The single-shot rifle should never be considered a handicap to any shooter, in fact quite the opposite is true. Mastering the art of hunting with just one round on tap sharpens the fieldcraft and makes you hone your skill and earn your venison. There is always something very gentlemanly about a single-shot rifle – not just its light weight, good looks, uncomplicated design and operation that are suited to many hunting scenarios, but also the fact that one shot should be all you need.

This above perfectly describes one such rifle which I have grown to really like – the new Merkel K5 Extreme. There is no doubting its Germanic heritage with its strong Bavarian stock design, and its style harks back to a slower pace of life that we could all benefit from these days.

Merkel, from the Suhl district of Germany, have not compromised with the K5. At only 5.0lb with an overall length of just 36.5" it perfectly blends style with ergonomics. This model sports a superb Bavarian-type stock design, but a more conventional Monte Carlo stock variation is available. Wood grades can go as high as your pocket is deep, from 4 to exhibition. Here we have grade 5 walnut lovingly oil finished to an even sheen. Even an Arabesque model, with superb engraving and non-fluted barrel, is an option.

Viking Arms stock this rifle in .223 Rem, .243 Win, 6.5x57R ,.270 Win, 7x65R, .308 Win, 30.06, 8x57IRS, 6.5 Creedmoor. Prices start at £4500 for the .270 cal on test here.

K5 1
Perfect finishing and precision locking lugs easily handled the stiffest reloads


I like the simplicity of any single-shot rifle but this Merkel takes it to the limit in regard to quality. Every part just fits so well and it opens and closes with ease yet still provides a precision fit. Quick disassembly is also a big asset for storage, travel and cleaning, as well as changing calibres or stock configurations. The forend removes via a typical shotgun-style sliding latch, while the breech is opened via the blacked sliding top lever. There are two large bites that lock into the bottom of the action frame, with an overhanging top section that when closed engages a tilting Suhler-type breech block.

This block is nitrided (gold coloured) and is therefore very hard wearing and self- lubricating, with its design allowing the firing pin to float in this assembly, so is only engaged when the action is closed.

The action is alloy to keep the weight down and as such is blacked on this Extreme model, with only ‘K5’ and ‘Merkel’ highlighted in white. It is therefore non- reflecting and easily cleaned.
You have to manually cock the K5 with the large, tang-mounted safety lever. Pushing it upwards reveals a red dot, meaning it is ready to fire. When the trigger is pulled this lever drops back to its resting position. The trigger is also nitrided and has an adjustable blade, so the length of pull can be adjusted from 14.25-14.75" and broke at a clean 2.55lb on test.

Like most single shot rifles since the old African days, for reliability the K5 has a manual ejector system that is strong in use and finger extraction is easily. I had no problem even with a few stiff reloads.

The barrel on this model is typical Merkel. It’s perfectly executed outside and inside, with a super-tough finish and no visible tooling marks on the chamber or rifling. This model sported a short 20" barrel, which will be fun in .270 calibre as it is known to bark a tad! It has a 17mm diameter profile accented with eight flutes to reduce weight and finished off with a 15mm/1 metric muzzle thread. It all handles very well indeed.

Open sights are furnished but are removable. The foresight is height adjustable and the rear sight has windage adjustment on a dovetailed slot only. They are nice to have, but most users will probably fit a quick- detach one-piece mount directly to the top of the action. This saddle-type mount is very secure and easy to adjust, with little loss of zero if it is removed and replaced.

Finally the stock, which is the crowning glory of the K5 Merkel. I have always liked the looks and handling of a single-shot carbine and the K5 is a joy to use in the field. It flies into the shoulder, yet under recoil the correctly designed stock does not bother the shooter. This is due to the typical Germanic hog’s-back design that enables a natural and comfortable hold. This is further enhanced by the Bavarian-type dropped cheekpiece with twin accented ribs, which are very classy. The forend is slender with a rosewood tip and is superbly chequered, as is the stock.

Best of all is the quality of walnut used, as being a two piece stock design it is easier to get really superbly grained smaller pieces. Thus this grade 5 model has highly figured, richly coloured walnut with a matching forend that plays in the light when rotated. The oil finish gives an overall protective and loving sheen to the whole stock.

K5 2
The Suhler breech block ensures correct headspace and positive lock up for very consistent accuracy & reliability

Range test

Due to the fact that this is a compact rifle I did not want to spoil the good looks and handling by fitting too big a scope or moderator. So I compromised with a Kahles 1.1-4x30mm compact scope, which is a superb optic, but did use a B&T moderator for the ammo tests. This proved wise as the muzzle blast from the 20" barrel and factory .270 Win ammunition was quite spectacular. For stalking I removed the moderator and re- zeroed as I would only be taking one shot.

I don’t shoot a lot of .270 Win any more, not like the old days when it was more popular, but I did manage to resurrect some factory ammo with bullet weights ranging from 100-130gr.

First up were the Remington 100gr Accutips, which shot a respectable 3112fps/2366ft-lb from the short barrel and achieved terrific three shot groups at 100yd of 0.85". The heavier 130gr loads shot 2757fps/2196ft-lb and larger 1.25" groups, but it was still a great start.

Federal Power/Shok 130gr loads shot at a respectable 2834fps for 2319ft-lb energy with 1.1" three-shot groups. This is what I was expecting from the K5 and consistency is the key here. Recoil was very manageable.

Another really good load that yields great brass for reloading were the RWS 130gr T Mantel bullets, which shot very consistent 0.95" groups at an impressive 2976fps/2557ft-lb. I would use this ammunition for woodland stags as they penetrate well and expend their energy in the vitals where you need it.

If you need to shoot lead-free bullets on your ground the 130gr Winchester E-Tips would fit the bill, but they were a bit lackluster in the accuracy department with 1.60" groups at a velocity of 2931fps and 2480ft-lb.

I tried some reloads after my initial tests to see if I could lessen the muzzle blast with faster powders and maybe improve a little on the already good accuracy.

The best load was the Nosler 110gr Accubond with 55gr of Vit N150 powder for 3097fps for 2343ft-lb and 0.75" groups. A good 130gr load was the Hornady Interbond, which gave solid 1" groups with 56.0gr of Ramshot Hunter powder for 2924fps and 2468ft-lb. I also tried some heavier 150gr Hornady SP bullets over 53.5gr of Swiss RS62 powder for 0.85" groups at a very healthy 2715fps and 2455ft-lb.

All were very easy to extract from the K5’s chamber, with very easy access to the spent cartridge case, including the higher-pressure lead-free Winchesters.

Just to make things a bit different I also shot the K5 from a variety of positions – kneeling, standing and off sticks – and from all it was so easy to bring the K5 to the aim and keep it rock steady. The beauty of this sort of compact rifle is that it is so easy to carry in the field. It does not snag on any foliage or branches and can be carried safely un-cocked, leaving you to concentrate on your fieldcraft. The K5 is perfectly suited to British woodland stalking or even on the hill.

K5 3
The tang-mounted manual cocking slide was safe and easy to operate

In the field

The real test came as I headed to the fields after CWD. The typically wet and sodden ground made the going silent but still easy to traverse as the K5 took no effort to carry and using the sticks and binoculars was made easier. I was mindful of that lovely walnut stock as the rifle was on loan, but the great thing about a quality oil finish is that it can easily be topped up or repaired if scuffed or scratched.

I loaded the Remington 100gr SP and kept the K5 decocked until I needed it. It’s a very safe system for field use I am increasingly appreciating in these German rifles. After stalking along endless hedgerows and ditches I managed to squeeze through a deer track through a hedge and settled the K5 on half-height sticks and as a solitary doe came into view at about 80yd. A delicate touch of the trigger brought her down instantly. After the gralloch I appreciated the lack of weight from the K5 as I also had the beast to drag.


Tested the Merkel K5 Extreme off the bench and out in the field it crystallises how much I really like a single shot. It’s no handicap as the spent case is easily ejected manually and a second can be loaded very quickly if you ever need it. Build quality is very good and the looks and handling of the walnut stock will win you over, I am sure. Yes, it’s a bit pricey, but many of the best things are.

K5 4
Loading was fast and smooth, making this single-shot action far from slow