January 12, 2009
The Tragic Tale of Berthold the Blaser
By David E. Petzal
Berthold is the name of an R-84 model Blaser .30/06 who came to the United States in the early 1990s, and was bought in Las Vegas after a SHOT Show. His new owner gave Berthold a home because of the way the rifle could group—three shots touching with ammo it liked—and its light weight.
Berthold became a go-to rifle. He went to Anticosti Island, and northern Quebec, and Alaska, and even Africa, and killed everything at which he was pointed. But over the years, his accuracy deteriorated to the point where he was lucky to print a 2-inch group.
Berthold’s owner was complaining about this within earshot of a Noted Gun Expert, who asked him how often he cleaned Berthold’s barrel.
“About every 200 rounds.”
“Holy Hohenzollern!”, bellowed the NGE. “You’ve got to clean ‘em every 20 rounds or so. Your bore is solid copper by now. Gitchee a jar of J-B Bore Cleaner and have at it.”
Which Berthold’s owner did, and got out all the copper, but the rifle still wasn’t its old self, so the NGE came around with his Hawkeye borescope and with no foreplay whatsoever, thrust it down Berthold’s barrel.
“It looks like someone went nuts in there with a track shoe,” said the NGE, “it’s pitted all to hell, and you’ll never get it shooting like it did.”
And it was true. Copper bonded to steel in the presence of moisture results in electrolysis, which erodes the steel and destroys the barrel.
Stricken, Berthold’s owner tried to get a new barrel, but the R-84 had been superceded by the R-93, which worked differently, and there were no more R-84 barrels to be had. So Berthold’s barrel may get bored out and rerifled, and he may get a new lease on life, or he may sit out his days in the darkness of a gun safe, dreaming of the wild country he saw when he was young and accurate.