Perfection is not part of this world, or rather, from time to time we have to redefine, and when Sako decided to update the 75 it admitted that it was possible to further improve its best product. A lot of elements were added, even if at first glance the 75 and the 85 seem to be almost identical. The two rifles have in common the concept that the action must be proportionate to the ammunition used to achieve maximum functionality, reliability and accuracy. The 5 actions available, made from machined solid steel, cover the chambering from the .222 Remington up to the .416 Rigby, offered in right and left handed versions.
The bolt has three locking lugs, an opening angle of 70° and is monolithic: bolt head and handlebar included. The two lower lugs are grooved, and the action is shaped so as to offer 5 bolt guide surfaces (6 in the Sako 85). The bolt assembly is exceptionally simple, it only contains 3 pieces (striking pin, guide spring and pin), it can be diassembled easily and has the very sturdy Sako extractor, pushed by a small spring-loaded piston.
The mechanical spring loaded ejector is positioned near the trigger package; the bolt has, near the head and between the lower lugs, a small milled slot in which, retracting the bolt, the ejector is inserted: it is the only action with three lugs to have a mechanical ejector.
Compared to the 75, which has a bolt with a push feed sunken head, the 85 has controlled feed or CRF (Controlled Round Feeding), typical of Mauser actions. The CRF consists of the “capture” by the extractor of the collar of the cartridge case when the round is stripped out of the magazine and it holds it all along the path to the cartridge chamber and, backwards, in the extraction and ejection of the cartridge case.
To obtain this feature, the projecting portions of the lower locking lugs on the face of the breechblock have been removed. The face of the breechblock is not indented like that of the 75 and thus, when the cartridge is stripped from the magazine and passes to the ramp of the feed of the action, its bottom part goes up and slides on to the face of the breechblock, during chambering, the cartridge aligns and the collar of the bottom passes under the “control” of the extractor.
In fact, in the 85, the feed should be defined “semi-controlled” because it becomes “controlled” by engaging the bottom under the extractor nail, only in the last third of the path of the cartridge into the chamber when the cartridge is already aligned and, therefore, almost chambered. However, there are advantages including greater reliability and the possibility of feeding the weapon shot per shot.
The bolt of the 85 weights 25.6 g less than that of the 75: the lugs are now smaller and a sixth sliding surface is present on the top of the upper lug. The handlebar and the back plug are also smaller.
The action has been partially redesigned: the back bridge of the already sturdy closed receiver is now wider and the left smoothed side has a higher wall with the same thickness compared to the 75. The lower edges of the receiver have been rounded and thus more grams in weight have been removed.
The 85 maintains the integral scope base for the Optilock optics mounts, which are chosen based on the sizing of the action. The bolt release button is now longer and protrudes less.
The acrion has a small threaded tooth that protrudes from the flattened portion of the recoil ring that engages in a shaped plate (in turn, this is equipped with its own recoiling block) fixed with two screws in the stock bedding. The main screw of the front mounting engages in the threading and creates a considerably sturdy monolithic structure; the strength of the recoil is distributed better while the disassembly and return of the repositioning of the mechanics are facilitated.
The trigger weight is adjustable between approximately 950 and 2500 g, and is equipped with a single-set trigger that brings the release weight to approximately 300 g by pushing the trigger forward.
The steel magazine has vertical walls and shorter feed lips; the follower is made of Ergal, and the smooth burnished bottom has the classic “floor plate” aesthetics of fixed magazines. The release lever of the magazine, recessed in the handguard, is equipped with a safety catch that prevents the release of the magazine if this is not lightly pressed upwards while the lever is pushed backwards.
The magazine can be directly fed from the ejection port of the weapon. The walnut gunstock of the Hunter version was also redesigned: the grip is now thinner; the profile of the gunstock is straight, with a more classical cheek rest and appearance. For the rest, the 85 repeats the excellent cold cold-hammered free floating barrel used in the 75. The tested version of the Sako 85 is the Hunter, without metallic sights, chambered in .30-06 Springfield and equipped with a Burris Euro Diamond 3-12X50 mm optics.
The line of the carbine is stylish, lightweight and aesthetically streamlined, with a semi-matt walnut finished stock. Improved ergonomics for the shouldered or “stalk” shooting, or eventually resting the carbine on the knapsack for mountain hunting, but is ill suited for range target shooting. The weapon is light, maneuverable and fast. The reduced opening angle and the sliding of the bolt together with the ergonomics of the drop-shaped knuckle offer a truly unique speed in repetition rate. The feed is extremely fluid, the action gets minimally heavy when locked never, however, giving a friction feedback.
The trigger release, out of the box is smooth and predictable with a travel that is not very short and without threading; when using the set trigger, the release is almost glass-breaking without any trigger overtravel. The safety latch consists of a two-positioned lever and an additional side button on the action that allows opening the bolt and unloading the weapon when the safety latch is inserted.
Shooting performance of the Sako 85 is excellent but, the felt recoil is high considering the lightness of the carbine and the caliber in which it is chambered, the powerful .30-06. The 85 Hunter is not made for long sessions at the range, shooting several shots in succession. The size and the type of barrel used allow for a sub moa guarantee only for the first three rounds, because the barrel, especially with hunting loads (180 grain bullets) tends to rapidly heat up.
The Sako 85 seizes the baton from the previous 75 series in the endless race to perfection, with the assurance of those who had already reached the art of perfection and wants to surpass it.