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Broadsword reviews one of Sako's sexiest rifles to find out if shoots as good as it looks - check out the stunning Sako Carbon Wolf!
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Carbon fibre has countless uses throughout numerous areas of manufacturing and has become synonymous with race cars and bikes to achieve lightness combined with strength. This technology can also be applied to other areas, and the gun industry seems to have jumped on it recently to offer alternative versions of their already popular rifles. To me it makes sense. Light weight combined with strength and zero flexibility for a rigid and noiseless stock that repels the British weather is what hunters really want.
Sako’s Carbon Wolf is styled after the company’s popular Black Wolf, which already wore a black laminate stock, so the carbon version was a natural progression. It sports a carbon fibre weave stock and the short 20" fluted barrel adds to the weight saving. The matt blued finish to the metal work is more traditional. It also has an adjustable cheekpiece and recoil pad. The 6.5mm Creedmoor calibre, detachable magazine and excellent Model 85 action completes a highly practical hunting rifle that retails for £3,900.00.
The stock is the visual and tactile portion of the Carbon Wolf that shooters will identify with first. A good stock design can make or break a rifle and adding additional features such as adjustability is always going to appeal. Stealth and light weight, as well as a ‘one rifle does everything’ approach are all in vogue, and the Carbon Wolf’s stock fills all those criteria.
This new carbon fibre stock owes its heritage to the aerospace and automobile industries and provides a very lightweight yet rigid construction compared with other light stocks, which are usually flexible.
Shedding 1lb in weight, the Carbon Wolf feels nimble and light, highly portable, and perfect for long treks on the hill. It has the typical carbon fibre exterior weave pattern, which is enhanced by a soft-touch textured surface for assured grip.
The carbon fibre layers are moulded in a criss-cross fashion to blend the two halves of the stock halves together. It achieves a perfectly symmetrical yet stiff, lightweight and durable finish that is ideal for a rifle. It certainly isn’t overly light or hollow feeling.
The carbon fibre matrix really does damp acoustic and vibrational forces as the Carbon Wolf is fired and carried in the field. This is important for not alerting your game and also, combined with the bedding system Sako use, really does help the Carbon Wolf’s marvellous accuracy.
Bedding Is achieved by a separate steel plate that unites the action’s base to the carbon fibre stock, with the recoil lug protruding through it. The action also notably sits perfectly aligned with the stock and has generous forend barrel channel clearance for free floating to avoid bipod bounce or debris affecting the barrel harmonics. The whole stock looks great and when you are out stalking it blends in well with the surroundings.
The forend has a triangular form, hand filling at the base and tapering to the barrel. There’s no need for impressed chequering, which always looks cheap, as the profile and soft-touch finish keep the hand and aim steady. The addition of two quick-detach bipod studs allows bipod and sling fitment in two positions, although the rearmost stud is where your supporting hands rests.
The rear section of the stock is where all the fun stuff happens. The more upright thumb-rest style pistol grip is much to my liking, although some older stalkers I asked found it a tad wide. Each to their own. There is a bulge to the top right side that fits perfectly in the soft part of the hand between the thumb and forefinger and helps maintain a steady hold. There are no finger grooves, but there is a slight palm swell to the right side to caress the hand further. There are no left-hand models at present, I believe. The grip has a noticeable off-axis profile that gives a natural resting position for the firing hand.
The cheekpiece is long and can be adjusted to suit your style of shooting or choice of scope height. A single square button is depressed below the cheekpiece on the right-hand side to lower or raise it by a maximum of 1.0" before the twin support bars either side of the central securing column come free of the stock orifices.
Similarly, the soft black rubber recoil pad, which sits on a carbon fibre base plate, can be adjusted with a similar button to alter the length of pull from 13.75" fully closed to 15.25".
Barrel length is a sensible 20", which works very well with a 6.5mm Creedmoor and would be my choice. You lose very little performance but gain far better handling, especially from this streamlined Carbon Wolf.
The finish is a tough, matt blue on an all-steel action and barrel that looks great against the carbon fibre stock. There are five shallow flutes covering 11" of the mid-section of the barrel’s contour. The muzzle thread is 15mm/1 to give a good blend of security with enough metal around the bore to stop muzzle flare. A Stalon sound moderator was supplied and only increased the overall length to 45.75". Internally the bore is very clean, with few tool marks visible with my bore scope. After shooting it was good to see minimal fouling to the rifling surfaces – a mark of a well-made barrel.
The barrel has a muzzle diameter of 0.678" making it a semi-heavyweight, therefore also good for repeated fire or range use. The rifling twist rate is 1 in 8", so all 6.5mm Creedmoor loads, including reloads from 85gr to 160gr, stabilised well.
The Sako 85 action comes as a cartridge specific size, so the cartridge length is matched to the overall size of action. This allows for optimal bolt travel length. In 6.5mm Creedmoor the ‘S’ action is used, which is the beauty of this short cartridge. The characteristic Sako tapered scope grooves are cut into the action top for precise scope fitment. They have served Sako well, especially with their own Optilok scope ring/base setup fitted.
I like Sako actions. I use a lot on custom projects and the 85 model’s characteristic three-lug locking system improves the secure surface area on lock-up into the receiver ring and allows a short bolt lift to avoid contact with the scope eyepiece and ultimately accelerates bolt operation.
Very little lube is needed, which helps prevent debris from settling in this important area. The controlled round feed design on the bolt allows direct engagement of the cartridge rim from the magazine, giving a precise lower-angle feed and control of the cartridge, which improves reliability. Then there is the often copied single claw extractor in the bolt face, which gives a positive hold of the cartridge rim. The bottom of the bolt head has a slot cut so that case ejection is simultaneous with contact on the sprung ejector spur at the rear of the action body.
The Sako single-stage factory trigger is set at about 3.5lb weight and is perfect for all field and hunting use, offering a safe let off with no creep and a very predictable sear release. Lock time is fast, and although the pull weight can be adjusted 2-4lb via a small Allen key inserted through the back of the magazine well, I wouldn’t bother.
The safety lever in the forward position is fire and to the rear position is safe, which locks both the trigger and the bolt. There is also a smaller plunger just forward of the main safety lever that allows the bolt to operate, so you can remove a cartridge from the chamber while still keeping the trigger locked and safe.
You won’t lose a magazine or have one drop in the mud with the Total Control Latch system, designed to eliminate accidental release of the magazine. You have to push the magazine inward slightly at the front while depressing the magazine release latch before it releases. The 6.5mm Creedmoor rifle has a five-round capacity in its double-staggered detachable mag format.
I don’t use a lot of factory ammo, so I only had a small selection to test. The best were definitely the Hornady SST Superformance loads, which are always accurate and hot. They achieved 2822fps for 2282ft-lb energy from the 129gr SST bullet, and delivered 0.55-0.65" three-shot groups at 100yd. The Interlock bullet, also 129gr, shot sub-inch groups for 2703fps and 2093ft-lb and the Remington 140gr Core-lokt huddled three shots at 1" for 2598fps and 2098ft-lb.
Interestingly enough I have shot these rounds in 24" barrels and achieved 2950fps – a slightly higher speed that is hardly worth mentioning in a hunting gun.
As expected the Carbon Wolf responded well to reloads, where I was able to tune things up a bit. Zeroed at 1" high at 100yd, the Hornady 140gr SST bullet with a 43.0gr of Vit N 555 launched at 2607fps for 2113ft-lb energy and all shots touched.
I have to say that the Stalon was not unduly heavy or bulky and complemented the Carbon Wolf well, achieving very good noise reduction. The Steiner Ranger optics are also rather good and acquitted themselves well in the Scottish gloom.
The red stags were roaring a lot here at the beginning of October and being woodland animals they tended not to show themselves too much. The stalking technique was to hunt the hinds or keep downwind of them and then wait for an amorous advance from a stag. I had young stags and seven hinds at one point just ahead of me in a field that bordered two stags’ territories, and it was not long before a smaller stag – a good one to harvest – emerged chasing the group of hinds.
I took advantage of a convenient tree to brace my aim and let the Steiner’s reticle chase the stag around until he stopped at 165yd. The SST entered his heart and he only moved 20yd before dropping. I had to wait 30 minutes for the hinds to move off before I could gralloch the beast.
I really appreciated the light nature of the Carbon Wolf. The rain from the occasional downpours just ran off it and the soft touch ergonomic stock design just led the aim effortlessly. What more does one want?
All we need now is an S20-style thumbhole stock in the Carbon Wolf material and I would be happy as a pig in the proverbial. You pay a premium for carbon fibre, but the gain in strength and loss in weight make it worthwhile. This is a great rifle for hunting or range use that fully hits its brief.
Manufacturer: Sako Ltd
Model: Carbon Wolf
Type: Bolt action
Overall length: 40" to 41.25" adjustable
Barrel length: 20" fluted, 15mm/1 thread pitch
Length of pull: 13.75 to 15.25" (adjustable)
Weight: 3.1kg (rifle only)
Calibre: 6.5mm Creedmoor
Stock: Carbon-fibre adjustable sporter
Magazine: Detachable 5
Scope mounts: Integral tapered dovetails
Trigger: Single-stage, adjustable
Price: RRT £3,900
Importer: GMK Ltd 01489 579999
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