By Lewis Potter
Wednesday, 20 October 2010
The Sako 85’s laminate stock, magazine release and controlled round feed make it a winner.
Sako 85 laminated .308 rifle review.
Sako has a long pedigree in rifle making, starting with the L46 rifle produced in 1946 which gave rise to the classic Vixen, Forester and Finnbear actions.
As modern manufacturing techniques progressed, these led to the Model 75 and now the new 85.
This has several good new design features, such as a controlled-round feed bolt system and detachable magazine that cannot be accidentally released and dropped in the mud.
The same quality that Sako is renowned for is still there and many models of 85 rifle are available.
I chose the stainless steel version, but with a laminated stock and a shorter than normal 20in barrel option in .308 Winchester to see how it fared.
The new controlled-round feed design to the bolt has been made possible by machining a section clear from the bolt face so that the rim of the cartridge slips beneath the extractor as the round is cycled.
In this way, the cartridge is ‘controlled’ by the bolt from magazine to chamber so that you are guaranteed a positive feed.
The bolt face has three locking lugs arranged at four, eight and 12 o’clock positions and, on this model, is matted on nearly all its surface area to achieve a positive lock-up.
The extractor is the same as the older Model 75, being a large single claw that grips the cartridge’s rim.
Ejection is performed by a blade protruding from the receiver floor that runs through a groove cut into the bottom of the bolt body.
This flicks the case’s rim when contact is made — simple yet reliable.
The bolt handle is reasonably long with a nice rounded end.
The whole cycling action is smooth as the top bolt-locking lug runs in a groove in the top of the receiver wall.
There is a cocking indicator that shows red when the firing pin is cocked and protrudes from beneath the bolt shroud.
This, too, has been reshaped and contoured for lightness, and keeps any gases away from the face if a primer was to be pierced.
Some people like the traditional warmth of a good figured walnut stock, and who can blame them?
However, a synthetic plastic alternative is appealing if you use your rifle as a tool for stalking and it will be subjected to knocks and needs to keep its zero in any weather.
A compromise is a laminated stock that uses thin cuts of wood in alternate black and beige colourings with epoxy glueing them together.
This gives a strong and weather-resilient stock that feels sturdier than a synthetic one yet has a charm about it, as it is made from wood.
The Sako model was comfortable, with a 13.75in length of pull and dropped accented cheekpiece to give it that traditional look.
There is no palm swell, and though the chequering is well cut, the inner surface is left without a finish and this looks a little odd next to the tough lacquered finish of the rest of the stock.
In time it might blend in with use.
There is a solid black recoil pad for good grip and for the sling, quick detachable swivels are provided as standard.
TRIGGER, MAGAZINE AND SAFETY
The magazine release system has been totally revamped since the older Model 75 and is designed so that an accidental dislodging of the detachable magazine cannot occur.
We have all done it: press the magazine release by mistake and a charged magazine dumps itself in the mud.
This Sako has a total control latch, which is a magazine release-catch sited, as usual, in front of the magazine.
However, to release the magazine you have to push it up a small amount before it is ejected.
This catches you out first time, but it has its merits.
The trigger, as expected, is good. You have a single-stage activation which I like, though there is a set trigger as an optional extra that lightens the trigger pull to 8oz.
The single-stage is set at the factory at a weight of 3lb though you can adjust it from 2lb to 4lb with a small Allen key placed through the back of the magazine well if desired.
For me, 3lb is perfect on a sporting arm and prevents accidental discharges when your hands are wet and cold.
The safety catch is sited to the right and to the rear of the receiver. Push it forward for the ‘fire’ position and to the rear position for ‘safe’ which locks both the trigger and the bolt.
However, there is a useful additional feature of a small plunger in front of the main safety lever which, when depressed, allows the bolt to operate to allow you to remove a cartridge from the chamber while keeping the trigger locked and safe.
Left group: 110-grain Berger reloads performed best.
Middle group: the Remington Factory 150-grain Core-Lokt.
Top group: the Federal Barnes Triple Shock load, which performed less well.
BARREL AND SIGHTS
The Sako 85 has a typical Sporter profile and with a length of 20in on this short-barrelled version it has a comfortable 39.75in overall length.
The muzzle is screw cut at the factory for a sound moderator and comes with a thread protector, on this model it was a 14mm/1 thread pitch and the barrel is free-floated along its entire length.
No open sights were furnished on this model, but I had an interesting new laser range-finding and bullet-drop-compensating scope to use.
GMK supplied the new Burris LaserScope which attaches via a Weaver base mount that fits directly to the Sako’s tapered dovetails cut into the action top, an interesting scope that will be reviewed in more depth in a separate issue.
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