Sauer 100 Keeper package - "more than the sum of its parts"
PUBLISHED: 15:30 19 October 2017
The Sauer 100 Keeper package offers everything you need in one great value bundle; Chris Parkin is impressed with the specifications, now let's see how it shot...
LIKES: Ideal stock dimensions; well-balanced handling with speedy pointability; hard to find fault with Minox scope and Barton Moderator partners; homogenous functionality with a very good action and bolt design; this package tells you a lot about Blaser Sporting as a distributor
DISLIKES: Ever so slight occasional stumble on the magazine fit; perhaps a Picatinny rail would be more versatile if night vision is encountered; I think the UK market will want more calibres sooner rather than later
VERDICT: I think I can simply say that this is a package that is more than the sum of its parts, every one of which is a leader in its own sector to start with, and tells me a lot about a distributor who knows their market from all perspectives
SAUER 100 “KEEPER” PACKAGE IN 223 INCLUDES: Sauer 100 Keeper in 223 Remington; Minox ZX5i 3-15-56 Riflescope; Barton Gunworks Sound Moderator; Mauser Hexalock Scope mounts
Calibre: 223 Remington only at this stage
Overall length: 1015mm-39.75”1113mm inc .mod
Weight: 4.77kg (10.52lbs)
Stock Material: Ergo Max Polymer
Magazine capacity: 3+1
Trigger: single stage, 1000-2000gr (2.2-4.4lbs) pull weight
Barrel length: 490mm-19.5”
CONTACT: Blaser Sporting 020 76222116 www.sauer.de/en/
Hornady 55gr Soft point 921,934
Contact: Edgar Brothers 01625 613177 www.edgarbrothers.com
Winchester Varmint X 55gr Ballistic Tipped 919.933
Contact: Browning UK 01235 514550 www.browning.eu
Prvi Partisan 55gr FMJ 922
Contact: Henry Krank & Co. 0113 256 9163 www.henrykrank.co.uk
IN DEPTH REVIEW
I have used the Sauer 100 on multiple occasions and in various calibres over the last 18 months, and it’s fair to say the rifles have all been consistently accurate performers. The announcement that Blaser Sporting would be putting together a package deal of the company’s associated brands was an exciting prospect alone, as I’m a fan of them in their own right. But when a new specification of rifle was announced, exclusive to this package, the game got a little bit hotter.
The Keeper Package’s 100 rifle is different in two respects – a new barrel, and an action magazine remodelled for the smaller .223 case head. The previous 100 shared its five-round polymer magazines with the Mauser M12 and Sauer 101 and was a great product, with easy top-loading in or out of the gun and smooth feeding of each round into the chamber. The .223 magazine has maintained the overall dimensions and single serrated push-button release catch ahead of its well, but has become a front-loading single-column fill up. It would have been nice to use the space for ten rounds, but three rounds plus one in the chamber is what fits. To load, each is pressed down onto the case neck preceding it and slid backward towards the rear of the mag. A polymer follower maintains pressure to keep one round up top and ready to push feed into the chamber, and it’s quiet. If its predecessors are to be trusted, it will be durable and tough in use too. I only have one mechanical complaint with this rifle, and that is the magazine installation. It has a very subtle preference for having the rear pressed home first before the front clicks into position on the spring catch. It seems to be easing as the gun wears in, but just occasionally causes a slight fumble and delay in loading the rifle.
The Keeper’s big difference is the barrel. The number one factor you learn from the Blaser/Mauser and Sauer ‘Haus’ is that they don’t scrimp on materials or manufacturing standards, even on what they accept is their budget rifle. Hammer forging is the way they are made, and after shooting a lot of the breed from the shared production facility, they are well worth a solid bet for accuracy off the shelf. A medium weight 19mm profile is shorter at 490mm with eight longitudinal flutes about 1mm deep, running back to the reinforce from their starting point, 45mm from the expectedly impeccable Sauer crown. A 17x1mm thread is smoothly applied for a moderator; funnily enough, the Barton one included in the package. It’s light at 288g with 180mm length and 42mm diameter in hard anodised aluminium that adds 110mm to the overall length of the rifle. It is ideally matched to the diminutive 223 with a 6.7mm exit hole for the bullet, and as little gas as possible to be redirected and ‘swirled off’ inside. I like the fact it’s non-adjustable or strippable for cleaning as I’m of the opinion that loose mods, either internally or externally, are one of the commonest causes of poor accuracy and a fine pitched 1mm metric thread is also easily tightened. Surface finish on both internal and external muzzle thread were smooth to maintain easy removal without carbon residue sticking, and frankly, taking the mod off the rifle without it falling to bits is all I really want for maintenance. I don’t think the Barton is always the quietest on .243/.308s, but this reflex design is very well proportioned for a .223, and the gun’s bark was well suppressed; in fact to such an extent that I’m ashamed to say I was lazy with my hearing protection when shooting the gun at the plinking and setup stages over open terrain.
Barrel and action are finished with Sauer’s proprietary “Ilaflon” coating, which in this case left a rather nice grey/blue matt hue to the rifle that contrasted with the black synthetic stock just enough to make it look pleasing (superficial as that may sound). No light is reflected from it, but equally it is so smooth that no dirt gets ingrained into it either. Sauer’s familiar 100 action has proven itself to me, and a slightly larger 24mm teardrop knob has been added, extending 70mm from the diameter of the 20.3mm bolt shaft. It is polished steel with three recessed lugs for a 60-degree lift and a single slot for the anti-rotation/bolt stop that sits to the left side rear wall of the action. It runs freely with a push feed from the magazine and three full (rather than split into six) lugs seemed to me to make no difference to how this gun cycles. I rather prefer it to the six lugged 101, and that is mainly down to the ergonomics of the bolt handle which I will categorise as ideal for a sporting rifle. Large enough for fast control but not so long as to torque the bolt and make it judder as it’s driven home – 10 out of 10! The face displays familiar twin ejectors with a single extractor claw recessed into the right upper lug to reliably flick all easily extracted and ejected brass out of the spacious 85mm opening in the long action. The raceway on the left upper side of the bolt shaft controls the shortening of the bolt’s operating stroke, on a receiver that runs larger cartridges elsewhere in the Sauer range. Some long action rifles that are intentionally stopped short to run smaller cartridges feel ‘docked’ – the 100 doesn’t. The modest size of the bolt shroud and ideal stock dimensions mean you won’t be running the bolt into your nose even on the long cartridges, so with it shortened to operate .223 here, metal to face contacts are unlikely when you leave your head in place to cycle the bolt and retain your shooting position. The cylindrical closed top of the action will hopefully discourage all those complaints that ‘the steelwork of a long action rifle is too flexible’; hopefully that paranoia ended a long time ago!
Mauser Hexalock mounts are bolted to the action’s upper surface, coming pre-set and tensioned for the scope which drops out of its box with the rings fitted. I know Hexalock mounts quite well and spent a couple of minutes tightening them a little more to personal preference, but they were well set up for eye relief and reticle alignment, so another tick for Sauer there too. These mounts have a serrated lever to their left side that allows quick release of the scope, and although they require patience to set up initially, I have found them to be very dependable. But half the point of this package is that you open the box, clip the scope on, screw the mod in place and, hey presto, go shoot the gun. It is designed to be that simple, and it is that simple. I was ‘box to rifle slip’ in less than ten minutes, which also included a quick clean through the barrel to check nothing was left in transit, and guess what, it was spotless upon delivery. I did wonder if a ‘keeper is likely to be swapping scopes, and if so night vision or thermal are likely alternates; a Picatinny rail would be more appropriate, if not mandatory, and likely to be cheaper too.
I have used the Minox ZX5i scope enough to trust it implicitly, and when I arrived at the range to zero the rifle and test the gun I was reminded of its excellent image quality, well-balanced reticle that’s not too thick or too thin, and the nice illuminated dot floating in the centre. It is parallax adjustable for the sharpest possible image quality and accuracy when wound up to 15x, but at 3x you get that wide field of view ideal for aiming/tracking close game that won’t have you chasing your own tail trying to find it in the crosshairs. I feel a package named “Keeper” ought to suit use in all light conditions, be compact in a vehicle, and have a reticle capable under the lamp too… the ZX5i is ideal, and tailored well alongside the suggested life of a rifle used as a tool and not a cabinet queen. The Ilaflon has proved durable so far, shedding water and able to have blood wiped off cleanly without leaving spots in the pores of the metallic coatings that are one of the greatest improvements to rifles over the last decade. The safety catch suits the gun, with a right-side lever moving forward from the safe position to ‘fire’ in complete silence when rolled under your thumb. Fully rearward, it locks the bolt in position, so no worries about flicking out a live round when carrying. Equally, the gun loads and cycles very smoothly and quietly, which for night time usage is utterly imperative. Even the bolt release on the left side of the action is intuitive to operate, with no tiny catches to manipulate, and the cocked action indicator protrudes clearly from the rear of the shroud. Should the worst happen, the upper right quadrant of the bolt shows an emergency gas escape port. Needless to say, all ammunition tested showed acceptable pressure hallmarks with faultless primary and secondary extraction.
Chequering is cast into the injection moulds of the black polymer stock, which dampens noise from the action, recoil, and if bumped against foliage, gateposts or car doors. The partition line along the upper and lower surfaces of the gun, where the mould splits into two halves to allow the unit out, is almost indiscernible and again shows Sauer investing in the finest tooling and manufacturing quality standards. The stock’s forend is stiff and maintains a full float of the barrel from all shooting positions, with just enough meat to fill your hand and keep your fingers off the barrel if wearing gloves. A matt finish exists on all surfaces without a single blemish, except for inlaid chequering panels here and at the grip, which features a slight ambidextrous palm swell. The comb rises slightly toward the heel of the stock to minimise felt recoil in your skull, with a smooth transition into a 15mm thick rubber recoil pad showing a tasteful Sauer logo and modest chequering that is ideal for a sporting rifle of lesser recoil. It welds securely into the shoulder pocket without feeling squidgy, and gentle radius to the heel prevents it digging into you when you are in a non-ideal prone position. Two tiny scallops are removed in this region, too; I’m not sure why for anything other than aesthetic reasons, but they add a certain visual appeal to break up the otherwise dark surface. Sling studs are positioned on the underside here, and one up front for sling or bipod, with a 362mm/14.25” length of pull making the gun as good as perfect for me to shoot. Proportionate reach to the trigger from the open radius pistol grip positions my index finger pad right onto the 9mm wide, deeply curved and smooth blade. The 100’s trigger, like the 101, Mauser M12 and Blaser’s, is impeccably crisp and easy to judge – I cannot fault it breaking at the specified 1,000g with adjustment available up to 2,000. Plenty of space for a gloved fingertip around the blade with a millimetre of overtravel after the clean break is just as good as it gets on a sporting rifle, with the ability to double the pull weight for heavy gloves in cold climates.
The Sauer was not really picky with ammunition. Its slow twist is ideal for the lighter 40-55gr region preferred by those wanting a cheaply-fed but reliable rifle capable of point-and-shoot performance on any vermin. Here lies the crux though – would the ‘Keeper’ really be better as a .243, with its legality on all sizes and species of UK animal? I do not doubt that this rifle will appear in a second calibre. The Mauser M12 Impact was launched in 2015 specific to two UK calibres, and is now seeing its order books broadened into further calibres. This gun took a little running-in with accuracy and consistency improving from a 30mm group at 100m from the first five rounds after zeroing, to sub 15mm for the same ammo after 30 rounds in total. Hornady 55gr soft point was the best performing ammunition on paper with 921m/s (3,023fps) showing and consistent performance below the 20mm group size. I would dearly have loved to keep this gun long term and hand loaded for it to see even more potential, as with a rail applied it will make a superb test bed for NV and thermal optics throughout the winter. Its ideal balance, moderate weight and compact length (yet retaining full-size stock dimensions) made it perfect from the vehicle left or right-handed or rested on a window bag. Some guns just seem to get the best out of all ammo brands, and Winchester Varmint X 55gr Ballistic Tip showed 919m/s (3,016fps) on the inexpensive run in process. Further plinking done with Prvi Partisan 55gr FMJ produced an effortless 922m/s (3,026fps) and stayed within the magic 25mm for five shots over the 100m range. The .223 is a great plinking and target round, and lower cost ammunition is fantastic for honing those tricky shooting positions that you will need to master when improvising shots in the field.
I see this package as Blaser Sporting dipping a toe into the UK water, and as a company distributing such compatible brands, I find it hard to doubt their likely success. I regularly receive gun ‘packages’ that include multiple brands of accessories and the number of mismatched muzzle threads, riflescopes, mounts, magazines and accessories baffles me from time to time. I would suggest not everyone truly understands their market or the compatibility and interchangeability of their own product lines.
When you add up the prices of the individual products, the Keeper package might not seem like an out and out bargain but it is very well thought through and includes a great rifle, a great scope, a great moderator and great mounts. I possibly have a slightly different perspective on the market than the average shooter or retailer, but I cannot fathom how any dealer would not be delighted to sell to a very happy buyer such a homogenous package, that is quite simply more than the sum of its parts.