Deer Rifles Part 2
- By John Rippin
- 1 Comments
- Last updated: 16/12/2016
Last month I looked at rifles under a grand, and in that they were functional tools to a greater degree. There is however another world, which is populated by those seeking both fashion and function. Some buy because of the name, cosmetics and the fact they are expensive, others appreciate the unique qualities this top end kit might offer, it takes all sorts… prices quoted are ball park and for base models!
The Sako 85 is the latest incarnation of the 75 design. It uses a 3-lug, hand-lapped bolt, with a controlled round feed! The doublestack magazine has a push release mechanism to avoid accidental removal. With fl oating, cold hammer-forged barrels they are renowned for great accuracy. The Sako actions stand out in that they are tailored to fi t each group of cartridges meaning you carry no more weight or bulk than is required. The 2-position bolt locking safety has an override effectively giving you three positions and allowing removal of the cartridge from the chamber while safe which in conjunction with the cocking indicator should leave you in no doubt as to the rifl es condition. The basic hunter starts at around the £1200 mark and with the usual adornments you can spend a lot more. Never the less the Sako 85 has a lot to offer, is a very cost effective and a good value option in this price bracket.
The Lynx is a little marmite; made in Finland with a Lothar Walther barrel the basic action has only seven moving parts. Locking is by a rear cross bolt activated by a straight pull biathlon-style lever. There is a detachable magazine, though it can only be loaded when removed. The trigger is adjustable and. Available with walnut or laminated stocks in either hunter or target design depending on the rifle you chose. Actions are smooth and well made, prices start at around £3500! If you like it different and don’t mind the top loading restriction and look of the bolt then this is a well fi nished low production semi-custom rifl e that shoots very well indeed.
MAUSER M03 & M12 BLASER R93 & R8
A Mauser by name alone is the switch barrel/calibre M03, which has many innovative features; detachable magazine, smooth 6-lug bolt with interchangeable head. Plus a take-down function and a return to zero scope mounting system. There’s no ON/OFF safety but a manual de-cocker instead, which is a marmite feature for us Brits. The build is modular and allows you to make it your own, and in testing has proved to be very accurate across all available calibres. The synthetic option starts around the £1800 mark but calibre barrel and wood grade choices allow you to spend considerably north of a couple of grand. Oh yes the scope mount is extra and the cost – about the same as one of last month’s budget rifl es!
New from Mauser is a more classic design the M12! The bolt is a solid, 6-lug design with duel ejectors that locks directly in the barrel and has a three position ‘SRS’ safety and has a 60° lift. The all steel receiver is an open design and can be top-loaded; the detachable magazine holds 5+1 (standard calibres) and 4+1 (magnums). One stand out feature is the direct trigger, set at around 2lbs from factory it is crisp and has no play in any direction. Saving money too is the fact the M12 can use any generic M98 scope bases. Two options – Synthetic at around £1600 and the Wood at £1700, for the price timber quality is not amazing!
Without doubt the R93 and later R8 are the straight-pull/switchbarrels of choice! Both have detachable barrel and scope mount with return to zero engineering. They are available in a synthetic or wood option which goes from reasonable to mortgage the house walnut! Finish-wise you can have matt black all the way to seriously decorated. The push-pull action is smooth and slick and uses an open rail design with a non-rotating collet which expands as the bolt goes into battery. The R8 is an improved R93 with a detachable magazine that combines the lower trigger mech; so don’t loose it! This feature scores over the top-loading-only R93 (3+1) and ups the capacity to 4+1. Both use a sliding de-cocker at the rear of the action, which is a bit stiff. What impresses is the accuracy, which is doubtless helped by the scope fitting directly to the barrel. Price-wise again there are many variables but for the two comparable synthetic base models you will be paying from around £1800 for the R93 and from £2600 for the R8. Oh yes don’t forget the scope mount is extra, plus nothing from the R93 will fi t the R8!
If I told you there was a light weight, aluminium action rifl e that shoots like a target gun, with a perfect trigger, choice of four stock styles including an ergonomic thumbhole, 6-lug, 60° turn-bolt action that locks in the barrel. Add in a detachable magazine, special anti-rust coating on all metal parts and that it was made by a rimfi re/smallbore manufacture you might be surprised! Well it appears Anschutz do fullbores and well too! The 1780 is all of the above and though calibre choice is limited for a switch barrel design, just 30-06, 308, 8x57JS and 9.3X62, this rifl e should not be overlooked. It’s an out and out accurate tool at the heart of which is their huge bedding block isolating the stock from the action and free fl oating barrel. The design is innovative in its pursuit of performance and well fi nished. Starting around the £1750 mark and up to £2200 for the thumbhole, if you can fi nd the calibre required then it’s worth serious consideration.
SAUER 202 & 101 HEYM SR21 & SR30
The 202 is a great rifl e in its basic aluminium or steel receiver. A word of warning the ‘takedown’ version requires a settling shot once reassembled and is therefore not something I would pay for. You can remove the butt of the basic 202 while leaving all the pertinent parts locked together for a guaranteed zero the Takedown model is pointless. The original design gives all the fl exibility you will ever need! Six lug lock up directly into the barrel, detachable magazine, interchangeable barrels/calibre along with bolt. The safety is a neat design that you set from the top and disengage inside the trigger guard, the key advantages being staying in the shooting position and safe until the very last moment. Entry level price is around £2000, which is not too bad!
Essentially the 101 is a fixed barrel variant of the 202, though shows some minor improvements in some areas. The large, 6-lug bolt locks directly into the barrel and offers duel ejectors, a detachable, double-stack magazine provides all the function and reliability Sauer is famed for. Initial reports on this rifl e have been good and the innovative bedding system looks like it works well. The DURA SAFE safety locks the bolt and fi ring pin and there is a bolt release button to allow unloading with the safety engaged. To go from SAFE to Fire you fi rst have to push down a button so the catch can move. Prices are good; the synthetic is just shy of £1400 and the wood £1600, plus they use standard Remy 700 bases, so more money saved. The 101 is direct competition to the Mauser M12 as essentially and apart from some design/cosmetic areas both rifl es are the same as they are both owned by the SIG group!
Though Heym make all manner of high end drilling and double rifl es the SR21 is their classic turn bolt. It has a three locking lugs and a 3-position, shroud-mounted safety. There is a single stack detachable magazine and a good if less than perfect, push, set trigger. The classic version with the large wood bolt knob looks beautiful and at a shade under £1700 for looks, accuracy, fi t and fi nish this is the one for me. Simply a timeless combination of art and function, and it comes glass-bedded at the factory.
The Heym SR30 offers its own unique straight-pull action that locks into battery by forcing ball bearings into a recess as it closes and in doing so also cocks the action. Tap the bolt handle back while still closed and the action is de-cocked, add a cross-bolt safety bar at the back and the whole thing is inert. The design and execution are superb and the action probably the best and smoothest I have ever used! Accuracy matches its turn bolt sibling and to choose between them comes down to whether you like a modern classic SR30 or a classic that is modern SR21. Oh yes at sub-£2000 money well spent for a top rifl e!
MERKEL KR1 MERKEL RX HELIX
Looking a little like the Blaser R93 (no coincidence I reckon) the Kr1 is yet another switch barrel/calibre option. Underneath its Blaser-like looks it’s a standard turn-bolt action with six locking lugs. Barrel mounting is similar too as is the direct scope mount to barrel attachment, which offers 100% return to zero ability. Feed is from a detachable magazine, though access is a bit weird!
Though the lines are Germanic they are fl attering, accepting the usual ‘comb is too low for a scope’ issue. Bolt lift is minimal and the action is fast in operation. With a 3-position, tang-mounted safety and a chassis bedding system the rifl e is safe and accurate as you would expect. So what can you get away with paying for all this, how does around £1500 grab you? In light of the competition I would say this is excellent value all features considered.
The Helix is reputedly the fastest cycling straight-pull around. It is accurate, has a detachable magazine, quick detachable barrel and a bolt head. The bolt head locks into the chamber and removes with the barrel if it’s in battery. The bolt slides back at a ratio of about two to one giving a short throw and achieving an unprecedented cyclic rate. There is a de-cocker at the rear of the bolt which allows cycling the bolt un-cocked to load or unload. As a cherry to pop on top there’s an integral Weaver-style base machined into the receiver so you will only need rings. All in all this is clever engineering and something different too!
STEYR MANNLICHER LUXUS
You can have one of these from around £1700 and when you look at what is on offer it represents excellent value in its class. Features include, field-strippable, 6-lug bolt with interchangeable head, barrels with scope rail bolted to them to maintain zero. One size fi ts all receiver in aluminium or optional steel, with a detachable magazine. The barrel bolts onto a crossbar bedding system using a single retention bolt for quick changes. There are three grades of wood to choose from and on the steel receiver you can go wild with engraving if that is your thing. Despite all this innovation they have kept the Steyr’s Safe Bolt System (SBS 69) which is very safe I’ll grant you, but it’s still loud when the bolt kicks up from full lock down to operation mode. Apart from this if you like the styling, it is accurate, and good value in this market place.
KIMBER 8400 AND 84M
The Kimber is a well-made, understated and classic Mauser 98 type design. Offering a single claw extractor, 3-position safety with controlled round feed from about £1550 - for either synthetic (Montana) or walnut (Classic) they are a tried and tested design at a production price point. So what? Well each rifl e is built to match-grade tolerances from the ground up and pillar and glass bedded. Low production volume keeps the attention to detail absolute around a time-proven design, so if you are not yet a fan of the European trend of take apart, modular, stick it in a brief case, ‘day of the jackal’ type stuff, then this is the best Mauser 98 clone for the money period!
What do I think? Well my top choices based on value for money and ability would be the Blaser R93, Heym SR21 or SR30, Kimber Montana and the Anschutz 1780. So there you have it, some serious equipment at serious money. In all cases the entry level models will shoot as well as the fancy ones. Highlighting this massive differential is Blaser’s R8 synthetic Professional at around £2600. The R8 Black Edition with decoration and a Grade 6 walnut stock is £6000; beautiful but not required, unless you want to show off to your equally rich mates! It takes all sorts…
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