Blaser R93 Rifle Review Update

By George De Vries lll

Blaser R93 rifle
R93 rifle. Illustration courtesy of Blaser.

It's been several years since the initial Blaser R93 review was written. Since then I've had plenty of time to handload for it, shoot at the range, and hunt with the 6.5x55 barrel, as well as gain some perspective on this non-traditional bolt-action rifle.

To begin with, the safety/cocking piece, which is very ergonomic in it's placement on the rear of the receiver and in its shape. It's large, concave, quiet and thumb friendly, but it does takes a positive effort to engage.

Unlike most rifles, the safety cocks the firing pin spring. This rifle will not be cocked inadvertently. Conversely, the effort to uncock if the rifle is not fired requires similar effort and attention and has taken me some time to get used to.

The status of the cocking piece can be seen at a glance as there is a large red dot about a centimeter in diameter that is uncovered by the cocking piece when the rifle is cocked and ready to fire. This system takes more getting used to though than other common safeties, whether wing or tang or Remington 700 type.

Blaser R93 right side
R93 receiver. Illustration courtesy of Blaser.

Probably the most striking characteristic of the R93 is its receiver and very different bolt system. I've had one very well known gun writer and one who I've found to truly be an expert in firearms tell me he thinks it is a wonderful rifle but, "I just can't get by its looks." Fair enough. It is rakish in looks and some that are traditionalists, a strong trait among rifle aficionados, will not go for it on looks alone.

But what about the action, that radial bolt with "petals" that expand into a recess in the barrel? Is that safe? As one rifle enthusiast told me, "I want lugs on a bolt that stick out and that have to be rotated into their recesses. I want to know they're there before I pull the trigger."

Several years ago there were rumors abounding on some web sites that Blaser R93s were blowing up in Europe including a picture of at least one severe injury. Being a new owner at the time this was disconcerting to say the least but try as I might it was hard to get good, hard, incontrovertible confirmation. Except in one case.

In January 2004, near Koblenz Germany, there was a shooting accident where there is no doubt that an R93 blew up. There were so many misleading reports about this, as well as other "incidents" involving the R93, that Blaser felt prompted to answer and issue a formal opinion. Meanwhile, an independent institute called DEVA (Deutsche Versuchs- und Prufanstalt fur Jagd- und Sportwaffen e. V.) was ordered by the Public Prosecutor to evaluate the action pieces and other evidence, determine what happened, and issue a report.

The findings of DEVA as reported by Blaser in a press release were that the destruction of the rifle in question "was without doubt due to inadmissible gas pressure caused by the ammunition". The ammunition in question had been handloaded.

In its tests, DEVA took a Blaser rifle and subjected it up to loads generating almost 116,000 psi, which the rifle survived with no measurable deformation to the chamber or bolt head. In their press release Blaser also noted that every R93 is tested by the state/county proof-house according to C.I.P. regulations using proof cartridges exceeding the maximal allowed gas pressure by a minimum of 30%. They added that the R93 clearly withstands gas pressures much higher than proof level, as the DEVA tests clearly document. Finally, Blaser noted that in 2003 they were aware that, in Austria alone, three bolt rifles from different manufacturers were destroyed by over-pressure loads.

All of this information is from Blaser, some from their press release and the balance in a form letter they sent out to R93 owners. I include it here so the reader can draw his or her own conclusions.

As stated in my earlier review, I have 6.5x55, .30-06, and .375 H&H scoped barrels for my R93. Changing from barrel to barrel, even including bolt head, takes only a minute or two using a minimum of tools, which are provided by Blaser.

It doesn't take long when inspecting anything, be it a rifle, car, or any piece of equipment, to get an impression of quality or the lack of it. While the R93 first struck me as somewhat fragile, it is very apparent that it is well made. Two parts of the equation initially looked questionable to me: the receiver and Blaser's saddle scope mounts, which are an integral ring and base design.

The receiver is an attractive, grayed alloy. Unlike traditional bolt actions, it needn't need (or have) the strength of an action where the barrel is screwed into the action and the bolt lugs rotate into receiver recesses. The R93 lug recesses are in the barrel extension, sort of like many repeating shotguns. These parts are made of high-grade steel.

I have seen the R93 described on one web site as "an over designed piece of junk." Well, its bolt is more complex than most, but "over designed" or a "piece of junk"? Yeah, about like an Audi. I guess that's what makes a horse race. To each his own.

The scope is held in rings that are integral with a long, one-piece base. This has little "claws" which fit into indents in the barrel. They didn't seem to have enough purchase to be sure and dependable on a heavy recoiling rifle. To date I've fired several hundred rounds through each barrel with nary a hiccup. The scope mount has stayed immovable, and yet is easily released and removed if you want to move a mounted scope to another barrel. In a sense this is a quick release system. But, unlike American counterparts where the rings alone are quick release, here the whole rings/base system comes off.

Blaser says that the radial lugs, which expand into the barrel recess through 360 degrees, has more surface area than traditional bolt lugs and can "center the cartridge" in the chamber during the dynamic process of firing, thus contributing to accuracy. I can say this: mine is one of the most accurate sporting rifles, out of the box, that I've owned.

Both the .30-06 and .375 H&H barrels, shooting Barnes TSX bullets, the 168 grain with 57 grains of H4350 and the 270 grain atop 77 grains H4350 respectively, are easily MOA and usually better. The '06 load chronographs at 2810 fps and the .375 load is mild at just under 2600 fps.

Although I'm planning a trip to Africa next year and am planning on taking the R93 with the '06 and the .375 barrels, so far I've only hunted with the 6.5x55. Interestingly, the PH with whom I will be hunting in Namibia has hunted for years with the R93s predecessor. (The R84 if memory serves me.) Namibia was a former German colony.

Back to the 6.5x55, it is a wonderful little cartridge and its barrel also shoots MOA groups with H4831 and the Sierra 140 grain GameKing bullet. This load, which just reaches 2800 fps and is considerably hotter than any factory ammunition available, has accounted for three Nebraska white tails with three shots. One could do much worse than settle on this cartridge for general purpose deer or antelope hunting. It is a much more potent choice than the 6mm's.

There have been over 100,000 Blaser R93s sold so far, not counting the earlier version of this rifle that were mostly sold in Europe. It is a straight-pull bolt action with a significant track record, but certainly not what most people think of when talking about bolt action rifles. The R93 is not inexpensive, yet the price diminishes somewhat with added barrels if you consider the added versatility. There are synthetic stocks available and various models offering higher grades of receiver embellishment and wood. Accessories are available for purchase. Blaser rifles are imported/distributed by Sigarms in the U.S.A.

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Copyright 2006, 2008 by George De Vries lll. All rights reserved.