The Blaser R8 Professional rifle does take some getting used to but once you have used one there is every chance that you will become a convert, forsaking all others
As a rule of thumb, I would normally recommend that stalkers stick to a standard raise-and-draw bolt-action rifle with simple “forward to fire” safety catch. This ensures that they will naturally and quickly adapt to any borrowed or newly acquired rifle, and safety will never be compromised.
However, for many years there has been an alternative system, and one that its many advocates champion above all else. The Blaser action is distinct in that it operates as a “straight pull” bolt and has no manual safety catch. In simple terms, the bolt locks to the action in a way that does not require the raising and drawing of the bolt, but simply drawing and returning it. This reduces the time and complication of the reload and makes it easier to maintain sight of the target while performing that action.
The rifle also operates on a manual cocking system, which means that a bullet can be chambered in complete safety until the rifle is “cocked” with a lever that resembles an outsize safety catch. This lever is readily de-cocked, and operates in such a way that a chambered round can be removed without having to cock it. It is, therefore, considered by many to be super safe and utterly reliable. The magazine and trigger assembly form an integral unit that can be removed when unloading, and this design means that the overall length of the rifle is significantly shorter than most conventional rifles. As a result, I found the Blaser R8 to be compact, perfectly balanced and lightweight.
The other feature of the Blaser R8 is its easy take-down. Using Blaser saddle mounts, which attach the scope direct to the barrel above the chamber with a pair of engineered clips, the scope can be removed and replaced with absolute certainty that zero will not be affected. Similarly, with the release of just two screws, the barrel can be removed from the stock and, when replaced, zero will not have been affected. This is a great feature for the travelling sportsman, particularly as one rifle will take a range of barrels of different calibres and the whole thing can be packed into a case that doesn’t yell to all and sundry at the airport that you are carrying a firearm.
Many deer managers swear by their Blasers. My good friend, the late Ian Ballard, who was by no means tall, had a cut-down version that looked like a toy but performed like a giant and was used with great success by his clients. Tim Lander, professional stalker and former special forces operator, has four of them and two additional barrels. “In my opinion the construction tolerances are so high that they are more reliable, more robust and take more abuse than any other rifle on the market,” he says. “They handle well, are perfectly balanced and outperform anything else I have used.’
Ray Mears, wilderness guide, says of his, “If I could take only one rifle to any location in the world in the sure knowledge that it would perform in a crisis I would always recommend a Blaser as long as its user is competent.”
I came to have huge respect for the .243 Blaser R8 I tested. It was well balanced, compact, light, at just under 10lb fully set up and with a full magazine, and came readily to the shoulder. There is no doubt that the re-cock is quicker and more reliable than a standard bolt action, particularly under duress when many stalkers using standard raise-and-draw bolts fail to draw fully, and thus fail to eject the empty before trying to load a fresh round. With the Blaser this does not happen thanks to its simple forward-and-back motion to eject and re-feed. It also shot incredibly well, achieving groups of just 1⁄2in at 100 metres and 1in at 200 metres. It fulfils all my requirements for a working rifle, so I have bought a lot of British Deer Society raffle tickets in an attempt to win one.
It does take some getting used to but once you have used one there is every chance that you will become a convert, forsaking all others.
Price £2,475 plus VAT
Stockist Open Season, Oxfordshire
Tel 01865 891773