The current rifle craze of which a manufacturer can do the most for the least, is still very much in season. During the last year, we've seen solid contributions from most of the American manufacturers and a few quality submissions from our European cousins. One in particular that sticks out is the Sauer 100.
The Sauer rifle has been available for about a year and is one of the best so-called "value rifles" on the market, foreign or domestic. However, it is by far the most sophisticated rifle in this category.
European rifles occasionally struggle in the American market because they do things differently on the other side of the pond. For instance, where Americans like the idea of being able to rebarrel their rifles, many European companies don't allow that. A common manufacturing process in Europe is to heat the receiver and press-fit the barrel in place. This makes for a very solid lock-up between barrel and receiver but also means the local gunsmith cannot put a new barrel on that rifle.
The Sauer Way
The Sauer 100 steps away from the traditional European model in favor of the American method. Its barrel is screwed and torqued into the receiver just like we prefer. However, Sauer isn't content to just do what everyone over here does, either.
Sauer's receiver doesn't have the lug abutments (what the bolt lugs seat against) cut into the receiver like almost every American action. Sauer cuts a recess in the receiver and then puts a breech ring in place. The bolt lugs sit against this breech ring when the action is closed and the front of the breech ring acts as an index point for the barrel.
Breech rings are an emerging trend in bolt-action rifles and their popularity will only increase because the advantages they offer both shooter and manufacturer are too compelling to ignore. Let me explain.
Traditional bolt-action manufacturing takes a large cylindrical piece of steel and cuts the lug abutments into the front of it (internally). Once the barrel is threaded into place, the bolt lugs sit on the abutments to lock the action closed so the rifle can safely fire. Because the action is so large, there are wide variations on where those lug abutments actually wind up. Actions made this way need someone trained in headspacing a rifle to get the barrel in the right position.
A breech ring is a small part that uses very rigid tooling, so each one is identical (usually to within .0005 inch). Once the breech ring is inside the receiver, the barrel can just be screwed into the receiver until it touches the breech ring and headspace will be correct. The front of the breech ring gives the barrel a known stopping point in relation to the lug abutments to ensure headpsace is the same every time. No hand fitting is necessary.
Breech rings represent a more sophisticated form of manufacturing that is a tad more expensive, but the savings on assembly time and reduced scrap rate guarantee breech rings will be the future of bolt-action rifles. Sauer is the first one to do it on their budget rifle.
The Sauer 100 uses a three-lug action that's paired with a double-stack detachable box magazine. This is my favorite arrangement for any bolt-action rifle.
Three-lug actions have a short 60-degree throw, which makes for a fast-cycling action. That's a nice feature but it's mostly just a convenience thing. I like three-lug actions because they usually have a lug at the 6-o'clock position when the action is open. That puts a whole lot of bolt face material right behind the magazine.
When the bolt of this three-lug action moves forward, the bottom lug hits the case head of the top cartridge in the magazine. There is enough bolt face real estate (thanks to the lug) that Sauer could alternate cartridges from the left and right instead of having to keep them in the center.
The increased surface area of the bolt face and cartridge case head engagement means feeding is ultra-reliable, especially welcome when feeding the short magnum rounds. There is very little chance the bolt will slip off the case head during feeding, even when the cartridge noses up and into the chamber.
The magazine Sauer pairs with this action is a short, little, five-round, double-stack affair that's made from polymer. Since Sauer only makes one action length for the 100, the magazine is a little long but has an internal block to keep the cartridges from moving too far to the rear.
While a five-round magazine isn't a big deal, it still gives the shooter a five-plus-one capacity without the magazine protruding below the bottom metal. You can comfortably carry the rifle at its balance point with more rounds in the rifle. Sauer's models for big magnums have a four-plus-one capacity.
The Sauer 100's ejector/extractor geometry is also better designed than most of its competitors. The 100 has dual ejectors that sit opposite a blade extractor. The extractor rides in the outboard lug that sits low in the ejection port during bolt travel. This arrangement yields optimal extraction and ejection, even with long magnums that have the scope mounted very low on the receiver.
The dual plunger ejectors pass through the bolt face and put continual pressure on the case head. As soon as the case mouth releases from the inside of the receiver when the bolt is pulled to the rear, the ejectors kick the fired case out of the action. Having dual ejectors means the ejection process is very controlled and the angle at which the fired case leaves the action is also controlled.
This might not sound like a big deal until you see someone bounce an empty case off the windage turret of their scope and right back into the action. It's extra sad when a lot was riding on that follow-up shot.
Sauer's combination of the extractor riding low in the ejection port and the dual ejectors means that fired cases leave the action at a shallow angle.
This rifle does not have an adjustable comb (nor do any in this category), so scopes should be kept low to the barrel to allow for solid head contact with the comb. That arrangement benefits most from Sauer's attention to the extractor and ejector because the Sauer set up is least likely to have interference issues with a low-mounted scope.
The action bedding system of the Sauer 100 is unique amongst its competitors. There is no recoil lug on the action. In place of the lug is a groove in the action behind the forward action screw. A machined block of aluminum that sits in the stock has a corresponding lug that protrudes into this groove when the stock and action are together.
The arrangement does away with the issues of recoil lugs rotating when the barrel is screwed to the receiver or the additional machine time and cost that comes with an integral recoil lug.
The Sauer 100 accepts the same scope bases as a long-action Remington 700. Since aftermarket support for the Model 700 is so robust, there are a ton of scope bases from which to choose. There are one- and two-piece bases made from aluminum and steel with no bias or up to 40 MOA bias. Since they all fit the Sauer 100, there are as many options, as one can imagine.
The trigger pull weight is adjustable from 2.2 to 4.2 pounds. It is crisp and has only a little overtravel.
The barrel on the Sauer 100 comes from the same place and is made to the same specs as all Sauer, Blaser and Mauser rifles. This is one of those times where you get a ton more barrel on this rifle than you would on anything else. These barrels are hammer-forged and every Sauer rifle has a 1 MOA guarantee for three shots from 100 yards.
That warranty is good for 10 years, so all you predator hunters that favor a .22-250 should take note. I'd be sorely tempted to shoot the barrel out and then put that warranty to good use.
When you get a 100 in your hands, check out the bolt-to-receiver tolerance. It is so tight that there are no lug raceways present. Just a little bit of oil on the bolt body makes for a very slick action. The detachable magazines are also a blessing when repeatedly loading and unloading the rifle.
Accuracy on the rifle is phenomenal. One, three-shot group I shot at 100 yards measured a tiny .44 inch! This accuracy can be attributed to the excellent barrel and trigger.
The stock was also a pleasant surprise. It is more rigid than most injection-molded polymer creations, and remained comfortable even after a couple days on a shooting table overlooking a few prairie dog towns.
I never thought I'd see a Sauer rifle that was priced competitively with other manufacturers' least-expensive offerings. The Sauer 100 has a suggested retail of $700, so it'll be found in gun shops for $500 or so. It's a little more expensive than the rest of the rifles in this demographic, but it has a ton of features and an outstanding warranty that the others simply don't offer.
Type: Bolt action
Cartridge: 6.5 Creedmoor (tested)
Capacity: 5 rds.
Barrel Length: 22 in.; 1:8.5-in. twist
Overall Length: 42 in.
Weight: 6 lbs., 11 oz.
Stock: Injection-molded polymer
Length of Pull: 14.25 in.
Finish: Matte blue
Trigger: Adj. from 2 lbs., 3.2 oz. to 4 lbs., 3.2 oz.
Manufacturer: Sauer, sauer.de/us/