Gun Review: Strasser RS14 Evolution Rifle

Strasser RS14 Evolution lead

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.

Strasser RS14 Evolution

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
MSRP: $4,600

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  * * * * *
Zero issues.

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.

comments

  1. avatar jwm says:

    Gotta be OCD about making sure those tools are replaced every time you use them.

    Pretty stock.

    1. avatar Jeremy S. says:

      Well thankfully they aren’t really proprietary. The handguard one is just a hex key (allen wrench) and the barrel one is just used as a lever. Any tool that fits into the opening of the barrel clamp lever thing would work, and if your fingers are strong enough you can throw that lever from open to locked or vice versa without a tool at all.

  2. avatar Tim says:

    Hey man. You know the rules.

    No gun reviews.

  3. avatar Craig in IA says:

    Worth looking into. I like the modular concept and it allows certain Europeans to own more than one caliber even if they can only own one rifle. Years ago I picked up an old Blaser R84-type Ultimate Rifle in .375 H&H from an old guy who was done with the Africa hunting. Is not as simple to change over but I later picked up a .243 Win conversion. This thing is easy on you in .375 as far as I’m concerned, is quite accurate in both calibers and also has a forward set trigger. Wish I could find a .30 cal bbl for it. The Strasser appears to be worth looking into. Good article- nice to see something upscale with real wood and not AR platform.

  4. avatar jwtaylor says:

    Any plans for heavier caliber version? Say 8mm Mauser to 9.3X62?
    JWT

    1. avatar Jeremy S. says:

      Both of those calibers are available. If you follow the link in the first paragraph it’ll take you to the info brochure thing and it lists all 22 calibers. Hmm maybe I’ll screen shot that and add it to the article for easy reference.

  5. avatar Tom in Oregon says:

    Reminds me of the Blaser R8.
    The price does too.
    But they’re worth every penny.
    Would love to see it in .375 H&H and or .416 Rigby.

    1. avatar Jeremy S. says:

      So the story goes, the engineer behind the R8 went to or founded Strasser and this design is the evolution of the Blaser by a couple generations. Certainly the locking mechanism is slicker and is supposed to be significantly stronger and safer. It’s a cool system, to be sure, with the radially expanding locking collets that lock into a groove inside the barrel.

      1. avatar LarryinTX says:

        Jeremy, the damn thing looked like a wet dream to me! I was expecting something over $7K, 20 years ago I’d buy it in a minute, today I can’t do my part, no point in buying the gun. But a platform that precise looks like a golden opportunity to explore twist rates vs. bullet weights, benefitting the manufacturer and all others, can’t they provide, for example, 6.5 Creedmore in 3 different twist rates for testing different loadings? The ability (unless I’m reading this wrong) to swap barrels in the same caliber in scant minutes and be right back shooting enables research never possible before.

      2. avatar Tom in Oregon says:

        Oh. Very cool!

        1. avatar Geoff "Mess with the bull, get the horns" PR says:

          Caught up on all your chores at home while you were on ‘vacation’, Tom?

          (Hope you’re doing well. Looks like your cognitive is in good shape, and that’s most of the battle…)

  6. avatar Specialist38 says:

    Interesting rifle. Not for me at 4600.

    A gunsmith friend and I were talking this week.

    Built rifles and engineering marvels like this are now the realm of enthusiast for sake of the gun.

    If you just want to send bullets with precision, you can do it pretty easily with a Ruger American and a decent piece of glass.

    Modern firearm manufacturing is awesome just not very pretty or inferesting looking.

    My blood gets warm at the sight of a pristine Swedish Mauser….. not so much with Ruger American in 308.

    1st world problems……

  7. avatar Jedi Wombat says:

    I’m sorry, I don’t get it. Yes, the engineering and appearance are fantastic, but it seems to me that for 4600 dollars the only time you should see a 9 inch group us if you’re shooting during an earthquake. The .688 group is nice, but for that kind if money it should be the worst one you see. I can’t afford stuff that just looks pretty, it has to perform as well.

    1. avatar Craig in IA says:

      I think you have to understand the market for guns of this nature- not for everyone, and the European market is more elite, restricted in the number of firearms they are allowed to possess (hence the ability to change caliber/gauges) and all. A Krieghoff K-80, Blaser F3 series or Perazzi Mirage is probably not in most American shooter’s budgets or futures, either but there are a lot of them on the trap and skeet ranges where I shoot.

      Guns for many are mere harvesting or defensive tools, for some, art and expression. Both Old Mil and Chivas Regal will get you there, just a matter of taste.

  8. avatar MyName says:

    It is a cool piece of kit but, at that price, I think the U.S. market for it will be small. You can get an awful lot of gun for half that price and you can match that accuracy at 30% of that price (or less). Don’t get me wrong, I love precision design and manufacture but, I’d have a hard time buying this one gun instead of 3 others.

    1. avatar Art out West says:

      I’d rather just pick up a dozen regular rifles in various configurations.

      I am a simple man, and am content with quality midrange firearms.

      The firearm world is a wide and wonderful place. Not all guns are designed with me in mind, and that is cool. I’m sure some folks would love to have this rifle. This is a great concept.

      1. avatar Jeremy S. says:

        As I see it, it’s not unlike comparing a Camry to a Ferrari. Both will get you to work just fine, but that doesn’t mean the experience is the same. While every firearm fires a projectile, and all sorts of firearms are capable of sub-MOA accuracy, they don’t all look, feel, or operate the same. Plenty of people will purchase a Bentley SUV instead of a Chevy SUV, even if there’s precisely zero difference in function or utility. I don’t think this is very different from lusting after a Ferrari or hoping to own a Porsche someday, etc.. If you look at a car as nothing but a tool to accomplish a specific function, then that would make no sense. If you want to get something more on a personal enjoyment level out of it, then it’s easier to explain the desire for a hot car or a luxury rifle.

        1. avatar jwm says:

          Well, yeah. But a Camry is less likely to burst into flames while you’re driving it……..

        2. avatar MyName says:

          I don’t know that I’d call this a Ferrari or Bentley – Lexus maybe. Kinda my point actually. I get Ferraris and Bentleys – can’t afford them but get why one who could would buy one. I get Holland & Holland too, similar story – can’t afford but understand. This rifle I could afford if I wanted to save up a bit or sell some of what I have, just don’t know that it is worth it to me. Just like I don’t know that I’d bother with a Lexus over that Camry.

        3. avatar Jeremy S. says:

          JWM — You’re thinking of Lamborghini! 😉

          MyName — Lexus is one of the best examples of a “blue ocean” strategy and creating and tapping a market that wasn’t being served. It has been hugely successful for Toyota. I think this gun is a Ferrari in the world of bolt action guns, but even if it’s only a Lexus to a Toyota, the point remains the same. People DO pay for the real and perceived and aesthetic and emotional (enjoyment, status/image) differences between those things.

    2. avatar Craig in IA says:

      “It is a cool piece of kit but, at that price, I think the U.S. market for it will be small.” YA THINK??? I doubt the maker will try to keep up with the Ruger American, Savage Axis or Remington 710 market… Quality and uniqueness v quantity.

  9. avatar Southern Cross says:

    As soon as I saw the .223 groups opening out, I thought “barrel pitch” must be a 1:10 to stabilize 60s but not 69s. I know a 1:9 will stabilize 69s because that is the pitch I use and, until costs were prohibitive, I used 69g Sierra Match Kings.

  10. avatar Michael says:

    I have a price point where MOA crosses the $, and as pretty as this is, and as far as the interesting technology involved goes, that is so far north of that point it makes my ears hurt. Good review, though. It is a firearm I know I will never see in my local gun shop. Thanks for the efforts involved. It takes a whole lot of work to set up a gun test, there’s a lot more to it than just sitting down at the keyboard and then just taking a few quick pictures. It takes a high level of journalistic integrity to work that hard, have the hardware get uncooperative and still tell it just how it went. All that work is much appreciated. Sometimes, I just want to read about gun stuff other than politics. It’s much easier on my blood pressure and proven to improve my digestion and disposition. -30-

  11. avatar Gov. William J Le Petomane says:

    Does it come in .260?

    And do they offer 85% discounts?

  12. avatar Darren says:

    These guns sell for less than $4600. I own 2 and they shoot sub moa groups. I also sell them. They are by far my favorite guns and I own guns that I paid over twice as much. I sell the Evolution for $3600. You can’t buy this kind of quality in the US without buying a custom built firearm. After seeing the workmanship you will wonder how they sell it so cheap.

  13. avatar Jim Moseley says:

    For $4600, I can buy a real rifle that shoots.

  14. avatar Charlie says:

    The engineer in me appreciates the concept and the execution of the RS14. That’s a real pretty rifle. But the practical side of me says I don’t need a fancy rifle to do a dirty job. And in the real world wet drippy woods, blood and guts, and indifferent maintenance are the norm.

    Charlie

  15. avatar BLAMMO says:

    Nice. Very nice. I like it. I like it a lot.

    Now, make it completely tool-less and get the price below two grand and I’ll think about it.

  16. avatar Geoff "Mess with the bull, get the horns" PR says:

    “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.”

    You should have replied “sure thing, and it would be really nice if you sent me an RS14 instead of the T-shirt.”

    But it’s good for your ego to frame the magazine ad and hang it on your wall…

    1. avatar Jeremy S. says:

      Actually I didn’t get a t-shirt, just a photo of the t-shirt haha. But you’re right, I’d very graciously accept some sort of ‘wet dream edition’ RS14 Tahr as long as any custom engraving wasn’t too graphic 😉

  17. According to their spec-sheet in the photo, the 300 Blackout version has a 22-inch barrel.
    Isn’t that just a tad… ridiculous? The 300 Blackout is basically a pistol cartridge, as it’s one of the few (if not the only) cartridges that reaches its full specified velocity with a 16-inch barrel (most other calibers are specced with a 24-inch barrel). What’s the point of chambering a rifle in 300 Blackout if you put a long 22-inch barrel on it, a barrel that isn’t even threaded?
    Do they expect you to pay $4,600 for a rifle in 300 Blackout and then have pay to have the barrel chopped to 16″, re-crowned, and threaded? SMH

    1. avatar Jeremy S. says:

      It’s my understanding that a short, threaded one is available for the US market along with threaded barrels in a couple other calibers. It isn’t on that Euro spec sheet though.

  18. avatar John1911.com says:

    Interesting gun. Generally the Europeans are way ahead of the US market when it comes to switch calibers that are accurate. As someone who loves straight pulls and is knee deep in the Blaser game, I see a lot of different tech here.

    The bolt head change reminds me of the Mauser M03 system.
    The barrel locking levers remind me of the Sauer 202 or 404 system.
    The mags are Sauer 202 all day.
    The trigger removal is defiantly Blaser R8.
    The proprietary QD scope systems is just something Europeans default to.
    Additionally, slow twist rates are also a bad habit they have.

    Neat gun. First I’ve heard of it. I’ll be keeping an eye out.

    —Marky

  19. avatar MouseGun says:

    I’m not badmouthing this gun or the people who own it, but who is this thing for? In the modern age, you can get a great hunting rifle for <$1000. Why spend this kind of scratch on something that isn’t even custom?

  20. avatar Rockymountain9 says:

    “An engineer’s wet dream”… assuming that same engineer gets off to a multi-thousand-dollar centerfire rifle printing groups like it’s a smoothbore slug shotgun… As an engineer, color me thoroughly unimpressed.

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