Chapuis ROLS Classic in 30-06 - in depth test & review
- Credit: Archant
The Chapuis ROLS Classic in 30-06 showed a very fast action teamed with classical good looks when it came under scrutiny in this detailed test and review by Chris Parkin
LIKES: Undeniably fast action speed; Stock ergonomics; Classical good looks; Excellent scope mounting; Fast top loading
DISLIKES: Fiddly detachable magazine; This gun is facing the Blaser R8 head on
VERDICT: I liked the ROLS. I liked its French character and I liked it for being a bit different with good looks, but its mechanical similarity forces direct comparison. It has picked a very hard fight to win against a rifle I don’t personally “love”, but which I cannot deny is an impressive technical masterpiece and the current state of the art.
TECH SPECS: Chapuis ROLS Classic in 30-06 (Supplied in basic ABS case)
Overall length: 1042mmcm/41”
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Magazine capacity: 4+1 detachable
Trigger: single stage 1600gr pull weight
Barrel length: 600mm/23.5”
Stock material: Walnut
Length of pull: 14.5”/368mm
Standard calibres (60 cm barrel): .243, 6.5x55, .270, 30-06, .308, 7x64, 9.3x62
RRP: £3,599 (Soft Touch series from £2995).
Magnum calibres (63 cm barrel): 7mm Rem Mag, 300 Win Mag
African Calibre (65 cm barrel): .375 H&H
Chapuis ROLS QR (Saddle) Scope Mount – RRP: £389
GPO R800 – EVOLVE 1-8x24i (German 4 Ret, Illuminated) - RRP: £1,449
Barnes and Remington Ammunition
Raytrade UK Limited Tel: 01635 253344 www.raytradeuk.co.uk
Hornady 30-06 ammunition
Edgar Brothers 01624 613177 www.edgarbrothers.com
Winchester Ballistic Silvertip ammunition
Browning UK 01235 514550 www.browning.eu
I’m going to begin this article by stating that there is an elephant in the room, but we won’t discuss its presence until the end. The Chapuis Armes ROLS rifle is a straight-pull competitor in the market for versatile sporting rifles, enabling multiple calibre formats and a fast reload suited to driven game. So, let’s take a more detailed look.
This .30-06 Chapuis sits towards the smaller end of the calibre options, yet part of the design is to incorporate multiple chamberings and simple changeovers. The 23.5”/600mm deeply blued barrel features a 14x1 spigotted muzzle thread for a sound moderator under a similarly finished thread cap. It tapers from 15.6mm at the muzzle to 26mm around the reinforce where it enters the action, which is itself only 93mm long.
Twin scope mounting dovetails and a recoil lug pocket are machined into the upper for Chapuis’ patented quick-release scope mount. This is locked in place with a half turn of two levers on the left, each equipped with a small release button for reassuring security. The ‘bolt’ or carrier takes up the rest of the action length and draws away from the barrel with twin steel rails which are entirely hidden when locked closed.
The bolt-head shows twin ejector plungers with a right-side extractor claw on its otherwise conventional push-feed face, but here normality ends. The bolt’s body/head is a chromed steel bar which, when driven into the barrel’s chamber, forces eight petal-like cantilever lugs away from itself that fall closed under light spring tension to lock it closed. It is very difficult to describe or even photograph, but the separate nose section of the bolt, which is dimensioned for specific cartridge head dimensions, kind of trips a quick-release system as it faces up to the breech to ‘lock the trapdoor behind itself’. The bolt-head can be swapped by rotating a locking screw on the underside of the carrier after removal from the action, but believe me, do not slide the bolt-nose out and casually store it in the barrel’s breech. It can lock in place and require a lot of patience and lockpicking dexterity to remove it.
The patented system is opposite to that of the competition, whose collet-type lugs splay open to lock into radial abutments. The key on the ROLS are these intricate, seesaw-like petals where both barrel and bolt have abutments, so to speak. Their 260mm² bearing surface spread loads rated to 8,500 bar/1,223,000 PSI. The literature says there are seven lugs, but I’m sure I counted eight!
The de-cocker, in what would normally be the bolt shroud/tang, slides forward to prime the action with a brass button at its top to disengage it, making the rifle totally safe with no spring pressure on the striker whatsoever. It’s quiet to operate with the firing-hand thumb and doesn’t conflict with space under the scope’s ocular bell. Cycling the action is done with the right-side lever, with its spherical handle, whose primary downwards swing activates a mechanical rod that forces the bolt-carrier away from the breech to ensure strong primary extraction of the fired case from the chamber.
A regular turn-bolt action facilitates this, using the helical screw effect of the bearing surfaces on the lugs to initiate these first few millimetres, before the long rearward stroke draws the now slackened brass from the chamber. The bolt now draws 121mm all the way open to fling the case free and allow the underlying rotary magazine to present a fresh round for chambering as it returns forward.
The side handle with ball knob slings it closed and locks into place with a defined click back to vertical, which locks the bolt and disables the passive safety system that stops the striker/cartridge being fired when not properly closed. You can operate this bolt at any speed, depending on the acceptable noise level of your surroundings with guaranteed results, and that cannot be said of some rifles that need to be allowed to spring home under their own power (Browning Maral) or require force to ensure the lugs bite fully (Merkel Helix).
Four rounds fit in the magazine with a rotating wing to scoop them up from inside its recess. It is detachable and drops free when the underside floorplate is released; this also forms the encapsulating trigger guard and blade. A second press, or sustained hold on the release button, allows the polymer magazine to drop free. It’s a snug fit, however, and although smoothly finished is shallow so will always be a slightly tricky fit due to the overall proportion of an object wider than it is long.
I found it far faster and less hassle to load or refill in a hurry by clipping the rounds straight in from the top with the action wide open. Frankly, it seems to be detachable just so they can say it is detachable; removing it is pretty pointless as it’s fiddly and slow.
The upside to all this is that the internal mag, being sprung-loaded upward by the floorplate, can be squeezed down by the bolt carrier as it travels forward for minimal ammunition damage. Also, when it is feeding, the fact that it rises up slightly allows a far more direct path from feed lips into the chamber’s small feed ramp of the otherwise flat rear face of the breech. It never stalled on loading, and I never bothered to use the detachable fumble function underneath.
One of the joys of a top-loading magazine, especially with such spacious access, is that it can be easily reloaded after one shot taken, almost thoughtlessly and with no mechanical impediment to the rifle should another shot be presented in a hurry; both eyes can remain constantly on target. Taking the magazine out needs eyes on the gun which is never desirable, and with the floorplate that carries the trigger opened, the rifle is also de-cocked. All these operations are split second variables, so think ahead – it’s not like you are making quick 5/10 round reloads from spare magazines because, regardless of the fast reload speed, internal capacity will always be restricted by any gun with the trigger inhabiting the space that more ammunition could use.
Swapping barrels uses a supplied T-40 Torx key to slacken the captive screw on the underside of the action. I like that you can’t drop or lose it and, when slackened with the bolt open of course, the barrel simply lifts off the stock and action. Its single-point locking fastener sits in the centre of a square steel lug that is machined, along with its pocket, to intricate tolerances of a 100th of a millimetre for retention of zero and repeatable headspacing. Major calibre changes that might need a bolt-face change too (perhaps for a .375) will take a good five minutes, but this isn’t the Alamo and, generally, I will always re-check zero with any gun significantly altered, whether a switch barrel or not.
Multiple scopes and mounts to match extra barrels are an expensive option, so is a zero check really that arduous in comparison? Bolt removal is made far easier with the scope out of the way as the catch on the left-hand extension rail is tiny and directly underneath your optic. If you know where it is, it’s not much of a problem, but it doesn’t stand out visually. Access is further simplified when the magazine system is out of the gun because the bolt carrier itself can be drawn further backward, but it’s a fingernail job to press the button, so take your gloves off!
The ROLS’ stock has a slim, straight comb and open radius to the ambidextrous grip, making it handle like a shotgun. There is a modest cheekpiece which is neither here nor there to me, but with a moderate weight of 3kg exactly it handles very nicely and shoulders quickly. A large optic on top will be spaced high above the comb, but smaller driven game optics align extremely well, adding to the intuitive feel of the gun. The balance is slightly rearward but to no detriment, and for driven game it has the intuitive ‘point and shoot’ character of a shotgun too. 14 ½” (368mm) length of pull includes a 10mm solid rubber buttpad so there is plenty of timber to shorten if desired, but it fit me straight from the box. The walnut carries a straight but delightful figuring of quality timber without becoming ostentatious, and the matt finish is equally modest yet luxurious. Chequering is neatly cut to remain visually discreet and sharp for grip, with a slight free float to the barrel from the Schnabel-tipped fore-end.
I liked the looks of the rifle and particularly liked the fact that the grain of fore-end and butt matched, with a flowing appearance that the more Germanic rivals cannot quite muster. It was also graceful, with adequate stiffness yet not too slab-sided. No underside stud is fitted for a bipod, but one is on the tip, with a second supplied for fitting under the butt. Wood-to-metal junctions were well mated with a deliberate half millimetre of timber standing proud to differentiate in feel from the deep bronze anodised aluminium of the receiver area. A modern Chapui ROLS logo is modestly laser-engraved, but everyone’s taste is different, of course.
The rifle came to me set up and zeroed, along with a selection of ammunition to which I added some of my own proven stocks. Performance was good from the well-specified 600mm barrel, which gets full benefit from a large case like the .30-06.
Remington Core-Lokt 150gr produced 2,917 fps (2,834ft/lbs), Hornady Full Boar 165gr was 2,645 fps (2,563ft/lb), Interlock Soft Point 165gr was 2,763 fps (2797ft/lb), and Barnes VOR-TX 150gr, a healthy 2,950 fps (2,899ft/lb). Winchester Ballistic Silvertip 150gr bullets showed 2,812 fps over the chrono for 2,634ft/lb.
At 100m, results on paper showed the Remington to be the weakest with five shot groups no better than 75mm centre to centre, with the Winchesters at 60mm. Significantly better performance shone from the Hornady pair with 44/42mm results, before the Barnes topped the poll for this rifle, squeezing in with a win at 33mm. It’s over an inch, but at 100m that’s quite impressive. In fairness, these were all shot with an 8x scope centred on 100mm shoot ’n’ see targets, and that in itself carries an inherent aiming tolerance, so I was more than pleased with the rifle’s consistency and capability. Return to zero after a barrel change needed four clicks on the windage but one on the elevation – yet again, we are talking centred average of groups, not single cloverleaf holes, so this is perfectly acceptable for a hunting rifle.
Shooting prone, again from a rest bag, showed a firm but well-controlled recoil directed straight into the shoulder with minimal lift at the muzzle. When shot standing or from sticks, the gun showed its preferences with the well-fitted stock and automatic pointability, and this was excellent when unsupported with a nice smooth swing and firm but precise trigger squeeze. The gun was just nice to hold and balance, with a general feeling of control and ease.
Reloading at speed was as expected – extremely fast with reliable operation, but you do have to make sure to keep your nose off line from the bolt or lift your head slightly to prevent a collision. Chapuis’ 34mm wide bolt carrier has nicely rounded edges on its upper surface, but the steel guide rails on the underside show angular corners, and so it is advisable to show caution when first handling the rifle. Yet, after a few minutes of set-up and testing, you get used to it flashing back and forth and learn not to fear the very slight ‘brush past’ it may cause. If anything, the slight cheekpiece angles your jaw off the stock a little and deliberately cants your head fractionally, keeping your eye central but offsetting your nose a tad. We are all different shapes and sizes, but these are close tolerances so look out for what fits you and muscle memory will soon kick in if you practise.
The bolt’s ball handle is directly above the trigger fingertip as it flicks away from the trigger, and no extensive reach or effort is needed to really grasp at the handle for incredibly fast back-up shots from the four in the mag, after starting with that all important +1 in the chamber. No stretching of the arms from the shoulder is necessary to keep the gun well positioned, and I won’t make any friends by saying that a conventional stock with a pistol grip like this one is simply faster than a thumbhole stock on a straight-pull action.
And that leads us to the elephant in the room! You see, this gun is basically a French Blaser R8, and I cannot fail to directly compare the two in my head and therefore on paper. Specific options aside (and the Blaser has many, many options), they are functionally and ergonomically very similar, and I will say my preferred R8 is not the thumbhole version straight from the off. The Blaser is a real engineer’s gun, with flawless manufacturing to complement the functionality around the implicit ergonomics of the design.
The Blaser is better established in the market, but it is more expensive, and I prefer the handling and woodwork of the Chapuis for dynamic shots to its German competitor. Having said that, the Blaser’s furniture takes the laurels in precision moments. My favourite R8 is actually the base model – the Off Road with pistol grip – where the price is very close to the Soft Touch ROLS (I have yet to actually see this model) at a smidge below £3k. This allows for a serious head-to-head test in the future.
The Chapuis’ trigger is a single-stage unit, not quite as crisp as the exquisite Blaser unit, but with 1,600g showing consistently on the pull gauge, feel is excellent for a fast handling rifle likely to be worn with gloves. Examining the bolt’s underside and trigger mechanism shows excellent machining with brightly polished steel and that air of hand-finishing also extends to the feel of the trigger. This gives both metal and walnut elements of the rifle a more classical air, which may appeal if you have the confidence to make an alternative choice.