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The all-new Sako 90 Hunter: A Finnish legend reborn

Bruce Potts delivers an in-depth review of the all-new Sako 90 

Sako 90 Hunter

Sako 90 Hunter

Manufacturer: Sako

Price as reviewed: £2,450

The innovative prowess of Sako and Tikka is widely acknowledged in the shooting community, offering not only cost-effective firearms but also rifles that deliver precise shooting straight out of the box. The legacy of the Model 75 action range, which transitioned into the highly successful Model 85, continues to thrive in the new 90 range of rifles.  Today I will be reviewing the new Sako 90 Hunter. 

The 85 range has essentially been replaced by the 90 range. The selection now includes the classic Hunter model with an optional Bavarian stock, and for those who prefer non-walnut, a laminate-stocked Varmint model with a stainless steel barrel is available. The previously popular Sako 85 Finnlight II has made way for the Adventure model, while the new Peak model replaces the Carbonlight with its carbon stock and stainless steel barrel. If you liked the old Carbon Wolf, you’ll be delighted with the new Quest model. The Ultra versions of the Quest and Peak feature carbon-wrapped barrels, offering something for every shooter. 

Modifications include a re-contoured action with a cut-away top allowing for easy reloading through the action while hunting. The scope mounting now utilises the Tikka 17mm mounting system with Picatinny rails available on certain models. The bolt includes a user-friendly de-cock or disassembly plunger and a bolt-assist button. Sticking to the cartridge launch system, the bolt now features a twin plunger eject system for assured ejection. One great aspect is the ability to modify the trigger in several ways. First, the trigger-blade can slide back and forth to adjust the length of pull and ensure the correct pressure on the firing finger. The trigger pull weight is also now adjusted via a five-indexed rotary switch, giving the shooter full control. 

Sako 90 Hunter

Sako 90 Hunter

Sako 90 Hunter – a classic design

The Hunter model boasts a classic and traditional aesthetic, with a blued steel action and barrel complemented by a practical oil-finished walnut stock. It is truly pleasing to the eye, exhibiting a nice grain pattern and attractive colouring. The synthetic models will likely outsell the walnut ones, but I’m still a fan of the latter. 

The Sako-designed stock not only demonstrates resilience to withstand a knock or two in the field but also maintains a rigid structure to provide a good bedding for the action and consistent accuracy in all weather conditions. With well-cut checkered panels on the fore-end and pistol grip, a slightly raised comb for correct scope-to-eye alignment and a well-defined cheekpiece that cushions the face for excellent handling and recoil absorption, the stock is thoroughly thought through. 

Sako 90 Hunter

There’s a 17mm Tikka scope mounting system on this Hunter model and a really handy open-top action to feed the magazine in the field

The heart of the rifle – the action

The heart of any good rifle lies in the action. The new Model 90’s action beds into the stock via a flat bottom receiver face with a small tenon that engages into a steel mortise secured to the stock. This design provides an important connection between the metal and wood, contributing to consistent accuracy. Similar to the older 75 and 85 models, the 90 action retains a smooth bolt operation, largely due to the three-locking lug geometry of the bolt head ensuring a low bolt lift.

The re-contoured action top makes it easy to load the magazine while out in the field. The ejection port is large and unimpeded by a mounted scope. The magazine is made of stainless steel and has a five-shot capacity, with a generous length that allows for seating bullets long, a welcome feature for reloaders. It also has a two-point release system, minimising the risk of the magazine dropping in the mud, a common embarrassment with other manufacturers’ mags.

The trigger blade can be moved via a small Allen screw to adjust the length of pull for a perfect trigger release. Sako is not one to rest on its laurels – the already commendable trigger has been further improved with a new rotary five-position indexed adjuster that sets the sear weights from 1lbs 12oz on the first setting, to 4lbs 1oz on the heaviest. It’s a welcome addition and extremely userfriendly. The safety remains a lever type, but now with an extra forward push button to release the bolt when set on safe, allowing for the removal of a cartridge from the chamber when necessary.

Push up and then operate the release lever to pop the stainless steel five-shot magazine from its snug fit


Finally, the barrel, made with pride using the cold hammer forged method, ensures outstanding concentricity, rifling twist accuracy, and a smooth inner bore surface that Sako claims does not require running in from new. The barrel measures a hunterfriendly 22.5”, with a precise muzzle crown and sporter profile. The barrels will be screw cut, and for this .308 Win model, the rifling twist rate was 1 in 11 inches, showing Sako’s attention to lead-free ammunition performance.

The available calibres are .222 Rem, .223 Rem, .22-250 Rem, .243 Win, 6.5 Creedmoor, 7mm-08, .308 Win, 6.5×55 SE, .270 Win, 30- 06 Sprng., 8×57 IS, 9.3×62, .270 WSM, .300 WSM, 7mm Rem Mag, .300 Win Mag, .338 Win Mag, and .375 H&H Mag.

There are twin safety levers as usual, but also a new trigger-blade adjustment and a trigger pressure weight adjuster

Testing the 90 Hunter

A Steiner Ranger 4 in Optilok mounts steered all the bullets with their clear optics, and I started the test with a selection of factory .308 rounds. The standout performers were the 168gr Barnes TTSX, achieving a healthy 2691fps/2702ft/lbs and impressive 0.48” three-shot groups at 100 yards. This test confirmed Sako’s claim about lead-free ammunition compatibility. The lighter Sako 123gr Game Heads also performed well, shooting at about MOA accuracy, which is perfect for smaller species deer or fox.

While traditional .308 Win 150gr weight bullets Norma Eco-Strike and Geco Express, both managed three shots at ¾” with 2754fps/2527ft/lbs and 2576fps/2210ft/lbs respectively.

Reloading results

When I attempted to improve on these results with my reloads, I discovered that a nice starter load of 44.0gr of RL15 with the Nosler Ballistic Tip 150gr bullets resulted in three shots clustered into 0.48” at a steady 2472fps/2036ft/lbs (47.0gr achieves 2728fps/2479ft/lbs and 0.96”).

For lead-free loads, the Barnes 130gr TSX’s performed well when loaded with 42.5gr Alliant RL10X powder, shooting 0.75” groups at 2912fps and 2448ft/lbs. A Nosler 125gr Ballistic Tip at 45.0gr of Vit N133 for 0.68” groups at 100 yards at 2976fps and 2459ft/ lbs was equally impressive.

The Barnes TSX 110gr, travelling at 2957fps for 2136ft/lbs with 44.0gr of RL10X, achieved a 0.86” group. Ideal for larger species deer needing more power, the Nosler Ballistic Tips 165gr shot sub-MOA groups with 47.0 grains of Swiss RS50 powder, clocking in at 2668fps and 2608ft/lbs.

Field Test

Having sighted the Sako 90 with Sako 123gr Gameheads prior to the ammo tests, I headed off to the woods in pursuit of roe. We arrived at the farm at 4.00am, first light, and began our slow stalk along the weaving rides and tracks through woods that had seen robust growth in the warm, wet weather – good for the deer, less so for us. With the Sako 90 slung over the shoulder, moving was no effort. At each intersection of the rides, I rested the 90 on sticks, waiting and listening until a fox made its way down the hawthornladen track. The Sako 90 and Sako 123gr quickly put an end to its stroll.

The impressive handling and the remarkable new trigger make hunting significantly easier – allowing you to concentrate on fieldcraft, secure in the knowledge that the rifle won’t let you down. For the next two hours, we sat in a picturesque bluebell wood, watching as four roe does passed us by. No bucks appeared, but that’s the unpredictable nature of stalking. Nevertheless, the Sako acquitted itself admirably.


Sako has always been a reliable bet for great shooting performance, which is why it, along with Tikka, is so popular here in the UK. Originally designed to withstand the harsh Finnish climate, these rifles have earned a solid reputation for their reliability, accuracy, and diverse model choices. The upgraded Model 90 is a worthy successor to the venerable 85 and with its practical upgrades, it’s poised to continue the popularity of its predecessor.


A worthy successor to the venerable 85 and with its practical upgrades, it’s poised to continue the popularity of its predecessor.