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The guns of J.P. Sauer & Sohn.

* Few gun makers have weathered the centuries of feast and famine, peace and war, and just plain bad luck that constitute history. Those few that did survive the ravages of time have gone on to become institutions in the industry--the pinnacle to which others aspire.

The firm of J.P. Sauer & Sohn is such a company. The quality of the firearms they produce has become legend, and few need an introduction to their fame.

A classic example of German tenacity, their offerings have spanned the spectrum of sporting arms--from finely finished pocket autos to best grade drillings.

Few American shooters have had the opportunity to handle the Sauer rifles, knowing them only from perusing the various shooting and hunting "wish books."

The photos, specifications and limited descriptions normally found in the various catalogs do manage to excite the senses of eager readers, but just don't (and really can't) convey the subtle physical features that make the difference between a nice production-grade "fits-all" and a truly fine firearm. There really is no substitute for handling the real thing ... and handle them we did!

Our evaluation began with the Model 3000 drilling. It seems drillings have always struck Americans as odd, being neither fish nor fowl--the imaginings of someone who just couldn't decide what he wanted in a gun.

One must understand the European approach to hunting to appreciate the beauty of the drilling design. In much of Europe, seasons don't exist as we know them in the States. Most hunting takes place on private reserves and the hunter may encounter beast or fowl at any time--much like hunting in the Western U.S. where deer, bear or elk season may overlap dove, quail or chukar season.

Some may argue that the serious hunter wouldn't think of a "mixed bag" hunt and would pursue one or the other, but never both. Well, times are changing. Today's big-game hunts are getting very costly, and, in an effort to get their money's worth, many hunters are turning to the safari method--that is, getting all you can while you're there! And this is where the drilling makes sense. As a one-gun battery it has no equal.

Contrary to one's first impression of the drilling, it is not muzzle-heavy and cumbersome. Most specimens have about the same weight and feel as the average American 12 gauge side-by-side shotgun. Our sample gun was no exception.

Its 25-inch barrels made it very short and handy, and enhanced handling to the degree of most top grade sporting rifles. This barrel lenght is also about the optimum for both shot and rifled barrels in terms of ballistics.

Though available in a variety of European and American calibers, our sample gun was chambered 12 ga.x12 ga.x9.3x74R. The latter chambering is Germany's idea of a .375 Mag, though actually .36 in caliber and not quite as powerful as the big H&H round. At 7-1/2 pounds it is a very light and handy "magnum."

At first glance, the rifle barrel, which is slung neatly below and between the shot barrels, seems abnormally thin and makes one question its capability of delivering consistent accuracy as a rifle. Actually, the barrel is so securely attached to the shot barrels for its entire lenght that most vibrations are effectively dampened. As a result, most high-grade drillings shoot nearly as accurately as out-of-the-box bolt guns.

When chambered with the appropriate calibers and equipped with a fine scope, such as the Zeiss, the drilling is capable of securing game at ranges out to 300 yards. Now put that scope in a quick-detachable claw mount that virtually rezeroes when remounted, and you have a very versatile package.

This high class marriage of shot and rifle barrels was made to order for the increasingly popular sport of turkey and boar hunting, and deserves serious consideration from those camps.

The pains of skillful attention to detail are quite evident in this tri-barreled beauty. Wood to metal and metal to metal fit is nigh on perfect. All surface finishes are impeccable--even screws hidden from view by the forearm are embellished!

Engraving of the Greener-style action is conservative and tastefully done. The European walnut stock is classic in nature, with a Bavarian comb, oval cheekpiece, and ample, well executed checkering on the pistol grip and beavertail forearm. All in all, this gun exudes class.

To the uninitiated, the operation of three barrels with two triggers may seem a bit confusing. Actually, it is quite simple.

What is usually mistaken for a tang safety button is the means by which the front trigger is actuated to fire the rifle barrel. Pushing the button forward to accomplish this also raises the rear sight, which is normally folded down in the full lenght rib. The front trigger is of set-trigger design. It can be adjusted for a very light touch, for fine long range shots, or it may be fired unset, as in a snap shooting situation.

In the heat of pursuit, one might easily forget which barrels were fired, were it not for the cocking indicator buttons, which are conveniently located on either side of the barrel latch lever.

Lowering the rear sight deactivates the rifle firing mechanism, allowing the shot barrels to be fired. Those shot barrels, by the way, were choked modified on the right and full on the left, with chambers 2-3/4 inches long.

In every respect the Model 3000 is one of the world's great firearms and continued sales prove it to be quite popular. However, with a suggested retail over $3,000, this is not the average man's gun. But, on second thought, it isn't really that expensive in relation to other "toys" that we commonly see and consider buying.

Campers, boats, motorcycles, etc., cost as much, or more, and actually depreciate in value. Their use and enjoyment is usually limited to a few select weekends and that's it.

The drilling, on the other hand, is an investment to be enjoyed whenever it is taken from its case.

It's true, the Model 3000 drilling is a very specialized gun. But, it is the uniqueness of its function that makes it so special--a uniqueness that American hunters have overlooked too long.

Also available is the Model BBF 54, which is a combination design that possesses a single shot barrel over a single rifle barrel. Lacking one shot barrel, it is, of course, lighter than the Model 3000. Quality of material and finish is on par with the drilling and will satisfy the most discriminating sportsman. Although it has only a single shot barrel, the BBF 54 is essentially the same as the 3000, with almost identical features.

Our sample was chambered in .30-06x16 gauge and was embellished with the typical Teutonic oak leaf and acorn motifs.

As you may or may not know, the 16 gauge is the European "standard," just as the 12 has been in the U.S. So it is only a "weird" chambering to the uninitiated. It's a lot more common in the U.S. than many gun scribes would have you believe. Our sample retails for $2,887 and is a work of art.

Sauer and Sohn also offers more "conventional" rifles, and I use that term loosely. While their Model 90 appears to be just another pretty bolt gun, appearances can be deceiving. Likening this rifle to other bolt actions is like saying the space shuttle and a Piper Cub are one and the same 'cause they both have wings. As in the space shuttle, outstanding engineering makes all the difference with Sauer's rifles. However, the superior design isn't immediately obvious upon introduction to the Model 90--no, it's the quality of material and finish that really grabs you.

The dark European walnut on our samples displayed good figure with tight, curly grain--the kind that ripples when bathed in sunlight. Checkering was of the "cut" variety, as one would expect, and laid out in simple, but functional, patterns.

An interesting feature is the Wundhammer palm swell on the right side of the pistol grip. This slight mound is designed to fill the void between the palm of the trigger hand and the pistol grip that results when a rifle is shouldered. This amounts to better control of both the trigger and the rifle, which, as you've probably reasoned, means you should shoot better.

Unlike the drilling, the Model 90's stock is of the California style, sporting a Monte Carlo comb, beavertail cheekpiece, rosewood fore-end tip and grip cap--all features that make a racy looking rifle. Thankfully, the designers opted to withhold the white line spacers from between the grip cap, fore-end tip and recoil pad. Instead, the mating of contrasting wood at these points is mediated by what appears to be a thin wafer of ebony.

Another surprise is the oil finish of the wood. I don't mean that spray-on stuff that dries dull and looks like an oil finish; I mean a real oil finish ... the kind that soaks in and makes the grain down under come alive with a nice warm glow. You know the kind.

All the Model 90s that were sent for evaluation featured free-floating barrels, including the Mannlicher-styled short rifle. Even the muzzle cap of the latter didn't make contact with the barrel.

However, unlike the average free-floating stock, Sauer's barrel channel is cut a tad larger than the barrel, enough to allow a slip of paper to pass between the barrel and forearm. This means there are no unsightly and uneven gaps along the barrel.

Interestingly, the accompanying manual recommends weather-proofing the barrel channel by sealing the edges with soft wax. This would prevent the elements from damaging the wood, yet would not affect barrel vibrations.

Of tubular design, the receiver has gracefully sculptured surfaces with no sharp corners.

The 90's bolt is very slick, both in operation and design. A mechanical engineer I know said he'd like to have just the bolt to place under a glass dome for display. He said he'd put it on his desk to impress his colleagues. I'm sure it would, too.

Upon first glance, it appears the bolt has no locking lugs! Closer examination reveals that it is of two-piece construction. The forward portion simply glides back and forth, and doesn't turn as in conventional designs. Turning the bolt handle down cams the locking lugs out of the bolt body and into corresponding recesses in the receiver, thus locking the breech.

Because of this mode of operation, the bolt slides through the receiver so smoothly that you would think it was riding on ball bearings. In fact, with the action open, dipping the muzzle down just slightly will cause the bolt to slam fully forward--it's that slick! What this means is smooth and silent operation.

Extraction is accomplished by a sturdy, spring-actuated, claw-type extractor, and the ejector is of the plunger-tyep--mounted in the bolt face. And speaking of smooth and silent, the tang mounted safety not only disengages the sear, but locks the bolt. A small button at the root of the bolt handle unlocks the bolt so the chamber can be emptied without negating the safety.

The sear engaging extension of the striker/firing pin arrangement also bears mention, in that it extends beyond the back of the bolt to act as a cocking indicator.

A single set trigger was incorporated into the 90's design and is adjustable for the "set" mode. Some shooters don't like the set trigger, claiming it is dangerous because it can go off before the shooter anticipates. The cure for that is not setting the trigger so lightly.

In some rifles with set triggers, it is possible to set the trigger so light that merely moving the bolt handle will set off the rifle--obviously a dangerous situation. Well, that can't happen with the Sauer. The Model 90's trigger is designed so that if you open the bolt with the trigger set, the trigger simply unsets itself. The rifle does not fire.

As in most bolt actions, Sauer's are vented for escaping gas, in the event that a primer should blow or a case separate.

On the left side of the receiver ring is what appears to be a small silver plug in a hole. At firts, i thought it was a gas vent with a plug to seal out dirt. To my surprise, it turned out to be a loaded chamber indicator. It is actually a spring-loaded plunger which is activated by the cartridge entering the chamber and is both visible and readily felt as it protrudes above the surface when the chamber is loaded.

Just ahead of the trigger guard is the release button for the box magazine. It is very simple, foolproof actually, and holds three rounds.

I was pleased to see that all the rifles wore iron sights. I think it's a mistake not to have a back-up system for optics. But we won't go into that here. What did bother me though was the fact that the sights were not adjustable for elevation. However, if the sights are only used in a pinch and not pushed into use beyond 100 yards, the point of impact between varying bullet weights would not be enough to make much difference on a "deer-size" target. Judging by the rifle's other well thought out features, I can only assume that this must have been the reasoning.

We topped each of the Model 90s with Redfield glass in Redfield rings and mounts in the form of their Illuminator on the Deluxe .243 Win. and the Low-Pro on the Standard Model 7mm Remington Mag, both in 3-9X. The .308 Short Rifle wore the 1-3/4-5X Low-Pro to maintain the handiness of its design.

Each of these scopes is of the Widefield design which expands the field of vision horizontally about 25 percent. The Illuminator features some optical wizardry that offers ultra clear visibility. It's well worth its weight in gold on a long-range rifle. The Low-Pro is just that--a lower profile scope that does the job with less bulk.

Our 100-yard groups were about what we had expected from an out-of-the-box rifle using factory ammo. What we didn't expect was that the .308 Short Rifle would turn in the best group of just under 1-3/4 inches using Winchester 180-grain soft points. All who shot the Sauers agreed that handloads, or even more testing with a greater variety of factory ammo, would reduce group sizes considerably.

All in all, we were quite pleased with the Model 90. In fact, the only thing that we thought might be changed in order to appeal to the American market was the rifle's weight. At 9-1/2 pounds, scoped and unloaded, the 7mm Mag is just a bit too heavy to tote around all day. The other calibers were also a bit heavy for their power range, unlike the drilling and combination gun, which were very lightweight for their caliber.

Model 90s are available in a wide choice of both American and European calibers, suitable for anything you care to hunt--from prairie dogs to elephants.

Again, we're talking about high priced goods. The Short and Standard models start at $1,150 and top out at $1,337 for the Deluxe model, which features better wood, finish and the gold-plated trigger.

For more information on Sauer's entire line of the rifles combination guns, contact their U.S. representative, Jeffries & Fischer, 28 Durham Road, Dept. GA, Madison, CT 06443.
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Author:Renner, Roger
Publication:Guns & Ammo
Date:May 1, 1985
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