Have gun – will travel
Schultz & Larsen’s Hunter Traveller Composite rifle impressed Con Kapralos
Danish gunmakers Schultz & Larsen have been manufacturing bespoke longarms for more than a century and while their current catalogue does cater to tactical/long-range rifle options, they’re best known for excellent hunting rifles and models such as the Legacy and Victory. One rifle which also shares the pedigree of their bolt-action offerings is the Hunter Traveller, aimed squarely at the hunter who demands a rifle that can be taken down into its component parts.
Its compactness and ability to use interchangeable barrels/calibres make it an excellent choice for those who requires a single rifle platform with switch-barrel capability. The Hunter Traveller has been available with traditional walnut stock for some time, but demand for the rifle with a composite (synthetic) stock led to the Hunter Traveller Composite being released in 2019. It shares the same switch-barrel action as the walnut model but with a stock which can take whatever environmental conditions the user may experience.
Gone Hunting, Australian Schultz & Larsen distributor, offered Australian Shooter the Hunter Traveller Composite for review, the rifle supplied in a full-length hard case along with three barrels in 6.5 Creedmoor, .308 Winchester and 9.3×62. An optic in the form of an IOR Breaker 2-16x 42 was also included.
At a glance
The rifle has switch-barrel capability to handle all weather conditions. The Traveller nomenclature means the rifle can be taken down (and barrels replaced) without dismantling the stock from the action, two small holes on the right of the stock (fore-end) giving access to the barrel retaining screws. The barrelled action is finished in a deep blue/black and is matched to the charcoal-coloured composite stock with an alloy action bedding design, ensuring any barrel mated to the receiver is free-floating.
Overall weight and length is dependent on the barrel fitted and its profile. The review rifle had a weight variation between 3.49kg and 4.11kg, the former with the 56cm fluted 9.3×62 barrel and the latter with the 65cm varmint in 6.5 Creedmoor. The .308 Winchester in 56cm sporter configuration yielded a 3.6kg weight.
This is a design perfected by Schultz & Larsen, made from a single piece of steel bar-stock and subjected to numerous CNC machining processes to ensure not only is the receiver finished to extremely high tolerances but it fulfills its purpose as a switch-barrel platform. The top of the receiver is machined to accept proprietary Schultz & Larsen scope mounting accoutrements as well as being drilled and tapped for Weaver or Picatinny-style bases. The profile is quite ‘sculptured’, the rear section almost hexagonal with the flats accommodating the bolt release lever (left) and safety selector (right).
The front receiver ring is circular with a single gas port on either side. The switch-barrel design is built into the front receiver ring and has been precisely machined to accept the barrel shank in a tight slip-fit. The bottom of the front ring and recoil lug are split off-centre with the left side (thinnest) being drilled and tapped to accept the barrel retaining screws. The adjacent side (thicker) accepts the front action screw, houses the two barrel retaining screws and a stud which protrudes into the receiver ring.
This stud mates with a corresponding slot in the barrel and when the barrel shank is inserted into the front ring, the stud and slot must engage 100 per cent. Installing a barrel into the receiver does require the bolt to be closed to set the headspace before the barrel retaining screws are hand-tightened with the 4mm Allen wrench provided. Another two screws secure the action to the stock through the steel detachable bottom metal (DBM), which is flush-fitting to the underside of the stock.
These are made entirely from steel with not a hint of polymer, magazines being of a single stack configuration and available in either 3 or 5-shot capacity. As the review rifle was supplied with three barrels (calibres), three magazines were on hand – two ‘K’ for the 6.5 Creedmoor and .308 Winchester (in 3 and 5-shot) as well as ‘L’ for the 9.3×62 in 3-shot capacity. The magazine is held in place by a spring-loaded safety catch and released by pressing the small button in front.
This is a three-position affair to the rear right of the receiver. In the rearmost position it locks the bolt and trigger, the middle blocks the firing pin while allowing the bolt to be operated and action cycled and moving the safety lever fully forward the rifle is ready to fire, as evident by the visible red-dot on the edge of the stock in the safety lever recess.
This is based on a push-feed concept and is a one-piece design, highly polished with a straight bolt handle and rounded bolt knob with flattened base, a blued steel bolt shroud completing the unit. The bolt head is of a three locking lug design which are the same diameter as the bolt body and results in a 60-degree bolt handle lift (the bolt head and locking lugs bear directly into the rear shank of the barrel).
Examining the bolt head closely, the face is recessed with a plunger-style ejector and one lug houses a claw extractor which ensures positive case manipulation when the bolt’s drawn back. Another lug is stamped ‘S’ indicating it’s a Standard bolt (for standard calibres). Bolt travel is via a lug in the back of the bolt-stop/release lever mating up with a longitudinal slot in the bolt body, resulting in silky-smooth bolt operation.
These are what set the marque apart. While methods of barrel construction have enjoyed advances in metallurgy and metal fabrication, Schultz & Larsen have stuck to using the best for their rifles. Many mass-produced rifles use cold-hammer forged barrels which are easier to manufacture in bulk but Schultz & Larsen opt to use cut-rifled barrels which, as the name implies, is the oldest method for rifling barrels and they use state-of-the-art machinery to ensure the utmost precision.
Using chrome molybdenum steel, each barrel is bored then cut-rifled to produce grooves and lands. Each pass removes approximately one ten-thousandth of an inch of metal (0.0001”) and while the method is time-consuming and expensive compared to hammer-forged or button rifling, the resultant barrels are vastly superior in terms of interior finish. Such barrels exhibit superior accuracy, reduced fouling from bullet-jackets and maintain point-of-impact even under rapid-fire conditions though what’s important to note is cut-rifled barrels require ‘running-in’.
The review rifle was supplied with three barrels, two sporter-weight in .308 Winchester and 9.3×62 and a varmint in 6.5 Creedmoor. The breech ends of the barrels consisted of a stepped shank which gave an excellent slip-fit into the receiver ring, the shank having lubrication grooves, two gas-vent ports and a slot machined at six o’clock which locates with the corresponding stud in the receiver ring.
As much as walnut stocks complement deeply blued/black metalwork on any classical rifle, the elements encountered in the field take their toll on wooden stocks and the advent of synthetic options has changed both rifles and shotguns for the better. The prototype composite stock was devised in 2017 with the final product released in 2019. The stock has a high proportion of glass-fibre content in the composite matrix and is extremely stiff, resulting in superior compression and stability which in turn minimises flex and shot dispersion and complements the cut-rifled barrel in achieving precise and consistent performance.
The pistol grip is full in the hand but not overly bulky and has panels of chequering either side. The buttstock has a small amount of cast and a well-designed cheekpiece which provides the right amount of height for scope/master-eye alignment and cheek weld for positive shooting. Sling swivel studs and a sorbothane recoil pad finish off the stock and the composite bedding platform mates up with the barrelled action perfectly to give excellent accuracy.
Bedding of the action to the composite glass-fibre stock was designed over three-plus years and takes into account the optimal compressive strength of the stock platform and barrelled action. A ‘360-degree’ recoil lug around the barrel chamber and ultra-precise tolerances of the stock inletting hold the receiver and barrel shoulder like a tight-fitting glove, with no free-play or movement once action and barrel are mated to the stock.
Together with the bolt and action coming into play to achieve correct head-space and torque settings used for both the two barrel retaining screws and action screws, the geometric design of the stock and precise inletting results in a free-floated barrel married to the stock for the utmost in precision, accuracy and durability.
Assembly and barrel changing
Schultz & Larsen make it clear the ultra-precise tolerances engineered require the owner to adhere to the correct procedure when it comes to changing barrels, with emphasis on proper reassembly order and torquing barrel retaining screws to the correct specifications. As many owners will choose to run several barrels on one rifle platform, having a riflescope system which takes this into account also needs consideration – either a separate scope for each barrel or a scope with multiple adjustments for multiple barrels.
At the range
The .308 Winchester and 6.5 Creedmoor barrels were fully accuracy tested at 100m. A rapid-fire ‘heat-test’ was conducted of the 308W to ascertain point-of-impact changes with the cut-rifled barrel and the 6.5 Creedmoor tested for any changes in point-of-impact between removing/reinstalling the barrel.
Table 1. Accuracy Testing: Hunter Traveller Composite at 100m
.308 Winchester Sporter barrel (16mm) – 56cm length.
|Ammunition||Best group (mm)||Worst group (mm)||Average group (mm) *|
|Sako Gamehead 150gr SP||6||23||14|
|Browning Long Range Pro 168gr Sierra Tipped MK||19||41||32|
|Sako Gamehead Varmint Rx 130gr HP BT||22||29||25|
|Browning BXR 155gr||34||60||45|
|Federal Vital-Shok 130 gr Speer HP||20||34||25|
|Rapid fire – heat test||Group Sizes – 21, 34, 20, 24, 25 (mm) – five 3-shot groups fired in succession, no cooling of barrel allowed.|
6.5 Creedmoor Varmint barrel (19mm) – 65cm length.
|Ammunition||Best group (mm)||Worst group (mm)||Average group (mm) *|
|Hornady Precision Hunter 143gr ELD-X||10mm||20mm||14mm|
|Sako Gamehead Pro 130gr Tipped Game King||15mm||32||24mm|
|Federal Premium Gold Medal Berger 130gr Hybrid OTM||19mm||31mm||24mm|
|Browning Long Range Pro 130gr Sierra Tipped MK||12mm||31mm||24mm|
* Average group calculated from five 3-shot groups at 100m.
The rifle was a pleasure to test with barrels in .308 Winchester and 6.5 Creedmoor. The .308 calibre shot all factory loads around the 1 MOA (~28mm @ 100m) mark or less, the exception being the Browning BXR 155 grain loads which averaged around the 45mm mark.
The Sako Gamehead 150 gr Soft Point load was a cracker with average group sizes of 14mm which included two 3-shot groups at 6 and 8mm respectively. With the .308 barrel attached, a heat stress-test was conducted to examine how the cut-rifled barrel would react to rapid firing. Five 3-shot groups were shot at 100m with Federal’s Vital Shok 130 grain Speer Hollow Point loads without allowing the barrel to cool. Those groups averaged 25mm (just under 1 MOA) and to say the barrel was ‘hot’ after the final 3-shot group would be a huge understatement – it was sizzling.
The 6.5 Creedmoor barrel with its varmint profile shot superbly, attributed to its heavier weight and excellent barrel harmonics. Several popular loads in the Creedmoor chambering were shot at 100m and all average groupings were under 1 MOA with several individual groups nudging 0.5 MOA (~ 14mm) or better. Once again excellent performance from the varmint cut-rifled barrel.
The ability of a switch barrel rifle to maintain its point of impact when the barrel is removed and then replaced is paramount to the success of the rifle. With the 6.5 Creedmoor barrel installed and accuracy testing completed, two 2-shot groups were fired at a fresh target at 100m, the barrel then allowed to cool and removed from the action.
The rifle was allowed to sit with the barrel removed for 30 minutes then refitted to the action. Two additional 2-shot groups were then fired at the same target and, as expected, they shot in very close proximity to the initial two groups. The proof was in the target – the point of impact was validated even after the barrel was removed and refitted. I’d have loved to accuracy test the hard-hitting 9.3 x 62 but due to elements outwith our control I couldn’t.
Any negatives? None, though as a hunter who prefers lighter-weight rifles I’d try to find a combination/calibre where the overall bare weight is around 3.3-3.4kg. The review rifle with 9.3×62 barrel weighed 3.49kg bare so with a lightweight 2-8 power variable scope and rings it could scrape in below my personal 4kg limit.
The Composite is an exceptional hunting rifle available in 22 calibres ranging from 22-250 right up to 358 Norma Magnum. The rifle comes as a package and retails for around $2778 (Magnum calibres $2945) which includes the complete rifle with factory cut-rifled barrel threaded with thread protector, hard-case, Allen key, warranty card and two-piece Weaver bases. Optional is the muzzle brake ($164) and Picatinny rail ($120). More at schultzlarsen.com.au