Range Day: Merkel RX Helix

Courtesy Joe Grine
Like most things made in Germany, the Merkel RX Helix is an engineering marvel. The Merkel is the newest straight pull bolt action rifle on the market. What sets it apart from the crowd is the fact that the action uses cams to reduce the length of travel.  As an example, for a .300 Win Mag you only need to pull the handle back 2.5 inches to get the bolt to move 4.5 inches.   I was really impressed how smooth and effortless it was to chamber and extract a round from the rifle. This is undoubtedly the fastest bolt action rifle I have ever handled, and second place finisher is not really close . . .

Courtesy Joe Grine

Another great feature of the Merkel is that you change barrels, calibers etc. without tools in about 20 seconds.  If you need to change to a caliber that features a different case head size, you can also change the bolt as well in a minute or so.

Merkels are not cheap:  The RX Helix will run you $3500 and up, depending on options.  But for a drop dead sexy 7 lb switch caliber rifle with a lighting fast bolt, this thing is hard to beat.

comments

    1. avatar BillC says:

      That was a constructive comment! Cool mechanism that is open to debate about it’s pros and cons, and you say “meh”? I wonder what it must take to impress you?

    2. avatar Brett cardinal says:

      I have one , & I love it . I have three barrels for it .243 , 6.5×55 & 30-06.
      I have bought & sold heaps if guns , but this one is a keeper. I have been on a hunt for deer & took a different barrel in my back pack. It’s very accurate & the return to zero is awesome. It fits like a glove & is a pleasure to shoot . A spare barrel is around $800 ( Australian ) which is much cheaper than a new gun.
      If your considering a blaser , try the merkel first. You won’t be disappointed

      1. avatar Tom says:

        Hi, I also have rx helix in .243 and 30-06 but although I tried to find most appropriate ammo I can’t get MOA better than 2 inches. Could you advise me what kind of ammo do you use for .243 and 30-06.
        It would be great if you could help me in this.

        Best Regards
        Tom

        1. avatar Brandon says:

          You need to use ammo that is manufactured to the CIP standard not he SAAMI. I was at the range a couple of months ago and ran into a Merkel employee and discussed some issues i was having with mine. Long story short, merkel has manufactured their rifles for CIP standard ammo. For this reason firing winchester, remington, federal and the like will five you terrible groups. Hornady 220gr .308 work well for me, but i have a sneaking suspicion they are loaded by norma here in europe so they fire well. The most accurate hands down is the RWS DK. I have a .308 and .223 barrel and while the price of the larger rounds isn’t ideal accuracy is spot on in this gun. Also be advised that accuracy depends greatly on how well the scope is mounted. I had mine done by a master riflemaker and have had no issues.

      2. avatar Tom says:

        Hi,
        I also have rx helix in .243 and 30-06 but although I tried to find most appropriate ammo I can’t get MOA better than 2 inches. Could you advise me what kind of ammo do you use for .243 and 30-06.
        It would be great if you could help me in this.
        Best Regards
        Tom

    3. avatar Patrick Atkins says:

      Just bought a Merkel Helix. I love it. What that say about it is true and for the purpose it is made nothing comes close. Only if everyone could afford one or try one, then, they could see the difference.

  1. avatar ropingdown says:

    Glad to see this item. I think the big win for this, as for the Blaser, should come from guys who want a sheep- or elk-hunting mountain gun in .270 or 7mm magnum. Light weight plus future caliber options should make them sell.

  2. avatar Mk10108 says:

    Video with dat?

  3. avatar crashbbear says:

    I’m still confused as to why straight pull bolt guns never went mainstream. Is it just easier/cheaper to make a traditional bolt?

    1. avatar jwm says:

      Back in the 1890s and early 1900s different straight pulls were tried by the militaries of different countries. The US had the 6mm Lee Navy for the marines and the Canadians went into the trenches in ww1 with the Ross .303.

      The Ross turned out to be a real disaster. It did very poorly in the mud and dirt of the trenches and the Canadians rapidly replaced them with Lee Enfields.

      As a loose rule if a weapon does well in military service it transitions well into civilian use. The Mauser, Lee Enfield and others cemented the bolt actions place in the shooting world.

      The straight pull? Not so much.

      1. avatar S_J says:

        The excellent Schmidt-Rubin series of rifles seems to be the only straight pull design of any longevity in military service, too bad it was only adopted by a neutral country.

        1. avatar jwm says:

          Yeah, the Swiss avoided trench warfare or any other kind. Their rifles have a rep for quality and accuracy. But how would they hold up to a real world situation?

        2. avatar S_J says:

          Good question, after handling both a K31 and a Ross the K31 does seem a lot more robust and smoother than the Ross design but the fact that they didn’t really catch on anywhere else unlike the Mauser action probably points to some weakness under pressure in combat or wartime manufacture. I seriously doubt perfectionists like the Swiss would keep the S-R around as long as they did if it was an inferior firearm though.

    2. avatar ropingdown says:

      I can’t speak to the Merkel, but in regard to the Blaser: Many of the features of the Blaser were developed specifically to comply with relatively recent EU firearm safety laws, which are just as tedious as you might expect. After 115 years of satisfaction with Mauser derivatives, and millions of derivatives in the European hunting fields, the regulators decided a decocking mechanism must be added. Next, the straight pull bolt as implemented by Blaser is both expensive and locks people in, for the time, to Blaser replacement barrels. With a traditional design you can buy barrels from many good suppliers. Europe has tougher gun transport laws and there is a premium on ‘take down’ guns stored unobtrusively in your car in shorter cases. Few (no?) classic bolt guns are take-down.

      You can buy three or four complete CZ550’s or Winchester Model 70’s for less money, and both of these are in very common use by professional hunters. In Europe, but not NA, driven hunts are both legal and common, so you might have two deer or five hogs to shoot, and in a hurry, which makes a slightly faster bolt worth money. (Though in Texas and some other states you can just go semi-auto.)

      1. avatar jwm says:

        Hell, in Texas you can go full auto in a helicopter.

        1. avatar ropingdown says:

          In Texas there’s plenty of going full helicopter in an auto, too.
          http://www.myfoxdfw.com/story/24160431/divers-try-to-pull-up-car-that-plunged-into-lake-lewisville

          I went through Ft. Wolters in 1972, WOC. My roomate retired two years ago and flies hunters around near El Paso. Has to be fun, but a machine gun just wouldn’t be Fair Chopper Chase.

  4. avatar William Burke says:

    So this is named for the German Chancellor? Made BY her? C’mon, it’s too much of a coincidence! 😉

  5. avatar Tom in Oregon says:

    Joe, how would you compare this with the Blaser?

    1. avatar Joe Grine says:

      Definitely more smooth and effortless pull than the Blaser. The Blaser seems more “high-end” in some respects. But I would need to see them side by side to draw any firm conclusions.

  6. avatar Felix says:

    You say it’s the fastest bolt action you’ve ever handled — have you ever shot a Lee-Enfield? I managed 10 rounds (full magazine) at something like 1.01 seconds per shot, and got 8 of them on a target paper 100 feet away.

    1. avatar lolinski says:

      A Enfield is fast but a straight pull with cams is faster than greased lightning.

      Simply due to a shorter movement, and less movement. Back and forth vs up, back, forward and down.

    2. avatar Dyspeptic Gunsmith says:

      Next time the Winter Olympics come ’round, pay attention to the Biathlon shooters. Look at their rifles. Many of those are toggle-bolt Annies, and they’re wicked, wicked fast. Faster even than the the cock-on-close bolts like the Enfields and Sauer 200 series.

      1. avatar lolinski says:

        I have seen them, but I don’t envy them. Happy with the Sauer 200 STR I use.

  7. avatar ropingdown says:

    For those worried that you need a straight pull to shoot fast on driven game, in YouTube search on: Sauer 202 boar aimpoint -And you see Franz Albert shoot driven wild boar extremely quickly, very effectively, with an aimpoint hunter but no straight pull.

  8. avatar ropingdown says:

    I’m kind of bummed that Merkel is now wholly owned by Tawazun, the Abu Dhabi Investment Company. TTAG reviewed the gun in September, 2011. And speaking of deflation, prices on the straight pull guns keep falling and falling. That goes for both the RX Helix and Blaser R8. I’d still rather just pick up another Winchester Model 70 and throw AA or exhibition-grade wood on it, and a good scope. Prefer the Win safety and a traditional stock.

  9. avatar Mark N. says:

    An article I read many years ago stated that the bolt lock up on the Blaser was 360 degrees, not just two or three lugs, something that can be accomplished only with a straight pull. Very interesting tech. But of course it also means proprietary barrels and chambers…

  10. avatar JD says:

    very nice with that bolt, but I’ll stick with the Much cheaper, domestically produced modular caliber offering (T/C Dimension).

  11. avatar Lars Drachmann says:

    I have one Merkel Helix RX cal 308 with S&L superdome 45 here in Nuuk, Greenland. We hunt reindeer in the harshest environment. We sail for hours, walk for miles and the rocks makes its marks on the synthetic stock, but can easily be sanded away. I broke one of the swivels on my first hunt with the Merkel carrying the heavy reindeer for miles to the shore. Its very hard to obtain new swivels, they dont use standard us size swivel holes, I wrote Merkel twice with no luck to have them direct me to a dealer who sells their swivels. Besides that I am very happy with the rifle, its precise even after firing a fast series of shots. I took some swivels from my Baikal shotgun and they fit, but would prefer sako swivels or uncle mike swivels any day.

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