Offering hunters a lightning-quick cycling motion and impressive accuracy, the Blaser Professional S is a no-frills, high-performance straight-pull rifle.
Ever since 1993 when Blaser introduced the world to its innovative R93 rifle, the company has been known for its finely crafted and highly functional straight-pull bolt-action rifles. Over the years, the German firearms manufacturer’s R93 and more recent R8 series of straight-pull rifles have become some of the most popular choices for European hunters. Although Blaser rifles have never been quite as popular here in the States, they are fantastic bolt guns that allow for incredibly rapid follow-ups, and more and more American hunters have taken notice.
Today, the original R93 design is more than 20 years old, and while Blaser still includes the R93 in its product offerings, most of the company’s recent efforts have been focused on the R8 line. The most recent R8 model, the R8 Professional S, comes with many of the same great features as other guns in the line but addresses one of the most common criticisms of Blaser rifles: price.
With most of Blaser’s rifles approaching or exceeding $4,000, many American hunters are simply unwilling to spend that much on a hunting rifle, especially one with an unfamiliar action and name. The new Professional S, while still relatively expensive for the average hunter at $2,895, offers a more affordable way to get into a quality Blaser straight-pull rifle.
So, just how were the engineers at Blaser able to knock almost $1,000 off the final price of this new rifle? The answer is they simply eliminated one aspect common to other R8 models, the removable trigger/magazine housing. Previous rifles in the R8 line have incorporated this feature, which allows users to remove the trigger/magazine housing for safe storage or for traveling purposes.
While this is a nice feature, it’s also something many shooters can certainly live without. In place of the removable housing, the new R8 Professional S has a fixed magazine/trigger unit. This forces shooters to feed the rifle from the top, but other than that it has no appreciable effect on the gun. Most American shooters are used to a fixed unit anyway.
Like prior R8 rifles, at the heart of the Professional S is Blaser’s revolutionary radial locking system. The straight-pull bolt-action rifle has been around since just before the turn of the 20th century in the form of rifles like Ferdinand Mannlicher’s M1895, the Swiss Schmidt-Rubin and the Canadian Ross rifle, but this groundbreaking locking system is what truly separates Blaser’s straight pulls from all the rest.
It works as a set of splines, each of which incorporate a slight bulge at their forward end, form a radial locking lug that interlocks with the barrel. The barrel itself has a groove inside that facilitates this, and the result is a 360-degree lock-up. The bolt slides forward and backward (into and out of lock-up) along rails machined into the stock; there is no rotation in this process at all.
This system permits a very modular design that is a cinch to assemble and disassemble in the field or at home, and obviously an action that is quite smooth and fast cycling.
All parts are more or less self-contained on the R8 Professional S. The barrel drops easily into the stock; two threaded studs, which engage with two captive Allen-head nuts in the stock, hold the barrel in place. Meanwhile, the stock and fixed magazine/trigger housing are completely separate from the bolt and barrel. The bolt itself is essentially a single unit that slides off the stock in seconds with the push of a button.
This allows for rapid caliber interchangeability. If a shooter has another barrel and a bolt with a correctly sized bolt head, the rifle can be quickly reconfigured. The R8 Professional S is available from .222 Remington up to .375 H&H (a .300 Win. Mag. was reviewed), which affords the hunter plenty of options for taking game both large and small.
Another useful feature on the rifle is its manual cocking lever, which rests atop the bolt assembly and also serves as a decocker. When pushed forward, a red indicator shows the rifle is ready to fire and the action is unlocked. In the rearward position, the rifle is decocked and safe; the action is closed and can only be opened again by applying slight forward pressure to the cocking lever before sliding open the action. This is helpful for field use as the hunter can lock the action to prevent it from being accidentally opened while retaining the ability to fire quickly if needed.
The rifle’s stock is a rugged synthetic design with elastomer inlays around the grip and forend for added comfort and control. A rubber buttpad is also included, an added benefit for magnum calibers, especially given the relatively light weight of the rifle at 7 pounds 4 ounces.
Like other R8 models, the Professional S also comes with notches cut into the barrel, which permits the use of Blaser’s unique and highly effective quick-detach optics mount. This combination is a brilliant system that allows for confident removal and reattachment of the scope without losing zero, a plus for traveling hunters.
Testing of the R8 Professional S was conducted with Meopta’s MeoStar R2 1-6×24 RD scope and four different loads: Winchester’s 180-grain Ballistic Silvertip and 150-grain Deer Season XP, and Hornady’s 180-grain American Whitetail and the new 200-grain Precision Hunter ELD-X. Data was acquired from three, three-shot groups for each load taken at 100 yards using a Caldwell Matrix rest from Brownells. Velocities were taken with a ProChrono chronograph, also from Brownells.
I was able to achieve the best group overall with Winchester’s Deer Season XP at .90 inches; however, the best average group went to Hornady’s ELD-X at 1.4 inches. The ELD-X bullet was impressive, with two of three holes touching in each of the groups. I suspect a steadier hand could’ve punched a few ragged three-hole groups. That being said, the rifle was fairly accurate with all tested loads, with best groups for most hovering around MOA.
As with any Blaser, the barrel is a quality one capable of excellent accuracy, so long as the shooter can deliver. The trigger is equally impressive with a light, sharp and clean break at 2½ pounds, and the stock is comfortable and won’t beat you up, even with a magnum caliber such as the .300 Win. Mag.
Blaser has been a major player in straight-pulls since its R93, and the R8 Professional S is no less spectacular in design or performance. Every feature elevates the abilities and comfort of hunters in the field. The Professional S retains most of the R8 line’s modularity and interchangeability, with the exception of the removable trigger/magazine assembly. Because of its straight-pull action, cycling is smooth, fast and a joy to those accustomed to traditional bolt guns. The Blaser name and action may be unfamiliar to many American hunters, but its performance should not be overlooked, and now that the company has a more affordable version, it may be a bit more accessible.
Blaser Professional S
Type: Straight-pull bolt action
Caliber: .300 Win. Mag. (as tested)
Barrel: 25.7 in.
Twist: 1:10 in.
Trigger: 2.5 lbs.
Magazine: Internal, 3+1 capacity
Stock: Black Synthetic, elastomer inlays
Overall Length: 43.3 in.
Weight: 7 lbs., 4 oz.
Manufacturer: Blaser USA