Sauer 100 Pantera
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- Last updated: 04/03/2020
I was keen to see what J.P. Sauer & Sohn had to offer, so thought I’d start at the bottom with their entry-level 100 series, but which one? The range offers synthetic and wood stocked versions, including the Cherokee, Atacama, Ceratech, Classic XT, Classic, Fieldshoot and the rifle on test, the Pantera. A hybrid design that incorporates a compact hunting package with long range features. I received one chambered in the versatile .223 Rem calibre, making it ideal for varminting, fox shooting, small deer and range work. If the looks were anything to go by, I couldn’t wait!
I find standard hunting stocks have more disadvantages than advantages. They are designed to fit Mr Average, be relatively lightweight and usable in as many positions and scenarios as possible. As a result, they rarely fit correctly and can limit the accuracy potential of any rifle; for this very reason, manufacturers offer adjustable options too. Sauer have opted for their own eye-catching ErgoFlex design, that is specifically intended for shooting from prone while using a bipod.
It is a right-handed wood laminate design, making it more resistant to climatic shift, water and moisture. Crucially, it is also a lot more rigid than standard wood, so a good basis for accuracy. There is no chequering anywhere, but they have added a grippy matt black coating which gives the rifle its name, Pantera, which translates as Panther. Starting from the rear, the design incorporates a curved height-adjustable recoil pad which can be manipulated a total of 5.5cm. It is secured with a single hex bolt, making it quick and easy to adjust. There is also height-adjustable comb that is supported by two stainless steel rods, and it provides 3cm of vertical movement. It is controlled via two plastic thumb wheels on the right-hand side that must be lowered in order to remove the bolt. Annoyingly the length of pull (LOP) is fixed at 14-inches, which seems at odds with the rest of the butt design.
The ergonomics of the stock are a triumph, making it incredibly comfortable. The pistol grip is well proportioned, including a palm swell, which helps to position the trigger finger on the blade perfectly, and the area behind the bolt shrouds works well as a thumb shelf. A further nod towards shooting from the prone position can be found at the base of the butt, where there is a comfortable hand stop. This can be used in conjunction with your supporting hand to pull it into the shoulder for better recoil control. However, this means that there is less surface area for a rear bag. The forend is 5cm wide and flat by design, plus it includes three vents through the barrel channel to aid cooling. There is a single, QD sling stud at the rear, behind the hand stop and two up front to accommodate a bipod and/or sling.
The steel receiver is manufactured using CNC milling technology and is available in one size that fits all. The Standard calibres include: .243 Win, 6.5x55 SE, 6.5 Creedmoor, .308 Win, 30-06 Springfield, and they all use a 20- inch barrel. The Magnum calibres get a 22-inch tube and include 6.5 PRC and .300 Win Mag. My tester was chambered in the only Mini cal, .223 Rem, which included a 20-inch barrel with 1:10 twist rate, M17x1 thread and a metal thread protector.
On disassembly, I found the recoil lug is threaded and sits in a solid aluminium block machined and glued into the stock. The barrel is free-floated to the re-enforce to aid accuracy and the action is secured in place by a 10mm nut that shares its thread with the front action screw, holding the bottom metal in position. The rear of action on my tester sat on a pillar of washers within the void, secured by a screw. I was pleased to hear these have now been replaced in new rifles with a solid nut which does the same job, but is less fiddley!
Sauer’s cold-hammer forged barrels have an excellent reputation and the ones found on the S100 series are no different. They are not a shrink-fit as their Model 101 but threaded with the locking abutments located in the receiver. Although they don’t offer spares, users have the option to re-barrel their S100 using an aftermarket tube, unlike the 101. The Pantera’s tube is fluted for weight and heat loss. It is described as having a heavy-medium profile with a 19mm diameter.
It would have been nice to see some longer barrel options, as some of the calibres require more length to reach their true potential, but you can’t have everything! The barrelled action and trigger guard/bottom metal are finished with an aesthetically pleasing dark grey Cerakote coating, that provides protection from corrosion, scrapes and knocks.
The bolt is removed using the release button located rear/left of the action. It has three locking lugs, providing a 60° bolt lift angle, which makes it fast to operate. The face shows an extractor and a pair of sprung plunger ejectors, which kicks the brass out with authority through the large 85mm ejection port. Feed is from an allpolymer, staggered column, flushfit, detachable magazine. The different cartridge overall lengths (COLs) are accommodated by fillers at the rear of the mag. The capacities are dependant to the calibre group, standard holds 5+1 while Mini and Magnum get 4+1. The 223’s magazine design is different with a central, single column feed, which fills from the front only, so can’t top-up through the action. However, all other calibres do not have this issue, being a staggered column with left/right feed. The swept back bolt handle is 6.5cm long and includes a medium sized, 24mm handle. The bolt shroud is also Cerakoted and a nice touch is the red recessed cocked action indicator, which can be both easily felt and seen as required.
The trigger does not leave you wanting, and is a high quality, single stage unit, featuring a wide curved blade. The weight can be adjusted externally from 2.2- to 4.4lbs, but in all fairness it was perfect from the box! It is hooked up to a three-position safety catch, which is located rear/right of the action. It pushes forward to FIRE, middle - SAFE with bolt operation and rear – SAFE bolt locked. It offered just the right amount of resistance and was quiet in operation.
The receiver can accept Remington 700 pattern bases, but my tester came pre-fitted with Sauer QD Hexalock mounts. Once setup correctly, they are designed to offer quick attachment/removal of an optic without loss of zero. I was also provided with a Minox ZX5 3-15x56 scope with a German #4 reticle, which has a fairly large floating illuminated dot at the centre of the crosshair. Although good for hunting it’s not ideal for precision work and could be finer!
I was also supplied with a Barton GunWorks sound moderator and fitted my trusty Harris BRS bipod. I sourced a variety of Remington ammunition for the test from the importer Raytrade UK ltd, which included; Premier Accutip (AT) in 50- and 55-grain, High performance Rifle with Pointed Soft Point (PSP) in 55-grain and 69-grain Premier Match (M). This selection covered all the main uses for a .223 in the UK.
I am a huge fan of .223 Rem and when combined with the Pantera I immediately knew it would shoot well! I was expecting good accuracy, and was not disappointed, with all the ammo types printing sub-inch at 100m (see ammo table). The best turned out to be the 55-grain PSP, which produced a 0.60-inch group, 2994fps muzzle velocity and 1095ft/lbs of energy, making it small deer legal (see ammo table). I was unsure if the 1:10 twist rate would work with the 69-grain Match ammo and, although accuracy was perfectly acceptable it was evident this rifle most likely prefers a slightly lighter bullet. I am confident that with a more precise reticle and a decent reload there was the real potential for groups under 0.5-inches.
Straight off the bat, this rifle looks like a serious piece of kit, and the stock’s ergonomics are a real selling point. The adjustable comb and buttpad combined with the addition of the hand stop really complement the whole package, making it great for static shooting. Annoying, though, is the fixed LOP on what is otherwise a fully adjustable butt. The washers used in the action void on my tester are now replaced by a single pillar, which is a much better design all round. As expected, the controls were all well sorted, the bolt was smooth and reliable, while the trigger was the highlight for me; absolutely excellent! The safety catch is a great design, so no complaints there.
The Cerakote finish is done to a high standard and is always welcomed on any rifle. It’s important to remember that the stock is made from wood laminate and is more prone to marking and damage than a comparable, synthetic unit. Accuracy was great, and without a doubt there is a lot of performance on tap with home loads. However, all the above comes with a price tag of £1650 which pits this very desirable performer against some serious competition.