Elegant in both name and appearance, this French straight-pull rifle impresses Bruce Potts with its classic looks and excellent handling
In general, French manufacturer Chapuis Armes is associated more often with quality double rifles and shotguns than modern straight-pull rifles, but the Chapuis Armes Rols Elegance rifle is a refreshingly new and innovative take on the straight-pull operating system.
I tested the Elegance model, as I had seen it at the British Shooting Show earlier this year.
- The Rols is a lightweight, fast-handling and accurate rifle, available in nine calibres. To me, the stock is the most important element of any rifle and can make or break the looks and handling.
- The Rols Elegance, as its name suggests, is a stunner.
- The standard Rols models have a two-piece stock arrangement with the pieces fitting to the front and rear of the action, leaving the action sides bare — a bit like a shotgun. The Elegance, however, has a one-piece stock that covers the sides of the action and I think looks better.
- This does not impede the bolt action, as it has a stepped-down profile in this area, and the whole stock design is well thought out.
- The quality of walnut is excellent — a lovely dark colour, with a flowing grain through the entire stock. Its rubbed oil finish further enhances the overall appeal and practicality of the rifle.
- The shorter action length gives the stock a short and stout feel, and handling is natural and positive, aided by the large-width pistol grip and full rounded fore-end with slight Schnabel tip.
- The chequering is first class, with good coverage, and aids the grip. The straight-line comb, together with the upright pistol grip gait, is perfect for operating the rifle without moving the head and offers the opportunity for a quick second shot.
- The modular design enables the barrel to be removed from the action, allowing a swift calibre change or an easy storage solution.
- This Elegance model in .308 Win came with a 60cm barrel length, threaded for a sound moderator, with a slim Sporter-type profile, which is ideal for a quick-handling rifle.
The barrel is easily removed with the Allen key provided, which is inserted into a hole in the underside of the fore-end. With the bolt withdrawn, the barrel release is recessed from the stock. The barrel at the chamber end has a steel sleeve, which has a precise recoil lug machined into its base and it is this that engages the action’s carrier and securing screw. You can exchange and replace barrels knowing that the precise bedding will return the Elegance to zero every time.
The action itself is genius, as it combines the speed of a straight pull with enhanced safety features surpassing those of a conventional bolt action. The Chapuis Locking System uses a bolt head that locks directly into the barrel and can withstand 123,000psi pressure, and its locking lug surface area or engagement is 260 square millimetres for total safety — all steel and beautifully blued.
In the rear of the barrel is a circular locking ring of seven lugs, which can tilt up and down as the bolt is locked or unlocked, engaging and encapsulating the entire bolt face in a vice-like grip.
A locking sleeve around the bolt, controlled by the bolt handle, moves back and forth to engage the locking lugs and so only when the bolt is fully forward and the bolt handle vertical can the Rols fire.
The bolt head can be exchanged to fit a magnum calibre when a magnum barrel is fitted.
Safety, trigger, magazine
Another good safety feature is the cocking device lever at the rear of the bolt housing. It can be cocked and de-cocked manually to make the rifle totally safe, as it depresses the spring engagement on the trigger. A small protrusion at the top of this lever is easily pushed to de-cock the rifle then you push the whole lever up to cock. This means that a chambered round on a de-cocked action can be made ready to fire in an instant with a small movement of the thumb.
The trigger is a direct contact type and has a good pull weight of 2.75lb with no creep at all. The innovative magazine system utilises a rotary detachable magazine with a positive and reliable feed from the bolt action. The magazine release is a small button in front of the magazine which, when pushed, lowers the trigger-guard and trigger-blade. Again, safety comes first. A second push releases the magazine into the palm or it is possible to keep it pushed down for a faster delivery.
It is a secure and positive action, which means the magazine “lips” for feeding around are perfectly placed. It is as speedy as any other system and you will never lose a magazine.
To the bench
- The Rols Elegance is another .308 Win-chambered rifle — my preferred all-round cartridge, I have to admit — so I brought out the old favourites to test. I had no time for reloads though, unfortunately.
- The Rols has a one-piece scope mount. This was fitted via its quick-detachable feet, which felt positive and precise, resulting in no loss of zero when removed and reattached.
- The Barnes TSX 150-gr non-lead bullet achieved 2,851fps and 2,708ft/lb and 1.25in three-shot groups.
- Next, the Norma Oryx 180-gr shot 1.25in groups for 2,543fps and 2,585ft/lb, making for a nice boar load.
- The Hornady 150-gr SST sped along at 2,892fps for 2,786ft/lb energy, so a great all-rounder with sub-inch groups.
- Finally, the Browning BXR, with its 150-gr bullet, achieved 2,688fps, 2,407ft/lb and a 1.0in-1.25in group.
Out in the field
I did have time to take the Rols Elegance for a field test, which allowed me to judge its performance in simulated real-world conditions. I shot at a roe target at 100 yards from sticks, standing, kneeling and then from a prone position. It was interesting to see the effect that hold and position had on the groups and zero.
- I used the Hornadys as these were the most accurate load in this rifle.
- Handling was excellent, and I shot several groups slowly and then quickly, simulating a back-up shot or a running boar.
- The Rols was smooth and the straight-combed stock made for minimal recoil and natural pointability.
- I had no malfunctions, and with the bolt open I could top up the magazine with extra rounds.
- The trigger/safety system was also crisp and reassuring to use.
- The bolt handle, with its enlarged wooden knob, was tactile and looked in keeping with the walnut stock.
- The magazine button is small but easily mastered out in the field.
Advice on choosing a rifle and scope
Safety On ranges, carry your rifle barrel up – if a round is fired towards the ground, there is a danger…
From standing, the Hornady 150-gr SSTs shot 1in two-shot groups — that is a controlled first well-aimed shot then a quick second shot. I repeated the process for three shots and, with the wind picking up, I had two in 1in again but off to the right (due to the wind) and the third shot was an inch away. I repeated this in prone position and had the same results with a different point of aim. While kneeling and firing off sticks, the rifle shot consistent 1.5in groups and was a bit lower than the standing shots. The results of these tests confirm that shooting from different holds and positions can affect the point of aim — though this is not the Rols Elegance’s fault.
Straight-pull rifles by their nature look similar, as do bolt-action rifles, but take the time to delve a little deeper and you will see all the refined and novel technology that makes the Rols such an impressive rifle.
I love the looks and handling of the Elegance model thanks to the modern, modular design of the rifle beneath the more classic one-piece stock. Accuracy and, especially, handling were really good and consistent, with good first-round hits and no hang-ups on loading or reloading.
Yes, the price is quite steep, but with new technology and old-world finish the rifle will certainly outlast its owner. Despite the short test period, I was impressed with the Rols.
- Accuracy: Single shot or fast second, third and so on are all spot on 18/20
- Handling: Very natural hold adn excellent handling 18/20
- Trigger: Safe and precise, just what you want from a trigger 18/20
- Stock: This model is called the Elegance for good reason 19/20
- Value: The price is a little on the high side, but quality costs 17/20
An impressive rifle