A year ago, Nick reviewed the original Strasser RS14. His biggest gripe, other than bemoaning the recoil of its stout chambering, was the expensive and proprietary scope mount system. Cool for sure, but limiting. Six months later, Strasser had taken his feedback to heart and produced this: the RS14 Evolution.
With a Picatinny rail machined directly into the receiver, the modern rifleman can now employ the optics mounting solution of his or her preference.
As a bonus, the additional material makes for a stiffer, stronger action.
Historically we haven’t seen a whole lot of this; a manufacturer taking market feedback and building it into the product so quickly. Especially, no offense, Austrian and German firearms manufacturers who aren’t exactly known for customer-first attitudes.
Then again, Strasser, located just outside of Salzburg in Austria near the German border, appears to have a really good sense of humor, too. In my review video, I referred to the original RS14 as “an engineer’s wet dream.” Some months later I got a call from their U.S. rep asking if Strasser corporate could quote me on that for some marketing material including t-shirts.
My first question: “they understand the translation, right? They know what that means? There’s no ‘lost in translation’ sort of thing going on here?” I was assured that most definitely wasn’t the case and that they thought it was both hilarious and fitting. Permission granted.
And it really is fitting. Kind of gross, but fitting. The RS14 is absolutely one of my favorite rifles ever, and much of that comes down to the practical application of extraordinary engineering. Which, incidentally, might make for a good backup slogan for use around mixed company.
One of its most amazing features is how quickly and easily the RS14 can be swapped from one caliber to another. In this case, between 6.5 Creedmoor [cue angels singing] and .223 Remington, but at least 20 other calibers are also available from Strasser.
To take advantage of this rapid caliber-swapping capability, first remove the bolt and push the button in the action that releases the self-contained, adjustable trigger unit from the gun. Remove the hex key stored in the front of the trigger unit and use it to loosen the bolt in the handguard. One turn will do it.
Slide the handguard off the receiver and, inside, you’ll find the barrel tool wedged into its storage slot.
Stick the barrel tool into the brass locking lever and rotate it all the way down.
With the locking lever in this position, the barrel will slip right out of the receiver.
Now swap the bolt head (if required) by simply lifting up on that gray lever (seen in “up” unlocked position in the photo above, just behind the “MIN” marking) by hand and sliding the bolt head off. Slide the new one on — it indexes on a pin — and lower the lever. Done. Multiple bolt heads are available for mini, standard, and magnum calibers.
Reverse the process to install the new barrel. A pin provides repeatable orientation indexing for precise return-to-zero. This whole process is extremely simple and well thought out, and takes only a couple of minutes.
The Strasser RS14 has one of the best triggers of any rifle on the planet. In standard firing mode, pull weight can be adjusted between light, medium, and heavy (from about 3.5 to 5 lbs) with no tools. Simply click the spring-loaded shaft between forward, center, and rear positions (seen above in forward — lightest pull weight — position and below in rear position).
In set trigger mode — click the trigger forwards to “set” it — pull weight is adjustable from 100 to 200 grams. That’s 3.5 ounces to 7 ounces. From the factory this trigger broke at about 5 ounces and, I gotta say, that’s almost imperceptibly light. As soon as the pad of your trigger finger thinks about starting to dent, the rifle fires.
Whether in standard firing mode or set trigger mode, there is zero creep or motion prior to the crisp, clean break. Unlocking the bolt or engaging the safety will automatically reset the trigger from set mode to standard mode.
There are a limited number of RS14 Evolutions being imported into the U.S. by International Firearm Corporation with this presentation grade walnut furniture. The standard rifle for the U.S. market has a very nice looking, gray/black laminate stock with adjustable cheek rest.
Which is the version I hope to purchase eventually. The adjustable cheek rest will be appreciated but, mostly, I won’t worry about that laminate stock as much. The walnut stock and forend are just too dang pretty to risk damaging.
The laminate version also offers a bipod mount on the bottom of the forend, plus a sling mount at front, whereas the walnut flavor has only the front sling point. For hunting and other purposes, I do want to run a bipod that’s attached to the rifle.
That said, it’s really cool that this classic looking rifle includes the modern touch of QD sockets for the sling points.
Thanks to that integral Picatinny rail I was able to take an already-mounted scope (a Leupold VX-3i LRP) off another rifle and pop it right onto the RS14 Evolution, saving quite a bit of time and hassle vs. removing a scope from a mount and installing it in a proprietary Strasser one.
Speaking of modern, ZRODelta’s DLOC mount makes this process even easier. Their QD system is fantastic — best on the market — whether AR height or low profile like this one.
Strasser and I hit the range with .223 queued up first. As I couldn’t put a bipod up front, I used the very nice Caldwell Stinger rest that Jon Wayne Taylor rightfully recommended.
My first group was with CapArms 60 grain V-Max. Hey 0.688 MOA is pretty dang good! This thing’s a shooter.
55 grain Liberty Ammunition Silverado turned in a 3/4-minute group.
And then things got weird.
At 69 grains — Federal Gold Medal — things began to open up.
From 69 grain Eagle Eye to 73 grain Federal Gold Medal Berger to 75 grain Hornady Black to 77 grain Federal Gold Medal, things got progressively worse. With the heavier loads, the bullets obviously were not stabilizing and were wobbling enough to punch oblong holes in the target.
In fact — and this is kind of funny — I shot that last target early on and thought things were going amazingly well. The first impact was the hole to the right of the bullseye and I thought I put the next two shots through the same hole. Since it was somewhat ragged and I didn’t see impacts anywhere near it, I was thrilled with the accuracy as three shots hit the same spot! As I was pumping myself up to not ruin a one-hole, three-shot group by shanking shots four or five, I noticed holes so far away that I hadn’t previously seen them. Ha! I guess that’s what a 9-inch group will get you. One shot isn’t even on the paper.
Moral of the story: a call to International Firearm Corp confirmed that the .223 barrel on my demo rifle has the slow twist rate used in the European rifles. The American market barrels are supposed to have a 1:8″ twist, which should produce significantly better results from those heavier projectiles. With this slow twist (unconfirmed whether it was 1:10″ or 1:12″), I think it’s fair to say that anything over about 65 grains is unlikely to produce the tight groups that you’d expect from these extremely high quality barrels, and at some point over 70 grains bullet stability is questionable.
Over to 6.5 Creedmoor and I’m not sure what the twist rate of my demo barrel is. Unfortunately, these ones don’t have that information marked on them. It shot okay for me but not great.
130 grain Federal Gold Medal Berger.
140 grain Hornady Black.
120 grain Hornady ELD Match.
Finally, sub-minute groups (the one above is 0.826 MOA) from 142 grain Winchester Expedition Big Game Long Range. On a related note, this ammo has been the most accurate load through four different 6.5 Creedmoor rifles that I’ve tested after shooting four or five different loads through each. It’s fantastic ammo.
So unfortunately I can’t exactly say that I’m impressed with the accuracy of this rifle. Mostly due, I suppose, to being a picky eater about which ammo it likes and which ammo it doesn’t. With the right load, it’s clearly a sub-minute or half-minute gun. But finding that right load can be a challenge and, when you do find it, hopefully it’s also one you want to use.
On the other hand, this Strasser rifle is a supercar to run. It’s one of the smoothest, fastest, best-sorted bolt action rifles anywhere.
That straight-pull bolt action is insane. Rip the bolt handle back, shove it forwards; it’s so dang fast and wonderfully smooth. The feel is solid and it screams quality and precision. Everything about it is Swiss clock meets bank vault meets Ferrari.
Even the act of single loading rounds is simplified thanks to the open left side of the action. A right-handed shooter can now see into the action with the rifle shouldered and can easily drop rounds on top of the magazine with his or her left hand. Awesome.
In every way the experience of shooting the RS14 Evolution is rewarding and pleasurable. With the right ammo. And damn if it doesn’t look amazing.
At the end of the day I’m still in love with this gun. I’d love to own a laminate stock version (called the RS14 Evolution Tahr) eventually with a threaded 6.5 Creedmoor barrel and a threaded 300 AAC Blackout barrel. I’m just not sure I’ll ever quite have the budget for it. It’s a looker, it’s a shooter, it would make a fantastic hunting rifle, and the RS14 Evolution is a hell of a piece of great engineering.
SPECIFICATIONS: Strasser RS14 Evolution
Caliber: tested in 6.5 Creedmoor and .223 Rem, but available in 22+ calibers
Capacity: 3+1 rounds (in the calibers reviewed, with the flush-fitting magazines)
Barrel Length: 22″
Weight: 7.4 lbs
RATINGS (out of five stars):
Style and Appearance * * * * *
It does it for me. Modern lines and modern touches (Pic rail, QD sockets, straight pull, nitriding) blended with old fashioned quality and styling. And wood. Really, really nice wood.
Ergonomics * * * *
The forend is a bit on the skinny and round side (the Tahr’s forend is better for the shooter), and the stock is not adjustable for cheek rest, length of pull, or anything else. However, the stock does have a nice, raised cheekpiece and the whole rifle balances and operates nicely. That straight pull bolt is fast, fast, fast and oh-so-smooth.
Customization * * * *
Quick-swapping calibers and barrels is amazing! An integrated Picatinny rail for mounting optics is great. I’d like the ability to mount a bipod up front, though, and a better selection of American market-focused barrels offering tighter twist rates, threaded muzzles, and likely shorter lengths would be nice.
Accuracy * * * *
Sub- to half-MOA, five-shot group capability is unquestionably there. It’s only a question if finding and using the right ammo.
Reliability * * * * *
Overall * * * *
Gorgeous. A joy to shoot. Give me a bipod and tone down the ammo sensitivity and the Strasser RS14 is a five-star gun in every way. Well, except for price because it ain’t cheap, of course. The cost of entry is high, but is still in the “I get it” realm given the incredible quality and the “practical application of extraordinary engineering” that went into this thing.