Test: Merkel K5 Black/Extreme single shot rifle

Test: Merkel K5 Black/Extreme single shot rifle
With the Merkel K5, you can write "easy to handle" in capital letters with a clear conscience: without optics, the rifle weighs just over two kilograms.

“Less is more” – this is perhaps the best way to describe the break-barrel rifle from Suhl-based German gunmaker Merkel. Weighing just 5 lb/2.3 kg, the rifle is simple, lightweight and anything but opulent. The unspectacular gun case of the Merkel K5 revealed "a tiny thing" made of wood and metal after it was opened. Otherwise only used to the large, long and – in comparison – clunky bolt action rifles, the sight that presented itself appeared much more delicate. Our K5 break-barrel rifle came in .308 Winchester caliber. Here are the data: the length of the semi-weight barrel is 51 cm with an overall length of just 92 cm. Merkel blued the barrel, the surface of the breechblock is titanium nitrided, as well as the trigger. By pushing the top lever to the right, the gun can be opened and a cartridge inserted. With light pressure, the cartridge sinks into the chamber and the rifle can be closed. At Merkel, the stocks are made of first-class walnut wood, up to 300 years old, from the highlands of the Caucasus. If you have a choice, you can indulge in the agony of choosing within eleven wood classes.

Our test gun was delivered with a ladies stock of wood class number 5. Here, the luster of the wood does not come from a varnish coating, but rather from the careful treatment of the surface with an oil finish. This DS stock is distinguished by the fact that it was designed for ladies (and, of course, petite gentlemen). The stock is not simply shorter, but overall adapted for smaller hunters. Specifically, this means that the buttstock is straight and has little drop. The high comb almost automatically extends the horizontal line of sight. The steeply positioned pistol grip offers small hands optimal access to the trigger. Last but not least, the buttplate has also been somewhat adapted to female conditions. The cheek piece is decorated with a double fold. The pistol grip is embellished by rosewood cap. Merkel gave the pistol grip a neatly-cut checkering for a better grip. The butt neck is very narrow. Furthermore, Merkel offers the possibility to choose between four finishes of the buttstock. The K5 Black/Extreme is the most modern version. It appears dashing, dynamic and yet elegant. In the Arabesque and Hunting versions, the receiver is refined with hand-engraved motifs or hunting scenes. The Custom version fully hand-engraves the customer's wishes onto the surface of the gun.

Test: Merkel K5 Black/Extreme single shot rifle
The control center of the Merkel K5: the smooth-running, noiseless cocking slide at the rear, the opening lever and the tilting block in front.

The cocking slide is placed on the stock tang. The manual cocking of the Merkel K5 functions as a safety system. Due to the ergonomics of the break-barrel rifle, the slide is completely effortless to operate. Before firing, you press it with your thumb in the direction of the muzzle, and to decock the gun, you simply perform the movement in the opposite direction. After the shot is fired, the K5 is also automatically decocked. To remove the spent case from the chamber, it must be picked out of the broken open rifle in a somewhat awkward manner. Opening and closing the rifle, as well as loading and unloading, can be done gently, silently and slowly, or vigorously, loudly and quickly. The action of the Merkel K5 is based on the tilting block invented by Franz Jäger in 1906. This type of lock enables a particularly stable connection with an extremely short design. Typically, here steel locks on steel. The gold-colored titanium-nitrated tilting block is a beautiful detail. In contrast, the matte black receiver is kept quite sober. It impresses with discreet decorations, such as the K5 lettering on the left and the manufacturer's name and crest on the underside.

Test: Merkel K5 Black/Extreme single shot rifle
The Merkel K5 with a lady's stock is adapted not only to female hunters but also to small gentlemen.

The Merkel break-barrel rifle has a crisp single-stage trigger, and the trigger pull weight was set to 21 oz/600 grams at the factory. Operating it is a pure joy, the trigger breaks clearly, but not uncontrollably. The gold-plated trigger blade position is adjustable. The forearm blends in with the graceful overall appearance. The overall slim, almost fragile looking gun simply does not tolerate a wide stock. The use of darker rosewood makes the stock end visually attractive. The stud for the sling swivel is located at the very front underneath the barrel, which also allows for the addition of a bipod.

Of course, current trends such as the desire for a take-down action do not cause the K5 any problems. In just three easy steps, the break-barrel rifle can be disassembled in a few seconds without tools to a very, very small pack size. If you want to disassemble the rifle by loosening the forend, you only have to operate the slide on the underside. The rather large release catch is practical. This not only works impeccably smoothly: finally you no longer have to jam your fingers or split your nails – unfortunately, this sounds very cliché, but the ladies will know what we mean. Thanks for that!

Exclusive video from all4hunters: hunting with the Merkel K5

Available calibers and other options for the Merkel K5

The Semi Weight barrel, fluted to reduce weight, has a diameter of 17 millimeters at the muzzle. Merkel also offers barrel lengths of 56 and 60 centimeters for the K5, with the overall length varying between 97 and 101 centimeters. Caliber choices include .223 Remington and .243 Winchester, 6.5x57 mm R and .270 Winchester, 7x57 mm R, 7x65 mm R, .30-06 Springfield, 8x57 mm IRS, the trendy 6.5 Creedmoor caliber, 10.3x60 mm R and the powerful .300 Winchester Magnum.

The factory break-barrel rifle comes with open sights. The rear and front sights of this so-called i-Sight system can be easily removed by loosening a hex screw. The factory-cut M15x1 muzzle thread can thus be used to accommodate a suppressor.

Test: Merkel K5 Black/Extreme single shot rifle
Steel on steel: the solid, titanium-nitrided tilting block of the Merkel K5 locks in the barrel extension, which also safely withstands magnum calibers.

Of course, the K5 is also fitted with a mount for a telescopic sight. In this particular case, the normally used Suhl tilt-up mount was dispensed with and replaced by the completely newly developed EAW swivel mount with Zeiss rail mount. The riflescope available was an NZ6 2-12x50 from Noblex's Inception series. This was also used in the test in parallel with a compact 1-6x24 Inception, also adapted for the new EAW mount and also here in the variant for Zeiss inner rail riflescopes. For the accuracy test, however, only the larger scope was used. At 525 grams and a 30mm main tube diameter, it fits the filigree break-barrel rifle very well. The six-fold zoom factor provides a perfectly adequate range of adjustment for the demands placed on the rifle. The continuously adjustable illuminated reticle simplifies game sighting. Great additional features are the parallax compensation and the position sensor, which automatically switches off the illuminated reticle or turns it off after three hours of rest. As for the reticle itself, both Inception scopes had the 4i version.

Merkel K5 break-barrel rifle specs and price

Merkel K5 Black/Extreme
3994 euro (test rifle) – the K5 Black in the cheapest version starts at about 3500 euro
.308 Winchester (test rifle), .223 Rem., .243 Win., 6.5x57R, .270 Win., 7x57R, 7x65R, .30-06 Spring., 8x57IRS, 6.5 Creedmoor, 10.3x60R, .300 Win. Mag.
Single-shot rifle
Overall Length: 
36.22”/920 mm
Barrel Length: 
20”/510 mm
Twist Rate: 
1:12" (305 mm)
Trigger Pull Weight: 
21 oz/600 g
5 lb/2300 g
Left/Right Version: 
Right version
i-Sight removable sights, muzzle thread, titanium-nitrated trigger, single-stage trigger, titanium-nitrated tilting block, manual cocking system, rosewood on pistol cap and forend, fluted barrel with Semi-Weight contour.

Firing the Merkel K5 break-barrel rifle

Test: Merkel K5 Black/Extreme single shot rifle
The 2-12x50 Inception from Noblex on the newly developed EAW mount still fits the slim rifle visually well.

The test ammunition available was: Norma Vulkan, RWS H-Mantel, Browning's BXR Rapid Expansion, and GECO Zero. The ammo selection shows a cross-section of common factory loads and was intended to show if and how the barrel would react differently to different bullets and powders. Using LabRadar, velocity was measured three meters in front of the muzzle. The grouping circles were then measured after five shots. The result: all ammunition types produced good five-shot groupings in the range between 0.78” and 1.14” (20- 29 mm). The lead-free ammunition was fired at the end of the test series after the barrel had been pulled through twice with a barrel cleaning cord. We could not detect any group climbing or opening-up after ten quick-fired shots. The .308 Winchester caliber provided showed a clear recoil when firing on sight. Much more unpleasant, however, was the violent muzzle flip of the break-barrel rifle, which simply made it impossible to stay on target. A caliber like the .308 appears to be the upper limit for such a light gun, if it is to be used without a suppressor or compensator. The crack of the shot was perceived as a loud whip from the short barrel. Here, too, the question is hardly whether a suppressor should be fitted, but rather which suppressor it should be. There is no lack of gentler alternatives: with a nice 6.5 mm caliber you are also very well equipped with such a manageable rifle described as a stalking gun. This is certainly suitable for roe deer and even a small hog can be shot with it without any problems.

The K5 is undoubtedly accurate, but what about the workmanship? The break-barrel rifle from the traditional manufacturer in Suhl impresses here with an overall good workmanship of the various materials and relies on small visual highlights. We appreciated the titanium-nitrided trigger and the color-matched tilting block. The CompCote-coated receiver with the manufacturer's logo and the rifle name is elegant. The choice of two-tone wood on the forend and pistol cap is also exquisitely classic. The protective cap that covers the muzzle thread could have been made with a little more attention to detail. With many other manufacturers, this fits so precisely that it is not even visible at first glance. The cocking slide is advertised as being particularly smooth to operate. This is true. Unfortunately, this is somewhat at the expense of reliable primer striking – during the test, failures even occurred with different ammunition manufacturers. An inquiry to the manufacturer revealed that in the meantime, optimizations have been made to the cocking and striking system, which ensure that the gun functions reliably.

Merkel K5 test conclusion

With the K5, you get a contemporary, modern and yet elegant break-barrel rifle that leaves hardly any wishes unfulfilled. Designed as a stalking rifle and for mountain hunting, it meets all the requirements with exemplary ease. Of course, it is also suitable for raised hide hunting in the woods and fields. At the end of the day, the break-barrel rifle is a real pleasure to shoot. Its trigger breaks quite excellently and the groupings speak for themselves. For 3994 euros, any hunter (or huntress) can put this little treasure in the cupboard. Hunting with it – on whatever occasion – is great fun in any case.

Text: Hamza Malalla and Carola Rathjens

For more information on the K5 please visit Merkel's website.

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