The popularity of long-range shooting in recent years has seen major rifle manufacturers worldwide release some excellent products well suited to the target shooter and hunter alike. Most of these rifles are generally characterised by heavy-contour barrelled actions mated up to any rifle stock the prospective purchaser may require, be it a conventional, fully-adjustable or even chassis-style system. Stalking rifles they’re certainly not, geared entirely to shooting from a benchrest or prone position.
Last year Sako of Finland released an exciting new model Black Wolf, offered in a wide range of action and barrel lengths and calibres and featuring a fluted, medium contour barrel mated up to its corresponding Sako 85 action. The stock gives the rifle its identity and is furnished from striking black/grey walnut laminate timber with inbuilt provisions for adjusting the length-of-pull and comb height.
Sako distributor Beretta Australia supplied the SSAA with a review rifle in .308 Winchester along with the new model Steiner Ranger riflescope in 2.5-10×50 with Sako Optilock rings and bases (see review on Page XX).
The Black Wolf is a turn-bolt repeating rifle allied to Sako’s M85 action coupled with a medium contour fluted barrel, threaded at its muzzle to take compatible accessories. The entire metalwork is matte black which contrasts well with the black/grey walnut laminate stock with its characteristic pistol grip and adjustable provisions for length-of-pull and comb height. It’s offered in three action lengths (S, M, L) as well as two barrel lengths in 13 calibres from .22-250 Remington right up to 9.3×62 and two magnum calibres in 7mm Rem Mag and .300 Win Mag.
This is the ‘S’ action (short) and measures 215mm x 35mm with the ejection port (on the right-hand side) coming in at 70mm. The top of the receiver encompasses Sako’s trademark dual tapered dovetails which can accommodate an array of scope mounting options but is tailor-made for the Sako Optilock rings and bases.
The left-hand side has an angled scalloped flat which follows the perimeter of the ejection port and bears the maker’s name, action size, serial number and proof mark. To the rear is the bolt release button which by pressing when the bolt is drawn back, allows for its removal for cleaning and safe storage. The receiver is finished in matte black, matching the rest of the metalwork.
This is of the ‘short’ action length measuring 70mm x 16mm and the bolt body is the only part of the visible surface that’s not matte black, going with a polished steel finish to allow the silky-smooth bolt travel the Sako 85 is known for. The bolt head encompasses triple locking lugs, a claw extractor on the right-hand side and a slot milled into the base which allows the blade ejector to come into play when the bolt is drawn fully back. It’s a system that works well, giving positive ejection of fired and unfired cases.
The bolt handle is a one-piece unit attached to the bolt body and is also matte black as is the steel bolt shroud on the rear of the body. The bolt handle is well profiled, comfortable in the hand and the 60-degree bolt lift ensures quick cycling of the action.
Safety and trigger
The trigger is a single stage unit (optional set trigger available), fully adjustable between 1-2kg and on the test rifle breaks crisply at 1.6kg. The trigger blade is aluminium with a gentle curved profile and ribbed surface allowing positive finger control. The safety mechanism is the Sako Safety System, a two-way affair which locks the trigger and bolt handle simultaneously and a small bolt release button just forward of the safety lever which, when depressed, lets the user load or remove a cartridge from the chamber while the safety is still engaged.
Magazine housing and magazine
The triggerguard and magazine housing is made from a single piece of steel and is neatly inletted into the floor of the stock. The detachable box magazine, made entirely from steel, incorporates Sako’s patented Total Control Latch system and sits securely in place, flush with the bottom surfaces. It’s by far the best detachable magazine system on a production rifle. It will never fall out accidentally and can be top-loaded through the ejection port in the normal manner as rifles which employ the standard box magazine and spring follower. Capacity in .308 Winchester is five rounds.
This is 620mm long and of a heavy-sporter profile akin to a #4 (medium) contour and in .308 Winchester calibre has a one in 11^ rate of twist with four grooves. It is cold hammer forged, chrome molybdenum in construction, matte blacked to match the rest of the rifle but, more importantly, is fluted. This gives some savings in weight and provides a slightly larger barrel surface area which allows for faster cooling. The muzzle is furnished with a 15×1 threaded section for attachment of accessories, the barrel crown finished with a target-profile.
The stock on the Black Wolf makes this Sako 85 model stand out from the rest. It’s characterised by a well-profiled ergonomic pistol grip, made to completely secure the dominant hand to the stock and provide a rock-solid hold in the process. It also assists in perfect alignment of the index finger to the trigger blade, imperative when shooting targets at longer distances. The stock is made of walnut laminate timber and is predominantly black/grey in colour.
The buttstock has two adjustable provisions which allow for length-of-pull and comb height to be adjusted simply by pressing the square-shaped button and sliding the recoil pad or cheek-piece to the desired position. The fore-end has a wide but rounded profile to use with a benchrest-style bag or bipod which can be attached to one of the two front sling swivel studs. Another sling swivel stud is fitted near the toe of the stock and the adjustable buttplate has a quality sorbothane recoil pad.
Removing the barrelled action from the stock, the clean inletting in the laminate mortise was as expected. A steel plate is screwed into the floor of the laminate stock just forward of the magazine well, to which the Sako recoil lug mates up directly. The steel plate accommodates the recoil lug and provides a bearing surface for the front of the receiver ring to bed upon.
Other than the front bedding plate, the rest of the receiver beds directly upon the laminate and two action screws, one behind the trigger group and one in front of the magazine assembly, to secure the barrelled action to the laminate stock. The barrel is free-floating along its entire length. The review rifle in .308 Winchester is 1140mm long, 4.2kg and comes with a T25 Torx wrench, two sling swivels, cocking wrench and comprehensive user manual.
At the range
Accuracy testing was done at the usual 100m with five three-shot groups and a barrel clean between changes in ammunition (see table). Being a new rifle, the barrel was thoroughly cleaned before use to remove any factory preservatives.
Accuracy testing: Sako 85 Black Wolf .308 Winchester at 100m
Best group (mm)
Worst group (mm)
Average group (mm)*
Sako Super Hammerhead 150gr
Hornady Superformance 150gr SST
Federal Premium Gold Medal Berger 165gr
Hornady Match 168gr OTM
Hornady Whitetail 150gr Interlock
* Average group calculated from five three-shot groups at 100m
The match ammunition brands gave some tidy average group sizes, while the hunting loads also performed well – a stand-out group of 12mm for the Hornady Whitetail was probably a lucky one. I’d say as the barrel bedded in, groups would tighten up and the true accuracy potential would shine through.
Judicious handloads would bring the best out of the medium contour one in 11^ twist barrel and would be my choice of ammunition if I was to use the Black Wolf out to 1000m. For this review I only stretched its legs to 300m and shooting some steel plates was entertaining with the correct hold-over dialed in through the new Steiner Ranger 2.5-10×50 scope.
The Sako 85 Black Wolf is a quality rifle that marries an excellent laminate stock with a tried and tested barrelled action. With the review rifle weighing almost 5kg with the Steiner Ranger optic fitted, it lends itself to shooting off a rest or in the prone position with the aid of a bipod. As supplied in .308 Winchester its retail price of $3889 isn’t cheap but you have quality in a brand and model that delivers the best with no shortcomings. For more, visit berettaaustralia.com.
Manufacturer: Sako, Finland
Model: 85 Black Wolf
Distributor: Beretta Australia
Calibres: Short Action – .308 Winchester (tested), .22-250 Rem, .243 Win, .260 Rem, 7mm-08 Rem
Medium Action – .25-06 Rem, 6.5 x55 SE, .270 Win, .30-06 Spr, 8×57 JS, 9.3×62
Long Action – 7mm Rem Mag, .300 Win Mag
Weight: 4.2kg (bare .308 Win review rifle)
Sights: Clean barrel. Tapered dovetails on receiver for scope mounting hardware
Receiver: Sako 85 manually operated bolt action, three locking lugs, control round feed with mechanical ejection. Matte black finish
Barrel: Cold hammer forged, medium contour barrel 620mm with fluting, free floated. Matte black finish. Muzzle threaded 15×1 for accessories
Stock: Black/grey walnut laminate matte oil finished with quick adjustable recoil pad and cheek-piece (length-of-pull and comb height)
Magazine: Short/medium action – five rounds in magazine, one in chamber; long action – four rounds in magazine, one in chamber; detachable two row staggered steel magazine
Total length: 1140mm (review rifle)
Weight: 4.2kg (review rifle)