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Without Fault - Sako 90

Without Fault - Sako 90

I recently reviewed the 90 Peak and thought Sako had made positive steps from the model 85, whose bolt design always felt a little bit of a compromise. The 90 has returned to a push feed system with twin ejector plungers to make life a little simpler and more reliable. The carbon fibre Peak was indeed a light and joyous rifle to use, but for most UK stalkers corrosion resistance is one of the key factors, alongside performance on target, so Sako has gone belt and braces here with a stainless barrelled action and a tungsten Cerakote finish.

Lightweight looks
Sako’s cold hammer forged barrel offers a capped 15x1 thread and crisp crown with an 11º taper. The barrel shoulder is square, providing a clear locking surface for a moderator against the 16.6mm barrel diameter. Six 12” flutes reduce mass and visual bulk along the 20” barrel, which, incidentally, carries a mild taper towards the reinforce, where it threads into the action.

Tungsten colouration
The stainless steel barrel and action are coated in Tungsten coloured Cerakote, and this matte finish is very attractive and non-reflective.
This .308 calibre rifle uses the standard-length version of the 90 receiver, and the first notable change from older Sako rifles is the intelligent adoption of machined Picatinny bases that span the 72mm ejection port. Given the international conformity of 30 and 34mm optical tubes for conventional or digital sighting systems, this is a thoroughly good move and helps to future-proof the rifle.

60º lift
It’s no surprise to see Sako’s characteristic 3-lug bolt with a 60º lift to open and cock the mechanism. Linear bolt travel is 98.5mm to cycle the cartridge, and there’s a 57mm bolt handle with a 19mm spherical tip. It slides smoothly and the push feed bolt face pushes rounds from the mag and up the feed ramp into the chamber before the handle locks down. Single rounds will feed if placed onto the magazine follower. The twin-column magazine has a 5-round capacity and can be loaded conventionally or by top-loading it through the ejection port.

Contrasting colours
The 16mm bolt shaft is bright steel with a polished finish, while the shroud features the tungsten Cerakote finish to match the handle and the rest of the rifle. This shroud has always been able to de-cock a Sako bolt, and although I have never experienced this accidentally, Sako has now added an additional plunger to prevent this from happening.
To remove the magazine, you need to apply pressure to the magazine itself in order to unlock the release lever that’s located within the steel bottom metal. This system is designed to prevent the magazine from being ejected accidentally, and you soon get used to it.
The safety catch is positioned to the right of the bolt shroud and offers two positions - forward for FIRE and rear for SAFE with bolt lock. There is a small secondary button which you can press while on SAFE to open the bolt.

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5-stage trigger
Sako has fitted an adjustable trigger, which is a delight to use. It is unsurprisingly crisp and predictable, and the position of the smooth aluminium blade can be adjusted forward or backwards if required. There is a hole in the base of the stainless steel trigger guard, allowing a T20 Torx driver through it to engage the 5-stage weight adjustment. This clicks as you move through the stages, which I measured on my review rifle at 700, 877, 1119, 1455, and 1535-grams. This is superb, as it not only allows you to set your desired weight, but you can also adjust it depending on seasons and/or if you are wearing gloves.

Straightforward polymer looks
Sako’s Adventure stock looks quite plain externally, with an adjustable cheekpiece and inlaid tactile panels on the grip and forend for secure handling. The forend is 44mm wide with a flat base and handles well from improvised shooting positions. When hunting, it is notably stable when shooting from quad sticks. As well as a free-floating barrel, the forend is stiff and won’t bend to contact the barrel. Also, there is adequate grip space to ensure it fills your hand and your fingers won’t come into contact with the barrel. Finally, I like the fact you can clamp the gun into a tripod setup without any lateral compression of the forend affecting zero.

Hidden fibre details
Call me a cynic but my background in materials engineering immediately knows the difference between reality and a marketing term, so although the stock looks like a conventional high-quality polymer unit, removing the action is like stepping through the wardrobe and finding Narnia. The action is securely held into the stock with twin countersunk T25 Torx screws through the bottom metal. Remove these and the barrelled action lifts free to reveal the central inlet region, which shows carbon fibre. This offers massive strength and stiffness without undesirable mass. The action’s generally flat footprint shows a small recoil lug that mates with a larger, L-shaped steel recoil plate whose recoil lug delves deeper into the stock, ensuring solid mechanical transfer of all recoil forces.
With the barrelled action removed, the full trigger mechanism is visible and displays all of Sako’s ultra-neat machining, as well as the trigger weight setting screw. The final delight, however, comes upon reassembly, as when you tighten a rifle’s action into the stock inlet, you can feel a lot of what’s going on. Ideally, you do not want steadily increasing bolt torque, which indicates spongey resistance. Instead, what you want is the Sako approach, which is screws that spin freely into position and suddenly stop, then immediately build up tension and ‘click’ your torque wrench.  This suggests no bedding issues and a stress-free fit.

Evolution
The Sako mechanics are well designed and as an owner of a 75 some years ago, I like the slightly simpler mechanics, which have retained all the Sako feel yet dispensed with what I often thought was unnecessary mechanical complexity. It’s important to inject at this point that as manufacturing and machinery options have increased over the decades, the way we design things can be simplified purely because what once had to be made in multiple pieces, can now be made in fewer stages. It’s not cheap, it’s cost and time-saving through efficiency.

At the range
The rifle certainly shot well on target, and it was easy to extract 5-round sub-MOA performance while using a wide variety of lead and non-lead ammunition types. The cold hammer-forged barrel didn’t show its best until a couple of boxes had gone through it, however, after this, it seemed settled, reliably accurate, and precise. The achieved velocities were acceptable, with only the low recoil Hornady 125s failing to reach 1700 ft-lbs from the 20” barrel, a dimension we used to think was short but is now seemingly the norm. In use, the gun handled without any fuss, the recoil was smoothly transferred, and the stiff stock’s forend combination meant you didn’t need to baby it at all. The recoil pad is grippy without being spongy, and although the 14” length of pull was perfect for me, spacers can be added if desired. Both sling studs are secure, and the overall finish of the rifle is exactly as you would expect from Sako. The safety catch operates quietly, the stock doesn’t resonate and overall, it’s a tough unit.

Conclusion
This rifle is everything ‘Sako’, and for a UK hunter in inclement weather, it’s exactly what’s needed. Plus, it comes in a broad range of calibres. The excellent scope mounting, trigger, and magazine make this a rifle I can’t criticise. Picky Parkin has failed to find fault, and if the price puts you off, then look under the surface!

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  • Without Fault - Sako 90 - image {image:count}

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  • Without Fault - Sako 90 - image {image:count}

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  • Without Fault - Sako 90 - image {image:count}

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  • Without Fault - Sako 90 - image {image:count}

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  • Calibre:

     .308 on test, .22-250, .243, 6.5CM, 7mm-08, 6.5x55, .270, .30-06, 8x57,.270WSM, 300WSM, 6.5PRC, 7mmRM, .300WM also available

  • Barrel Length:

    20”

  • Overall Length: 

    40.1”

  • Weight:

     6lbs 4oz

  • Length of Pull: 

    14”

  • Magazine Capacity:

    5-rounds

  • Price: 

    £2750

  • Contact: 

    GMK Ltd - www.gmk.co.uk

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