Already impressed with Heym’s double rifle and standard bolt-action offering, Byron Pace takes a look at the straight-pull SR30
Until recently, straight-pull rifles never interested me. I didn’t have a need for one, and preferred the simplicity of traditional bolt-actions. They had always worked, and any deviation from them was a complication I could do without. But when I first experienced driven boar shooting, the need for unleashing shots in quick succession became apparent, and I began to accept the straight-pull’s advantages. Every other rifle I admired on the back of my German conquest seemed to be a straight-pull of one guise or another, and it made me think I was missing a trick.
With that, I started to delve into the world of alternative bolt-actions, slowly getting to understand the mechanics of the various systems. By the time I got to the Heym SR30, I had probably shot every straight-pull on the UK market, but I was yet to be bowled over to the point where I wanted to put my hand in my pocket to furnish the gun cabinet with one. Don’t get me wrong – I had been impressed with some clever mechanisms making for some of the world’s fastest bolt-action rifles. But I had still stuck with my good old-fashioned turn-bolts. Then I handled the SR30 with serious intent, and everything changed.
For a start, it’s a good-looking rifle. I have always had a weakness for slender, sleek lines, and the Heym straight-pull offered this with a touch of class, exuding an aura of strength and quality. First I wanted to just stare at it. Then, after gliding the bolt back and forward a few times, all I wanted was for daylight to bring good weather so I could get the rifle to the range.
Having already covered the company history when writing about the SR21, I won’t repeat myself here, other than to remind everyone that Heym as a company traces its origins back a considerable length of time. Starting rifle production in 1865, it is easy to see that Heym remained true to its traditional German routes, even when building rifles with modern designs. The SR30 was originally launched back in 1996, but like the SR21 turn-bolt, it is not a rifle many shooters will have heard much about in this country. This is a shame, as Heym put together some very nice rifles. In any case, the SR30 is hardly a new launch to the market, but is a marked departure from the Mauser-based systems Heym previously used. It is a clever and unique design.
On first setting eyes on the locking mechanism, it seemed hard to believe that such a concept could work. The idea of holding back the considerable pressure of a cartridge ignition, especially on bigger calibres, with little more than a series of small ball-bearings, was quite incredible. Fear not, though – during the development of this action, Heym pressure-tested it to more than twice the chamber pressures that would normally be found for any given calibre they chamber the rifle in. This is the heart of the SR30, and a good place to start.
Removing the bolt from the rifle exposes a solid-looking steel tube forming the shaft. The clean, plain, but polished metal carries forward all the way to a bolt head of continuing diameter, where a circlip sprung extractor sits on the right hand side, and a slot allowing for the fixed ejector lies opposite. What is immediately obvious is the absence of locking lugs in the traditional sense. Instead you will find six holes evenly spaced around the circumference of the bolt, set back 15mm from the bolt face. In these holes lie six ball bearings, which allow the bolt to lock up inside the receiver.
The internals of the receiver are pretty much the same as any turn bolt, with a machined recess set behind the barrel. Pulling the horizontal bolt handle back disengages the internals of the bolt, retracting the ball bearings. This allows the slick action to slide effortlessly rearwards to the point where the case is ejected. On pushing the bolt forward again, a new cartridge is picked up, and as the bolt nears the end of its travel, a single ball bearing on the shaft, sitting just in front of the bolt handle, locates into a recess. As this occurs it re-engages the internals, and the six front ball bearings are pushed and held into their locked position. But this doesn’t cock the rifle, and this aspect makes the SR30 very safe to operate.
Now the safety can be applied, locking the bolt and firing pin. To cock the rifle and fire, the safety must be taken off, before pushing the bolt forward a further half an inch from its current position. This soon becomes instinctive, and effectively means that the rifle is only cocked moments before you pull the trigger.
This concept is not unique, and is similar to what you find on a Blaser or Merkel with their cocking lever system. These can be operated without lifting your hand from the pistol grip, but that’s not the case for the SR30. This is no problem if you’re taking a string of quick shots, as the end of the bolt cycle also cocks the rifle ready to fire, but it does require greater hand movement in a single-shot stalking scenario. It’s another sign that the rifle is designed with driven hunting in mind.
To remove the bolt entirely from the receiver, you must first drop the bolt back to its rearmost position, and while still maintaining pressure on the bolt handle, activate the safety. This will keep the ball-bearings disengaged. From here it is the same as any other rifle.
My initial attempts at fast cycling were not particularity successful, as I found the bolt stuttering on the back stroke. I was a little surprised – I had expected extreme slickness. First I concluded that the bolt was dry, so I applied some Tuf-Glide along the shaft. An oil-free lubricant, this stuff is superb (get it from www.forestandhill.co.uk). It immediately transformed the action, but I still thought I could get more from it. I soon concluded that there was a certain way to operate the bolt for efficient use. It needs to be pulled directly back and pushed directly forward, with no sideways deviation – you need to guide the bolt rather than shunting it into position. With a bit of practice you will soon get the hang of it – I did, and achieved a very fast operation.
Getting to the rest of the rifle, we are on more familiar territory. The machined steel receiver is closed on top, sporting two pleasantly milled flat faces with a long, wide ejection port. The recoil lug initially seems to be an integral affair, but closer inspection reveals it is actually the same jammed washer system used in Remington’s rifles. As I noted with the SR21 when reviewing it last year, the biggest criticism of the rifle comes with the bedding of the metalwork to the stock. Having gone as far as fitting aluminium pillars and bedding the rifle front and rear, the finishing is fairly poor. It wouldn’t take much to give this rifle the bedding job it deserves.
From here the rifle is virtually identical to the SR21, and enjoys the same excellent adjustable combination trigger, breaking without any complaint at just over 2.5lb. Pushing the trigger forward activates the set trigger, and though I am not a massive fan of them, this one was possibly the most usable I have fired.
The magazine is a solidly constructed straight-stack design made entirely of metal components, ejected from the rifle by a stiff release catch on the right-hand side. Offering just a three-round capacity on the .308 Win I tested, it is fairly limited, but in reality it’s all you will need for stalking. Larger capacity spare mags are also available, and probably a good shout if you intend to take it after driven game.
Taking it to the range didn’t disappoint, with my initial test shots landing in satisfying, evenly spaced inch groups. Running through my store, the 150-grain Federals proved to be a preferred diet, pulling the groups a little tighter. The 170-grain Gecos opened up a tad, with the 150-grain Hornady Superformance offering similar results. Then I got to the 168-grain Hornady custom ammo and the rifle really showed me what it could do. Four shots breaking one another at 100 yards, with a neat cluster of under two inches at 300 yards on the steel plates.
In terms of money, the rifle comes in new just under the £2,000 mark, which is a fair chunk of cash, but a lot less than the other straight pulls on the market. Even just as a rifle in direct competition with other turn-bolts, I think it holds its own, and should be a serious consideration for those hunters looking for a new rifle.
The Heym SR30 is a clever rifle. It’s a beautiful rifle. In testing it has proved to be very accurate, and I think I may have just landed on my next acquisition. ν
For more information, call 01827 383300 or visit www.garlands.uk.com.