September 23, 2010
I have spent the past two decades in the field and on the range with conventional turn-bolt rifles like Winchester's Model 70 and Remington's Model 700. They've served me well, so it should come as no surprise that when I first saw the Blaser R-93 and its kooky straight-pull action, I was not the least bit interested. But never let it be said that I'm closed-minded. Over time, I took note of the successes of my ever-increasing number of Blaser-toting clients, and I soon found myself warming up to the looks of the trim, high-tech rifle.
Though I did come to like the Blaser, I didn't really come to appreciate it until I toured the Blaser factory last year. There, I saw the quality of the manufacturing and learned more about the technology that makes the R-93 so good. A week in the Namibian bush with an R-93 confirmed what I'd learned in the factory--those strange straight-pull rifles surely can shoot.
A Technological Wonder
Blazer's straight-pull bolt-action is the heart of the R-93. It does not have a receiver in the conventional sense, though wood-stocked R-93s have sideplates adorned with various levels of engraving. Instead, an alloy frame is molded into the stock, and the bolt's rails ride recesses in the frame.
The straight-pull bolt cams backward and forward. Lockup is achieved by a collet-style bushing that expands to fill a recess in the barrel. Closing the bolt expands the bushing for solid lockup. The bolt head surrounds the cartridge rim except for the portion of it that contains the extractor. A plunger-style ejector manages ejection.
Located on the tang, the safety is another unique feature of the R-93. Instead of serving as a simple safety, it actually cocks the rifle. To de-cock it, simply push the cocking piece upward and forward at the same time. When the rifle is not cocked, it is completely safe, as there is no tension on the firing pin. To open the bolt without cocking it, simply push it forward until you feel resistance while pulling the bolt.
To trip the sear, apply a little pressure to the single-stage trigger. My sample rifle's trigger broke at less than 2 pounds.
The test R-93's barrel is hammer forged and fluted; nonfluted barrels are also available. It is completely free-floated and secured to the stock by two captive screws. A robust, steel recoil lug is part of the aluminum frame that is molded into the R-93 Professional's synthetic stock. Wood stocks in various grades are also available. It fits snugly into a recess in the bottom of the barrel that is located between the two screws.
Blaser rifles enjoy an enviable reputation for accuracy. One of the things that makes them so accurate is that the barrels and chambers are hammer forged at the same time. So, if you order a 57-centimeter barrel in .308, the .308 chamber and the barrel will be hammer forged in one step. Many other makers hammer forge the barrels, then ream the chambers. By using specific tools for each chambering and doing it all at once, Blaser's production staff is able to hold the tight tolerances necessary for the utmost accuracy.
The other key in the R-93 accuracy equation is Blaser's unique scope-mounting system. The saddle-type mount fits securely into dovetails in the barrel. In my experience, it returns to zero reliably and holds its zero very well. And because the scope mounts on the barrel instead of the receiver, you don't have to switch scopes when you change calibers, which is quite easy to do with the modular Blaser system.
Working the R-93's straight-pull action is very fast. Greg had no trouble making three solid hits on a running boar thanks to the Blaser's unique bolt.
With a quick change of the barrel, magazine, and bolt head, you can go from .223 Remington to .416 Rem. Mag. in minutes. Are you left-handed? Simply switch from a right-handed bolt to a left-handed one. It takes just seconds to change, which makes the Blaser the only truly ambidextrous bolt-action hunting rifle I know of.
A Straight Shooter
Last year, I took an R-93 to Namibia. It had a 22.7-inch, fluted barrel with iron sights and a Zeiss 2.5-10X. It was chambered for .30-06, and on the ranch range, it shot easily under an inch at 100 meters in less-than-ideal conditions with Norma's 200-grain Oryx load. At 200 meters, the rifle achieved sub-half-minute groups.
In the field, the R-93 really came into its own. The trim, lightweight rifle was a joy to carry. It came to my shoulder easily, and its light trigger made it easy to break accurate shots. Cocking the rifle and de-cocking it took a bit of getting used to. I have to confess that I tried to lift the bolt instead of pulling it straight back more than once those first few days, but once I learned the system, the Blaser was smooth, fast, and easy to use. I took three oryx, a wildebeest, and a red hartebeest with the R-93, and I found myself growing increasingly fond of it over the course of that five-day hunt.
Back at home, more extensive testing with an identical gun proved that the first test rifle I fired was no fluke. The R-93 Professional flat-out shoots. In fact, my test rifle probably shot just a bit better, with two factory loads producing half-inch accuracy at 100 yards.
I was very impressed with the R-93 Professional. The examples I shot were very accurate, but it was the R-93's great trigger, rugged scope-mounting system, speed, and safety that impressed me most. I don't do it often, but I liked the R-93 Professional so much I ordered one in .308 with a short, fluted barrel. I need another gun like I need a third eye, but the revolutionary R-93 won me over.
Here, the R-93's extractor; plunger-style ejector; and radial, collet bushing are clearly visible. This combination fed, fired, extracted, and ejected flawlessly throughout the author's Namibian safari despite rough treatment and dusty conditions. The Blaser's tang-mounted button actually cocks the rifle. With the rifle de-cocked, the R-93 is a very safe design because the firing pin is under no spring tension. A bedding block is molded into the stock, and the R-93's recoil lug is an integral part of the block.