Blaser rifles are well known on the continent and have a very popular following with the R93 straight pull system selling over 250,000 units. The rifle was so popular because of its speed of loading, manual cocking system and build quality that it became the staple for professional hunters on the continent and Africa.
The next innovation from Blaser is the R8, this is also a straight pull system rifle that if you are used to a conventional bolt does take a little getting used to but once you master it is one of the most efficient ways of using a bolt action rifle. Because of the straight pull system the rifle not only looks and feels much more compact than a conventional bolt action but Blaser have retained the barrel length at just under 23 inches. It is indeed shorter because the unique design of the R8 magazine above the trigger which allows the overall length of the R8 to be significantly shorter than any conventional bolt action rifle. Because of the shorter overall length fitting a moderator does little to affect the balance of the rifle unlike some longer conventional systems.
It may seem odd that Blaser are only producing one mainstay model of rifle for the UK market, but don’t be fooled the R8 comes in so many different varieties Heinz haven’t got a patch on Blaser. The model we have been testing is the R8 Professional Success in .243. This is a synthetic thumb hole stock rifle which is perfect for the keeper and stalker. It comes in both right and left handed and pre threaded to take a moderator at M15x1 with spigot.
Out of the box the R8 looks different, it is quite hard to love at first sight but once you pick up the professional success you start to get it. The rifle comes into the shoulder perfectly each time you mount it and it just feels well-built and it is. The stock is made of top grade plastic and comes in very dark brown , dark green, savannah and black and is robust and tough yet comfortable to handle. It has elastomer grips (or weather-proof leather inlays) to stop your hands slipping in even the wettest conditions and the barrels are hardened to prevent scratches and marks on the metal.
All the R8’s have detachable barrels so changing calibre is a simple task of undoing two screws and removing the barrel from the stock, the scopes are mounted on a special Blaser system, the Blaser saddle mount, that clips off quickly and when they are put back on remain true to zero each time. We tried it and it works, every time! This quick system makes these rifles truly versatile, especially with so many keepers heading off on hunting trips abroad these days you can make your .222 into a .30-06 in a matter of seconds and still have that same familiar stock in your hands that you have been shooting foxes with when you get the chance at that wild boar in Hungary or the Antelope in Namibia.
The combinations of stock, material, barrel length, mount type, grade and calibre is nothing short of astounding. From a .222Rem. to a .500 Jeffery the Blaser system allows you to shoot them all from the same stock, all you need to do is at a bare minimum change the barrel, bolt head and magazine. This can all be done in under two minutes. With other options available such as a tracking barrel, which is even shorter than the standard for those of you who go out on wounded deer tracks to a heavy target match barrel the choices you have are almost limitless.
When shooting the R8 .243 we tested we found that it liked pretty much any ammunition we used, from Sako 95gr to Winchester Varmint X at 55gr the test shots were all sub 1 ½ inches at 120 meters. In the field to the rifle has performed really well in all weather conditions, proving reliable and accurate. Cleaning is a doddle after a wet stalk, you take off the scope and barrel dry, clean and reassemble and it shoots as true as it did before. As an all round keepers rifle the R8 professional success will take some beating, it is versatile, light, short, accurate and synthetic. If you are looking for something smart then the R8 has a whole range of wooden stocks to choose from but the R8 Professional Success must be considered as a serious contender if you are looking for a new rifle – you never know it might be the last you ever buy