Sako 85 Carbon Wolf in 6.5 Creedmoor - tried & tested
PUBLISHED: 11:44 15 May 2019
Have we found the perfect 'Jack of all trades' rifle that somehow masters them all!? Chris Parkin seems to think so in his detailed review of the Sako 85 Carbon Wolf in 6.5 Creedmoor
SAKO 85 CARBON WOLF IN 6.5 CREEDMOOR - IN BREIF
LIKES: An extremely versatile rifle with no real caveats; Stock adjustability; Good calibre options; Sako build quality triggers
DISLIKES: Blueing showed a few light rust spots; No Left hander
VERDICT: I could denounce this unusual rifle as being not quite perfect for any specific role, but it will prove thoroughly capable in nearly every one of them I can envisage for a one-rifle-man. This is incredibly attractive, especially in the go-to Creedmoor that has become so popular, for good reason, and to my mind suits this rifle's versatility perfectly
TECH SPECS - Sako 85 Carbon Wolf in 6.5 Creedmoor
Available Calibres/Twist Rate: 22-250 Rem/14", 243 Win/10", 260 Rem/8", 7mm-08 Rem/9.5", 308 Win/11", 6.5 Creedmoor/8", 25-06 Rem/10", 6.5x55 SE / 8", 270 Win/10", 30-06 Spr./11", 8x57IS/9.5", 9.3x62/14"
4+1 magazine: 7mm Rem Mag/9.5", 300 Win Mag/11"
Overall Length: 1,120-1,158mm (44-45.5")
Weight: 3.4kg rifle (7.5lbs)
Barrel length: 610mm (24") 1 in 8" twist rate (screw cut, 15x1)
Magazine capacity: Detachable, 5+1 (4+1 in some calibres)
Trigger: Single stage, normally adjustable from 1000gr to 2000gr (this one was set at 500 grams)
Stock: Carbon fibre with adjustable cheekpiece and length of pull
Sako 85 Carbon Wolf Rifle, £3,395
Sako Optilock rings and bases, £134
Steiner Ranger 4-16x56 BT Riflescope with 4A-I Reticle, £1,135
(Also used Stalon Sound Moderator & Sako TRG Precision ammunition)
Barnes Precision Match Ammunition
Raytrade UK Limited Tel: 01635 253344 www.raytradeuk.co.uk
Winchester Extreme Point ammunition
Browning UK www.browning.eu 01235 514550
IN DEPTH REVIEW - SAKO 85 CARBON WOLF IN 6.5 CREEDMOOR
Sako's Black Wolf laminate stocked version of the 85 action was a delight to use last year, displaying magnificent accuracy and handling characteristics in the assuredly snappy 270 Winchester calibre. Getting to grips with its lighter brother - the Carbon Wolf in 6.5 Creedmoor - was to be a more delicate adventure into the mechanics and ergonomics I already knew could handle much fiercer customers. The 85 action has been covered extensively before, with its three action length options, multiple calibre capability and consequent short throw from the three-lug bolt. The semi-controlled push feed allows for smooth feed of cartridges and a little less brutality exerted on the bullet's meplat than with some cartridges, but assuredly, there were no issues with this rifle's smooth feed from the 5-round magazine into the chamber. The familiar single stage trigger with 1-2kg adjustability gave crisp breaks with a safety catch that locks the bolt when applied, yet allows safe operation to unload with the smaller secondary button pressed down at its front edge. Sako's excellent all-metal magazines load just as easily in the gun or outside of it, with a spacious ejection port allowing rounds dropped onto the follower to be pressed down under light spring tension and clipping within the feed lips, then staggering into two columns for a compact fit flush to the underside of the stock. Light pressure upward on the magazine allows its release catch to free it from the gun; a secondary safety measure to stop you losing it if accidentally caught.
Everything on the Sako's action and bottom metal is steel or aluminium with a cold-hammer-forged barrel screwed into the action, allowing a lifetime of use from the same mechanics and stock should you ever decide to re-barrel. This tube chambered in Creedmoor is 24"/610mm long with a 15x1mm thread at the 17mm muzzle. It tapers straight, all the way back to the action with just the merest bulge of a reinforce present in the chamber area. Machining standards are excellent and, like most modern European/Scandinavian barrels, the crowns and threads are smoothly applied without the poorly machined chatter seen on some guns. Similarly, the five flutes are perfectly aligned, with the top one at 12 o'clock relative to the action, and each of them running 420mm/16.5" forward from mid-fore-end position. The 8" specified twist rate is a great compromise for the calibre and is capable of stabilising high B.C bullets, like 147gr ELDM, as well as round nose hunters of 160gr.
The fore-end is quite square in profile, but its soft touch finish to the carbon fibre weave is very pleasant, allowing good grip with a matte finish to the carbon fibre's characteristic aesthetic appeal. This is not a sprayed-on finish - it is hand-laid carbon fibre woven matt in Finland, made in two halves and showing a discreet joint on the upper and lower surfaces, which is polished flat. It offers no distortion of the seam to gain undesired attention. Although expensive, carbon fibre is one of the world's most wonderful materials, allowing strength, stiffness and light weight.
Here, you notice on firing that there is also an element of vibration damping designed into the multidirectional application of woven strands. This stops any kind of dull ring when you bump the stock when handling and, of equal importance, it doesn't transmit a vibratory 'ring' through your cheekbone/skull when fired. Excellent!
The ergonomics match those of the Black Wolf. A vertical pistol grip is offset with a palm swell and index finger groove for right handers (though there is still no left hander available, and this is not an ambidextrous gun).
Reach to trigger was ideal and it's especially noticeable when the trigger arrived at a mere 500g pull weight; this was possibly attributable to a previous reviewer having had their hands on it.
Stripping the action was also indicative of not being factory fresh because the front T25 action screw required a tommy bar to free it from its 11 Nm (I usually stay at 5-6) applied setting. Following on from that though, the stock had taken this brutality with ease thanks to a steel insert for the action's recoil lug, which spreads pressure evenly across the carbon surface of the inlet around the front screw to prevent any damage. My torque testing of both front and rear screws showed very little action stress applied when the barrelled action is fitted into the stock - a unit that resists all bending and contact from the fore-end, where the barrel remains perfectly central in its free-floating purity. It's quite nice to see a test gun that has shown some (mis)use and still shines through to demonstrate its underlying durability.
Twin sling/bipod studs are shown under the fore-end with a single unit on the bag rider-type rear butt stock. It's not quite a butt 'hook' but it allows a good clasping hold around your sling strap, with a fist for better support when prone. Adjustable length of pull from 352-390mm (13-7/8 to 15-3/8") with a one-inch firm recoil pad should fit most shooters and stays well planted in your shoulder - particularly beneficial when the 25mm height-adjustable cheekpiece allows hard cheek weld for those who desire it. On that note, the comb is a pleasant shape, fitting under the cheekbone itself. Both are controlled by a sprung push button on the right-hand side of the stock, but be careful, as neither comb nor recoil pad elements are fully restrained and will drop out fully if accidentally pressed.
Shooting the rifle bore no undesirable surprises, with accuracy beyond what even Sako promised! Hunting ammunition went to Winchester's large polymer tipped 125gr Extreme Point projectiles, exiting the muzzle at 2,717 fps for 2,050ft/lbs of energy. Accuracy wasn't scintillating, with just 1.5"/40mm groups on paper at 100m, but certainly effective for deer at reasonable distances. Match ammo with boat tail hollow point bullets were next, with the Barnes Precision match 140gr developing 2,651 fps for 2,185ft/lb, but more importantly, sub-25mm groups that adhere to Sako's 1 MOA guarantee for three shots. Finally, Sako's own TRG ammunition shooting the 136gr Lapua Scenar L bullet sliced true, overlapping cloverleaf 15mm groups with just 10mm centre to centre from the best of them all. That was for five rounds with superb low extreme spread of just 9fps across that group, and no worse than 16 fps high to low throughout the full 20-round box of ammo. With 2,762 fps average for 2,304ft/lbs, these bullets seemed to eke all that is available from the Creedmoor with serious long-range capability, and that is what brings me to my final conclusion.
This 3.4kg rifle (7.5lb) exhibits the almost mythical all-round capability that so many shooters dream of. It isn't quite perfect for everything, but let's look at the details… Light weight (check!), great ballistic capability with a good availability of deer suitable bullets (yes!), fast-handling, well-balanced ergonomics and pointability, yet stable when prone with excellent gun fit and trigger (also check!).
The rifle shoots well from sticks, from a bipod, and from improvised rests, and other than simple undeniable factors like a true full-length barrel, is really handy in a vehicle too - it doesn't amplify the noise when bumped against the steering wheel or door mirror. In honesty, if you want to go stalking, long-range plate shooting, fox controlling or just spend a day at the range, this rifle will, and I say this with due caution, do them all to a high degree of capability. This might sound far-reaching, but the Black Wolf, so closely matched in every way, is just a bit too heavy for stalking, while the Finnlight II doesn't show quite such suitability for a 'day at the range', with a short slim barrel.
If I wanted just one rifle, ignoring the 10-round magazine capability required for some competitions, I'd be hard pressed to choose better than the Carbon Wolf. It is, quite simply, a Jack of all trades, yet somewhat unusually capable for each.