- By Pete Moore
- 0 Comments
- Last updated: 26/01/2017
It was 2013 when Sauer announced its latest product the 101 bolt-action rifle and I tested the synthetic stocked version the 101 Classic XT. About a year later I have the wood stocked option – the Classic in standard, grade 1 walnut. Though a good design the 101 is more an entry level product so fancy timber engraving etc. are not options, but the use of alternative materials and even build methods to keep quality and ability up but costs down certainly are. The thinking behind this policy is perhaps to make you get on board with this prestigious European brand as their 202 is a legendary and popular design.
Here in the UK the name and price will certainly drag you in, as the 101 is a shooter and cost effective one too for its pedigree. However, if I was buying one then I do not think I would bother moving up to the more expensive 202 as some of the features offered on the 101 are better – higher capacity double-stack magazine and larger ejection port. Plus I have never been a fan of the former design, though know it to be a quality rifle, it just does not float my boat!
With both wood and synthetic stock choices the 101 is available in the following calibres and options – Standard (22”) barrel - 22-250 Rem, 243/308/270 Win, 6.5x55 SE, 7x64, 30-06 Springfield, 8x57 IS and 9.3x62. Magnum – (24.5”) barrel - 7 mm Rem Mag, 300 and 338 Win Mag, capacity differs being 5 and 4 accordingly. At 42 and 44” long and 6.725 lbs or 6.94 lbs accordingly the 101 is a good looking and feeling rifle. However, I would say that the 22” Standard tube is a bit short for some of the meatier cartridges like 270 Win, 30-06 etc.!
Closer inspection shows where Sauer have re-thought the basic design to doubtless make it easier and cheaper to produce. The polymer magazine is more cost- effective and the plastic bolt handle probably saves steel and machining. Though not instantly obvious the biggest departure from what is a proven recipe is how the barrel is retained. Traditionally the barrel’s chase (parallel chamber section) is threaded as is the receiver and these two components are screwed together.
Sauer use what they call ‘a tension- free HEAT LOCK process’. This involves the chase being an interference fit (marginally larger than the receiver socket) here the front of the action is heated and the barrel forced in. When the metal cools and shrinks it grips the tube solidly, an anti rotation pin is then fitted to maintain the position. Being picky you could argue that once the barrel is shot out it cannot be replaced. True but given the quality of Sauer barrels in general which is very high, chances are you will never shoot it out with normal use. Bearing in mind it’s a hunting rifle.
To save using a traditional, fixed recoil lug something called EVER REST bedding replaces this approach. Here a large square alloy recoil block is bedded into the front of the stock’s action void. Pins in the underside of the receiver mate with holes in the block with the forward screw passing up through it. As before it’s then bolted front and rear.
There’s little denying that the 101 follows the 202 in basic action shape, though the ejection port is larger, equally the bolt looks similar. It’s here however things change, the aforementioned polymer knob is obvious, new is the (SAFE OPENER) which allows the action to be opened when cocked and on SAFE. The DURA SAFE safety at first glance could be mistaken for a Blaser-type de-cocker as it’s positioned on the angled rear of the shroud. It is however a traditional ON/OFF system. It pushes up to FIRE and reverse for SAFE, in this position the inset button on the catch must be pressed to free it. The bolt uses 6-lugs with a swept back handle giving a 60° lift angle. The head shows twin, plunger-type ejectors, so getting the empty out is not an issue! Typical Sauer it runs smooth and slick to offer a positive action stroke.
The barrel is button rifled and we are told by Sauer that it’s a match grade tube, my tester was a 22” Standard in 308 Win. It shows what I would term a light/medium profile and comes threaded 14x1mm (no spigot) from Garlands. Whether wood or polymer the ambidextrous stock is identical with its higher/straighter comb when compared to a 202, length of pull is a generous 14.5” and at the rear is a decent rubber recoil pad! The mag release is located at the front of the well and the clip falls free easily. From factory the trigger is set at a surprisingly light 2 lbs, I appreciated this but if you are not used to something that light get to know it first!
Sensibly the 101 will accept Remington 700 bases – smart move there I reckon? Having recently picked up Minox Optics as a brand Garlands fitted their ZA 5 HD 2-10x50 scope with 30mm tube, which is very much an ideal hunting spec! The wood stock only offers grade 1 timber with chequering on grip and forend, which is OK but nothing special, then again it is what it is and does the job. My tester had obviously done the rounds as the wood was very care worn being chipped, dented and scratched. Another reason to pick the Classic XT (synthetic) furniture - plus its £200 cheaper too. If you appreciate good wood then the Classic is not for you!
No real complaints on shootability, one niggle though as I do not like the safety! It’s a tad high and causes you to break your firing hand position a bit to operate it, plus the extra button push to release it up to FIRE is not conducive with instinctive operation. I do like the ability to have it cocked/SAFE and a press of the SAFE OPENER allows a no worries unload. At the end of the day it’s useable and in most cases not an issue.
The mag is nice with a generous 5-shots in Standard calibres and offers reliable feed and fast changes. The trigger was great and really suited me; equally the action is smooth and slick with no feed or ejection issues. Like the Classic XT I tested last year the 101 Classic shot acceptably with a cross section of weights and types. The standard 150-grainers were printing 1”+ but moving up to 168-grains and above seemed to suit it better. Dropping to an inch and better, so again more than acceptable.
Having now tested both wood and synthetic versions of the Sauer 101, for me there’s only one choice and that’s the Classic XT! I will always favour synthetics over timber due to their inherent practicality and toughness. I also feel that with the larger Standard calibres 270 Win and 30-06 etc. a 22” barrel is not getting the best out of them!
The real bonus is the price differential between the XT synthetic and Classic wood, which is considerable as I have illustrated. The £200 saved would go a long way to funding a good quality optic. I suppose the real question is simple; is the Sauer 101 worth it? I say this as it’s not a prestige product like the 202, which it is not meant to be, so might put some people off wanting this famous name. Plus with the growing amount of more budget-priced designs the 101 is still expensive. I suppose it’s a bit like the Zeiss Duralyt scope – an excellent and more budget- orientated design that wears a famous badge but is it the real McCoy?
I think that is the strength and weakness of the 101 as it’s too much like the 202 so many potential buyers, rightly or wrongly will see it as a cheaper copy. Mauser’s M12 is very similar to the 101, hardly surprising really as it’s essentially the same build and mechanics with just a few subtle design differences. However, the M12 compared to its bigger and more prestigious brother the M03 are as chalk and cheese in what they offer, so the former is perhaps perceived as a more unique design.
CONTACT:Garlands Ltd, 01827 383300 www.sauer.de www.minox.com