Is this the fastest bolt action rifle on the market? Jonty Drew reviews the Merkel Helix Speedster.

At County Deer Stalking, we were thrilled to get hands-on with the Merkel Helix Speedster at this year's Stalking Show. now, whilst such events offer valuable opportunities to experience the rifle's ergonomics and fit, the true test of equipment lies in taking it to the range or on an actual stalk. Luckily, a few Capreolus Club members who own the Merkel Helix Speedster graciously allowed us to try it out, allowing us to get a deeper understanding of its capabilities.

The Rifle

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The Merkel Helix Speedster is a high-quality, straight pull bolt-action rifle known for its innovative design and premium craftsmanship. Merkel, a German manufacturer with a long history of producing premium firearms, has aimed to blend traditional gunsmithing with modern technology with this model.

Upon initially handling the rifle, its highly ergonomic design immediately stands out. The precise and clean machining, along with the hammer-forged barrel, promises longevity. The open thumbhole grip with the bridge removed allows for easy access to the decocking safety mechanism, enabling smooth and easy operation without requiring a significant adjustment to your hand position.

A standout feature of the Helix Speedster is of course its straight-pull bolt, which Merkel claims is the fastest in the world. This mechanism allows for quicker cycling compared to traditional turn-bolt rifles, making follow-up shots faster—an advantage when culling multiple animals or, for our international hunters, running game. The bolt operates smoothly and efficiently, with a design that reduces the risk of losing sight alignment during cycling. This is achieved through a 2-1 transmission: when the bolt handle moves 2 inches, the bolt head moves 4 inches. As a result, the bolt handle stays within the stock, and the cocking motion is kept to a minimum.

The adjustable cheek rest/comb incorporates a 'memory-lock' feature, which can be adjusted through the recoil pad using the built-in tool. The trigger pull is adjustable, ranging from 1.9 pounds to 4 pounds, with aftermarket alternatives available for precision shooters.

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Both the stock and fore-end feature a soft-touch finish, providing a secure grip and quality feel without being overly 'plasticky'. The SpeedStock is available in Black, Green, and a limited-edition Black/Orange version. The rifle weighs approximately 3.2 kg and has a magazine capacity of either 3+1 or 5+1 rounds.

The Speedster is available in a wide range of calibres, from .222 to .338 Win, catering to diverse hunting needs and offering interchangeable barrels. While some frequent users have mentioned occasional jamming issues, I would like to note that we did not experience any problems during our range session. The model we tested was chambered in .308 and demonstrated exceptional performance throughout.

Interestingly, the speedster is also a true takedown rifle, allowing for easy disassembly and cleaning. The process is remarkably straightforward and doesn't require any tools. This involves removing the fore-end, pulling a leaver down and away from the rifle, and separating the barrel from the stock/action. This breaks the rifle into three parts, making it more convenient, portable and less conspicuous to travel with. Once the barrel is removed the bolt-face can also be detached for increased security. Reversing this process will put the rifle back together, and remarkably the rifle will hold zero, a feature we are seeing more frequently with more premium rifles.

The Range

Shooting on the range provided an interesting perspective. The rifle, not specifically designed for range use or bipod zeroing but rather for driven hunting, was somewhat uncomfortable to zero. Nonetheless, once zeroed, it demonstrated its intended capability by firing aimed shots at an impressive rate of one per second, accurately hitting the 100m target. The straight-pull bolt system was a game-changer; unlike traditional rifles where you must raise or adjust your head off the stock to avoid the bolt, the Speedster’s design kept everything encapsulated. This allowed for consistent cheek contact, enhancing both the comfort and accuracy whilst shooting.

Furthermore, the unique thumbhole stock assisted quick and easy hand positioning. Combined with the ergonomically placed bolt handle just above the trigger, this design made the rifle incredibly user-friendly. The bolt handle's placement allowed my hand to move straight to it from firing, providing smooth and efficient operation.

It is worth noting, however, that the current model is only available for right-handed individuals, which can be somewhat frustrating for someone like me who is primarily left-handed but reluctantly capable of shooting with both shoulders due to being brought up with right-handed rifles. Nevertheless, similar to my experience with the Blaser R8, the straight-pull feature of the rifle allows for shooting from either shoulder, regardless of the bolt side. One would anticipate the availability of this feature from a high-end manufacturer, particularly considering that approximately 10% of the population is left-handed and around 30% are left-eye dominant, a factor that influences individual accuracy and is often overlooked.

Conclusion

In my opinion, the Merkel Helix Speedster presents exceptional quality and versatility, blending traditional craftsmanship with modern innovation. Its highly ergonomic design, precision engineering, and swift straight-pull bolt system sets it apart as an excellent choice for hunters prioritising comfort and performance in the field. While reports of occasional jamming issues have been communicated (though not personally witnessed), and its limited availability for left-handed shooters presents a drawback, I maintain that the rifle's overall excellence far surpasses these concerns. Priced at £3390, I firmly believe that for those in search of a user-friendly, comfortable, portable, and highly accurate rifle for their stalking or hunting pursuits, the Merkel Helix Speedster represents a worthwhile investment.

 To read our review of a whole range of other alternative rifles, follow this link: rifle-reviews

To learn more about rifle calibres click here: rifle-calibres

Or, If you are interested in deer stalking and would like to learn how to become a trained hunter and harvest your own deer from the countryside, a great place to get some training is by taking the ‘Proficient Deer Stalking Certificate Level 1 (PDS1) a LANTRA approved deer stalking course that provides the candidate with the skills required to humanely stalk and harvest wild deer. To find out more, simply follow this link: deer-stalking-course

If you’d like to go deer stalking, County Deer Stalking is a leading provider of deer stalking outings around the South of England. You can contact us on: 0230 981 0159 or by emailing This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.   

 

 

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