This Teutonic rifle was born to hunt, and it doesn’t care if it’s in the back of a rusted-out F150 or a posh Land Rover.
The R8 Professional has none of the opulent frills of other Blaser rifles. It is just a workhorse of a rifle that has a super-fast straight-pull action—I’d say almost twice as fast a traditional bolt action. It is an accurate rifle with a multi-caliber platform. Swap barrels, bolts and magazine inserts, and you can go from tagging gophers to stalking elephants.
I hate expensive rifles (mostly because I can’t afford them), but there are times when you cross paths, and the connection is immediate. The connection with the Blaser (pronounced BLAH-zer) R8 line was immediate.
The R8 debuted in 2008 and is a direct descendant of the R93—a unique rifle with an exorbitant price that only a baron, count, marque or princess could afford due to a long list of options that ranged from tastefully ornate to ostentatious. The straight-pull bolt is a bit odd, too, especial for those of us who have been cranking traditional-style bolt actions for decades.
The R8 follows the R93’s bloodline with a more robust receiver that can handle cartridges ranging from the .204 Ruger up to the massive .500 Jeffery. As with the R93, the sky is the limit with R8 options, so you can take the red carpet path … or the dirt road.
The R8 Professional opted for the dirt road approach. Although it has a high level of refinement, it keeps good company with our friends and hunting pals in low places. (Actually, during hunting season, it’s in high places: tree stands.)
Straight-pull bolt action
The R8 uses a straight-pull bolt that is much easier and faster to operate from the shoulder than a traditional turn-bolt action, allowing you to keep your sight picture for faster follow-up shots. It took just a few rounds fired to acclimate to the R8.
The bolt is designed with a radial head. A collet behind the bolt head is slotted into 13 pieces and, as the bolt is closed, the collet is pushed forward against the rear of the bolt head, causing the front ridge to expand into a groove in the barrel. This locks the bolt to the barrel in a full 360 degrees.
This straight-pull action is not only strong enough to take the pressure from the full spectrum of centerfire cartridges, it also makes the rifle 3 inches shorter than traditional turn-bolt rifles without reducing barrel length. In fact, the barrel on my R8 is 23 inches long—about an inch longer than most standard .30-06 bolt-action rifles. This shorter action gives the R8 a nice balance and makes it fast pointing. It almost feels like a carbine when, in fact, it has a rifle-length barrel.
As far as speed is concerned, the R8’s ability for a follow-up shot leaves traditional bolts actions in the dust.
As unique as the straight-pull action is, the cocking slide/safety slide is also distinctive: The slide cocks and de-cocks the rifle, so there is no need to crank the bolt to cock the rifle or to dry-fire the rifle to de-cock it. Both left-and right-handed shooters can use their thumb to push the cocking slide forward until it locks in place and exposes a red square that indicates the rifle is cocked and ready to fire. To de-cock the rifle, press the slider forward and down, and the cocking slide returns back. With the slide in the rear position, the bolt is locked in place. If you want to open the bolt, you can push the slide to the cocked position; alternatively, you can slightly press the slide and pull back on the bolt handle. In the de-cocked position, the rifle will not discharge, even if dropped. The process is also relatively quiet, so it won’t spook cagey bucks.
The R8 features a detachable magazine … or not. Depending on the type of game you are hunting, a nondetachable magazine can be considered safer, because there is less probability of spilling your brass on the ground when a Cape buffalo decides he’s had enough of you. The magazine can be locked into the receiver by sliding a lever with your finger.
In detachable mode, two tabs (one on each side of the receiver) are pressed at the same time to remove the magazine so that an accidental magazine dump is less likely. Like a traditional internal box magazine bolt action, the R8 can be loaded from the top of the receiver; there is plenty of room to load single rounds through the ejection port. Alternatively, you can remove the magazine and load it directly.
It is an accurate rifle with a multicaliber platform. Swap barrels, bolts and magazine inserts, and you can go from tagging gophers to stalking elephants.
The non-adjustable trigger averaged a crisp 2.75 pounds— it is a very nice trigger, indeed. The trigger and magazine are a one-piece unit that is removed via the bottom of the receiver. Removing the trigger/magazine unit disables the rifle from firing. This offers an additional level of safety. When the magazine/trigger group is removed from the rifle while the rifle is cocked, the rifle automatically de-cocks when the magazine is removed.
Many rifle manufactures have tried to crack the multi-caliber repeating rifle nut, and the R8 might be the one to have done it: Barrels are attached to the stock via two screws on the underside of the forearm. A 5mm hex wrench tool, included with the rifle, is used to attach a barrel to the stock.
If you stay within the same bolt head size, you only need to swap out the magazine insert for the new caliber. No tools are required to swap magazine inserts; you can use your finger. If you go out of the caliber group, you also need to swap out the bolt head using a fl at-head screwdriver. This is also a fast and simple process. Blaser divides calibers into six groups, all of which have distinct markings. I only tested the R8 in a .30-06 barrel, but I like the idea of being able to gun up or down with different caliber choices.
The R8 line offers a variety of stock configurations, from lush wood to durable synthetic. The R8 Professional features a one-piece synthetic stock with a straight comb. The overall texture is smooth, but the pistol grip and forend have elastomer inlays that offer rubbery traction. The recoil pad is made of recoil-absorbing rubber with rounded edges that allow the rifle to be shouldered fast without it hanging up on clothing or gear. The black synthetic forend cap has a European-style sling swivel stud. The bolt knob is a matching green synthetic, and the metal work is a no-glare matte blue.
At the range
Blaser uses its own proprietary scope saddle mount that clamps into four notches cut into the barrel. Two levers lock it into position. This mount allows you to remove a scope from the barrel without loss of zero. I tried this at the range and can confirm that.
I mounted a SIG TANGO6 2-12x40mm scope to the R8. The TANGO6 features a FFP (first focal plane) reticle position and an illuminated MOA milling reticle. I used three .30-06 Springfield loads, two from Hornady and one from Black Hills.
The Black Hills Gold cartridges loaded with a 180-grain Nosler AccuBond bullet offered exceptional accuracy in the R8. My best three-shot group at 100 yards measured 0.65 inch. I needed to study the group through the Meopta spotting scope and discovered two of the bullets went through the same hole.
The Hornady Full Boar and American Whitetail cartridges are loaded with a 165-grain GMX bullet and 150-grain Interlock bullet, respectively. They also gave good accuracy, averaging 1.5 MOA for the Full Boar and 1.1 MOA for the American Whitetail. No doubt the crisp trigger helped me achieved those groups.
While the R8 is lightweight (about 7.4 pounds naked), recoil was noticeable—but tolerable. Follow-up shots were made easy and super fast with the straight-pull action. It leaves traditional bolts actions in the dust.
While not inexpensive, the R8 Professional offers prestige with performance. The unique straight-pull bolt of the R8 series, combined with the no-nonsense synthetic stock of the Professional model, makes this Blaser a dedicated pickup truck rifle that is well suited for whitetails, pigs or whatever game you’re after.
MANUFACTURER: Blaser (made in Germany)
MODEL: R8 Professional
ACTION TYPE: Straight-pull bolt
CALIBER: .30-06 Springfield; also available in more than 30 other calibers
BARREL LENGTH: 23 inches; hammer-forged
OVERALL LENGTH: 40.6 inches
LENGTH OF PULL: 14.75 inches
WEIGHT (UNLOADED): 7.4 pounds
TRIGGER: Single stage; 2.2 pounds pull weight
MAGAZINE: Detachable polymer box; four-round capacity
SIGHTS: None; optic-ready for Blaser Saddle Mount
SAFETY: De-cocking button
STOCK: Synthetic; dark green with gray elastomer grip areas
BLASER USA, INC.
|Distance: 100 yards||Average Velocity
|Hornady American Whitetail 150-grain Interlock||2,772||2,065||1.1||1.12|
|Black Hills Gold 180-grain Nosler AccuBond||2,588||2,677||0.65||0.77|
|Hornady Full Boar 165-grain GMX||2,807||2,887||1.45||1.5|
Editor’s Note: A version of this article first appeared in the January 2017 print issue of Gun World Magazine.