European Sporting Rifles - 21st Century
Published: , in The Suburban Bushwacker: From Fat Boy to Elk Hunter
Whether its who has; the rarest pressing of a record - released in Kingston in '58 and deleted in the same week. A pair of sports shoes so 'limited' they were only available in one shop in an unfashionable suburb of Nagoya - seven pairs sold, one pair known to be destroyed in a fire. Or a rifle chambered in your own wildcat of a calibre that was almost unknown 100 years ago, preferably with a stock made of timber sourced from the garden of Siberian salt mine in the 1890's. There's some comfort [or smugness] to be had in having stuff no one else has, or better yet has never even heard of. In recognition of this, and to help you in your quest for rarity, your pal SBW has once again trawled the web, in search of bragging rights for those of you with deep pockets or, for my team [the poor boys], the chance to claim pre-existing familiarity with someone else's new toy.
As the 21st century gets underway rifles have never been better; sub MOA with factory ammo has become the expectation rather than a high priced novelty, the trend towards switch barrel rifles with endlessly repeatable accuracy continues, and the age of the tool-less adjustable trigger has begun.
Let's start with the turn bolts:
Shultz & Larsen's super value offering the Classic TravelerAlthough the company are famed for their aftermarket barrel sales, with thousands of Nordic competitors buying well known German target rifles and re barreling them with S&L's, they are having something of renaissance in rifle sales. There are; three grades of walnut stocked centerfire; Classic, Victory (nicer stock and swept bolt handle), Ambassador (sleek lines and very nice wood, owes something to the london gunmakers of the early 20th century), a super petite rifle called the Legacy which uses rounds from the .223 case family, at least one target rifle in a laminate stock, and a fantastic tactical barrelled action. For only a couple of hundred more than any other of the off-the-shelf turn bolts, even S&L's plain-jane offering is streets ahead in terms of value.It all starts with their famous cut rifling, throated (reverse taper) & hand lapped barrel, which can be swapped out with a hex key. S&L also make their own; actions, stocks, rings, and moderators, there's a no-cost choice of single or double action triggers, and every rifle is fully bedded before it leaves the factory.The 'Traveller' designation is an added cost option; a slightly reshaped barrel channel, and a pair of collets lining holes drilled into the stock that get you to the hex bolts so you can, without risking marking the stock, and demount the barrel without removing the action from the stock. Nice touch.
There's a lot of thoughtful engineering for not a lot more cash than a mass-produced rifle. Annoyingly there's a real scarcity of their rifles on the second hand market. Make of that what you will.
Sauer's flagship rifle the 404 XTC. Hand laid carbon fibre stock, hammer forged swappable barrel, Aluminium action (steel is an option) The trigger is adjustable back and forth, for blade angle, and four settings; from target 550g/1.2lbs, via two stalking settings750g/1.7lbs, & 1000g/2.2lbs to driven boar 1250g/2.7lbs. All adjustments are made with an on-board tool kit.You can even order it with a heated grip module, and it comes (at extra cost) with a what has to be the most discrete rifle case yet. You're literally only a few jazz festival stickers away from being invited to give clarinet recitals. I've shot both the standard and the carbon versions, in .30-06 unmoderated, and can confirm, the stock is an ergonomic masterpiece.
The straight pulls: what could be more obscure, nerdier, or rarer?
Blaser R8 SilenceThe shizzle. Also from the Sauer Group, also with a hammer forged, swappable barrel, this time the straight pull all others are judged against. The R8 is a reiteration of the R93 with a couple of rather natty new features. The R93 was the accuracy benchmark for production rifles, it's straight pull design a masterpiece of simplicity. For the R8 Blazer added a removable magazine, which love it or loathe it also houses the trigger, and introduced the optional ATZL trigger with tool-less switching between hunting and target settings. The 'Silence' model is a recent addition; a fully shrouded barrel which in .308 can be as little as 16.5 inches long, with noise reduction of an awesome 28 dB. Now that the pistol grip version has been released, an even more amazing woodland stalking rifle.
Strasser RS14 EVO TahrOne for the engineering for engineering's sake Fan-Boy. I'm literally drooling.
Removable barrel and detachable woodwork, it's a take down; it's a straight pull, it's a swap barrel, it has an adjustable trigger. All ideas we've seen before. But not like this.
Strasser's innovation, 'Mechanical BEST™, is a novel way to mount the barrel. Where there others use retained screws to attach the barrel, Strasser uses a collar filled with hydraulic fluid, which when tensioned against a screw gives a constant 360 degrees of locking force.At the bang-switch end of things, where Blaser has two settings, and Sauer four, Strasser has an adjustable trigger with four settings, and a set trigger that's adjustable between 100-200g. All adjustments are made with an on-board tool kit. Another massively overdue innovation is all the trigger parts are coated in DLC, a 'diamond-like carbon' that's smoother than glass and has yet to be bested in wear and corrosion tests.
For the less travel-conscious several of the rifles are also offered 'solo' without the removable barrel at substantially reduced cost.
Lynx TD15The other kind of take down - where the butt stock and forend are removed with a hex key and action and barrel stay mated together. Due perhaps to their fairly hefty price tag the Lynx brand is yet to take off outside their native Finland, but wow what a rifle.
Hailing from Europe's Alaska the rifles are made with chilly mornings in mind, where the sportsman may be wearing gloves. The whole thing is defined by an economy of design; the action only has six parts, less than some rifle's bolt. Round feed is controlled by two cut outs in the underside of the bolt which fit the lips of the magazine to let the bolt guide the round all the way into the chamber with no potential for the round to twist on its way into the chamber. This week I'm all about take-downs, but for those with taste as deep as their pockets, Lynx also do a very nice 'English', a sort of ScandiRigby made to order in really nice wood, if you've got really good taste and really deep pockets, you can have it colour case hardened. Remind me to start playing the lottery. Proper lovely.
There's also a target rifle that would make a really nice, and less 'Walt', alternative to an Accuracy International. There's even an AR15-Lynx hybrid but that's a story for another day.
In the words of Monty Python "And now for something completely different"
Pfeifer-Waffen SR3Rarer than a vegan boyfriend riding a Unicorn. The 'so short you don't need to take it down' offering. A single-shot rifle with a barrel length of 66 cm and an overall length of 70 cm.Pfeifer really do plough their own furrow, with a whole host of innovations in a rifle designed for mountain stalking in the Alps. The reversed trigger cocks the rifle, the button is the trigger. Using hammer forged barrel by Heym. Chambered from .22LR to .458. Aluminium action for .22 to 6 x 70R, steel for the bigger ones.
Here's something you don't see every day, a single shot bullpup. One in the pipe and two spares.
The SR in the name comes from Safety Rifle, it's got a Key Lockable safety, something I've only seen on a high end air rifle.
One last bit of trivia: At one point Pfeifer held the record for both the smallest lightest rifle, the Pfeifer Liliput in .22 hornet, and for those of you who like that kind of thing, the Zeliska, the world's most powerful revolver, chambered in .600 Nitro Magnum. Yikes!
More soonYour pal
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