Blaser R93 Synthetic
AFTER Gerhard Blenk retired from a successful career in international business he had time to indulge his lifelong passion for big game hunting. As he considered hunting rifles from the viewpoint of a dedicated, modern sportsman, he began to question why existing designs, many of which were more than 100 years old, could not be improved using modern technology
Although Blenk was not an iconoclast, he felt that the state-of-the-art in hunting rifle technology could be pushed forward dramatically. As existing gun manufacturers were not interested in such a project, Blenk resolved to accomplish it himself. He built several prototype rifles then took them hunting. Others were so impressed by Blenk’s rifle, many sought to buy one. Blenk later formed his own company to manufacture his creation-the Blaser rifle.
European hunters have a finely developed appreciation for engineering excellence and technical accomplishment. The advanced technology of the Blaser rifle appealed to these senses and struck a responsive chord throughout the European market. Blaser rapidly came from nowhere to gain a major market share among knowledgeable, European hunters. Competing rifle manufacturers such as Sauer immediately noted this, of course. In the late 1990s, the Swiss Industrial Company (SIG), owners of Sauer in Germany, gave in and purchased the Blaser rifle company. American sportsmen stand to benefit from this as SIG now actively promotes sales of the Blaser rifle in North America.
The Blaser offers a package of innovative, unique concepts such as 360 degree, radial bolt locking; a trigger unit with no sear: thumb-cocking safety; fast takedown with interchangeable barrels in different calibers and a unique magazine with straight-line feed. Other advanced features not unique to the Blaser include a straight-pull action, a free-floating barrel, a metal bedding block. a detachable bolt head. captive mounting screws and nuts, scope bases with integral rings, scope mounts with repeatable zero and a synthetic stock.
Blaser rifles do not have a receiver of conventional configuration in that there are no front or rear receiver rings or bridges. Rather, the receiver is a non-stressed, Ushaped piece of aluminum that simply serves to bed the barrel and hold it, the bolt assembly and trigger assembly in relation to each other. The bolt locks directly to the barrel with a collet head and, as the bolt head does not rotate. the bolt travels on two rails riding in corresponding grooves cut into the upper, inner sides of the receiver. The bolt col.let head locks radially through 36() degrees into a V-shaped groove cut into the rear shank of the barrel.
A coned surface on the rear of the bolt head serves to expand the collet’s steel fingers for locking or allow them to contract for unlocking. In the locked position, the collet fingers travel up the cone surface, causing them to expand into the locking groove cut into the barrel. When unlocked, the collet fingers slide down the cone surface to their normal, retracted position. The separate, detachable bolt head is fitted with an internal extractor and internal ejector. A small. steel assist pin on the upper face of the bolt carrier and connected to the bolt handle provides a degree of initial extraction to first loosen the cartridge case as the bolt is opened. A lightweight. steel firing pin powered by an encompassing coil spring combined with short firing pin travel offers ultra-fast lock time. These features enable an unusually short, compact bolt assembly. A small, bolt-release button located on the upper right rear wing of the action enables the bolt to quickly be removed as needed.
Blaser triggers are built into an integral housing on the bottom of the tang. There is no sear and the housing is not removable. Although the housing is enclosed, panels can be removed for cleaning or maintenance as necessary. When the trigger is pulled. it acts to raise a round metal pin out of the housing a very short distance so it contacts the pivot arm on the bolt assembly. The pivot arm holds the striker in see-saw fashion, when the pin pushes upward, the striker is released by the arm. A disconnector is built into the assembly.
Although Blaser magazines are readily removable. they are not external. Rather they are internal in somewhat similar fashion to the “en bloc” clips such as those used in the M I Garand, but are not ejected when empty. They are molded, single-column, semi-spiral designs powered by rotary springs acting on a synthetic follower. A second, rotary spring-powered piece pushes against the bottom of the receiver to push the magazine upward into its proper position. The purpose of this is to present the topmost cartridge in such a manner as to allow a straight push into the chamber for reliable feeding. Blaser magazines are caliber-specific and can be removed easily when changing calibers. Extra barrels are sold with a correct caliber magazine.
Of takedown design, Blaser barrels are easily interchangeable between calibers. Changes requiring a different bolt face are made possible by interchangeable. detachable bolt heads. Blaser barrels are hammerforged of carbon steel with four lands and grooves of conventional design.
Two equal-length mounting bolts permanently affixed to the bottom of the barrel pass through the bottom of the receiver to mate with two captive locking nuts in the stock. The 4 mm hex heads of these locking nuts are deeply recessed into the stock. Barrels bed directly to the metal receiver. Scope bases with integral rings mount in small eyebrow notches cut into the top of the barrel. Designed especially for repeat zero, the scope base/ring unit with the scope attached can be dismounted and remounted without losing its zero.
The Blaser Synthetic rifle comes equipped with a one-piece, fiberglassreinforced, molded stock with steel QD sling swivel studs and a black rubber buttpad. The stock has no checkering, but its surface has a finely pebbled, black, nonslip, non-reflective finish. In the Synthetic model only, the receiver is imbedded permanently in the stock.
Turnbolt rifles require four distinct hand movements for operation-upward, backward, forward and downward. The Blaser’s straight-pull bolt reduces these to just two movements-backward and forward. That substantially reduces the time required to operate the bolt for a quick second shot and keeps the rifle securely in the shooter’s shoulder and focal plane. When the shooter pulls the bolt knob rearward, the bolt handle first pivots about 15 degrees. This pulls the bolt carrier slightly rearward allowing the locking collet fingers to slide down the rear cone of the bolt head, unlocking the bolt from the barrel. At the same time, the assist pin on the bolt carrier deploys forward to loosen the cartridge case by pushing the bolt carrier rearward. The bolt is then free to move fully rearward, extracting and ejecting the fired case. Pushing the bolt knob forward causes the bolt to push the topmost cartridge from the magazine into the chamber. As it does so, the bolt knob pivots forward, causing the locking collet fingers to travel up the rear cone of the bolt head and deploy into the locking recess ring in the barrel. The rifle is now locked securely.
For safety, the Blaser rifle normally remains cocked when the bolt is closed on the first round. To cock the rifle, the shooter must push forward and upward on a large, ribbed. metal button on the rear of the bolt that is connected to the striker. This exposes a large red dot in the tang, indicating the rifle is ready to fire. Once pressed home to cock the striker. the button will stay in that position after the shot has been fired and the bolt manipulated for follow-up shots. If desired, the rifle can be put on safe by pressing the button inward and upward, which releases it to slide down into the safe position. This decocks the striker and locks the bolt closed. If desired, a light upward push on the safety button unlocks the bolt without cocking the firing pin. The safety can also be applied when the bolt is open. There is no conventional safety button. We found that while the Blaser’s operational procedure takes a bit of getting used to, it works quite well once you get the hang of it. One piece of advice, however-read the operation manual carefully and completely, then practice the operation procedure on an unloaded rifle before attempting to fire it.
Following the utilitarian concept of the Blaser Synthetic, finish on all metal parts is a matte blue/black. Even the trigger guard and trigger bow are made of molded, matte black synthetic. Fit and finish of all metal parts proved average for a rifle in this price range.
Styling elicited a mixed bag of reactions. Traditionalists choked on the synthetic stock and matte finish. For them, a rifle is not a rifle unless made of blued, polished steel and checkered walnut. However, they did allow as how the Blaser stock lines were nice-for a synthetic. For traditionalists, the higher grades of Blaser rifles with checkered walnut stocks and blued steel parts had stronger appeal. But, potential buyers should consider that the price of such models is substantially higher. If they remember that the Blaser Synthetic is aimed at customers who view a hunting rifle as a basic tool with little aesthetic content, then the appearance makes perfect sense.
Our tests indicated that takedown and reassembly of the Blaser rifle were fast and easy-however a hex wrench was required. Bedding did not prove to be a problem as the Blaser barrel beds directly to the metal receiver and the entire scope base/ring assembly attaches to the barrel.
In this connection, we tested the repeatable zero by first zeroing in the rifle, removing the scope base, waiting overnight then reinstalling the scope base the next day. Zero did not change.
Blaser bolt operation was smooth and very fast-something straight-pull rifles are renowned for. Fast second shots were easy, even by novice shooters. This raised an interesting point. Turn-bolt hunting rifles require practice to achieve smooth bolt operation allowing fast follow-up shots. The Blaser required noticeably less training in this respect with novices quickly mastering the backward-forward operation.
The cocking safety, however, was another matter. While it does operate reliably and has considerable thought behind its design, it is not intuitive. Rather. it requires a careful reading of the manual-and practicebefore use. Uninstructed but experienced shooters, for example, could not get the rifle to fire at first.
Feeding, extraction and ejection were flawless. One point is worth mentioning here. Straight-pull rifles do not have the inherent mechanical advantage during extraction that good turnbolt designs have. While this remains unimportant in most cases, it takes on serious meaning when a case sticks in the chamber for whatever reason. Fortunately, such instances are rare, so the average owner need not be overly concerned about this.
We found the searless trigger pull crisp and clean with little loading and very little take-up. Blaser is on to something good here in its simple, sear]ess. enclosed design. Accuracy results are summarized in the accompanying table. Results may be.characterized as above average for a hunting rifle. Perhaps more important here is the consistency to be had from the metal bedding, free-floated barrel and synthetic stock.
The Blaser rifle incorporates numerous unique features combined with many other advanced features found on modern hunting rifles. No doubt about it, the Blaser does advance the state-of-the-art; witness the straight-pull clones from competitors. The Blaser.embodies the personal preferences of Gerhard Blenk, a knowledgeable, modern sportsman. But not every sportsman is interested in advancing the state-ofthe-art, particularly in North America. The combination of pioneering, technical features and high price limit the appeal of the Blaser rifle to knowledgeable, well-heeled hunters who appreciate technical excellence. Therefore, this is not a rifle for the average hunter. Predictably. we will see many of the concepts embodied in the Blaser rifles adopted by competitors. Such is the work of the pioneer.
Copyright National Rifle Association of America Sep 1999
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