Merkel’s Unique RX-Helix Straight Pull Rifle

The newest rifle to come out of Germany, the Merkel RX-Helix, debuted at this year’s SCI Convention in Las Vegas. This rifle belongs to the straight-pull genre, members of which include Blasers, the mercifully discontinued Mauser Model 96, the Heym SR-30, and the delightful little Browning T-Bolt .22 rimfire. Though each of those guns differ in the details of their locking systems, all require just a simple back and forth movement of the bolt handle to reload, which reduces the motions required from four to two.

As tested the Merkel RX-Helix in .308 Win. with a Redfield Revenge 4-12×42 scope in Weaver rings weighed 7 lbs. 14 oz.

Straight-pull actions are far easier to reload without lowering the gun from the shoulder than conventional bolt actions. With the latter, your arm is outstretched and at shoulder level, where most of us have very little strength. In that position, lifting the bolt handle is resisted by the forces required for primary extraction–which often involves a sticky case–and the cocking of the firing pin spring. It is so much easier to simply pull back on the bolt handle instead of first having to lift it against all that resistance. The same applies when closing an action, especially one with an abrupt lug engagement. That’s why most hunters lower their rifle to reload because in that position we all have the strength to cycle even the stickiest actions.

This interrupted rail is integral with the receiver and accepts Weaver-type scope rings. There are 3 positions forward and two aft.

The RX-Helix also has barrel/cartridge interchangeability. The RX-Helix allows switching barrels and bolt heads, so one can not only switch between cartridges within the same family, but from three families–.223 Rem., .30-06, and belted magnums. This multi-personality is made possible by the fact that this rifle, like most others of its type, employs a bolt head that locks directly with the barrel rather than the receiver. Because that

Shown here is the 2-1/2” of handle movement that moves the bolt carrier 4-1/8”.

arrangement reduces the stressed components to just the bolt head and the barrel, the receiver can be lightweight aluminum alloy instead of steel.

Switching barrels/calibers with this gun is the quickest and easiest of any system I know. You can literally change out from, say, a .223 Rem. to a .300 Win. Mag. (or vise-versa) in less than a minute. Honest! Depressing a button recessed in the

Depressing a small button at bottom of the forearm allows it to be pulled free of the receiver. Note that the forearm hanger does not contact the barrel.

bottom of the forend allows it to be pulled free of the receiver. Doing so exposes a forward extension of the receiver, which helps support the forearm, and a barrel lock lever. Simply rotate the lever 90 degrees downward and the slip-fit barrel can be pulled free of the receiver. No tools required. The whole operation can be done in 20 seconds, and reversed with the new components in another 20.

If you’re just changing out the barrel to a different caliber within the same cartridge family, the bolt should be unlocked, so that the bolt head stays with the bolt carrier. If you’re changing out the bolt head as well, you simply make sure the bolt is in battery when the barrel is pulled free, and the bolt head comes with it. It is ingenious to say the least.

Naturally, changing to a different cartridge family also requires the appropriate magazine, all of which are interchangeable, but of course differ in internal length and the width of the feed lips.

The other really cool feature about this rifle is that it employs a rack and pinion gear system that provides a nearly 1:2 ratio of handle-to-bolt movement. The full back and forth movement of the handle is only 2 1/2 inches, yet the bolt carrier moves 4 1/8 inches. Unlike both Blasers, which have a short handle rotation to unlock the bolt before moving rearward, the RX-Helix has no such rocking of the bolt handle; it is a true linear action whereby the handle does not change its attitude as it moves back and forth. Moreover, the bolt on this gun is completely enclosed within the receiver. In other words, it does not protrude from the rear of the receiver when the action is open.

Rotating the locking lever downwards allows the slip-fit barrel to be pulled from the receiver. If the bolt head is in battery, it comes out with the barrel. If the action is unlocked, only the barrel comes out.

Another feature this gun shares with several other Teutonic rifles is its manual cocking. All guns made here in the U. S. must first be cocked before we can engage the safety. That means that, assuming there’s a cartridge in the chamber, the gun is ready to fire; only the safety prevents it from doing so if the trigger is pulled. With this rifle you can chamber and extract a live cartridge without having to cock the action, which is the most foolproof

Handloaders will like the extra length of the magazine that allows bullets to be seated further out.

system of all as I see it. Though it is possible to uncock any American-made bolt action with a cartridge in the chamber by raising the bolt handle, then slowly lowering it back down while the trigger is pulled, in so doing, the firing pin is resting on the primer, and that’s not an ideal scenario.

With the Helix, and the few other German guns sharing the same

Shown here the gun is cocked. It is un-cocked by pushing down on the button at the front of the thumbpiece and backing it down the slide.

manual cocking system, the gun can have a round in the chamber, yet be carried in perfect safety. The gun can be cocked only when the time to fire a shot presents itself. To do so, using one’s thumb, the cocking slide must be forced up an incline at the back of the receiver against the power of the hammer spring. It takes a good bit of pressure; that’s why the thumbpiece is deeply serrated and has such an upsweep to it. Once cocked, the gun can be uncocked by pushing a small release button atop the thumbpiece and allowing the thumb to back it down against the pressure of the uncoiling hammer spring.

The specimen sent for T&E was the bare bones version of the RX-Helix chambered in .308 Win., which carries a starting price of $3,495. This particular gun, however, was first destined for display at the trade shows, so it was fitted with a very fancy walnut buttstock and forend. The top surface of the receiver has an integral and beautifully machined quasi-Picatinny-type scope mounting rail, which makes one’s choice of rings a lot easier. I think that was a smart move on Merkel’s part, because so many German rifles have their own scope mount systems, all of which are more expensive and complicated than they need be.

Shooting Results
Load Largest Group Smallest Group 100-Yard Average
Federal 165 gr. High Energy TB 1.90″ 1.25″ 1.75″
Hornady 165 gr. SST 2.15″ 0.78″ 1.45″
Federal 168 gr. Gold Medal Match 1.10″ 0.53″ 0.85″
Black Hills Match 175 gr. BTHP 1.35″ 0.80″ 1.15″
Our Field Editor was impressed with Redfield Revenge scope. He considers it to be a lot of scope for the money.

For testing, I mounted one of the new Redfield Revenge scopes, a 4-12×42, using Weaver rings. The rails allow three ring positions forward and two aft. As it came from the box, the 22-inch barrel test gun weighed but 6 lbs., 13 oz. With the Redfield aboard in Weaver rings it weighed 7 lbs., 14 oz. I used four different factory loads to exercise the RX, two of which were match loads. All four averaged less than 2 inches for five 3-shot groups, with the Federal Gold Medal Match fodder putting 15 shots into an average of .85-inch. The Revenge scope, incidentally, was quite impressive in both its optical quality and mechanical performance, especially in view of its very reasonable price tag of $199.95. I suspect, however, that that’s not the kind of scope that will be mounted by those who purchase an RX-Helix.

The test gun was a joy to shoot; it functioned flawlessly, and its 2 1/2-pound trigger, though a bit mushy, was extremely smooth. The action cycles so fast that getting off an aimed follow-up shot can’t be appreciably more than it takes to get a semi-auto back on target. Like all German guns, not many Plain Jane versions like the test gun will be sold in Europe; they love engraving and spectacular walnut over there. For this first year of availability the following chamberings will be offered: .222 Rem., .223 Rem., .243 Win., 6.5×55, .270 Win., 7×64, .308 Win., .30-06, 8×57, 9.3×62, 7mm Rem. and .300 Win. magnums.  You can find out a lot more about this exciting new rifle by going to Merkel’s website.–Jon R. Sundra


6 thoughts on “Merkel’s Unique RX-Helix Straight Pull Rifle”

  1. dang, I think I will have to find a 96 Mauser straight pull (especially 25-06) and just be happy with it !!

  2. I saw this gun at GSI in Trussville Alabama today. What a thing of beauty. It looked great, felt great in my hands. I got to have one. I am just waiting on the carbon model to come out.

  3. Price over 3 grand ? Really ? Like it has been said. A straight Pull 96 Mauser sounds dang good. 6.5×55, 243, 25-06, 30-06.
    Those Euro calibers like the 7×64 B, 9.3×62 and 8×57 are in the “hard to find” catagory for ammo.


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