Browning Maral Rifle Review
Could this be the fastest bolt action on the market? Toby Worthington gets his hands on the Maral straight pull rifle from Browning.
“Pull and let go” this is the phrase that has been adopted to describe the Maral straight pull rifle, a rifle which has been developed by Browning from the much loved Browning Automatic Rifle (BAR).
In an apparent attempt to comply with increasing regulation imposed by numerous countries and the rising trend toward restrictions on semi autos, Browning have got ahead of the curve and adapted the gas driven action of the BAR to meet demand in the new Browning Maral straight pull.
So how does it work, well the principle is in fact astonishingly simple. The operator pulls the bolt back in one straight linear movement, this action ejects the spent case and puts a spring under tension. Upon letting the bolt handle go it simply snaps back into place with sufficient inertia to feed the new cartridge and lock the seven lug rotating bolt into position, hence the phrase 'pull and let go'. The Browning Maral effectively does exactly what it says on the tin and the result is perhaps the fastest straight pull bolt action on the market.
(Above: The cocking system is safe and smooth by annoyingly heavy to operate)
It is this speed of action that underpins the whole philosophy behind the rifle, which has evolved in response to the requirements of the international hunter who seeks to possess a rifle that will comply with the legal restraints of most countries, whilst also offering the ability to tackle hunting disciplines that require speed of operation rather than long range accuracy. It is in part due the requirements of this intended audience that the Maral has been designed and restricted for use in conjunction with more powerful calibres, calibres that might typically be used in driven hunting, specifically boar.
(Above: The Browning Maral designed for rapid fire)
The rifle is short and compact and weighs 7.25 lbs. Not too much of a problem in a .308 or even 30-06, however select one of the other offered chamberings such as a .300 Win Mag and the result will be a fair belt in the shoulder. Remember this is a rifle that is designed for raining down a hail of bullets in rapid succession, so in order to put this to full effect many purchasers will opt for the high capacity drop box magazine with a ten round capacity over the standard five shot mag. Add a high rate of fire to a moderate weight rifle, and the user is in for a potentially bruising encounter. That said the rifle is well balanced and surprisingly manageable, furthermore for those slight in frame thicker recoil pads can be purchased if required.
Upsides come in the form of the iron sites, whilst optics can be fitted, I simply loved the open sites which are designed in the fashion of a ramp with high vis’ dots which I personally found extremely well positioned for fast target acquisition. The rifle comes with the butt removed in a compact compartmentalised carry case which will no doubt appeal to those hunters that intend to travel. The butt is easily reassembled and offers some space saving, however the rifle is not a switch barrel and so does not quite match the ‘take down’ design and space saving of other more expensive Eurpoean rifles such as the Sauer or Blaser.
(Below: The rifle comes with the stock removed for ease of transport)
This inability to switch barrels will be a disappointment for those hunters of a ‘one rifle fits all’ mentality, however the main downside of the Maral is the large manual cocking system which, though precise and smooth, is annoyingly heavy and perhaps the most frequently voiced drawback to an otherwise well thought out design. The system is however reassuringly safe and allows you to un-cock the hammer by pressing a button which in turn lets the component slide back down to the safe position when the rifle is not in use.
To my eye the Maral is not the most beautiful rifle on the market neither is it unattractive. It has some decent oil finished grade 111 walnut and fine chequering that will surely offer purchasers some pride in ownership, this however is to miss the point of the design. The Maral is very much designed as a tool for rapid fire at short to moderate distances. As a tool, with this end in mind, it is highly effective. For this reason there is no doubt in my mind that for driven hunting it will become one of the most functional, fit for purpose rifles on the market. For Deer Stalking, where the philosophy revolves around making one shot count, sometimes at extended ranges, I suspect it will not however attract such a following.
The Browning Maral is undoubtedly huge fun and with the trend away from semi autos for driven hunting, will I am sure, find its way into the gun cabinets of many international hunters as a hugely popular second rifle, myself included.
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