SAUER Universal Key) integrated into the front sling swivel, which is used for forend, butt and barrel removal and replacement and trigger adjustment. The barrel, as before, is retained by three cross bolts in the underside of the receiver, but as opposed to having to change the whole bolt if you are going to a difference case head size, the 404 has a replaceable bolt head. If you liked the 202, you’re going to love the 404.
Contact: Blaser Sporting Ltd. blaser-sporting.com and sauer.de
John Rigby & Co Highland Stalker
Rigby’s Highland Stalker is a recreation of the original, with its Mauser 98 long action, controlled round feed and drop down bolt handle. Feed is from a toploading, 4-round magazine and it comes with Express sights! Everything is steel, with barrel and receiver finished in nonreflective black Nitride, the extractor claw and magazine floor plate are blued. The trigger is single-stage and breaks at a crisp 2.5lbs with a wide/curved blade. The stock is faithful to the original, in oil-finished, Grade 5 Turkish walnut, with a low/straight comb and long/angled pistol grip with rounded end and hand-cut chequering. Finished off with a black spacer and thick, red rubber recoil pad, length of pull is a pleasing 14.75-inches, with a lady’s version at 13 7/8-inches. Barrel length is 22-inches; chamberings are 275 Rigby, 7x57mm Mauser (same thing), 308 Win, 30-06, 8x57mm Mauser JS and 9.3x62mm. It’s a shooter and a thing of beauty!
Contact: John Rigby and Co Gunmakers Ltd. johnrigbyandco.com
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