Test: The new Sabatti Rover Shooter cross-over, .308 caliber bolt-action rifle

The Sabatti Rover Shooter bolt action rifle is a “cross-over”, a gun that has the performance and features of a sports competition rifle but set up in a hunting package.

Sabatti is a household name in Italy and in many European countries. It is one of the oldest gun manufacturers in the world still in activity, with a history that dates back some 400 years ago. In the 1990s, Sabatti presented the Rover line of bolt-action hunting rifles, that included models able to address the needs of almost any hunter of the time – and in late 2021, Sabatti introduced the new Rover line, based on a completely redesigned action. The new Rover line included at launch a range of 9 different models, from traditional, wood stocked and blued hardware to stainless hardware and synthetic stocks; four more rifles have been added to the range, including the very peculiar Rover Shooter under test today, chambered in .308 Winchester.

But, before delving in the Rover Shooter specific features and details, let’s take a look at the new Rover action.

Right side of the action, with the riflescope used in our test: a 3-12x56 Sightmark Core HX 2.0 with HDR2 reticle, mounted using Tier1 rings. Note the gap between the integral Picatinny rails on the action.
Left side of the action. A blued bolt stop is located right behind the weight saving “window” that frames the manufacturer markings.

The new Rover action is built out of CNC machined 7075 billet stock that is subsequently hard anodized; the top of the action features two integral Picatinny rails, separated by a gap as long as the ejection port on the action itself. The action can be made of lightweight alloy because the bolt lugs lock into a barrel extension, pretty much like an AR; the barrel is mounted in the action using three cross threaded Allen screws that fasten the barrel itself like a vise. Although it is a simple matter to replace the barrel – there’s no need to adjust the headspace, due to the barrel extension – this operation is better left to a competent gunsmith because overtightening the Allen screws could damage the 7075 built action. The action is fastened to the stock with a pair of screws that engage steel threaded inserts in the action itself, with steel-to-steel contact.

The knob on the handle of the bolt can easily be replaced; right behind the handle, note the two position safety, easily operated by the shooter’s right hand thumb.

The bolt head now features three 120-degree locking lugs and a newly developed, extremely tough extractor. The bolt is also easily replaceable, and thanks to the three lugs design, opens with a rotation of only 60°; the handle is practically horizontal to the rifle when opened, never interfering with the eyepiece bell or other parts of the riflescope. The bolt knob is threaded on to the handle and can be easily replaced to a different design using a hex wrench. 

To remove the bolt from the action, a traditional bolt stop located on the left side can be easily pressed; the safety is either a two or three-position slider lever found on the right side of the action behind the bolt handle, easily operated by the shooter’s right hand thumb. The third position in select models allows the bolt to be opened to safely clear the chamber, with trigger and sear locked. The single-stage trigger is a three-lever type, very clean, accurate and safe with a break weight of less than one kilogram.

Video: Sabatti Rover Shooter - cross-over bold action rifle in .308

Brandnew Sabatti model "Rover Shooter" - the product family

The model I received is chambered in .308, but other calibers are also available, including the popular 6.5mm Creedmoor, .223 Remington and the powerful 6.5 PRC. The Rover Shooter can be defined as a crossover rifle, because it has the performance and features of a decent sports competition rifle, but set up in a hunting package, with a dark brown polymer stock with soft touch finish that is light, easy to handle, and in my opinion, also quite stylish. The barrel without iron sights used is a 20" medium-heavy contour featuring a 5/8”-24 UNEF threaded, 20mm diameter muzzle instead of the usual 17 mm, with a factory installed Jet Brake. 

The muzzle of the barrel is 5/8"-24 UNEF threaded; Sabatti factory installs their own “Jet-Brake” two-chamber muzzle brake.
Under the forend, a steel plate with two M-LOK slots allow easy installation of accessories.
The 7-round AICS pattern magazine mounted in the mag well of the Rover Shooter.

The Shooter is the only model in the entire Rover line to feature a cold hammered, match barrel rifled using the famed MRR, multi-radial rifling. The two-chamber Jet Brake gets this name because it redirects part of the gases backwards helping to reduce recoil and muzzle flip. The brake is especially helpful in those situations where the possibility to follow up the shot quickly is essential, such as in stalking or hunting from the post. Obviously, the barrel is free-floated in the stock for accuracy.

The Sabatti branded, polymer built AICS pattern magazine holds seven rounds, and is optionally available in different capacities.

The single-piece polymer stock with soft-touch finish has a non-adjustable, but replaceable cheekpiece, while the flat profiled fore-end is also suitable for use with shooting sandbags or rests. A steel plate with two M-LOK slots mounted flush under the fore-end offers a convenient accessory mounting location; on the same plate, a sling/bipod stud is also mounted. The buttstock’s length of pull can be customized using a simple spacer system with stackable shims; a single 8-mm element is supplied with the rifle, but a kit including two additional spacers and two cheekpieces of different heights is optionally available. The buttstock features a rubber pad that removes much of the sharp kick out of the gun’s recoil.

The soft-touch finished, polymer stock can be easily customized for length of pull and cheekpiece height purchasing an optional kit.
The magazine release lever is located in front and under the trigger guard, it can be operated by the thumb of the hand grabbing the mag or the trigger finger

Practical test: Sabatti Rover Shooter performance - great performance with RWS and GECO ammunition in .308 Winchester and the Sightmark Core HX 2.0 in 12x56 optics

A view of the 200m Testa di Lepre shooting range in Rome where I live fire tested the Sabatti Shooter bolt action rifle

I tested the Rover Shooter at the range with some GECO and RWS hunting and Match ammo, at distances from 50 to 200 m. I mounted a Sightmark Core HX 2.0 with a 3-12x56 magnification range and HDR2 reticle – this riflescope will be featured soon in an in-depth test – with Tier1 rings. The end results of a very proficient shooting session, from the bench, are two great groups, one measuring 7 mm (at 100 m) and the other of only 18 mm (200 m), both measured subtracting the bullet diameter. I used RWS Target Elite loaded with a 190-gr HPBT bullet.

The Sabatti Rover Shooter bolt action rifle delivers all right! With good ammo, it can keep half MOA easily in our tests.  

Using GECO hunting ammo I also shot the gun off hand and using a KJI tripod, ringing steel at 100 and 200 m easily, even on smaller targets, with sharp and fast follow up shots – the action cycles fast and smooth, especially after a bit of time spent learning quirks and features of it. The trigger is very smooth and breaks like glass; maybe, the measured 630-g break weight is a bit light for some hunting scenarios, but perfect for sports shooting. Accuracy of my sample of this gun is nothing short of excellent, and I can easily see it in the hands of young competition shooters starting off and of seasoned, experienced match veterans alike. Its accuracy for hunting is best-of-class.

Three round group at 100m, that is measuring 7mm subtracting the bullet diameter. I used RWS Target Elite loaded with a 190gr HPBT bullet.
The best three round group at 200m, only 18mm, was obtained again using RWS Target Elite loaded with a 190gr HPBT bullet. 
The magazine of the Sabatti Rover Shooter is an AICS pattern, all-polymer magazine, with the RWS Target Elite load used for the tests.

There are no thorn free roses, and here are a couple things I’d like to address: my specific sample of the Rover Shooter has a very tight mag well, that does not allow free fall of the empty original Sabatti mag, and is way too tight to actually accept many aftermarket full-AICS compliant mags. I.E., Magpuls just don’t fit at all, MDT (both steel, and polymer/steel) do barely fit but do not lock, as they don’t seat in all the way. Before purchasing aftermarket mags, check their fit and function on the rifle.

The second thing is the large gap separating the two picatinny rails that are integral to the action, that seem to serve no other purpose than weight saving and maybe esthetics. Although individual rings work beautifully, no single piece mount can be used on the Rover action. Quality monolithic mounts have become a real popular trend among shooters and hunters for their advantages over individual rings – plus, this gap also may preclude use of many opto-electronic (NVD, Digital, Thermal) sights that feature fixed-length, integral mounts.

The handle opens with just a 60° rotation, and stays practically horizontal in respect to the gun, never interfering with any part of the riflescope.
Bolt halfway open, the face with the three, 120° lugs and extractor clearly visible.
The sturdy and well-built bolt.

Sabatti Rover Shooter technical specifications and price

Sabatti SPA, Italy
Rover Shooter bolt-action rifle 
.308 Winchester (test gun), also available in 6.5mm Creedmoor, .223 Remington and 6.5 PRC
AICS pattern, 7-round capacity
Overall Length:
1,020 mm 
20”/51 cm with MRR rifling
Straight pistol grip, dark brown color polymer with soft touch finish
Trigger Pull Weight:
600 g approx.
Manual, two position
3,100 g
Alloy steel for barrel and bolt, 7075 alloy for the action
Prezzo (MSRP)1,265 euro (price may vary in your country due to market and VAT)

Three-lug bolt, twin Picatinny rails on action top, interchangeable barrel, 5/8"-24 UNEF muzzle thread, Jet-Brake factory installed, rubber butt cap, adjustable three lever trigger, two-position safety, rubber butt plate, adjustable Spacer System length of pull, replaceable stock cheekpiece.

Testing the Sabatti Rover Shooter off the tripod, with results almost comparable to off the bench. We used ammunition from RWS and GECO for our test. Optics came from Sightmark

Let’s wrap up: What is the purpose of the Rover Shooter?

Well, it’s a hunting and shooting rifle that picks up on a trend that originated in the U.S., of a "cross-over": essentially, actions and barrels with Match-level precision performance, high quality barrels, in a hunting setup with relatively short barrel lengths and a predilection for use with mid-to long range optics. These guns offer an affordable access to shooting competitions, while at the same time providing the hunter with a high performance, all-round, medium range and stalking, hunting rifle. Although many so-called crossover guns on the market come with a chassis system. I personally find the Sabatti Rover Shooter’s choice of polymer stock stylish, functional, and affordable, with an excellent price/performance ratio due to the MSRP of 1,265 euro.

Here is more info from Sabatti about the new model Rover Shooter on the manufacturer's website.

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