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Blaser R8 Ultimate hunting rifle: the sound of silence

This post was published in GunMag by Taras Oleynik. The point of view expressed in this article is authorial and do not necessarily reflect BM`s editorial stance.

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PANAGYURISHTE, (BM) – Blaser belongs to those few weapon brands that don’t need to advertise specifically. Most shooters are well aware of the legendary Blaser R8 carbine’s benefits, its straight-action bolt action, and quick-change barrels and calibers.

The lucky ones, who happened to hold the Blaser R8 in their hands, part with it with visible regret and hidden hope to try to shoot sometime on occasion. And those over-lucky mortals who managed to implement this plan usually fall into a state of deep melancholy, the essence of which can be conveyed by the phrase “I will probably sell everything, and another kidney – and then I will buy it!”

Remarkably, the German company Blaser products have always been distinguished by their perfect design. The company itself has an earnest approach to the functionality, practicality, reliability, and accuracy of its systems. Therefore, when sound reduction devices [sound moderators, suppressors, in short, mufflers for rifled weapons] became popular among European hunters, Blaser also offered its versions of these devices. In particular, shooters offered a choice of two types of “mounted” sound moderators, which differ primarily in size and efficiency. The compact device is small in size and weight, due to which it does not change the size and balance of the weapon too much, but the large and long semi-integrated silencer stands out with very high shot sound suppression: 34.5 dB for .308 Win. But, of course, it is much heavier and more extensive.

However, Blaser would not have taken its well-deserved position at the top of the weapons Olympus if it had merely followed the fashion. Therefore, their new development – the R8 Silence carbines with a fully integrated moderator – made the entire gun community gasp. It was with her that, at one of the IWA weapons exhibitions, the Blaser company demonstrated to everyone how a hunting rifle of the XXI century should look like and set a new trend in which several other companies are already working.

Perfection in detail

We already wrote about the new version of the layout of the R8 model, called Ultimate, in one of the previous issues of our magazine. Note that Blaser’s improvements in this type of stock are essential and necessary to be discussed again.

So, the stocks with the Ultimate attachment represent the development of the Professional Success brand line, the distinctive feature of which is a very comfortable vertical pistol grip with a big hole in the butt for the thumb. Holding weapons [especially large calibers] with a stock of this design is much more convenient than with a traditional Professional store, and the tab is more natural. The only question that worries many shooters is the speed of reloading the carbine with the right hand. Some people believe that it is necessary to remove the right hand from the grip, twist the bolt with it, and grab the hold with your thumb and palm. In fact, from the R8 version of Professional Success [and Ultimate], the thumb remains in place when the rifle reloaded – the necessary movement is carried out only with the hand. And it is done very, very quickly!

The Ultimate Elastomere and Ultimate Leather stocks, while having a similar design, differ from the previous generation by adding additional adjustments. First of all, we are talking about adjusting the cheek pad’s height, which is extremely necessary for a rifle’s comfortable use with an optical sight. Also, for these stocks, there are two options for butt plates: the first, adjustable, allows you to adjust the length and height of the butt plate, and the second contains elastic inserts designed to dampen the recoil of powerful calibers. As for the forend, in the Ultimate version, this part of the stock is replaceable. It has special inserts that improve the “grip” with wet, slippery, or numb hands. This makes the Ultimate family of R8 carbines easily adaptable to every shooter – and therefore great for both hunting and sporting applications.

The integrated moderator R8 Silence seems to bring the Ultimate concept full and utter perfection. At first, you don’t understand what exactly you are seeing; it appears to be just a carbine [rifle] with a very thick barrel with a Bull contour. And only upon closer examination, it becomes clear: the light-alloy integrated moderator is made here in the same diameter as the receiver [breech] and is installed flush with it. And the correctly selected anodizing color makes the transition between the barrel and the moderator almost invisible.

Thanks to the sound moderator’s integrated design, the R8 Silence carabiners look extremely harmonious and just as great in the hands. However, to achieve such a harmony, some compromises had to be made: if you unscrew and remove the moderator, then a thin and relatively short barrel is exposed under it – much faster than the Blaser R8 hunting barrels in similar calibers. How much will this affect shooting? Let us find out this through practical research. From the manufacturer’s stage to the buyer, the company had problems that did not depend on it. The next chapter of our little saga is about them.

Acoustics and lawmaking

Tell me, how long have you heard outside the window (or watched with your own eyes) a car with an internal combustion engine, the exhaust system of which is not equipped with a muffler? I suppose even a reader far from motorsports shivered, recalling to the subtleties this heartbreaking roar, for which city dwellers deservedly hate street, drag, and other racers of all stripes who deprive their vehicles of this most useful device in pursuit of cherished “horses” of engine power. Yes, it is quite difficult for an ordinary person to imagine moving around the city (and beyond) in a vehicle without a sound reduction system for its engine.

However, when it comes to shooting and small arms, people’s attitude to the problem of the loudness of this process is sometimes strikingly different from that generally accepted in the field of auto/moto. The benefit of the shot sound reduction device is evident to every shooter here; however, not in all countries, bureaucrats are in a hurry to use them without artificial legal barriers and barriers.

The United States is a textbook example of an inconsistent approach to this issue. In most states of this country, a citizen can purchase a new weapon without bothering himself with any appeals to state regulatory authorities. And the sale of firearms between private individuals quite recently could be carried out in general entirely freely, except a few exceptions.

However, with silencers [sorry, devices for reducing the sound of a shot], here is an entirely different situation. In all states, the turnover of mufflers is subject to the strictest licensing. Moreover, it is taxed and even requires remarkable paperwork. The prospective user is obliged to apply, pay about $ 200 of the fee, and then wait for the coveted license from six months to a year. Only then can he become a legal and law-abiding user of a specific unit of the device for reducing the sound of a shot. As for the export of these devices from the United States, you can immediately forget about this – the Americans flatly refuse to license the shipment of such goods.

Hollywood played a crucial role in such a strict attitude towards these generally useful and straightforward devices. The light hand of which they were known as the prerogative of select agents and hired killers. Indeed, who else might need to make the sound of a shot quieter than a clap?

In fact, of course, everything is different. And the sound of a shot with the moderator installed on the barrel remains quite loud, and their users are most often sports shooters, hunters, and ordinary gun lovers. Contrary to their popular name, mufflers are not designed to make the sound of a shot completely silent.

The devices, known to us under many different names, have a more prosaic purpose: to reduce the volume of a shot’s sound to a safe level for hearing the weapon owners and the people around him. And also, importantly, animals. And here is the time for a little digression.

Evening bells

Medical fact: repeated or prolonged exposure of a person’s hearing to loud sounds leads to his irreversible injury, subsequently – to partial or complete hearing loss. Occupational diseases associated with this fact affect many specialists of various professions, one way or another, faced with loud sounds accompanying mechanical devices or the course of chemical processes. In all spheres of human activity, where there is a possibility of hearing barotrauma, measures are taking to eliminate the harmful effects of excessive sound pressure – both hearing protection and reducing the noise sources’ volume.

The first sign of hearing injury is a decrease in sensitivity at high frequencies, audibility “through a pillow” or “like underwater.” The second is the appearance of a noticeable and distinct “ringing” in the ears. The third, which is also the last, is when the “ringing” does not stop for several days in a row after exposure. This is following by partial hearing loss, the consequences of which are irreversible. The author of these lines knows all these signs firsthand – even with the use of hearing protection, a distinct “ringing” in the ears and reduced sensitivity to high frequencies have been indispensable companions of his active shooting enthusiasm for several years now.

How to be? The solution is simple: you need to protect your ears and reduce the volume of the shot’s sound. This is required primarily by medical standards, since not only the shooter’s ears but also bystanders, including animals – hunting dogs, for example, suffer from the acoustic shock wave. It remains only to convince politicians and legislators of this, guided by their delusions rather than scientific research in this area.

However – not everywhere. In Europe, the situation with moderators’ availability for shooters is much better than in the United States. In particular, in the Scandinavian countries, these devices have long become mandatory accessories for hunters. Yes, and in Federal Germany, where they were previously banned, now more and more lands allow shot sound reduction devices at shooting ranges and hunting. Thanks to the softening of the attitude towards sound moderators in Germany, the Blaser R8 Ultimate Silence’s appearance became possible in Ukraine, albeit with some delay after the official announcement.

Regular exposure to loud noises can result in impaired or even complete hearing loss.

In our country, the purchase of such devices for gun owners is not limited – they are freely sold in gun stores. However, a cautious caveat would be appropriate here: not fixed yet. However, legislative initiatives prohibiting these devices’ free circulation already exist – which is typical, without any good reason. Let’s hope that their number will not pass, and we will be able to continue to use these convenient and useful devices to reduce the sound of a shot on our carbines, rifles, and even shotguns.

From theory to practice

But we are too carried away by general reasoning. The reader is probably eager to hear the specifics: how does the integrated moderator work on Blaser R8 Silence, how good it is, what limitations it has, etc. Well, on these issues, we also have a lot to tell.

We tested the .308 Win and .300 Win Mag versions of the Blaser R8 Ultimate Silence in practice – and were satisfied. The shooting was conducted while standing, offhand, at metal targets at distances from 50 to 120 m. When the shooter did everything as it should be, the shot’s muffled sound was invariably crowned with a ringing “ringing” from the bullet hitting the gong. At times it seemed that the ringing was even louder than the shot itself.

Regular readers of our magazine probably do not need to explain how significant the difference in power between the .308 Win and .300 WM calibers is – which means that the volume of powder gases generated during a shot is significantly different for them. As for the differences in the design of the integrated R8 Silence moderators for these calibers, there are almost none – only an additional decorative insert on the version for the .300 Win Mag, designed to compensate for the difference in barrel lengths for standard and magnum calibers. But here’s what’s interesting: such a moderator is quite enough to make a shot from the “gear-grinding” caliber .300 Win Mag quite comfortable for the shooter!

In the end, our impressions were divided. Fans of the maximum quiet sound of the shot, as they say, “twisted their nose,” reasonably arguing that specialized devices, such as Ase Utra SL7, have a higher reduction in sound pressure when fired. On the other hand, less demanding practitioners, like yours truly, have made sure of the main thing. For both .308 and 300 calibers, the Blaser R8 Silence’s effectiveness is sufficient to not experience discomfort from the loudness of the shot without the use of additional hearing protection. Which, in my own words, was required of him. And for those who need complete Silence, we advise you to try to shoot cartridges with a subsonic muzzle velocity. We guarantee a pleasant surprise!

With a thoughtful comparison of impressions, it became clear that you will not be happy with decibels alone. The R8 Silence left no chances for its more traditional counterpart with the Ase Utra SL7 mounted muffler on a regular barrel when shooting offhand! But not in terms of the degree of muffling of the shot’s sound, but periods of such parameters as balance, comfort during insertion, speed of the throw-up, the leash’s stability, and turnability. The R8 Silence carbines have a much more comfortable distribution of the barrel and sound moderator masses – but an additional device installed on a regular barrel immediately leads to the fact that the carbine in the hands starts to “nod off”.

And from an aesthetic point of view, these two approaches are entirely incomparable. The R8 Ultimate Silence looks like a complete work of art, devoid of any unnecessary detail. What can’t be said for the regular R8 with the optional muffler – it seems a little unwieldy at best. But a favorite weapon should be liked by its owner, first of all, externally and tactilely!

But it’s time, perhaps, to dilute our barrel of honey. The R8 Ultimate Silence certainly has its drawbacks. The non-record efficiency of reducing the sound of a shot caused by the moderator’s small diameter and the small volume of its chambers was mentioned above. But that’s not all. A shorter barrel will reduce your bullet’s muzzle velocity: the loss will be about 50 m / s in the .308 caliber and about 60-80 m / s in the “magnum.” However, for shooting distances up to 300 m, this will not make any difference since the difference in the trajectory’s flatness will not exceed one click on the sight’s vertical barrel. As for the bullet’s energy, such a decrease in the initial velocity is approximately the same as the situation, as if you were fifty meters further from your target than usual. Long-range shooting is another matter, but you always want to have a longer barrel.

The second point is the rapid heating of the device body and the thin barrel. It would help if you did not try to “collect groups” from this complex in shooting for accuracy: this is a carbine for one, two, maximum three accurate shots in a row. After that, the trunk and the moderator need at least a short rest to eliminate excess heat. It can also cause undesirable optical effects when using a telescopic sight – the so-called “mirage,” a heat haze that distorts the image and “displaces” the target image from its real position. And, by the way, God forbid you to grab the device with your bare hands immediately after shooting! You run the risk of seriously getting burned.

In other words, if you need to shoot a lot and accurately from the R8 Silence, then the correct algorithm of actions will be as follows: with a few simple movements, the barrel with an integrated moderator is removed from the carbine and replaced with a thick match “crowbar.” Now you can shoot at accuracy too – few rifles could compare with the Blaser R8, and even from the category of those usually referred to as “sniper” ones!

As for the legal problems of using moderators, they are already well known to our shooters. Before shooting, you must always ensure that the moderator is tightly screwed on and does not loose on the thread. Immediately after firing, it is advisable to remove the device from the barrel – and thoroughly ventilate it to get rid of condensate saturated with precipitation of powder gases: a vigorous mixture of steam, water and carbon deposits very quickly corrodes steel. For the same reason, it is recommending to store the moderator separately from the carbine itself. Also, do not forget that it is useful to clean this device at least occasionally – after all, with a shot, its internal volume decreases, and here there is not too much of it. It is better to do this with the use of special tools and means.

But all this is a minimal price to pay for the comfort that the Blaser R8 Ultimate Silence gives you. Outstanding adjustable stock, sporty ATZL trigger, ultra-fast reloading, thoughtful safety, precision and durability of the forged barrel, and most importantly – reducing the shot and the recoil’s sound. The impulse to very moderate, quite comfortable values!

This combination of characteristics is not found on the arms market every day. It is useful that from now on, it is also available to Ukrainian shooters – at least to those of them who want to own the best possible.

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