September 23, 2010
By Joseph von Benedikt
Trust the Finns to come up with something radically different yet infinitely familiar. Ever on the forefront of development where accurate, solid-performing rifles are concerned, Sako has introduced a bolt action that is very different from either the Model 85 or the Tikka yet incorporates excellent features from both.
The A7 is a responsive, well-balanced hunting rifle with classic lines formed from very modern material. The stock is injection-molded from a high-tech composite and features clean contours and handsomely scalloped checkering. A comfy but not-too-squishy recoil pad graces the butt, and a metallic silver grip cap has "Sako A7" emblazoned on it.
A cocking indicator sporting a red dot peeks from beneath a sleekly contoured polymer bolt shroud. The machined, forged-steel bolt itself is a three-lug design, providing a short 70-degree bolt throw.
Interestingly, I found the bolt quite stiff to open when dry-firing the rifle, but when live-firing I didn't notice it being stiff at all. A slim-shafted bolt knob is well shaped and easy to grasp and manipulate in a hurry. The extractor is pure Sako and works marvelously.
When I pulled the action from the stock, I was surprised to find an unusual recoil lug system: The lug itself floats in a mortise in the stock and fits into a slot milled into the underside of the action. I will admit it didn't seem to provide a great deal of purchase to the action, but apparently it's sufficient.
The A7 uses a detachable box magazine of unique design. A molded-polymer housing holds a single-stack column of cartridges, which feed smoothly off of steel feed lips into the chamber. The follower is polymer.
Most unique is the magazine catch located at the front of the mag well. It's attached to the bottom of the action, not the magazine housing--which is a removable "bottom metal" type of unit made of polymer.
The Sako A7's Total Control detachable box magazine connects to the rifle's action rather than the mag well and is extremely secure.
Sako calls the latch system, which is also found on the Model 85, the Total Control system, and you must depress the front of the magazine slightly before pressing the catch. Otherwise the magazine will not release.
It works by virtue of a flat, spring-loaded surface--part of the trigger housing "cassette"--that supports the rear of the magazine. It makes for a secure system.
Speaking of the trigger, it's a single-stage unit adjustable from 2.2 to five pounds. The rifle I tested came from the factory with a pull of three pounds six ounces. It was crisp, with just a hint of overtravel.
Mounted on the trigger assembly is a two-position safety, with a special dedicated lever/button to unlock the bolt while the safety remains engaged.
The two-position safety sports a lever/button to release the bolt with the safety engaged. The A7 comes with Weaver-type scope bases already installed. The bottom "metal" on the A7 is actually polymer, but it is tough, streamlined and well-fitted.
In a refreshing departure from Sako's norm, the A7 uses standard two-piece Weaver-type scope mounts, which--at least on my sample rifle--came pre-mounted at the factory. Sako's proprietary mount/ring system used on the M85 and Tikka is a superb design, but it's often next to impossible to find the ring size, height and finish you want or need at your local gun shop.
After mounting a 3-9x42 Nitrex TR One scope in a set of sleek quick-detach Weaver rings I was off to the range. As with the Model 85 and Tikka rifles, Sako guarantees that the A7 can shoot one-inch 100-yard groups with quality ammo.
Sure enough, the .243-chambered A7 delivered. With three out of six loads tested, it averaged at or less than one inch, and those that didn't came close. Any of the lot would be entirely suitable for hunting.
Recoil was predictably light and smooth, providing excellent controllability and effortless follow-up shots.
It can be hard to define why, but some rifles are simply more likeable than others of equal quality. For whatever reason, they feel good in our hands, are easy to shoot well and look good in any context.
The A7 is one such. No matter the situation, it would be an excellent companion.
A machined three-lug bolt offers a short 70-degree lift for easy scope clearance and fast manipulation.