Merkel K5 Black Extreme single-shot rifle
There is something about the elegance of a single-shot rifle and this one does the job it’s made for in great style, says Bruce Potts
Markel K5 Black Extreme
Overall Rating: 86%
Price as reviewed: £4,500
There has always been something very alluring about a single-shot rifle like the Merkel K5 Black Extreme. It combines a traditional sense of sportsmanship — you have to be a good marksman with only one shot to hand. You also can appreciate the fine-handling, lightweight characteristics benefiting differing hunting scenarios, all of which seem to offer that certain kind of built-in etiquette.
The new Merkel K5 Black Extreme oozes quality and style. In this form, with its traditional Bavarian cheekpiece, stock and open sights, it will surely have the old-school stalker smiling. (Read this list of the best stalking kit for cold weather. )
Merkel, from the Suhl district of Germany, has not compromised with the K5; grade five walnut, oil finish, open sights and non-ejection systems are classic, but the fluted barrel and nitrided Suhler tilting bolt lugs, trigger and automatic de-cocking system add a modern twist to things. Weighing only 5lb with an overlength of 36.5in, the K5 perfectly blends style with ergonomic stance. The Monte Carlo stock offers variation — graded wood from four to exhibition is available — as does the K5 Arabesque model with superb engraving and non-fluted barrel.
Viking Arms stocks these calibres: .223 Rem, .243 Win, 6.5x57R, .270 Win, 7x65R, .308 Win, 30.06, 8x57IRS, 6.5 Creedmoor. Prices start at £4,500 with the .270 cal on test today.
Need to know
- Manufacturer Merkel Jagd Und Sportswaffen
- Model K5 Black Extreme
- Type Single shot, break open
- Barrel length 20in, fluted, 15mm/1 thread
- Calibre .270 Win
- Overall Length 36.5in
- Weight 5.0lb
- Stock Grade five walnut
- Length of pull 14.25in to 14.75in, sliding trigger-blade
- Trigger Single-stage trigger
- Safety Auto, cock/decock system
- Price £4,500
- Scope mount £473
Merkel K5 In depth
Fabulous looks and pure class describe the K5 aptly, mainly due to that delightfully figured grade five walnut stock. This rifle had superb grain, colour and dark figuring throughout, accented with rosewood tips, all blended effortlessly into that typical Germanic hogsback design and Bavarian-type cheekpiece with twin accented ribs. It allows open sights and scope use with a natural and comfortable hold. Chequering is very well executed and gives great grip. Ultimately, you have a slim, lightweight yet very good-handling stock.
Being a single-shot break-barrel design, the K5 disassembles very easily, which also allows a swift calibre change if needed. The fore-end removes via a typical shotgun-esque sliding latch, while opening the breech is via the sliding toplever. It locks via two bites in the bottom lump and has an overhanging top section which, when closed, engages a tilting Sulher-type breechblock.
This Sulher block is nitrided so is hard-wearing and smooth, ensuring an effortlessly easy opening of the K5. It also allows the firing pin to float in this assembly, so is only engaged when the action is closed — a nice safety feature.
Smart and practical
The alloy action is blacked, with only the K5 and Merkel highlighted in white— very smart and practical too. You have to manually cock the K5 with the large sliding tang-mounted safety lever by pushing it upwards to reveal a red dot, so ready to fire. When the trigger is pulled, this lever drops to its resting position again. The trigger is nitrided too and has an adjustable blade, so length of pull can be adjusted from 14.25in to 14.75in. It broke at a clean 2.55lb on test. Interestingly, the K5 is a manual ejector system, which is very reliable. It fits the single-shot, “take your time” ethos, so careful finger extraction is necessary. On test there were no issues at all, even with gloves.
The barrel is superb, short at 20in, especially in .270 cal, with a 17mm diameter profile accented with eight flutes to reduce weight and finished with a 15mm/1 metric muzzle thread. Open sights are removable; the foresight is height adjustable and rearsight has windage adjustment on a dovetailed slot.
However, most people will opt for the quick-detach scope mount system that allows a one-piece mount to clamp directly to the top of the action. It is secure and with a good degree of non-zero-loss if removed.
Do I still like single shot rifles? Absolutely. Perhaps not as my only gun, but for sheer good looks, handling and natural pointability, a single-shot K5 concentrates the mind on correct stalking technique. Build quality and that lovely walnut all costs and is reflected in the price, but if you like a light rifle or travel a lot, the Merkel K5 would be a very viable option.
- Accuracy 17/20 Surprisingly accurate from the factory loads tested
- Handling 19/20 A joy to carry in the field and very lightweight
- Trigger 17/20 Adjustable with a crisp pull
- Stock 17/20 Typical German design, superb-quality walnut
- Value 16/20 Pricey but has an air of elegance and quality
- Overall Score 86/100 A lovely combination of traditional style and modern tech
I fitted the B&T sound moderator for the ammunition tests because the muzzle blast from the 20in barrel without one is harsh, but opted for no moderator for the stalk. I was a bit low on .270 rounds but had some 100-gr and 130-gr Remington loads that shot 3,112fps for 2,366ft/lb and 2,758fps/2,196ft/lb with 0.85in and 1.25in groups respectively at 100-yard groups — a great start.
The RWS 130-gr T-Mantel bullets shot consistent 0.95in groups at 100 yards at 2,976fps/2,557ft/lb. The same weight Federal Power-Shok loads shot a slower 2,834fps velocity for 2,319ft/lb energy with 1.1in three-shot groups.
The only lead-free I could muster were some 130-gr Winchester E-Tips that shot reasonable groups of 1.60in at a velocity of 2,931fps and 2,480ft/lb.
All loads were very easy to extract from the K5’s chamber after firing. I also shot from differing positions, kneeling, standing and off sticks, and I was surprised how little recoil there was, considering the compact nature of the K5. This is definitely down to that clever and well-designed hogsback stock.
In the field, I forwent the moderator after a re-zero and fitted a low-power Kahles scope. It’s hard to describe but the K5 seems to become part of you, which is a good thing, as you can concentrate on the fieldcraft and the Merkel steers the bullet. The K5 is perfectly suited to British woodland stalking or even hill use because the compact design is non-cumbersome and no strain to carry.
With one Remington 100-gr SP loaded, I kept the K5 de-cocked until I needed it — a very safe system that was just as well as the Chinese water deer were sticking to the hedges, so stalking in or through them was the only option to get within range. The rifle is so light it feels like a PCP airgun but, even with that stiff .270 load, recoil was fine as a large Chinese water doe dropped at 80 yards off the sticks.