A DIFFERENT KIND OF AUSTRIAN PERFECTION
Recoil|January - February 2021
Strasser’s RS14 Straight-Pull Renews Our Enthusiasm for All Things Ballistic
Iain Harrison
Getting paid to travel the world and shoot guns is pretty much the definition of a privileged existence. But once you’ve analyzed the latest striker-fired 9mm handgun (again) and yet another AR that’s claimed by the manufacturer to offer something that no one else does, just like every other company out there, well things start getting a little same-y. We know, first-world problems ...

Then something comes along to kick you in the nuts, slapping you with the realization that yes, you could be back swinging a hammer for a living and daydreaming about the weekend when you get to shoot your favorite guns. As you’ve probably noticed, we’re not big into hunting rifles here at RECOIL. Over on the CARNIVORE side of the house, well that’s their bread and butter, but in this publication a bolt gun had better be pretty damn exceptional if it graces these pages.

This is one of those exceptional, nutkicking guns, and every time you delve a little bit deeper, it delivers another love tap.

MORE THAN SKIN DEEP

There are some things in the firearms realm the Europeans do a bit differently, and some of those are objectively superb. Of course, there are glaring examples where good ol’ ’Murican engineering and manufacturing outclasses anything coming out of that continent (G36 and L85 anyone?), but there are other cases where we’d struggle to match them. Hailing from the corner of the globe that in 1898 set the standard of what a bolt gun should be, Strasser is a comparative newcomer, but one that started with a clean sheet of paper.

Since the turn of the 20th century, the gun-buying public has pretty much decided that a bolt-action rifle should have two locking lugs — three if you’re particularly daring and avant-garde — and should be manipulated by first lifting up the bolt handle to cock the action, then pulling the bolt to the rear to eject a spent case through the ejection port on the right, before reversing the process to chuck a fresh round into the chamber. While there’s been the occasional side excursion into straight-pull territory, the Mauser 98 has been the gold standard, because it’s tried and true, and it just works. Straight-pull designs have traditionally struggled when things get hot and dirty, as most lack an effective means of primary extraction.

It might be worthwhile at this juncture to discuss just what primary extraction is, and why it’s important. Once you’ve lit off a round, the cartridge case expands to seal off the chamber, preventing hot, high-pressure gases from escaping and ruining your new haircut. As the bullet exits, barrel pressure drops to match the surrounding atmosphere, but the case doesn’t shrink back to its original dimensions. There’s a certain amount of stickiness between brass and steel, which needs to be overcome in order to get the case out of the chamber. In turnabout rifles, this typically happens as you lift the bolt — at the end of its upward travel, there’s a cam surface between the bolt handle root and the rear of the action that provides extra leverage to get the case moving. In Mosin-Nagants, this extra leverage should rightly be supplemented by beating on it with a 2x4, but in straight-pulls, it’s usually absent. No upward component to the bolt’s movement equals no primary extraction.

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