Haenel Jaeger 10 Varmint Sporter in 308 - tried & tested
- Credit: Archant
The Haenel Jaeger 10 Varmint Sporter in 308 is put to the test in this in depth review with Chris Parkin... quality and accuracy got top marks!
LIKES: Doubtless accuracy and Germanic build quality; Excellent thermal stability in the barrel; I love Picatinny rail; Trigger still far better than the Americans’; Very pointable and stable when shot standing
DISLIKES: I’d like to be able to disassemble it to clean it when wet; Tight headspace tolerances didn’t like all ammunition brands; I can’t really see how it is a “Varmint” in any way
VERDICT: The Jaeger 10 Varmint Sporter is another solidly built, accurate rifle, but I think Haenel need to look more carefully at what a “Varmint” rifle actually is, and at how competitors, even if of lesser build and barrel quality, balance out in specification and ergonomics for the actual intended uses of such a gun
Calibres available - 223 Rem., 6,5x55 SE, .243, .270 Win., .308 Win. (on test), .300 Win. Mag
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Overall length - 43” /1093mm
Weight - 7.9 lbs/3.6 kg
Magazine capacity - Detachable, 3+1
Trigger - Single stage with 3-5lb pull range
Barrel length - 22”/510mm
Barrel twist rate - 1:10” (254mm)
Stock - Synthetic with adjustable cheekpiece
Length of pull - 14 ¼”/362mm
Additional feature - 15x1mm muzzle thread
SRPs: Haenel Jaeger 10 Varmint Sporter in 308 - £1600; Leupold VX-5HD CDS-ZL2 3-15x56 - £1460; Leupold PRW scope mounts - from £84
CONTACT: Viking Arms www.vikingarms.com 01423 780810
Federal 150gr Soft Point - GMK 01489 579999 www.gmk.co.uk
GECO 170gr Teilmantel - RUAG 01579 362319 www.ruag.co.uk
Winchester 168gr BTSP ammunition and 150gr Extreme Point - Browning UK 01235 514550 www.browning.eu
Fiocchi 150gr SST ammunition - Edgar Brothers 01625 613177 www.edgarbrothers.com
Sierra Bullets - Henry Krank & Co. 0113 256 9163 www.henrykrank.co.uk
Vihtavouri Reloading powders and Lapua Cartridge Bullets/Brass - Hannams Reloading www.hannamsreloading.com 01977 681639
Haenel’s Jaeger 10 Varmint Sporter offers a mid-weight barrel in an attempt to attract shooters wanting a bit more temperature stability for shooting at the range, along with versatile capability for stalking or high seat shooting. Haenels are made in Suhl alongside the Merkel rifles sharing lineage, superb manufacturing facilities and consistency from the finest of tooling, coatings and steel.
An invisible thread cap conceals the 15x1mm threaded muzzle of the 19mm barrel. Matt black coatings envelop all steelwork on the barrelled action for a dull look that won’t be reflecting any light, with the only bare blued steel being the cleanly turned, rebated crown. Six lands and grooves fill the hammer-forged barrel, listed as 560mm/22”.
The twist rate wasn’t listed in the technical data and I was unable to get a consistent measurement on it as the patch/cleaning rod test, no matter how carefully I tried it, was unable to give me a decisive figure. However, given later accuracy testing, I suspect it may be a 10” rather than a 1 in 12”, but this is by no means definite and, guess what, no answers are available from the crew at Haenel.
Likewise, the barrel length was neither the 560 nor 510mm option, as far as my regular measurement system applies with the bolt face or gas escape port being the datum point, so I concluded a figure of approximately 530mm was more likely.
The cylindrical action shows a closely embedded barrel tenon with a single softened facet to the left side with a discreet ‘Jaeger 10’ engraving. A Picatinny rail bolted on top for simple secure scope mounting will be a plus on any rifle, so hats off to Haenel for that one. An 82mm ejection port is cut into the right side, with 114mm of bolt travel for the overall 71.4mm length of a .308 round. A 25mm cylindrical polymer ‘warm to the touch’ bolt knob completes the angled handle, extending 50mm from the shaft for ample leverage and a fast, non-stuttering travel capability when feeding any one of the 3+1 rounds from the magazine or the top of the follower. It’s a push-feed bolt with a plunger ejector in the lower left face to fling rounds clear, with six lugs split into two rows of three, enabling 60° bolt lift.
All rounds were cycled and ejected cleanly, but headspace was quite tight on the chamber so not all brands of ammo were as easy to close the bolt on as others. Yes, this may be the ammunition’s fault for being slightly over CIP tolerances in the shoulder length dimension, but most rifles seem to cope as they are not so tightly headspaced. A good custom gun will usually have a minimum of 2-4 thousandths of an inch extra headspace in the chamber to tolerate ammunition manufacturers, a few of whom have particularly bad control over this simple tolerance!
Haenel’s cocked action indicator emerges from the centre of the bolt’s shroud for both visual and tactile reference, with a bolt release catch to the left side of the action’s rear bridge. Its single stage trigger is operated by a smooth black 6mm blade with a medium curve. No adjustments are advertised, and I would leave it well alone as the action cannot be removed from the stock without specific tooling and access is limited, although there is a small hole for Allen key access.
Nothing is visible within it though. Safety is applied with a rocking catch to the upper right side of the trigger and can be operated in complete silence with your thumb; when applied it reveals a button below to enable the bolt to be opened for safe unloading. The proximity and minimal spring tension of this catch is nice for ease of silent operation with minimal movement, but I caught the catch several times when opening the bolt with my coat sleeve – no safety issue, agreed, but it led to several occasions when I squeezed the trigger only to find the action unwantedly inert.
The Sporter version of the synthetic stock features an upgraded adjustable cheekpiece. Two thumbscrews to the right side of the rifle allow adjustment although there is no system to replicate position, and you need to drop the comb down flush or lift it out to remove the bolt, so perhaps make some marks with a Sharpie pen to sort this out. The adjustable section is a slender profile and fits nicely under your cheekbone rather than against your jaw line, so you can get a very comfortable and repetitive head/eye position on your scope, regardless of mount height/objective lens size.
Fillers have been used to dampen the resonant effects of a hollow synthetic, which was appealing, as well as the firm 15mm thickness of the well-textured butt pad that remained well planted into your shoulder pocket.
There is stippling at the grip for assured hold with more in the fore-end, which I feel was a bit on the slim side. It’s tough to keep your fingers and hands clear of gripping the barrel and, although reasonably stiff, will not maintain its free float of the tube if treated aggressively. Twin studs are sited below for a permanent sling and bipod mount with a third underneath the rear for a conventional carry. The slender nature of the non-floating fore-end and generally skinny back end of the stock/butt don’t really seem to follow what a varmint rifle should be and, frankly, it’s just a regular sporter and should be named as such. The underside of the butt is great for placing a fist or rear bag with quick analogue control of fine elevation adjustment, but the rearward descending slope of the comb is more suited to standing or improvised shots with its quick pointability and intuitive gun mount, not the prone situations or even the true bench rest that a varminter is for. The gun may well be smooth to shoot with decent recoil control for a heftier calibre (in this lightweight gun) than anyone would consider a true varminter to be, but in order to keep your head planted on the stock to watch your bullet strike, a flat comb is far preferable.
The bottom ‘metal’, like the stock, is polymer and holds the detachable magazine. This is released by an easy-access ambidextrous pressed metal butterfly catch at the front of the spacious trigger guard. A half push will allow the mag to pop from its detents and rest in your hand for withdrawal, or a full push drops it totally clear, if at somewhat of a long extension for the index finger. In reverse, you can just clunk the magazine in position with no application of the catch if you’re not too concerned about noise, or you can again push the mag lever all the way forwards and lift the three-round mag into place before silently releasing the lever to lock it. The mag has a polymer base with steel sidewalls and feed lips for longevity, with a polymer follower feeding in two staggered columns from either side. Catches front and rear position it firmly, and although a little more complicated than some, this ensures consistent ammunition feed regardless of the bullet shape.
Shooting the gun prone, benchrested, kneeling and standing highlighted the design ethos and ergonomics of the stock. With 362mm/14¼” length of pull, it followed the usual European lines and dimensions. The grip is straight-handed and slim, again somewhat at odds with the varmint name.
I don’t remember any specific handling errors, but the surface did mark quite easily from the smooth steel of the bolt head scratching it. These buzzwords are very nice, but I always thought calling any .308 a varmint was a little unusual and, although the heavier weight of barrel is well suited to UK field shooters, it offers neither low recoil for self-spotting shot impact, nor flat trajectory for small distant quarry.
Otherwise, the stock mounted and pointed well when standing and from improvised positions, and its mid-weight barrel with light butt made it pointable with a forward balance and slower swing that perhaps reflects more aptitude for the driven game hunting so favoured by the Germans.
Accuracy on paper with all ammunition types was tested at 100m with three-shot group sizes maintained below the 25mm centre to centre measurement. The gun pleasantly ignored getting hot and wandering point of impact but as always, some ammunition worked better than others with a couple of brands being somewhat more erratic, raising to a 50mm group for three rounds. I have quite a hankering for Federal ammunition these days as it seems to suit a lot of test guns straight from the box, and here again the 150gr soft point was able to snug together three rounds from a cold barrel and remain under the 25mm threshold, even after five or six through a hot tube. GECO 170gr Teilmantel was also proficient with an average of 747m/s (2,452 fps) on the speedo for 2,270ft/lb. The lighter Federal showed a very consistent spread and around 852m/s average speed (2,796 fps) for 2,604ft/lb of energy with slightly softer recoil.
Hand loading failed to improve significantly on the performance of the Federal and, other than trying a few of my regular Sierra/Viht favoured recipes in the 150-168gr region, all I ventured towards was a 190 Sierra Matchking just to see that the barrel’s twist rate was stabilising. It worked fine, holding the 25mm three-shot string no problem, although the recoil became very lively.
The stock was good at deadening sound from general handling, but resonance from the firing cycle was easily transferred to the cheek and head; to be fair though, this is mainly because you could get a firm cheek-weld on the adjustable comb, whereas some seemingly less harmonically jarring rifles are exactly that because your head ‘floats’ more. Thin self-adhesive foam rubber is excellent in these circumstances and also insulates the cold touch from the stock in less temperate climates than ours.
The barrel cleaned easily and was characteristic of the best German hammer-forged tubes, with minimal copper fouling after the first 10 shots. Inspection of the action’s internals showed precise engineering on the bolt within the action, whose travel was as clean and smooth as all full diameter bolts of the three/six lug design school. It’s such a shame the headspace was so tight on a few brands of ammo because this dampened the shine in my mind of what was a lovely system to operate.
Having a heavier 19mm barrel on a light-stocked rifle minimised muzzle flip from the somewhat forward balance point. I didn’t shoot the gun with a moderator on, but one will further press that away from you, so just think ahead on handling. To me, the gun is not a varmint, but it is a good stable gun with excellent machining and barrel quality for stalking, high seats or a driven hunt.
Were I to want a mod, I’d stay with a lighter tube or add some weight at the rear end. Attaining the inherent accuracy of the gun was fairly easy to do as the trigger, although not the very crispest out there, was still a good one and consistently broke at a very predictable 3lb. Nothing about this gun failed me other than the slightly tight bolt closure on occasion, but it seems neither one nor the other type of rifle in the fast-evolving current climate.