Jan. 25, 2011
The takedown rifle came in an attaché case, so that’s the way I traveled with it. I intended to check zero on arrival anyway, and in this situation it would be mandatory because I was changing the load. So on a warm July day we repaired to a range on Tom Hammond’s Record Buck Ranch, which carries the wonderful (and genuine) address of “Utopia, Texas.”
I set the case on a bench, opened it up and put the .300 Winchester Magnum barrel on the action (this operation takes a bit of getting used to, but I was getting better at it). Then I clipped the 1.5-6X Zeiss scope into its swing-off mount. On my range at home I’d zeroed the rifle with 180-grain bullets. Groups had been very good with both Winchester Power Point and Remington Core-Lokt Ultra, with no appreciable difference in point of impact.
In other words, the rifle had seemed forgiving as well as accurate. However, it had just been assembled and had the detachable scope attached, and I switched to a 180-grain Winchester Power Max Bonded load that had never been fired in this rifle.
OK, there were clean targets at both 50 and 100 yards. With this many variables, my inclination was to start at 50. Was I feeling lucky, punk? I guess I was, because I went straight to 100 yards. The first shot was one inch high at 12 o’clock, exactly where I’d left it at home (with a different load). The second shot almost touched the first. Checking zero was done. I guess I really was feeling lucky, because I was compelled to fire a third shot. The resulting three-shot cluster measured .392 inch–exactly where I wanted it.
Not too bad for a pump gun with factory ammo.
Admittedly, Krieghoff’s new Semprio is not exactly Granddad’s Colt Lightning (or Dad’s Remington Gamemaster, for that matter). It’s entirely different from any slide action that precedes it. To start with, opening the action is accomplished by pushing the fore-end forward, not rearward. A forward push extracts the case, with ejection at the forward limit. The detachable box magazine goes forward as well, so when the fore-end is brought rearward, the bolt strips the top cartridge and pushes it into the chamber.
This is also quite different from most actions: Instead of the bolt doing the cycling, it remains stationary and the magazine does the moving. This apparently accomplishes a couple of design objectives. It’s my opinion that the massive, rigid, stationary bolt has more than a little bit to do with the rifle’s accuracy (and a good barrel doesn’t hurt). This also allows it to be a switch-barrel setup if desired. Barrels are available in 16 chamberings, from .223 Remington to .416 Remington Magnum, with interchangeable bolt heads and magazines for cartridges of different dimensions.
Another significant mechanical difference, though not unique to the Semprio, is Krieghoff’s Combi-Cocking device. Located at the center rear of the receiver (and thus ambidextrous), it’s not a conventional safety but an actual cocking lever. Push it forward and the rifle is cocked and ready to fire; rearward the rifle is uncocked and totally inert, whether or not there’s a round in the chamber. A similar feature is found on other European rifles, including the Blaser and Krieghoff’s double rifles and single-shots. With the Semprio, the major difference is that to unlock the rifle either for clearing or disassembly, the cocking piece is swung 45 degrees to the right and depressed slightly, allowing the fore-end to move forward.
The Semprio is an expensive rifle, with fit and finish as excellent as one might expect. The wood on the test gun was good walnut with a slightly reddish finish, with good checkering and a straight buttstock that came up just fine. Small touches that one might expect from such a rifle (but that aren’t always present) included very good fiber optic iron sights, push-button detachable sling swivels and a receiver machined for scope mounts.
The rifle came with several impressive test targets, and on the range it consistently lived up to their promise. Shooting was aided by a very good trigger, and I got several groups solidly under the half-inch mark. Note that the Zeiss scope supplied with the rifle maxed out at 6X. I’m sure that even tighter groups might have been possible with a bit more magnification.
The rifle is different enough mechanically that it takes a bit of getting used to. Though it’s the reverse of our American breed of pump gun, the action is very fast. As a lifelong fan of slide-action shotguns, I should point out that the stationary bolt design probably has a trade-off.
I’m certain it contributes to accuracy as well as allowing switch-barrel capability. However, on a traditional slide action the forward motion of loading thrusts your supporting hand toward the target, bringing your body, your eyes and your focus along with it. The opposite motion of the Semprio doesn’t offer this benefit and is thus no different from any other manually operated repeating action. Once you get used to it, actual cycling of the action is neutral as far as speed, accuracy and pointing abilities are concerned. With a bit of practice, assembly/disassembly as well as operation quickly become second nature.
It’s my suspicion that the rifle was at least somewhat designed with European-style driven boar shooting in mind, which is generally done offhand on running game. From any kind of a rest, whether off a bench or backpack or over sticks, you pretty much have to raise the rifle out of position in order to work the action, which is something that must be kept in mind as you evaluate the Semprio’s suitability for your needs.
I joined a fairly large group of hunters for a midsummer hunt, organized by the Wildlife Gallery taxidermy in Michigan, at Record Buck Ranch. Most of the guys hunted axis deer, which were in full rut, along with a wide range of other non-native species, while I concentrated on helping the ranch with its overabundance of feral hogs. In the field, the Semprio handled well enough that I never actually needed a second shot, although it was surely there and could very quickly have been delivered if necessary.
One evening, unable to help myself, I also shot the best aoudad ram I’ve ever taken. During my initial range testing I must admit that the Semprio was so different that I had a bit of trouble actually liking it, although I greatly admired its engineering innovation. In the field, well, pretty is as pretty does. The Semprio is indeed an amazing feat of both engineering and innovation, a truly unique action packaged in a very nice hunting rifle.