Sauer S 101 Classic XT .308

Nik Maxwell reviews the latest hunting rifle from Sauer...

While at the 2013 Tahr Show I met up with the Sportways Team, who showed me the range of Sauer hunting rifles, and in particular a Sauer S 101 Classic XT. Arrangements were made to review the 101, and on a follow up trip to Auckland we visited Sportways Distributors to meet up with the team who look after the sales and product review side of the operation. After receiving the rifle, chambered in .308, and fitted with a Weaver Grand Slam 2-8x36 scope, along with some Federal Premium 165grain Trophy Bonded® Tip ammo and Federal Fusion 150 grain Soft Points, I was looking forward to hunting and shooting with the S 101.

The Sauer S 101 Classic XT is a well designed and finely tuned rifle that features some clever forward-thinking from the manufacturers.

It was with a sense of déjà vu that I began to familiarise myself with the rifle. Having recently finished reviewing the Mauser M 12 Extreme on behalf of Stager Sports Ltd (NZG&H issue #138), I immediately noted a couple of features that are basically identical, and on initial handling the rifles felt very similar.

The Sauer S 101 Classic XT is your typical modern bolt action hunting rifle, clean lines, no frills and purpose built. The receiver is machined steel and, like the barrel, comes in a Matte black finish. The S 101 sits up there in the mid-range price bracket and would suit the new firearm buyer who is looking to spend that little bit extra for a quality European rifle with some common sense and well thought out features.

The 101 bolt features a 60° throw with six massive locking lugs for added reliability and safety as well as a dual ejector for positive case ejection. Thinking about it, I could almost write this basic description verbatim from the Mauser M 12 Extreme article, and apart from some subtle differences it is only the bolts’ safety systems that really separate these two great actions.

The Sauer bolt head with its dual ejector provide positive case extraction. Six massive lugs lock directly into the rear of the barrel.

The top-tang “DURA SAFE” slide safety, which locks the firing pin, is built into the shroud of the bolt. I found the safety easy to operate and it provided a clear indication of whether the rifle was in safe mode or ready to fire. The safety allows the bolt to be cycled when it’s on – I really like this feature as it allows me to load and unload the rifle, you guessed it, safely.

The safety was quiet and easy to operate.

Cycling the bolt was smooth, and it has a “piston” type feel when you’re working the action. My preferred method of hunting is to carry the rifle unloaded and only crank a round into the chamber when I’m in an area that could potentially hold game. Although the S 101 bolt has a decent “half cock” and sits firmly in position, it is not a method I adopt.

The trigger has an extra wide blade and breaks crisply with zero creep (and over-travel of about 1.5-2mm) at the factory set 2lbs (approx.). The bolt release is a small button located on the right side of the receiver.

The single stage, crisp, no creep trigger allowed for increased accuracy while sighting in at the range.

Synthetic polymers make for lightweight, highly durable and easy to service components. The double staggered formation magazine holds five rounds in standard calibres and four rounds in Magnum. The Sauer logo is discreetly embossed into the bottom of the mag housing. Releasing the magazine is via a small button located in the stock just in front of the magazine cavity. The base of the mag is grooved at the front to improve your finger grip.

An ambidextrous stock provided good grip in wet or dry conditions.

Unsurprisingly the 101’s magazine suffered the same issue as the Mauser M 12 in that when you’re feeding rounds through the ejection port the end of the cases catch on the rear of the magazine (see also Peter Clarke’s article “Hunting with a Mauser M 12” in this issue for an explanation on the how and why). It should be noted that the 101 is not designed for this type of loading, the small ejection port making loading directly into the magazine difficult. However, loading a round directly into the chamber proved to be a simple task.

The recoil lug features aluminium block bedded into the stock.

Two heavy pins sit tightly in the recoil lug bedding block.

The ambidextrous ERGO MAX polymer stock has a neutral cast, allowing ease of use and comfort for either left or right hand shooters, and a symmetrical palm swell has also been integrated into the grip design. When it comes to modern synthetic stocks “soft touch” are all the rage and the S 101 provided good grip in both wet and dry conditions.

Special mention must be given to the recoil lug setup. Away from conventional design the recoil lug (Ever Rest bedding block) is a solid, machined aluminium block bedded into the stock. Removing the action from the stock requires you to undo two small Allen head screws and then use a 9mm (3/8”) hex head drive to remove the action from the bedding block. There are a couple of small, drilled holes that allow for two heavy pins on the underside of the action to drop into. It is a well designed and cleverly thought out recoil control system.

Heading up once again to the Tauranga NZDA range, I chose to sight in with the Federal Premium 165 grain Trophy Bonded® Tip ammo. An initial group at 25 metres had the 101 sighted in, and after following on from that with some 1”-1.25” groups at 100 metres it was time for some hunting.

Sighting in at the range was an easy task with the Weaver Grand Slam – the reticle adjustments were accurate and precise. I was glad also to have a 2x power magnification for any close encounters with game in the bush. Light gathering abilities were as good as can be expected for the smaller 36mm diameter objective lens.

A Weaver Grand Slam 2-8x36 was provided with the test rifle.

The Weaver Grand Slam featured a large and easy to adjust magnification dial.

One thing I did particularly like was the large magnification dial that housed the ocular (rear) lens; it was easy to use and made magnification adjustments simple. The machined grip pads provided excellent... grip! Overall the Weaver Grand Slam performed very well, but if it’s open iron sights you prefer, Sauer offers optional standard front blade sights on request.

My standard practice with the firearms I review is to head up behind Te Puke and get out into the bush for a hunt. Located 30 minutes from home, the area offers some great hunting and allows me to get straight out on the hill. I have private access to a farm that borders on the public land in an area where I hunt fallow. There are usually a few goats hanging around as well, which come and go as they please on the farmland much to the chagrin of the landowner, strict instructions are that any goat seen on the property is to be shot.

Heading out on a Sunday morning I managed to spook a couple of deer but no chance for a shot presented itself. Around mid-morning I came across a small group of goats feeding in a clearing. After filming them for a while I continued hunting until around midday, and after reaching the bush/farm edge on my way out I spotted one of the billy goats out on a scrubby hillside within the farm boundaries. As I watched him for a few minutes the rest of the mob gradually gave themselves away.

By this time I had moved in and was set up overlooking the hillside at a distance of around 80 metres. Lining up on one of the mature billys, I let rip with the 101 and dropped the animal with a clean neck shot. The Federal 165 grain Premium Trophy Bonded® Tip .308 rounds are devastating, and proved to be once again later on in the month.

Pest control was the order of the day for this feral billy goat. An 80m neck shot made for a clean kill.

A trip down to the Desert Road to chase some sika was next on the cards. Teaming up again with my ever faithful hunting companion Scotty, we spent a couple of days spooking and spotting a few animals within the bush interior, but once again no shots were fired. None-the-less it was an enjoyable trip, sika hunting missions, no matter the outcome, generally are.

Back to Te Puke and this time success on the fallow. Stalking through the rewarewa and fern, I spotted two does feeding undisturbed about 50 yards from me, one a mature doe, the other a 2-year old. Quickly and quietly I slipped a round into the Sauer’s chamber, and placing the reticle on the shoulder of the bigger doe squeezed off that crisp trigger. The formidable Federal 165 grain Premium projectile put the animal down where it stood, another nice clean kill.

A Te Puke fallow doe harvested with the Sauer S 101 using the brutal Federal 165 grain Premium rounds.

The doe turned out to be a relatively older animal and was quite lean after the winter. As the shoulders were beyond recovery, I boned out the hindquarters and backsteaks, left them to cool on a branch while I took some photos and video, and then packed them into the Hjort 42 pack I was also evaluating at the time.

Let’s not beat around the bush here, the Sauer S 101 is the equal of any other rifle on the market in a similar price bracket. The S 101 Classic XT is certainly an accurate, fine looking and well performing hunting rifle and I thoroughly enjoyed my time on the range and in the field with it.


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