The F16 is a new gun with a new action at a favorable price.
By Bruce Buck
Blaser firearms are made in the bucolic country town of Isny, in southernmost Germany. It’s between Munich and Zurich, Switzerland, on the edge of the Alps and just a few miles from the border of the principality of Liechtenstein. Like all of Germany’s countryside, it is postcard neat, clean and organized. I visited the factory in 2012 and found it to be thoroughly modern.
After almost 60 years in business, Blaser continues to produce its world-famous rifles in bolt action, the break-action single shot Stutzen, the over/under shotgun/rifle Bergstutzen and the three-barreled shotgun/rifle Drilling. Blaser started producing modern shotguns in 2003 with the F3 over/under in a clay-target version (Gun Review, Jan/Feb ’06) and a game model (Gun Review, March/April ’14.)
The F3 over/under clays version has become quite popular in America, where it has won numerous championships in sporting clays and trap. Today its base price has increased from its introductory cost of less than $5,000 to about $8,000. While well less than Perazzi and Krieghoff guns, the technically innovative F3 is far above the excellent, basic $2,500 Beretta Silver Pigeon. Until now that has left a pretty good price gap . . . but Blaser has just filled it.
Enter the Blaser F16, introduced this year. This isn’t just another version of the F3. It is a new gun with a new action. It costs half of what the F3 does, with the Sporting version listing for $4,195 and the Game version for $3,795, both currently available in 12 gauge only. Blaser was kind enough to send me an F16 Game gun with 28″ barrels to review, and I want to say up front that it is quite a gun.
The gunmetal-gray receiver immediately catches the eye. It is as far away as you can get from being overly fancy, but it has classic purity. Blaser says that the gun has the lowest-profile receiver on the market. A typical Beretta 680 series is about 1⁄16″ deeper, and the Belgian Browning is ¼” deeper. Not that this matters, but the ad men like it. However, nothing is free. The F16’s receiver is 2mm wider than the F3’s.
The F16 receiver is beautifully shaped, with no extraneous lumps, fences or sharp lines. It is slightly rounded underneath for a comfortable field carry. The way that the monoblock flows into the top of the receiver is the smoothest jointure I’ve seen in this area. It’s really slick. There are no exposed screw heads anywhere to break up the view.
The receiver is formed from one solid piece of steel that includes the receiver body, top and bottom tangs and rear vertical connector. This makes it as strong as you get. In fact, I went over the gun with a magnet and found that everything that matters is steel or walnut.
Inside, the action is mechanically clean and not as busy as the F3’s. The F16 has a triggerplate action, with the main moving parts on the tool-removable triggerplate. Unlike the F3’s linear strikers, the F16 uses conventional hammers but with short, vertical coil springs instead of the usual horizontal ones.
The F16 does have the F3’s ejection ball system. As the hammers go forward, they strike not only the firing pins but also the ejector-actuating pins. These pins protrude from the face of the standing breech and engage rod ends in the faces of the ejectors. These set the ejectors, which are then actuated on opening the action. To easily access the firing pins and ejector pins, the face of the F16’s standing breech is removable and held in place by two Torx screws.
The F16’s trigger is mechanical, so it will fire the second shot even if the gun is poorly shouldered or the first shell is a dud. The inertia block prevents doubling. The trigger blade is fixed and not adjustable for length as on the target F16. A fixed trigger is appropriate on a field gun, where extra complication is to be avoided.
What surprised me the most was that shooters of varying statures all shot the gun well.
Blaser, with its rifle heritage, is known for excellent trigger pulls, and the F16’s are no exception. After the slightest bit of take-up, both the upper and lower barrel trigger sears averaged very crisp 3¾ -pound pulls.
The trigger is selective via a lateral toggle on the bottom of the receiver immediately in front of the trigger blade. This is the same selector the F3 has, and it is similar to the one used on the Krieghoff K-80. Unfortunately moving the toggle from right to left selects the lower barrel, just the opposite of what the usual right-handed upland shooter wants when faced with a surprise longer shot.
The safety is a traditional slider mounted on the top tang with an engraved non-slip surface. It is manually operated, not automatic, so you have to remember to engage it. On the plus side, if you practice on clays before the hunting season, you will be most content with this.
The action lockup is both conventional and innovative. The action pivots on the usual replaceable hinge stubs engaging notches in the sides of the monoblock, but the stubs are somewhat larger than usual. Passive locking is by two lugs at the rear of the bottom of the monoblock engaging recesses in the bottom of the receiver.
The active locking bolt is traditional in function and design but innovative in placement. As mentioned, the F16’s receiver is very shallow, and shallow receivers normally use centrally mounted locking bolts like those on Beretta 680s. The F16 uses a low-mounted bolt but has the two bolt extensions engage the monoblock at the very bottom of the sides of the lower barrel chamber. This arrangement allows the greater angular advantage and strength of a low lock mount and yet permits a shallow receiver. Nice touch.
Since the barrel’s monoblock contains the ejectors, the only thing the forend iron does is provide the stud to push the hammer-cocking extension when the gun is opened. But two things make the forend a little different. The first is that it is held on via an Anson pushbutton at the front, like on most side-by-sides. Most O/Us use a Deeley lever latch midway down the forend. The Deeley latch allows more flexibility in the configuration of the nose of an O/U’s forend, but this Blaser’s forend front is very nicely shaped, even with the Anson button. Second, the tension of the forend’s engagement to the action is adjustable for wear via an eccentric cam. Several other shotgun makers do this but not many. This extra is a nice touch requiring a little extra work on Blaser’s part.
The barrels are pretty standard in spite of the fancy advertising jargon of “Triplex bore design.” The bores had 3″ chambers, then long 3″ forcing cones to slightly overbore .732″ barrels. There was a clearance jump out to .745″ at the rear of the screw chokes before the tapers began.
The screw chokes supplied are flush mounted and 2″ long, looking very much like the old Beretta Mobilchokes. But there is a difference. Beretta’s chokes are threaded at the front, while Blaser’s are threaded at the back. While there are no problems with either, I think that rear threading is better and could better forestall carbon seepage and buildup. The chokes are notched on the front edge, to engage the supplied choke wrench.
Three chokes were included: Improved Cylinder, Modified and Improved Modified. The IC had .005″ constriction, not the usual .010″. The interior was all taper with no parallel. The M had .017″ constriction, a touch less than the normal, with ¼” parallel after the conical section. The IM had .020″ constriction, about usual for Modified, with ½” parallel. Note that as the chokes tightened, the parallel got longer, to stabilize the shot. Other choke constrictions as well as extended chokes are available on request. All of our chokes were listed as being suitable for steel shot. Barrel bores are chrome plated, which makes for easier cleaning.
On the outside the barrels have full-length solid side ribs, all the better to keep out arboreal detritus when beating the bushes. The vented top rib is blessedly low, flat and narrow, tapering from 11⁄32″ at the rear to 9⁄32″ in front. There is an appropriately small nickel-silver bead at the muzzle and no silly center bead. The top surface of the rib is crosshatched, to eliminate glare. In fact, the entire barrel is finished matte blue, to eliminate game-alerting flash. Our game-gun barrels were 28″ long, but 30″ tubes are available. If you do a lot of driven shooting or want to add in some target shooting, you might prefer the longer length. If you walk up your birds, keep things short and light.
The wood on our gun was a step up. Walnut with grain rated Grade 2 is standard, Grade 3 is $74 extra and Grade 4 is $321 more. Our demo gun had Grade 4 wood, and it was very nicely figured. For a few hundred dollars above the base price of the gun, it is well worth it.
The standard game-gun stock is listed as having a 14¾” length of pull, 1½” drop at comb, 2¼” drop at heel, 6° of pitch and slight right-hand cast. Our demo gun met those measurements. A slightly straighter sporter stock is available as an option, as is a left-hand stock. Our stock came with a modest right-hand palm swell and a fuller pistol grip than I usually see on field guns. It would double nicely for targets.
The forend is a most attractive minimalist game style with a classic rounded front end. It is fairly slender, and its lines fit perfectly with the gun. Its length allows hand placement forward or aft as preferred.
Wood-to-metal fit was a little proud, but there were no gaps. The clear wood finish was applied neatly but did not quite fill the grain. The F3 I tested also had slightly unfilled grain, and this is typical with many European makers. The checkering appears to be machine cut and is a fine pattern in terms of lines per inch. It is an attractive, modest bordered pattern with full coverage on the bottom of the forend.
The 1″ Comfort recoil pad is marvelous. It reminds me of the Microcell pads from Italy. Solid, yet ultralight, it is smooth, nicely rounded and not the least bit sticky like so many other new pads are. You won’t have to let it age to keep it from catching on your hunting vest.
If you insist on altering the balance, the F16 Game can utilize Blaser’s Balancer weights, which fit on the stock bolt inside the butt, but not the weights that fit under the forend. The Sporter version can fit the weights both front and back.
Our F16 Game came in a lockable ABS Negrini takedown case suitable for air travel. The case is all black, but the Blaser name is molded into the outside for all of the airport nether world to see. The gun was stored in cloth sleeves. A case compartment contained the third choke, Allen key, gun grease, case keys and the basic manual. Blaser’s warranty is a generous 10 years.
The Game is advertised as weighing 6.8 pounds, but our sample was 7 pounds even. Still, that’s fine for a 12-gauge carry gun. The gun is very nicely balanced. Very nicely, indeed. The balance axis is pretty close to neutral at ¼” in front of the hinge pin. Yet the moment of inertia (MOI)—or effort required to swing the gun—is a little bit higher than central balance would indicate. This is because the action is relatively light compared to the barrels and stock. This slight increase in MOI gives the gun a bit more stability without being burdensome.
Naturally, it all comes down to shooting. As I was recuperating from shoulder surgery and thus sidelined for a bit, I enlisted the aid of a half-dozen of my shooting pals. Some were avid hunters, some occasional. Some were excellent target shots, some average. Sizes and builds differed greatly.
The F16 was tested on our fairly challenging local 5 Stand setup. After the first station of five shots each, a total of 28 birds were broken out of 30. I was stunned, and so were my buddies. By the end of the round everyone, regardless of stature or experience, had shot the gun well.
The only mechanical issue was that one shooter had occasional top-barrel ejection failures with factory Rio shells. On my micrometer, both the top and bottom chambers measured the same, so I have no idea as to the cause. Everyone else shot a mixture of reloads and factory ammo and reported no problems. Ejectors were correctly timed and pitched the empties right together about 10 feet.
Comments were uniformly enthusiastic. Several guys said that the gun swung so well that it was like pointing a finger. Everyone liked the balance of the gun. Two of the avid hunters said that they would pick it over any field gun they owned. Everyone said that they would like to try the F16 in the Sporting version.
What surprised me the most was that shooters of varying statures all shot the gun well. You would think that one stock wouldn’t work for different-size shooters, but this one did. Perhaps stock dimensions become less important when a gun handles nicely. One of our local hotshots uses a Blaser F3 Sporter with an adjustable stock, and he was well disposed toward the F16 after he shot it lights out.
Comments on the sub-$4,000 price were also favorable. Shooters felt that Blaser has found a good market niche. I certainly agree. This is a very attractive gun of obviously good quality, and it is nicely balanced. The trigger is crisp, the wood is pretty and, most important, the gun is a real shooter. Keep your 870 for the duck blind. The F16 is too pretty for that. But in the pheasant field or for a driven day, Blaser’s F16 Game gun will shine.
For more information, contact Blaser USA, 210-377-2527; blaser-usa.com.