I recently got a batch of once fired Winchester brass in .243 and wanted to use in my Blaser. I prepared the brass as I usually do, full re-sized it and started loading process. First thing to do was to prime the brass. I used my usual tool which I used for last couple of years -Lee Auto Prime.
Lee Auto Prime is probably most popular hand priming tool in the world. It is cheap as chips and easy to use giving good control when sitting primers. It comes with two round trays for large and small primers and has to be used with dedicated shell holders – these are different from shell holders used with a press and are caliber specific.
Auto Prime is a great tool, however, built quality is not to the highest standard and I saw many with bent handles or broken, but to be honest this must have been to improper usage by home loading gorillas
One thing that Lee re-designed a few years ago was the trays. They introduced new square trays to prevent theoretically possible chain reaction as it could be possible to accidentally detonate a primer that being seated and as the rest of the primers held in the old round trays were not separated. In the re-designed square tray (Auto Prime XR) they put a simple mechanism to separate primers from the tray from the one being seated. The same square trays were used in new Ergo Prime.
When I started reloading my new batch of Winchester brass I soon got a case I just could not squeeze in a primer. It just would not sit flush with the bottom of the case and Lee Auto Prime handle would just bent. I used K&M primer uniformer (I never had to do this before) but it did not help. Some of the primer pockets were just tight and it was real muscle exercise to seat primers.
I started looking for an alternative to Auto Prime and spotted new Ergo Prime from Lee Precision. I am a fan of Lee and generally all they do is low cost but it works. I spotted Ergo Prime on Amazon and just got it.
First impression was very positive. Nice red handle and two trays packed nicely with instructions. It was easy to use and the shell holders I got for Auto Prime could be reused.
I got back to this stubborn Winchester brass and reloaded all remaining cases in no time. It was pleasure to use and never noticed any tight primers. I even used this tool on primed cases with already fitted primers previously with Auto Prime that were not exactly flush with the bottom of the case, and it worked a treat. Really pleased with it.
If you broken your Auto Prime or feel tired after fitting 100 primers with it, have a look on Ergo Prime. It is great little tool for not much more.
I really enjoyed my old Krico Stutzen. It was short and light rifle. Very accurate and I liked double set trigger. However, I was feeling bad wiping and drying it after every single outing… I tried taking it out only when it suppose to be a dry day, but it was getting wet anyway. I thought it would be better to sell it to someone else to enjoy. It went down South where weather must be at least a bit drier than around Glasgow
When I started looking for another .243 I noticed Blaser R93 rifles dropped in price and are more accessible nowadays. I don’t know whether introduction of the new R8 model made more people selling their old R93s or something else, but I noticed more second hand Blaser rifles in classified sections of Internet forums and on Guntrader. When I spotted used R93 from one of the Scottish main dealers for £900 I thought maybe Blasers could be within my budget, something I never considered before.
I made some research and decided to get used R93 Professional, as many people commented it was much better than older Offroad stock. I noticed a couple rifles on Guntrader and Internet forums such as Stalking Directory, but to my surprise I got much better deal from MacLeod’s of Tain, main Scottish Blaser dealer. I exchange a few emails with Gregor MacLeod and it was a pleasure to deal with him. He offered me used R93 Professional stock and bolt with a brand new .243 barrel for less than I could find anywhere else for a used Offroad. I happily accepted his offer and got the rifle sent to my RFD to be picked up.
I had handled Blaser R93 before and it was very nice rifle with nice high quality wooden stock. This Professional model looks and feels great as well. It is really well build. It is nicely balanced and palm swells feel good in hand.
When I unpacked the rifle it all looked a bit complicated to put it together, but I quickly realized it is not too bad. There are just two screws that have to be fastened with the Allen key provided to keep the barrel in place. Then magazine to be dropped in and the bolt just slides in. Mounts can be attached and removed in seconds. All fits and manual is not really needed for any basic operation. I noticed changing a bolt head might be more complicated, but I have not tried that yet and there are some helpful pictures in the manual in case I have to.
Cocking/decocking and reloading is smooth, but will require some practice. Some force has to be applied to slide the cocking lever forward before taking a shot. Also reloading seems to be a very noisy process… but I knew about it before I bought it. I am sure there is a way to make less noise and slamming the bolt can be avoided.
The trigger is good, but I would prefer to lighten it a bit. It is lighter than on my Steyr Pro Hunter unset, but heavier than my Tikka. To be honest Tikka is really light at around 1lb, so not sure whether I could do something with this Blaser trigger. I don’t want to go for any replacement trigger just yet and I don’t think there is any adjustment screw…
The stock came with a bipod stud fitted. I only use bipod for zeroing, but it’s good to have that option.
Barrel is brand new standard profile .243Win threaded 15×1 spigot. I am not sure about what moderator to go for, but will need to have new one as my other rifles have different thread.
To summarize, I think it was a good buy and I am sure it shoots straight. The time will tell if we get along well…
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Good Santa brought me a few new books this Christmas and the first one I read was My Deer Life by Harry Bimler. The book is a story of a man born in New Zealand starting as a kid shooting birds and rabbits and quickly progressing to pigs and deer and then becoming youngest government deer culler at the age of 15
Harry Bimler writes about his years as a deer culler shooting loads of deer and pigs and his experience when he moved into deer farming in later years. He was always after trophies and the book is full of good pictures. There are separate chapters about thar, sambar, sheep, fallow and author’s hunting trips outside New Zealand.
The book shows how our world has changed over the last 50-60 years… can you imagine a 15 year old kid working on his own as deer culler in remote areas nowadays? The book shows that with hard work and determination a man can be successful and make living doing what he loves.
One criticism I have about the book, it is not clearly (at least for me…) explaining government deer shooting policy and why New Zealand government agencies did what they did.
I was asked before why I bought rifles I own and what criteria used to select them, so I thought I might as well tell you about this one, which was my first Scottish rifle.
I shot and enjoyed older Mannlicher rifles and shot quite a few deer and wild boar using my father-in-law’s old M model rifles in .30-06 and 7×64. I wanted something similar, but decided against wooden stock because of Scottish weather… Also decided to limit myself to most popular cartridges so I could easily pick up factory ammo in any local gun shop. I excluded 7×64. It might be most popular cartridge on the continent, but not in the UK… I also wanted it to be “all deer legal” so it had to be at least .240″ caliber shooting 100gr bullets. I also did not want too spend to much money and was looking for a used rifle. Quick look on the GunTrader showed biggest choice of .243Win and .308Win. Because not all .243 rifles can shoot well 100gr bullets, for my first Scottish rifle I went for .308Win.
So I started looking for a used .308 rifle in synthetic stock, threaded for a sound moderator if possible. I am not a fan of American rifles so excluded all Remingtons, Rugers, etc and was left with a choice of European rifles with CZ at the bottom and Blaser being the most expensive. I limited myself to £500-700 range and my choice was mainly between CZ, Steyr, Tikka and Sako. I had nothing against any of these brands and simply went for something that was best value for money at the time. Soon I spotted a deal on one of the forums for a Steyr Mannlicher Pro Hunter stainless synthetic in my caliber of choice, with a T8 moderator and Leupold mounts all within my price range. I already had a spare scope ready to go on top of it.
Steyr Mannlicher Pro Hunter
So, why not a CZ, Sako or Tikka? All CZs I saw were with open sights so I needed to add the cost of threading. Sakos were usually above my price range and it was for older pre-75 models, hardly any 75s or 85s in .308 to be seen and they were too expensive to buy new… Same with Tikkas. New T3s were about £700 and with Optilock mounts and mod, it would have been £1000 at least…
So I drove to the guy who advertised the Pro Hunter rifle. It looked in good condition, the price was good so I bought it.
There were two models of the synthetic stock Steyrs available at the time: Pro Hunter and Pro Mountain. Pro Hunter had 24″ barrel and Pro Mountain with a shorter 20″ barrel. I personally prefer shorter barrels, but could not find a s/h one at the time. The rifle came factory screw cut 1/2″ UNF and this is a popular thread with plenty of moderators available. Mannlicher “candy twist” barrel is very nice blued and not too bad stainless and they are known to be good quality.
Before I decided to go for Steyr, I did my research and one of the comments I often came across was a mk1 stock’s flexibility issue. Many people claimed that with early Pro Hunter stocks the forehand was too flexible and when shooting off bipod with a heavy moderator such as T8, a barrel would made a contact with the stock and rifle would not shoot consistent tight groups. I handled a mk2 stock in one of the shops and did not see the stock any more flexible than Tikka T3 and other makes that were available at the time. Just when I got the rifle I tried testing this with bending the stock and trying different positions off bipod and never managed to see any fliers. The rifle shoots consistently all the time. One issue I have with this stock is… it is extremely ugly . It must have been the ugliest synthetic stock available at the time. Nowadays there are uglier stocks available from the US such as Ruger American or Savage Edge
In my opinion the stock is well made and could be used by right and left-handed shooters, it came with 3 spacers so length of pull could be adjusted to suit anyone.
Safe bolt system is one of the things you either love or hate. I think it is brilliant. Rifle can be loaded and unloaded with safety on, it can still be de-cocked as any other traditional bolt action rifle with the safety off. Third position when a wee button comes up the bolt can be pressed closer to the stock and the bolt is then locked. To unlock it the button has to be pressed and the safety wheel pushed forward.
Magazine holds 4 .308 rounds and feeds well, I never had any problems with it. It also has two positions: first when the bolt slides over the magazine, but is not picking a round and a standard position. I think it is quite handy feature and is easier to do than to press the round with your finger when locking the bolt or closing the bolt with a magazine in hand. I often hear people complain that the magazine is plastic not metal, I dislike metal magazines. Plastic magazines are lighter and more reliable in my opinion. I also think it was a good improvement over rotary magazines from previous models that cracked easily when dropped.
Zeiss Diavari 2.5-10×52 scope
This rifle has had three or four different scopes so far and at the moment it is Zeiss Diavari 2.5-10×52. Why Zeiss? I like them. I used all top three scopes. In my opinion there is not much between Schmidt & Bender, Swarovski and Zeiss. Swarovski seems to be most expensive both new and second hand. S&B is definitely solid built, but not the lightest of the three. Zeiss is good optically and some bargains can be found. The scope I have is typical older European hunting model with 30mm tube and #1 reticule in the first focal plane. It is not brand new latest model but does the just just fine and for the fraction of the new cost and cheaper than some new Burris, Leupold or the like.
Again, why #1 reticule? They are out of fashion at the moment so can be purchased for less. I don’t see anything wrong with this reticule for small targets and they are brilliant at night and low light.
The rifle I bought came with STD Leupold mounts and they are simple and well made mounts.
How does it shoot? Better than I do… It was shooting around 1-1.5″ with factory ammunition and I was convinced to try handloading. It was one of the best things to do and I soon developed a few consistent loads for the rifle and it started shooting below 0.5″ 5-round groups. I never knew I could shoot that well I developed Hornady SST 150gr load and Speer 180gr load and shot a few roe and red deer with it. I also have Nosler Accubond 165gr bullets to test. In theory this should be a good bullet for my needs, but still have to go through the whole process of load development.
Please have a look at this short review showing main features of the rifle. If you have Google account, please subscribe to my YouTube channel to receive info on my videos and give me “thumbs up” if you like them.