This month’s review rifle comes from Sako – the rimfire switch-barrelled Quad. This particular model is the heavy-barrelled varmint variant, pre-threaded to take a moderator, which in this case is the Stalon rimfire mod. The scope and rifle are mated together with the ultra-reliable Optilock mount system; it may take a little more time to set the base to the ring but, once this is done, the optilock mounts do a superb job, reliably holding zero, while also protecting any scope from being marked because of the nylon liner. This liner also rotates within the ring, minimising the stress placed on any scope.
After 15 minutes of unboxing and assembly I was ready for zeroing the Sako Quad Varmint, bore sighted for a rough centre at 100 yards; 10 rounds and we were hitting our mark. I had selected Hornady and Winchester, both 17gn VMax-type bullet heads, doing around 2550fps, with my intended quarry being any vermin up to an opportune fox if it presented the right shot at a suitable distance. The first groups quickly showed the Sako seemed to prefer the Hornady over the Winchester, with the Hornady printing groups around the inch mark at 100 yards, where the Winchesters were printing around an inch and a half. You start to get a feel for trigger and the overall fit of the rifle in the first few shots, and after 20 or so rounds I headed off to grab some more gear and take myself off to the quiet of my hunting box – the one I use to get some solitude and gather my thoughts as nature goes about its business while I attempt to write.
The Quad’s USP
The Sako Quad is available in four calibres: .22LR, .17 Mach2, .22 Magnum and .17 HMR. The neat trick the Quad does is offer the shooter a switch barrel facility. One hex-headed bolt slackens off and the barrel lifts up away from the stock to allow it to be drawn out forwards – really quick and very simple. The benefits of this include quick calibre changes, but also the ability to obtain a new barrel for your trusty rifle in short order, which is far cheaper than buying a whole new rifle. The only difference, aside from barrel profile, would be a magazine change between .22LR / .17 Mach2 and .17 HMR / .22 Mag.
The best way to spend an afternoon is out in the ‘field office’ and this rifle gave me the perfect excuse. I had just the one barrel so that simplified my job – zero up, then just get familiar with the Quad. While I grabbed my kit, I remembered a flocked magpie decoy I had stashed, and because the local magpie population needed trimming back, perhaps even a carrion or two would show up. This particular hunting box has camo blind netting screening three sides which would make for a perfect corvid hide if any happened to turn up, but the quarry list is quite varied so I felt well prepared with a .17 HMR for company. As I settled into my hide, resting the Quad on the front rail to check my shooting position, the stock of the Varmint reminded me of the Sako 75 varmint stock, pleasing palm swell with and chunky forend, it takes a bipod really well, and sits solidly on the front rail of the blind, the chequering is of the usual Sako standard, clean and crisp. The butt pad is grippy, holding the butt in place in my shoulder with both hands free, as I look down the lines of the rifle. I do like a heavy barrel, and it’s even better with moderator, the Stalon rimfire mod is muzzle mounted and light, 160gn, only adding 115mm to the overall length, the sound attenuation was also pretty good from the zeroing session which should prove useful as I would be overlooking a game strip.
Action, barrel, trigger
Elegant, clean, smooth cycling – that pretty much sums up the main criteria of a good action. The finish is matt black, with the back of the bolt matching along with the bolt handle. The throw of the bolt handle is a very low 50 degrees, clearing with ease any scope. The shaped bolt handle has two flat sections that perfectly take the finger and thumb of your cycling hand, and the back of the bolt has a chequered-type finish, as does the top of the dovetail rail – purely decorative, but the extra grip on the back of the bolt may help sneak the bolt home when you are trying to be really sneaky.
The ejection is worth mentioning, as the Quad sent cases bouncing off the windscreen as I shot from the bonnet, feeding faultlessly from the magazine. The dovetail atop the action is standard, and while I was more than happy with the Optilock solution, most standard dovetail mounts would do the job. I hope there is a weaver rail conversion for this rifle to help with night vision mounting. The safety catch sits just behind the bolt lock recess, a simple flat-topped button that slides forward for fire, revealing a red ‘live’ indicator, a second red indicator dot sits at the back of the bolt to show the rifle is cocked. The magazine well and trigger guard are made from plastic and sit flush in the stock where they should. The magazine clips in easily and a small button to the front is pulled when you want to remove the magazine, which is five-shot but you can thankfully obtain more five-or 10-shot magazines. I cannot tell you how much the old Finnfire nine-shot magazine used to flare up my OCD in my .22LR boxes!
The trigger broke at just over 2.5lb, again clean and crisp, presenting no issues when shooting for accuracy. The single stage unit is adjustable and, as usual, if it’s not broke I am not going to try and fix it, excuse the cliché. The barrel is free floating, and in .17 HMR sports a 1 in 9-inch twist. Cold hammer forged manufacturing will always produce a good barrel, and one that should last if it’s looked after. The muzzle was threaded ½x20 UNF and the crown was straight, no recess, no dish – this is the only small niggle for me, as I prefer a dished crown, but this rifle is going to be moderated all the time, so my preference is of no consequence to accuracy or any help in protecting the crown. There are sling studs fore and aft, and beautifully blued ones at that – Sako rifles do leave you feeling the sense of pride from the craftsmen in the factory, and the Quad is finished to a high standard.
The field test
On my way into the box, I placed a flocked magpie on top of one of the fence posts just out to the left. If any magpies did come up the game cover I hoped they would see my decoy and investigate. Perhaps the decoy would help any carrion crows in the area settle within range as well. In short, the decoy worked, but a little too well – the carrions that did show both landed no more than three yards from my head in the dead ‘sitty’ tree to my right, and as much as I would have liked the popped cushion effect of a shot at that range, with no backstop I just sat tight. I could hear magpies chattering in the distance, and a pair of carrions seemed like they were going to work into range, but they lifted away before I decided a shot was on. So eyes down and typing, twice I spotted a glimpse of movement, rabbits jumping in the long grass, and my patience was duly rewarded as a bunny presented a headshot at around 45 yards. The kill was no surprise, I was, however, more aware of how quiet this little rifle was. I have owned .17 HMRs before and don’t remember mine being this quiet. Not as quiet as a .22LR, but all the same pretty unobtrusive along this little game strip, as a couple of hen pheasants made their way up the track with the dead rabbit on no more than five minutes after my shot. I sat on patiently, sipping warm soup, hoping a fox may show up under 50 yards, as the rats squabbled and argued behind me on the silage clamp reminding me I would have to return with a .22LR or air rifle soon.
So, my little review session over, I descended the box seat, gathered up my lonely rabbit and made my way back to the truck. It has been an interesting couple of days with the Sako Quad; undoubtedly well made with an excellent finish, accuracy that would no doubt improve further after a little bedding in, and a sensible cleaning regime. The Burris scope was a solid choice for the Sako Quad, offering bright, clear optics, easily adjusted turrets, a nice chunky zoom ring, and a stadia-type reticle for easy holdovers. I would certainly get out into the field and shoot to see the physical drop out to 200 yards and memorise the appropriate point on the ballistic plex reticle.
Regarding the switch barrel aspect of the quad, I would zero a barrel and leave it there – I think the option to acquire a replacement barrel when needed is where I would see the benefit, but I am sure plenty of shooters will have barrels of differing calibres as the conditions dictate, and be assured that a calibre change is a pretty quick operation, remembering to check the new barrel is zeroed. The Sako Quad has been a joy to use, and I have come away from this article with my interest in .17 HMR rekindled, and what a rifle to do it with.