By Bruce Potts
Wednesday, 18 January 2012
Steyr Classic Mountain .243 rifle: This accurate and practical stalking rifle is as timeless as its name suggests.
Steyr Classic Mountain .243.
Steyr Mannlicher started in Austria in 1853, when Josef Werndl set up a family business to develop a rear-loading rifle.
The company flourished — first with government rifle commissions and then with sporting arms.
Today the Steyr Mannlicher name is a byword for excellence — spearheaded by its Classic and ProHunter ranges, the company has a model to suit every preference, whether in wood, stainless steel or synthetics.
The Classic Mountain model is a lightweight rifle designed around the proven Safe Bolt System (SBS) action and fitted with a classically styled walnut stock.
It is a compact hunting arm available in an array of calibres, from the .222 Rem to 9.3x62mm, with a detachable magazine, a set trigger as standard and Steyr’s quality manufacturing.
BARREL, ACTION AND FINISH
Steyr coats its rifles with Mannox, a tough, matt-black finish that is resistant to corrosion by water, blood, sweat and humidity.
The finish is designed to withstand scratches from items such as jacket buttons, foliage and fence posts, while the matt finish minimises reflections from the sun or moonlight.
These characteristics give the rifle a smart appearance, as well as being a practical finish for a hunting arm.
The .243 barrel features Steyr’s typical spiral external surface from cold hammer forging.
The profile is slender to reduce overall weight and it has a muzzle diameter of just 0.606in.
The muzzle comes factory-threaded with a standard 1⁄2in UNF thread for fitting a sound moderator and, because the barrel length is reduced to 20in on this model, a moderator does not increase the overall length too much.
The action is the tried-and-tested SBS system that serves the Steyr range well. The old models had rear-locking lugs, while the Classic now has four twin opposed lugs that lock into the receiver race ways, and a further safety bushing encapsulates the extractor, thus strengthening the action in case of high chamber pressures.
Any escaping gases are diverted away from the shooter’s face in case of a cartridge rupture.
Along the bolt body are recessed ice-and-grit grooves, which were designed to increase the bolt’s reliability under freezing or adverse conditions.
At the rear is the usual cocking indicator, which protrudes from the cocking shroud as a pin within a circular recess.
The trademark Steyr butterspoon bolt handle is aesthetically pleasing and in keeping with the classical theme, though I find a rounded bolt knob easier to operate.
There is minimal bolt wobble and the rifle felt tight and precise during operation, with a smooth, positive action, though the opening in the receiver is very small for ejection of spent cases.
Scopes are mounted via separate bases — in this case, Warne two-piece units were secured by two screws.
ACCURACY AND TARGETS
Reducing a centrefire barrel can lessen the muzzle velocity, especially on smaller calibre rifles, and you can see from the chronograph results (below left) that the 20in barrel is just at the limit of legal deer energy figures.
Accuracy was good considering the slender barrel profile, with the largest groups being 1.1⁄2in at 100 yards and the smallest being a scant 3⁄4in.
The Federal 70-grain Ballistic Tip bullets gave a velocity of 3,311fps and yielded 1,704ft/lb energy, with three-shot groups clustering into 3⁄4in.
The Norma 100-grain Semi-Pointed, at 2,784fps and 1,721ft/lb, also gave consistent 1in groups, and this would be a good deer bullet.
The Steyr responded well to some bespoke ammunition. A good fox load would be the 65-grain Hornady V-Max bullet — with a load of 38 grains of Hodgdon H4895 powder that propelled it at 3,451fps for 1,719ft/lb and gave good 0.95in groups, with the odd flier.
The Nosler 100-grain Ballistic Tips, at 2,843fps and 1,795ft/lb, would be another good deer bullet — accuracy was consistent, with two shots within 3⁄4in and one off target for a total group of 1in.
The Speer TNTs gave a healthy 1,912ft/lb of energy, but their fragile nature would limit them to use on vermin, otherwise too much meat damage may occur.
TRIGGER, SAFETY AND MAGAZINE
The trigger is similarly excellent in operation. It is a 3.3⁄4lb, single-stage version with a good degree of adjustment.
It comes with a set trigger as standard, which is activated by pushing the slim trigger-blade forward, so that only a few ounces of pressure are required to trip the trigger sear.
This can be deactivated by turning the safety wheel to the locking position.
The three-position safety uses an ambidextrous roller button on the tang behind the bolt.
It has three positions: safe — the trigger is locked, but the bolt operates to load or unload a cartridge and the white pop-up catch now becomes visible; fire — a red dot is visible as the roller button is moved forward and the rifle can be fired; and locked — both a grey and a white button appear and the trigger and bolt are locked, though the bolt can be pushed in further to lock down as an extra safety.
The magazine is detachable, which adds flexibility for loading, safety and storage.
It is also made entirely from plastic and is released via twin push-in release catches on each side of the magazine.
On the .243 Winchester cartridge tested, the capacity was four rounds and there were no malfunctions.
For me, the best part of this rifle is the walnut stock, both in terms of design and the quality of the wood used, some of the best I have seen from a factory rifle.
The Classic design has a very European look, with a typical hog’s back butt section and a Bavarian cheekpiece that is precisely cut with a defining line beneath it.
The walnut used has a deep, rich colour with plenty of grain pattern and swirls, and the matt oil finish is practical, easy to touch up and improves the more you use the rifle.
There are rosewood tips to both the pistol grip and the fore-end, which has a Schnabel profile.
The barrel is free-floated and the fore-end is slender — no more than 1.1⁄4in at its thinnest part — giving elegant lines to this Steyr.
In this time of synthetics and stainless steel, it is refreshing to test a rifle such as the Steyr Classic Mountain.
The shorter barrel enables better handling and, though you must watch the velocities with some bullet weights, accuracy was good in the tests at 100 yards.
I even shot the Steyr at 200 and 300 yards on steel silhouettes with great results.
The Classic Mountain is, as its name suggests, timeless.
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