The Blaser R8 modular rifle is the Transformer of the hunting rifle world. It’s pricier than the typical U.S. bolt-action of similar quality, but that’s partly because you can change it from a scoped 223 Remington to an open-sight 500 Jeffery with a single screwdriver in about five minutes.
The Straight Scoop on the R8
Get ready for something a bit different. The Blaser R8 modular rifle is a straight pull bolt-action. You do not lift the bolt handle before pulling back. Just pull back and slam forward. The bolt locks radially into the barrel breech via 360-degree splines that are forced open by a cam that’s pushed against them when the bolt handle is shoved all the way forward. In short, the bolt face aligns dead center with the bore every time. There is no need to blueprint the action or lap the lugs as is done to accurize most American bolt actions.
Blasers are fast because the bolt does not turn to lock into the barrel. It’s a straight push-pull system. While shooting a running boar target, friends and I were able to score three hits with the Blaser, only two with a typical turn-bolt. The bolt lock-up is not weak by any measure. Back pressure from burning powder only enhances lug lock up by forcing the lugs tighter in the recesses. While trying to determine excessive pressures in Blaser test barrels, researchers subjected them to 125,000 psi pressure without failure. The 300 Win. Mag’s maximum pressure is 65,000 psi.
Blaser R8 Modular as Quick Change Artist
Versatility, precision and performance are the R8’s calling card. These rifles can be had in (at last count) 43 different chamberings starting with the tiny 204 Ruger and climbing through the ranks to 338 Lapua Magnum, 458 Lott (the 458 Winchester in a full-magnum-length case,) and that 500 Jeffery (just in case you want more knockdown power for your elk hunt.)
Changing an R8 from the smallest caliber to the largest is remarkably simple, too. Open the bolt, turn two hex-head screws captured in the forend stock, and lift off the barrel. Insert the new barrel and screw it on. It secures to a steel bar jutting forward off the receiver and does not touch the forend stock. Free floating. If you switch from the small head diameter of the 204/223 Rem. class of cartridges (.378”) to a fatty like the 338 Lapua (.588”,) you lift a spring-pressured lever on the bolt body, pull off one head, and pop on another.
Changes in the Stock Market, Too
Forend stocks and butt stocks can be switched with single hex head bolts, too, so you can swap a wide forend for a narrow, a short length of pull for a long. You can quickly and easily drop 12-ounce or 16-ounce recoil reducer tubes into the butt, balancing longer, heavier barrels and taming the kick of bigger calibers. There are fancy walnut stocks, one-piece synthetic stocks, thumbhole stocks… all interchangeable.
Blaser R8 Triggers Safe Space
If the very idea of a big bore rifle triggers your search for a safe space, the R8 provides it. The trigger drops out with a firm squeeze of twin locking levers, rendering the rifle inoperative. Magazine wells are similarly snapped in and out to accommodate various sized cartridges.
In action, R8s with a live round chambered cannot accidentally discharge because the firing pin is not cocked until you push the “safety” fully forward. This is because the tang positioned “safety” is really a cocking device. It takes some getting used to and cannot be as easily pushed as traditional safeties, but it is certainly safer during the hours and hours one carries a loaded rifle before encountering game. (Of course, my option for that with a traditional U.S. bolt action is to hunt with an empty chamber. Bolting in a live round takes all of a fraction of a second. And who snap shoots game these days anyway? After spotting, sizing up, stalking, and deciding to try for an animal, we usually have plenty of time to chamber a round.)
Blaser R8 modular receivers, bolt heads, and butt stocks are available in left-hand versions. This means your left-handed son can swap out your right-handed Blaser parts for his southpaw parts and share your R8.
Swap Scopes in Seconds And Maintain Zero on Blaser R8
Most of us mount a scope to a rifle and leave it for years. If we trust a quick-release mount system, we expect to re-zero each time we remove and replace the scope. I re-zero with the Blaser R8 quick-change scope mounts, too, but probably shouldn’t waste my ammo because point-of-impact remains the same. One lever at the base of each base lock turns up to release the scope and mount. Machining of the steel parts is so precise and locking tension so consistent that zero holds true.
Sub-MOA Blaser R8 Consistency
Versatility is nice, but you insist on accuracy first and foremost, right? Me too. And that may be the most impressive thing about these expensive German rifles. Barrel to barrel, caliber to caliber the Blaser R8 delivers MOA or better precision. With factory loaded ammunition I’ve printed MOA to 1/2 MOA with barrels chambered for 22-250 Rem., 6.5-284 Norma, 243 Win., 308 Win., 7mm Rem. Mag., 300 Win. Mag., and 458 Lott. And that’s before and after barrel swaps and even scope swaps. I can’t promise every R8 barrel will be this accurate or consistent, but they’ve been that for me.
If you’re a lightweight rifle nut, don’t look here. The R8 is solid and hefty. Depending on the configuration, it’ll weigh closer to 8-pounds than 5, and that’s before the scope and mounts. Shorter barrels and stocks will reduce that mass, but consider this a standard weight hunting rifle comparable to your average Model 70 or 700 in 30-06.
But the Blaser R8 is Expensive
Yes. The lowest price model I’ve seen advertised was a Professional Green (synthetic, one-piece stock) at $3,713. Additional barrels run about $1,265. You can buy a complete, higher quality U.S. bolt-action for that. So why mess with an expensive Blaser R8? Travel convenience would be one reason. If you fly to hunt Australia, Africa, Asia, etc. you’ll find it much easier to pack one Blaser with two or three barrels then three complete rifles. And, for some hunters, price is no object.
The modular rifle system is popular in Europe because many countries limit the number of rifles one can own, I guess, but not necessarily the number of barrels. I’m not sure exactly how it works, but switch barrel rifles are common there. And the Blaser R8 is one of the best.
Ron Spomer has hunted three southern Africa countries several times with Blaser R8 rifles and has never regretted a second of it.
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