Steyr Mannlicher Pro Hunter rifle
Before testing this rifle, I was unsure whether its scarcity on the shelves of second-hand dealers was due to its being an unpopular model, or people tending to keep hold of them after purchase.
I can now confirm that the latter is the case. The Austrian company Steyr Mannlicher makes premium grade yet highly practical rifles, especially with the Pro Hunter series.
These rifles are aimed at the hunter who is after a hunting rifle, not a wall decoration. Synthetic materials and stainless steel attest to this ethos, and for the money you pay you get a lot of rifle.
The Pro Hunter, with its radical styling, was a departure from the traditional Mannlicher Lux models when it first came to light some 15 years ago.
The material used in the manufacture of the stock is a high-density, moulded polymer that feels solid and able to cope with any stalking chores it might face.
The finish is a dull black colour with a moulded finish for grip. It has no chequering, but it doesn?t need it due to the flamboyant, contoured fore-end and deeply scalloped pistol grip.
There is no cheekpiece either, so it is fine for left and right-handed Shots.
The comb is straight and high enough for positioning your head correctly to avoid parallax errors with a scope.
The butt section has a useful system of butt pad adjustment.
Two replacement spacers are supplied together with a solid black rubber/ synthetic recoil pad.
These spacers can be removed or added to accommodate various lengths of pull ? in this case it was 13.75in.
The trigger-guard forms part of the stock moulding and the fore-end has been stiffened with five cross braces.
The action is secured via twin 5mm screws through two aluminium pillars and a separate screw-attached recoil lug.
The action is a solid stainless steel unit with more of a nickel than a stainless steel finish.
Scope mounts are screwed to the top of the action via three screw holes for security.
The bolt has four opposed locking lugs, two large ones in the front and two smaller ones behind. This gives a good lock-up when loading and ensures a lower bolt lift to boot.
There is a further safety bushing encasing the extractor. This is similar to Sako models with a small plunger ejector.
The bolt body is recessed with grooves that increase the bolt?s reliability in dusty and freezing conditions.
There is a cocking indicator protruding from the bolt shroud to indicate the readiness of the rifle.
The bolt handle is a butter-spoon type which is common on European rifles.
The bolt is smooth and has none of the usual wobble found on many Mauser-type bolt actions these days.
Steyr Mannlicher has all its Pro Hunter rifles threaded for sound moderators and this model had a 1⁄2in UNF pitch with a stainless steel thread protector.
Equally beneficial is the short 20in length which keeps the overall length down to 40.75in making it ideal as a stalking rifle in woodland.
Made from stainless steel, the barrel has a duller finish than the action, which I like, and there is that instantly recognisable Mannlicher hammer-forged twist to the exterior of the barrel surface.
The barrel has a light profile with a muzzle diameter of .604in.
It heats up quickly so is not intended for a fast cyclic rate. There are no open sights, but you can have them fitted and on a larger calibre, when boar shooting for instance, this would certainly be an asset.
ACCURACY AND TARGETS
The Federal factory loads with 140-grain Sierra Gameking bullets loaded to 2,589fps velocity from the 20in barrel shot 1.25in groups at 100 yards, though the same weight Remington loads were 1.5in.
However, the 120-grain Remingtons shot 1in groups with a velocity of 2,722fps, generating 1,975ft/lb energy.
For the reloads I tried some light 85-grain Sierra hollowpoints for fox use and these achieved 3,011fps, and accuracy was a little under the 1in mark.
Better accuracy came with the Hornady SST bullets, 140 grain in weight and travelling at 2,657fps with 2,195ft/lb energy.
The .75in groups assure a hit and the SST design provides a controlled yet hard-hitting bullet.
The 120-grain Ballistic Tip loads, usually accurate in other .260 rifles, could only manage 1.25in groups showing how fickle some rifles can be about the choice of ammunition.
SAFETY BOLT SYSTEM
The safety on all Pro Hunters is extensive, giving the shooter a variety of options, with locking on the bolt and trigger sear designed to give the safest trigger mechanism on a sporting arm.
The heart of this system is a three-position, ambidextrous roller switch sited where your thumb normally rests when shooting.
It has three distinct positions: Fire, Loading and Safe.
In the Fire position a red dot is visible and the rifle fires as normal; the second position is Loading where a white dot becomes visible on the thumb wheel.
Now the trigger is safe but the rifle can be loaded and unloaded; the final position is Safe, where a pop-up catch in white and grey becomes visible.
In this position the safety is on, the rifle will not fire and the bolt cannot be opened.
Additionally, the bolt handle can be pushed down a further .5in to lock the bolt down with the firing pin locked.
Whether you use all these features is up to you but it?s nice to have them as standard, though if you are about to climb up a high seat or over a fence you should remove the ammunition from your rifle anyway.
TRIGGER AND MAGAZINE
The Pro Hunter has a set trigger arrangement where the first stage has zero creep and smooth breaking that initiates a speedy lock time for the firing pin.
There is a single screw in the trigger-blade to adjust weight of pull but it does not need it, especially when the trigger is set by pushing forward the trigger-blade as the let-off is frighteningly light ? beware.
The magazine is detachable and has a double stack loading system that holds four .260 cartridges.
It is constructed of black polymer so it will not rust. The magazine release is activated by twin catches on either side of the bottom of the magazine.
You also have to pull the magazine out so there is no chance of it springing out and dropping into the mud.
The Pro Hunter is a practical sporting rifle especially for deer and, in the right calibre, for foxes. You can have a varmint-profiled barrel and there is a good range of cartridges.
You either like the stock design or not. It handles well and I like the adjustable stock extensions.
Accuracy was good but do not let the barrel heat up too much. I had no feeding problems and the trigger is crisp to use.
I am not surprised you do not see many secondhand Pro Hunters ? they are probably closely guarded in gun safes by their owners.
Steyr Mannlicher Pro Hunter rifle