Blaser R8 Black Edition rifle.
We are all familiar with the Blaser concept of a bolt-action rifle where the action is cocked in a single, straight-pull bolt to initiate a short and very fast cycling rate.
The Blaser has additional benefits: you can disassemble the rifle in seconds for storage, and the barrels and thus calibres are interchangeable, allowing a deer rifle to be changed into a varmint rifle if desired.
One area that let down the R93 model was the small and fiddly magazine, which, with the receiver, was integral and loaded from the top – not everybody?s cup of tea.
Enter the new R8 model, which addresses these issues with a completely detachable magazine system, larger payload and redesigned bolt and trigger system.
BOLT AND BARREL ASSEMBLY
Blaser use their own straight-pull system, which requires a rearward pull on the bolt handle to unlock the bolt – if you are not used to it, you try to lift the bolt handle.
Because the bolt locks directly into the back of the barrel and is housed and travels on two 9.5in guide rails within the action, you have a very shortbarrelled action compared with a conventional rifle.
It is, in fact, 3.5in shorter, making it handle much better. The R8 has a symmetrical radial locking system, which uses L-shaped sprung individual lugs.
When the bolt is closed, these spring out to engage in the barrel recess and lock the bolt concentrically into the back of the barrel. These 13 lugs have also been redesigned and have a more abrupt locking edge to grip better, while the 3.75in bolt has been given an improved removal system.
The bolt head is still removable, allowing differing sizes to be fitted depending on the cartridge you are using, which adds to the versatility of the R8.
AN UNUSUAL ACTION
The barrel is retained by just two captive bolts within the lower portion of the action.
The action is bedded into the stock with the result that it is unaffected by climatic changes. A long hex-head screw is included and the barrel can be removed in a matter of seconds.
The scope mount is a quick-detachable unit, which is on the right side of the barrel and can be moved via two rounded lugs. It is then tightened down with adjustable camming levers and has no loss of zero.
Another feature on this unusual action system is the de-cocking mechanism, which is popular in Europe. At the back of the bolt housing there is a large external cocking lever, which allows silent and quick manual cocking or de-cocking of the R8 with your firing hand.
Pushed forward, this compresses the firing pin spring and the bolt is cocked, while a push down and back releases the tension on the spring and makes the rifle safe.
ACCURACY AND TARGETS
Nearly all the factory groups averaged below 1in. Norma 120-grain Nosler Ballistic Tips achieved 2,875fps and grouped three shots into 0.85in at 100 yards.
Reloads consisted of 100-grain and 156-grain bullets.
The 100-grain Ballistic Tips achieved 3,187fps when loaded with 44 grains of RL15 powder. It was the most accurate load, clustering into 0.45in at 100 yards.
A good deer load is the 140-grain Partition, which achieved 2,624fps with 44 grains of IMR 4831 SC powder and shot 0.75in groups.
Zeroed at 100 yards, the Partition was 3.8in low at 200 yards and 14.4in low at 300 yards.
A wind of 10mph from directly left or right would drift the bullet 2.8in from zero at 200 yards and 6.8in at 300 yards.
TRIGGER AND MAGAZINE
The real improvement on the R8 is the removable magazine, which can be ejected from the action via twin sprung buttons on the bottom of the magazine.
This allows you to load the magazine in your hand, which is easier than loading it in the rifle. The new design also allows an extra round to be loaded, which is very handy for Magnum rifle shooters.
The 6.5×55 calibre on test held four rounds in a staggered formation and had a rubber guard at the front of the magazine to prevent lead-tipped bullet heads from deforming under recoil.
The magazine has an aluminium base plate that also forms the trigger-guard, with the upper sections fashioned from high-impact plastic. The magazine is 4.25in long by 3.25in high and a spare blank one is supplied for when the rifle is stored.
The other unusual trait of this design is the trigger-blade – the first hardened pivot-section remains permanently attached to the magazine.
Removing the magazine makes the rifle totally safe, a clever system for when you are climbing into a high seat or placing the rifle in the gun cabinet at the end of the day.
The trigger or desmodromic mechanism does away with a spring to set the trigger (as used in most normal trigger arrangements).
This allows for a direct connection from the triggerblade to the cocking piece, which is incredibly reliable and light at 1.5lb.
Wood variants for the R8 stock come as a two-piece set-up and both are attached to the central action body. This allows the rifle to be broken down for storage and styles or grades of wood can easily be replaced or exchanged.
The Black Edition has a wood grade of six, which offers superb grain pattern and a well-rubbed oil finish, which is sure to excite the traditionalist.
The 12.5in-long fore-end has a slender girth with hand-cut chequering on both sides and it is finished off with a graceful semi-Schnabel fore-end tipped in ebony.
The butt has been restyled on this model, and though you still have that typically Germanic fluted cheekpiece, the low, dropped hog?s-back comb is gone.
Instead the R8 has a straight comb, which allows better use of a scope and directs recoil more squarely to the shoulder, avoiding the tendency for the rifle to rise abruptly.
Blasers always shoot well and the R8 was no exception, both with factory ammunition and reloads.
Fast handling with natural pointability due to the short length and lightness were a real benefit.
The 1.5lb trigger pull on this model was crisp and precise, which certainly contributed to the great accuracy of this rifle.
High-grade walnut with good ergonomics, and a high comb for better scope-to-eye alignment.
All this technology does not come cheap, but it is well worth the investment.
Whether you like straight-pull rifles or not, the Blaser concept, with its quick-detachable barrels and superior magazine design, shoots very well.
The R8 feels light and responsive, and it naturally points where you aim. The swift bolt pull and magazine feed is reliable and fast.
For the shooter who wants one firearm that can be changed into a fox, deer or even an African game rifle in seconds, the Blaser R8 has to rank as one of the best.
Open Seasons Ltd
Tel: 01865 891773