The Guns Of MERKEL.
Today the quality manufacturing tradition of the Suhl region shines once again. The Merkel line of O/U, SxS, drillings and combination rifles, brought to America by GSI, Inc., are perfect for hunters who want fire craftsmanship combined with Old World style.
A history of firearm craftsmanship has come from Thuringen Forest region, in particular from the town of Suhl, birthplace of the Merkel firearm. Merkel firearms display the dedication to craft and attention to detail typical of German workmanship.
In 1898, the Merkel brothers founded a factory in Suhl. This factory was the first firearms plant to industrially manufacture over/under shotguns. As time progressed the Merkels introduced a line of side by side shotguns unequaled in reputation, quality and dependability.
The popularity of the guns quickly spread throughout Europe. In the early 1900s, many Europeans immigrated to America -- bringing their Merkel shotguns with them.
These firearms come in various configurations and are among the most well-put-together and proper-functioning long guns that we have ever fired. The quality of fit and finish, exceptional wood and stunning hand engraving make the Merkels works of art in form and function.
We were recently fortunate enough to run three of these Merkels through their paces. It has been said by some in the firearms industry that we are sometimes a little hard on equipment. What this really means is that we expect the firearms to work, and they better work every time. The following is a description and analysis of the three guns tested, not in a sterile range environment, but in the demanding environment of the field.
The Model 147E is an English stocked, 12 gauge, 28" barreled SxS. This gun weighs tinder 6 1/2 lbs., and has an overall length of 45". Out shotgun was choked with an improved cylinder in the right barrel and modified choke in the left barrel. The 3" chambered barrels are cold hammer-forged steel with a deep blue finish, topped with a flat, solid rib.
The self-cocking action is a boxlock design with external cocking indicators. The action is finished silver-gray and bears excellent full coverage engraving. In fact, the 147E was engraved by Karola Knoth, an engraver with over 16 years of experience. She engraved game birds on the action, and every screw on the shotgun has a scroll or star design of some kind.
The oil-finished walnut stock is nicely figured and is cut to 14 1/2" length of pull to the front trigger.
In the course of the testing, several women fired the shotgun and had nothing hut positive comments about the light weight and lack of noticeable recoil with the English-style stock. The shotgun was fired using standard Winchester 12 gauge AA loads, Winchester Mag. Turkey loads and Federal Tactidal 00 buckshot. Even with all the ammunition types, expended, the 147E functioned flawlessly Extraction was positive and crisp.
Unlike many promotional flyers pronouncing the amazing effectiveness of chokes and patterns, the Merkel actually held to the standards set in the brochure. Using a 30" circle at 40 yards, the patterns held at or better than percent for the improved cylinder and 60 to 65 percent for the modified choke.
This is an outstanding example of a field shotgun. Based on the application of the owner, a Model 147E can be ordered in a great variety of barrel lengths and choke options. For the range, models are available for skeet, trap, and sporting clays. True field guns for upland game birds and overhead passing geese and ducks are also available. Acquired in the correct choke and barrel configuration, this SxS would make a, devastating turkey gun.
The model 140-1.1 is a SxS .30-'06 rifle with 23 3/4" barrels. The rifle weighs just under 8 lbs. and has an overall length of 40" The action is similar to other Merkel firearms in that its silver-gray finish is deeply engraved with a large stag on the' left side of the action, while the right side is 'adorned with a large boar.
The stock and forearm are oil-finished walnut with outstanding grain in the wood and a sloping comb Monte Carlo-style raised cheek rest on the left side that is appropriate for a right-handed shooter.
The barrels feature a deep blue finish with a full length rib, tapped by a large square post front sight with a brass insert. The rear sight is a large square notch which makes for quick sight alignment in all light conditions For working iron sights, they are some of the best examples we have seen on a field rifle. The rifle is equipped with ejectors that throw the empty cases clear of the gun when the action is opened.
The safety is located on top of the tang and is operated by pushing forward for fire and rearward for safe. The, safety is automatically engaged when the action is opened.
One of the biggest concerns in the use of a double rifle is "regulation of the barrels," This regulation determines where the projectiles strike at a given point downrange With the barrels mounted side-by-side and only one sight plane. this regulation issue is critical to ensure an accurate double rifle. In researching double rifles, it appears to be one of the most common concerns of the operators of these types of rifles.
While testing the Merkel double rifle, numerous three round groups were fired from each barrel. When firing both groups, each separate barrel group was measured individually and then as part of both barrel groups.
The rifle had been test fired at the factory and regulated to a 180 gr. bullet. During the range testing, which was fired at 100 yards, three different types of ammunition were used.
The best left-barrel group shot was 1 1/2" with Winchester 180 gr. Silvertip ammunition, The best right-barrel group was 1" with Winchester 150 gr. Power Point ammunition. The best double-barrel group measured 2 1/2" which impacted point-of-aim, point-of-impact when fired with the Winchester 180 gr. Silvertip ammunition.
The last test involved two Thunder Ranch staff instructors -- both good shots with rifles. The drill consisted of firing two shots, first with a .308 bolt action rifle and 4X scope, and then with the iron sighted double. On the signal, the shooters were required to place two hits on a 10" steel plate at 70 yards -- a realistic distance for North American big game.
The first shooter's average times with the bolt gun were 3.5 seconds, and with the double rifle, 3.0 seconds. The second shooter's times were 3.5 seconds with the bolt gun and 2.5 seconds with the double rifle.
For any hunter who delights in the challenge of stalking close and shooting over iron sights rather than just cranking up the magnification on a scope, the Merkel double rifle is an excellent choice.
Merkel Model 96K Drilling
Of the three Merkel guns tested, the drilling is probably the least familiar to the American hunting community. The 8 lb. Model 96K is a combination of two side-by-side barrels.
The 23 1/2" long shotgun barrels are choked modified in the right barrel and full on the left barrel. The bottom center barrel chambered for .30-'06 is factory-regulated to shoot a 180 gr. projectile. The barrels are nicely finished with a full-length flat rib topped by a large square front sight with brass insert.
The rear sight is mounted 16" from the front sight and is a flip-up design with a large square notch for the rifle barrel, and an upside-down open crescent shape for use with the shotgun barrels. The drilling is equipped with positive extractors that lift the cases from the chamber when the action is opened.
The drilling features a unique safety design. When the safety is in the rear setting, the gun is on "safe" or "no fire." By pushing the safety forward one detent, the action is clear to fire the shotgun barrels. On top of the safety there is a raised rib with a button. Sliding the rib forward while depressing this button shifts the drilling into the rifle mode. Although it sounds like it could be potentially confusing, it is in fact very simple to operate after a moderate amount of practice.
The action of our drilling had been engraved by 42 year veteran engraver, Bernd Becher. His engraving of a bugling elk and waterfowl in flight are visually appealing and add greatly to the over-all aesthetics of the gun. As with all Merkels, the action has cocking indicators. The 96K model has two triggers.
The stock is made of oil-finished walnut with good color and grain. The gun also features a hard plastic, well-fitted buttplate. With its sloping comb and a nicely detailed European version of the Monte Carlo cheek piece, it is both attractive and serviceable. The drilling also has a solidly attached set of sling swivels.
The drilling's shotgun component was test fired with Winchester AA and Magnum Turkey loads, as well as Federal Tactical buckshot. This produced excellent patterns well within the standards stated in the Merkel brochure.
The drilling's rifle barrel was test fired from the bench at 100 yards and produced groups between 2" and 3" with both Winchester 150 gr. Power Points and 180 gr. Silvertips. These groups printed slightly high with the 150 gr. load, and slightly low with the 180 gr. load, off of the point-of-aim. With the iron sights, these were acceptable groups for a field application.
As to the use of the drilling, in many states it is illegal to have a firearm that has both shotgun and rifle capabilities in the field, or in some cases, at all. Depending on where you live and what game you're hunting, at certain times of the year, a drilling would be contrary to game regulations. Each state should be checked for the appropriate regulations.
The drilling shines in Texas, where lack of regulations and the type of game animals would combine to create the optimal shooting atmosphere. Here in South Texas there is always the possibility of encountering a 300 lb. feral hog while turkey hunting. The drilling's .30-'06 would give the porkers a pretty good chance of winding up on the hog spit. The twin barrels of the 12 gauge, backed by the .30-'06 should resolve most wildlife confrontations,
All of the Merkel guns held up to the standards claimed by the manufacturer. They are without a doubt, some of the best long guns we have fired. The quality of craftsmanship, engraving, wood-to-metal fit and finish leave very little to be desired. They are not inexpensive, but they are worth the money.
The author would like to thank Einar Hoff of GSI for his help and technical support.