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Bolt Action Gun Culture Rifles

Sako Model 85 Arctos Review

by Brad Fitzpatrick   |  May 28th, 2013 6


There are few places in Europe that look today much as they did 10,000 years ago, but Finland does. It is the last great wilderness in Europe, a boreal landscape that was flattened by massive glaciers so heavy that the country is still rising out of the sea today. Far from the traffic snarls, noise and pollution that have come with the urbanization of the European subcontinent, Finland still remains wild and largely unpopulated. The majority of the Finnish population lives in the southern portion of the country around the capital of Helsinki, but the remote northern regions remain virtually untouched.

The Finnish people remain connected to the wilderness, and the nation boasts a tremendous variety of game, from the oversized black capercaillie grouse to moose, deer and bear. Finnish sportsmen are proud of their hunting heritage and equally proud of the guns they carry.

Finland’s national firearms manufacturer, Sako, has been producing military and hunting rifles since the late 1920s, and since that time the company has earned a reputation for producing high-quality, accurate bolt-action rifles.

In 2000, the company became part of Beretta Holdings, and under the leadership of the Beretta, Sako introduced the latest in a long line of high-end production rifles built to exacting quality standards: the Model 85. Like Sako rifles past, the 85 is built to exacting standards, and Sako took a bold step by guaranteeing its production rifles would produce a sub-m.o.a. five-shot group at 100 yards. Even for Sako that was a lofty promise.

There are a variety of different Model 85 bolt-action rifles available today, but the newest iteration is the Model 85 Arctos, so named for the brown bear that is the national animal of Finland. This new offering gave me a great reason to do a Sako Model 85 Arctos review. Mechanically, the Arctos is like all other Model 85 rifles and incorporates the same three-lug, round bolt with a front-mounted claw extractor and receiver-mounted ejector.

While the Model 85 is sometimes referred to as a controlled round action, this is not exactly true. The Sako bolt doesn’t include a full-length claw extractor like the Winchester Model 70 and Mauser 98, and the action performs as a push-feed rifle would. Any shooter hoping to watch the empty cases whir off into the brush when the bolt is worked is apt to be disappointed, but the good news is that the Sako bolt allows cartridges to be dropped directly into the chamber without problems because the extractor doesn’t lock onto the rim until the action is closed.

The bolt travel is Sako-smooth, and throughout the test there were no problems with feeding and ejection. The bolt shroud is enclosed to protect the shooter, and there is a cocking indicator that protrudes just below the shroud. A large red dot on the indicator is visible when the rifle is cocked.

The two-position, side-mounted safety on the Arctos is the same variety found on other Model 85s, and there is a small bolt release button located just in front of the safety and behind the bolt handle. While three-position wing-type safeties found on rifles like the Winchester Model 70 and Ruger Hawkeye are popular, the two-position safety with the bolt release isn’t a bad option because the shooter touches the safety only when he or she is ready to fire the gun. When loading and unloading the rifle there is no need to touch the safety at all, and with a little practice it becomes natural to press the button with the thumb while lifting the bolt.

Long before the current trigger revolution, Sako rifles had a reputation for arriving from the factory with triggers that broke cleanly and lightly, and the current line of 85 rifles has superb triggers that are adjustable from two to four pounds. The Arctos I tested came with a trigger that consistently broke just below three pounds, which is the kind of performance you’d expect in a rifle that promises to place five shots under an inch at 100 yards.

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