November 15th, 2020

Sunday GunDay: French 6-6.5×47 F-Classer for Aliénore

F-Class 6.5x47 Lapua Toulouse France

Today’s Sunday GunDay Story is a unique and beautiful F-Class rifle from France. This handsome rifle was first featured in our Gun of the Week Archives. This rifle was a gift from husband to wife. Because this is such a unique rifle, with a great back-story, we are reprising this “French Connection” rifle once again.

Europe has a number of capable custom arms makers, and in this article we feature one of them, Christian Salva of Toulouse, France. Here we spotlight an ultra-accurate and handsome 6-6.5×47 Lapua F-Class rifle. Built for a lady, the rifle exhibits flawless craftmanship to match its superior performance.


Alie Gets Her Gun — Thanks to Husband Aurélien

Photos and text by LONASSAC, translation by T.J.E., NRA UK
Aliénore, a charming young French lady, shares her passion for short- and long-range shooting with her husband, Aurélien. Aurélien already owns a 6mmBR PGM Ultima Ratio rifle and decided to have a rifle built for his wife so that they could shoot together. They therefore turned for help to the Christian Salva workshop, located in Toulouse in the south of France, close to their home.

SALVA Walnut Stock–Gorgeous Wood, and Great Ergonomics
Aliénore chose a superb, perfectly-grained French walnut blank for the stock. The stock is a single, solid piece of walnut, with a waxed finish to show off its fine figuring. The stock design is optimized for F-Class, prone and Bench Rest shooting. The fore-end is flat and 3.35″ (85mm) wide, slightly wider than the common 3″ used on most benchrest rifles. On the underside of the forearm is a rail to take a Parker-Hall or a Versa Pod-type bipod. The trigger guard is a custom, light alloy SALVA design. The butt plate is Anschütz-type. It adjusts vertically and can be rotated on its horizontal axis. The cheek piece is adjustable for height only — all that is needed.

Aliénore selected the F-Class Target Rifle from Christian Salva’s range of rifles, which is the one best suited to the type of shooting she wanted to do. Their club’s rifle range, near their home, goes out to 600 meters (See photos above). Unfortunately, as is usual in France, the range does not have a target pit. Members shoot prone using front benchrest-style rests, as in F-Class. The problem is that, without a proper target trench, it’s not possible have individual shots spotted and marked (as would be done in American High Power matches). However, with a good scope, in good light, shot-holes can be seen at 400m, and sometimes even at 600m — but this is rare.

When this rifle was crafted, Christian Salva was one of the few gunsmiths in France who manufactures complete rifles from front sight to butt-plate. With the sole exception of the barrel, he constructs the whole rifle, including action, bolt, trigger and stock. He also does all the bedding and chambering himself. Everything is done to his customer’s specification which, of course, can only be achieved in a small and highly specialized business.

General Rifle Specifications
The rifle was built on a SALVA hexagonal long range action with a flat base, which is set in a highly-figured French walnut stock using a bedding block. The gun is 49″ (125 cm) overall, and weighs 9 kg (about 20 lbs.), including scope. The barrel is 29″ (74cm) long, and a straight 1.22″ (31mm) in diameter. Given the weight and size of the barrel, the decision was made to secure the barreled action into the stock with a bedding block. On top of the action is an angled Picatinny rail with 20-MOA built-in to allow long-range shooting without using up the scope’s internal elevation. The rifle is currently fitted with a Nightforce 12-42x56mm BR scope held in alloy rings.

Details of SALVA Action
The rifle features a light Dural alloy right bolt, right port, single-shot action treated and coated with a champagne-color surface hardener. The action is hexagonal in shape (normal for a French action), with a flat base for improved bedding. On this particular gun, however, the action is floated, with the barreled action secured by the long barrel block. Take a good look at the photo below. Yes, the action on is fully-floated — the barrel block secures the barreled action into the wood stock. This is similar to some Benchreast heavy guns.

F-Class 6.5x47 Lapua Toulouse France

Christian Salva produces his actions from scratch, employing high-tech machinery, including CNC multi-axis mills. The advanced design allows the action to be very strong as well as light. The SALVA action is very thick and sturdy, in spite of its weight being reduced to a minimum. It can chamber cartridges from the 6mmBR size up to magnum calibers such as the 300 Win Mag. A treated steel insert is screwed into the front of the action. This is threaded to receive the barrel and machined to receive the locking lugs of the bolt. The threaded section is especially long (36mm with a 1.5mm thread) so as to ensure proper rigidity for the unit. Where the bolt lever closes, a steel insert, screwed into place with a BTR screw, prevents the steel bolt lever from wearing the softer Dural alloy of the action.

Tri-Lug Bolt with Extractor and Ejector in Lugs
The cylindrical all-steel bolt has a diameter of 0.906″ (23mm) and three (3) front locking lugs. The bolt design has BOTH extractor and ejector placed in locking lugs. Salva’s goal, in engineering the position and operation of both extractor and ejector, was to reduce side pressure on the cartridge. The extractor is designed to hold a cartridge case in place with minimal lateral displacement. The ejector is also built into one of the three lugs. [Editor’s Note: Many modern benchrest actions, such as the Stolle Panda, Stiller Viper, and some BATs employ an extractor in the lug. This is also a feature on Savage bolts and push-feed Model 70 Winchesters. However, these bolts do not have the ejector in a lug as well.]

Remarkably, the ejector has no spring, unlike most bolt designs. It should be noted that this springless ejector is designed to eliminate side pressure when chambering a round, thus keeping the round concentric in the chamber. The ejector is mechanical and will eject the case if the shooter pulls the bolt all the way back. If the shooter prefers to extract the case by hand, one simply pulls the bolt part way back. The 1.5″ (38mm) bolt lever is fairly short, but it has an oversize 30mm polymer knob to facilitate the opening and closing of the bolt.

French Gun, German Barrel — a 29″ Lothar Walther
On Aliénore’s rifle, the barrel is the only component not manufactured by SALVA in Toulouse. For the barrel, Christian Salva chose a stainless Lothar Walther, 6-groove barrel, with a 1:8″-twist for handling 105gr bullets. The muzzle is milled with an 11º slope so as to handle boat-tail VLD bullets. This German-made Walther tube has a 1.22″ (31mm) straight contour and is 29″ (74mm) in length. This long, non-tapered barrel is heavy enough that Salva decided to mount it with an alloy bedding block, about 8″ long (20 cm). Ten Allen-head screws clamp the block to the barrel, while the lower section of the bedding block is secured to the wood stock with eight screws and bedding compound.

Proprietary SALVA Trigger
The trigger is also manufactured by SALVA in its entirety, from Christian’s own design. Overall trigger pull weight adjusts from 50-250 grams (1.8 oz. – 8.8 oz.). The SALVA trigger can also adjust for: Longitudinal trigger position (Length of Pull); Over-travel; Main travel; Second-stage pressure; and Sear engagement.

Cartridge and Load Info
The rifle is chambered in 6-6.5×47 Lapua. Aurélien starts with Lapua 6.5×47 cases. These are then necked-down to 6mm and neck-sized with a .265″ bushing. The necks are turned very slightly, to ensure neckwall uniformity, and achieve a consistent grip on the bullet. Aurélien loads Berger 105gr VLD bullets, pushed by Vihtavuori N160 powder and small magnum primers. His preferred load is 38.2 grains of N160 with a cartridge overall length (COAL) of 2.732″ (69.40 mm). With this load, muzzle velocity is 2854 fps (870 meters per second) chronographed one meter from the muzzle. [Editor’s note–this is a very mild load. The 6-6.5×47 can drive 105-grainers over 3100 fps.]

How the Rifle Shoots

Smooth Function + Great Accuracy
When firing using a front rest, the recoil of a 9 kg, 6-6.5×47 Lapua rifle is minimal and ideal for a lady. The operation of the rifle is trouble-free, even if a few rounds were initially a bit stiff on loading for the first time. Thereafter everything sorted itself out very nicely. The action of the bolt is solid and one can feel that everything is very snug and that the tolerances are properly tight.

The versatile trigger rivals the best benchrest triggers, with the additional bonus of a single- or two-stage operation. That said, with a minimum pull-weight of 50 grams (1.8 oz.) perhaps the term “two-stage” is not the best description, since it is difficult to detect a let-off point at that weight. The trigger can be set to be a very light, single-stage let-off.

The rifle is fitted with a Nightforce 12-42x56mm BR model scope. This high-magnification optic enables the shooter to see his/her bullet holes at 400 meters in good light. This is very useful when it comes to adjusting for wind. The stock’s adjustability and ergonomics allow the shooter to feel comfortable using this rifle. The Anschütz butt-plate and easily-adjustable height of the cheek piece help in that regard.

This rifle has demonstrated some impressive accuracy. Below is a group shot by Aurélien at 400 meters (437.4 yards) on C200 targets. Using OnTarget group measuring software, we calculated this 5-shot group at 0.555″ or 0.121 MOA. That’s remarkable for a gun shooting long, VLD-style bullets. At 100 meters the rifle has yielded “one-ragged hole” groups.

alie rifle 6-6.5x47 accuracy

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