Background: the Heym SR20 and the Heym SR21
I’ve owned just one F.W. Heym rifle over the years, and that was an SR20N chambered for the .308 Winchester: It was a great rifle and became a favorite. I purchased it in the early 1980’s and only parted with it in the mid-1990’s when I was going overseas to work in a foreign country and could not take it with me. Rather than sell it I gave it to a friend who I hope got just as much pleasure out of it as I had done.
My Heym rifle came with a quite exquisite walnut stock and I didn’t need do a lot to the rifle out of the box. It was given a professional epoxy bedding job and the barrel was free floated. I had the bolt handle blued as it was originally bright polished, and I fitted a German Pecar rifle-scope in EAW quick detachable mounts, a scope I later changed for an American steel tube Weaver.
My years of owning and extensively using the Heym SR20 gave me a great deal of respect for the company and the rifles it produced. The SR20 featured a modernized “Mauser” action and was sold under the Mauser name as the Mauser 2000. Subsequently when Mauser decided to create new designs of their own, which were the Mauser 66 and Mauser 77, they ceased purchasing the barreled actions from Heym and so Heym put the rifle into production themselves as the Heym SR20.
(Note: If you have a Heym SR20 and are looking for the owner’s manual for it you will find it if you click here.)
After a period of years Heym decided that it was time to further modernize the SR20 although I would venture to suggest that it was a great rifle in its own right just as it was. The decision was made to change to a three lug, front locking action as opposed to the SR20’s Mauser style two lug front locking action. The use of three lugs reduced the bolt lift from 90° to 60° making the action feel more crisp to operate and also keeping the bolt handle clear of a low mounted rifle-scope. At the time a number of other European makers were putting rifles on the market featuring a 60° bolt lift, notably the Steyr-Mannlicher, Mannlicher-Schönauer M72, and the J.P. Sauer which Americans will be familiar with as the Colt Sauer, and so Heym may have felt the need to update the SR20 in response to those new rifles.
The new Heym rifle was the SR21 which featured a full diameter bolt body (as did the Mannlicher-Schönauer M72) and three solid front locking lugs. The bolt face was of the fully recessed type and had a spring loaded plunger ejector and blade extractor. The SR21 also featured a new safety catch which was mounted on the bolt shroud.
(Note: You can find John Walter’s book “Rifles of the World” 3rd Edition if you click here).
When it first appeared the Heym SR21 was made with either a fixed magazine with hinged floorplate, or with a detachable magazine. Over the years of the SR21’s production it was decided to only offer the detachable magazine, and the magazine release was changed to make it both positive and easy to operate.
The Current Model Heym SR21
Those seeking a new rifle in Europe, Britain, or places such as Australia or African nations, will tend to look at a wide range of rifles because for them almost everything is imported. But it is likely that Americans will tend to look first at US made products such as those from Winchester, Remington, Weatherby and Nosler for example. In the same way US car buyers may opt first for a Ford, General Motors, or Chrysler: but those looking for something more exotic may decide on a BMW or Porsche. If we compare rifles with automobiles then the Heym SR21 is more like a BMW or Porsche: if you choose one you are choosing the quality and performance that comes with this German designed and made “Porsche class” rifle.
The Heym SR21 bolt action rifle is beautifully made and Heym rifles typically shoot around minute of angle “out of the box” with factory ammunition depending on the ammunition chosen. Heym have taken the trouble to use a resin and aluminum pillar bedding system around the recoil lug, while the barrel is free floated. The recoil lug is of the compressed washer type similar to that used on Remington rifles.
The bolt is fluted to provide a very smooth and positive operation while the safety catch is a three position type mounted on the bolt shroud, similar to the much appreciated Winchester Model 70 but styled a little differently. As with the Model 70 full forward is the “fire” position, in the center position the firing pin is cocked and blocked but the bolt can be cycled, and in the rearmost position the bolt is cocked, blocked and locked closed.
The Heym SR21 incorporates a switch barrel system if the owner wishes to have that feature. For the SR21 and its straight-pull sibling the Heym SR30 it is not only the barrel that is changed but the barrel and receiver assembly. If switching to a cartridge that uses the same size bolt face then the same bolt is used, and it will depend on the similarity of the two cartridges as to whether a different magazine may be needed.
To support this switch barrel feature the trigger mechanism is not fixed to the action but is instead integral with the trigger-guard and magazine well assembly. So the barrel/receiver assembly is removed and replaced independently of the trigger guard/trigger assembly.
The trigger is of the single set type common on European rifles. If used unset it operates as a crisp single stage trigger with a pull weight of 3¼lb to 3½lb. To set the trigger it is pushed forwards making it a very light “hair trigger”. Those of us who have done a lot of shooting with Olympic Free Pistols with their very light set triggers appreciate this very much but using the set trigger takes practice to become familiar with it. In the field the trigger should only be set with the rifle aimed at the target when you expect to fire. If it is needed to unset the trigger this is easily and safely done on the SR21 by engaging the safety catch, which automatically unsets the trigger returning it to its standard pull weight.
The detachable Heym SR21 magazines are made with a single column for optimal reliability in feeding, and they are profiled to retain the cartridges at the shoulder to prevent damage to soft pointed bullets under recoil.
There are three main styles of magazine available; the standard magazines that will hold three standard or two magnum caliber cartridges; three shot capacity magnum magazines, and higher capacity magazines that will hold five standard or four magnum cartridges. Magazines are made caliber group specific so the cartridges fit and are protected properly, and to ensure absolutely reliable feeding. The Heym magazines are made of steel so they should last for the owner’s lifetime and most likely that of their children and grandchildren.
The Heym SR21 action is standard length and so is available for calibers that will fit a standard length action (i.e. 30-06 length). The .222 and .223 Remington are only available in the SR21 in the right hand version. Heym’s caliber choices are wise and mean that the SR21 can fill the full range of roles from small game such as foxes up to large and dangerous game, potentially including elephant. The two calibers that are dangerous game capable are the 9.3x62mm, which is legal for dangerous game in some African states, and the .375 Ruger which is equal in power to the .375 Holland & Holland Magnum. Those wanting a bolt action rifle in a larger caliber than those listed should look at the Heym Express rifle.
The choice of caliber determines the range of barrel profiles and lengths available. Heym hammer forge their own barrels of Krupp steel and these can be ordered either plain or fluted. Check the complete Heym catalog for more details.
Models and Custom Options
If you decide to purchase a Heym SR21 you have the option of choosing an “off the shelf” model or a custom rifle made to your specifications in much the same way as the old Winchester Custom Shop used to operate. This means that there is a list of standard model grades to choose from, and then a more complex list of individual custom features that can be ordered to make your rifle bespoke.
The model range for the SR21 is the same as that offered for the straight-pull SR30 as set out below.
The SR21 (and SR30) can be ordered in either right or left handed versions, and there are a number of bolt handle knob choices including walnut wood (which are rather pleasant to use and also good looking), plain steel, and various types of checkering or use of inlay.
There are a variety of stock styles including some that may surprise you. There are thumbhole stocks with adjustable cheek-pieces in walnut or laminate, and classic style stocks in laminated wood also.
Other styles of stock are available depending on the style of rifle you are planning to have put together. For those planning on a Bavarian Classic or an American style Classic there are stock styles made to suit.
There are of course also a wide range of engraving options and Heym’s engravers can no doubt create a unique engraving for you if desired.
The Heym SR21 can be ordered with or without open sights depending on the model. The open sights commonly feature a fiber optic front sight and an inverted “V” rear sight, also fitted with a fiber optic insert.
In order to get a full picture of the range of options for the Heym SR21 it is best to have a look through Heym’s illustrated Price List, which you will find if you click here.
The Heym USA High Performance Precision Rifle (HPPR)
Heym in the United States offer the Heym High Performance Precision Rifle. This rifle is purpose built for accuracy and they are guaranteed to shoot five shots into 20mm at 100 meters.
The Heym USA High Performance Precision Rifle is available with the choice of either the SR21 bolt action or the SR30 straight-pull action. The rifle comes as a package fitted with a Schmidt and Bender “Precision Hunter” riflescope. This rifle does not have the single set trigger but instead features a single stage 3lb trigger with no creep or over travel.
The Heym HPPR is available in .308 Winchester, 7mm Remington Magnum, or .300 Winchester Magnum and all are fitted with a Heym 26″ hammer forged barrel. The stock is European walnut and upgrades to higher walnut quality is available. Rifle weight is 8lb.
Mounting Telescopic Sights
The Heym SR21 is a premium rifle and an owner will normally want to mount a telescopic sight on it concomitant with its quality. There are a good range of options for this including the mounts that Heym list in their Price List. Talley make bases to fit their quick detachable double lever mounts which you will find if you click here. German maker EAW also provide excellent options.
The SR21 can also be fitted with a Picatinny rail for mounting optical sights and other accessories.
The Heym SR21 is a quality rifle made to German quality control standards. In its standard grade it is surprisingly affordable while it is possible to option up to a rifle that would be a worthy gift to a head of state. This is a well thought out rifle that should check most if not all of the boxes on your list of things you want in a sporting rifle.
To find out more it is worth browsing the Heym catalog which is only available in German but which has good pictures making it easy to browse and which you will find if you click here.
You will find the Heym German website if you click here.
You will find the Heym USA website if you click here.
Picture Credits: All pictures courtesy F.W. Heym except where otherwise noted.
Jon Branch is the founder and senior editor of Revivaler and has written a significant number of articles for various publications including official Buying Guides for eBay, classic car articles for Hagerty, magazine articles for both the Australian Shooters Journal and the Australian Shooter, and he’s a long time contributor to Silodrome.
Jon has done radio, television, magazine and newspaper interviews on various issues, and has traveled extensively, having lived in Britain, Australia, China and Hong Kong. His travels have taken him to Indonesia, Israel, Italy, Japan and a number of other countries. He has studied the Japanese sword arts and has a long history of involvement in the shooting sports, which has included authoring submissions to government on various firearms related issues and assisting in the design and establishment of shooting ranges.