You’re the ONE that I want
Monobloc rifle in a league of its own, writes Con Kapralos
Steyr Arms (formerly Steyr Mannlicher) have taken sporting rifle design to a new level. When word came out in 2019 they’d be releasing a revolutionary new rifle at the International Weapons Exhibition, many European and US enthusiasts held their breath, not knowing what to expect. When the new rifle (the Monobloc) arrived it was exactly that, a receiver and barrel made from a single piece of steel using the cold hammer forging process and having the receiver and barrel created in this fashion would ensure 100 per cent alignment of the bore with the receiver and inherent top-flight accuracy as a result.
Yet the Monobloc is still a switch-barrel design with owners able to procure additional barrel/receivers in select calibres. Some require a change in bolthead and magazine, some a change in the magazine only and others no additional change at all (use the same magazine and bolt for several calibres). The stock, which consists of an aluminium bedding chassis nestled in a synthetic polymer frame (in four different colours), is furnished with interchangeable leather combs/grips/fore-end inserts (again in four colours) as well as a superbly designed adaptable recoil pad. Additionally, a walnut stocked option in three grades with the aluminium bedding chassis is available for those who prefer the conventional look.
Make no bones about it, this rifle is squarely aimed at the traditional switch-barrel designs which seem to be all the rage in Europe and the US, with Australian shooters and hunters gradually warming to the concept. Winchester Australia, the Steyr Arms distributor, eventually received their first Monobloc rifles last year in selected calibres of .308 Win, .30-06 Springfield and .300 Win Mag with other calibres available on a special order basis. Australian Shooter was offered one of the first arrivals in .30-06 with a mocha-coloured stock and sand-coloured leather inserts.
At a glance.
The rifle arrived in a black hard-shell plastic transport case which contained the user manual, warranty certificate, set of sling swivels and a Torx take-down T-wrench for removing the barrel/receiver assembly from the stock. The review rifle has a 558mm sporter-weight barrel with overall length of 1075mm and weight of 3.7kg.
The Monobloc measures 728mm and weighs 1.65kg, the external finish being satin black (termed DLC coating by Steyr) that’s touted to have high scratch resistance. More noticeable is the smooth finish of the barrel itself, unlike previous barrels which adorned Steyr Mannlicher rifles with their spiral patterning, attributed to the manufacturing process.
The barrel/receiver unit is steel, made using the cold hammer forging process to impart the rifling to the bore as well as the internal surfaces of the receiver, bolt raceways, lug recesses, ejection port and magazine cut-out. The receiver top, ejection port and bolt handle notch are well finished with only the left side of the receiver having markings with the usual proof, serial number and ‘Steyr Arms Austria’ alongside their logo lightly inscribed. The calibre is indicated on the left of the knox-form.
The receiver top is milled to accept a proprietary one-piece Steyr Picatinny scope rail while the underside gives an indication of how the barrel/receiver unit attaches to the stock. A cross-slot is evident forward of the magazine well cut-out, located between two threaded holes which accept the captive screws housed in the stock body, these screws fastened with the supplied Torx wrench.
The rear underside of the receiver houses a series of moving parts with a steel cross-pin mating up to a steel hook arrangement in the stock body, securing the rear part of the receiver to the stock. Behind this steel cross-pin is the arrangement for the bolt-release button which enables the bolt to be cycled when the firing system is blocked. The barrel itself is of a sporter profile with a threaded muzzle for use with accessories and is supplied with a protective cap, the .30-06 calibre having a one-in-10 twist rate with the bore superbly finished.
Removing the barrel/receiver unit is easy. Removing the bolt and front fore-end leather insert, the two captive screws securing the front part of the receiver are slackened off then the steel hook can be accessed from the rear inside of the magazine well. The barrel/receiver then simply lifts off the stock and reinstalling is the reverse of this.
The stock unit is an engineering masterclass and what makes the Monobloc the rifle it is. Steyr Arms designate it an ‘aluminium synthetic stock’ but it’s simply an aluminium chassis which is nestled into a polymer stock frame, a two-piece affair with the fore-end and main/buttstock segments anchored to the aluminium chassis. This serves as the primary bedding platform for the one-piece barrel/receiver unit and houses a steel recoil lug and two captive receiver fastening screws which mate up with corresponding abutments in the receiver underside.
The front of the chassis insert also contains a push-rod arrangement which secures the fore-end leather insert into its corresponding recess in the polymer stock frame. The chassis also contains the magazine release system which consists of a sliding button that frees two tabs inside the magazine well, used to secure the detachable magazine box.
Further rearward the chassis also houses the receiver retaining hook as well as the trigger sears and safety system which is of a manual de-cocking nature. The pistol grip and buttstock are made from the same piece of polymer and anchored to an aluminium leg which extends downwards from the chassis. This also accommodates both the detachable trigger blade unit and leather pistol grip insert. The sculptured buttstock is a radical design characterised by an ambidextrous shallow cheekpiece which is accentuated by a removable leather comb insert, retained in a similar manner to the fore-end leather insert.
The release button is located in the comb of the buttstock and accessed by rotating the recoil pad to expose it while the cheekpiece is available in differing heights for perfect alignment of the eye when using a riflescope. The Monobloc stock with leather inserts in place is a striking unit and complemented by two inletted decals, ‘Monobloc’ on either side of the mid-stock and two circular ‘Steyr Arms’ motifs either side of the buttstock. The Steyr Arms logo is also inscribed into a silver-finished aluminium pistol grip cap and together with QD sling swivel studs finishes the stock superbly.
This is characterised by the scalloped ‘butter-knife’ bolt handle and is of a three-lug design with a plunger through the recessed bolt-face and small claw extractor inletted into the shoulder of the locking lug adjacent to the plunger. The bolt body has two longitudinal guides which rotate with the bolt head and run along the internal bolt raceways within the receiver, the polished steel bolt body complemented by the satin black handle and shroud which flow seamlessly with the profile of the receiver once installed. When cycled, the bolt chambered and ejected fired cased without any issues, a small button just behind the notch allowing the bolt to be cycled when the trigger is blocked via the manual de-cocking system.
Safety, trigger and magazine
The sliding safety is a linear unit on the rear tang and is of a manual cocking/de-cocking design popular on many European rifles. The sliding button is easily operated with the thumb and in the uncocked position is fully rearward, exposing a white button on the tang. This results in the bolt handle also being locked down but by pressing the small tab just behind the bolt notch the bolt can be cycled even when the firing mechanism is de-cocked.
Pushing the safety slide forward exposes a red dot which allows the bolt to be cycled and the firing pin cocked. Once the bolt is cycled and cocked the firing pin indicator can be felt sitting proud of the bolt shroud and the rifle can then be fired or de-cocked by simply pressing the small button on the sliding safety and moving it downwards.
The trigger unit is fully adjustable but as supplied was perfect, breaking at roughly 1000 grams. The unit also has a set-function and by pushing the trigger blade forward allows a let-off around 500 grams, something not necessary for a hunting rifle but there for users who demand such a feature. The trigger housing, which comprises the triggerguard and blade, is easily removed for security (rifle must be de-cocked first) and the unit can be stored in the buttstock compartment. The magazine is beautifully made and consists of an aluminium base with a pressed steel box, the magazine follower being polymer and houses four rounds in .30-06 Springfield. It clicks into position smoothly and is easily removed by sliding the magazine retaining latch rearwards.
At the range
Winchester Australia supplied an assortment of popular hunting ammunition from Winchester and Browning to test accuracy along with one of Meopta’s top-tier riflescopes in the MeoStar R2 2-12×50. The rifle was thoroughly cleaned before testing and bore-sighted at 25m, having the optic dialled in at that distance before moving out to 100m for accuracy testing. Five 3-shot groups were fired over a benchrest, slowly to let the barrel cool between shots with a quick clean between changes in ammo.
Steyr Arms Monobloc .30-06 Springfield – accuracy testing at 100m
|Ammunition||Best group (mm)||Worst group (mm)||Average group (mm)*|
|Winchester Super X 180gr Power-Point||20||32||25|
|Browning BXC 185gr||24||38||29|
|Winchester Deer Season XP Copper Impact 150gr||18||30||25|
|Winchester Ballistic Silvertip 180gr||21||39||29|
*Average taken from five 3-shot groups at 100m
The Monobloc notched some consistent 3-shot groups and average groups at around 1 MOA or less and for a hunting rifle in .30-06 that sort of accuracy will take any game species out to 300m and beyond. The only minus is its weight and at around 3.7kg bare it’s not a lightweight stalking rifle and isn’t meant to be – its forte is shooting from blinds or stands where game is driven towards the hunter. Such hunting is the norm in Europe but many deer and large game hunters in Australia do shoot out of ground blinds so rifles need not be carried over the shoulder like traditional stalking on foot.
The Steyr Arms Monobloc is a revolutionary switch-barrel rifle completely unlike its competitors. Its ingenious aluminium synthetic stock, interchangeable leather comb, grip and fore-end inserts as well as the detachable trigger group and one-piece receiver/barrel group make for a classy hunting rifle. Retailing at $6995 (review rifle) it’s a firearm that can be completely customised to the hunter who expects the best. More at www.winchesteraustralia.com.au
Manufacturer: Steyr Arms, Austria.
Action: Push feed bolt-action, one-piece barrel/receiver set with interchangeability between calibres.
Calibres: Australian market .308 Win, .30-06 Sprg (tested), .300 Win Mag other calibres available on special order
Bolt: Three-locking lug, 60-degree lift, interchangeable handle (optional)
Trigger: Adjustable, set-trigger function. Set at 1000 grams from factory. Hand-detachable trigger blade housing (can be stored in buttstock compartment)
Magazine: Pressed steel box with aluminium base, polymer follower, four-round capacity (three for Magnum calibres)
Stock: Aluminium synthetic (available in different colours) with interchangeable leather inserts for comb, pistol grip and fore-end. Walnut option also available.
RRP: $6995 (review rifle), Walnut model $7695
Distributor: Winchester Australia