A Serious Hunting Rifle – The STEYR Pro THB In 6.5 Creedmoor
Webster’s College Dictionary defines classic as: 1. Serving as a standard of excellence; 2. Characterized by simple tailored lines in fashion year after year. I wanted to set the tone for this article with this definition. Few would argue that the Steyr SSG69 is not worthy of being considered a classic bolt-action precision tactical rifle. Adopted for use by the Austrian Army in 1969 along with several other European law enforcement agencies, the SSG69 defined the genre with synthetic stock, cold hammer forged barrel and gilt-edged .5MOA accuracy from the “box” without having to send out for expensive/time consuming customizing re-work. The SSG 69 set the standard, which bolt action tactical rifles were judged for decades. This article is about the rifle series/bolt action Steyr deemed worthy to replace the SSG6 — the Steyr SBS — and how it can assist today’s hunters/sportsman.
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With several Steyr bolt action models to choose from, the recently introduced Pro THB chambered in 6.5 Creedmoor was selected to show the benefits that hunters can derive from using a proven bolt action combined with a cartridge designed for long-range shooting.
Prejudices abound when it comes to Steyr rifles stemming from misconceptions based on price and elitist sentiments. Many individuals, not to mention industry competitors, want you to believe Steyr rifles are overpriced Germanic engineering at it best. Individuals will have to judge for themselves the tipping point in the price/performance arena. Closer examination will show the Pro THB is NOT exotically priced with an MSRP of $1,595. The Steyr Pro THB takes a backseat to no bolt action hunting rifle in terms of precision, repeatable accuracy, scope interface, ergonomics, reliability, trigger, and safety.
Safe Bolt System
The Steyr Pro THB features the tried-and-true Steyr SBS (Safe Bolt System) bolt-action first introduced in 1996 mated to synthetic green ventilated stock that resists weather and rough use, as well as features removable spacers to adjust the length of pull. The Steyr SBS is one of the strongest and safest bolt actions in the world with a bushing fully encasing the bolt lugs and extractor preventing any escaping gases from reaching the shooter in case of a rupture. With four front locking lugs, the SBS action is the heart of the Steyr Pro THB. The lugs are arranged in dual opposing sets on the bolt’s body giving the Pro THB extra rigidity and strength for greater precision. Two conventional primary locking lugs are backed up by a pair of smaller lugs immediately behind the primary lugs. Steyr has designed the bolt and receiver interaction to minimize bolt throw to approximately 70 degrees for faster manipulation compared to most dual lug rifle designs with nearly 90-degree lift. The Pro THB rifle comes standard with classic Steyr butter knife handle, but an optional oversized tactical bolt knob is available.
The SBS bolt is routinely proofed by firing a full power round with a bullet obstructing the bore. A groove around the ejection port area of the body is present for anti-debris and anti-icing purposes. The SBS design allows the Pro THB to function in the most adverse conditions by facilitating a path out of the way for particles, snow, dirt, and mud between the bolt body and receiver. The bolt body has been nickel-plated because this finish is corrosion-resistant and it also reduces the coefficient of friction. To enhance the bolt lift motion, there are dual opposed cocking cams within the bolt body.
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The Steyr Pro THB weighs in at 9.3 lbs. and measures 46″. The 25″ 1:8 RH twist hammer forged four-groove barrel gets the most out of the 6.5 Creedmoor loads on the market in terms of velocity and accuracy. Interestingly, the barrel is threaded. Hornady created the 6.5 Creedmoor in 2007 for long-range target shooting applications. Hornady designers utilized the compact, efficient cartridge concept by using the .30TC case as its basis. The 6.5 Creedmoor typifies the short and efficient cartridge principle. 6.5 mm cartridge reputation for high ballistic coefficient (BC) rating as well as sectional density (SD) while firing 120-140 grain bullets has always attracted hunters/tactical/target shooters to it as well. It is hard to beat 130-grains moving at 3,000 feet per second. SD is the ratio of a bullet’s mass to its cross-section. All things being equal a high SD penetrates better than a low SD, all other factors being equal. BC is a measurement of how well a bullet moves thru the air. Velocity loss and impact of wind drift is minimized the higher the BC rating as the round travels downrange. The final sweetener is only moderate recoil.
The detachable box magazine holds 4 rounds in a staggered pattern. I was impressed with the detachable box magazine’s design and attention to detail. Importantly, you can lower the magazine to a second lower setting. I have researched this feature and found it was to provide the ability to manually feed specialty rounds based on mission specifics by simply laying them in the raceway with a loaded magazine of another type of ammunition ready to go. For the hunter, it allows for the ejection of a loaded round and close the bolt on an empty chamber without stripping a fresh round from the magazine.
An important part of the accuracy equation is a quality optic to go along with cartridge and rifle. A Burris Veracity 3-15x50mm optic was mounted to the Pro THB via the Picatinny rail that arrives on the action. The Burris’s versatile 5-times zoom system provides a larger field of view at close ranges and better target acquisition at long ranges. The front focal plane reticle design allows the reticle size to increase or decrease as magnification is increased or decreased; trajectory compensation is always correct and proportional for the selected power setting. Burris has equipped the Veracity with Progressively Thick Crosshairs (PTC), which are very fine in the center and progressively thicker away from the center, for ultra-fast target engagement at close ranges and in low-light conditions — effective at any magnification.
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The Steyr Pro THB was initially sighted in at Echo Valley Training Center’s (EVTC) Range #2 with a 100 yard zero. Different 6.5 Creedmoor loads were fired from the bench to determine a base accuracy level. Various loads from Hornady and Federal consisted of a mix of hunting and match loads to illustrate the ballistic flexibility inherent in the 6.5 Creedmoor. These specific loads were Federal 120-grain Trophy Copper, Gold Medal Berger 130-grain Hybrid Match, and 140-grain Nosler Accubond. Hornady offerings were represented by 129-grain SST, 140- grain ELD Match, and 120-grain GMX. This is just a small splattering of the 6.5 Creedmoor loads available from each company with other companies offering even more. Overall, accuracy was impressive with no load producing groups over 1.25 MOA at 100 yards with some bordering on 5/8″. The Steyr trigger is the real treat with the Pro THB measuring a crisp 3.5 pounds.
My guiding thought for the Steyr Pro THB evaluation was to create scenarios that put it to the test in terms of handling and ability to send rounds downrange effectively. Working through EVTC’s Jungle Walk Range provides this type of realistic feedback. While the Steyr Pro THB was more than capable of connecting with steel targets arrayed along stepped berm out to 300 yards and even out to 500 yards at the Known Distance Range, working with it along EVTC’s Jungle Walk range was the true measure as a hunting rifle. The Steyr’s oversize bolt and smooth passage of the bolt in the raceway allowed for minimal disturbance of the rifle when the bolt is worked when multiple rounds are needed.
The Steyr Pro THB 6.5 Creedmoor proves that hypervelocity magnum boomers equipped with optics resembling spotting scopes are not the only viable option for hunters. I find it hard to believe that anyone using the Steyr Pro THB is ever under-gunned or at a disadvantage when hunting. I believe the Steyr Pro THB 6.5Creedmoor will find a niche for itself in the American market. The Pro THB will appeal to rifle lovers for its efficiency.
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For more information:
Steyr Arms: www.steyrarms.com
Federal Premium: www.federalpremium.com
Echo Valley Training Center: www.echovalleytraining.com
Burris Optics: www.burrisoptics.com
Don’t miss out on this special giveaway, Prize Package #2: http://buckdowngiveaway.com
AND the summer rebate program has been extended to September 30: Steyr Arms: Best Deal Of The Summer Extended!