By Bruce Potts
Tuesday, 15 July 2008
Blaser Professional R93 rifle review: This Blaser Professional R93 rifle has fantastic accuracy and an ingenious bolt lock-up.
Blaser Professional R93 rifle review.
The Blaser has a proven non-rotating bolt operation. With German efficiency and build quality, it is no surprise the Blaser is an innovative and clever rifle.
This is because it is highly modular.
It is a gun for many tasks with a quick-release barrel system, scope mountings and varied stock options. With a range extending from elaborately engraved status symbols through to practical stalking firearms, I chose to test a Professional version with a synthetic stock and tough exterior finish.
Action & bolt assembly
The Blaser design is far from conventional, and the standard receiver design is done away with as the integral action is bedded into the stock, with the bolt operating on top.
This action is made of aluminium, providing a light but strong backbone from which the barrel and bolt assembly can be used. The bolt body, also of aluminium, rides on generous rails allowing smooth and speedy operation.
This is no conventional bolt operation, however.
All Blasers use their own straight-pull system, which only needs a rearward pull on the bolt handle to unlock the bolt from the barrel.
A further continuous pull exposes the cartridges, which are fed into the barrel with the bolt closure. Manual operation of straight-pulls allows very quick cyclic rates, which is great for follow-up shots if necessary or for quarry such as running boar.
The bolt handle is adequately long and straight, with a rounded end, and the whole bolt body can be ordered in right- or left-hand configuration.
The real ingenuity in the Blaser system is in the way the bolt lock-up works.
To keep rigidity and strength without a conventional action, the bolt locks directly into the back of the barrel with a unique bolt head, doing away with the opposing locking lug. It has a 360° radial lock-up by means of 14 collets arranged in a ring formation.
These L-shaped collets provide a solid lock-up, which springs out to engage a recess in the barrel as the bolt is closed. The bolt head, which fully surrounds the cartridge head, is removable, allowing cartridges with differing head sizes to be accommodated.
Extraction is via a right-sited claw-extractor, with ejection performed by a plunger-type pin within a cut-out in the bolt face.
Trigger & safety
The trigger is securely housed within the stock and has a pivot system which eliminates trigger sear engagement. In practice, this means the trigger is light and crisp to use.
The single-stage operation really is precise and though the triggerblade is slim, it certainly aids accurate shooting.
The safety continues the unconventional theme to this rifle. The large thumb-operated sliding catch is very prominent.
This is no ordinary safety catch - in fact it is more of a cocking piece, as it cocks and decocks the rifle with its application.
When uppermost, a red dot is exposed and the rifle can fire, while subsequent bolt operations cock the rifle. Press on the upper portion of the catch and it lowers, covering the red dot, which decocks the rifle and locks the bolt carrier in place.
Blaser offers some synthetic options for the R93 range, and the Professional has all the tough synthetic characteristics you need, with a subtle green colour and the crucial grip areas enhanced with soft rubber inserts.
These come in a contrasting black colour. Not only does the fore-end have side panels, but there is a third panel sited below the fore-end, which gives good additional hold. The panels are very tactile and transform the feel of the stock out in the field.
The stock profile is a bit plain - there is no cheekpiece, but the comb is straight-lined and high enough for proper eye-to-scope
alignment. The addition of the aluminium bedded action/barrel insert serves further to strengthen the stock and give it ample rigidity.
Alan Rhone of Blaser UK fitted an optional recoil reducer to the butt of the stock. This is accessed by pulling off the recoil pad. I found it to be a revelation when testing in the field.
Barrel, magazine and scope mount The barrels are fashioned from chrome moly and have a tough external finish. They are available in a vast range of calibres and profiles. Blaser has every shooting preference covered - a swift calibre change and your fox rifle becomes a deerstalker's or an African hunter's tool.
Each barrel comes with a magazine carrier large enough to carry cartridges of any length, which slides down into the bottom action. In 6.5x55 and .243 the capacity is three rounds.
Due to the open nature of the bolt system, there is no problem in loading a Blaser rifle. The barrel is a quick-change unit and, though the profile may change, the rear section has a recess on the underside between two vertical studs, which locate and secure to the stock's bedding block. Loosening or tightening can be done by inserting a T-shaped Allen screw through the underside of the stock.
With no receiver to attach a set of scope bases to, the Blaser has a direct union of scope to the barrel via a quick-release proprietary scope mount. A one-piece base in design, there is the option of 1in (30mm) rings or rail mounts.
The base swiftly attaches to precision-cut recesses on the barrel. The mount is positioned on the right side and then tightened via twin-camming clamps on the left side. It is designed to have a zero-scope-shift option.
A superb Zeiss Victory 2.5-10x50 scope was fitted, as was an Ase Utra Jet Z Compact and PES Scout moderator. The Blaser was zeroed off the bench with factory ammunition and reloads at 100 yards.
This is a stout little rifle, which has a really nice heft to it, giving that confident notion of usability. With the Kick Stop fitted in the stock, the rifle is much better balanced and recoil is cut by 20% more.
The two barrels had different weights and slightly differing lengths, but both were factory threaded for the metric 15/1 pitch.
The 6.5x55 had a 20.5in barrel length with a muzzle diameter of 0.786in, making it a practical length and girth - especially with a moderator fitted. The other was a sporter-weight .243 barrel of 19.75in, again nice and short, but with a smaller 0.678in muzzle diameter.
The 6.5x55 shot most factory ammunition within 1in at 100 yards for a three-shot group, usually two together then one slightly off.
The PMC ammunition was larger at 1.5in, but the Norma 120-grain Ballistic Tip load gave consistent 0.85in groups with a velocity of 2,648fps and 1,869ft/lb. Interestingly enough, the heavier bullets of 140 grains were producing just over the Scottish deer legal velocity of 2,450fps - so this barrel length of 20.5in would be considered the minimum in this calibre.
The .243 barrel, despite being of smaller girth, gave better accuracy in this rifle.
The Remington 75-grain loads yielded good velocities of 3,095fps and only 1,597ft/lb energy, so this is only a fox or small species deer load. The 100-grain Federals shot an average of 2,730fps and just 1,655ft/lb, so reloading was needed to lift the energy above the 1,700ft/lb English threshold or 1,750ft/lb Scottish threshold.
However, both the Norma and RWS 100-grain loads shot above the limit at 1,763fps and 1,770ft/lb respectively.
The best reload was using a 95-grain Nosler Ballistic Tip with 42 grains on IMR 4350 powder, which produced 2,914fps and 1,791ft/lb energy. I used this load for a juvenile roebuck in a wet, cold wood at the beginning of the season. However, it should be remembered that in warmer weather all the velocity figures will rise, often quite considerably.
The Blaser system has to rank as one of the most innovative rifle systems in development today, using a straight-pull bolt system and true modular skeleton to provide a very versatile rifle. True, the straight-pull is a little quirky and you will either like it or not.
I particularly appreciated the out-of-the-box accuracy and solid build quality, which gives that sense of confidence when out stalking - simply forget about the rifle and just concentrate on the deer.
The fitted Kick Stop transforms the muzzleheavy rifle with moderator into a fast-handling rifle - a definite must-have option.
There are so many options, including a 28-bore shotgun barrel and .22LR rimfire option - could this be the only rifle you will ever need?
Accuracy 4.5 / 5
Reliability 4.5 / 5
Handling 5 / 5
Trigger 4 / 5
Stock 4 / 5
Value 3 / 5
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