Sabatti ST 18
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- Last updated: 06/10/2020
Sabatti is a family-run, Italian manufacturer that has been involved in the industry for around 400 years. Here in the UK our experience of the brand has been limited, though we have tested a few of their shotguns and rifles, including the STR (Sabatti Tactical Rifle), Tactical Scout and the Saphire Synthetic. Range Right distribute the brand and now hold more stock than ever! Having tested a few chassis rifles recently, I was keen to try out their ST-18, which is described as a “versatile bolt-action precision rifle conceived to offer both accuracy, easy handling and transport in a multipurpose platform for sporting, hunting, and tactical or professional applications”. Time to see how it does!
They use CNC-machinery to manufacture a rigid and lightweight chassis from a single block of ERGAL 55 alloy, a material chosen for its high strength to density ratio. It has a matt-black finish throughout, protecting it from the elements, and includes randomly shaped cut-outs down each side, giving it a distinctive appearance. There’s a curved hand rest, which for me is a missed opportunity for a decent barricade stop, a useful asset when shooting from improvised positions. It protrudes 2” forward of the action, providing an attachment point for a removable, octagonal, pointed handguard. It is secured by three bolts for a solid fit, is 3-4mm thick, 15” long and covers about 2/3 of the barrel. It has a 1.75” diameter and includes 15-16 Keymod attachment points in the 12,3,6 and 9 o’clock positions. These can be used to attach lengths of Picatinny rail and accessories.
The rifle comes with a skeleton butt, which can be folded to the right using a spring-loaded button, reducing the overall length from 44.7” to 35.8”. Unfortunately, it does not lock in this position when closed, the bolt handle sits in a gap. Unusually, along with the hinge, it is manufactured from a powdered, metal-reinforced, Ryton PPS (Polyphenylene sulphide) high strength polymer. I was sceptical at first, but over time, I liked it. I was impressed with how solid it felt whilst showing a clear weight saving advantage. It adds to the versatility, but won’t be to everyone’s taste, with some shooters preferring more weight to reduce felt recoil and help spot the fall of shot.
It features two quickdetach (QD) sling swivel cups on each side and incorporates an angular hand-stop at its base. The flat base is pitched at a slight angle, is 5” long and works well with a rear bag. It does not include any threaded holes for a Picatinny/ accessory rail. There is an adjustable comb, which is operated by a reversible thumb wheel, that offers 30mm of adjustment, which is plenty. There is a 15mm thick rubber butt pad and length of pull (LOP) is 14”. There is no height adjustment for this or mechanical LOP adjustment, which is important to me because of my height. It is useful to be able to adjust it in the field to compensate for thick/thin clothing and different shooting positions. However, there is the option to add 12mm spacers, or alternatively, because the chassis is threaded to accept AR15 type buffer tubes, the user can fit any compatible, adjustable AR butt. The pistol grip is a high-quality Fab Defence AG-43 unit, which is comfortable, ergonomic and can easily be swapped for any AR variant.
The ST-18’s action has been designed as part of a joint effort with the BCM Europearms company. They are another Italian manufacturer, who have extensive experience in long-range rifle builds. It will be available in the UK with a 24” barrel in the following calibre and twist rates; 6mm Creedmoor (1:7.5”), 6.5 Creedmoor (1:8”), .260 Remington (1:8/¼”) and .308 Winchester (1:11”). My tester came in the latter, and the twist rate should mean that it can stabilise bullet weights between 150 and 200-grains.
All calibres include Sabatti’s proprietary Multi- Radial Rifling (MRR). The highlights are that bullet velocity can be up to 12% higher than barrels using a conventional form, while maintaining normal pressure. It claims to promote high accuracy, less bullet deformation, reduced wear, and easier cleaning, which all sounds good to me! It shows a tapered, mediumheavy profile at 27mm at the receiver and 22mm at the muzzle. It is threaded 5/8”x24 and comes with a factory-fitted 3-port brake.
The action is a solid piece of engineering, having been machined from a highstrength, heat-treated steel billet. It does not show a gas escape port and is finished in the same matt black as the chassis. It includes a 7”, 20 MOA Picatinny rail that includes a cut-out around the 3” ejection port, giving a bit more access. Unfortunately, I could not undo the screws to get the action out of the chassis to investigate Sabatti’s proprietary twopoint interface. A system designed to float the action while mitigating any coupling tension that could affect accuracy. During use, it became evident that whatever they have done works well!
The bolt is well made, the body is heat-treated and chromed. All with the aim of making the action smooth and silent in operation. From the box, my tester was a bit rough but soon slickened up with use, becoming a pleasure to use. Its three locking lugs, offering a rapid 60° throw, a feature that I really like. It includes a 65mm long handle, for maximum leverage and a trumpet-style, 20mm knob. This is attached via a standard 5/16” thread, so can be swapped out. The bolt face shows a single sprung ejector and their new 17- 4PH extractor, which is designed to offer increased resistance to a case rupturing when using high-pressure loads. It is machined into the opposite lug, and in use proved reliable and 100% effective. The bolt release tab is located at the rear/left of the action.
The internally adjustable, single-stage match trigger shows a plain, 7mm wide, curved blade that sits in a guard big enough for a gloved finger. It is a triumph, providing a clean, creepfree break at just 1.31lbs, so caution is needed!
The 2-position safety catch is located to the right of the action. The lever pushes FORWARD for FIRE (red dot exposed) and to the REAR for SAFE (white dot). There is a large, black cocked action indicator at the rear of the shroud, which can be seen and felt. Feed is from an 8-round, single-column magazine and is a clone of the Modular Driven Technologies (MDT) AICS compatible design, giving users a choice of different capacities from various manufacturers. It provided reliable feeding and allows for single loading. It was easy to fit and remove via the ambidextrous, sprung, polymer push tab positioned at the rear of the mag well.
For the test, Range Right provided a Konus 6-24x52 F30, which I fitted using their QD mounts. I also fitted a Picatinny rail to the Keymod handguard so that I could attach my Tier- One Tac bipod and I added a Wildcat Evo moderator to help reduce noise and recoil. I also installed a spacer, increasing LOP to 14.5”. Ammunition was kindly provided by Raytrade UK and included some Remington Premier Match, Core-Lokt and Accutip.
Performance from the box was excellent, I achieved a 0.23” group at 110 yards with the Premier Match ammo, 0.52” with Core-Lokt and 0.65” with the Accutip! (see ammo table). The velocity figures were healthy, all exceeding Remington’s published numbers, which goes some way to extoll the virtues of the MRR rifling!
I have been quite taken with this rifle, the engineering and materials used are impressive, though much like the styling will be down to personal taste. The balance point sits precisely on the hand rest which is a nice touch. There is no slack in the bolt, while feed and ejection were flawless. Velocity was excellent while the rifle provided precision and accuracy, which was easily achieved with the help of the fantastic trigger.
The cheek piece does not glide easily and is tricky to adjust, but once set up is solid. The butt’s ability to fold is practical, but a locking mechanism would further improve it. I would’ve liked mechanically adjustable LOP and butt pad height at this price point, as this is often featured on the competition. However, Sabatti has done a great job with this rifle and it is well worth your consideration.