Get a group of stalkers together and throw in the question, “what do people think of Blaser rifles?” – then step away! I seriously doubt whether there has ever been a more contentious rifle than the Blaser, either the legendary R93 or the newer R8. The concept of the straight pull bolt isn’t exclusive to Blaser so is it just mass marketing and hype behind their success or is there more to it?
I first shot one about 5 years ago and although I wasn’t instantly bowled over I was intrigued by the concept but being a traditional turn-bolt man I never took it any further and stuck to my trusty Sauers’. The next time I had much to do with them was when I first opened the temporary range prior to building the present one, when a couple of guys came for a zeroing session and unloaded three R93’s from the back of the car. To cut a long story short, after a couple of hours and a fair few rounds the seed had been sown.
Now, as per the title of the post, you either love them or hate them, but how many people can actually say why and genuinely back up their reasoning? In the last year around 1000 Blasers were sold in the UK, that’s a lot of guns, particularly as they are a premium brand. UK stalkers can be divided into three main categories, the true recreational stalkers who shoot half a dozen deer a year, the recreational stalker who shoots 10-20 deer a year and sees themself as a deer manager and the genuine deer manager/professional stalker who has numbers to get and estates to keep happy. Don’t get me wrong, there are times when I would love to fall into the first two categories, as a good friend of mine once said, “deer stalkers want to be deer managers and deer managers want to be deerstalkers.” Many is the cold wet winter morning when I would rather be tucked up in bed rather than sneaking around the woods. Blasers appeal to all three categories of stalker and have benefits for all of them, but the point of this review is about why I use them for my particular job.
Firstly, the inherent accuracy. Right from the start I know that come Hell or high water I can absolutely depend on the rifle to shoot straight providing I do my part. Now I’m not saying other manufacturers guns aren’t accurate but I see a lot of rifles at the range that just don’t group as well as they should with factory ammunition and we all know that providing a rifle shoots within a 4 inch circle it is capable of killing deer but as we are now in the 21st century and our guns are no longer manufactured from melted down iron railings is that good enough? Not for me.
The safety catch is one of the main hang-ups for people trying one for the first time and I would be the first to admit that it does take some getting used to. It is positioned where you would expect a shotgun safety catch to be only it is a good deal harder to move than a shotgun safety – the reason for this is that when making the gun live i.e. pushing the slide forwards, what you are doing is cocking the bolt. Think about that for a second, whilst ever the gun is safe it cannot possibly go off as the firing pin is not under tension. When put into practical terms from a deer managers point of view it means that the gun can be at the ready i.e. one in the chamber whilst being 100% safe, only the Mauser has the same claim. It is comforting to know that when the gun is in the passenger side foot well whilst on the ground or whilst climbing a high seat or crossing obstacles it is absolutely safe and because of the effort required to make the gun live it is impossible for it to happen accidentally.
Reloading speed is the one that really clinched it for me as a deer manager. This is down to the straight pull bolt and magazine design and on numerous occasions has allowed follow-up shots with lightning speed often resulting in several deer from a herd being culled, when a herd of 40 fallow are standing in a field merrily browsing a farmers livelihood away it’s nice to know that a second, third and fourth shot may well be on the cards. The handling of the rifle itself is made so much easier due to the fact there is no receiver as such with the bolt locking directly into the barrel, this has the effect of shortening the overall length of the gun by around three inches without sacrificing barrel length.
Finally, the ease with which the whole thing can be disassembled and the knowledge that when re-assembled the zero will not have changed, I have proved this countless times to people on the range and it never fails to impress. It also means that if I have a particularly hard day and the gun gets covered in goodness knows what it is a simple matter of stripping it in seconds and wiping it down, it really is that simple. Another benefit this has is when travelling and the whole thing packs down into a case that is so short nobody realises what you are carrying, very useful in hotel lobbies!
So, it’s accurate, it’s safe, its’s fast and it’s portable. All this has to come at a price, and it does. For a synthetic stocked version with the saddle mount theres not going to be much change out of £2.5k which is a heck of a lot but for the benefits it is well worth the outlay, I certainly wouldn’t use anything else although apart from the price I do have a couple of niggles, the first of which is the barrel finish. On a synthetic stocked rifle, the barrel really should have a corrosion free finish yet the Blaser barrels are blued/blacked! It came as something of a shock to return from a particularly wet stalk to find an Blaser speckled with rust – by all means put a blued barrel on a nice wooden stocked model but on synthetic? The only other gripe I have is the height of the comb on the stock, how many people shoot over open sights? So why make the comb so low that you have to lift your face off the stock to get a clear sight picture through the scope? This is easily remedied by adding a cheekpiece of some sort but on a rifle of this quality it shouldn’t be necessary, being as it’s a true modular rifle they could make a different height stock an option although the new pro-success thumbhole stock has a higher comb.
As you can see, these qualities make it an easy choice for the proffessional deer manager as well as any keen stalker who wants the best kit and doesn’t mind paying – as in all walks of life, quality costs!
If you would like to try a Blaser either give me a call or send an e-mail and book some rangetime to see what the fuss is all about – I have three to choose from.