It might not be the prettiest, but Bruce Potts loves the speed, handling and stability of this rifle
The Blaser R8 really needs no introduction. Its patented straight-pull bolt action is by now legendary and popular both on the Continent and in the UK. It is not just the bolt action that is the selling point, but also the way in which it is designed to create a shorter, lighter rifle, while clever quick-change features mean you can exchange barrels and bolt faces to transform instantly a fox rifle into an African Plains game gun. The Blaser can also be broken down to half its size, making it handy for travelling.
The Pro Success takes it to a new level with a solidly built thumbhole stock design whose looks hint at the incredible handling and stability of this new rifle.
Action/bolt and barrel assembly
The Blaser straight-pull bolt-action system is one of the fastest, slickest rifle actions available. Its compact design and lightning speed is largely due to where the bolt handle is seated — it’s in the action housing where the bolt that locks into the back of the barrel resides. This keeps the action short and thus light and fast.
The reciprocating bolt is guided on two 9.5in rails and locks via the unique Blaser symmetrical radial locking system that uses “L”-shaped sprung individual lugs — 13 of them. When the bolt is closed they spring out to engage into a barrel recess and lock the bolt concentrically. Another good feature is the quickly removed bolt head, so that a small size, say a .222 Rem, can be exchanged for
a bigger, say .308 Win, bolt head, thus doubling its versatility.
In regard to safety, there is a decocking mechanism at the rear of the bolt. This large lever allows you manually to cock or de-cock the R8 with your thumb. It is quick and silent.
You can change the barrel just as swiftly. Every Blaser barrel has two locking prongs on its base that secure into two captive bolts within the lower portion of the action. This is sited in the stock’s foreend. All you need to do is tighten these bolts with the hex head screw included with the gun, and the barrel is fitted in a trice.
The barrel is only 20.5in long and muzzle-threaded for a sound moderator with a 15mm/1 pitch. Blaser has hooked up with A-TEC from Norway and can supply “Blaser” moderators on request. The scope mount is also quick to detach. It has one-piece locating static lugs on the right side of the barrel and is secured with adjustable camming levers on the opposite side for no loss of zero when removed.
Trigger and magazine
The R8 has a neat removable magazine system that is integral with the trigger mechanism. The base is made from aluminium, while the upper sections are made from high-impact plastic. As the twin-release catches for the mag are depressed, the mag is ejected along with the trigger-blade and activating trigger pivot. This makes it impossible to shoot the Blaser with the mag out. This renders it safe to travel with a loaded mag in the pocket and then you can load up when you need to shoot, or when crossing an obstacle, or climbing a high seat.
In .243 Win it holds four rounds in a doublestack design. The front of the magazine has a rubber guard to stop lead-tipped bullet heads deforming under recoil. The superb triggerpull uses the Desmodromic mechanism. That means no springs are used to set the trigger, which allows a direct trigger connection from trigger-blade to cocking piece. It breaks incredibly cleanly and broke at 1.25lb on test.
The first thing you notice about the Pro is the one-piece synthetic stock design. It creates a nice unity to the overall look, as does the solid green colour with textured finish broken up by matt black, soft rubber inserts. These act as tactile grips instead of chequering.
The biggest change is the thumbhole configuration. I love thumbholes and the Blaser does not disappoint. It will not win any beauty pageants, but the beauty is all in the ergonomics — I really grew to like it.
The fore-end is slightly tapered with small grooves for finger grip, while the pistol grip is upright. This places the hand near vertical with little rake — it gives a solid hold. The “hole” is large, so you can manoeuvre your hand in and out — even when wearing gloves. There is no thumb-up position, but there is a nice palm swell to the right-hand side. Though this has a right-hand cheekpiece, with no cast the stock can be used left-handed if necessary.
The recoil pad is a soft, slim rubber and the comb is straight but high, so good for scope use.
Accuracy and targets
Accuracy was very good, with all factory loads shooting 1.25in or less. The Sako Gamehead loads were best at 1in three-shot group at 100 yards with a velocity of 3,069fps for 1,882ft/lb. But as with all .243 Win short barrels, such as this 20.5in model, it was just on the cusp of being deer legal in terms of energy figures, 24in down to 22in no problems. Below this you can struggle.
Hornady SST 75-gr, Norma 58gr V-Max, Federal 85-gr GameKing and Remington 75-gr loads were all below the limit, some only just. This can be easily rectifi ed by some reloads as shown or trying alternate factory loads. Note that it was cold when tested, so a temperature increase will also help velocities.
Best reload for energy was the Hornady InterLock 100-gr load of 42.5grains of H4350 at 2,856fps for 1,812ft/lb. But best accuracy went to the Sierra GameKing 85-gr load of 45grains of H4350 powder at 3,058fps for 1,765ft/lb, shooting 0.65in groups.