Imagine this. You are a hunter who has just bought a new .308 Win hunting rifle. You scope it up and get it on the range for a first outing. It shoots well, but when it comes to getting on target at your 1,000-metre gong, you run out of elevation. You can’t do it and you’re disappointed.
Some people may grin and ask what someone expects when trying to get a production .308 pushed out to such a distance. I mean, is it really reasonable to expect a hunting rifle to perform at such ranges? For the man who took the call from a disappointed customer, who felt the rifle wasn’t fit for purpose, this response just wouldn’t fly. That man was CEO of Blaser Sporting, Robert Sajitz, and he wanted to deliver a rifle that would prove the caller wrong.
I still find it amazing that Mauser were receptive to the notion of designing and building a rifle to answer this question, when it catered only for a small number of shooters in a very specific market. Surely it couldn’t be a logical decision? But logic be damned, they did it, and the Mauser M12 Impact was the result.
Most of us will be well aware of the M12 by now. I wrote about the rifle when it first landed in the UK, and have since written of its field use over an extended period since, so I will not repeat everything, and instead focus on what makes the Impact different and what it delivers in practice.
For a start, anything borne from the M12 is a great starting point. It has been tremendously successful for Mauser, and finds growing popularity worldwide. It’s keenly priced, well constructed, accurate and ammo-sympathetic – and the cherry on top is the backing of a brand like Mauser. It’s not a hand-machined wonder, but it is a rather fine, affordable and practical rifle.
The basic action remains the same solid (and now tested) construction. The barrel-to-action fit is achieved via heat shrinking – this process can in fact be witnessed when watching the film made for Mauser on the evolution of the Impact. It is a surprisingly quick affair.
The simple bolt shaft retains its six locking lugs and twin ejectors, allowing for a firm case ejection, and of course redundancy should one ever fail. Additionally, the two rows of three lugs allow for a shallow 60-degree bolt lift. Extraction is via a short claw recessed into the closed face of the bolt. The trigger is adjustable, but on every M12 I have ever handled, the factory setting is crisp, short travelling, and breaks on the 2lb mark. The trigger has always been superb.
What has changed is the bolt handle itself, which has now been extended, with a blunt, teardrop-shaped, more tactical-looking bolt knob. This allows for swifter uplift, and of course the marginally increased leverage makes it feel easier as well.
The stock remains the same, although the colour is now black graphite. It has the same soft-touch finish, lines and shape, which hint to its Mauser origins. A straight comb allows for ambidextrous use, and remains up there in terms of fit and comfort from a sporting stock. It’s still not a resin-based stock, instead being a polymer, but reinforcement in the right places makes it one of the best, robust and ridged of this type. To the forend, the Impact offers two QD studs as standard, one underneath to fit a bipod, and a second on the end for better sling attachment.
This rifle is entirely about functionality and delivering in the field. The cold hammer forged barrel has been shortened from the standard 22in down to 20in, and is slightly fluted and pre-threaded in 15 x 1mm to take a moderator or muzzle brake. Some may wonder why, when putting together a rifle to deliver at extended ranges, you would ever consider shortening the barrel. Well, the answer lies in the chambering available for the model, which is solely .308 Win and .243 Win at time of writing – the two most popular cartridges in the UK. The .308 Win is particularly suited to efficiency in shorter barrels, and the reduced length will help not only with weight, but more importantly, balance for handling when combined with a moderator, as indeed is the most common scenario in the UK.
The metal finish has also changed, and on the Impact we see a matt silver Ilaflon coating for optimal weather resistance. It was used on Sauer rifles some years back, but is commonly found in varying forms in household appliances, and similar to non-stick coatings. The technology as far as I understand comes from Switzerland originally, and can be varied to suit needs, offering heat resistance, corrosion resistance and ceramic reinforcement. I haven’t owned a rifle with the coating for any length of time, but the data sheet reads the part and ticks the boxes for the weather-resistance and functionality one would expect from the metal finish of such a rifle.
The final addition took care of the scope elevation issue for extended ranges, and this was answered by fitting the rifle as standard with a 20MOA rail. Job done.
After the rifle was assembled as we see it here, ultimately the Impact had to be tested. For this, Robert wanted to prove to himself that a sporting, hunting rifle could indeed deliver the long-range shots demanded of it. So he travelled to the remote hills of Wales and pitched it side-by-side with a military spec .338 Lap Mag, which you’d expect to be far more suited to shooting over such ranges. How easily could he get on target and hold point of impact, and how would it compare? You can watch for yourself by searching for ‘How Mauser made a 1000m rifle’ on YouTube, but (spoiler alert) it worked, and in fact, got on target at 1,000 metres in just three shots, delivering confirmed strikes for another three after. That was one shot sooner than the ostensibly more suitable .338 Lap Mag.
Of course this doesn’t mean somehow that the .308 Win calibre has now become the best long-range choice just because of the rifle. What it does show, though, is just how capable the cartridge can be in the right rifle built for the job. A hunting rifle that can deliver at 1,000 metres? Well, it turns out that the M12 Impact can do it – and it does it for not a great deal more than £1,000. That is quite something.