Sauer 101 Alaskan
- By Chris Parkin
- 0 Comments
- Last updated: 24/04/2017
My first encounter with the Sauer 101, nearly four-years ago, was somewhat of an epiphany. After being heavily involved with custom rifles, heavy target and precision guns, it was utterly refreshing to use one in Denmark on the competitive Sauer sponsored ‘Field Shooting’ weekend in Ulfborg. Coupled to using RWS factory ammunition and shooting beyond 500-metres, I was impressed by the usability and reliability of an ultra-modern sporting rifle in a walnut stock. The Alaska model seeks to appeal to harsh environments, with a laminate stock build and Ilaflon-coated action and barrel to ward-off the harshest atmospheric conditions.
Stainless Steel is becoming an old phrase on rifles. Where we once looked for it as proof of a durable future, coatings are the new Holy Grail and the silver finish on the Alaskan typifies this. Coming under the proprietary name ‘Ilaflon’, the same as that on the Mauser M12 Impact, the matte hardwearing finish is perfectly applied throughout the barrel and action of this 101, to blend with the grey layers of laminate in the stock. Given the Alaskan reference in the name, one assumes this gun might get used over snow-covered landscape and although I’m not a huge fan of shiny rifles, this one’s looks do echo a feel of the black and white Tundra. The 560mm barrel (22-inch) has a 15x1mm threaded muzzle for a Brake or Moderator and like every gun I have seen from the Blaser/ Mauser/Sauer machine works, is executed to perfection at high speed with no tool chatter on the cold hammer forged barrel.
A 1 turn in every 11-inches (279mm) rifling twist rate balances between the common 308’s 10- and 12-inch offerings and testing on the range shows a hidden `future proofing` benefit to this. This gun rather liked non-toxic ammunition. Weight for weight, a non-toxic bullet is longer than conventional lead/ copper construction due to the intrinsically lower density and even though larger .30 calibre rifles show broad capability for extensive bullets weights, perhaps 125-180-grains in most 308s, this one shows a rate more capable with copper bullets but at no detriment to conventional rounds.
The barrel is press fitted into the action, where six lugs in two rows of three surround the push feed bolt face and lock into abutments that are part of the barrel, rather than the action. The action shows a stroke length of 113mm, with an 84mm ejection port to the right side. Although it’s a long action mathematically, ergonomics make it feel shorter in use, which is never a bad thing. Five rounds fit in two staggered columns inside the polymer magazine. with an extra one already in the barrel if you need it. The feed is smooth, and most importantly quiet at any speed. Single rounds dropped into the ejection port will also feed directly into the chamber in an emergency without stoppages from the magazine’s follower.
Two plunger ejector pins throw spent cases well clear of the gun and the chances of both failing in a dangerous situation is very unlikely. Primary extraction is strong, dislodging the tightly expanded brass case cleanly out of the chamber, before drawing it rearwards with a claw in the upper right quadrant of the bolt’s face. The action is well timed, with no movement in the bolt handle when dry-fired, another factor that shows precise design and manufacturing tolerances.
I liked the feel of the grooved polymer bolt knob sitting 60mm away from the action. It isn’t the longest, but certainly not too short and wont snag badly on clothing or foliage. The bolt release catch sits to the rear of its handle and when the safety catch is applied, locking the bolt closed, pressing this button will allow the action to be opened on `safe` to unload. The ‘Dura Safe’ safety catch has visual echoes of a de-cocker but it isn’t, it locks the firing pin. This tab on the shroud of the bolt pulls down/ back to `safe` the action and lock the bolt shut and when you want to push it back up/forwards to fire, you need to depress the small central button to unlock the catch itself. It is safe and functional but small and a bit fiddly under the scope’s ocular body. Wearing gloves makes it even more tricky, the centre button is 6mm in diameter and when it gets compressed by insulation or neoprene on your thumb, your thumb `rolls` gently as you slide it quietly `off`, the angles tend to make thumb pressure lighten and release this button. It works, I just don’t find it the best to use, especially on a rifle whose design ethos is cold climates, where you are more than likely to be gloved up. The trigger guard shows plentiful space for an index finger, and the trigger, like all the others from this design house, is excellent. Crisp with good feel, totally predictability and a 2lb (950gr) pull weight. For colder climates, I’d be tempted to add a pound to it for the likelihood of gloved finger contact but it’s a great trigger. A recessed push button to the front of the magazine drops it cleanly into your hand and it re-inserts equally smoothly. Rounds press straight into the top between the feed lips and you won’t have any problem with gloves. Four threaded holes on the solid top of this stiff action will accept any Mauser M12 or 98 rings/bases and I fitted a Recknagel Picatinny rail, as I find the system totally reliable for scope mounting. The ingress of dust dirt and debris or snow is less likely with a more enclosed receiver like the 101’s.
Laminates are great materials for stocks, showing strength, stiffness and good looks similar to wood, but at the cost of a little more weight due to their increased density. They also have excellent atmospheric stability; they are about as much glue as they are Birch ply! The attractive grey/black colouration shown here is distinctive in looks, with a very solid feel and full sized ergonomics. The ‘Ergo Max’ stock’s 363mm (14¼-inch) Length of pull is ideal and the adjustable cheekpiece mates the best of both worlds in terms of elevating your cheek to line your eye up to the scope’s exit pupil, and still allowing easy bolt removal. Twin thumbscrews to the right side, nip up or release the two pillars that clamp inside the butt. Be careful to keep it tight though; I let it go slack, knocked the cheekpiece off when walking and had a good hour of fun searching the leaf covered range in November. The cheekpiece rakes down toward the action, thereby relieving some of the firing pressures from the cheek under recoil. As the gun moves backwards, the comb effectively angles to drop away from your cheekbone, rather than something like a Hogsback, which angled the other way, rises into your face under recoil.
Two millimetres of clearance separates the entire forend from the barrel and remains so in all conditions, right back to the action. A Schnabel tip, with quick release sling swivel, completes the forend’s tip, with an underside stud for bipod. A QR swivel is also fitted at the rear, which is very handy if you want to shoot with a rest bag under the butt without it snagging. Chequering is sharply presented at the forend and grip with the former showing just enough meat to fill a gloved hand without fingers wrapping over the barrel, the latter with a gentle ambidextrous palm swell and hand-filling proportions. My index finger pad dropped straight to the deeply curved trigger blade, with space around the knuckles to ensure a good straight pull in line to the butt pad and no unwanted lateral pressures on the stock.
The Alaska is not a lightweight gun and balances better with a sound moderator to compensate for the heavier stock, but it is very pointable and has that feel of indestructability. I wasn’t surprised to find that all mechanical tasks of the action and barrel were completed without fault but I was surprised by the stock. The recoil pad is consistently firm across its surface, so there are no hard points to concentrate pressures on firing. It gripped firmly into the shoulder pocket and stayed that way with minimal muzzle lift that was also dampened by the added weight and gas jetting control of the mod. What did surprise me was the feel onto the cheek that was harsher than the identical Walnut furniture of my first 101, and very similarly proportioned, identical calibre of the Sauer 100 (all were 308s). It didn’t put me off the gun but I wouldn’t want to fire long strings of ammunition, it is after all a hunting rifle but the difference in recoil perception between the stock materials was noticeable, specifically to the cheek.
The gun had no problem printing one-inch (25mm) groups at 100-metres (109-yards), the 560mm barrel giving acceptable velocities and surprisingly, really liking the 150gr Lapua Naturalis bullet that I have never found an ideal companion for any other gun. Velocities for 150gr bullets at 2820-feet-per-second (860 M/s) were generating a hearty 2650ft/lbs of energy that is more than satisfactory for an UK and most continental needs, unless you want to move up to 180s, where the recoil did bite harder. I stuck with Fiocchi/ Hornady SST for most of the test for its consistency but moved to handloaded ammunition for further accuracy trials. The Alaskan pointed and aimed so well with such a solid feel from any position that I wanted to eke out every bit of performance to justify the pros and cons of the laminate. A stiff forend is reassuring and I found no worrisome handling traits. It was particularly nice when aimed and shot from quad sticks, because you felt you could afford a bit more brutal treatment with the gun balanced out end from end with no chance of any pressures being subjected to the barrel. Point of impact was consistent and the stock showed no untoward bedding stresses from the well-machined inlet and twin action screws holding it in place. The front screw is a little more complex than required; you need a 9mm socket to remove the nut beneath the Allen head. It’s okay in the workshop but I do prefer to keep things simple. Wood to metal fit feels totally solid with two 5mm Stainless Steel pins anchoring the gun and transferring recoil into the bedding block bonded into the stock, just to the front of the action/barrel reinforce. This just adds more to the almost bombproof feel of the rifle.
The Sauer is undoubtedly a very well made and accurate gun that you can depend on but given its very close design similarities with the Mauser M12, you notice deign subtleties more easily. If I were to choose a gun that I don’t think I could break, the Sauer Alaska would be it, as it feels indestructible.