Blaser K95 Ultimate in .308 Win - test & review
- Credit: Archant
This story is a love story..! Chris Parkin tests the Blaser K95 Ultimate in 308 Win and falls head over heels for this truly stunning rifle
BRIEF OVERVIEW - BLASER K95 ULTIMATE IN .308 WIN
LIKES: Utterly Unique handling character; Masterful Blaser trigger, scope mounting and build tolerances; Do not confuse break barrel with any thoughts of diminished accuracy; Synthetic and Walnut stocked options show attractive starting prices
DISLIKES: Carbon fibre Exclusivity has a serious price tag
VERDICT: An undeniably expensive rifle that must fall into the Luxury category rather than that of a tool. My past `cold` feelings for Blaser’s impeccable functionality have been obliterated, I adored using this rifle, so unique I must call it my favourite for so many reasons.
TECH SPECS - BLASER K95 ULTIMATE IN .308 WIN (other calibres available!)
Overall length: 910 mm/36” (1030mm inc. moderator)
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Weight: 2.4kg/5.3lbs (3.4kg inc. scope, mounts and moderator)
Magazine capacity: Single Shot
Trigger, crisp single stage: ~600gr pull weight
Barrel length: 472mm/18.5” (custom)
Length of pull: 363mm/14.0” (compatible with all Blaser recoil pad modifications as well as adjustable cheekpiece.
Safety catch: 2 position de-cocker (iC compatible)
BLASER K95 ULTIMATE: £7,922 (bare rifle as tested with shorter barrel; starting price for synthetic stocked model starts at £3,624)
Sauer Titanium Pro Moderator: £475 (212 mm long, 279gr)
Blaser Saddle Mount: £418
Blaser 2.8-20x50 Scope: £2,724
CONTACT: www.blaser-group.com 01483 917 412
BLASER K95 TULIMATE IN .308 WINCHESTER - IN-DEPTH TEST & REVIEW
The Blaser name is fundamentally attached to the concept of precision straight-pull rifles giving one of the fastest reload speeds in the industry, alongside modular compatibility, easy takedown and superb scope mounting solutions. The K95 is a complete contrast to this concept, a single-shot, break-action rifle. What is going on?
I must admit the opportunity to test the K95 was quite appealing for me as I wanted to either dispel or understand the reasons why some of my esteemed colleagues and hunting friends show a closet appreciation for this rare rifle. Given that I am Picky Parkin, I’m expected to find fault with any product.
The K95 uses a cold hammer-forged barrel, which on this particular rifle measures up at a customised 472mm or 18.5”. It shows 17mm diameter behind the neatly threaded 15x1m muzzle, suited for a moderator or brake, and Blaser supplied me a lightweight Sauer Titanium moderator that suits the rifle beautifully. Moving rearward reveals the carbon fore-end, which features a slight float away from the barrel at its tip. With the fore-end and forward sling stud also attached Blaser are obviously not worried about it being a free-float to the nth degree.
The fore-end’s underside shows a shotgun-style latch enabling removal and the rifle separates in a shotgun style, with a hook under the reinforce latching around the action’s hinge pin. This junction shows very snug tolerances with amazing attention to detail, all the hallmarks of Blaser’s precision machining, with no signs of ‘hand finishing’.
I recalled testing a Blaser double rifle in .470 Nitro Express many years ago, and one specific design hallmark rejuvenated a memory. The rifle shows a simple top lever to unlock the action and as the breech opens you notice the secondary hinged breech block assembly. This would seem to hold the key to deeper truths on the K95; it appears this block enables the arcing transit of the cartridge head to lock tighter in the chamber than the relatively simple closure seen on a shotgun.
Break barrel mechanics
Look at most over-and-under Berettas and you will see a slight gold mark as the lower brass cartridges drags very slightly on the breech face and shotguns are far less needy for tight headspacing tolerances than rifles. If you compare that to the wider gape of a side-by-side shotgun, you realise why the double rifle, and any single-shot rifle, is always going to prefer laterally adjacent barrels, yet this Blaser breech block design improves even on that.
A secondary factor is the small silver pin/button within the trigger guard. If this is pressed in conjunction with the top leaver’s lateral displacement, the small block (about the size of your thumb) can be removed and stored separately from the rifle, rendering it utterly useless if stolen.
Operation of the top lever is light and fast with the opening action exposing a single case extractor claw on the left, suited to a right index fingertip drawing the spent case out. Many suggest an ejector here, but they are not as common as one might assume and the action’s compact dimensions are enabled partly by the lack of ejection hammers or springs set into the fore-end’s walls.
I do like the de-cocker on Blaser actions and the K95 shows similar functionality with a light tactile slide forward of the button compressing the firing pin spring and enabling the trigger sears. The fact that it is so light, yet still perfectly reliable, is another hint towards fine internal tolerances; a primer needs a fair thump to set it off and the light operation of the Blaser seems to belay that.
It can be just as easily flicked backwards and on to safe, no rocking pressure is required like an R8, and it’s well-spaced so operation even in gloves will be no hinderance.
The single-stage trigger is, yet again, a delightful crisp break set at 600g, pulls are utterly predictable and with an 80mm spacing from the throat of the thumbhole grip, it’s well positioned to ensure first pad contact for the shooter’s finger. It shows more overtravel than an R8, the benchmark by which all premium sporting rifles are judged – with several millimetres of free movement after firing, this is just different, and certainly not any kind of fault, and if anything, when wearing gloves leaves even more space for a fast retreating hand/finger ready to recycle the action.
The overall Ultimate stock shape shows a simple leather surface finishing pad to the slender comb and if you desire, is 100% compatible with Blaser’s adjustable cheekpiece unit as a factory fit option. Similarly, this Ultimate shows a simple firm recoil pad I consider perfectly suited to the rifle with 363mm/14” length of pull; both adjustable or recoil dampening pads are available. The latter may suit heavier calibres in fairness, this is a light rifle, but in .308 it is a pussycat to shoot.
The layers and weave of the carbon fibre fabric moulded into this organic form has zero resonance on firing and deadened impact noise if bumped. A total contrast of old-school rifle mechanics with ultra-modern materials and manufacturing technologies. Carbon fibre is so casually misused by some as a mere marketing tool, like ‘titanium’ can also be.
My engineering background is in this field, and although not my life’s pursuit, seeing things done so well really appeals. I think carbon fibre is one of the few places engineering and sculpture symbiotically co-exist. All the carbon fibre is impeccably finished and from inspection of other carbon fibre units from Blaser group rifles, I know the internals will match the exterior.
Weight of the bare gun in .308 is 2.4kg and with the Blaser scope and mod adding just 1kg, this makes a total of 3.4 kg. Scope fitting is a proprietary saddle mount providing a consistent return to zero, allowing this break down rifle, which will fit in a small attaché case (less than 500mm long) to hold perfect zero after full disassembly and reassembly.
Technical aspects aside, this rifle is utterly breathtaking. I realise now why experienced riflemen and hunters adore them and will accept that utterly non-Blaser mentality of the slower single shot. The neutral balance of the rifle, coupled with its compact size, make it easily carried and it handles incredibly freely in any firing position.
Neutral balance applies to a lot of rifles, but few as short as the K95, which surpasses most by bringing that physical, central mass closer to your body. I started out shooting seated and prone for the accuracy and velocity testing, but this rifle invites experimentation. As the single shot is so important, it encourages the most definite shot possible. Yet the gun is incredibly accurate and as consistent as any R8 I have used and with a bit of practice, not slow to reload either. It’s all about compromise and trade offs, you swap that fast reload mechanism on a bulkier gun for perfect handling, that is, in my opinion, unsurpassed for a sporting firearm.
The short barrel shows a slight compromise on muzzle velocities as you would expect. Nothing shot worse than MOA through the gun but special note was made for Federal Premium ammunition shooting the 150gr Nosler Ballistic tip bullet for the best groups. I’d like to have used that for the longer shot tests but limited quantities didn’t allow that, so it was great that the Hornady Superformance with 178gr ELDX was so close on its heels.
I prefer heavier bullets in shorter barrels as they suffer a smaller velocity drop and the K95 was no different. Box velocities are often shot in 22-24” barrels, so will always show superior speed regardless of marketing exaggerations. The Federal flew at 2,610 fps (box 2820) for 2,269 ft-lbs. The Hornady 2,432 fps (2,600 box) for 2338 ft-lbs. At 100m (109 yards), it shot a four-round group with total disassembly and reassembly of action, barrel, mod and scope between shots, using the Federal Premium of 0.8”/20mm.
Given the amount of disruption to the string required, and the usual desire to shoot groups with minimal movement, that’s impressive. Three-round groups (the hunting rifle standard for me) were in the 0.3-0.4” (7.6-10mm) region and remember, this is 100m, not yards. This rifle was a prototype and had some 4,000 rounds down the barrel. Showing just one small scratch on the carbon fibre, it was a true testament to the build quality. The only difference on the production gun is the de-cocker symbol has been altered from a simple red dot to a neater engraved indicator.
So, what it really came to me with this rifle was the way it made me feel and think about shooting. The fore-end offers satisfactory grip for confident freehand shots with no fear of losing hold under recoil and once I adapted to the reload, it never really bothered me from any position other than truly prone, which is perhaps most at odds with the likely hunting styles.
It’s clearly designed for alpine environments where the low weight is most appreciated, but stalking woodland was a joy; you just forgot the rifle was slung from your shoulder until you needed to take a shot. A sling isn’t always desirable in a dense woodland environment anyway, but with it wrapped round my arm the gun was very inviting to shoot freehand.
I rather fell in love with the K95 and as much as we like the option of a follow-up shot, it’s the fact that there is only one chance that makes this rifle special. Several people have said, “what about a Bergara BA13, as that does the same thing,” and yes, it does. But it does it with mechanical compromise and although a functional hunting tool at closer ranges, the K95 sacrifices nothing in terms of precision at longer distance and will disassemble to become that ‘Day of the Jackal’ rifle, so long a boyhood dream.
But, and there is a very big but, the Blaser is very, very expensive. Considering the seemingly technical simplicity compared to its R8 brothers, you must really want the K95 for what it is – it’s hard to consider it a tool but it’s a worthy luxury. Cheaper stock options are available, but here is the thing... I have shot hand-made Best London guns and nice as they are, I never really got that excited – great hunting heritage and reputation but just a variation on a theme – and, in fairness, a heavier build more suited to larger dangerous game cartridges.
I really warmed to the K95. I have always been a little cold and at an arm’s length with the Blaser R8 – huge technical respect but no personal ‘feel’. Well, in the words of Big Chris, the K95 review “has been emotional” because this rare and technically rebellious gun, which is somewhat at odds with its siblings, really has engaged my soul, and that makes it unique!
If I could only have one rifle… this is the only gun that has ever come close to addressing the question!