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Sako 85 Hunter Laminated Stainless

Pete Moore gets his hands on the latest Sako 85 to see how the design has moved on and finds some surprising build features

I have to admit to not having a lot to do with Sako rifles, as the last fullbore I looked at was the old Model 75 in its synthetic stock with rubber gripping panels, which did impress. However, the name has always been associated with quality and I know a lot of shooters who own this brand, and when looking for a rifle will immediately go there. So I was pleased when UK importers GMK Ltd sent me an example of the 85 -the Hunter Laminated Stainless.

Externally the 85 looks little different to the older 75, the major visual change being the lack of key lock system that the latter offered. Thankfully the fad of being able to disable your rifle seems to have ended, which is a blessing.

First Impressions

First impressions were favourable and I have to say build quality and finish was good. The stock is a grey/black colour and the layout is excellent. The forend tapers slightly yet gives enough to get hold of, the butt shows a straight comb and low (shadow line) cheek piece and again is of acceptable width to be comfortable. At the back is a rubber recoil pad and QD sling studs are fitted front and rear.

Most impressive is the chequering, which used to be something you never found on laminate stocks, as they either came plain or stippled. There are three panels on the forend (both sides and underneath) with two on the pistol grip - and well executed it is too. It gives a secure hold yet is not too dictatorial. Overall this is a nice piece of work with the barrel channel open enough to free-float the tube and also rigid enough not to show a shift in point of impact on or off a bipod.

The action is totally familiar and made from satin-finished stainless steel. The bolt release catch sits to the rear left with the tapered dovetail bases peculiar to Sako on top. The two-position safety is rear right, though now there’s an added catch that allows you to open the action when on SAFE, which is a useful feature.

One thing I always find cute about the Sako is its slim bodied bolt, and the 85 is no exception. With three locking lugs the design supports the case head on three sides, which is a consequence of the fact it uses a fixed blade ejector set at 6 o’clock in the action. The handle is teardrop shaped and angled back slightly. The shroud is large and the top section is checked to reduce reflection, and at the back is a cocked action indicator lug.

Total Control

The 85 like the 75 offers a proper detachable magazine, which loads to a capacity of five rounds in the 308 Winchester the rifle came in. The new locking system is called the ‘total control latch’. As before the release catch is at the front of the well, which pulls back to operate. However, to make this happen you first have to push up on the mag’s base plate. OK, it takes a second longer, but you still have a proper DM facility with no chance of accidental operation dumping it into the grass unnoticed.

Regardless of the model, Sako are one of the few companies that produce five action lengths to suit individual cartridge overall lengths (COLs) groups. Normally you get a choice of long or short with other makes, or just long with switch barrels. So you can go from XS (223 sizes), to S (308 sizes), to SM (Winchester Short Magnums), to M (30-06/6.5 Swedish sizes) up to L for magnum’s ( 7mm Rem mag etc). Their website has all the calibres. Capacity is generous too with 5+1 in S and M and 4 + 1 in XS, SM and L.

Add to this two barrel lengths – 22 7/16” XS, S and M and 24 3/8” in SM and L. Rifling twist are - as ever - European in thinking, with the 308 test gun offering 1-11”. Though in 223 Rem you get the choice of 1-12 and also 1-8 for the heavier bullets.

Recoil Plate?

The trigger is adjustable from 2 - 4 lbs, but the pull it came out of the box with was fine by me as it offered a light, crisp and readable release. As I recall the old 75 used a separate recoil lug that was retained in a slot under the receiver by a screw, so I decided to see if Sako had changed that system and to my surprise they have. What they have replaced it with is nothing like I have ever seen before. A flat steel plate with a rectangular cut-out is screwed directly into the front of the action cut-out in the laminate. A corresponding lug on the underside of the receiver engages with this to give a recoil lug of sorts. I assume it must work, as Sako knows a thing or two about building rifles, but it was unexpected…

GMK sent me a Burris 4-16x44 AO scope and a set of Sako, Optilok rings and bases. This is mandatory as their dedicated tapered mounting system is the only thing you have to put the glass on. Meaning if you have one of these then you need two of those. But I suppose it’s no different if you were to buy a Blaser R93 or Mauser M 03, as they too only offer their own mounts…

However, the overall impression of the Sako 85 is that of a well made and well put together rifle. Function is 100% with the controlled cartridge feed and slick bolt action never missing a beat and gliding like silk. Likewise the well positioned safety that allows operation with no loss of the firing position and the good trigger too. The overall feel of the gun is one of competence. The magazine can be used as a proper DM or left in place and easily loaded through the top, which will suit all users. The barrel is of light/medium profile, hammer forged and also totally free-floated with no interference from the forend even off a bipod. So with a Harris bipod up front and a field bag under the butt it was time to see what the 85 could do…

Twist, Speed and Weight

Ammunition went to two weights and types, as I was unsure of what the 1-11” rifling twist would like. For a standard load I picked Winchester 150-grain Ballistic Silver Tip and for heavier duty Federal’s 180-grain Premium High Energy. As ever 308 Win can be a bit barky in any weight though I did find the 85 more controllable than some other rifles.

Neither cartridge shot what I would call amazingly, with the Winchesters producing 2” at 100 yards and the heavier Federals cutting that down to 1 ½”. My gut feeling is that the Silver Tips were a bit too fast for the twist rate/rifling form and the 180s maybe a bit too heavy. Something like a 165/168-grain might be the answer or a slower 150, but as with most rifles it’s about finding out what they like, be it factory fodder or reloads. Were this my gun I would use my old 308 load of 168-grain Hornady A-MAX over 44-grains of Vit N140, which I think could do well…

If we assume that the correct ammunition will allow the rifle to group into an inch at 100 yards, which I think is feasible then the Sako 85 stacks up pretty well. The price however is high in comparison to say a Remington 700, or even the Tikka T3, but then again so was the Model 75 for its day.

We Think:
Well presented and built
A little expensive
Dedicated scope mounts

Technical Specifications
Name Sako 85 Hunter Laminated Stainless
Calibre 308 Win (S- Action)
Price £1345
Options Optilok standard base £39
Optilok 1” rings (blue) £53

All Prices Are Guides Due to the Changes in US & European Exchange Rates

Gun Mart Shooters Forum - Get Involved in the Discussion!
User Comments
  • I have had a Sako stainless synthetic "Grey Wolf" for about a year, mine being in the increasingly popular 6.5x55 calibre. The rifle is excellent with superb build quality and "load and go" accuracy. I am currently feeding it Federal factory ammo and can achieve a little over 1/2" groups at 100yds but I am going to start home loading shortly which can only improve that.
    I decided to pay the extra and buy the Sako over the Tikka as the latter is obviously built to a price and although I know EVERYTHING is built to a price I think the Tikka shows it. I didn't want to be one of the inevitable bunch of Tikka owners regretting not saving a little longer and buying the Sako.
    I recently successfully completed my DSC2 with the Sako and it was a real joy to shoot, the silky smooth bolt chambering the rounds quietly and the crisp no creep loud switch delivering when asked.
    The lift and unclip magazine is a little odd but only when you first try to detach it. After a while it becomes second nature and if it stops the mag accidentally falling out (which happened to a mate with an Anschutz) I say it's a good feature.
    I fitted a Schmidt & Bender 8x56 illuminated scope and an ASE Utra moderator which I think is just about the ideal stalking setup. I would however make one suggestion to Sako, that is that all the rifles coming into the UK should be screw cut and capped. This would give owners the option of mod or no mod. Having to screw cut and then reproof is as the Yanks would say - a pain in the ass.

    photopro
    www.hunterworld.co.uk

    Comment by: photopro     Posted on: 20 Mar 2010 at 04:30 AM

  • I have a Sako 85 Varmint and shot American Eagle 55 grain, its super accurate, i've a drop of 4cm over 200 yards... Can the Carl Zeiss Victory Diarange be fitted to this rifle???? Its the scope with the range finder built in...., e-mail or call me please 07545807417...

    Comment by: michael mc dermott     Posted on: 13 Sep 2011 at 11:01 PM

  • The Diarange only uses a European rail attachment system, due to its non-circular body shape. You would have to see if any one makes a conversion for the Sako. If they do it might put the scope a bit on the high side. I'll have an ask around.

    Cheers
    PM

    Comment by: peter moore     Posted on: 14 Sep 2011 at 07:19 AM

  • Since CZ doesn't do stainless rifles or an 8" twist in the CZ 527 M1 American, and I need a lightweight rifle in the class of the CZ 527 M1 American with 8" twist, the Sako Hunter 85 Stainless is about the only game in town that I have left to consider. The only other option is to take the CZ 527 M1 American and resolve myself to using 60-grain Nosler Partitions exclusively on pronghorn antelope, mule deer and whitetail deer with no shots over 200 yards (fat chance with the antelope). The 75-grain Swift Scirocco II is the current best bullet for those species when using .223 Rem, but few factory rifles there are that handle the twist rate requirement. The next best choice is the CZ 527 Varmint with HS Precision stock, which handles the said bullet at my altitude with a 9" twist (0.6 MOA in my experience), but it weighs well over a pound more than the M1 American or 85 Hunter Stainless (but fabulous otherwise). Not what you want for a rifle that you will be using at times with cross country skis in the winter. There are few, if any, rifles that compare to the Sako 85 Hunter Stainless in extra short action. Maybe a Kimber rifle, but can't think of anything else offhand in a factory rifle. My local gunsmith can build me exactly what I want on a CZ 527or Sako 85 action for around $3K, and it will put all bullets through a single ragged hole at 100 yards, or I don't have to buy it, but that is an expensive alternative......but maybe it is worth it. I would be satisfied with 1/2" at 100 yards for what I do, as one Sako 85 user above has mentioned.

    I own two CZ 527 Varmint rifles in .204 Ruger and .223 Rem, and they are pure death on prairie dogs, especially the .204 Ruger. I am looking for the ultimate .223 Rem stalking rifle that can handle very long for caliber bullets for larger game, not the common varmint fodder. The Sako 85 Hunter series comes closer than anything I have found so far. The .223 Rem and .22-250 Rem are becoming increasingly popular for deer and antelope hunting among locals on the prairies of eastern Montana....just to give you Brits a "heads up" on the developing situation. They are very pragmatic in their beliefs, so I place more weight in their beliefs than those of America gunwriters. The general consensus among American gunwriters is that .22 cal is too light for American deer species, but Montana has no such restriction on minimum caliber. One Montana hunter I know has taken 32 mule deer with a .204 Ruger and every one was a "bang flop", but he is an expert shot and every shot was a head/neck shot. The very long for caliber .224 bullets have much more versatility, in my opinion, and capable of heart/lung shots of good effect.

    Comment by: Barbari Ann     Posted on: 07 Nov 2011 at 12:20 AM

  • I am very interested in the Sako 85 hunter laminated stainless. Sako shows that rifle chaimbered in .222, on their web page. I have called 9 different Beretta dealers in 3 different states, and none of them know of this rifle or can give me price and avialibility. Can anyone help me? The last Beretta dealer told me "I dont know what im talking about, Sako would not make that rifle in .222, because it is a s**t round that is long been extinct." I have hunted with a Rem 788 in .222 for over ten years and have made some scarry long shots on coyotes. To make it short I want that rifle! Any help would be great.

    Thanks Mike

    Comment by: Michael Hodgett     Posted on: 05 Feb 2012 at 05:31 PM

  • Mike,

    According to the Sako Rifle Database they do produce the rifle you are keen on. See link below:

    http://www.sako.fi/pdf/datatables/SakoRiflesDatatable2012.pdf

    Regards, Oli

    Comment by: Oli Hands     Posted on: 13 Feb 2012 at 10:51 PM

  • Oli,

    Thanks for the reply, but because that rifle is addvertised on Sako Finlands website, it is not being distribuited in the us. Thant is what i was told by Beretta, Sako, and two distribuiters one in Ireland and one in Austria. Unfortunatly I am probably going to start looking at AR's, not there is anything wrong with them, I am just more comfortable with my bolt guns.

    Thanks Mike

    Comment by: michael hodgett     Posted on: 14 Feb 2012 at 01:33 AM

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Sako 85 Hunter Laminated Stainless
Sako 85 Hunter Laminated Stainless
Sako 85 Hunter Laminated Stainless
Sako 85 Hunter Laminated Stainless
Sako 85 Hunter Laminated Stainless
Sako 85 Hunter Laminated Stainless
Sako 85 Hunter Laminated Stainless
Sako 85 Hunter Laminated Stainless
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