The Blaser R93 Rifle
Being a southpaw and a rifle loony has always been a rather frustrating experience for me. It reminds me of George Gobel's line of years ago: "Did you ever feel like the whole world was a tuxedo and you were a brown pair of shoes"? There were exceptions here and there but mostly a few standard models chambered for the usual standard cartridges were all that were made available to lefties. I must add that in the last few years the left-handed models by most makers are more numerous than ever before so things have improved a bit.
But in earlier years the only option was to put up with these pedestrian, albeit very practical, versions or go the custom route. I eventually built up a modest number of rifles based on the Remington 700 action, some of which I still have and use frequently. Of course here and there were a few stock rifles that by my criteria were acceptable lefties and I accrued a few of those.
Four years ago a change in priorities required that I divest myself of some rifles and then early last year I again started a search for a new, light rifle that would be appropriate for medium (CXP2) game. The Remington Titanium was what I envisioned as just right but as usual was offered in right hand only. The .260 Remington offered the ballistics I was looking for but was not offered in left hand by anybody as I recall. I considered several well-known custom shops, searched about and discovered the Blaser R93 as imported by Sigarms. I believe that the "93" designation refers to the year of introduction.
The uniquely designed Blaser R93 is made in Germany and is certainly a rifle but may be more aptly described as a system. It is modular in that all the barrels, bolts (right and left), bolt heads (mini, standard and magnum), and stocks are interchangeable. That's right; one can take a right hand R93, remove the bolt and replace it with a left-hand bolt. This certainly raises possibilities in a family where one member shoots from the wrong shoulder. Sigarms customer service has told me some who buy an R93 will buy both bolts for just this reason.
The Sigarms 2003 catalog shows eleven 22" barrels available for mini (.222, .223), and standard cartridges from .22-250 to .30-06 and eleven 26" barrels chambered from .257 Weatherby to the .416 Remington Magnum. The WSM calibers have recently been added. All barrels are supplied "clean," without iron sights
The corresponding inline detachable box magazines (standard and magnum) come with a rubber bumper to protect bullet tips and fit into a cistern below the bolt. Magazines for standard cartridges hold 5 rounds. Bolt heads can be changed out from mini to standard to magnum and back again (there is even an Ultra Mag bolt head for the .300 Ultra Mag).
There are four stocks or grades available from the Synthetic (the least expensive) to the Attaché (the most expensive). In between in ascending order of better Turkish walnut and more metal work on the side plates and thus cost are the Prestige and the Luxus. These are very unique looking rifles, immediately catching the eye wherever they are seen. One reason are the unusual side plates of aluminum alloy on the walnut models that have a contrasting gray coin like finish that ranges from English scroll on the Prestige to a engraved game scene on the Luxus.
The R93 is not very light by today's standards but is certainly not too heavy. The standard rifle weighs in at 6.6 lbs. and has an OAL of 40", the magnum, 6.8 lbs. and an OAL of 44". My R93 Prestige in 6.5x55 with the Q.D. mounts and 1" rings and a Leupold 3x9 compact comes in at 7 lbs. 5 ounces.
All this interchangeability means that with several barrels and two bolt heads (standard and magnum) and the option of a synthetic stock, the R93 can cover the entire spectrum of game and conditions you expect to encounter.
Unlike almost all rifles where the rings and bases anchor the scope to the receiver the mounts on the R93 hold the scope on the barrel, probably inherently a more accurate system. The Blaser saddle mount is quickly detachable and very easy to use and while it initially looked to me that the purchase of the mount on the barrel might be questionable under recoil and general knocking about mine has held solidly for four months of the same. And, it has years of successful use here already and of course in Europe. The significance of this is obvious; the barrel and scope are removed as a unit with the zero maintained. Out in the field on a hunt the "extra rifle" can be another scoped barrel in your duffel back at camp, zeroed, ready, and requiring only a few minutes to swap out. On any hunting trip to remote quarters this could be a hunt saver.
Ok, how does it work? The belly of the forend holds two captive screws accepted by two pillared receptacles on the underside of each barrel. With the action open this is what holds the barrel in the forend channel. In other words the barrel isn't screwed into a receiver meaning it (the receiver) doesn't take any of the great pressure force of combustion. This is contained wholly in the barrel chamber. The "receiver" or frame can thus be made lighter, of alloys, contributing to the reduced weight of the rifle.
On the three models with walnut stocks there is a metal bedding system to avoid barrel- wood contact. The triggers are listed in the catalog as sear-free and having a 2 pound pull weight without creep. I can attest to this personally, as the trigger on my Prestige is "sweet." I have fired a lot of handloads and factory ammo in a lot of rifles but fired a .35 ", three-shot group with my first handload in this rifle. The rest of the groups with this load were not that small but were significantly under an inch.
An equally unique part of the firing system is the bolt. The R93 bolt has no lugs that rotate in a receiver raceway to lock up behind the cartridge case. The bolt utilizes a "patented Radial Locking System that expands a full 360-degrees to make rigid contact inside the barrel (not in the receiver) for an exceptionally strong, solid lockup" (a quote from the Blaser brochure, Sigarms, 2003).
I would describe it like the petals of a flower opening evenly and equally; these "petals" open into a 360-degree recess in the barrel. Each "petal" is in effect a mini-lug expanding equally to point of contact inside the barrel with the others distributing back thrust equally throughout the 360-degrees. This system centers the cartridge perfectly in the chamber unlike a two- lug system wherein the lugs often bear unequal loads and thus there is at least theoretical canting of the cartridge in the chamber on firing. All of this adds to the accuracy potential of the rifle.
The bolt face is recessed to enclose the cartridge head and has a big, no-nonsense extractor. The R93 is a straight pull action. The bolt pull is in a straight line back and then forward into battery; there is no up and back, forward and down motion. To my notion there is a definite audible and tactile "click-clack" to working this action. I would not describe it as the silky smooth sensation of a Sako or even a Tikka but neither would I say it is disconcerting. And it is fast and for me measurably easier to remain on target than with the traditional bolt action.
The bolt fits inside a breechblock or I would say a shroud to which the bolt handle is attached and rides on two guide rails as the action is opened or closed. The bolt head with its expanding shell or "flower petals" protrudes from this breechblock as it rides into and out of battery.
The safety is large and ambidextrous and located at a high tang position; it is really a cocking mechanism for the firing pin spring. With the safety engaged, it is also uncocked and vice versa. As well as the usual slide forward and backward of a tang safety, there is a slight up and down maneuver required which was initially slightly foreign to me but this quickly resolved with practice.
The Blaser R93 is not inexpensive, the Synthetic (a complete rifle and the least expensive) carried a MSRP of about $2005 in 2005. The Prestige lists for $2600, the Luxus for $3400, and the Attache for $4800. The quick detachable rings I have listed for about $227, extra barrels at $664, and either a magnum or standard bolt head at $203. Left hand models are an additional $141. Dealer retail prices are usually somewhat below these catalog figures. Of course, you can purchase these extras over a period of time, and the cost of the R93 compares favorably compared to any high end custom shop rifle. There are myriads of accessories that are also available for the Blaser through Sigarms not to mention the European cartridges not offered in the States but that you can special order. You can begin your search at the SIG Arms WebSite and request a catalog. Their pictures are worth a thousand of my words.
If you are considering a new rifle, are open to something unconventional but require classic good looks, the Blaser R93 might interest you. In this case form truly follows function. One source I've read stated that it is the number one selling rifle in Europe and in one review in Shooting Times, it was named, "Bolt Action Rifle of the Century". I can buy that.
Copyright 2004, 2006 by George De Vries lll. All rights reserved.