Most rifle shooters in this country are familiar with the concept of a switch-barrel system, but these systems are usually of centrefire origin rather than rimfire.
Sako has broken the mould and introduced its Quad Hunter version of the well-respected Finnfire .22LR rifle.
With the inclusion of the new .17 HMR and .17 Mach 2 rimfire rounds, small-calibre fans and vermin controllers have a choice of calibres for the quarry species they face.
The agony of choice can be a fickle mistress, however, and many pest controllers own both a .22LR and a .17 rimfire of either guise.
This, of course, means two rifles with the expense that this entails. However, if you buy a Sako Quad Hunter, you can, by a swift barrel-change facility, simply exchange the barrel and magazine assembly and leave all the other components the same.
This will not only save you money, but you will have a common chassis and familiarity, which will encourage good shooting techniques.
The Quad Hunter, as the name suggests, can be ordered with four different barrel calibres, .22LR, .22 WMR, .17 HMR and .17 Mach 2, either as a complete set or as a single-calibre option. Originally only offered in a synthetically stocked version, Sako has shod the new Quad Hunter with some fine walnut – and it is all the better for it.
Quick-change Quad Hunter
I can see most people settling on two barrels – first the .22LR, the workhorse of vermin control, which enables subsonic ammunition to be used. It only takes a few quick turns on the barrel-release clamp and a .17 HMR barrel can be inserted for fox or crow-control work.
There is no need to worry about firearms licensing problems – most forces are happy to issue a licence for a Sako Quad Hunter with two barrels.
The .22 WMR, though a capable round, has been eclipsed by the .17 HMR cartridge and the new .17 Mach 2 still has to make its mark on the British market as a shorter range rabbit round. Whichever way your cartridge choice lies, the Quad Hunter offers versatility for most shooters.
Fine Finnfire action
The action is, essentially, the old Finnfire design that has been adapted for the barrel release mechanism. This is a compact little action that has had the ejection port enlarged to accommodate the longer .17 HMR and .22 WMR rounds.
There are the integral scope mount dovetails on top, while the trigger-guard is still a polymer moulded unit. The bolt is beautifully swift in operation due to the low bolt lift angle and short bolt throw. This makes for a fast and accurate manipulation that keeps the right hand and bolt handle out of the way of any mounted scope.
The bolt handle has a moulded plastic shroud, which not only gives a positive grip but is faceted for optimum comfort. The bolt-release mechanism is still located on the right side of the action and a sprung lever is depressed to allow the bolt to be removed from the action for cleaning. There is also a cocked action indicator at the rear of the cocking shroud that shows red when the Quad Hunter is cocked.
Extraction is accomplished with a single extractor claw on the bolt’s face and because all four calibre choices share the same rim dimensions, extraction is good, as is the ejection. This is accomplished by a small sprung piece of steel located on the left rear of the inner action, which does look a little flimsy.
The trigger remains the same single-stage unit with a thin, curved trigger-blade and positive feel. Set at the factory the Sako trigger breaks when cocked at a precise 4lb, but it feels lighter as there is no creep and let off is very precise. You can adjust the mechanism but, as a sporting trigger weight for all weather conditions, I would leave well alone. The safety is the simple rocker type found on most of the Sako range, with a two-position operation, forward is fire and rearward is safe. It is simple, uncomplicated and relatively quiet in operation.
The magazine sits in the synthetic floorplate and is released by the protruding lever, which ejects the magazine nicely into the palm of your hand. It still remains the plastic affair as on the Finnfire, which feels a little cheap and is restricted to only five rounds, regardless of calibre, and fits the longer HMR and WMR as well as the smaller .22LR and .17 Mach 2 rounds by use of a back-positioned polymer filler plug.
All the barrels have the same profile, weight and length (22in) so they do not hinder a swift barrel change. The barrels also come threaded with a ½in UNF thread for a sound moderator. For easy recognition of calibres each barrel is colour-coded by means of an O-ring sited just forward of the barrel/receiver join. Blue indicates .17 Mach 2, yellow is .22 WMR, orange is .17 HMR and green is .22LR.
In order to change the barrels for a different calibre Sako has profiled the chamber end of the barrel to allow a slide fit into the receiver. There is a machined flat on the bottom of each barrel which allows a raising locking section to marry up with this area and thus secure the barrel and receiver as one unit.
This is achieved with a long Allen key provided with large plastic handle that only needs a few turns to release the barrel or tighten it. However, there is a distinct order of operation to achieve the correct fitment. First, you must remove the magazine, which allows the barrel to be slanted up enabling its removal. Second, the bolt must be locked forward, so that the barrel has a guide way for the extractor claw to locate before final tightening. You will need to fit higher-than-normal mounts with a small objective scope, otherwise the barrel that must be tipped at an angle for removal or insertion cannot exit from the fore-end.
I found with a bit of trial and error you could achieve a swift and secure barrel change in minutes, but attention needs to be paid to putting the barrel in square and at the same position with equal locking tension (there is a positive stop) on the securing mechanism to achieve the same point of impact and accuracy.
Wonder of walnut
The original Quad rifle had the popular synthetic stock design, making the rifle light, but it had a hollow rear butt-section that unbalanced the Quad in the shoulder. Added to this, the fact that many shooters favour the beauty of wood meant it was no surprise that the Quad Hunter soon was launched with this model sporting a beautiful walnut stock. A classic sporter profile gives the Quad Hunter a distinctive look that has a modern twist with some jazzy cut chequered panels. These are in the form of finger-like extensions, which do look striking and, being cut rather than pressed, offer a good grip that is complemented on the pistol grip similarly.
The quality of walnut on the test rifle was really nice. It had good colouring, with dark-and-light figuring and a semi-rubbed oil finish. The slim black recoil pad is also better in my eyes than the plastic one on the synthetic stock. The heavier walnut stock also serves to transform it into a well-balanced and more substantial gun.
The Quad Hunter fitted with the walnut stock certainly feels more solid and shot impressive groups at all ranges. The barrel must be located square each time and no debris should make its way into the receiver locking area. In the field the Sako Quad Hunter fitted with a sound moderator makes a superb short-range fox gun and a good rabbit and crow rifle with the flat trajectory of the .17 HMR rifle tested.
The Quad Hunter and one barrel and magazine costs £550, with subsequent barrels costing £155 and magazines £20, making this a cost-effective one-gun rifle system for the cost-conscious vermin shooter.
SAKO QUAD HUNTER
Action: Bolt action
Barrel Length: 22in
Safety: Two position manual
Magazine: Five shot
Stock: Walnut sporter
Sights: Scope rails only
Spare Barrel: £155
Importer: GMK 01489 587500
Better, more solid feel with walnut stock
Scope-mounting height issues
Flimsy ejector wire