Review: Blaser F16 Sporting Shotgun
February 14, 2019
Photos by Michael Anschuetz
Blaser Jagdwaffen GmbH got its start in 1957 making traditional German hunting arms like drillings, Kipplaufbuchsen and Stutzen. These are guns that are quite fascinating with their craftsmanship, but laser-focused on central European hunting conditions and traditions.
That all started to change with the first Blaser I wrote about more than 30 years ago, the R84. It was a straight-pull rifle whose largely aluminum receiver would accept multiple bolt heads and barrels, allowing the user to configure the gun for multiple calibers. This led eventually to the R93, which is another straight-pull with an unusual collet bolt head. These firearms built Blaser’s reputation for craftsmanship, yet combined with the most modern manufacturing techniques.
That’s right, shotguns are benefitting just as much from advances in engineering and manufacturing as other types of guns, and the Blaser F16 is a perfect example of this.
You might think “F16” refers to a fighter jet, but it simply refers to Blaser’s over-under shotgun — “flinte” in German — that was introduced in the year 2016.
The F16 comes in three configurations: Game; Intuition (specifically dimensioned for women); and Sporting. The latter model is the subject of this review.
The first thing I noticed about the F16 Sporting is the combination of very well-figured and high-gloss finished Grade 4 walnut with matte-finished metalwork. The frame has a very dark pewter color, broken only by the F16 rollmark in red, while the barrels are matte charcoal.
You might expect either a dull oil finish with matte metal or both metal and wood finished to a high sheen, but the F16’s combination is perfectly sensible in a target gun. It looks great and you won’t have to think about glare on a bright day.
The perfect design for an over-under is a shallow frame, and it is achieved here at 2.38 inches. It has a distinctly Teutonic look in the proportion between barrel and frame at the breech. It’s a bit like a Merkel without the big frame bolsters that typify the Suhl product.
Recoil & Extraction
Now, millions of birds and targets have fallen to the good old Browning Superposed and other over-unders like the Winchester 101, which also have a deep frame by current standards. But today’s shooter wants something with a minimum bore line to direct recoil straight toward the shoulder.
Blaser accomplishes this by using a bifurcated bolt at the very bottom of the standing breech. This engagement bites at the 4 and 8 o’clock positions at the bottom of the monobloc. This arrangement allows the barrel to sit at the very bottom of the frame.
The engagement is assisted by Blaser’s Ejection Ball System (EBS). The ejectors are tripped by what looks like two extra firing pins in the standing breech. These impact plungers in the ejectors are not under spring pressure when the gun is at rest.
After firing, the ejector springs are compressed as the barrels are lowered, giving the shooter lots of leverage. Spring pressure is released as the empties are tossed out, and they’re not recompressed as the barrels are returned to the firing position. Blaser claims this reduces shooter fatigue.
I don’t know how much that counts, but not having to route ejector trip rods through the bottom of the frame contributes to the low silhouette. The face of the standing breech is a separate component retained by a pair of Torx screws that incorporates the firing pins, ejector trips and the top lever plunger.
As is appropriate for a competition gun, the safety is manual. It both presses forward on the selector block, disengaging that part from the sears, and lowers an interceptor from the underside of the tang just below the thumbpiece of the top lever. The latter part is intended to prevent the hammers falling on the firing pins if the shotgun is dropped.
The safety is never used in competition with many competitors locking it out. However, if you were to take the F16 out on the dove field, you needn’t worry about it going off if you drop it. Scratching that nice wood, on the other hand, definitely should worry you.
The selector is in the position where you’d find it on a Krieghoff, in front of the trigger blade, which is itself adjustable fore and aft using the supplied 1.5mm hex key. Pushing the selector to the left chooses the under barrel.
An old shooting buddy noted this orientation would make quick selection of the top barrel tough for right-handers in the field, but any such move on the sporting course would come at leisure, so I don’t regard that as a demerit here.
The trigger is mechanical but has an impressive inertia block to help prevent doubling. Both barrels touched off with a 3-pound pull. There was a time when very disparate trigger pulls were common, but manufacturers have learned that tends to put off consumers, so you rarely see an over-under these days with varying pulls.
Every part of the lock mechanism is beautifully finished, and you’ll get the chance to enjoy that when using the interesting stock balancer system. Push the supplied 5mm hex key through the central slot in the recoil pad and turn out the balancer, which threads onto the short through-bolt at the rear of the frame. Then use a long Phillips-head screwdriver to turn out the recoil pad’s retaining screws. These bite directly into the stock wood, so be judicious about doing this. I would have thought threaded inserts in the buttstock (with machine screws to retain the recoil pad) would have been the choice here.
With the recoil pad removed, you can shake out the balancer, as well as a spacer and spring package. The latter consists of two opposed pairs of Belleville washers that prevent the balancer battering the buttstock at the wrist.
The balancer is a threaded rod with a socket at the front that rests against the spring package and a rubber buffer at the rear, which locates it inside the buttstock recess.
In between are three, 2-ounce, steel cylinders that clamp to a flat surface on the threaded rod with hex socket screws. They are fitted with rubber O-rings for a snug fit inside the stock. You can leave all three in place, remove one or two or all of them. You can position them anywhere on the rod you wish, allowing almost infinite adjustment.
My guess is that a very small minority of shooters will experiment endlessly with this system, while many more will have it out one time for curiosity’s sake, with the remainder paying it no mind whatsoever. In my opinion, any of those three positions is just fine.
The sample gun’s buttstock and forend were of a very impressive Grade 4 Turkish walnut. This looked perfectly nice at the gun club, but really came into its own when under the bright lights of the photo studio. You can specify wood up to Grade 11. At that point, the wood would probably cost more than the gun itself. Suffice it to say, the Grade 4 wood is plenty impressive.
You can choose the drop at heel of either 2 or 2¼ inches. Trap and American skeet shooters who start with a mounted gun will want the former, while you’ll probably prefer the greater drop if you start with a low gun.
Cast can also be selected, on or off of 3, 6 or 8mm (.12, .24 or .32 inch). Our sample F16 had the middle of the three possibilities.
The generously-sized pistol grip has a prominent palm swell on the right side; You can specify a left-handed buttstock that positions it on the left. Checkering is in a bordered-point pattern at 18 lines per inch (lpi), which I regard as about the minimum for summertime shooting. However, 16 lpi would be better, but not as attractive. I’ve seen plenty of expensive shotguns being used at the highest competitive levels coarsely stippled, but that would be a hard sell at the gun store.
The forend has an Anson-style latch, though it’s modernized. Its loop is well forward, 12¾ inches up the lower barrel from the breech. This eliminates the long plunger of the usual Anson-style latch. It presumably makes the forend stronger and more resistant to heat.
The lower barrel has a rearward-facing lump that engages an adjustable stop at the front of the forend iron. Should the forend start to shoot loose, you can loosen a pair of hex socket screws and rotate an eccentric slotted screw to push the stop rearward, tightening the fit.
The cocking cam is replaceable should you be lucky enough to shoot so much that you wear it out.
The barrels have solid ribs running from the muzzles back to the forend loop. Behind those is a block for fitting the optional barrel weights. These come in a kit of four, 1½-ounce units, and each is retained by two No. 10 Torx screws. The mounting block has four threaded holes, so you can install them in various combinations and positions. My advice would be to experiment with the barrel weights before fiddling with the balancer and to save wear and tear on the buttstock.
The barrels are topped by a low ventilated rib that tapers from 9mm at the breech to 7mm at the muzzle. There’s a steel .062-inch mid bead and a 3mm red fiber-optic at the muzzle.
The Germans seem to have resisted the Italian urge for chrome-plating all bores. Maybe they’re more diligent about their cleaning. The bore diameter measured .731 inch, barely above the nominal .729 inch.
G&A’s sample F16 came with five Briley Spectrum choke tubes: Skeet (.727 inch), Improved Cylinder (.722 inch), Light Modified (.717 inch), Modified (.712 inch) and Improved Modified (.707 inch). These will cover just about any situation on a sporting course.
They’re 2¾ inches long, with threads at the rear. About .7 inch of the tube extends from the muzzle and is knurled for easy removal and replacement if you’re obsessive about tube changing.
A color-coded ring at the front makes it easy to select the proper tube, and they’re well-marked with the choke designation. The ring serves the additional purpose of covering the spanner slots, which will keep the tubes from tearing up the inside of your gun case.
Inside, the tubes have a conical/parallel configuration, where the shot-compressing conical section at the rear leads into a stabilizing parallel section at the front. This style has become almost universal in competition guns and has spread to hunting shotguns, too.
You can use steel shot in all except the Improved Modified tube, but be aware that pattern size will be reduced by two constrictions. The Modified tube will throw full-choke patterns with steel. In the unlikely event you want to take your F16 to the duck blind, it is proofed for 3-inch ammunition.
I pattern-tested the F16 with Kent Elite low-recoil ammunition and testfired with Federal, Kent and Winchester ammunition. I had one light firing pin hit, but the shell went off when touched again. There were no other failures.
Several editors on staff who tried the F16 mentioned that recoil was stiffer than they anticipated. It’s hard to think of a scientific justification for that since the gun weighs 7 pounds, 14 ounces, and was fitted with the very straight 2-inch-drop buttstock. I found the problem was almost completely relieved by using Federal’s Paper Target ammo. I’m usually skeptical of the claim that paper shells kick a lot less, but in this case, they did.
That straight stock led to patterns that impacted a foot high at 25 yards. You will need to see a lot of air under the target to get reliable hits. If you’re not used to it, there will need to be a leap of faith to shooting quite low.
I also found the mount difficult when shooting skeet from the low-gun position. If I was buying an F16, I’d go for the 2¼-inch drop buttstock. Shotguns that are effectively trap guns have become objects of desire for many shooters, but you may find a bit more drop works better on the sporting course.
Trigger action is just superb, allowing perfect control of the shot. Ejection was strong, with empties landing together. I’m not sure I noticed a lot of difference in gun handling from the EBS system, but it worked with perfect reliability.
The F16 represents an excellent value for the money, with very high-grade wood, innovative features and the prestige of the Blaser name. If you’re looking for a medium-priced target shotgun, the F16 needs some serious consideration.