Blaser, the famous German rifle manufacturer who also make excellent shotguns, has developed a brand-new smoothbore in the form of the F16 Sporter. It does, however, differ significantly from the design of the Blaser’s redoubtable F3, and its unique in-line hammer system, mechanical trigger and horizontal recoil block and pendulum. All this has been replaced in the F16 with something much more conventional, which incorporates side by side hammers cocked off a lever in the action’s floor plate, activated by the forend iron with the dropping of the barrels when the gun is opened. The locking of the barrels to the action is achieved with a bifurcated bolt moving forwards each side of the breech face and locating with bites in the barrels monobloc. The external appearance of the action retains Blaser’s minimalist elegance with rounded lines and scallop shapes that, at the rear of the action, meld with the heading of the stock.
The stock’s configuration features a hand-filling grip with a palm swell properly positioned. The comb tapers nicely back to front with some right-hand cast at the heel and toe. The recoil pad is suitably soft and will certainly reduce recoil if required.
I do, however, feel an adjustable comb represents a must-have for the Blaser. While significantly less money than the F3 at £2,780 it can hardly be classified as an entry-level gun and I would emphasise this is not a mere matter of looking for extraneous extras. Most modern shooters now grasp the importance of gun fit and a correct comb height is absolutely crucial to consistent and accurate shooting. Yes, it would add cost to the Blaser, but I am convinced the end user would be prepared to pay for it. Incorporated into the stock is a similar balancing system to the F3 with a series of weights that can be utilised or removed depending upon the kind of balance the shooter prefers.
The forend wood is a slim beavertail shape – the Schnabel, it seems, is losing favour even with the Germans who invented it. Fastened to the barrels with Blaser’s unobtrusive take on the Anson rod fastening, it sits in the leading hand comfortably and encourages a natural pointing hold.
Thankfully the F16’s barrels are conventionally bored at 18.6mm. This fixation some manufacturers now have for some form of over-boring causes nothing but problems for those shooters wishing to or being obliged to use fibre wadded cartridges. Evaluating guns, as I do, with and without over-boring, the number of occurrences when perfectly good fibre wadded ammunition performs below par is almost always due to over-boring’s dubious advantages. The F16’s conventional boring combined with excellent external striking off and finished with a durable chemical blacking, there is little to complain of and much to praise.
This includes the rib and the return to the low-profile, narrow type that also has much to commend it. The great advantage of the over-and-under in its original form was that its line of sight was unobtrusive providing only a precise point of reference in the shooters peripheral vision. We now have the high rib, ramped rib and ones that resemble the Forth Bridge, but thankfully the very broad rib has disappeared. The F16’s offering does all that’s required of it and best of all you hardly notice it.
For this gun test I in fact shot two very different F16s. The first was at its press launch at EJ Chruchill Shooting Ground. The F16 I used, as did everyone else, was without any stock weights or the substantial barrel weights. In this weightless condition it weighed 7½lb. After taping on one of my comb raisers, something that I now never go to a gun launch without, I shot this lively, fast-handling Sporter well on a variety of targets, though not at great distance.
When I received my second F16 in order to write this piece, it felt different. With no less than four 42.5-gram weights bolted to the barrels and a full complement of stock weights also in situ, the F16’s weight had gained ¾lb and was now tipping the scales at 8lb 4oz.
I decided to give this now hefty Sporter a try: I broke targets but also relearned some lessons. On targets at long range, heavy barrels – the F16’s now weighed 1.616kg – are not necessarily beneficial if you can’t move them fast enough. With the removal of two barrel weights the barrels now weighed a more manoeuvrable 1.531kg, and this, together with a little weight loss from the stock, I now had a Sporter not as fast off the mark as my first weightless F16 but handy enough and sufficiently steady to break targets consistently.
If you think this all sounds like a lot of work, it wasn’t, and I achieved the kind of feel and balance I wanted from this Blaser. Think back to the days when an off-the-peg shotgun’s weight and stock dimensions were set in stone, the only component you could alter was the stock, and that could be a costly business and not always entirely satisfactory. If the barrels had too much choke you could have some bored out, but you could not put any back. As a ready-made gun, I therefore wholeheartedly applaud what the Blaser F16 represents: a truly modern volume production gun you can alter to your own requirements, and if these change you can alter the most important component parts. That is except in the case of the F16 the stock, but that I am quite sure will be rectified shortly.