Sauer 202 – a beautifully engineered rifle
Charles Smith-Jones on the Sauer 202, a beautifully engineered hunting rifle that is available in models to suit any stalker
Price as reviewed: £1,000
The Sauer 202 attracted a loyal following from the moment it first appeared in the early 1990s. It was designed as a lightweight hunting rifle and came in a number of models to meet the varying demands of hunters. These included traditional walnut furniture as well as tough synthetic stocks intended for hard use in demanding conditions. Some were treated with a polymer coating called Ilaflon, which was applied to all metal parts and provided protection from adverse weather. Whether you are a hunter, woodland stalker, a seeker of plains game in Africa or hunt in mountainous terrain, there is a 202 to suit everyone.
Sauer 202 – superbly engineered
The 202 comes at a price but represents one of the higher-quality production rifles available on the market. The model pictured is the Elegance, which sits in the upper price range of the models available. It is undeniably a handsome rifle and is probably as close as you can get to a bespoke gun without going to the expense involved. A new one in Grade 4 wood would probably have cost the buyer more than £3,000 10 years ago, with a takedown version half that again, and even now a second-hand example will hold its value well. Such a gun is clearly not intended for robust everyday use, though, and models such as the synthetic-stocked Classic XT (costing around £1,850 new) or Yukon might be better suited to hunting under arduous conditions, as well as being kinder on the pocket.
Despite its classic appearance, the 202 is packed with modern innovations. Apart from features such as fully adjustable triggers, a shallow bolt lift and durable hammer-forged barrels, two aspects are worthy of especial mention. First, as said, this rifle is offered in a takedown version, which will appeal to the travelling hunter or anyone who wants to keep a spare barrel or swap calibres. The operation is completed quickly and easily using a 5mm hex key, and the barrel locks firmly into a yoke at the front of the action and is secured with three cross-bolts and a system of lugs. The fit is extremely precise and ensures consistent headspacing, which, in turn, ensures the high levels of accuracy for which Sauer rifles are renowned.
The standard receiver is constructed from steel, although a lightweight version made from aluminium, saving some 470g in the overall weight, also features on some models. The same receiver is used for mini and short-action cartridges, although there is a different one for magnum calibres, which means that barrels cannot be swapped between these as the barrel tenon on the magnum receiver is larger. The design of the bolts also differ in that the mini and some short-action bolts (such as those for .22-250 Remington and .243 Winchester) have three lugs, while the larger-calibre bolts feature six lugs.
Another notable feature is the somewhat unusual safety catch. When the rifle is set at safe, a small button protrudes just in front of the trigger-blade. Pushing it upwards deactivates the safety mechanism while raising a plunger in a circular recess at the rear of the upper action, permitting the rifle to be fired. To engage the safety again, the plunger is simply depressed. This system allows the user to maintain a full grip on the rifle and operate the safety with minimal movement, and is extremely quiet in use. While it may take a little getting used to if you are used to a more traditional type of safety catch, it certainly makes sense and works well.
For a highly attractive rifle that also just happens to shoot like a dream, you don’t have to look much further than a Sauer. There may be options on the racks that come in at half the price, but you will not be getting the same high production quality and attention to detail. If you can afford a Sauer 202, it’s well worth considering.
Tech specs Sauer 200
- Country of origin: Germany
- In production: 1993-2015
- Action: Bolt
- Stock options: Walnut or synthetic (including Realtree and other finishes)
- Barrel length: 20in-24in
- Magazine: Detachable, three or four rounds depending on calibre
- Left-hand version: Yes
- Weight (bare) 8lb 1oz (Elegance, 23.75in barrel)
- Available in calibres .222 Remington, .223 Remington, .22-250 Remington, .243 Winchester, 6.5×55, .25-06 Remington, 270 Winchester, .308 Winchester, .30-06 Springfield, 7mm Remington Magnum, .300 Winchester Magnum and others
- Cost new N/A
- Cost used: Anything between £1,000 and £3,000, possibly more, depending on model and condition
This article was originally published in 2008 and has been updated.