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Sako's sniper: The TRG-22 precision rifle; Sako, a name well respected by sporting riflemen, is set to capture the precision rifle market.

There was a time not so long ago when military snipers had to make due with slightly modified service rifles. These "sniper rifles" had their start by being selected from their brethren for displaying superior accuracy. This was usually done during preliminary testing at the factory. Rifles that shot particularly well, say five rounds into less than 1 1/4 inches would be set aside. They would then be modified by the addition of mounts and optics to become sniper rifles. Some countries went to great lengths such as the British, which built its No. 4 MK I (T) sniper rifles. Others, such as Russia at the height of World War II. simply mounted optics onto rifles already known to shoot well. Yet the end result was basically the same: a superior shooting standard issue combat rifle.

While robust and often surprisingly accurate most of these sniper rifles had serious shortcomings for true sniper work. Most problems could be traced to the simple fact that they had originally been designed to serve as combat rifles. White they could be tweaked, their designs didn't lend them for use as a dedicated sniper's weapon.

Genesis of Sako

One company that recognized this was Sako of Finland. So when Finland's military began trying to modify Tsaristera Mosin-Nagant actions into modem sniper rifles in the 1980s, Sako felt it was a dead-end street. The designers at Sako were well-aware of the strengths and weaknesses of the Russian Mosin-Nagant action. After all, the company's origins reached buck to 1919 when a government-owned repair shop was established for the Civil Guard in an old brewery in Helsinki. It was here, repairing M1891 Mosin-Nagant rifles, that Sako was born. As the years passed, the company grew, and eventually the arsenal was moved north of the capital to Riihimaki in 1927. That same year, it became a limited liability company under the name "Suojeluskuntain Ase- ja Konepaja Osakeyhtio" (Civil Guard Arms & Machine-shop Co. Ltd.), better known simply as SAKO (pronounced sock-O). SAKO produced rifles for the Finish Army during the Winter War of 19391940 and the Continuation War of 194 1-1944 with the Soviet Union. As a result, th e company learned quite a bit about the needs of snipers.

Sako's engineers knew that simply adding a heavy match barrel, synthetic pistol grip stock with adjustable comb, bipod, silencer, and modern optics to a Mosin wouldn't turn it into a world-class sniper rifle. The engineers knew, that the. action was the heart of any rifle and felt that they could, do much better. This desire to build the best led to the creation of one of the finest sniper rifles ever fielded, the Sako TRG-21. I fell in love with the TRG-21, a truly fine rifle, the first, time I had an opportunity to use and train with one, At the time, I didn't think it could get any better. However, I'm glad to say that I was wrong, and Sako has improved and upgraded the rifle to become the new TRG-22.

Setting New Standards

Like many current European sniper rifles, the TRG-22 is based on a successful target rifle. Sako used its TR-6 target rifle as 'the foundation for the .308 TRG-22. To enhance' accuracy, the rifle's receiver is a massive cold hammer-forged unit enclosed on top with an ejection port on the right side. It features an integral 17mm dovetail rail that facilitates the mounting of optics or target sights. Inside the receiver rides a "resistance free" bolt that features three symmetrical lugs with a total locking surface of 75mm. The bolt sports a large claw extractor and a conventional-style spring-loaded ejector. It's easily manipulated via an oversized Tactical bolt handle and features a short 60-degree throw.

Mated to the receiver is a free-floating, cold hammer-forged match barrel. Length is 26 inches with four grooves and a right hand twist of 1:11. The muzzle is threaded to allow mounting an iron front sight and/or muzzlebrake. In addition, a suppressor can be mounted, and the rifling twist of 1:11 was utilized specifically for best accuracy with subsonic ammunition. Being able, to easily affix a suppressor to the weapon increases both the weapon's usefulness and a sniper's survivability on the modern battlefield.

The receiver is mated via three screws to an aluminum alloy bedding block. Encompassing the bedding block is an ergonomic injection-molded polyurethane two-piece stock. The stock design belies its, target rifle heritage and can be used as a sniper rifle, UIT standard rifle, or CISM Military rapid fire rifle. While very different from the stock on a U.S. M24 or M40A1 sniper rifle, it nonetheless is well thought-out and comfortable. The forend is wide, and slightly beavertailed, with an accessory rail, yet it's not blocky like that of the Accuracy International AWP, and it carries' well. The butt features a prominent pistolgrip, angled for a comfortable hold.

To ensure a perfect fit, the, rifle's stock is fully adjustable. The shooter can adjust not only for length-of-pull, but also the buttplate's height and pitch. Similarly, the comb can be adjusted for both height and pitch. One thing that I like about the Sako system is that to make 'adjustments, spacers are added or removed to, facilitate adjustments. While not as quick as a thumbwheel system, once adjusted, it stays put. And let's be honest, once you've set the rifle up to fit, that's where you want it to stay. I personally prefer this type of system over one that can come out of adjustment simply by being dragged around while on a stalk. In addition, these adjustments allow the rifle to be tailored to fit the individual rifleman, whether right- or left-handed.

The rifle feeds from a detachable 10-round magazine. Simple looking, it features central feed for reliability. Cartridges load easily into the magazines, and the mags insert, and eject smoothly from the weapon. Best of all, cartridges feed effortlessly. What more could you ask for? The magazine release is a simple protected lever located in front of the trigger guard. If for some reason the mag doesn't eject completely, a stud is located on each side of the unit allowing it to be quickly pulled free. This is easily the best detachable magazine system I have ever seen on a bolt-action rifle.

The trigger on the TRG-22 is, not only excellent, but it also has a very flexible design. It's a two-stage affair and is adjustable to give a pull weight of 2 to 4 pounds. However, it can also be adjusted for horizontal and vertical pitch. This allows operators to optimally position the trigger for their individual finger reach. Trigger travel is very short, with no over-travel. A safety notch is designed in to prevent a discharge from occurring after a sudden impact. The manual safety is a Garand-style and located to the front of the trigger inside the triggerguard. I feel that this is the optimum position with this type of pistolgrip design. Otherwise, a conventionally located thumbsafety would be very difficult to manipulate, especially if prone in a firing position. Applying the safety locks the trigger mechanism, blocks the firing pin, and locks the bolt. Interestingly, the trigger mechanism can be removed without having to disassemble the rifle.

The Right Gear Far A Great Rifle

I received a TRG-22, bipod, muzzlebrake and quick-release scope mount for testing. The quick-release scope mount attaches securely to the rifle's receiver and allows operators to easily replace their day optics with a nightvision device by simply throwing a lever. Seeing as this was a sniper rifle and not a target or varmint rig, I mounted an I.O.R. Valdada 2.5-10x42 Tactical scope in the Sako mount. Featuring German glass, Zeiss lens coatings, an etched Mil reticle and repeatable adjustments, I.O.R.'s scope was a perfect match. Onto the scope tube, I mounted an Allison Tool Pathfinder Ballistic Chart. This handy little gem does away with taping ballistics cards to the butt-stock. Operating like a tape measure, it contains elevation and windage data out to 1,000 yards. The steel bipod attaches/detaches easily and simply slides into a rectangular slot in the front of the forend where it locks in place. The legs adjust for height, and the whole unit swivels for uneven terrain. The muzzlebrake is a large three- chamber unit that screws onto the muzzle and then is locked in place via a set screw. If an operator doesn't wish to utilize the brake, a muzzle nut protects the barrel's threads. Also available from Sako are back-up iron sights and a sling. The sling is designed to be used either as shooting sling for support or biathlon-style, which allows operators to carry the rifle on their back like a backpack with a strap over each shoulder.

Sako's TRG-22 is by no means cheap. So I was interested in seeing just what you got for your hard-earned money. To evaluate the rifle, I carried it in the field and used it to engage targets at both known and unknown distances. For testing purposes, I utilized four well-respected Match loads. The first was Sellier&Bellot's t68-grain HPBT load. Manufactured in the Czech Republic, this ammunition is monotonously consistent. My other two favorite .308 Match loads are PMC and Winchester's 168-grain HPBT loadings. These are both proven performers in my book. For long-range use, 175-grain bullets have become very popular, so I included Black Hills Match loading in this weight as well. Lastly, I included some British surplus 147-grain Radway Green FMJBTs.

Road Test

A sniper rifle needs to be capable of much more than just shooting small groups, so I didn't simply test it off the bench. Instead, I zeroed the rifle at 300 yards and proceeded to become familiar with it while shooting prone off the bipod. Magazines loaded easily and locked securely in place with a simple upward push. Working the bolt, I was impressed by the small amount of force required to open it how smoothly rounds fed, and the action's overall feel. In a word, it's "slick." The safety is easily manipulated, either ON or OFF, from a firing grip. Take a breath, let half out, settle the I.O.R.'s crosshairs, squeeze lightly on the trigger, and a baseball size rock disappears off the 300-yard berm. Groovey.

Recoil is extremely light thanks to the effective muzzlebrake. There is so little scope movement during recoil that you can actually spot your own hits. Shooting it side by side with a Sako .223 Varmint rifle with 68-grain Match loads shows the TRG-22 to actually move less under recoil. A flick of the wrist sends an empty case spinning through the air and loads a fresh round into the chamber. It's an impressive machine.

Firing on widely spaced multiple targets as fast as possible brought the Sako into its own. Here the amount of thought and work that went into every component of the Sako design became apparent. The wide-footed and low-slung bipod allowed easy traversing from target to target. The muzzlebrake kept muzzle rise and recoil to a minimum allowing fast follow-up shots. The action requires very little effort, and its short throw makes it extremely quick. The stock design is both comfortable and ergonomic. Due to its lack of recoil and extremely fast action, I feel that this rifle, in skilled hands, is probably as fast or faster than a semiauto for precision fire from the prone. Getting up out of the dirt and firing offhand showed how well-designed the stock was. Even head shots on an IPSC target were easily made firing offhand at 300 yards. Later, during a night fire, I checked the weapon's flash signature. While evident due to the muzzlebrake, it was less than expected.

Having a feel for the Sako, I came down eight 1/2 MOA clicks on the I.O.R. Tactical scope and proceeded to fire for groups at 100 yards. All groups were fired prone, from the bipod. During testing two five-shot groups were fired, then the bore brushed and allowed to cool. A total of four five-shot groups were fired with each type of ammunition. Here the rifle proved my better. The Sako consistently put three rounds into .2 to .3 inch with all five coming into .5 inch at 100 yards. Top performance came with Sellier&Bellot's Match load, which averaged .42 inch. Remember, this is an out-of-the box rifle firing factory ammunition, and these are five-shot, not three-shot, groups we're talking about. To put it mildly, this rifle shoots! To be honest, though, I was not surprised. Sakos have a reputation for being superbly accurate. As an example, I have a friend who's stock TRG-21, using handloads, has put 10 rounds into 4.25 inches at 800 yards. I would expect similar performance from this rifle.

With a retail price of $2,415, the TRG22 is not for everyone. However, for someone interested in a serious rifle that's both well-engineered and well-made, the Sako deserves a look. A custom longrange rifle will cost you at least this much from any of the well-known builders., and you wont have to put up with the 2-year wait. Me? Well, to be honest, I sold my faithful Remington 700PSS to help buy a new TRG-22, and I couldn't be happier.

REFERENCES:

Lapin, Terence W.. THE MOSIN-NAGANT RIFLE. North Cape Publications, Tustin, California. 1998.

Taylor, John D.. MINUTE OF ANGLE.

World Publishing Corp., Apache Junction, Arizona. Volume 1 Issue 4 July 1999.

Walter, John. RIFLES OFTHE WORLD. Krause Publications. lola, WI. 1998.
TRG-22 ACCURACY AND VELOCITY CHART

Black Hills 175-grain Match
 Vel 2,603 100 yd .50" 300 yd 1.25"
PMC 168-grain Match
 Vel 2,469 100 yd .65" 300 yd 1.38"
S&B 158-grain Match
 Vel 2574 100 yd .47" 300 yd 1.25"
Winchester 168-grain Match
 Vel 2,600 100 yd .57" 300 yd 1.5"
Radway Green 147-grain Ball
 Vel 2,780 100 yd 1.5" 300 yd 4.0"

Groups are an average of four five-shot groups fired prone from the
bipod. Velocity readings were taken 12 feet from the muzzle with an
Oehler 35P chronograph.
TRG-22 SPECIFICATIONS

 Operation Manual Turnbolt w/60 degree lift, 3 7/8" throw
 Caliber .308 Winchester
 Length 45.25 inches
 Weight 10.36 pounds (Without optics)
 Barrel 26 inches, 4 grooves RH Twist 1:11
 Feed 10 round detachable box magazine
Manufacturer Sako Ltd. -- Riihimaki, Finland
COPYRIGHT 2002 Publishers' Development Corporation
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2002 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

 
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Author:Fortier, David M.
Publication:Guns Magazine
Date:Apr 1, 2002
Words:2412
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