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Merkel Helix: easy to pick up but hard to put down again and here’s why

Charles Smith-Jones sets his sights on the Merkel Helix

Merkel Helix Explorer

Merkel Helix

Manufacturer: Merkel

Price as reviewed: £3,020

German firearms manufacturer Merkel introduced the Merkel Helix concept in 2011, since when it has attracted a growing number of enthusiasts. Intended as a holistic concept rifle that could adjust to any number of hunting requirements, the straight-pull bolt action it is built around reflects a demand for a gun that copes with fast-moving shots and other situations as might be met on a driven hunt. That is not to say that such a rifle does not have a place in other forms of shooting and stalking. It has a very wide appeal and with good reason.

Merkel Helix models

There are a number of models in the Helix range. The Explorer illustrated here has a composite soft-grip stock, reinforced with fibreglass, in a dark anthracite finish. Tough and rugged, it is intended for most shooting situations and, like all of the other models, boasts superb accuracy and dependability. Although it represents the entry level, it is still a premium-quality rifle that is a pleasure to use.

Other models include the Alpinist, intended primarily for mountain or upland hunters, with a forest green synthetic stock and oversized bolt knob that makes handling easy even in heavy gloves. The Speedster has all the ergonomics of a thumbhole stock – the bridge has been removed entirely, without losing any structural integrity – and Merkel describes it as the fastest of its models in use.

Towards the top end of the range is the Arabesque, with a more traditional appearance. It takes its name from the style of engraving and comes with a walnut stock in grades two to nine. The very top end is represented by the Noblesse, which is offered in walnut grades ranging from six to 12 and a superlative finish. It retails at well over double the price of the Explorer.

At the heart of the rifle, irrespective of model, is the ergonomic straight-pull bolt system. With six locking lugs, it remains as secure as a conventional turn bolt, but can be operated at much higher speed. Many claim it is the fastest of the straight-pulls on the market today. This is enabled by a geared linkage hammer system with a 2:1 ratio, so for every inch of bolt handle movement, the internal bolt moves two inches.

Merkel Explorer

The Merkel Explorer


The Helix system is certainly versatile. Most models come factory-threaded to 15×1 and open sights are fitted, although these are removable to accommodate optics or sound moderators. An integrated Picatinny profile provides a basis for scope mounting. It has a true takedown capability that will appeal to the traveller and a Helix owner has many options open to them. Barrels are easily changed and come in full-weight, semi-weight or fluted formats. A separate interchangeable bolt head permits switching between mini, standard and magnum calibres. Quickly removable, it is an extra layer of security against unauthorised use or when in transit.

The current Merkel catalogue lists 58 different types of Helix buttstock, 75 different barrels and 30 different fore-ends. Merkel has also started to produce stocks specifically designed to correctly fit the female form, an important development in rifle design that has been long overdue. Other factory options include a Weaver rail or Kilic mounts, bipod adapter, Merkel’s HLX sound moderator or a muzzle brake. Although the standard box magazine has a three-round capacity that enables it to fit flush with the stock, there is a four- or five-round magazine option (depending on calibre) that, although standing proud of the gun body, remains relatively unobtrusive. The standard trigger unit is fully adjustable between 900g and 1,900g, but can be replaced with the Merkel TAR-GT trigger, which adjusts between 500g and 1,500g. For those who prefer a hint of bling, a gold-plated trigger is also available.

This is no cheap knockabout rifle, but a superbly made, attractive and highly accurate gem of a gun. Beware, though. It is easy to pick up, but you may find it difficult to put down again and even a used example is unlikely to come at a bargain price.

Merkel Helix

The bolt system can be operated at high speed

Tech specs

  • Country of origin Germany
  • In production 2011 to present
  • Action Straight-pull bolt
  • Stock options Walnut or synthetic, depending on model
  • Barrel length 20in to 24in
  • Magazine Detachable box, three-round capacity (five-round optional)
  • Left-hand version No
  • Weight (bare) 6lb 10oz (Explorer 22in barrel)
  • Available in calibres Mini: .222 Rem and .223 Rem Standard: .243 Win, .270 Win, 7×64, .308 Win, .30-06 Spring, 8x57IS & 9.3×62 Magnum: .300 Win Mag, .338 Win Mag and 7mm Rem Mag
  • Cost new From £3,020 (Explorer) to around £6,830 (Noblesse)
  • Cost used Easily into four figures


The Merkel Helix is a premium rifle that is a pleasure to use