What "German Engineering" Means In Gun Trade

posted on February 14, 2012

“German engineering” is a phrase we’ve come to associate with high-performance automobiles like BMW and Mercedes-Benz, but the concept applies to firearms every bit as much, if not more. This was brought home to me recently as I took a long look at the guns of Heym and Blaser.

I’ve long admired the hunting rifles from both companies (along with Sauer) but I finally bought a new Heym Express rifle and—I must have been on a roll—also a Blaser R8.

My first encounter with Heym was in 1988 when the appropriately named Model 88 double rifle was introduced. Craig Boddington and I got the first two that came into the country. I bought my sample and hunted with it, but eventually traded it to George Caswell at Champlin Arms for something I wanted worse.

Heym was one of the few gun companies that chambered my wildcat, the .425 Express, so of course I had to buy an SR-20 in “my” caliber. I still own that rifle.

Finally, I stumbled on a heck of a deal on a highly ornate, lavishly engraved Heym 88 at auction a year ago, so I snatched it up for about $.20 on the new gun’s dollar. Like my first Heym, it’s a .470 Nitro Express.

The R8 will be my first Blaser. It might be instructive to look at what drove me to “buy German” when neither brand is my favorite for a hunting rifle (Winchester gets that nod). In the case of the Heym Express, the answer is because I think this newly revamped model is one of the finest executions of a classic Mauser sporter on the market.

The Express rifle is a pure-bred Mauser design with controlled-round feeding thanks to a claw extractor, double square bridges for the most tasteful of all scope mounting options and a three-position safety borrowed from Winchester’s Model 70. However, what struck me was Heym finally saw fit to offer the Express in a classic American-style stock.

The lines of the Express, thanks to the new stock design, follow those of the immortal “American classic” school as exemplified by both the Model 70 and perhaps the epitome of the form, Ruger’s Model 77 with its Lenard Brownell designed stock.

Now Blaser. If the Heym Express is a Mercedes, the Blaser is a Porsche. It’s going 100 mph just sitting still with its sleek lines and ultra-cool bolt mechanism. I ordered the the R8, which is a fully convertible design with drop-in triggers, left- or right-handed bolts, almost any caliber you could want with the switch-barrel setup (I chose three: 6.5-284, .300 Wby. and .458 Lott.) and some of the best wood this side of the Black Forest.

While the Heym features a traditional Mauser action, the R8 sports Blaser’s signature “straight pull” design. I’ve been told that you will have problems trying to pull the knob off a Blaser until you get the hang of not lifting the bolt, so I’ll have to watch that.

Heym is quoting September delivery (all Express rifles are built to order) but the Blaser should be in stock if I’m lucky. All I need is some Pilsner to celebrate.

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