Merkel KR1 Custom

The Merkel KR1 with several interchangeable barrels makes a lot of sense because the package costs less than the same number of complete rifles.

The Merkel KR1 with several interchangeable barrels makes a lot of sense because the package costs less than the same number of complete rifles, and as a takedown it also offers a benefit to those who fly with their guns: A short case is less likely to be recognized by a baggage thief as a gun case.

Takedown is quick and easy. With all cartridges removed from the rifle and the hinged magazine floorplate open, the supplied hex wrench is used to turn out two nuts that engage threaded studs protruding downward from the chamber section of the barrel. The barrel can then be lifted from the action.

If the barrel is to be interchanged with another chambered for a cartridge with similar overall length and rim diameter, simply install that barrel and you are good to go. Cartridges with the same rim diameter but of different lengths--.308 Winchester and .30-06, for instance--require magazines of different lengths (magazines sell for $85).

Merkel KR1 custom
Type: takedown bolt-action centerfire with interchangeable barrels
Calibers: .223 Rem., .243 Win. (tested), .270 Win., 7mm Rem. Mag., .308 Win, .30-06 (tested), .300 Win. Mag., .338 Win. Mag.
Capacity:3+1 (2+1 magnums)
Barrel: 22 in. (24 in. magnums)
Overall Length: 403⁄4 in. (22-in. barrel)
Weight: 7 lb.
Metal: carbon steel, blued finish
Stock: figured European walnut
Sights: none; receiver grooved for quick-detach mount
Trigger: single-set, fully adjustable
Price: $2,995; extra barrel ($795), magazine, ($85), bolt head ($225)
Importer: Merkel USA,, (205) 655-8299

When switching from, say, .30-06 to .300 Winchester Magnum, the magazine and the bolt head ($225) will have to be switched. With the trigger guard/floorplate assembly swung down, a tug on the magazine removes it. The bolt carrier is removed from the receiver by placing the safety in its forward position and holding down the trigger as it is withdrawn. Holding down the bolt-locking plunger while moving the bolt handle downward allows the bolt head to be removed.

Assemble in the reverse order. After a bit of practice, everything about the rifle can be switched out in a couple of minutes.

Located forward of the trigger guard, the magazine floorplate release button is imbedded into the plate and not likely to get accidentally bumped--and yet it is easy to operate, even with a gloved finger. When the floorplate is dropped, the trigger finger piece and a few other parts of the fire-control assembly stay with it, and for this reason the release button of the floorplate can pressed only when the safety is engaged or the bolt is fully retracted.

The three-position safety features a protruding bar in the center of the slide that must be pressed with the thumb as the slide is pushed forward or pulled rearward--otherwise it will not budge from either position. I found its operation to be easy and trouble free.

The Custom sports a butter knife-style handle and a cocking indicator at the rear of the bolt. The three-position safety cannot be moved without pushing the tab in the center.
The KR1 features silky smooth feeding, and the six-lug bolt can be swapped out to accommodate a caliber with a different rim diameter.

The Merkel KR1 reminds me a bit of the Blaser R93, but whereas the Blaser is a straight-pull design, the Merkel is turnbolt with three inline pairs of lugs engaging recesses machined into the shank of the barrel. Bolt rotation is about 60 degrees, and bolt throw is 41⁄2 inches.

The handle on the Custom is butter knife-style, and the tail of the cocking piece protruding from the rear of the receiver indicates a cocked firing pin. Ejector is the familiar spring-loaded plunger. The bolt face is counterbored to enclose the head of a cartridge, with its wall interrupted for passage of the extractor.

The trigger is of single-set design, and a push forward on the finger piece sets it to a lighter pull. The one on the rifle I shot averaged 33 ounces with a mere two-ounce variation from pull to pull. Setting the trigger reduced pull weight to 24 ounces with a four-ounce variation.

I could feel a slight trace of pre-travel in the standard mode, but it totally vanished when the trigger was set. The trigger mechanism can be unset by pulling the finger piece with the safety fully engaged or by retracting the bolt.

The KR1 is p

resently available in Custom, which I tested, and the less expensive American, which sports a straight-comb stock and Pachmayr Declerator pad. The oil-finished stock of the Custom has eye-catching figure and 24 lpi checkering. Other features include a rosewood grip cap, Pachmayr Old English recoil pad and non-detachable sling swivels.

Trigger stays with the hinged floorplate when it is swung open. Switching calibers sometimes calls for a change in magazine boxes as well.

The steel bolt carrier is silver in color with light engraving on both sides. Finish on the trigger is gold nitrate. The free-floating barrel is 22 inches long for standard cartridges and 24 inches for the magnums. Advertised weight is 61⁄2 pounds.

The rifle came with barrels in .243 Winchester and .30-06, both equipped with Docter scopes; total weight with scope was 83⁄4 pounds. As I immediately discovered, the sliding roof of the receiver makes the magazine of the KR1 extremely quick and bobble-free to load. Cartridges fed from magazine to chamber like they were coated with oil.

Bolt travel was silky smooth, and bolt lift took very little effort. Closing the bolt on a round in the chamber seemed to take a bit more effort than with most rifles, but that could have been due to the fact that I shoot few rifles with a butter-knife bolt handle.

Since scopes are attached to the barrels I was not surprised to see the rifle maintain its zero during several barrel switches. I wish the rifle had quick-detach sling swivels, but other than that I give it a "darned nice" rating.

Accuracy Results | Merkel KR1 Custom
Bullet Weight (gr.) Muzzle Velocity (fps)Standard Deviation Avg. Group (in.)
.243 Winchester
Hornady Custom HP 75 3,277 51 0.71
Remington AccuTip 95 3,011 33 1.28
Winchester BTSP 100 2,854 62 1.70
Federal Fusion 150 2,873 44 2.06
Federal Premium BTSP 165 2,712 32 1.63
Remington Swift Scirocco 180 2,636 55 1.56
WARNING: The loads shown here are safe only in the guns for which they were developed. Neither the author nor InterMedia Outdoors, Inc. assumes any liability for accidents or injury resulting from the use or misuse of this data. Notes: Accuracy represents an average of three, three-shot groups fired at 100 yards. Velocity is an average of nine rounds clocked 12 feet from the muzzle on an Oehler Model 33. Abbreviations: BTSP, boattail softpoint; HP, hollowpoint.

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