January 02, 2020
J.P. Sauer & Sohn, first established in 1751, is Germany’s oldest firearms manufacturer. Sauer, as the brand is commonly known, produces good bolt-action rifles and shotguns, which are imported into this country through Blaser USA in San Antonio, Texas. A few years ago, Sauer threw its hat into the budget gun arena with the launch of the Model 100, a bolt action that featured German engineering and attention to detail with an un-German price tag.
The Model 100 stood out in a sea of affordable bolt guns for all the right reasons—superb build quality, tight tolerances, attention to detail and excellent accuracy—and made these guns popular among American shooters and hunters. The success of the Model 100 also prompted Sauer to grow the 100 family to include several new models.
One of those new models is the Sauer 100 Cherokee, which features a synthetic woodland camo stock and Cerakote Tundra Green finish on the metalwork. The Sauer 100 utilizes a push-feed bolt design with three locking lugs up front, a large extractor mounted on one of the lugs and dual plunger-type ejectors.
Like other three lug bolt-action rifles, the Sauer 100 requires just a 60-degree lift that allows it to function with large-diameter scopes and promotes faster cycling. The tubular steel receiver features an angled cut on the left side for a trim profile, and the minimized ejection port increases rigidity, which, in turn, improves accuracy potential. Unlike most American rifles that feature lug abutments cut into the receiver, the Sauer 100 is equipped with a breech ring that locks the lugs in place. Sauer press-fits the barrels, and they index on the front of this ring for proper headspacing.
The Sauer 100’s bolt shroud is enclosed, and a small recess houses a post-style cocking indicator that offers both a visual and a tactile reference regarding the rifle’s condition. During cycling, the bolt stop rides in a channel machined into the left side of the full-diameter bolt body. Flutes cut into the bolt knob provide improved traction, and the bolt handle runs through a channel cut into the rear portion of the receiver for smooth, slop-free cycling.
Sauer 100 rifles come with a single-stage trigger that is externally adjustable from 2.2 to 4.2 pounds. The trigger offers a smooth, rounded, deeply curved face, and the trigger guard allows plenty of room for shooting the rifle while wearing winter gloves.
A detachable double-stack polymer magazine holds five rounds of standard ammo (four rounds of magnum), and the magazine release button is recessed into the metal trigger guard just ahead of the mag well.
Sauer’s 100 series rifles offer a three-position rocker-type safety, and there are visual indicators to help you determine the state of the rifle: two white dots and one red. The rearmost position locks the bolt and engages the safety, the middle position unlocks the bolt, and the forward position disengages the safety for firing.
Sauer 100s come with the company’s Ever Rest bedding system that eschews the traditional recoil lug. In its place you’ll find a notch machined into the front of the tubular receiver that mates with an aluminum bedding block epoxied in place in the polymer stock. A large hex nut secures to a threaded post extending downward from the receiver, and the hex nut also anchors a bolt that secures the front of the bottom metal in place.
The Sauer 100’s barrel is free-floating, and there’s a minimal gap in the barrel channel. Buyers can opt for either a muzzle with a target crown or an M15x1 threaded muzzle.
European rifles and their European styling sometimes bring a grimace to the face of traditionalists on this side of the Atlantic. The Sauer 100 hasn’t completely abandoned a Euro look, but its profile and function will be palatable to an audience of American shooters.
The Cherokee comes with Sauer’s Ergo Max stock, which features a straight comb that cants slightly downward from heel to nose. The comfortable surface finish allows for a solid grip on the rifle, and it gives the gun a classier look and feel than you’ll get from most injection-molded rifles. There’s a noticeable palm swell, and the fore-end narrows to a Euro-inspired Schnabel fore-end.
Panels on the pistol grip and the fore-end feature checkmark patterning that offers a secure landing point for the shooter’s hands, and while the texturing is rather bold, it isn’t distracting. It blends nicely with the contrasting browns and greens and tans of the woodland digital camo stock.
With its trim fore-end and sporter-style barrel, the Sauer 100 Cherokee is a lightweight, smooth-handling rifle. The .308 I tested came equipped with a 22-inch barrel, which gave the Cherokee an overall weight of six pounds, 14 ounces unloaded and unscoped. With a Trijicon AccuPoint 2.5-12.5x42 optic in place—set in Warne bases (the Sauer accepts Remington 700 bases, so there’s no issue with availability)—the gun weighed eight pounds, nine ounces, which is perfectly manageable for most hunting situations. Overall length is just 42 inches, and length of pull measures 14.5 inches.
The weather turned my range test into something of a torture test, and five shots into the Sauer’s debut performance the gathering clouds opened and rain poured down. One of the primary advantages of Cerakote finishes and polymer stocks is that there’s no need to fear precipitation.
After the storm passed, I resumed shooting and found the primary hurdle to producing good groups with the Sauer Cherokee was learning to manage a trigger that broke right at the 2.2-pound threshold with virtually no creep or take-up. This is one of the few test rifles that compelled me to add trigger weight for testing, and I doubt that even the most demanding shooter will feel compelled to switch the Sauer’s trigger for an aftermarket model. I’m also a fan of the trigger’s wide face and deep curve.
With the Trijicon locked in place on Warne bases, I began accuracy testing in earnest. The first thing you’re likely to notice when you cycle the Sauer 100 Cherokee is the silky action. The fat bolt rides through the action with no slop or binding. Close the bolt and the lugs lock into the breech with a precise click. You simply won’t find a smoother action in a factory rifle in this price range.
I hoped that the Sauer’s smooth action and seamless build quality translated into good accuracy, and the rifle didn’t disappoint. With its favorite load—Hornady’s 178-grain Precision Hunter—the Cherokee in .308 churned out groups of 0.65, 0.75 and 0.82 inch. The rifle did almost as well with Federal’s 175-grain Edge TLR ammo and managed to keep average group sizes between 0.74 and 1.13 inches with the three loads tested.
That’s pretty impressive, but Sauer promises that these guns will shoot sub-m.o.a. groups for five shots. I managed to get two groups between 1.0 inch and 1.1 inches with two different loads, which I consider living up to Sauer’s lofty standards. The Sauer instills confidence in the shooter, and by the time I adjusted to the trigger and zeroed the rifle, I was certain that I could place a .308-inch hole wherever the Trijicon’s green center dot landed on the target.
The minimized ejection port maintains rigidity yet it’s large enough you can effectively manipulate the cartridges. In other words, single-loading isn’t an issue.
I’m a fan of detachable box magazines in general, but the polymer box magazines of some budget rifles leave much to be desired. Not so with the Cherokee. The double-stack magazine loads easily, and once the cartridges are in place, they aren’t prone to popping free when the magazine is bumped.
The polymer mag fits smoothly into the well and seats securely in place, and the magazine release button is easy to reach and depress. There were no issues with loading or cycling during the test period.
Europe has a tradition of driven hunts, and shooting offhand at running game is normal, so it’s no surprise Sauer engineers considered the handling qualities of the 100 rifle during design. The palm swell, narrow fore-end and front-of-receiver balance point make the Cherokee a good-handling rifle that should appeal to brush hunters. It’s less clumsy in a tree stand or blind than poorly balanced rifles, and should you find yourself in the unenviable position of having to shoot at a running animal, you’ll appreciate the Cherokee’s smooth swing.
My quibbles with this rifle are few. The three-position safety knob is rather large, and it makes a noticeable click when disengaged unless it’s carefully lowered. Length of pull on the Cherokee is perfect for me, though small-statured shooters may find it excessively long. Lifting the bolt handle requires more force than some other rifles, and perpetual barrel-swappers won’t be able to easily change the pipe on this gun the way they would with a threaded barrel.
However, these minor issues wouldn’t be enough to dissuade me from owning this rifle, and there are a lot of features that make the Sauer 100 Cherokee stand out from the crowd. The smooth-cycling action and double-stack magazine are some of the best in the class, build quality is excellent throughout, accuracy is good, and the Sauer Cherokee is available in 13 different calibers, including popular options like the .308 Win., classics like the 9.3x62 and the hot new 6.5 PRC.
Suggested retail on this rifle is $1,100, which is a few hundred bucks more than the entry-level Sauer 100 XT. However, street prices are likely to be less than a grand, which makes this rifle an affordable option especially for those who value the improved look and feel of this gun over its more basic budget-rifle competitors with their rough finishes, cheap stocks and so-so accuracy.
In truth, the Cherokee’s function, quality and accuracy make it a strong competitor even in the mid-priced rifle market where it’s one of the most affordable options. The Model 100 rifles may be Sauer’s entry-level guns, but they’re a step above most other production rifles on the market.
Sauer Model 100 Cherokee Specs
- Type: Bolt-action centerfire
- Caliber: .223, .243, 6.5 Creedmoor, 6.5 PRC, 6.5x55, .270 Win., 7mm-08, 7mm Rem. Mag., .308 (tested), .30-06, .300 Win. Mag., 8x57 IS, 9.3x62
- Capacity: 5+1 (as tested)
- Barrel: 22 in. (as tested)
- Overall Length: 42 in.
- Weight: 6 lb., 14 oz.
- Stock: Woodland Digital Camo-finished synthetic
- Finish: Tundra Green Cerakote
- Trigger: Adjustable, 2.2 lb. (measured, as received)
- Sights: None; drilled and tapped for Remington 700-style bases
- Price: $1,100
- Manufacturer: J.P. Sauer & Sohn, jpsauer-usa.com