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Sauer 202 Hardwood

The Sauer 202 Hardwood is an innovative and practical rifle perfect for the UK's serious deerstalkers

Sauer 202 Hardwood

Sauer 202 Hardwood

Price as reviewed: £2,615

In 1993 Sauer introduced the Classic XT model that was aimed at “real stalkers”. A new, plain (by Sauer standards) synthetic stock was produced, and all the metalwork was coated in the proprietary Ilaflon protective skin. The result was a tough, hard-wearing rifle, but one which still had all the handling and accuracy attributes that Sauer is known for. This new Classic XT spawned offshoot models, and the Hardwood is one such rifle.

I really like the Sauer 202 Hardwood rifle. It’s a no-nonsense, highly practical tool and is ideally suited to British stalking duties. It has been designed around some stalkers’ need for a short barrel, a high-capacity magazine and the kind of weatherproof mechanics that are capable of being used all year round.

The Sauer range, thanks to its modular design, can be fitted and refitted with a range of barrels, stocks and scopes depending on whim and wallet, and as you’d expect, the stock is in two sections: the butt and fore-end, both of which attach to the central action. The fore-end has to be removable to gain access to the barrel removal system and the butt section is removable via a long bolt through its centre that, when taken out, allows the Sauer Hardwood to pack away in a smaller case — ideal for hunters who travel frequently, and simply useful for everyone else.

The Hardwood has a well-contoured synthetic stock with an overall finish of textured black polymer, though if you fancy it you could have a Realtree camo or blaze orange finish.

To aid grip, the fore-end and pistol grip have a raised “soft touch” area moulded into them which give a tactile soft rubber feel to them. Sauers always point and handle well, and the Hardwood is no exception — its handling is probably its best quality. The butt section is a Monte Carlo style with raised comb, ideal for scope use but also suited to the supplied open sights. The fore-end design is in keeping with the European theme and is a semi-Schnabel form with a detachable sling swivel on its end apex. Its design allows the barrel to float free for best accuracy in all weathers.

Barrel and Action
The Sauer 202 Hardwood grabs your attention immediately with its short barrel configuration. This is ideal for use in a woodland situation and is perfectly matched to the .308 Win. The barrel is 18in long and 16mm in diameter (17mm on 9.3x62mm), so good and stout.

The barrel is not threaded for a sound moderator, which is only a slight annoyance in itself, but the Hardwood’s foresight is very close to the muzzle — this can be moved back in order to accommodate threading or a moderator.

Also unusual on this model are the sling swivel positions. There is one on the butt and fore-end as usual, but the Sauer 202 Hardwood has an extra swivel mounted 1in back from the muzzle on the left of the barrel. This is designed so that when you sling the Hardwood on your shoulder, it sits low and does not snag on any overhead branches as you stalk the woods — very handy.

Open sights are usually redundant as people tend to fit scopes, but the high-visibility sights on the Sauer 202 Hardwood just make you want to hunt with them, at close ranges or as an effective backup if your scope is damaged. Scope mounting on this model relies on separate bases and scope rings.

The Sauer 202 Hardwood has a switch barrel system in which the barrel is retained in a yoke at the front of the action, with three removable cross bolts securely clamping it in situ. The bolt then locks into the back end of the barrel with three large forward-locking lugs and three smaller ones behind them in a radial position. It is this sort of engineering that gives Sauer its reputation for accuracy.

The bolt lift is low and the Sauer’s bolt knob is rounded for a firm grip, allowing a faster cycling of the action. Sauer’s actions are always as smooth as glass and this is no exception. Both the barrel and the action have the Ilaflon coating that forms a near-impenetrable outer skin to resist scratches but, more importantly, shrug off rust.

Trigger, safety and magazine
The trigger is not the set trigger unit as featured on most other Sauer rifles, possibly due to the fact that the Sauer 202 Hardwood model is designed for rough use and the kind of shooters who would buy this rifle probably would not use it anyway.

The safety catch is Sauer’s plunger design which is quiet. It’s operated by thumb to activate and then by firing finger to release.

The magazine is a detachable box design and sensibly is the extended version with five-shot capacity and one in the rifle’s chamber, so six all told. The magazine is steel with a polymer low section and is a single-column feed box giving a positive central feed of cartridges.

The open sights are there for close-quarters backup as the rifle was envisaged as a dog handler’s model for European-style driven hunts, but I like having them. You should consider a moderator threading alteration or, as an alternative, re-configure an existing S202 with higher capacity magazine and short 18in barrel without sights.

Personally I love the handling of the Sauer 202 Hardwood and in .308, with that short barrel, it is extremely efficient and accurate. I can imagine in the 9.3x62mm cartridge the Hardwood would be an outstanding woodland stalking rifle and all-round European rifle for boar, mouflon and some of those big red stags.