Blaser F3 MkII shotgun review.
The Blaser F3, first launched in 2004, is an innovative shotgun made by a go-ahead German firm, Blaser Jagdwaffen, which is perhaps best known for its popular straight-pull rifles.
The F3, available in both game and clay form, is an interesting, well-styled gun with unusual features (not least its modular construction and inline hammer action).
The earlier versions had a few teething problems relating primarily to barrel construction and stock shape.
These, however, did not stop John Bidwell winning several World Championships with it.
Now that the F3 has been improved and relaunched it seems appropriate to revisit it.
Outwardly the MK II F3 has not changed much, save that the stock has been tweaked with changes to grip angle and comb profile.
The action finish on the test gun – a new model called Professional Game (RRP £4,700) – is plain black.
The standard gun was, and remains, titanium grey (a PVD finish ? Plasma Vapour Deposition).
All sorts of engraving options are available including profusely decorated sideplates.
I am a fan of unadorned guns, though. Plain black or grey seems in character on a predominantly machine-made gun. Full-coverage engraving did not become popular on British sporting guns until the second half of the 19th century.
Indeed, engraving was recognised as a way of disguising guns of poorer quality. In recent decades we have become obsessed with it and the figure of wood ? superficial considerations as far as a gun?s real integrity is concerned.
First impressions of this new F3 are good. The action is low and has exceptionally clean, almost severe lines. As noted, there is no engraving at all ? just an F3 in yellow to the low rear of the action walls.
The action is flat-sided without raised panels; the fences are simple and angular.
Finish of all metal parts is excellent.
The 29in barrels (there are 28in and 27in options for the game-gun) are monobloc, 3in (70mm) chambered and steel-shot proofed at the factory in Germany.
Chokes are interchangeable and five are supplied in the neat ABS case in which the gun arrives.
Moving on to consider the stock, the wood is of good quality. Wood to metal fit is sound. Finish is well done, though the chequering could have been a little deeper, and the nose of the stock comb and the fluting beneath it could be refined.
There is a black cap to a Woodward-inspired pistol grip (in a true Woodward grip the surface of the cap runs parallel to the barrel axis, not as here).
A semi-pistol grip would be worth considering. The butt sole is flat and would be enhanced if it were made to concave pattern, when it would seat more securely at the shoulder.
The rounded fore-end is elegant with a neat semi-concealed, button-style fastener to the front.
What of the stock dimensions?
It has a length of pull of 14.5⁄8in and the drop was 1.3⁄8in in front and 2in to the rear.
There is some cast for a right-hander. These are sensible standard measurements, though the LOP might have been extended slightly.
The gun is notably higher in the comb than previous models, and better because of it.
The F3 offers left-handed stock options, and one may pay extra for even higher-grade wood.
The Blaser is a well-engineered shooting machine in which handwork has been kept to a minimum.
The barrels have a plasma nitrided finish to resist corrosion externally and are hard chrome plated internally.
There, presentation has significantly improved, with no signs of the rivels that afflicted some early guns where the rib bridges were attached.
The rib itself is interchangeable. Bridges are now laser-welded to the upper tube.
The bore dimension is wider than the norm at 18.6mm which should help with felt recoil and pattern quality with heavier payloads. The action design is radical.
Apart from its very low profile, there are inline hammers and inline firing pins which offer an exceptionally fast lock time.
The single trigger is of a purely mechanical type with four pulls. The mechanism, perfected by the Russian designer, Sergej Popikov, involves a horizontal inertia block and a pendulum.
The barrel selector is to the front of the trigger inside the bow of the trigger guard. The trigger blade itself is continuously adjustable within its range of movement.
With regard to safety, the F3 is equipped with an inertia sear as well as the usual trigger block. Both the ejector springs and firing mechanism are cocked as the gun is opened.
This new Blaser performed well. I shot all sorts of simulated sporting birds with it, including some particularly testing long crossers.
It felt like a quality gun. Trigger pulls were crisp, breaking around the 3lb mark. I liked the 8.5mm rib.
Felt recoil was not excessive and the 29in barrels helped to improve both second shot recovery and general pointability.
I found that I shot better with this higher-stocked F3 than with previous versions.
It is not easy to design a new gun from scratch and make it work. Blaser has achieved this.
The test gun, the 29in F3 Professional Game, is my favourite Blaser to date.