Manufacture Spotlight: SAKO
By James Martineau,
SAKO, manufacturers of fine bolt-action rifles, has made a fine reputation of designing high quality rifles through the last hundred years. Designed to adapt to the harsh conditions found in Finland, Sako rifles are renowned for their accuracy and reliability. Sakos rifles have been proven as an effective firearm on the battlefields of World War II and in contemporary service with police and militaries. Despite the growing popularity of semi-automatic, long range rifles, Sako’s bolt-action offerings continue to be popular and it’s ability to refine their line up will help ensure continued popularity.
SAKO’s beginnings coincided with the declaration of Finnish independence from the Russian Empire. In immediate need of national defense, Finland contracted the Suojeluskuntain Yliesikunnan Asepaja (Civil Guard Supreme Staff Gun Works) to refurbish its arsenal of Mosin-Nagant rifles. These rifles were eventually adopted as the Finnish M39. Some SAKO upgraded rifles were also known as the M/28-30. The M/28-30 rifle gained notoriety as the rifle used by the famed Simo Häyhä. Using this rifle, Häyhä estimated that he killed more than 500 men in the short Winter War of 1939-1940. During the interwar period and into the Second World War, SAKO primarily produced pistol and sub-machine gun cartridges.
Upon completion of the Second World War, SAKO began producing high quality bolt-action rifles primarily for the civilian market. The first model, the L46, was designed for smaller cartridges such as .222 Rem, .218 Bee and .32-20 Win among others. As the company gained experience, they lengthened their actions during the ’50s and ’60s enabling their rifles to fire full size magnum cartridges such as .338 Win Mag and .375 H&H. The ’60s and ’70s saw the Finnbear model as the preferred SAKO hunting rifle. Produced in cartridges from .264 Win to .375 H&H, the Finnbear proved to be a popular model that have held their value well through the decades.
The success of SAKO enabled it to acquire its Finnish competitor Tikka in 1983. SAKO continued to market and improve Tikka’s rifles. SAKO was, in turn, acquired by Beretta in 2000. Thankfully for SAKO, Beretta realized the value of SAKO rifles and invested in an expansion of the factory in 2001. The acquisition of SAKO by Beretta has not diminished the value and quality of SAKO firearms since the merger.
In the late ’80s, SAKO began production of the TRG series of rifles. Unlike their previous offerings, the TRG was developed for service with military and police units. The TRG evolved from the two-lug Mauser action to the symmetrical three-lug bolt found in their contemporary rifles. The TRG has found service with dozens of special forces units to include the Russian FSB, Alpha Group of Ukraine and Spanish police forces to name just a few. SAKO continues to upgrade the TRGs and the latest variant, the M10, features a fully modular design with changeable barrels. It entered the competition for the Precision Sniper Rifle program for the United States Special Operations Command. However, it ultimately lost to the Remington Modular Sniper Rifle.
The last thirty years have also seen improvement to the line of hunting rifles. The SAKO 75 continues three locking lugs bolt design as pioneered in SAKO rifles by the still produced TRG series. Among the current lineup is the SAKO 85, the successor to the 75 series. Improvement to the 85 include enhanced aesthetics, an improved magazine release and an improved round feed system. Another current lineup rifle in the SAKO A7. This rifle is meant to fill the gap between the SAKO 85 and the Tikka T3 series of rifles. The A7 is only available with a synthetic stock. The newest model is the SAKO S20, a model intended as a hybrid between precision and hunting purposes. Many of the parts are modular as evidenced by SAKO’s rifle configurator as found on their website. With numerous trigger, stock, caliber and chassis options, one can truly customize this rifle straight from the factory.
SAKO’s innovative ability in improving their products will ensure its continued popularity with sport shooters and military/law enforcement alike. Smooth actions, aesthetically pleasing lines, exceptional accuracy and Finnish ruggedness are the hallmarks of these fine bolt action rifles.
SAKO and Tikka rifles often are available for sale at D4guns.com.