When I got a call from Garlands asking if I would like to test the Heym SR21 in 7×57, my reflex answer was “yes”. A rifle I had long had my eye on, it was also in one of my favourite calibres.
I was excited and had high expectations. I recalled looking obsessively at a Heym at the Scottish Game Fair some years before, when I had just acquired my FAC. It was a bit pricey for me back then, but remained fixed in my memory as a rifle I wouldn’t mind having in the cabinet. I was eager to see if my relatively uninformed opinion would stand true today under closer inspection.
As many manufacturers did in this era, Heym produced Mauser-type sporting rifles for some time, including refurbishing wartime actions. It then began utilising FN-Mauser actions in its rifles before moving on to produce its own SR-20 action. This came about largely as a result of having a contract with Mauser cancelled, leaving the company with a large quantity of unused components. The management at Heym decided to create the SR20 after making a few changes to the design. Along with the evolution of bolt-action rifles, the company is also very well known for producing excellent double and combination rifles. Today’s SR21 has seen more alterations again, and Heym has also added a straight-pull model to its line-up in the SR30.
When I freed the rifle from its box, my initial reaction was one of delight. It was the best looking rifle I had tested in over a year, and it felt satisfyingly familiar in the hand. The slender stock lines were sexy, and the dark wood had a feel of old-fashioned quality. On top of that, it was chambered in one of my all-time favourite stalking calibres. I was already wondering if I would allow the rifle to leave once I was finished.
The metal finish was nice, but not exceptional. It lacked the deep, highly polished bluing found on high-end rifles, and the more modern move towards matt bead-blasted metal finishes. Don’t let that make you think the finish was inferior though – far from it. The receiver is round in design, though boasts a nice milled-out face on the top and side, continuing the soft lines of the stock. With a strong closed action, cartridges are ejected from a port on the side, although it is quite generous in dimensions. Unlike rifles such as the Tikka, it is possible to fit your pinky inside to check if a cartridge is still in the chamber. Drilled and tapped, it will accept most bases.
The bolt release is found on the left-hand side, very much in the same fashion as a Sako. When we get to the recoil lug, the same bugbear that I have mentioned time and again rears its head. Although not immediately obvious with the rifle assembled, the recoil system is a jammed washer design like a Remington. At the risk of repeating myself, this is a design that has worked well, but an integral lug would be better, preferable and stronger. The reason I never noticed before taking the rifle to pieces is that Heym has gone to quite a lot of trouble to join the barrel, recoil washer and action almost seamlessly above the stock. Only when looking at the bottom and sides does it become obvious.
Turning our attention to the bolt, the first thing that is a bit unusual is the wooden bolt knob. Matching the stock, it really does look nice, but from a practical point of view it’s a poor judgement call from Heym. The bolt handle is the only part of a rifle that protrudes, and inevitably over time it will get bashed. My concern is that this rather elegant handle will get cracked at some point, leaving a rifle that is quite easily fixable but rather awkward to use in the interim. The thick bolt shaft has five flutes and a running groove on the bottom. This helps to facilitate slick cycling by carrying oil and providing dirt and grit a place to escape. It’s a solid unit with three locking lugs and the tried-and-tested plunger ejector and sprung extractor that are standard on most rifles these days.
As for the back, you will see that the safety is an integral part of the bolt, much like on a CZ rimfire but in a more refined way. The sliding safety is a joy to use, and I have no complaints there. One interesting aspect is a small plunger on the bolt shroud, which depresses as it meets the receiver on the forward stroke. As far as I can see, it doesn’t serve any major purpose other than to provide rearward tension as the bolt cams down. The only criticism I really have of the bolt comes from what is essentially the cocking piece. Protruding from the shroud, the circular metal is finished with a rather sharp edge. It would have required very little extra work in the machining process to finish this with a generous chamfer and I was marginally disappointed by this.
However this was not quite as frustrating as what I found next. Having separated the metal work from the stock, it was immediately obvious that Heym had gone to the trouble of bedding the action with resin and aluminium pillars – thumbs up. However, closer inspection revealed an incredibly sloppy job. I was more than a little miffed. Like many off-the-shelf manufacturers, this wasn’t a full bedding job, but saw resin applied only around the recoil lug area. This in itself is fine, but I couldn’t understand why they would go to the effort of bedding the rifle without taking the extra half an hour to make the job a good one. Instead, it looks like they simply squelched in some resin, screwed in the action and left it be – not exactly a confidence-builder.
Looking at the trigger, we also have to bring in the magazine unit. Here, Heym has designed a single unit that separates from the action when the action screws are loosened. Whereas most rifles will part company from the stock with the trigger still attached to the action, in this case the trigger unit comes away as an integral part of the magazine assembly. I was both surprised and impressed by this. It was a very well thought-out and solidly constructed unit – even the action screws were captive.
The trigger was satisfying to use, with a clean, sensible break. Although externally adjustable, there isn’t much scope for altering the trigger pressure, however this wasn’t an issue as I was quite content with the factory setting. There is a ‘set’ option that is excellent for range work and, unlike every other set trigger I have used, this one actually broke at a sensible weight. I am used to set triggers unleashing their wrath at little more than an anorexic fly’s fart. This felt usable in the field.
The magazine put a smile on my face. Unlike the current move to include plastic components wherever possible, the SR21’s mag was a solid, weighty, single-stack design made entirely from metal. It was one of the nicest modern mags I had seen in a long time.
When it came to the range, there were no astounding revelations. It shot as I expected, returning reasonable groups across a spectrum of bullet weights. The 160-grain bullets returned the best groups at just inside an inch, whereas the Hornady 139-grain ammo returned about 1.25in. I ran a couple of other bullet weights through the rifle as well, with most returning usable hunting groups. The only exception was the 123-grain RWS, which scattered across the target like a shotgun pattern.
Already owning a 7×57 rifle that will happily cluster three rounds all day, it is definitely one of those calibres where a huge amount of benefit is gained from reloading. The small amount of development I did on the Heym showed this.
The Heym SR21 is a fine rifle. It is most definitely a looker, and for the most part is well constructed. As with almost any rifle, there are a few aspects I have taken exception too, but I had to be hard on a rifle I expected so much from. Heym is certainly worth a look, and the SR21 is undoubtedly a serious contender for anyone looking for a mid-range hunting rifle. BP
Model tested: SR21 Standard
Price range: £1,915
Contact: Garlands 01827 383300