The domestic rifle market is well populated with brands that consumers know well and trust, and as a result, they buy a lot of Weatherbys, Remingtons, Winchesters, Savages, Marlins, and Rugers. These companies make a number of grades of bolt-action guns, ranging from $300 to $350 entry-level guns to much more expensive custom-shop products, and everything in between. But across the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, there are few pretty talented production gun makers whose products find favor overseasand to a lesser extent on these shoresand we wondered how such bolt actions would rank when pitted against more familiar marques.
Thus, we arranged to test the Swiss-made $550 SIG Model SHR 970 in Jack OConnors favorite .270 Winchester cartridge, the secondmost-popular centerfire hunting round behind the .30-06. These rifles are particularly suited for hunting deer and antelope, though some hunters use .270s for everything, including elk and moose.
SIG Model SHR 970
Our first impression of the SIG was of a hump-backed, rather pink-colored rifle with a short bolt lift. The wood was attractive enough, but we thought the grain and overall appearance would have been improved through the use of a slightly darker stain. The stock profile didnt attract many fans. There was a slight palm swell on the right side of the pistol grip. The stock profile was marred by a slight hump halfway down the top of the wrist.
But once we got past the cosmetics, we looked into the rifles guts, and came away surprised. First, we noted that the SHRs barrel could be replaced. There was no way to tell that, short of taking the action out of the stock. When we did so, we were amazed by what we found.
First, the barrel is retained in the action by the simple expedient of slotting the bottom of the front action ring, and clamping the ring to the barrel by two Allen-headed cross bolts. The barrel contains the locking lugs for the bolt, so there is no, or very little, stress on the rifle to come apart at the joint. This is similar to many shotguns that feature replaceable barrels, with their bolts locking into an extension of the barrel. In the case of the SIG, the barrel extension wraps entirely around the bolt head. This gives the rifle owner a chance to own several calibers on the same action. It also permits the rifle to be broken down into a very short package. The Swiss are known for their machining expertise, and that showed up in the quality of the workmanship on this rifle.
The second item we found inside the SIG was polymer bedding. A polymer block was inletted into the wood under the front of the action, and it took recoil from a lug milled as part of the action body. At the back of the action, another polymer piece received the rear action lug and prevented splitting the wood from overtightening. The thin sliver of wood between the trigger cutout and the magazine well will never split, because it doesnt exist. The necessary material there is part of the trigger guard. This was one well-thought-out rifle.
Elsewhere as well, we noted this 7.4-pound rifle was well made. It had a detachable four-shot steel magazine, released by a button within the aluminum-alloy trigger guard. A pair of simple springs pushed it away from the action to aid its removal, but it was a bit sticky coming out. It replaced easily, and stayed in place very well. The steel floorplate of the magazine had the SIG logo. All the metal parts of the rifle were expertly polished and nicely matte blued. Silvery-white letters detailed the makers name, address, read-the-manual warning, model designation, country of origin (Switzerland), and the serial number. All of this was on the left side of the rifle.
The right side had a white S and red F by the safety lever, and a white dot in between. The right side had no other markings. Unfortunately, it was all too easy to put the three-position safety on while operating the bolt. Not only did the safety require very little effort to move, its location permitted it to be brushed rearward by the hand while operating the bolt. Fast follow-up shots were, therefore, next to impossible with the SIG due to the need to push the safety forward following each operation of the bolt handle. Someone needs to instruct rifle designers how to manipulate a bolt, in the hopes that once they know, they wont continue producing this rather common malady. The middle position of the safety was very vague, with a weak detent, but it did permit the bolt to be lifted for unloading the chamber while keeping the safety on.
The bolt body was white. It locked to the action by three equally spaced lugs. Bolt removal was accomplished by pressing a button on the left rear of the action. The deeply recessed bolt head held a plunger-type ejector and a rather small extractor. The action ring was drilled on both sides for gas escape. The bolt body was round and rather large, which led to very smooth bolt operation. A red indicator protruded from beneath the rear of the bolt when the action was cocked.
The blued bolt handle had SIG boldly formed on the outside of the knob. As most 60-degree bolts do, this one required a brisk pop to get it to open. The 13.8-inch length of pull on the stock made mounting the well-balanced rifle a bit of a problem when a tester wore a coat. Some of us thought the rifle pointed too high, because it didnt have enough drop at the comb. The top line of the buttstock actually rose as it approached the butt, and this effectively made the rifle recoil away from the face. Static balance of the unscoped rifle was just in front of the magazine.
The stock finish was perfect. The pores were all filled, the grain brought out well, and the finish material was hard enough to resist bruising and scratching. The overall stock finish was semi-gloss. The borderless checkering was some of the finest weve ever seen, if a bit sparse. There was a thin black rubber buttpad and two QD sling swivel studs, all expertly installed.
The 22-inch barrel was fully free-floated all along its length, right back to the action ring. In fact there was an even gap along both sides of the action except for slight contact at the front of the front ring, and at the rear. The trigger guard was also expertly inletted.
The trigger pull was quite creepy, and broke at 4.5 pounds. There was very little overtravel. The trigger itself was smooth, black, and made of steel. There were no iron sights on the rifle. The action was drilled and tapped for scope mounting, but no bases or rings came with it. This, we believe, is a mistake. A rifle maker ought to supply scope bases and rings with a rifle, particularly if the rifle is a new design for which common bases probably dont exist. Otherwise, prospective buyers wont be able to shoot the rifle until they find scope bases that will fit. We had the devil of a time finding bases to fit this rifle. Weaver front bases for the Remington 700 can be adapted by drilling.