March 14th, 2018

The Remarkable Merkel RX Helix — German Straight-Pull Hunter

Merkel RX Helix straight-pull rifle

EDITOR: Our story on the Strasser RS14 straight-pull rifle created quite a stir. So, we thought we’d serve up another straight-pull feature — this time the German-crafted Merkel RX Helix. We shot the Helix a few years back during Media Day at the Range. One notable difference between the German Merkel and the Austrian Strasser is the bolt travel. During cycling, the Merkel bolt stays completely inside the action (see video below at 00:30). By contrast the Strasser bolt moves pretty far back, outside the action. For some folks that makes the Helix better for fast follow-up shots. All we can say is that Merkles and Strassers BOTH cycle way faster than conventional bolt-action rifles.

Merkel RX Helix Range Report

One of the most innovative rifles we have ever shot was the Merkel RX Helix, a very impressive piece of rifle engineering. Merkel claims the RX Helix is the fastest-cycling centerfire bolt action in the world. We can’t confirm that claim, but the Helix certainly cycles faster than any other centerfire bolt-gun this Editor has ever tried. (Yes, a Fortner biathlon action can be worked more rapidly, but that’s a rimfire). Both Jason and I really liked Merkel’s RX Helix. It balances well, the action is smooth, the wood is gorgeous, and the overall design thinking that went into this German-engineered take-down rifle is very impressive. The Helix’s universal-sized action lets you shoot anything from a .222 Rem to a .300 Win Mag with the same gun. And — get this — you can really swap barrels (and change bolt heads) in a couple of minutes with no tools, employing a dead-simple bolt-release lever concealed under the push-button-released removable forearm. (Watch VIDEO BELOW to see Barrel Swap procedure).

Merkel RX Helix rifle

Merkel RX Helix rifle

Merkel RX Helix rifleRotary 7-Lug Bolt
While the RX Helix is a straight-pull rifle, it retains the strength and safety of a rotary bolt head with seven locking lugs that seat in a barrel extension. Unlike a Blaser, the RX Helix has a fully-enclosed action housing. That’s an important safety feature. Moreover, since the RX Helix employs a closed action, the bolt body doesn’t travel outside that action. This means the shooter can maintain his cheekweld with an eye on the target as he cycles the bolt.

The RX Helix’s linear (back and forth) bolt-handle motion is transmitted to the bolt head through a 1:2 ratio “transmission” gearing system. This allows smooth and fast cycling without the rotational or tipping movement found on other straight-pull, bolt-action rifles, such as the Blaser.

Merkel RX Helix rifle

The Merkel linear-movement action cycles exceptionally fast, which allows for faster follow-up shots — a good thing if you’re hunting dangerous game. The RX Helix features a manual cocking lever on the tang and a direct trigger system. And here’s good news for southpaws — though Merkel does not make a dedicated left-hand version, lefties can very easily use their right hand to work the bolt while maintaining cheekweld. That may sound awkward, but with practice, it’s actually pretty efficient.

Fast, Easy Disassembly and Barrel Exchanges
The video below shows how the Helix can be disassembled (for cleaning or transport) in a matter of seconds WITHOUT TOOLS. The forearm slips off with the push of a button. A short lever on the left side of the action holds the barrel. Simply rotate the lever and the barrel (with bolt head) slips off. That’s it — in 30 seconds the rifle is apart, and you don’t even need an allen wrench as with a Blaser.

The RX Helix has a universal action length that covers calibers from .222 Rem to .300 Win Mag. Changing calibers (or chamberings) takes less than a minute with the appropriate barrel, bolt-head and magazine. Weaver rails are integrated into the action, and iron sights with three-dot rear and one-dot front fiber-optic inserts are standard.

Merkel RX Helix rifle

The RX Helix is available with a standard black finish as well as four levels of design—Arabesque, Wild Boar, Spirit, and Deluxe. An all-carbon-fiber version is also available either with or without a carbon-wrapped barrel. The RX Helix comes in a wide range of popular calibers including .222 Rem, .223 Rem, .243 Win, 6.5×55 SE, .270 Win, 7×64, .308 Win, .30-06 Sprg., 8×57 IS, 9.3×62, 7mm Rem Mag and .300 Win Mag. Barrel lengths vary according to caliber, and barrels, bolt-heads and magazines are available for caliber changes. EuroOptic.com sells the Merkel RX Helix with Grade 2 wood for $3,785.00.

Permalink - Videos, Gear Review, Hunting/Varminting 7 Comments »
November 22nd, 2017

Strasser Straight-Pull Hunting Rifles Now Available in USA

Strasser RS14 rifle

There is a new straight-pull hunting rifle coming to the USA. No, it’s not a Blaser, it’s a Strasser, made in Austria (not Germany like the Blaser). The new Strasser RS-14 is a premium hunting rifle with some very remarkable features. The trigger exchanges as a module, without tools. The entire barrel assembly can be swapped out in five minutes — and you can easily change bolt head so this rifle can shoot everything from small varmint cartridges all the way up to .30-Caliber Magnums.

The new RS14 Evolution, specially designed for the U.S. market, is a straight-pull, bolt-action rifle that features a removable trigger pack and the ability to easily adjust trigger weight without tools.

Strasser RS14 rifle

The quick-change bolt face allows users to quickly and easily switch between small, standard, and magnum bolt face. It comes with an integrated Picatinny rail on the receiver. USA buyers will be offered two different RS-14 models, one with grade E Walnut stock or the Tahr model with a grey, laminate stock. The first 100 of each model will be serial numbered to signify a special edition just for America. This rifle is a premium product — we expect the asking price to be in the $2500.00 range. For orders and inquiries, contact the U.S. importer, International Firearms Corporation (IFC).

Click the image below to see LARGE Version
Strasser RS14 rifle

You’ll find a detailed review of the Strasser RS-14 on TheTruthAboutGuns.com.
Here are highlights:

“A user can swap Strasser’s barrel and bolt face in under five minutes to accommodate new calibers, from short-action plinkers like .223 Remington to full-belted magnum loads like .300 Win Mag. You can choose your favorite calibers and different barrel and muzzle profiles.

Straight pull bolts are the quickest to operate. A traditional bolt-action rifle requires four movements: up, back, forward, down. The RS-14 requires only two: straight back and forward. That ‘extra’ speed could make all the difference in the field…

The RS-14’s bolt is a thing of beauty. Perfectly machined with a satin-smooth finish, it glides back and forth in the action’s channel. The over-sized bolt handle gives the operator a large target to grab when reloading.”

Strasser RS14 rifle

Read FULL REVIEW on TheTruthAboutGuns.com »

Permalink Gunsmithing, Hunting/Varminting 1 Comment »
April 30th, 2017

New Steyr Scout RFR Rimfire Rifle with Straight-Pull Action

Steyr Arms Rimfire Scout Rifle .22 LR, .22 WMR, 17 HRM straight pull action

Steyr Arms has introduced a new straight-pull rimfire rifle that should work well for rimfire practical/tactical games, cross-training, and varmint hunting. Available in three chamberings, .22 LR, .22 WMR, and .17 HMR, the new Steyr Scout RFR emulates the look of a Scout Rifle, but in a rimfire platform. This rifle, which first appeared in 2016 in Europe, made its American debut at the NRA Annual Meetings in Atlanta this week.

Steyr Arms Rimfire Scout Rifle .22 LR, .22 WMR, 17 HRM straight pull action

Frankly, we don’t need or want the extended forward-mounted rail, because we would use a conventional higher-magnification optic, rather than a long-eye-relief scout scope. But we are excited about the straight-pull action, 10-round magazine, and nicely-designed stock that should be good for tactical comps. For mounting conventional scopes, an integrated 3/8-inch dovetail base runs the full length of the receiver’s topside, and the RPR comes with Weaver bases mounted on the top of the receiver. MSRP is $599.00.

Detail showing ISSC Biathlon-style SPA straight-pull action with trigger-guard safety.
Steyr Arms Rimfire Scout Rifle .22 LR, .22 WMR, 17 HRM straight pull action

Based on the proven, biathlon-inspired SPA action built by Austrian gun-maker ISSC, the Steyr Scout RFR was designed as an economical, minimal-recoil trainer. Available in .22 LR, .22 WMR, and .17 HMR, the Scout RFR has a smooth, straight-pull action allowing for fast cycling with the provided 10-round magazine. Check out the video below to see how the action works. Trigger pull weight is 3 lbs, 4 oz., about right for tactical games. We might want a slightly lighter trigger for varmint work with the .17 HMR version. In fact, we think this might make a great “squirrel gun” in .17 HMR.

The Scout RFR’s Eloxal-coated aluminum receiver secures a 20″ heavy-contour barrel. Both the .17 HMR and .22 LR barrels are 1/2-20 UNF threaded for attachments, while the .22 WMR barrel is unthreaded. The Scout RFR measures 35.6 inches long, and it weighs 7.3 pounds without optics. An optional knife stows in the stock, and standard Steyr SBS/Scout buttplate spacers can used to adjust length-of-pull. Included accessories: Owner’s manual, two Weaver adapters, and one 10-round magazine.

Model: Steyr Scout RFR

Chamberings: .22 LR, .22 WMR, and .17 HMR
Action: Straight-pull, biathlon-style SPA action by ISSC
Magazine type/capacity: 10-round detachable steel box
Receiver material: Hard Eloxal-coated aircraft aluminum
Barrel: 20.1-inch heavy barrel
Sight Mounts: 30-slot Picatinny rail + 3/8″ dovetail on receiver with two Weaver adapters
Trigger Pull weight: 3 pounds, 4 ounces
Stock Length of pull: 13.4 inches, adjustable with spacers
Recoil pad: Elastomer 0.3″ thick
Weight, empty: 7.3 pounds
Overall length: 35.6 inches
MSRP: $599

Permalink Hunting/Varminting, New Product, Tactical 3 Comments »
April 14th, 2015

New Trends: Civilian Service Rifle Competition — UK Style

Britain England United Kingdom civilian Service Rifle Straight pull AR15

Report by John Morgan-Hosey
Civilian Service Rifle (CSR) is a shooting sport in the United Kingdom shot with bolt action rifles and ‘Straight-Pull’ derivatives of semi-auto centerfire rifles. Why do the UK shooters use manual-operating versions of popular self-loaders? Well, that’s because of legal restrictions. Civilian ownership of semi-auto centerfire rifles was banned in the United Kingdom in 1987.

Britain England United Kingdom civilian Service Rifle Straight pull AR15

Give credit to the ingenuity of competitive shooters in the UK. The ban on semi-autos has not stopped shooters from adapting modern rifles such as the AR15. In fact, CSR is the UK NRA’s fastest growing shooting discipline. There are four classes for competitors:

1. Historic Class — Vintage Rifles, mostly Lee Enfields with iron sights.
2. Iron Sights Class — all non-Historic Rifles with Iron (open) sights.
3. Practical Optic Class — Rifles with bipods (and scopes 4.5X or greater magnification).
4. Service Optic Class — Rifles without bipods (and scopes with no more than 4.5X power).

Surprisingly, shooters in the Service Optic Class dominate these matches. So you don’t need a high-magnification scope or a bipod to do well. The most popular rifles are modified AR-platform rifles. These are set-up in the UK with no gas system to ensure they comply with our laws. Side-charger cocking handles are fitted to allow the rifles to be operated easily while in the shooting position. You can see in the photo above a modified AR with the Union Jack on the buttstock. Notice the bolt handle on the right. This opens and closes the bolt.

This video clip shows the side-charging ARs in use.

Note the side bolt handle that cycles the action on this non-semi-auto AR.
Britain England United Kingdom civilian Service Rifle Straight pull AR15

Here shooters advance 100 yards to engage the targets at the next firing line.
Britain England United Kingdom civilian Service Rifle Straight pull AR15

Competitor uses classic Lee-Enfield bolt-action rifle.
Britain England United Kingdom civilian Service Rifle Straight pull AR15

Dave Wylde Sets Impressive Record at the Civilian Service Rifle League Match.
The last matches in the 2014/15 CSR League took place on Sunday, 5 April. With final places in all four classes up for grabs, the fine weather and light winds made for some impressive scores, none more so than Dave Wylde in Service Optic Division. Dave scored a mighty impressive 246 (of a possible 250) in the PM Match. Breaking 235 is tough enough and scoring over 240 a rarity with the match includes standing snap shooting at 100 yards, a sitting rapid at 200 yards, and prone snap shooting at 300 yards with and two run downs to raise the shooters heart rate.

The most popular class, Service Optic, had Peter Cottrell retaining the trophy for the fourth consecutive year with a score of 993. Adam Chapman pushed him hard all season to finish a close second on 987 points, with Bill Ellis, one of the most consistent CSR shooters, third with 972.

Civilian Service Rifle Grows in Popularity
As CSR continues to grow in popularity, the sale of ‘Straight-Pull’ AR-platform rifles is increasing year after year. Accordingly, the United Kingdom NRA is allocation more range space at the Bisley National Shooting Centre to accomodate the increasing number of competitors.

Britain England United Kingdom civilian Service Rifle Straight pull AR15

Permalink - Videos, Competition 13 Comments »
February 14th, 2014

Olympics Insight — Anatomy of a Modern Biathlon Rifle

Anschutz 1827 fortner straight pull biathlon actionIf you’ve been following the Winter Olympics in Sochi, no doubt you’ve been watching Biathlon events. This combination of Nordic-style skiing and precision shooting is hugely popular in Europe. Biathlon requires great physical fitness levels, superior marksmanship skills, and of course, a very accurate .22 LR rifle.

This video shows biathletes at previous winter Olympics. Note how the straight-pull actions allow competitors to shoot rapidly without breaking their position (at the 1:00″ mark, the shooter takes five shots in ten seconds). Target racks are located 50m from the firing line. The targets, which flip from black to white when hit, are 45mm (1.8″) in diameter for prone, and 115mm (4.5″) in diameter for standing.

Watch Olympic Biathlon Competition (Archive Footage)

Anschutz 1827 fortner straight pull biathlon action

Biathlon rifles are sophisticated. The top competitors use rigs with slick, straight-pull actions, integrated magazine carriers, and ergonomic stock designs that work well for both prone and standing positions. The advanced slings use “bungee cords” to allow rapid deployment from on-the-back carry position (while skiing) to the shooting position.
Anschutz 1827 fortner straight pull biathlon action

One of the most popular Biathlon rifles is the Anschütz model 1827F Fortner. This features a straight-pull action with a two-stage trigger typically adjusted to 550 grams (19 ounces). The sprint version of the model 1827F weighs just 3.7 kg (8.16 pounds). Remarkably, even the magazines are optimized for “high-speed, low-drag” performance: “Shortened 5-shot magazines were laterally incorporated into the stock to reduce the surface on which the wind can act. Non-slip magazine bottoms make the handling of the loading process easier. An additional magazine release lever on the side makes an even faster exchange of the magazines possible.” (Anschütz brochure).

Anschutz 1827 fortner straight pull biathlon action

Anschutz 1827 fortner straight pull biathlon action

Anschutz 1827 fortner straight pull biathlon action

Anschutz 1827 fortner straight pull biathlon action

Anschutz 1827 fortner straight pull biathlon action

Credit Chris Cheng, Top Shot Season 4 Champion, for finding these photos of the model 1827F Fortner on the Anschütz website.

Permalink - Videos, Competition 7 Comments »
May 7th, 2012

New Blaser R8 Rifle with Thumbhole Stock

The unique Blaser rifle design features a straight-pull bolt with “patented Radial Locking System” of outward-expanding lugs that lock directly into the barrel. Their modular design permits Blaser rifles to be dis-assembled (with barrels exchanged) in less than one minute, using a single hex wrench. The straight-pull action allows Blasers to be cycled very rapidly by the shooter.

Until lately, if you wanted a Blaser, you had to settle for a conventional-style, solid-wrist stock. Now Blaser has introduced an ergonomic thumbhole stock with a more vertical-style pistol grip. This new stock will be offered on the Blaser R8 “Professional Success” (R8 PS) hunting rifle. Blaser claims the new stock provides a comfortable, stable hold in all shooting positions — prone, sitting, kneeling, or standing.

Blaser R8 Professional Success

The R8 PS is available in green/gray, or black/brown colors. The standard R8 PS features elastomer inlays on the forearm, pistol grip and cheek-piece. MSRP is $4,356.00. Toss in another $1100 or so, and you can upgrade the black/brown version with fitted leather inlays on forearm, pistol grip and cheek-piece. That’s a hefty surcharge for about $15.00 worth of animal hide, but Blasers were never for bargain-hunters.

Watch Blaser R8 in Action
In the video below, filmed on safari in Africa, hunter/writer Ron Spomer reviews the Blaser R8 with standard stock (not the new thumbhole). Starting at the 0:52 mark you can see how the rifle is assembled and how the straight-pull action works. Spomer’s rifle review begins as the 1:10 mark. Spomer explains that a single rifle can be fitted with multiple barrels in an assortment of chamberings/calibers.

Permalink Hunting/Varminting, New Product 1 Comment »
February 15th, 2012

Merkel RX Helix Straight-Pull Rifle — Teutonic Tour De Force

One of the most innovative rifles we tried at Media Day in January was the Merkel RX Helix, a very impressive piece of rifle engineering. Merkel claims the RX Helix is the fastest-cycling centerfire bolt action in the world. We can’t confirm that claim, but the Helix certainly cycles faster than any other centerfire bolt-gun this Editor has ever tried. (Yes, a Fortner biathlon action can be worked more rapidly, but that’s a rimfire). Both Jason and I really liked Merkel’s RX Helix. It balances well, the action is smooth, the wood is gorgeous, and the overall design thinking that went into this $3795.00 (MSRP) take-down rifle is very impressive. The Helix’s universal-sized action lets you shoot anything from a .222 Rem to a .300 Win Mag with the same gun. And — get this — you can really swap barrels (and change bolt heads) in under one minute with no tools, employing a dead-simple bolt-release lever concealed under the push-button-released removable forearm.

Merkel RX Helix rifle

Merkel RX Helix rifle

Merkel RX Helix rifleRotary 7-Lug Bolt
While the RX Helix is a straight-pull rifle, it retains the strength and safety of a rotary bolt head with seven locking lugs that seat in a barrel extension. Unlike a Blaser, the RX Helix has a fully-enclosed action housing. That’s an important safety feature. Moreover, since the RX Helix employs a closed action, the bolt body doesn’t travel outside that action. This means the shooter can maintain his cheekweld with an eye on the target as he cycles the bolt.

The RX Helix’s linear (back and forth) bolt-handle motion is transmitted to the bolt head through a 1:2 ratio “transmission” gearing system. This allows smooth and fast cycling without the rotational or tipping movement found on other straight-pull, bolt-action rifles, such as the Blaser.

Merkel RX Helix rifle

The Merkel linear-movement action cycles exceptionally fast, which allows for faster follow-up shots — a good thing if you’re hunting dangerous game. The RX Helix features a manual cocking lever on the tang and a direct trigger system. And here’s good news for southpaws — though Merkel does not make a dedicated left-hand version, lefties can very easily use their right hand to work the bolt while maintaining cheekweld. That may sound awkward, but with practice, it’s actually pretty efficient.

Merkel RX Helix rifle

Fast, Easy Disassembly and Barrel Exchanges
The video below shows how the Helix can be disassembled (for cleaning or transport) in a matter of seconds WITHOUT TOOLS. The forearm slips off with the push of a button. A short lever on the left side of the action holds the barrel. Simply rotate the lever and the barrel (with bolt head) slips off. That’s it — in 30 seconds the rifle is apart, and you don’t even need an allen wrench as with a Blaser.

The RX Helix has a universal action length that covers calibers from .222 Rem to .300 Win Mag. Changing calibers (or chamberings) takes less than a minute with the appropriate barrel, bolt-head and magazine. Weaver rails are integrated into the action, and iron sights with three-dot rear and one-dot front fiber-optic inserts are standard.

Merkel RX Helix rifle

The RX Helix is available with a standard black finish as well as four levels of design—Arabesque, Wild Boar, Spirit, and Deluxe. An all-carbon-fiber version is also available either with or without a carbon-wrapped barrel. The RX Helix comes in a wide range of popular calibers including .222 Rem, .223 Rem, .243 Win, 6.5×55 SE, .270 Win, 7×64, .308 Win, .30-06 Sprg., 8×57 IS, 9.3×62, 7mm Rem Mag and .300 Win Mag. Barrel lengths vary according to caliber, and barrels, bolt-heads and magazines are available for caliber changes. MSRP for the standard black rifle with Grade 2 wood is $3,795.00.

Permalink - Videos, Hunting/Varminting, New Product 19 Comments »
March 23rd, 2011

Blaser Offers Easy Barrel Exchange and Fast Cycling

The Blaser R93 is a unique rifle, employing a patented straight-pull bolt with radial locking system. Using a pivoting short-throw bolt handle, the bolt slides straight forward and back to feed and eject ammunition. It’s simple and fast. The Blaser R93 was designed as a modular system. This means the bolt can be changed from right-pull to left-pull in seconds, and barrels can be exchanged quickly and easily. This makes the R93 extremely versatile — invest in one action and stock and you can shoot a multitude of chamberings. Factory barrels in 28 different calibers are offered. A Blaser barrel can be switched in less than a minute, using a simple T-handle wrench (see Video below).

YouTube Preview Image

While most Blasers sold in America are hunting rifles with conventional-style stocks, Blaser also makes a model for CISM 300m competition, a tactical model, and long-range target model (LRS-2). These all feature an aluminum receiver block, synthetic sub-chassis with cantilevered fore-end, and larger-capacity magazine. The rear section of the stock has an adjustable cheekpiece and butt-plate. Shown in the video below is a Blaser R93 LRS-2 fitted with bipod and muzzle brake. Note the very low recoil of the 6mmBR cartridge when the braked gun is fired. Along with the 6BR chambering, the LRS-2 is offered in .223 Rem, 6.5×55, .308 Win, 300 Win Mag, and .338 Lapua Magnum.

YouTube Preview Image

One of the Blaser’s best features is the speed with which the bolt can be cycled. Just pull the bolt-handle back to open the action and eject the brass, then slide the bolt handle forward to close the bolt. Compared to a conventional bolt, the Blaser requires minimal hand movement. Once you get the hang of it, you can cycle the gun extremely fast. The video below show a hunter practicing with a .308. Watch how quickly the bolt cycles–and this shooter could probably shoot even faster if he maintained his cheek-weld.

YouTube Preview Image
Permalink Gunsmithing 10 Comments »
March 30th, 2009

Browning Releases T-Bolt Rimfires for Lefties

The Browning T-Bolt straight-pull rimfire rifle is an American classic, first produced from 1965 through 1975. In 2006 Browning wisely resumed production of the fast-cycling T-Bolt. We were pleased to see the re-introduction of the T-Bolt, as the unique action is smooth and quick to use. This makes the rifle well-suited for both varminting and the new “Rimfire Tactical” discipline. With enhanced materials and improved manufacturing methods, the new-generation T-Bolt is more reliable and smoother-operating than ever.

Browning T-Bolt rimfire

Browning Launches Left-Handed T-Bolts
Browning has added twelve new offerings to their T-Bolt rimfire rifle line for left-handed shooters. All the new models incorporate the basic design of the T-Bolt rifle but with the bolt on the left side. There are four new left-hand models in each caliber: .22 long rifle, .22 Winchester Magnum and .17 HMR.

Browning T-Bolt rimfire

On all T-Bolts (both right- and left-handed), receivers are drilled and tapped for scope mounts. Barrels are free-floated and have recessed crowns. T-Bolts feature a 3-lever, short-travel trigger design. Trigger pull weight is adjustable with an external screw and there is a convenient, thumb-operated tang safety.

Among the new T-Bolt models, we like the heavy-barreled Target/Varmint model. This has a satin finish checkered walnut stock with a Monte Carlo comb and wider fore-end. Suggested retail price for the .22 LR Target/Varmint is $719.00 and $729.00 for the .22 WinMag and .17 HMR guns. There is also a less expensive Sporter Model with a lighter-contour barrel.

Browning T-Bolt rimfire

Permalink New Product No Comments »