Blaser R8 Professional
The Blaser R8 synthetic, professional, standard weight .308 Winchester rifle is unbelievable. While I don’t personally feel the need for the straight pull bolt action I know it helps many people and I am happy shooting and hunting with it.
The finish is basic with green synthetic stock and matt black metal. After eight months up a Welsh hills side and after around 1,500 rounds there is no corrosion, few marks and no sign of deterioration. Cleaning is simple due to the open design and take down. It is bedding in nicely, slicker than before—and it was slick to start with. The grip panels in the forend and pistol grip provide a sure hold and the sling points balance well with a leather two-point 1907-style strap.
The action is fast, crisp and, as long as it’s pulled and pushed robustly, flawless. If it is used limply and the bolt handle is not fully pushed forwards you will get a harmless click in place of a lethal bang.
The trigger should be awful; the whole magazine, trigger and guard come out when the two side buttons are pushed to facilitate reloading, mag changes or security; but no. Thanks to a Desmodronic widget and Teutonic engineering the trigger is a crisp, creep free 1.25kg delight every time and breaks like an icicle. I love it straight out of the box.
The de-cocking safety mechanism has grown on me as there is no doubt that when fully loaded, but de-cocked, it is not going to go off, at all, ever….until cocked by pushing the cocking button forwards and up. Pushing it forwards and down then releasing the pressure allows it to ease the firing spring and de-cock. It is also silent in operation which cannot be said of many conventional safeties.
The James Bond style take down and assembly of the bolt, barrel and scope mounts allows the rifle to fit into an attaché style case and on reassembly it shoots to within 1cm of the zero every time. I have shot five round groups with full take down and build up between each shot and they were sub 4cm at 100m. Without take down they were 2-3cm. Calibre changes are simple with the removable bolt face and magazine though not quite as easy as the Mauser M03.
On accuracy, while I don’t believe that small groups (1cm as opposed to 3-6cm) make any practical difference to the real life deer harvesting ability of rifles and owner, the rifle’s ability to put most commercial quality expanding ammunition into less than 6cm at 100m and 12cm at 200m is refreshing. Bear in mind the broadside chest kill zone of a roe buck is around 20cms and most deer are shot, quite rightly at under 150m. When I meet a deer with a sub 2cm kill zone I may change my mind. Head and neck shots are dodgy as no matter how accurate the rifle, how do you stop the deer moving its head?
Most importantly, combining fast handling with modest recoil and quick recovery the rifle will pound 25cm diameter steel discs shot in random sequence at 100, 200 and 300m. No bench, no bipod, just standing, sitting and prone using a two-point sling, holdover and Kentucky windage. When I miss it’s my fault; the rifle will do it all day.
The moderator fitted is a PEZ over-barrel design which is effective giving around 30db noise reduction and 50% plus recoil reduction in a package which is of reasonable length and weight. It doesn’t seem to come loose on rapid fire and balances well when slung.
Longer range? The real surprise comes when you least expect it. Wearing a Zeiss Duralyt 2.5-8 power entry level scope with standard caps the rifle is no long range affair, or is it? Lay down at 500m, pop the caps off and dial up 41 clicks for elevation, eight clicks right for wind then spot…bang…clang! A well-centred first round hit on a Figure 11 target, then another and another. Superb.
How the hell does it do it? We have shot it to 750m and it shoots right alongside the big boys toys, bearing in mind the 8-power scope, 3.2kg all up weight and 20” barrel.
1,500 .308 and 7.62 rounds later it has held its first zero, misfired twice on some mil spec ammo, been reliable with all commercial ammo and shows a preference for 150-165gn bullets while handling 180gn bullets well. It is a delight to carry and shoot, fast to aim and steady to rapid fire.
The R8 professional is portable, durable, highly accurate, reliable and fast handling. Kept simple in 30 cal with a moderator, 3-12 scope range, good sling and free of a bipod it could just be your best ever hunting partner. Making best use of the calibre / barrel change facility, get .223, .308 and .375 barrels, or similar, and the world is your oyster.