January 11, 2024
Last year I attended a U.S. debut event for French gunmaker Chapuis at the Beretta gallery in Dallas. The company’s Iphisi double rifle was probably the star of the show, but the gun that caught my eye was the ROLS, an innovative straight-pull bolt action.
Chapuis is more than a century old, and in 2021 it became part of Benelli USA’s portfolio of guns, which includes brands Benelli, Franchi, Stoeger and Uberti. Chapuis rifles command premium prices, from the Elan double at more than $20K and the Iphisi at $10,000 to the relatively pedestrian $6,000 to $9,000 price range of the ROLS.
The ROLS—which is an acronym for Rifle Opening and Locking Straight—is available in three versions: Classic (around $6,000), Deluxe (around $7,000) and Carbon ($9,000). I received the latter for testing, in .308 Win. It’s also chambered for 6.5 Creedmoor, .30-06 and .300 Win. Mag., with the Win. Mag. costing $300 more.
I’ve got a fair bit of experience with straight pulls from Springfield and Blaser, and the ROLS is a different cat. The Springfield Impulse and Blaser R8 employ ball bearings or fingers, respectively, on the bolt head that lock up in the barrel extension. With the ROLS, there are eight metal petals encircling the inside of the barrel extension that the bolt locks into.
Chapuis USA product manager Tom Leoni explained to me that as the bolt closes, the bolt sleeve—located immediately behind the bolt head—engages the petals and keeps them open. Picture the bolt head telescoping from the sleeve to secure the cartridge head in the chamber while the petals in the barrel extension support the head from behind in a cone shape, the wider end toward the shooter.
Leoni said this is a much stronger system than some competing designs. Chapuis indicates the system is rated for pressures up to 123,000 psi. To put that in perspective, the .308’s SAAMI maximum average pressure spec is 62,000 psi; the .300 Win. Mag.’s is 64,000 psi. In other words, the ROLS action is plenty strong to handle anything you’d throw into its chamber.
The barrel is 22.5 inches long, cold hammer forged and fluted. Its diameter is 0.97 inch where it threads into the steel barrel extension and 0.61 just behind the muzzle thread protector. The barrel is threaded M14x1RH for a suppressor or brake.
The ROLS is a switch-barrel rifle, with extra barrels—available in several calibers other than those listed above—retailing for about $1,200 and extra bolt heads for around $300. The barrel is easy to change, and so is the bolt head. On the underside of the bolt assembly you’ll see a lock/unlock slot. Simply turn that to the unlock position—field tip: my Swiss Army knife’s screwdriver blade fit the slot about perfectly—and remove the bolt head.
The bolt head incorporates twin plunger ejectors, and on this sample the bolt head’s large extractor is stamped “S” for standard, a category that includes cartridges from 6.5x55 to 9.3x62. Magnum bolts handle the .300 Win. Mag., 7mm Rem. Mag. and .375 H&H
The ROLS Carbon gets its name from its carbon-fiber stock. The stock is made by the Austrian firm Fine Ballistic Tools. FBT calls this particular stock its Superergonomic, and aside from its light weight—it’s just a skosh under two pounds—there’s a lot to commend it to hunters.
For starters, a button on the right side of the butt allows the comb to be raised or lowered. The comb is under spring tension, so it will jump right up and lock in place in several positions from about 1/4 inch to 7/8 inch high. The recoil pad is a Pachmayr Decelerator, one of the first to move beyond plain old rubber pads and still one of the best.
I would call the FBT’s wrist angle Goldilocks-right. It’s not aggressively straight like a lot of today’s “long-range” stocks, but neither does it sweep back like a traditional sporter. It promotes a proper hand position, and I like it.
The fore-end is nicely proportioned. It’s rounded on the bottom, and while there’s no checkering or non-slip inserts, it narrows about midway up—creating a ridge that’s perfect for gripping with your fingers.
The sling swivel studs on the butt and fore-end won’t look familiar. They have a T-shaped projection that matches up with a cut in the supplied sling swivels. Press the swivel’s side buttons, slide the swivel over the T and release. Voilà. Press the buttons again to pop off the swivels. I think it’s handier than our traditional QD swivels.
The stock surrounds a Fortal 7075 aluminum alloy receiver/chassis. The chassis portion forward of the magazine well is 3.5 inches long, and in the middle of it sits a steel block. The barrel’s recoil lug fits here, and the block’s captured action screw secures barrel to receiver.
The rifle comes in a compartmentalized travel case with three integral combination locks. The compartments are sized to hold the barrel, bolt assembly, scope with mount, and magazine.
In order to shoot the ROLS, you first have to put it together—which is pretty cool since you get an in-depth look at the gun right out of the gate.
Start with installing the barrel into the stock by placing the recoil lug in the chassis’ steel block and tightening the action screw just snug. Whoever worked with the rifle before me neglected to return the supplied tool to the gun case, so I had to improvise—learning in the process that the action screw is a Torx T40. This is handy to know if you ever lose the supplied wrench or want to have a spare.
The bolt assembly rides on twin rails. Insert the rails into the corresponding channels in the receiver and push forward. The hinged floorplate, which incorporates the trigger and trigger guard, must be closed in order to install the bolt assembly.
To insert the magazine, push the gold button forward of the trigger guard on the underside of the rifle to unlatch the floorplate. Press the gold button again to insert the magazine, then swing up the floorplate until it snaps home.
The Chapuis folks were kind enough to send along a Recknagel scope mount that fits the cuts in the ROLS’s barrel extension. It’s a quick-detach, one-piece mount featuring locking levers and either 30mm or one-inch rings. It’s available directly from Chapuis USA for $549.
While the Recknagel is a great setup, it’s expensive and somewhat limiting in terms of scope position. Perhaps a better, or at least more familiar, option would be the Picatinny rail Chapuis offers for the ROLS. It’s less than half the price at $249.
To disassemble the rifle, remove the magazine by unlatching the floorplate with the gold button, then either continue to hold in the button or press it a second time to drop the mag. Ensure the chamber is empty.
Draw the bolt back all the way. If you didn’t already remove the magazine, you’ll find this isn’t possible, so remove the mag and then pull the bolt back to its full rearward position.
Look for a small silver button at the rear of the chassis, partially obscured by the left-hand rail. This is the bolt release, and while half of it is located under the rail, it’s easy to operate with a thumbnail. Push it in and withdraw the bolt assembly the rest of the way. Loosen the action screw and remove the barrel.
As a European design, the ROLS has some idiosyncrasies that will be unfamiliar to many Americans. For example, it might be a little disconcerting to see the gold trigger swing down with the rest of the floorplate. But fear not; it’s a good trigger, breaking really crisply at a light two pounds, with no overtravel. A few times during accuracy testing it exhibited a slight hitch—it would creep a very short distance and then stop before finally breaking—but the majority of the time it snapped like glass.
The four-round magazine is a rotary design incorporating a metal follower. With the mag out of the gun, you can either push rounds straight down or slide them in from the rear.
It’s also possible to top off the magazine while it’s in the rifle. It will feel a little weird at first. There’s a leaf spring atop the hinged floorplate that keeps the magazine in the proper position, and when you go to press a round into the mag you’ll feel it move downward against this spring. Just push the cartridge down on the right side of the follower, and it’ll load easily.
At first I struggled with inserting the magazine. The manual didn’t mention that you need to press the gold button for this, but I eventually figured it out. Can’t say I’m a huge fan of having to perform the extra step, but as is so often the case it’s a matter of getting familiar with how a gun operates.
Also, ensure the bolt is completely forward; otherwise the gun won’t fire. It was never a problem when shooting from field positions, but every once in a while from the bench—where I was single loading and not working the bolt with any vigor—I would fail to close it all the way. Operator error.
The ROLS’s safety is actually a cocker/decocker. As such, it takes a bit of force to move it forward to the cocked/Fire position. However, thanks to its shape and serrations, it’s easy to operate. When it’s forward, two red dots show that the gun is ready to roll.
To place it on Safe, press the gold decocking button at the top of the cocking device and the cocker will slide back to its uncocked position. The decocking button is small and smooth, and I found it more difficult to operate than the cocker. I wish the button had serrations to make it easier.
When the rifle is decocked/Safe, the bolt is locked, but you don’t need to fully cock the action in order to open the bolt. Press in on the cocker about a fifth of an inch, and that will free the bolt.
Chapuis guarantees sub-m.o.a. accuracy, and I think it’s fair to say it delivered. As you can see in the accompanying chart, only one load was significantly over an inch at 100 yards. The Nosler Partition is not known for the ultimate in precision, but I tested it because I figured this is a traveling hunter’s rifle, and there’s not much on this or any other continent a .308 Partition can’t handle.
The rifle’s barrel is fairly thin, and like most thin-barreled rifles it didn’t like to shoot hot. But thanks to the fluting it cooled relatively quickly.
The ROLS handles really well from field positions, whether unsupported or off a Bogpod or similar rest. The ROLS Carbon tips the scales at just a touch over five pounds bare, and while the test Steiner Predator 8 3-24x50mm added more weight and bulk than I would prefer, the rig still balanced nicely and was easy to shoot.
And it’s fast. European hunters love straight pulls because of their inherent speed, as they do a lot of driven hunts where the shooting can be fast and furious. The ROLS action is buttery smooth, and the large, beautifully engraved bolt knob offers plenty of purchase. You can really rap out accurate shots quickly.
The traveling hunter will want to know what to expect when they get to wherever they’re going and assemble their ROLS for zeroing prior to a hunt. So in addition to accuracy and field shooting, I disassembled and assembled the rifle five times and fired a shot after each assembly. The average zero shift over those five procedures was 2.5 inches.
I haven’t messed around with enough modular rifles to know if this is good or bad, but it’s not something that would concern me. On a big travel hunt I’m going to be checking zero before heading afield, regardless of whether it’s a rifle that has to be assembled or not. Making a 2.5-inch adjustment isn’t a big deal as long as the zeroing setup—rest, bench, etc.—is halfway decent.
Even some of you who didn’t bail out of this article at the beginning—where I mentioned how much the ROLS costs—are probably groaning about why anyone would spend almost 10 grand on a hunting rifle. Well, this is rarefied air for sure, but the fact is the ROLS’s price tag is not out of line with its European competitors, such as Blaser, Strasser and a couple others. It’s actually less expensive than the carbon fiber-stocked Blaser R8.
I get the price concern. Frankly, I was more than a little freaked out to take the gun to the range, lest I somehow drop it, break it or visit some disfiguring horror upon it.
Here’s my opinion: You either appreciate the ROLS Carbon for what it is, or you don’t. It’s a fine piece of engineering—a super-light, accurate and fast-shooting rifle that packs up small and offers switch-caliber capability. The ROLS may be an aspirational firearm for the vast majority of us, but for those with the means, thanks to Chapuis’s arrival on our shores there’s now a new high-end rifle worth investigating.
CHAPUIS ROLS CARBON SPECIFICATIONS
- TYPE: Straight-pull centerfire
- CALIBER: 6.5 Creedmoor, .308 Win. (tested), .30-06, .300 Win. Mag.
- CAPACITY: 4
- BARREL: 22.5 in. (as tested); cold hammer forged, fluted, threaded M14x1RH
- OVERALL LENGTH: 41 in.
- WEIGHT: 5 lb., 3 oz.
- FINISH: Blue
- STOCK: FBT carbon fiber, adjustable comb
- SIGHTS: None; scope mounts available at extra cost from Chapuis USA
- SAFETY: Manual decocker
- PRICE: $9,099 (as tested)
- MANUFACTURER: Chapuis, chapuis-usa.com