Haenal NXT Straight Pull Rifle
- By Pete Moore
- 0 Comments
- Last updated: 21/01/2023
Straight-pull rifles have been around since the turn of the 19th century, However, they never could compete with the prolific turn-bolt system. The first modern example would have to be Heym’s SR30, with its unique, elegant and practical ball bearing lock up that appeared in the late 1980s. Sadly, this gun is very much overlooked and the introduction of the Blaser R93 (1983), is seen by many as the real start of straight-pull actions. It proved a massive success and morphed into the improved, R8 (2008). However, more manufacturers are taking this road: Strasser - RS 14, Rossler - Titan 16, Browning – Acera and Maral, Merkel - Helix, Mauser - M96, Savage -Impulse, Chapuis - Rolls and Beretta – BRX.
The majority offer some form of quick change, barrel/calibre facility, others don’t, which poses the question, what’s more important, changing barrels or a fast action rifle? Price is the issue here, as a fixed barrel straight-pull is a lot cheaper than a shape-shifter. £2000 will get you a cost-effective, fixed barrel and save you a chunk of money too. New to this genre is Haenel’s NXT, which is growing on me.
Unsurprisingly, the NXT is configured nearly identically to Haenel’s turn-bolt Jaeger 10 series. One advantage to coming to the party late, is it allows you to see what’s available and how you can capitalise on it. It’s a conventional-looking design, but they have envisaged and executed a rather slick but slightly unusual operating system. Which, as I discovered, takes some inspiration from Heym’s SR30, as we shall see.
Currently, only .308 Win or 30-06 is available, with only one barrel length – 20”. This is fine for the .308, but the jury’s out on the 06. Bolt operation is in two movements on the feed cycle. Closing the action chambers the round and locks it. This leaves the handle angled back about 400 from vertical, and in this condition, the striker is not cocked and a further push (to vertical) is required to complete the cycle. This is what they have taken from the SR30 action. If you’re new to the system, it’s a bit off-putting, but just power through.
Although intended for general hunting, the NXT screams ‘pig rifle’. Short and compact, iron sights as standard, two hard-hitting calibres, 5-shot detachable magazine, fast action and lovely stock geometry for 100% shootability with both irons and glass. Plus, Picatinny bases that are just begging for a low-power variable scope in QD mounts.
Where other straight-pulls have attempted to rewrite the book on actions, the NXT takes a more hybrid approach with its torsion lock system. The bolt body is a big, solid design with three lugs at the front. It looks more like a standard turn-bolt, however, rotation is provided by 2x bevel gears in the shroud. These provide a smooth and efficient turning movement for opening and closing. The deep bolt face houses a wide extractor claw and twin-plunger ejectors.
Feed is from a flush-fitting, doublecolumn, 5-shot polymer magazine. The release catch is at the front of the well and pulls back to operate. It can also be slid sideways to lock it in position and it is easily top-loaded through the ejection port.
The trigger is a curved, mid-width blade that breaks at a crisp and clean 2.5 lbs. It’s light but easily readable and sits in a well-sized guard. The receiver looks to be aluminium, as it felt warmer than the steel barrel and shows the aforementioned, twin Pic bases, which are set low.
The stock is a birch laminate in an attractive brown finish. Length of pull (LOP) is a generous and pleasing 14.5”, which is good, as most rifles tend to be mean on LOP these days. Textured areas on the pistol grip and forend offer a bit more adhesion for the hand, but harking back to my comments about the action stroke movement, I would have liked to see them a bit more aggressive. Internally, there’s no bedding block or synthetic compound, all you get is two, split-steel pillars in the wood action void and a slim recoil lug pocket.
The full butt shows a low, straight comb, which makes getting onto the iron sights fast and comfortable. With a scope fitted, you still get a half-decent cheek weld. Final touches are a pair of socket-type, QD sling swivels in the tip of the forend and under the butt. At the rear is a ½” rubber recoil pad.
Like all straight-pulls, the NXT has a de-cocking/cocking control (chamber lock slide) at the rear of the shroud, in the form of a horizontal, 3-position rocking switch. It’s marked with three bullet pictograms: LEFT - white with an arrow facing the shooter, which allows you to open the action when locked and facilitates bolt removal too. MIDDLE – red bullet with an arrow pointing at the muzzle, FIRE mode and the action can fully cycle. RIGHT – white bullet with a cross, this is almost like a conventional safety catch.
To be honest, the best way to carry the gun is with the handle at 450, as it’s totally safe and all you have to do is push it forward to shoot. Bolt removal is a tad different, just pull the handle all the way back then press the L/H cocker to bring it back even more, and at the same time fully open the action. In this position, you will see a small/square button on the left on the receiver tang, press it down and at the same time turn the bolt lever/shroud up and to the left and it releases. It’s a bit fiddly and needs a bit of practice.
The 20” barrel has an OD of 18mm and is threaded 15x1mm with a protector. The recessed muzzle is nicely crowned. A practical feature is that the iron sights are removable. The front can be positioned over the muzzle or about .75” back. In the latter position, it exposes the 15mm thread so you can fit a moddy. The front shows a red, elevation-adjustable dayglo bar, while the rear is a U-notch (adjusts for windage) with a green, dayglo 3-dot line-up.
Haenel says the barrel is green and optimised for non-lead .308 Win ammo. I had both types so we’ll see what occurs. Twist rates differ with the 30-06 at 1:11” and the 308 at 1:12”. There are two models – standard stock and the DS, which is re-configured to suit smaller statures.
The NXT comes over very handy, measuring 41” and weighing 7.7 lbs. In the hands, it does not feel that heavy or unwieldy, even with a scope on, probably that short barrel keeps it swinging?
For ammunition I had four loads: RWS 165-grain Cone Point (lead-cored), PPU 180-grain JSP, a classic soft nose build (lead-cored), Barnes 180-grain TSX/BT, which is my non-lead reload for my Winchester 1895 lever-action and Hornady’s 178-grain ELD-X Precision Hunter (lead). Glass-wise, I had a Leopold VX6-HD 1-6x24 compact, which is a perfect pairing, plus, for accuracy testing, Blaser’s B2 2.5-15x56. Up front was a Brugger & Thomet muzzle-mounted moddy.
As I surmised, the 20” tube in .30-06 gives away a lot of speed and energy, making the .308 option a far better bet. But if Haenel were to make a 22” or longer version, then sign me up for an ‘aught six’! However, even in the 06, recoil was good, with its typical, big, but not harsh shove, making for reasonable gun control in terms of getting back on target. The action was smooth and slick and ejection nice and positive. As I said, I wouldn’t bother carrying this rifle with one up the spout with the chamber lock slide set to the right/SAFE. Far better to have the bolt handle angled back, where it’s locked but un-cocked, then a fast push sets it to FIRE.
The iron sights sit high and are highly visible with their red and green dayglo inserts, plus are adjustable for windage and elevation. Equally so, the slightly lower comb gives good alignment and cheek weld with optics fitted. The trigger is also good, a light but safe break, with zero creep or graunch and very readable too.
Do I like the NXT? Yes, I do, very much. For someone not bothered about swapping barrels/calibres, it’s probably half the price of the opposition, and for around £2000, you get a very nice design with bags of shootability. The only things Haenel needs to address are barrel length, the number of calibres, improving the chequering and maybe considering a decent synthetic stock option.