Review: MERKEL RX.Helix Alpinist bolt-action rifle

The manual cocking system of the MERKEL RX.Helix Alpinist bolt-action rifle
MERKEL RX.Helix Alpinist: the manual cocking system is released by pressing the button – it’s best to leave the thumb on the button so that the hammer locks quietly.

MERKEL in Suhl is among the companies that have perfected the bolt-action principle for the 21st century. Its RX.Helix model was released in 2010 with a special transmission for extremely short straight pull action. Here, the backward slanted bolt handle, designed to meet modern standards of ergonomic handling, only travels half the distance completed by the action and its six-lug rotating bolt.

The idea: the movement needs to be absolutely linear to prevent the shooter’s eye from drifting off-target. To ensure this happens, the rotating bolt runs along a helical groove and therefore performs a spiral movement. This is what gave the weapon than its name ‘Helix’ (the ‘R’ stands for repeater and ‘X’ is the Latin numeral for 10, the year of its launch).

The trick: the breech remains in the weapon and does not move out of the receiver toward the pupil.

MERKEL RX.Helix Alpinist bolt-action rifle: available calibers

The breech is sealed to the rear to prevent soiling and provide an additional degree of safety. Models are available in all standard calibers, from .222 Rem. to .300 WinMag, as well as with wooden stock or even an ‘Alpinist’ with Explorer polymer stock and a height-adjustable cheek rest.

We reviewed various HELIX models. A noticeable feature of the Alpinist: the forearm could be a tad thicker. It takes a bit of practice to flip the manual cocking device to ‘Fire’ without creating noise. Stripping and mounting the clamped barrel using the takedown device was easy, but may shift shot accuracy. What else? Solid cycling, crisp trigger, fantastic group sizes. And: “the rifle is pretty handy!”

MERKEL RX.Helix Alpinist: sling swivel eyelet
The RX.Helix Alpinist has three sling swivel eyelets, one of them drilled and tapped for a bipod (here the Harris).
Magazine of the MERKEL RX.Helix Alpinist bolt-action rifle
The MERKEL RX. Helix Alpinist has a slotted magazine made of steel plate that is designed for calibers .30-06, 8×57 IS, 7×64 and .270 Winchester.

Possible uses for the MERKEL RX.Helix Alpinist

Possible uses for the MERKEL RX.Helix Alpinist bolt-action rifle
Possible uses for the MERKEL RX.Helix Alpinist bolt-action rifle.

The MERKEL RX.Helix Alpinist is everything one might expect of a good hunting rifle, but less-suited for sport, law enforcement or tactical purposes.

Data of the MERKEL RX.Helix Alpinist

Model: MERKEL RX.Helix Alpinist
7×64 mm
Capacity:3 + 1 rounds
Barrel length: 560 mm
Total length:1,076 mm
Trigger pull:1,400 g
Weight:3,500 g

Features: six lug rotating bolt with straight pull action, linkage-driven hammer, takedown system.

Range test: MERKEL RX.Helix Alpinist in 7×64 mm

Factory cartridge
Group size
160 grs Lapua Naturalis
31 mm
162 grs RWS KS (cone point)19 mm
170 grs Norma Soft Point Vulkan27 mm
173 grs Prvi Partizan SP41 (32) mm
173 grs S & B SPCE25 mm

Remarks: Group size = five-shot groups, shot in a seated position using a bench rest at a distance of 100 m, expressed in millimeters, measured from bullet hole center to bullet hole center. Values in parentheses after elimination of one outlier.

Abbreviations/bullet initials: SP: soft point, SPCE: soft point cutting edge

Rating for the MERKEL RX.Helix Alpinist

Precision (max. 50 points)50 points
Shaft (max. 10 points)7 points
Trigger (max. 10 points)8 points
Magazine/handling (max. 5 points)5 points
Sights (max. 5 points)4 points
System/function (max. 10 points)8 points
Finishing (max. 10 points)8 points
Total score (max. 100 points)90 points
Test ratingExcellent
****** (6 out of 6 stars)

Summary of the MERKEL RX.Helix Alpinist

The RX.Helix has the fastest bolt-action – and that alone makes it stand out from the crowd. The Alpinist for hunting also comes with a modern stock: it’s a good one.

For more informaton, please visit the MERKEL website.

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