September 23, 2010
A quality .22 from a famous name in bolt actions
The author gave the Sako rimfire a workout hunting jackrabbits in the Utah desert.
One of my all-time favorite hunting rifles was a Mannlicher-style .308 Sako carbine that I used through the 1970s and '80s. It delivered honest minute-of-angle accuracy with loads it liked and was a joy to carry afield. I killed a lot of deer with that little 6 1/2-pound carbine before swapping it in an ill-advised trade. I thought I could always replace it with an identical carbine at some future date, but when I tried some new Sako carbines a few years later, I discovered they had gained nearly a pound of heft.
I've used several other Sako rifles over the years, and they've all been of excellent quality. Finland is a nation of hunters and riflemen, and they're serious about the firearms they produce. I visited Sako's Riihimaki plant a few years ago and was highly impressed with the attention to detail the workers displayed. Manufacturing standards are extremely high, and the employees are justly proud of the fine rifles they make.
When I recently tested Sako's Finnfire Hunter, I learned the same exacting standards applied to Sako rimfire rifles. There are three different models in the company's current .22 rimfire lineup. The Finnfire Sporter features a heavy, competition-style stock with a deep fore-end fitted with a bottom rail for attaching hand stops and other accessories. The buttstock has an adjustable buttpad and cheekpiece, while the vertical pistol grip and fore-end are generously stippled.
Except for its rimfire-length action, the Finnfire Hunter closely resembles full-size Sako centerfires.
In spite of its model name, the Sporter is a target rifle, pure and simple. The Finnfire Varmint is basically the same rifle as the Hunter model I tested except that it has a heavy bull barrel that's an inch longer than the slim 22-inch Hunter tube, and it has a beavertail fore-end. Of the three Sako rimfires, I consider the Finnfire Hunter to be the most practical choice for general shooting, hunting and plinking.
At an even six pounds, my test rifle was four ounces heavier than the cataloged weight. Except for its short-throw rimfire bolt, the Finnfire Hunter has the same look and feel of a full-size Sako centerfire. Its full-size walnut stock has cut checkering and a raised Monte Carlo comb with carved cheekpiece. There is a dark oil finish that unfortunately masks most of the grain.
The Sako P94S rimfire receiver sports a two-position sliding safety while a bolt-release lever rides just forward of the blued and polished bolt handle. The bolt body is 4 3/4 inches long. One of the two rear-locking lugs is at the base of the bolt handle while the other is farther inboard on the bolt handle sleeve. When the action is in battery, a sturdy, spring-loaded extractor claw firmly grips the cartridge rim. Ejection is mechanical. Like other Sako rifles, the Finnfire's bolt shroud is beveled and handsomely checkered. A red indicator projects to the rear when the action is cocked. The top of the receiver is similarly checkered.
The rifle proved capable of sub-MOA groups with standard-velocity Federal loads.
No sights are supplied, but the receiver is grooved to accept tip-off mounts. Before taking the rifle to the range, I installed a Leupold
Vari-X 2x7 Rimfire Special scope in Burris rings. The barrel floats freely in the stock. While short of perfection, wood-to-metal fit is OK.
One notable difference distinguishing the Finnfire Hunter from centerfire Sako rifles is the black, synthetic-fiber triggerguard assembly. The removable five-round box magazine is also made of lightweight synthetic.
The single-stage trigger is adjustable, and the adjusting screw is easily reached by simply removing the two screws in the triggerguard and dismounting the stock. Turning the adjusting screw clockwise increases the pressure needed to trip the sear, and vice versa. The trigger on my rifle broke crisply at 3 1/4 pounds. The instruction manual notes that it's unsafe to attempt to reduce trigger pressure below two pounds.
|SAKO .22 LR HUNTER|
Model: Finnfire P94S Hunter
Action Type: Turn bolt
Caliber: .22 LR
Magazine: Removable box, five-round capacity
Barrel Length: 22 inches
Overall Length: 39 5/8 in.
Weight: 6 pounds
Stock: Oil-finished, checkered walnut with Monte Carlo comb
I usually test rimfires for accuracy at 50 yards, but since nearly all of the Sako centerfires I've used over the years have been capable of MOA accuracy, I wanted to see how the Finnfire Hunter would perform at 100 yards. The results? High-velocity Remington and Winchester 40-grain ammo produced one- and 1 1/4-inch spreads at that distance. With standard-velocity Federal loads, the rifle consistently printed 3/4- to 7/8-inch five-shot groups.
Once the Sako was sighted in and I'd completed my accuracy testing, I put away the targets and went rabbit hunting. That's been my favorite rimfire sport since I wandered the same Utah deserts as a teenager many years ago. The long-legged jackrabbits were scarce that day, but I quickly rolled a runner at 40 yards. An hour later I surprised another that thought it was safely out of range. It sat on its haunches about 120 yards away and stared at me, giving me time to drop to a stable sitting positio
n and carefully squeeze the trigger.
The Finnfire Hunter is a class act. It's a handsome, high-quality, accurate rifle any rimfire fan would be proud to own.