Saturday, January 07, 2012 - Mike Powell
courtesy of Sporting Rifle, visit their website here.
Mike Powell receives a Steyr Half Stock Mountain Classic to test – and has a hard time giving it back.
Complete package: The rifle, scope and mod combine to make a light, accurate and reliable set-up.
I have personally owned two Steyr rifles: the original Pro Hunter and a Pro Hunter Mountain. These were both synthetic models, and very good too. When the opportunity cropped up thanks to the Sportsman Gun Centre to try one of the latest half-stocked models, I jumped at it. To make it more interesting, Sportsman would supply it with a Swarovski Z6i scope, and finish the set-up with a Roedale sound moderator. Those two were both items I had looked forward to testing.
The rifle was a really good-looking piece of kit, with the nowadays almost obligatory low hog’s back stock – or ‘European’ as the Americans describe it. In European walnut with its slender Schnabel forend tipped with rosewood, it looked light and attractive, while the chequering was sharp and well placed. The rifle I was testing was in .223, but as is normal with this manufacturer there is a very wide range of calibres to choose from.
The round, hammer-forged barrel shows the characteristic external spirals and is free-floated. The barrel and action are finished in dark grey matt, which is highly resistant to wear and abrasion. It blends in perfectly with the matt-finished woodwork. Turning the rifle over shows the almost flush-fitting four-round plastic magazine and the plated, single stage trigger. On this particular rifle the trigger broke at about three pounds, which I found perfectly workable. The magazine itself can be removed easily by compressing the two catches situated either side of it.
Well engineered: The bolt assembly, showing the two gas escape ports.
Overall, the Steyr is a very nice looking rifle, as well as being very pointable and – weighing in at just over seven pounds – certainly no heavyweight. This top-quality rifle oozes class and is certainly one of the best on the market today. At well under £1,400 it is excellent value for money. The next, and probably the most important, thing to test was how it performs in the field.
This particular rifle was set up for use with one of Swarovski’s Z6i scopes. The model I had on test was the 2-12×50, although possibly the most popular model in the range is the 2.5-15×56. I have always thought that most modern scopes, whatever the price range, will do the job required of them. I have some nice scopes on my own rifles, most of them in the middle- to lower-price range. The test scope, retailing at £1,780, was certainly a step up price-wise for me.
The control for the illuminated reticle was seated at the rear of the scope and was sculpted into the overall shape. A centre switch moves to the right or left for daylight or night illumination, with tiny control pads for varying the intensity. The scope’s memory retains the illumination setting and returns to it each time. Another feature that I would find more than useful is the automatic shut down facility to save the battery.
The scope I used had Swarovski’s Optik ballistic turret fitted. This can be used not only to zero but also to set various range settings. Detailed set-up instructions are supplied with the scope, along with a turret key. This is an extremely high-quality scope that, although not cheap, would last a shooting lifetime.
The rifle came fitted with a Roedale sound moderator. Roedale mods are made in Germany and distributed in England by the Sportsman Gun Centre. The model supplied was the Delta Ultralight. These moderators are very well made, modular, strippable for cleaning and repair and extremely light. The model I used weighed in at 200 grams, which is light by any standard.
Performance-wise, it proved more than adequate on the .223. Sound moderators all do the job they are intended to do – comparisons between makes are at best an imprecise science. I thought the Roedale was among the higher end of mods I have used, but my most lasting impression was of how light it was. It certainly finished off the Steyr set-up perfectly.
Next on the agenda was to try the rifle in the field. Inovatech, well known for its excellent range of LED shooting lights, is now supplying the AimShot laser bore sight. Available in a wide range of arbors to fit calibres from .17 HMR upwards, these little units can save time and money by getting the rifle well on the way to zero without firing a shot. Slipping the cartridge-shaped and sized unit into the chamber, you can immediately see where the crosshair is in relation to the bore.
For anyone who needs to check zero or set up scopes, these units are a boon. I did find that it is best not to do the zeroing in bright sunlight, as this can override the light from the laser. But as you can get it well on the way to zero in your living room, this is really not a problem. All in all, it is a very useful piece of equipment.
The stock embodies the Steyr's neat, tidy and functional aesthetic
The rifle handled well and was well balanced as you would expect. Filling the magazine was easy, as it is a straight push down design. Feed into the chamber was positive, and even though this was a brand new rifle, everything worked smoothly. Extraction and ejection were also perfect.
After half a dozen sighting shots, I used a couple of patches to clean the bore. The next five shots produced a sub-one inch group. Well, it was four shots actually, as I pulled the last shot rather badly!
I had really hoped to take the rifle out and try for a fox that had been causing problems locally, but the weather broke and the rains came. I didn’t really feel I could get all the beautiful new equipment wet, and as the rifle was to be returned the next day I left it at that.
What was my overall opinion of this outfit? Firstly, the moderator was efficient, and its light weight was a huge bonus. The scope is a beauty – you would be hard pressed to find a better one. I have to say I was very impressed with it, and it really is right up there with the best. The AimShot bore sight was very useful, and certainly saved me a few rounds.
Finally, the rifle. This is a very high quality shooting tool. Steyr, renowned for high-quality products, has one again hit the jackpot. Attractive to the eye, well balanced and very accurate, it is a rifle that would give the owner many years of pleasure and use.
The biggest problem I have in doing these reviews is that from time to time I happen across something that really is exceptionally nice, and have a hard time making myself give it back. This rifle, in this format, with a top-grade scope is just such an item. I had to give it back as soon as possible before the urge to put it in my cabinet overtook me.