If you went into a gun shop 25-years ago and asked for a repeating, centrefire rifle, you’d get a bolt-action. However, things have changed dramatically as since 1993 you could get a manually-operated straight-pull instead. So, what is it and how does it compare to the traditional system?
Straight-pull and bolt-action: mechanism
Both systems have been around since the end of the 19th century with the introduction of smokeless, high velocity cartridges.
The major difference being the method of operation. A bolt-action technically requires four movements:
- lift the bolt to open the action
- pull it back to eject
- push it forward to feed
- close the action.
A straight-pull cuts this down by 50% as steps 1 & 2 are combined in a single rearwards pull, as are 3 & 4 when you push forward.
Though there were some notable, Military straight-pulls, research shows that in the crucible of battle, turn-bolts won out due to their greater reliability. However, for sports shooting this is not an issue.
The Germans were the first to propose linear recharging.
One cannot talk about straight-pulls without acknowledging Blaser, who introduced the first commercial design; the R93 in 1993. Great rifle, as you could also change barrels and therefore calibres, but its fixed, top-loading magazine was not ideal.
Browning came next in 1999 with their Acera, I tested one and it had distinct possibilities though was discontinued in 2000. Next and more successful was their the Maral based on the BAR semi-auto. Since then other companies have offered their takes on the concept, and the generic design is now well established.
I have two straight-pulls, a Maral and a Blaser R8 and they are significantly different in terms of design and what they offer. They also tend to highlight the major differences compared to bolt-guns.
The fastest system is…
Technically a straight-pull is faster to operate, but it’s not all about speed. I can shoot a bolt-action as fast as my R8, though 2-2 bolt manipulation in relation to maintaining your firing position and aim is better on the latter.
However, and given the design a bolt-gun offers more leverage and operating power in adverse conditions, in terms of opening and closing the action compared to the smaller side handle of a straight-pull.
You also have to be certain that you have closed the action fully unlike a bolt-gun, where the method of operation ensures this automatically.
The Maral is a little different, as it’s powered by constant velocity springs, which means at the end of the opening stroke you just let the handle go and it will automatically shut. Generally, it’s a handy, highly pointable and shootable rifle.
The most accurate is…
Some, site straight-pulls as being less accurate, which is not the case, but like any rifle it’s down to the ammunition you choose. My Maral in 30-06 shoots best with a 150-grain load, which I use for deer, however, for boar shooting where targets are closer I use heavier loads for the power.
With the proliferation of straight-pull rifles these days, I don’t think you can pick a clear winner between them and a bolt-action. Both offer something to a greater or lesser degree, I picked the Maral primarily for driven boar, where its fast action and high magazine capacity offer advantages. However, most of my deer hunting is done with a turn-bolt; horses for courses.
What’s your favorite system?