Tim Pilbeam tests the Lynx 94 Hunter, and finds that years of experience in manufacturing biathlon guns can make for an exquisite rifle and a very enjoyable shoot indeed
As I wandered down Gunmakers’ Row at the 2011 CLA Game Fair at Blenheim Palace my attention was drawn to a relatively unknown rifle brand.
Based in Finland, Pirkan ASE has been manufacturing quality sporting rifles since 1979 and is more famous for its biathlon guns. Only 150 ‘individual’ rifles are built every year, so the company see themselves as a high quality custom builder of rifles where attention to detail and guaranteed accuracy are the norm.
I was greeted by a very friendly and knowledgeable gentleman, Harri Laaksonen who immediately began to extol the virtues of the Lynx Straight Pull rifle. After studying Harri’s business card, I found that not only was he the master rifle maker but also the nephew of the chief designer, Torsti Laaksonen.
Once the dust had settled from the aftermath of what seemed to be another successful game fair, I called Alan Rhone, the sole UK distributor of the Lynx Rifle, to ask for a demonstrator to be sent down for a review. Normally rifles are delivered to me by courier, but since the Lynx is a slightly unusual concept of rifle, Alan himself appeared on my doorstep on a wet and miserable Thursday morning to introduce me to the Lynx.
Let’s begin with the most unusual aspect of this rifle: the fast straight-pull system that forms the heart of this beautiful piece. The first thing I noticed was the action, the sublime smoothness throughout its movement – the silkiest action I have ever had the privilege to handle. The round, case-hardened bolt is made up of five major components and polished to a high level.
The rifle’s most unusual attribute, however, is the locking system located towards the rear of the action. Most actions have a locking lug design to the front of the bolt, requiring the bolt to be twisted for it to lock in to the action. On other straight pull actions, such as the Blaser, a ring locks around the front of the bolt face, expanding once pushed forward to hold the bolt. On the Lynx, however, when the bolt is pushed fully forward, a locking bar slides across the bolt, securing it on both sides.
It takes only the fingertips to operate the bolt, otherwise the fingers could become pinched between the bolt handle and stock. To remove the bolt, pull a small lever down away from the action, located within the trigger guard, on front of the trigger. This looks a little untidy, but it is easy to use. Overall, the action is quiet, slick and beautifully engineered, culminating in fast and efficient cycling of the rounds – ideal for running game.
The trigger is fully adjustable from 0.5 to 1.2kg (1.1 to 2.5lb), and what a lovely trigger it is. Despite breaking at 2.2lb it feels much less than this, and the feel of it really is superb, with only the slightest of creep and a crisp breaking point. Perhaps the expertise has come from its biathlon competition background, but in any case it is spot on. The trigger blade can also be adjusted backwards or forwards, and the sturdy trigger guard is designed to withstand a huge impact as it is made from tensioned steel.
The steel box magazine is well engineered, robust and easy to fill. It has the Lynx logo on the bottom plastic plate and to release, press the large lever that sits just in front of the trigger guard. Once again, everything is designed around wearing gloves so the lever is large, stiff and easy to drop out using one finger.
As expected, the stock is individually handcrafted, this rifle having the higher grade walnut furniture. I loved the comfortable pistol grip and perfect palm swell, making it fit a right-handed shooter like a close-fitting glove. The chequering that appears on both sides of the forend is made with precision, with the cheekpiece standing high to allow a near-perfect fit for eye alignment.
Enough of the detail – how does it perform in the field? As there was shortage of rifles in the UK owing to many being used for demonstration at game fairs, Alan handed me an unusual calibre: the 9.3x62mm. Ok, this is not your normal everyday stalking calibre, but it is very popular for Bushveld shooting and running boar where the game is shot at shorter distances. The large bullets are slower than many equivalents, but I understand they can put up with being shot through small branches or thickets without breaking up.
As for optics, Alan kindly supplied a Zeiss Victory 3-12×56 with an illuminated reticle mounted on a Ziegler ZP mounting system. This claw mounting system allows the scope to be easily removed without affecting the zero. To do this, push the outer front mount blocks back and lift the front of the optic to remove. It is a very well engineered system and useful if you have a choice of optics to deal with a variety of game.
Once bore sighted, the zero procedure was simple with the Zeiss optic tracking logically after adjustment. At 100 yards, I managed a 1.5in group using 285-grain soft pointed Norma Oryx travelling at 2,650fps, which I think is truly respectable considering the calibre and the fact that I was only resting the gun on a branch. The recoil can only be described as a straight hard push as opposed to a snappy kick. The trigger made the gun feel like a smaller calibre (well, until it was pulled), allowing the shooter to concentrate on picking a spot on the target. From standing sticks, 2-3in groups were easily maintained and as for the bolt, the rounds were ejected and reloaded in double quick time – just right for running boar.
I removed the Zeiss scope to facilitate the use of the open sights. Standing freehand at 75 yards, despite shooting 9in low, the windage was spot on. No doubt with more practice, I would be more on target. Once again, the gun felt beautiful to hold despite the recoil. Replacing the scope didn’t seem to alter the zero, reflecting the quality of the Ziegler mounts and scope rings.
The Lynx Hunter is available in two actions: .308 to 6.5x55SE and 7×57 to .375 H&H with a range of wooden and laminated stocks. I really enjoyed using the Lynx Hunter – but then again I should do, as the starting price is around £3,700. The model on test was £4,200 owing to the superior stock and open sights. The target range is also available with laminated stocks from £3,950. As for the Ziegler mounts, the bases are £479 and rings another £240, but standard Tikka mounts have identical rail dimensions.
The Lynx is a specialist rifle for the hunter who wants to shoot with a gun that is different and has a story to tell. With Pirkan ASE’s background of providing highly accurate rifles for competitive Biathletes, you know for sure that it will never disappoint.