Merkel Helix Review

rnovi

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(*reposted from the EuroOptic thread in the Classifieds. Been meaning to do this anyway soooo...)

https://www.africahunting.com/threads/heads-up-on-merkel-helix-sale.50273/


**
Why yes, yes I do (*own a Helix).

I own two Helix actions, three stocks (one grade 6 wood, 1x new plastic, 1x beater plastic) and three barrel sets: 6.5x55, 7mm RemMag, 9.3x62. The Grade 6 wood...it's porn. Pure Porn.

I'll do a more formal write up at some point but here are the highlights:

  1. Yeah, it really is as quick an action they say it is. Truly, a flick of the wrist.
  2. The trigger is 2# and has an odd feeling. It's absolutely 100% predictable, reliable, and great. it's just an oddly, weird soft sorta but not really 2-stagish. I can't describe it. I'd say it felt soft compared to a glass rod break.
  3. If you didn't shoot a 3/4" 100 yard group, it's because you suck. Or the ammo sucked. It sure isn't the rifle. I've fired 1" 200 yard groups - regularly. Yeah, 1", 200 yard groups. And I know, if it didn't happen, it was me.
  4. The rifle takes down in about 10 seconds. Maybe less. Seriously.
  5. Do NOT believe the rumors about the action not being "cleanable". Tap a pin out and the whole trigger assembly drops free and you can get to the geared rails for a full cleaning. That is, assuming you need to. It's largely a sealed action. Put another way...if you've ever disassembled a Remington 870 and pulled the trigger group, you already know how to manage the Helix.
  6. The biggest single problem with the takedown action isn't the rifle. It's the scope. My Warne QD Rings aren't up to what the rifle actually needs. It needs a "zero-stop" type of ring that allows for exactly the same pressure tensions each time. Still, you know you will be reasonably close each time. I consider that issue on me...I could have spent real money buying better rings I suppose.
  7. To take the stock off, you need a really, really long allen wrench. I can't remember the size but Harbor Freight and Amazon carry them for like, $10.
  8. The actions are aluminum, coated. Basically, rust proof. The Barrels are coated with some kind of Ti-Nitride. They survived an Alaskan Bear hunt with no degradation and minimal care. Still...I'd use an oil rag on the barrel.
  9. Ergonomics are spot on. It's the first rifle that I've actually not had to "think" about. Merkel Nailed the design.
  10. The "safety" - I love it. Safest Safety ever. Uncocked is uncocked and the Action is Locked. (think 3-way Safety). Up and cocked...action is ready. It is wonderful. And yes, it resets itself into the cocked position with each throw of the bolt. No need to reset the cocker with each shot.
  11. Pro-Tip: To open the action without cocking, just push the cocker up about 1/3'rd of the way. Action opens. Ummm...that's not in the manual. And, ummm...please don't ask me how long it took to figure that out.

Negatives: Can't get the right damn rifle case for it in the USA. I can't tell you how annoying that is...I want the Merkel 2-barrel rifle case...and can't get it even from Eurooptic. (*yeah, search the website, I dares ya)

#1 pet Peeve: And, it's finicky on reloads. No, not the reloads itself...but your brass needs to be perfect. I'm not kidding. Totally perfect. You cannot, and I mean cannot, have a case length too long or a shoulder not pushed back far enough. Neck Sizing is not an option...you have to full length resize, twice. You must have the OAL correct...slightly short (ie: do not try to load at the lands) is better. You WILL jam if you load to the lands.

There is NO camming action ala US style RemChester bolt guns. You cannot "force" a round to fit. It just doesn't work with a straight pull. The leverage isn't there. I wish it was, but it isn't. If that hand loaded round is a little long (bullets into the lands) or off in the shoulder...it will jam up and mess with you. And then the cartridge sticks in the chamber. And since it's a straight pull on a gear, you're actually at 50% strength trying to pull that round out of the chamber. It's a glorious mess.

And it's your fault. Every time.

Seriously - it's my #1 frustration with the rifle. I've never had a factory load issue on new ammo (*even hot Lapua 140's)...but once fired, resized handloaded brass - damnit you sonuvabitch...mothereffingcahcksackingpeaceofschiza...

It's really made me focus on my reloading in a big way.

And you will know when you hit the pressure margins. A little overpressure and a sticky case locks the action instantly. I mean, get the rubber mallet out. A USA bolt gun can cam down and cam up on a round. It really makes a difference on slight overpressures.

Mind you, the action is strong. Brutally strong. Embarrassingly strong. 120k PSI strong. It's 9-lugs polished and blueprinted steel on steel at the barrel strong.

And then you shoot a 1/2" group and get pissed off. Because the rifle will deliver. If, and it's a big iff...you deliver.

Pro-Tip: test chamber every single round before you go hunting. Trust me. You don't want that action to lock up on a slightly OAL long cartridge when the bullet hits the lands. And jams. And totally screws up the stalk because the animal is now laughing and rolling on the ground while you swear at your rifle bashing the butt up against a tree like an M16/AR15 with a jammed round in the chamber.

My final complaint though: the most powerful cartridge is...

9.3x62.

9.3x62 is not legal in all African Countries for Dangerous Game. It will do for Cape Buff in Zim. IF loaded to the hilt.

Ok, I've done that. I've hotloaded it with a hefty case of Ramshot Big Game, shot over a Magnetospeed chrono'ed 2,550 fps with a 286 gr. Nosler Partition in the factory 22" barrel. As in, 75 rounds worth of testing. What it does to brass though is tragic (big shiny ring at the base of the brass)...but every single round ejects with zero issues (*yeah, but don't ask me about my journey in 6.5x55 pressures). I get honest 1" groups at 200 yards and clustered 3-shot groups at 100. I am truly amazed at the accuracy.

I queried Merkel and didn't get the answer I wanted. No plans for anything bigger. That's a problem, IMO.

IMO, there is no reason this rifle cannot be chambered in 375 Ruger or 416 Ruger. The rifle is designed to handle 65k PSI cartridges (270 Win is a factory chambering). The Bolt-Barrel lock up basically is steel on steel IN the barrel - can't really do any better than that for strength. The largest bolt head is a magnum bolt head...same bolt face as a .416 Ruger. OAL of the cartridge is no longer than a 7mm Rem Mag. Case width is no bigger than a RemMag Belt. Would use a slightly modded magazine (more open feed lips), minimal modification there. You can get a 5-round magazine as well...

Nope. Merkel said no. Biggest today (I emailed them in 2016) is a 9.3x62...or 338 WinMag. Honestly, that makes little sense...particularly since Blaser offers it and Merkel (Suhl Germany) makes the barrels for Blaser....

So, it's a rifle with some idiosyncrasies.

Welcome to German Innovation.

PS: Well, screw it. that's as good a review as I'd have done anyway. May as well copy it to the Rifles pages...

PPS: Why do I want to order the .222 setup for the Helix? /Sigh...it's a disease.
 
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Fastrig

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(*reposted from the EuroOptic thread in the Classifieds. Been meaning to do this anyway soooo...)

https://www.africahunting.com/threads/heads-up-on-merkel-helix-sale.50273/


**
Why yes, yes I do (*own a Helix).

I own two Helix actions, three stocks (one grade 6 wood, 1x new plastic, 1x beater plastic) and three barrel sets: 6.5x55, 7mm RemMag, 9.3x62. The Grade 6 wood...it's porn. Pure Porn.

I'll do a more formal write up at some point but here are the highlights:

  1. Yeah, it really is as quick an action they say it is. Truly, a flick of the wrist.
  2. The trigger is 2# and has an odd feeling. It's absolutely 100% predictable, reliable, and great. it's just an oddly, weird soft sorta but not really 2-stagish. I can't describe it. I'd say it felt soft compared to a glass rod break.
  3. If you didn't shoot a 3/4" 100 yard group, it's because you suck. Or the ammo sucked. It sure isn't the rifle. I've fired 1" 200 yard groups - regularly. Yeah, 1", 200 yard groups. And I know, if it didn't happen, it was me.
  4. The rifle takes down in about 10 seconds. Maybe less. Seriously.
  5. Do NOT believe the rumors about the action not being "cleanable". Tap a pin out and the whole trigger assembly drops free and you can get to the geared rails for a full cleaning. That is, assuming you need to. It's largely a sealed action. Put another way...if you've ever disassembled a Remington 870 and pulled the trigger group, you already know how to manage the Helix.
  6. The biggest single problem with the takedown action isn't the rifle. It's the scope. My Warne QD Rings aren't up to what the rifle actually needs. It needs a "zero-stop" type of ring that allows for exactly the same pressure tensions each time. Still, you know you will be reasonably close each time. I consider that issue on me...I could have spent real money buying better rings I suppose.
  7. To take the stock off, you need a really, really long allen wrench. I can't remember the size but Harbor Freight and Amazon carry them for like, $10.
  8. The actions are aluminum, coated. Basically, rust proof. The Barrels are coated with some kind of Ti-Nitride. They survived an Alaskan Bear hunt with no degradation and minimal care. Still...I'd use an oil rag on the barrel.
  9. Ergonomics are spot on. It's the first rifle that I've actually not had to "think" about. Merkel Nailed the design.
  10. The "safety" - I love it. Safest Safety ever. Uncocked is uncocked and the Action is Locked. (think 3-way Safety). Up and cocked...action is ready. It is wonderful. And yes, it resets itself into the cocked position with each throw of the bolt. No need to reset the cocker with each shot.
  11. Pro-Tip: To open the action without cocking, just push the cocker up about 1/3'rd of the way. Action opens. Ummm...that's not in the manual. And, ummm...please don't ask me how long it took to figure that out.

Negatives: Can't get the right damn rifle case for it in the USA. I can't tell you how annoying that is...I want the Merkel 2-barrel rifle case...and can't get it even from Eurooptic. (*yeah, search the website, I dares ya)

#1 pet Peeve: And, it's finicky on reloads. No, not the reloads itself...but your brass needs to be perfect. I'm not kidding. Totally perfect. You cannot, and I mean cannot, have a case length too long or a shoulder not pushed back far enough. Neck Sizing is not an option...you have to full length resize, twice. You must have the OAL correct...slightly short (ie: do not try to load at the lands) is better. You WILL jam if you load to the lands.

There is NO camming action ala US style RemChester bolt guns. You cannot "force" a round to fit. It just doesn't work with a straight pull. The leverage isn't there. I wish it was, but it isn't. If that hand loaded round is a little long (bullets into the lands) or off in the shoulder...it will jam up and mess with you. And then the cartridge sticks in the chamber. And since it's a straight pull on a gear, you're actually at 50% strength trying to pull that round out of the chamber. It's a glorious mess.

And it's your fault. Every time.

Seriously - it's my #1 frustration with the rifle. I've never had a factory load issue on new ammo (*even hot Lapua 140's)...but once fired, resized handloaded brass - damnit you sonuvabitch...mothereffingcahcksackingpeaceofschiza...

It's really made me focus on my reloading in a big way.

And you will know when you hit the pressure margins. A little overpressure and a sticky case locks the action instantly. I mean, get the rubber mallet out. A USA bolt gun can cam down and cam up on a round. It really makes a difference on slight overpressures.

Mind you, the action is strong. Brutally strong. Embarrassingly strong. 120k PSI strong. It's 9-lugs polished and blueprinted steel on steel at the barrel strong.

And then you shoot a 1/2" group and get pissed off. Because the rifle will deliver. If, and it's a big iff...you deliver.

Pro-Tip: test chamber every single round before you go hunting. Trust me. You don't want that action to lock up on a slightly OAL long cartridge when the bullet hits the lands. And jams. And totally screws up the stalk because the animal is now laughing and rolling on the ground while you swear at your rifle bashing the butt up against a tree like an M16/AR15 with a jammed round in the chamber.

My final complaint though: the most powerful cartridge is...

9.3x62.

9.3x62 is not legal in all African Countries for Dangerous Game. It will do for Cape Buff in Zim. IF loaded to the hilt.

Ok, I've done that. I've hotloaded it with a hefty case of Ramshot Big Game, shot over a Magnetospeed chrono'ed 2,550 fps with a 286 gr. Nosler Partition in the factory 22" barrel. As in, 75 rounds worth of testing. What it does to brass though is tragic (big shiny ring at the base of the brass)...but every single round ejects with zero issues (*yeah, but don't ask me about my journey in 6.5x55 pressures). I get honest 1" groups at 200 yards and clustered 3-shot groups at 100. I am truly amazed at the accuracy.

I queried Merkel and didn't get the answer I wanted. No plans for anything bigger. That's a problem, IMO.

IMO, there is no reason this rifle cannot be chambered in 375 Ruger or 416 Ruger. The rifle is designed to handle 65k PSI cartridges (270 Win is a factory chambering). The Bolt-Barrel lock up basically is steel on steel IN the barrel - can't really do any better than that for strength. The largest bolt head is a magnum bolt head...same bolt face as a .416 Ruger. OAL of the cartridge is no longer than a 7mm Rem Mag. Case width is no bigger than a RemMag Belt. Would use a slightly modded magazine (more open feed lips), minimal modification there. You can get a 5-round magazine as well...

Nope. Merkel said no. Biggest today (I emailed them in 2016) is a 9.3x62...or 338 WinMag. Honestly, that makes little sense...particularly since Blaser offers it and Merkel (Suhl Germany) makes the barrels for Blaser....

So, it's a rifle with some idiosyncrasies.

Welcome to German Innovation.

PS: Well, screw it. that's as good a review as I'd have done anyway. May as well copy it to the Rifles pages...

PPS: Why do I want to order the .222 setup for the Helix? /Sigh...it's a disease.


Great review!! My Merkel RX Helix Explorer in 300 win mag showed up last week....this is a damn fine rifle, every bit as nice as the Blaser R8 I was looking at. This action is definitely faster than the Blaser R8 (which is fast in its own right). I'm going to order another in carbon fiber stock with 308 win, 7x64 and 9.3x62 barrels. Europtic told me they aren't going to be handling Merkel any longer but you can source all the parts, gear, etc. from the US main importer, Steyr Arms. I called them and they keep bolt heads, mags, parts, etc. in stock and you can order from them directly and they will order you anything they don't have...really helpful when I called. Website isn't really up to speed on all the Merkel stuff but has the contact info to call them....hope that helps. Agree on the higher calibers, pity they aren't making those but I'd bet it's because of an agreement with Blaser as they are making their barrels.

https://www.steyr-arms.com/us/firearms/merkel-products?p=2
 

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enysse

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Thanks for the review, a lot of pros and cons to consider!
 

BeeMaa

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I looked at the Helix, but it's exactly what you said..lack of availabity for the true big bores that kept me away.
Wife and I are going the Blaser way for that reason.
 

Fastrig

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I looked at the Helix, but it's exactly what you said..lack of availabity for the true big bores that kept me away.
Wife and I are going the Blaser way for that reason.

I decided to have one “big bore” rifle built and it’s going to be a custom 404 Jeffery. I’ll probably use it a few times in my life then hand it down to my son or a future grandson at some point. It is a definite want and not a need rifle, but a 404J is just plain cool and you only live once. For my every day rifle I went with the Helix and will have barrels in 300 win mag, 308 win, 7x64, and 9.3x62, plus two stock/receivers. With a two barrel travel case or two gun case there’s not many places I could go and not have enough rifle with me. My wife is starting to shoot so hoping she takes one and me the other.
 

rnovi

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Fast,
Congrats on the rifle! I love your choice of calibers - covers the spectrum handily. I’m looking forward to your range review. :)

So, what do you think of the Trigger?
 

BeeMaa

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I decided to have one “big bore” rifle built and it’s going to be a custom 404 Jeffery. I’ll probably use it a few times in my life then hand it down to my son or a future grandson at some point. It is a definite want and not a need rifle, but a 404J is just plain cool and you only live once. For my every day rifle I went with the Helix and will have barrels in 300 win mag, 308 win, 7x64, and 9.3x62, plus two stock/receivers. With a two barrel travel case or two gun case there’s not many places I could go and not have enough rifle with me. My wife is starting to shoot so hoping she takes one and me the other.
How are you planning on dealing with different scope zeros for different calibers?
Will you be changing out scopes/mounts for each caliber or changing the dope on the scope for the caliber being used?
 

Opposite Pole

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For your reloading issues it might be worth trying small base dies or perhaps a custom one from someone like Whidden.
 

Fastrig

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How are you planning on dealing with different scope zeros for different calibers?
Will you be changing out scopes/mounts for each caliber or changing the dope on the scope for the caliber being used?

different scopes on QD mounts was my plan....got a number of scopes off other rifles I’m selling or already sold. Using the Leupold QD rings, which aren’t very expensive, for all the scopes....30mm.
 

Fastrig

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Fast,
Congrats on the rifle! I love your choice of calibers - covers the spectrum handily. I’m looking forward to your range review. :)

So, what do you think of the Trigger?

Thanks. I think the trigger is very nice..no creep, crisp, and a light break. Haven’t tried to adjust it as it was fine for me out of the box, think it’s set to its lowest setting by the factory. I really like the cocking/safety system, it’s similar to the Blaser which is one the things I like best about their R8’s.
 

BeeMaa

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different scopes on QD mounts was my plan....got a number of scopes off other rifles I’m selling or already sold. Using the Leupold QD rings, which aren’t very expensive, for all the scopes....30mm.
I'm with ya there, except Blaser hits you in the plums for almost $450 for each scope mount which is the downside.
The upside is that they are mounted to the barrel (as opposed to the receiver) in QD mounts and repeatability of zero is very easy.

Not saying one is any better than the other in the field, just different solutions to the same problem.
 

Fastrig

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I'm with ya there, except Blaser hits you in the plums for almost $450 for each scope mount which is the downside.
The upside is that they are mounted to the barrel (as opposed to the receiver) in QD mounts and repeatability of zero is very easy.

Not saying one is any better than the other in the field, just different solutions to the same problem.

Yea, the mounts from Blaser are stupid expensive. I would go with the Contessa’s Blaser mounts personally, cheaper and like their mounting mechanism better than the Blaser mount.
 

BeeMaa

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Yea, the mounts from Blaser are stupid expensive. I would go with the Contessa’s Blaser mounts personally, cheaper and like their mounting mechanism better than the Blaser mount.
I checked out the Contessa mounts and they are pretty slick.
Looks like the Contessa is about $150 less with about a month of lead time.

The only thing I can't find is if there is a significant difference between the height of the Blaser vs the Contessa system.
From the looks of it the Contessa is higher but I can't tell how much.
Maybe 3/8" (1 cm or so), possibly more.
 
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Fastrig

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I checked out the Contessa mounts and they are pretty slick.
Looks like the Contessa is about $150 less with about a month of lead time.

The only thing I can't find is if there is a significant difference between the height of the Blaser vs the Contessa system.
From the looks of it the Contessa is higher but I can't tell how much.
Maybe 3/8" (1 cm or so), possibly more.

Don’t know if they are or not, but that wouldn’t be enough to bother me one way or the other.....looked at them online and they don’t look all that high to me...but without sitting them side by side you really can’t tell for sure.
 

BeeMaa

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@rnovi apologies for hijacking your thread.
 

rnovi

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Fastrig

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Finally got a chance to take the Rx Helix to the range and start dialing it in. Mine is chambered in 300 win mag and has a Leupold VX-6HD 2-12x42 scope mounted, weighs right at 8.0 lbs. (yea, light). First thing to report is that the Rx Helix is the softest shooting 300 win mag I’ve shot, even with this rifle being as light as it is. Was at an indoor range that goes out to 100 yards and was getting sub-MOA to MOA groups of three once I dialed the scope in. Dialing in was pretty quick, took around 10 rounds after laser bore sighting the rifle at 50 yards to get on paper. Rifle was a pleasure to shoot off the bench. Weight, recoil, feel, and accuracy all get a 9 to 10 IMO.

Now for the less than stellar news. Was using Federal Fusion ammo, 165 grain to dial in the Helix. Not top-shelf hunting rounds, but good ammo and definitely good enough for dialing a rifle in. The Helix was having trouble ejecting the empty Federal brass after firing. The brass would catch/get caught half way out of the chamber. Simple to reach up and pull out the spent round hanging out of the chamber, but need to get this fixed/addressed/resolved. Not every shot did this, but it was often enough that it was becoming very annoying. Didn’t have another brand of ammo with me so will have go back to the range with a few different manufactures’ loads to see if the rifle just doesn’t like the Fusion rounds. Have a couple boxes of Fusion 180 grain rounds I bought for Whitetail so will see how those do as well. Did read online that at least one other person reported having issues using the Federal Fusion ammo with their Helix and a couple of others said they were having this issue with other brands/calibers. Related to this is the other issue, though I’m not sure if it is an issue or not at this point. I’m used to rifles ejecting spent rounds with authority, i.e. kicking the brass out and away from you and the rifle by a good foot or more. The Helix isn’t doing that, it’s more like dropping the rounds out the side, say 3-4 inches. This may just be a characteristic of this rifle but I’m thinking it’s related to the ejection issue, i.e. not enough “umph” behind the spend brass throw.

That’s the report for now. Will try some other ammo and see where that leads. Some very positive results but also at least one not so positive result. Read a forum post a little while ago that said some of the early Helix’s had the issue I’m experiencing but that this was corrected with a design change. Going to fire Merkel off an email to see if this is valid and, if so, if there is a correction available for my rifle. Will report back. Hasta.
 

rnovi

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Fast, thanks for the post up.

I very much agree with you on the recoil - for a lightweight rifle (8# scoped) it really is remarkable how gentle a shooter it is, especially given the lack of any real recoil pad. My 9.3x62 with full stout loads (286r. at 2,550 fps, clocked) is still very controllable. 40 rounds at practice off the bench isn't that horrible and more normal loads (286 at 2300 fps) are pussycats. My 7mm Rem Mag is delightfully easy on the shoulder.

The ejection not being particularly "enthusiastic" - it hasn't posed problems for my rifle, which tends to drop the brass pretty close to my feet, maybe 2' at most depending on how robust I am on the bolt. Still, the ejection problem you've noted I've not experienced with my 7mm RM. I do know however there are differences in brass bases and most of my brass has been Remington or Nosler. More to the point, I have several bases (dies) for reloading and some are more snug than others on the belted rims (simply tells me there's brass variation thickness potential). This leads me to think that the brass might be the culprit - are you seeing any brass marks on the ejection port of the rifle?

Here's hoping the ejection solution for you is a simple one!
 

Fastrig

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Fast, thanks for the post up.

I very much agree with you on the recoil - for a lightweight rifle (8# scoped) it really is remarkable how gentle a shooter it is, especially given the lack of any real recoil pad. My 9.3x62 with full stout loads (286r. at 2,550 fps, clocked) is still very controllable. 40 rounds at practice off the bench isn't that horrible and more normal loads (286 at 2300 fps) are pussycats. My 7mm Rem Mag is delightfully easy on the shoulder.

The ejection not being particularly "enthusiastic" - it hasn't posed problems for my rifle, which tends to drop the brass pretty close to my feet, maybe 2' at most depending on how robust I am on the bolt. Still, the ejection problem you've noted I've not experienced with my 7mm RM. I do know however there are differences in brass bases and most of my brass has been Remington or Nosler. More to the point, I have several bases (dies) for reloading and some are more snug than others on the belted rims (simply tells me there's brass variation thickness potential). This leads me to think that the brass might be the culprit - are you seeing any brass marks on the ejection port of the rifle?

Here's hoping the ejection solution for you is a simple one!

Was a bit worried when I saw the recoil pad, figured my shoulder was going to take a beating. Was VERY please with how soft-shooting the Helix is. 40 rounds wouldn't be an issue I don't think.

I'm guessing the brass on the Fusion rounds isn't spot on to specs and that's causing the issue with the spent cartridge hanging up on ejection. Have read the tolerances in the Helix are very tight, anything not spot on for ammo can become an issue, and betting other rounds won't be as finicky. Hoping to go to the range again this coming weekend with a variety of ammo from differing manufactures and give the Helix another go. Will let you all know how that goes.
 

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