I had to check back in my list of articles to remind myself how many Blaser firearms I have reviewed. What can I say, I’m old and forgetful. With the current review, that number stands at four, sort-of. Let me explain. The number reviewed includes an F-16 shotgun (see TTAG); the ‘sort-of’ is because the Blaser R8 rifles I have reviewed are “modular.”
The chambering for the first R8 I reviewed was .458 Lott. When Blaser asked me to review a second R8, this one chambered in .300 Winchester Magnum, I still had the .458 Lott. They sent me a second barrel, bolt face, and magazine for that chambering. So I replaced the .458 Lott components with the .300 Winchester Magnum parts and voilà…an R8 in .300 Winchester Magnum. So, maybe I should claim to have only reviewed three-and-a-half R8s.
Because of the impressive performance of the previous Blaser (pronounced “blah-zer”) firearms, I was interested in reviewing the relatively new Blaser R8 model, the R8 Ultimate (released a little over a year ago, see interview on TTAG from Dallas Safari Club). The craziness that has been 2020 delayed the receipt of the R8 Ultimate, but it finally arrived at Shooters Den about three weeks ago.
When it arrived, the German-made rifle looked like this:
Not a problem. The R8s really are dead-easy to assemble. Here we go . . .
Step 1 – Attach barrel to stock by inserting the two barrel lugs into the holes inside the stock channel . . .
then inserting the Hex Wrench sent with the rifle into the holes on the underside of the stock and tightening the bolts.
Step 2 – Slide in the trigger/magazine assembly.
Step 3 – Slide the bolt assembly into place.
Step 4 – Attach rifle scope using the Blaser Saddle Mount system. Place the pins on the right side of the scope into the insert points on barrel . . .
…and the catches into the connection points on the left side of the barrel.
Rotate the left-side connectors forward (counter clockwise) until secure.
Close the leaves to complete the mounting of the riflescope.
And, here is the fully-assembled rifle.
The R8 Ultimate is capable of chambering calibers from .22 LR to .338 Lapua with its interchangeable barrels, bolt face and magazine followers. When the folks at Blaser asked about chambering, I mentioned an upcoming hunt for a trophy whitetail on Dan Cabela’s ranch near Austin, Texas. I asked if they could send the R8 Ultimate chambered in .270 Winchester. I thought it would be great to try out Jack O’Connor’s favorite round on a whitetail.
For the range workup, I used Sig Sauer 140 grain, Elite Tipped Hunting and Hornady 140 grain, Interlock American Whitetail ammunition.
The R8 Ultimate came equipped with a Blaser 4-20×58 iC riflescope.
Cocking the R8 activates the illuminated dot of this iC (illumination control) riflescope. Opening the action turns it off.
Once cocked, placing the rifle on safe also turns off the illumination.
This feature has been available on R8 model rifles since December, 2017. However, it requires a Blaser Infinity riflescope or other iC-compatible scope. For example, the Zeiss Varipoint iC also links to this system.
Blaser’s description of their trigger states:
The desmodromic trigger mechanism guarantees your trigger will function even when iced or heavily soiled. The mechanical advantage of a simple lever will ensure success even in the harshest conditions.” And, from their FAQ page: “The R8 features an innovative Trigger designed by Blaser that does not rely on spring tension alone to be reset. It’s reset mechanically, upon cycling the bolt, thus offering the ultimate increased reliability, resistant from outside factors such as dust, low temperatures etc…
The rifle arrived with the trigger set to 900 grams or about 2 pounds of pull weight.
The Blaser R8’s magazine is positioned above the trigger group. This reduces the size of the rifle’s action and results in a shorter overall length.
Loading the magazine can be done either from above, or by simply dropping the trigger/magazine assembly using the release buttons on either side of the receiver.
The R8 Ultimate stock has a thumbhole that actually works. Not that all other thumbhole stocks I have encountered have been problematic, but some seemed to have a thumbhole more as a fashion accessory. The R8 Ultimate’s thumbhole design fitted my hand and helped stabilize the rifle whether shooting from the bench, my 4StableSticks, or the rest I used during my whitetail hunt.
The R8 Ultimate also comes equipped with a tool-less, adjustable stock. That’s a big plus when you’re in the field. Having pulled other stocks apart with all sorts of hex wrenches etc to adjust the length of pull, pitch and height of the recoil pad, and the comb height, I found the lever and push-button controls on the R8 Ultimate very refreshing.
Comb height adjusts with the push of a button (to left of comb in the following photographs).
The comb adjustment mechanism also has a built-in memory function based on a two-stage button. It works as follows:
- Push button fully in to find the correct height of the comb for your build.
- When ready to store the rifle, or carry it in conditions in which the comb might be damaged, push the comb all the way down.
- When ready to fire the rifle, push the button lightly and the comb will extend to your pre-set height.
Adjusting the height and extension of the recoil pad is also straightforward. To change the extension of the pad, you lift the lever to the left (see below) of the recoil pad and pull/push the pad to the desired length.
Closing the lever locks the recoil pad into its new setting.
Likewise, the button on the recoil pad adjusts the height the pad and thus the stock pitch. Pressing the button allows the recoil pad to slide up and down.
The R8 Ultimate’s forend is equipped with two sling mounts.
That makes it convenient for those who want to attach a sling as well as a bipod to the rifle.
Shooting with sandbags and an Armageddon Gear Waxed Canvas Optimized Game Changer Support Bag, I fired 5-shot groups from the bench using Hornady and SIG Sauer ammunition at distances of 100, 200, 300, and 400 yards.
For my upcoming whitetail hunt, I needed to obtain the bullet trajectories. For both ammunition types they were +2″, 0″, -7″ and -20″ at 100, 200, 300, and 400 yards, respectively. I determined trajectories from the targets, rather than computer software.
To simulate field conditions, I fired 5-shot groups at 100, 200, and 300 yards from my 4StableSticks‘ Ultimate Leather, standing rest. Once again the test involved both the Hornady and SIG Sauer ammunition.
Beginning with the accuracy seen from the bench, both ammunition types, at all distances provided 1 MOA accuracy or better. The majority of the groups suggested slightly better accuracy when using the SIG Sauer ammunition.
This target shows the group fired from the bench at 200 yards.
Turning next to the results from the 4StableSticks rest, again accuracy was excellent. The SIG Sauer ammunition once more seemed to provide improved accuracy relative to the Hornady ammunition at most distances.
Even though I was unable to replicate the sub-MOA, bench results for most of the distances, the rifle + ammunition combinations still gave no larger than 3.6″ groups, even at 300 yards. In other words, the group sizes were well within the size of the heart-lung area of big-game animals.
Saddle Mount and Reproducible Zero
The last analysis I wanted to run involved the following claim by Blaser concerning their Saddle Mount scope mounting system:
Every Blaser rifle or combination gun can be fitted with an original Blaser Saddle Mount. After being zeroed in once, the rifle scope can be removed and replaced in just three steps, with no need for tools, as often as desired, with 100% return to zero.
So, I completely disassembled the rifle. Yep, I know they said to just pull the scope, but I figured I would really make it hard on the R8 and scope to live up to Blaser’s claim. I reassembled the rifle and remounted the Blaser scope and fired 5 shots using the SIG Sauer ammunition at a 100-yard target. Here is the resulting target:
So yes, once it’s zeroed, you really can disassemble the Blaser R8 Ultimate, put it back together and it will place previously sighted-in ammunition to the same point-of-impact, with the same accuracy. (Not shown is a five-shot group using the Hornady ammunition. It too reflected the same point-of-impact and accuracy as before.) That reflects real precision engineering and assembly.
The real proof is in the trophy whitetail. I will be telling this story in much more detail in another outlet. Suffice it to say that this Texas Hill Country buck was weaving in-and-out of a cedar tree line at 190 yards.
He briefly showed a bit of shoulder and went only 15 yards after the impact of the SIG Sauer bullet. The rifle, scope, and ammunition performed flawlessly.
Specifications: Blaser R8 Ultimate in .270 Winchester
Caliber: .270 Winchester
Action Type: Blaser Straight Pull
Saddlemount: Blaser (Blaser 4-20×58 Riflescope; MSRP $4,354)
Capacity: 4 + 1
Overall Length: 40″
Barrel: Standard (without open sights)
Barrel Length: 22 1/2″
Weight: 7 lbs 8 oz (without riflescope)
Stock: Black-brown Synthetic, Tool-less, Adjustable Stock with black elastomer inlays – Available Options: Adjustable Comb and Adjustable Recoil Pad, Recoil Absorption System (Adjustable Comb and Recoil Pad on Review Rifle)
MSRP: $5,668 (about $4000 retail)
Ratings (out of five stars):
Style and appearance * * * *
I have slowly, but surely, come around to appreciating the look of synthetic and metal. Like all of Blaser’s products I have reviewed, the lines and combination of parts presents a package that is easy on the eyes. Though not a thumb-hole fan on many rifles, the Blaser design adds rather than detracts from the look of the stock and rifle.
Ergonomics * * * * *
The R8’s stock adjustments mean the rifle can be perfectly adapted to virtually any shooter. The ability to make those adjustments quickly in the field without tools is a huge plus.
Reliability * * * * *
Not a single misfeed, magazine issue, or linking issue between the iC riflescope and the action during all of the range work and the hunt. Also, the ‘memory’ setting on the comb worked as advertised. Finally, as shown by the ‘Saddle Mount’ analysis, I can confirm the claim that you can remove a zeroed riflescope and remount it and obtain the same point-of-impact and accuracy.
Accuracy * * * * *
The Blaser R8 Ultimate was accurate with two very different types of ammunition. It was accurate from the bench (all MOA or better), the 4StableSticks standing rest, and, finally, using a field rest to take a whitetail buck at approximately 200 yards.
Overall * * * * *
The R8 Ultimate is a remarkably well thought-out hunting rifle. With its caliber interchangeability, it’s an accurate, well-balanced and very easy to shoot game-taking machine. At that price some will argue whether it’s the ultimate hunting rifle, but it’s darn close.
Mike Arnold writes for a number of outlets; you can find links to other articles here.
[All photos courtesy of Mike Arnold.]