December 28, 2018
J.P. Sauer & Sohn was founded in Suhl, Germany, in 1751 and went on to become known for its high-quality side-by-side shotguns, bolt-action rifles and drillings. While the name might not be familiar to every American hunter, several firearms built by the company have been exported to the United States through the years.
One was the Mark V rifle built by Sauer for Weatherby from 1957 until 1971. Another was the rear-locking Colt-Sauer sold by Colt from 1973 to 1984. The Colt was basically an American version of the Model 90, which was introduced by Sauer to the European market in 1972.
Two years after production of the Colt-Sauer rifle ceased, Sauer began exporting the Model 90 to America. It was soon replaced by the Model 200, which was also a turn-bolt design but with fixed locking lugs at the front of its bolt. Due to interchangeable bolt heads and easy switching of barrels, one Model 200 was capable of handling many different cartridges.
Today’s top-of-line Sauer S404 has that capability, and while the less expensive S101 does not, it has many of the same features. In late 2014 I used a S101 in .270 Win. on a hunt for red stag in the highlands of Scotland and was impressed by its quality and accuracy. When shooting Hornady ammo loaded with the 130-grain SST on paper at 300 yards, not a single five-shot group was larger than 2.80 inches, with the smallest measuring close to two inches.
With prices ranging as low as $799, Sauer describes the relatively new S100 as an entry-level rifle. Its seven variants cover all the bases in varmint shooting, big-game hunting and target shooting. All depart the factory with a five-shot, sub-m.o.a. guarantee.
The Fieldshoot featured in this report is one of five new additions for 2018. It is available in .223 Rem., .243 Win., 6.5x55, 6.5 Creedmoor, 6.5 PRC and .308 Win. And since it is intended for varmint shooting and long-distance paper punching, it is on the hefty side at nine pounds, 10 ounces.
The rifle arrived with a Minox ZP5 3-15x50 tactical scope with a 34mm tube attached to its 20-m.o.a. Picatinny rail with Warne quick-detach rings, and that increased weight to 12.25 pounds. The receiver is high-grade carbon steel, and its top surface matches the contour of the Remington Model 700 receiver, so just about every gunshop in the world will have at least one scope mount sitting on the shelf. Several ounces were shed at the factory by machining facets into both sides of the receiver.
Utilizing a carbon steel bolt with its body only slightly larger in diameter than that of its three locking lugs eliminated the need for machining lug raceways inside the receiver. Additional machining was eliminated by locking the bolt lugs into shoulders inside an extension of the barrel rather than into the receiver.
The bolt face is deeply counterbored with its wall interrupted only for passage of a Sako-style extractor. Twin, spring-loaded, plunger-style ejector rods positioned at one o’clock and seven o’clock in the face of the bolt consistently fling spent cases in the exact same low trajectory, thereby avoiding dings to the finish of a scope mounted low on the receiver. And, yes, the system works perfectly.
Bolt rotation is 60 degrees. Due to shortening of the cocking cam ramp made necessary by the three locking lugs, rotating the bolt takes a bit more effort than for a two-lug design. But as I proved to my own satisfaction on 300-yard steel, it is not enough to greatly slow down rapid-fire shooting.
Bolt travel is quite smooth with wobble close to nonexistent. A large tactical-style knob on the bolt handle is kind to the hand during rapid fire. A red-colored pin visible at the rear of the bolt shroud indicates a cocked firing pin, and it is easily seen and felt.
Sauer engineers obviously spent a great deal of time making the rifle as safe as possible. Pulling a three-position lever located at the right side of the S100 receiver tang to its rearward position blocks both sear and trigger movement, and it also blocks bolt rotation. Moving it to its middle position allows the bolt to be rotated for loading or unloading the chamber with safety engaged.
There’s more. Should the safety be disengaged while the bolt is in its unlocked position, the firing pin remains blocked from forward travel until the bolt is rotated to full lockup. I tested this feature by placing a primed case (no powder or bullet) into the chamber with the safety disengaged and then pulling the trigger with the bolt rotated about half-way toward its locked position.
Doing so released the firing pin with enough force to automatically complete bolt rotation to complete lockup, but the firing pin was unable to reach the primer of the chambered case. That was repeated 10 times with the same primed case, and there was no sign whatsoever of firing pin contact. Lifting the bolt handle far enough to recock the firing pin and then rotating the bolt to full lockup prior to pulling the trigger allowed the firing pin to strike and fire the primer.
The 24-inch carbon steel barrel is hammer-forged with a 1:12 rifling twist. The barrel is 1.11 inches in diameter at the receiver, and from there it tapers to 0.81 inch at the muzzle, where it was given a nice target crown. The company describes its method of joining the barrel and receiver as the Heat Lock process, but it is more commonly known as thermal interference fitting. It works because steel expands when heated, contracts when cooled and then returns to its original dimension at normal temperature.
The process at Sauer begins by machining the unthreaded shank of the barrel slightly larger in diameter than the interior diameter of the receiver ring. Heating the receiver ring increases its interior diameter while extreme cooling of the barrel shank shrinks it to a smaller diameter. Joining the two and then allowing them to return to normal temperature results in a permanent connection.
An obvious advantage to this method of barrel attachment is a reduction in production cost. Another is a high level of concentricity maintained between the barrel and receiver during manufacture.
That’s great, but I just had to ask about barrel replacement should it be damaged or shot out. My question made its way to the Blaser service center (Blaser is the U.S. importer of all Sauer rifles) in San Antonio, Texas, and from there it was forwarded to the Sauer factory in Germany. The answer I received was “barrel replacement is not possible.”
Ever Rest is the name Sauer has given to the method in which the receiver is bedded in the stock, and in addition to being quite unusual, it is a bit complicated. About a half-inch of the barrel just forward of the receiver ring rests on a 1.2-inch-long aluminum bedding block, and from there on out, the barrel free floats. Rather than using a conventional recoil lug extending down from the bottom of the receiver, an integral lug of the bedding block extends upward to engage a slot in the bottom of the receiver ring.
The front of the receiver is held firmly against the bedding block by a large steel nut. The upper end of the nut is inside-threaded for acceptance of a 0.230-inch headless steel bolt extending down from the bottom of the receiver. Tightening the nut pulls the front of the stock hard against the receiver and bedding block. Threads in the opposite end of the nut receive a screw that holds the front of the bottom metal in place. The rear of the bottom metal is held in place in a more conventional manner by a bottom screw.
Removing the stock from the barreled action is a bit different. Detaching the bottom metal by turning out its front and rear screws exposes the front retention nut, which requires a socket wrench for removal. A 3/8-inch socket was a bit snug, but I managed to make it work. (Ed. note: When testing the SXT Classic version of this rifle last year, I found a 10mm socket to be the ticket.)
The trigger came from the factory a bit on the heavy side for precision shooting, but otherwise it rated excellent with no detectable creep followed by a crisp break with zero overtravel. Ten consecutive pulls on my Lyman digital scale ranged from 65 to 68 ounces with an average of 66.4 ounces. That’s far more consistent than your run-of-mill factory trigger. Adjusting pull weight is clearly explained in the owner’s manual.
The sturdy double-stack magazine is polymer and holds five standard cartridges or four magnums. Press on a button located just forward of the magazine and a spring propels it into the hand. The release button is recessed below the surface of its housing, so there is little chance of it being bumped and dumping the magazine.
The stock is composed of 10 layers of beech laminate, and it has a sandbag-friendly, flat-bottom fore-end along with three cooling vents on each side of the barrel channel. I found the grip with its Wundhammer swell to be perfectly sized, shaped and angled for shooting over a bag or a bipod. Both sides of the grip also have plenty of checkering coverage.
There are three posts for quick-detach swivels, with one of the pair up front intended for bipod attachment. A synthetic comb insert in the stock has a height adjustment range of just over an inch with just enough play in its steel support posts to allow a bit of fore-to-aft angle adjustment. Since the comb has to be fully lowered each time the bolt is removed for bore cleaning, using a Magic Marker to mark its support posts made it quick and easy to return it to the desired elevation.
The arrival of the Fieldshoot caught me with only one box of factory .308 match ammo on hand, so I fed it handloads that deliver excellent accuracy in two of my match rifles. The bullets were Hornady 168-grain A-Max, 175- and 180-grain Sierra MatchKings, and the Berger 185-grain Hybrid Target. All were loaded with Hodgdon CFE 223 powder, Starline cases and Federal GM210 primers. Charges were 44.8 grains for the 180-grain MatchKing, 47.0 grains for the 175 MatchKing, 47.5 grains for the 168 A-Max and 44.5 grains for the Berger 185.
In my rifles the Sierra and Hornady bullets are most accurate when seated anywhere from 0.01 to 0.02 inch off the rifling while the Berger shoots its smallest groups when seated 0.01 inch into the rifling. The interior length of the Sauer magazine is 2.86 inches, which puts the maximum OAL at 2.84 inches. That, along with the rather long chamber throat of the barrel, rules out seating most match bullets close to the rifling.
The dimension from the head of a chambered cartridge to the point on the rifling first contacted by a speeding bullet is 2.285 inches. When the Hornady 168-, Sierra 175-, Sierra 180- and Berger 185-grain bullets were seated in cases to lightly kiss the rifling, respective overall cartridge lengths were 2.959, 2.890, 2.869 and 3.037 inches. Seating the bullets deeper in cases for the maximum overall cartridge length allowed by the S101 magazine put jump at 0.119, 0.050, 0.029 and 0.197 inch, respectively.
The two MatchKing bullets traveled shorter distances prior to engaging the rifling, so I was not surprised to see them punch out the smallest groups. I figured the Hornady and Berger bullets would not be as accurate due to their longer jumps, and I was right.
When punching holes in paper over sandbags, I fired two consecutive five-shot groups and allowed the barrel to cool down completely before firing the next pair of groups with that ammo. Range conditions were quite favorable, with just an occasional light breeze.
Group size could likely have been shrunk by seating the Sierra and Hornady bullets for less free-travel and seating the Berger into the rifling, but I did not take the time to do so because most who buy the Fieldshoot will use its magazine.