Ask any hunting aficionado to pick a rifle and nine times out of 10 a model from Europe would be their choice. So rich is the hunting culture throughout that continent it’s reflected in the excellent firearms used and during the past decade one action has been the option for serious hunters ‑ the straight-pull. This action still uses a bolt to lock into the barrel but movement of the bolt to chamber to unload a fired/unfired case is a linear one, unlike the standard turn-bolt repeating action based on the Mauser M98.
There are many makes based on the straight-pull action and a fair percentage use a replaceable barrel system, giving flexibility to have one stock/action to which you can apply different calibres simply by changing the barrel and bolt-head if required.
These rifles are expensive as they’re technically brilliant and engineered to extremely high standards. Fortunately for the discerning Australian hunter such rifles are available here and the cream of the crop is made by Blaser of Germany, who incorporate such gun-making marques as Mauser and Sauer under their umbrella but as separate entities.
Blaser’s R8 model is arguably the pinnacle of the repeating straight-pull action design, the Professional Success made to be used in the most testing hunting conditions with complete reliability and application. Outdoor Sporting Agencies supplied Australian Shooter with the Blaser R8 Professional Success with a .30-06 Springfield barrel and superb Blaser riflescope and saddle mount.
At a glance
The rifle and parts come with comprehensive instruction manuals, both rifle and optic having many features you wouldn’t normally find on conventional equivalents. There’s a synthetic thumbhole stock which cradles the steel/aluminium R8 receiver platform, together with detachable trigger group/magazine assembly and 580mm sporter barrel in .30-06 Springfield. The rifle weighs 3.38kg, measures 1020mm and with the Blaser optic fitted recorded 4.29kg.
There are alternate stock configurations but the review rifle sported the one-piece 750mm synthetic thumbhole in dark green. The provision allows comfortable ergonomics and lets the user access the safety/cocking/de-cocking lever with the thumb of the master hand easily. Looking at the stock closely, it’s a sculptured unit of high-density synthetic polymer with scalloping and black rubber grip panels inletted into the body where the user would expect an increased level of grip, namely the fore-end, pistol grip and cheekpiece.
The full pistol grip is pronounced but fills the hand perfectly, while the scalloping lines the contour of the master hand around the grip area and the leading hand around the fore-end grip. Holding the stock, it morphs into the user’s arms and becomes one with the hunter. Sling swivel studs are fitted, one at the fore-end tip and another around 80mm from the toe of the stock, a thin 10mm sorbothane pad just the right thickness to absorb recoil but not too heavy to look awkward.
Receiver and barrel
The receiver platform assembly is sheer engineering genius. The platform, which accepts the bolt and interchangeable barrel, is a mix of aluminium and steel parts precisely inletted into the body of the stock. It houses the bolt raceways, trigger sears, bolt stop and release provisions and a steel recoil lug which mates to a slot on the underside of the barrel.
Either side of the recoil lug are two holes which accommodate the steel threaded lugs under the barrel. There are two captive Allen nuts in the stock body which are accessed through small holes in the stock forward of the magazine well, the barrel simply dropped into the channel with the steel threaded lugs positioned accordingly. It’s then secured by the supplied T-wrench snugly tightening the Allen nuts (accessed through the underside of the stock body). It’s simple but must be done with bolt removed and always following the manufacturer’s instructions.
The barrel comes in calibres ranging from .204 Ruger up to .500 Jeffery and all that’s required is the appropriate bolt head and the calibre is changed in minutes. Barrels are available in either standard, semi-weight or match profiles in standard, magnum or special calibres and can be had with or without sights at no cost. The test rifle had a 580mm barrel made by the cold-hammer forging technique, internally the finish showing no evidence of tooling or machining marks. Options such as barrel fluting and Express Hi-Viz sights are also available.
This is characterised by a solid aluminium shroud with the internal componentry of the safety system, bolt handle, firing pin and locking systems. Two steel ‘forks’ protrude from the front of the bolt assembly and mate with corresponding raceways in the body of the receiver platform, the bolt handle also made of steel with a small polymer knob.
The bolt has a toggle which lets it move around 40mm or so on its pivoting axis and this is instrumental in locking the front of the bolt into the rear of the barrel. This is done through 12 radial ‘petals’ which, with the bolt rearward and action open, are retracted into the bolt-head body. When the bolt handle is thrust forward to chamber a round, the 12 ‘petals’ are forced out from the bolt-head body and lock up into a recess in the rear of the barrel. Once the bolt is locked into place a strong reliable locking system is set, case ejection accommodated by a plunger at the six o’clock position on the bolt-face and claw extractor at 10 o’clock.
Trigger and magazine system
This sees both mechanisms incorporated into a single unit which is removable, giving the rifle an additional security feature, the entire unit made from high strength polymer with metallic parts such as the magazine spring. The trigger blade and triggerguard are at the rear and the magazine is forward of the trigger blade/guard. Incorporated into the trigger itself is a small cam which directly acts on the trigger sear mechanism in the receiver platform and will only work when the detachable trigger/magazine unit is inserted.
There’s no way the rifle can be fired without the detachable trigger/magazine unit installed. This clips into place firmly but is easily removed by pressing the retaining tabs on either side of the magazine body. Additionally, Blaser supply a purpose-made plastic cover to clip over the detachable trigger/magazine unit to keep it free of dust, dirt and moisture. Internally the magazine is of a rotary design and accepts four rounds in the .30-06 Springfield calibre, feeding rounds easily for the linear bolt to chamber at lightning-fast pace.
The large thumb-operated lever allows you to manually cock or de-cock the firing mechanism even with a round chambered, the lever serving as a release which permits the bolt to be cycled or the action opened. Gently thumbing the safety lever forward a few millimetres allows the bolt to be cycled towards the rear (if in the closed position).
2.8-20×50 iC scope and saddle mount
These are sold separately, the Blaser scope retailing for $4935 while the saddle mount will set you back $821. Expensive, yes, but quality unsurpassed. The saddle mount is quickly attached to the barrel using two static, one-piece locating lugs which mate with recesses on the right of the barrel and is secured by adjustable camming levers on the opposite side of the mount. This system guarantees no loss of zero when the scope/mount are removed as one.
This model was tailored for the Blaser scope with the mounting rail on its base. It doesn’t use scope-rings as such, the rail being the surface to which the saddle mount directly attaches. It’s a real European-style scope attachment which tends to be found only on high-end optics such as Blaser and Zeiss. Optic quality is exceptional, the scope and saddle mount adding 910 grams to the overall weight.
In the field
Accuracy testing off the bench was done in controlled conditions on private property with a safe 100m firing range. I sighted-in using Remington Core Lokts in 180-grain bullet weight and had three-shot groups averaging 1.5 MOA at around 60mm above the point of aim at 100m. I’d have preferred a proper accuracy test using several hunting loads but time was against me.
I managed an outing for deer in early winter and this is just what the rifle’s designed for – operating in harsh elements hunters face in pursuit of their quarry, and while deer were present they were either out of range (smart fallow bucks) or a tad too quick for me stalking in dense cover.
The only downside was the overall weight of the outfit. As mentioned, scope and saddle mount add 910g and I’d have preferred a scope which kept the weight under 4kg – a 2-8x variable around 500-600g would have been ideal.
The Blaser R8 Professional Success is at the pinnacle of sporting rifle layout, tailor-made for hunters who demand the best to deal with everything Mother Nature can muster. More ornate models of the R8 are available with exhibition grade walnut and commissioned engraving as per customer specifications, if money is no object. But the Professional Success with interchangeable barrel system, detachable trigger/magazine, manual cocking/de-cocking safety system and one-piece high-density polymer stock mated to a steel/aluminium receiver platform is an engineering marvel.
It displays Germanic ingenuity and is a marque the serious hunter can subscribe to. Join the circle – invest and never look back. The rifle retails for $7105 (with one barrel in specific calibres) and additional barrels and bolt-heads are available on request. More at www.osaaustralia.com.au.