Test: Sabatti ST-18 bolt-action rifle in 6.5 Creedmoor

The Sabatti ST-18 rifle in 6.5 Creedmoor with RWS Target Elite Plus cartridges.

Introduced at the beginning of 2019, the Sabatti ST-18 rifle caused a stir because of the innovative technical solutions, materials and features it offered, especially considering the suggested retail price, which is really interesting. Available in a variety of calibers – all with "short action" receivers – and with the choice between two barrel lengths (20"/ 510 mm, and 24"/ 610 mm), the ST-18 is also particularly versatile, as it can be used profitably in its intended use, i.e. competitive sports shooting at long ranges or tactical and professional shooting, as well as hunting, with perhaps some limitations imposed by its weight and a design not ideally suitable for instinctive shooting.

We wanted to try it in a caliber that is emerging as a real "egg of Columbus" for high accuracy at all distances, the 6.5 Creedmoor. The cartridge was designed by Hornady just over a decade ago; it has struggled to establish itself, but over the past three years, the amount of guns chambered in that caliber has being dramatically increasing, as well as the offer of commercial loads. In addition, the US Army's interest in this caliber only contributed to the diffusion of the 6.5, even outside the US.

The 6.5 Creedmoor offers exceptional features for long range shooting, with a very high bullet sectional density and an exemplary ballistic coefficient in a .308 Winchester-size case, so it can be used in short actions. The case head dimensions are the same as the .308, which means immediate implementation in guns already chambered for the .308, and although in the SAAMI/CIP table the OAL is slightly larger, most commercial 6.5 CRDMR cartridges chamber and feed perfectly from .308 magazines.

Sabatti ST-18 bolt-action in detail

Sabatti sent us a ST-18 rifle with 24" barrel chambered in 6.5 Creedmoor. To complete the package, we mounted a Geco 6-24x50 riflescope featuring a non-illuminated R470 reticle with ground steel Badger-type rings and used RWS commercial ammunition in the Target Elite Plus load with 130-grain HPBT ball. The bullet in this load looks like a Norma Golden Target, also considering the indicated ballistic coefficient – .548.

The adjustable and foldable Sabatti stock is made from Ryton and is compatible with the 1-3/16-16 thread of the M4 buffer tube.
By pushing the button on the left side of the stock, the stock is free to move and can be folded on the right side, also locking the bolt handle.

But let's see the ST-18 in detail. The rifle comes in a good quality polymer case, with a magazine and a spare recoil pad to increase the stock length. It comes standard with a height-adjustable cheek piece. The stock can be folded on the right side, while the action is made from CNC-machined steel. The action sits in the chassis, which is CNC machined from Ergal-55 blocks, connected by two steel supports, the front V-block (which also acts as a recoil lug) and the semicircular insert at the rear of the action that make it floating.

The action of the ST-18: the handle and the handle knob are oversized for maximum handling ergonomics. The safety is on the right side and under the bolt cap when the latter is closed.
On the left side of the action are the manufacturer's markings and the button for disassembling the bolt.
The pistol grip of the Sabatti ST-18 is AR15/M4 standard, and can be replaced with other aftermarket products.
The tubular handguard has four rows of KeyMod attachments for mounting Picatinny rails and accessories. 

The chassis is the supporting and connecting element between the folding stock, which is compatible with the 1-3/16-16 thread of the M4 buffer tube and is made from Ryton – a metal-reinforced technopolymer –, the pistol grip, and the KeyMod tubular handguard.
The handguard leaves the barrel completely free floating and allows for the mounting of Picatinny rails and other accessories on all sides.

On the stock are four QD swivel sockets for the sling required by IPSC regulations. The pistol grip has a small internal compartment closed by a cap, and is also M4-standard.

The ejection port of the Sabatti ST-218 carbine is wide. You can see the bolt face with the guillotine-type ejector.
The folding stock release button is relatively stiff to operate.

The bolt face completely encloses the cartridge head for maximum safety and, when firing, the special guillotine-type extractor can't move backwards as the case bottom expands, even with overloaded cartridges. The trigger is adjusted to a pull weight of about 600 grams. The barrel is equipped with an effective three-chamber muzzle brake screwed onto the muzzle and features the MRR muti-radial rifling, now a trademark of Sabatti. The entire rifle weighs a little more than 11 lb / 5 kg unloaded.

The beautiful 3-lug bolt with detachable handle and oversized knob. It is fully chrome plated for maximum smoothness and corrosion protection.
The Sabatti ST-18's 22-mm diameter muzzle is threaded and a three-chamber brake is factory fitted. A thread cap is also supplied with the rifle.

The rifle conveys a feeling of great solidity. The stock is pleasant to the touch and the bolt slides smoothly in the action, also thanks to the chrome plating. As standard, the rifle has a Picatinny rail with 17/152mm grooves for optics mounting. The magazine can be released by pushing an ambidextrous lever placed at the base of the trigger guard. The magazine well is flared to facilitate a quick change. The safety of the Sabatti ST-18 is on the right side of the action. The folding stock release button is on the left side. The handguard has a few sharp edges, perhaps too sharp, especially on the KeyMod millings, but is perfectly crafted.

The ambidextrous magazine release lever is at the base of the trigger guard, and is operated by pushing forward.
The polymer magazine manufactured by Sabatti is AICS-compatible, single-stack and with a 5-round capacity. The magazine is the same as the .308 model.

Test firing the Sabatti ST-18 rifle

The target with the grouping achieved at 500 m: 87 mm, about half a minute of angle.

We tested the rifle at 100 meters for zeroing and at 500 meters for the real test, both on paper targets and metal plates.

After zeroing we had to fire a series of adjustment shots and at the end we achieved the grouping in the photo – five shots covering half a minute of angle: 3.4”/ 87 mm at 500 meters. A nice result considering the day with just a breath of wind and not really favorable light conditions, the target being in shadow. Also, the optics showed some limits, especially in terms of contrast and parallax management.

The gun with the test ammunition: RWS Target Elite Plus with 130 grain HPBT bullet.

The ammo used showed a very flat trajectory, with a bullet drop just below 59”/ 150 cm at 500 m – about 28 clicks. Muzzle velocity of the 130 grain HPBT bullet in the 24" MRRR barrel is around 874 m/s. The firing experience is surprising: the 6.5 Creedmoor's recoil is much more pleasant and less tiring than the classic .308, but with the mouth brake of the Sabatti ST-18 it feels like firing a .223! 

Trigger is excellent: it "breaks" immediately, without any pre-travel and no overtravel at all. The trigger just moves back a fraction of a millimeter and is perfectly crisp. The bolt handle and knob are oversized and allow for easy handling, with a positive and smooth feeding.

Our opinion on the Sabatti ST-18 rifle

The Sabatti ST-18 rifle is characterized by an excellent price/performance ratio, with an absolutely enviable shooting accuracy. The "pro" design of the chassis and the pistol grip allows for use in many contexts, from competitive and long range target shooting (also thanks to its caliber features), up to hunting and professional use. The suggested retail price is 1859 euro.

A moment of the test fire. The test was carried out with the guys of the Fvlcrvm Team.
Alessio of the Fvlcrvm Team carries out the zeroing at 100 m with the Sabatti ST-18.
The Sabatti ST-18 rifle in 6.5 Creedmoor on the firing line for the test.

Sabatti ST-18 rifle specs

bolt-action rifle 
6.5 Creedmoor
length 24”/ 610 mm, diameter at the muzzle 0.86”/ 22 mm, with muzzle brake
Rifling twist rate: 1/8, MMR Multi-Radial Rifling
Match type with factory-set pull weight at 1.32 lb / 600 g
r5-round detachable, AICS compatible
satin black bluing, chrome-plated bolt body
barrel, action and barrel – carbon steel, chassis and handguard – Ergal 55, stock – Ryton 
Overall length: 45.6”/ 1160 mm
11.35 lb / 5150 g
Retail price: 1895 euro (price in your country may vary due to VAT and import duties)

For more information on the ST-18 rifle please visit the Sabatti website.

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