You expect excellent engineering from a German manufacturer and Blaser's custom F3 doesn't disappoint, says Matt Hunt
Our verdict on the Blaser F3 Competition Custom Sideplate
The Blaser F3 is an exceptional example of German engineering, design and technology coming together to create a contemporary over-and-under competition shotgun. Its whole design is about maximising the key shooting characteristics required to give competitors the edge.
From an aesthetic standpoint, the F3 has a traditional style. The action depth measures 6cm, giving it an exceptionally low profile. To put this into perspective, it is the same depth as the Beretta 680 family.
The barrels are monobloc, with a defined join or step in the barrel profile where the tubes meet the monobloc. The barrel has a single bite lump that protrudes through the bottom of the action, with a tapered bolt locking the gun on close.
The barrels are then hinged on large stud pins mounted on the action sides. Pins, bolts and lumps can all be easily replaced with off-the-shelf parts.
If the barrel lumps are the engine of the F3, the action is the gearbox. Blaser has replaced traditional pivoting tumblers with a horizontal striker system that relies on coil springs. This maximises lock time and also allows for a simpler mechanical trigger system that can be easily regulated to produce consistent trigger-pulls of 3lb.
The ejector system is also a mechanical work of art, branded EBS (Ejector Ball System) by Blaser and designed around the principle of improving the F3’s ergonomics in competition. Its extractor springs are housed in the barrel lump like pretty much every Italian over-and-under.
However, the springs are compressed on opening following a shot, rather than on closing prior to a shot. The idea is to reduce fatigue to the operator on closing the gun when preparing for the next target.
In gunmaking, radical mechanism redesigns tend to have a very short shelf life, but over time issues can be engineered out by constant upgrades and redesigning the problem components or processes.
In sharp contrast to the mechanism, the stock and fore-end designs could be described as simple and traditional. The grip is slim with a palm swell and fills the hand perfectly, and the comb is well placed to allow a constant hand position. As with most competition guns in this price range, there are options on comb heights, and an adjustable comb can be specified and factory fitted if required.
The model we had the pleasure of reviewing was a custom sideplate with grade 8 wood, hand-engraved with deep Germanic relief scroll and game scenes of pheasants and woodcock on the lockplates.
The modular nature of the F3’s components allow the customer to configure a gun that is totally individual. The Blaser website operates a configuration service, which allows you to choose from the many options available, along with calculating the final price.
The selection of wood is also made simple. Blaser supplies high-resolution images of stock blanks for you to choose from.
The finishing of the woodwork across all grades is a high-gloss oil and one of the most durable available on the market. The barrel blacking is achieved with a nitride finish that, unlike many blacks of this type, still gives a silky rather than textured finish and is exceptionally hard-wearing.
Need to know: Blaser F3 Competition Custom Sideplate
- Manufacturer Blaser
- Model F3 Competition Custom Sideplate
- Calibre 12-bore
- Barrels 30in
- Chamber 3in (76mm)
- Chokes Blaser Extended Multichoke by Briley
- Rib Vented top-rib with solid mid-rib
- Grip Full pistol
- Weight 8lb 6oz
- Importer Blaser Group, 01483 917412
At more than 8lb, the Blaser F3 Competition Custom Sideplate is a much heavier gun than I would usually shoot. It has an overwhelming mechanical feel that is very different from most other European-made guns. The top-lever shape gives exceptional purchase to the thumb and is operated with very little resistance over a short cam to its hold-over.
The barrels fall open easily under their own weight to a full gape, allowing the cartridges to be loaded into the chamber with ease.
The balance of the gun was slightly back from the hinge pin, making the gun stock-heavy. The balancing system fitted in the stock and under the fore-end on the barrel gives the shooter unlimited options when setting up the balance of the gun.
The pull and feel of the trigger when firing is superb; there is a small amount of primary take-up before an exceptionally crisp and fast pull.
The barrel selector is located at the front of the trigger and is a feature that I’ve never liked because it allows the barrel order to be selected with the safety catch in the fire position. Considerable heft is needed to get the gun to connect with the speed of the target. This rewards the user with consistency on distance targets, but you need to set up for the shot perfectly.
Overall, the gun handled exceptionally well around a course of 100 clay targets and left me with the feeling that, with perseverance and practice, I could improve my scores. This is probably why the Blaser F3 is becoming increasingly popular on the competition clay circuit.
- Action and barrels 18/20 Superb strength and reliability
- Handling 17/20 Slightly heavy for many shooters’ styles
- Trigger 16/20 Superbly crisp but not a fan of the barrel selector
- Stock 19/20 One of the best in terms of finish and shape
- Value 16/20 Extras seem expensive against the overall cost
- Overall score 86/100 Great German engineering but feels too mechanical