Top foxer Mike Powell reports on his first ever Sako – the 85 Hunter in .223 – and how it has stood the test of time
The name Sako has long been respected in the rifle world, but until a couple of years ago I had never owned a rifle made by this Finnish manufacturer. I had been looking out for a rifle purely for fox shooting – which led to my calibre choice of .223. I had tested several different makes, including some very nice rifles, but when I listened to the views of other shooters, Sako was the name that cropped up more than any other.
I am pretty old-fashioned in my taste for guns of any sort, still preferring the lines of a side-by-side English shotgun to the highly practical but somewhat lumpy over-and-under. In the same way, although I am fully aware of the advantages of synthetic stocks, a nice piece of walnut takes a lot of beating in my eyes. When I took a look at the range of 85s on offer, it was the Hunter model that caught my eye in particular, so that was the model I decided to buy.
I have now had the 85 for over two years – so what are my thoughts on it after having given it a lot of use? First and foremost, the rifle looks more or less as good as the day I got it. The only blemish – and many of you will have had the same problem – is a rub mark on the barrel where the rear bush of the Reflex-type moderator sits. This could have been avoided by a piece of electrician’s tape, but by the time I spotted it, it was too late. I will not make the same mistake again.
The stock has acquired quite a nice patina and mechanically everything has settled in extremely well. The action on the 85 series matches calibre to action size, which gives a balanced look to the rifle. In turn, the bolt travel is specific to the length of the round being used. The overall appearance of the rifle is first class, and thus far shows no sign of deteriorating. The matt blue satin finish, as well as being attractive and matching the finish of many scopes, has resisted wear and looks as good as the day I bought it.
The 22in tapered barrel (1-in-12 twist rate in .223) is free-floated throughout its length, and as far as accuracy goes it will shoot one-inch groups all day at 100 yards, coping with various rounds that I have on test. Mike Norris developed a round to suit the rifle, and as I have come to expect from this expert riflesmith, his round caused my groups to tighten considerably.
The trigger is well up to the usual Sako high standard. Mine has a single-stage unit, but set trigger options are available. There was some discussion when the 85 first appeared as to the magazine release mechanism. Instead of just pressing the release catch, which is situated at the front of the mag, you need to apply some pressure to the magazine base. This is done to prevent the magazine being accidentally dropped when in the field. It may appear a bit fiddly at first, but one soon adapts and it works really well. In any case, cartridges can be fed into the mag through the ejection port while in position.
In use over the last couple of years, I found that the three-lug locking system and the new magazine design gave a foolproof, smooth, cartridge feed. There is a safety indicator for the safety catch (which is the common forward-fire, rearward-safe design), and a small catch forward of the safety enables the rifle to be unloaded while the safety is engaged.
To sum up, I have been more than happy with this rifle. It has a nice feel to it, is very accurate and it is a credit to the manufacturer. I am sure no one would regret getting a Sako 85 in any of its many available calibres.
On my own Sako I have found the Minox scope to be excellent. Normally, I round this outfit off with the lightweight Quicksilver titanium moderator. For this report, however, I was trying out an SP Systems Raptor moderator, which proved to be a very nice piece of kit. It is well made and certainly does the job. If you are in the market for a moderator, I would seriously suggest having a look at it.