Gun Test: Sauer 100 Classic XT
An eminently shootable, and surprisingly affordable, German rifle
“Affordability” isn’t a word typically associated with the rifles made by the German firm J.P. Sauer & Sohn. First, they have to pay the salaries of all those highly skilled European workers. Then there’s the fact that the Germans don’t like to skimp on features and performance when it comes to their firearms. The result is that not only do you get a wonderful gun when you throw down for one, but your bank account will take a hit—and you can consider yourself fortunate if the four-figure price you paid starts with the numeral 1.
So when Sauer announced they were making a bolt gun with the un-Teutonic price of $699, I couldn’t help but wonder what corners they would need to cut to pull that off. After spending a few months with the .308 they sent me to evaluate, I’m still unsure of what wizardry they resorted to in making such a fine rifle for that price. What corner cutting I could find was minimal.
Meets Purpose: 9
Total Score: 91/100
For instance, the rifle doesn’t come stocked with high-grade wood and ornate checkering, so they saved some money there. But the Classic XT’s black synthetic stock is by far the best I’ve seen on a rifle in this price range. Sauer based the geometry of the stock on that of their higher-end rifles: the S101 and S404. It has a slight palm swell that fit my hand beautifully and is shaped in such a way that my finger aligned perfectly with the trigger. Even better, there is plenty of clearance under the amply sized bolt handle for the trigger finger, so you never have to contort your shooting hand when you get into position to take a shot. This seemingly obvious design element is one that many rifle makers overlook.
The front end of the stock has a Schnabel forend. Again, it fit nicely in my hand and contributed to the rifle’s fine balance and handling characteristics. If I could change anything about the stock, it would be the position of the forward swivel stud so that it projects straight out from the tip of the forend. As is, it sits right where the shooter’s lead hand wants to go.
The checkering on the rifle consists of a series of what appear to be upside-down Nike swooshes. Unconventional, but they give both hands really good purchase.
The action is a three-lug design with a large-diameter bolt body. The rifle cocks easily, and the bolt runs back and forth in the receiver briskly and with no hitches or hang-ups. This made the 100 speedy to cycle and shoot. It breezed through my rapid-fire drills like a champ. It’s easy to picture it taking down running boar in the Black Forest.
The profile of the receiver is a Remington 700 clone, so there are plenty of options when it comes to shopping for bases.
The flush-mounted detachable box magazine holds five rounds of ammo in small and mid-size calibers, and four rounds in magnum chamberings. Like everything else on this rifle, the magazine works flawlessly and with minimal effort. Sauer has rolled out the 100 in a host of calibers, from .223 Rem. up to 7mm Rem. Mag. I was happy to see that they’ve included both the 6.5 Creedmoor and the 6.5×55 Swede in the mix. Both are great calibers that would work well in this rifle.
Not that I had any issues with it chambered in .308. The accuracy of the rifle is excellent, though it was a bit picky regarding the ammo it liked best. With match-grade ammo, it had no issue printing 5-shot groups just around an inch. If I were to take it hunting, I’d opt for the Black Hills 168-grain Tipped Sierra Matchkings. Groups with this load averaged 1.081 inches.
The rifle achieved this accuracy thanks to a light trigger, a beefy bedding system joining the action and stock, and a well-made barrel.
At 1 pound 12 ounces, the trigger on my sample was a pleasure to shoot, but I would use its adjustment feature to set it to at least 2 ½ pounds for hunting. The risk of prematurely cranking off a shot when your hands are numb and fatigue has set in is just too high with a trigger that light.
The rifle has a large block of metal for a recoil lug and a pillar system for the guard screws, so the stock and receiver join up solidly. For added contact and stiffness, Sauer used a big glob of bedding compound to take up space between the lug and the recess in the stock. This is a good thing when it’s done right, but Sauer did a sloppy job with mine. There was so much compound that I had to apply an unholy amount of force to separate the action and stock, cracking and breaking the bedding compound as the pieces came free. Perhaps this was another cut corner. Extra quality control here would go a long way.
I had no such complaints about the cold-hammer-forged barrel, which was outstanding. The ripple-free exterior and the minimal tooling marks on the inside were both indications of the quality of its construction.
At $699, this rifle is one of the best values I’ve come across in a long time. Its excellent performance is enhanced by its aesthetic and ergonomic refinements, which few other rifles can match.
Caliber: .308 Win
Weight: 6 lb. 12 oz.
Trigger Pull: 1 lb. 12 oz.
Smallest Group: 1.064
Barrel Length: 22 in.
Overall Length: 41 ⁷⁄₈ in.