Test: Sabatti Saphire Thumbhole hunting rifle in 8x57 IS

Sabatti – a melodious Italian name. Sabatti stands for a long tradition in gun manufacturing. The company has existed since the early 18th century and is based in Gardone val Trompia, near Brescia. This is also where Beretta and many other prestigious companies are based. 

Sabatti occupies a special place because it is one of the few gun manufacturers in Europe that is still family-owned. The beginnings were in the production of flintlock pistols and the manufacture of barrels. In the early 19th century, Giuseppe Sabatti also produced Damascus barrels. From 1946, Antonio Sabatti entered into a cooperation with the gun manufacturer Guiseppe Tanfoglio. From 1956 the two started the production of defense pistols. Four years later the two separated again and Sabatti's sons refounded the company. 

Currently the company is run by his grandchildren and has developed into an international manufacturer of modern hunting and sports shooting guns. And it was precisely from this modern segment that a test rifle came to all4hunters: the Sabatti Saphire Thumbhole, which has a few innovations over its predecessor. By the way, Saphire – with just one  “p” – has nothing to do with the color of the gun. The company thus abbreviates the name "Sabatti All Purpose Hunting Italy Rifle". This is an announcement about the intended use of the rifle. And Thumbhole already reveals that the gun features a thumbhole stock.

Multi-radial: the Sabatti Saphire Thumbhole and its rifling

The most special feature of Saphire is undoubtedly the barrel. The test gun we received had a multi-radial rifling. Never heard of it before? What are the advantages? The multi-radial rifling was developed by Sabatti itself. The barrels with grooves and lands have a characteristic profile. You could almost call them small trenches, which are placed between two wider dams. 

The polygonal barrels – as the name suggests – have a polygonal profile. Multi-radial rifling has no sharp corners, everything is rounded. This results from two alternating radii. Sabatti states that the use of multi-radial rifling reduces bullet erosion, thus achieving a higher exit velocity and more precise bullet guidance, as the gases cannot overtake the bullet. But how accurate can such a rifle be for less than 1100 euros? First of all, it is necessary to look at it from the outside.

Test: Sabatti Saphire Thumbhole hunting rifle in 8x57 IS 
The Sabatti Saphire Thumbhole has a three-lug bolt. The split Picatinny rail is milled on the receiver.

Sabatti Saphire with thumbole stock: technology and caliber

The test rifle was supplied in 8x57 IS caliber. The total weight is 7 lb/3.22 kg. Other calibers available are .243 Winchester, .308 Winchester, 7mm SAUM (Short Action Ultra Magnum) and 7mm-08 Remington. The caliber selection also includes .270 Winchester, 7x57, 7x64, 6.5x55 SE, .30-06 Springfield, and the tested 8x57 IS. The Magnum calibers available are 7mm Remington Magnum and .300 Winchester Magnum. As far as the barrel length was concerned, it was 23.6”/60 cm; overall length was 44.5”/113 cm. Barrel is muzzle threaded. The metal magazine holds three cartridges – another cartridge is in the chamber.

Test: Sabatti Saphire Thumbhole hunting rifle in 8x57 IS 
The Sabatti Saphire with its thumbhole stock is ergonomically very easy to grip.

The stock are is polymer and have a matte finish. The barrel is blued. The stock ends with a rubber recoil pad. The sling swivel is located in the rear lower third of the stock. The buttstock is dominated by a thumbhole for better grip and easier shouldering. 

The pistol grip stands relatively straight and looks quite slim. It features a checkering to improve the grip. This checkering could be cut a little more grippy, but that is purely subjective. On the right side of the bolt shroud is the two-position safety. The latter classically operates on the trigger. If you pull the small slide button towards the shooter, a white dot appears, the breech can't be opened and the trigger can't be pulled. If the button is pushed towards the muzzle, a red dot appears and the gun is ready to fire. 

The fact that the rifle is cocked is also made very clear by the protrusion of a pin on the bolt shroud. This cocking indicator closes flush again after the round has been fired. The bolt handle with a 60-degree throw is easy to operate. At the beginning of the test, the cycling itself was a little choppy, which is certainly due to the new condition of the rifle, but this should be overcome with use and proper gun care. The bolt has three locking lugs. The standard trigger pull weight is 42.32 oz/1200 grams.

Test: Sabatti Saphire Thumbhole hunting rifle in 8x57 IS 
The sling swivel in front of the forend nose. During the test of the Sabatti Saphire Thumbhole its noise was extremely noticeable when no matching strap was pulled through it.

The magazine feels valuable and is made of metal. Inserting the magazine was a little difficult. It does not slide smoothly into the magwell, sometimes it has to be repositioned several times to lock in. But when the magazine fits correctly, there are no feeding problems. The magazine release is inside the trigger guard at the front bottom. The small button is easy to operate and works perfectly. 

A split Picatinny rail is on the receiver. This rail is milled out during the machining of the receiver, so that it is firmly integrated and additionally stiffens the action. The forend is also checkered. In bad weather conditions it would be desirable to find the checkered area around the forend to ensure a good grip there. The sling swivel is located at the forend nose. 

If you wish to use a bipod, a hole is already tapped in the stock for this purpose, which can also be carried out at home with a little craftsmanship. The rifle also has rear and front sights. The open front sight is only screwed in, so that an over-barrel suppressor can be used without further ado. The Sabatti Saphire Thumbhole was tested with a Minox 3-15 x 56 riflescope. The scope weighs 31.4 oz/890 grams including the mounting rings, so the rifle has a total weight of 9 lb/4.11 kg.

Test: Sabatti Saphire Thumbhole hunting rifle in 8x57 IS 
The front sight of the Sabatti Saphire is only screwed on, so you can use an over-barrel suppressor.
Test: Sabatti Saphire Thumbhole hunting rifle in 8x57 IS 
The rear sight on the multi-radial barrel of the Sabatti Saphire Thumbhole.

Sabatti Saphire Thumbhole specs, prices and details

Model:Sabatti Saphire Thumbhole
Price:1060 euro (price may vary in your country)
Caliber:8x57 IS (alla available calibers are indicated in the text above)
Magazine Capacity:3 + 1 rounds
Overall Length:44.5”/1130 mm
Barrel length:23.6”/600 mm
Twist Rate:1:9.5
Trigger Pull Weight:42.32 oz/1200 g
Weight:7 lb/3200 g
Left/Right version:Right
Features:Multi-radial rifling, rear and front sights, muzzle thread with screw cap, split Picatinny rail, thumbhole stock, two-position safety.

The Sabatti Saphire hunting rifle in 8x57 IS in practice

Test: Sabatti Saphire Thumbhole hunting rifle in 8x57 IS 
The safety of the Sabatti Saphire Thumbhole is on the right side.

Of course, the expectations of precision were relatively high due to the advantages of the advertised multi-radial rifling, despite the price range. The results with the GECO Plus, the RWS partial jacket bullet and the Norma Vulkan cartridges were particularly pleasing. The other results are impressive too.

A hunt test was necessary, and thus the rifle was taken to the hunting ground. With the rifle used during the test on the range, roe deer or wild boar were also shot. The ammunition of choice in this case was the Norma Vulkan. The chosen place in the hunting ground seemed promising. And after it had been raining for a long time and the afternoon had remained dry, we hoped that game would emerge from the wild. The time of waiting seemed almost endless. However, a sound could be heard. A fox? And so it was. A vixen came out about a meter from the seat, rolled around in the grass with relish and then moved along the path into the wood...

GAround 9 pm there was a rustling about 50 steps to the left. Through the binoculars an adult buck could be recognized. This one was certainly not that old because he behaved carelessly. The buck was moving with caution all the time. In an infinite number of small adjustments, the Sabatti moved into position and then took a shot. This made the buck collapse on the spot. Great hunting and congratulations to the hunter! Practical test for the Sabatti: passed.

Test conclusion

Test: Sabatti Saphire Thumbhole hunting rifle in 8x57 IS 
The long barrel of the Sabatti Saphire Thumbhole extends far beyond the forend. A sling swivel is fitted to the forend nose.

The Sabatti Saphire Thumbhole was fully convincing. The modern appearance with the thumbhole stock offers safe handling. Although the buttstock including rubber recoil pad is quite long at 14.1”/36 cm, the rifle can still be easily aimed by shooters with short arms, as the thumbhole stock ensures ideal control. The shape of the hole and the corresponding position of the pistol grip create a harmonious overall picture and feel very good. 

It is up to the individual to decide whether a rifle with a thumbhole stock is particularly well suited for driven hunts, as advertised by Sabatti. It also remains to be seen whether the thumb is much faster or slower when inserted in and out for operating the bolt. Whether the advertised multi-radial rifling is necessarily better or worse compared to "normal" rifling with lands and grooves is something everyone should decide for themselves. The pictures of the bore camera showed clear traces of processing. But based on the shooting results in the test, it can be clearly stated that the Sabatti Saphire provide a very good accuracy

With a slightly less scratchy trigger the experience could certainly be a little better. But the results achieved are more than impressive, especially in this price range.

For a price of less than 1100 euros you get a gun that shoots accurately and works well. You just have to make one or two compromises when it comes to workmanship. In summary, we can say it's good and cheap.

Text: Carola Rathjens and Alexander Losert

This article is also available in this language: