“You could take either of those when they present a decent shot” I whispered into my American friend Andy’s ear. A couple of fallow prickets had just popped out of the woods to graze amongst the wheat stubble, and the twenty or so does and fawns that were already there enjoying some early autumn evening sun. Eventually a clear broadside target became available. Andy centred the ‘scope’s reticle just behind the buck’s shoulder, squeezed the trigger, and was instantly confused. The moderated crack of the Sauer 202 .243 rifle, together with relative lack of recoil, was in total conflict with his usual larger calibre un-moderated experiences, and his immediate thought was that one of my home-loads had misfired! I, meanwhile, was watching the pricket gasping its last. Then, as its friend stopped his flight towards safety, turning back to see what had happened, I muttered to Andy “Shoot the other one”. This was too much for the poor guy, whose brain reverted to American hunting mode, reminding him that his bag limit was one buck a season. Eventually it dawned on him that this was England, where we do things slightly differently, and the second pricket bit the dust.
The next evening Andy was unlucky not to get a pretty good roe buck. Everything was looking good until the extended overall length of the rifle, due to its sound moderator, caught him out and it rattled against the roof of the high-seat. Things were more than made up for though, when, during the following day, we managed to find a superb mature fallow buck – an excellent trophy for him to take back home to Wyoming as a memento of his first experience of hunting on this side of The Pond. Andy became quite fond of this rifle and so, in the three years that I have owned it, have I.
Over the last two decades, there has always been room reserved in my firearms cabinet for a Sauer rifle or two. Liking the idea of its adaptability, with exchangeable barrels, hence interchangeable calibres, I acquired one of the first Sauer 200 models to arrive in the UK. This was chambered in .243 but, in common with many British shooters whose preference is for absolute solidity in barrelled actions, stocks, ‘scope mounts and so on, when it came to adding another calibre to my Firearms Certificate – .308 in my case – I never considered purchasing the extra barrel ( and bolt). Instead I bought another complete Sauer rifle, albeit a model 90.
The 200 did several years sterling service, until the day that I fell in love with a gorgeously stocked Sauer 90 .243. This, in turn, was a rifle that I treasured. And then, one day….. I just cannot keep hold of a good-looking rifle! On four occasions that I can think of, other shooters, ogling the quality of the woodwork on my guns, have made me offers, with over-the-top prices, that have been impossible to resist. I have swiftly parted with highly treasured possessions in the most mercenary of fashions.
Recently an extremely pretty, and very rare, Sauer 90 in .222, complete with roe deer engravings, became the final casualty to fly the cabinet in this way. Now every one of the rifles that I own has a synthetic stock. More shooters find these ugly rather than desirable, and no one has ever bid me on any of them. With any luck, my propensity to exchange firearms is now at an end!
Utility and durability are prerequisites for my ‘tools of the trade’, facets that are very much reflected in my current choice of .243 rifle: the ‘Outback’ version of Sauer’s model 202. The Outback has been designed with weight in mind: in fact the original model name was ‘LAW’ – Lightweight All Weather. As a modular system, with the bolt locking directly into the barrel, an alloy action can be utilised, saving a further few ounces. Although this means that the bolt does not operate quite as sweetly as in the ultra-smooth steel actions, it is still a great deal better than most.
Sauer triggers have a great reputation too, and that on the 202 lives up to expectations. It can either be used as a conventional single-stage squeeze, or pushed forward to ‘set’, when a featherweight touch will send a bullet on its way. The safety catch may take a little getting used to but, as your trigger finger pushes it up, it is completely silent in operation. I do have one issue over this safety though: in order to work the bolt to unload, you have to take the safety off. Not an uncommon feature amongst rifle makes, but in the case of the 202 this does mean having your finger within the trigger guard. It seems a shame that Sauer have not built in a bolt locking release button, as on their own model 90.
The 22” barrel is fluted: adding to the overall lightness of the package, whilst maintaining strength and a relatively large surface area. Eschewing conventional blueing, an Ilaflon polymer coating is used. This is extremely tough and abuse resistant whilst, at the same time, providing a matt finish that blends in perfectly with the rifle’s particularly purposeful looks. If anything, this was further enhanced when I fitted an Ase Utra Jet-Z moderator.
In its more recent production, the alloy action comes complete with integral Weaver-style bases, allowing for particularly positive and simple ‘scope ring installation. Previously there had been cases where over-zealous tightening of mount base screws had stripped the actions’ fine threads. This was something that I particularly bore in mind as I fitted EAW fixed mounts, and a Swarovski 8×50 PF optic.
The two-piece black injection-moulded synthetic stock fits well in the hand, comes easily into the shoulder, and does a reasonable job of recoil absorption. It is pleasantly ‘grippy’ too, even in cold, wet winter stalking conditions. I fitted a QD sling swivel stud to the forend, allowing a Harris bipod to be used when circumstances dictated. That done, I was ready to take to the woods and see how the rifle performed.
Straight out of the box this Sauer shot well. On a very broad variety of factory ammunition, from 55-grain Federal Ballistic Tip, through Sako 85-grain Powerhead (using the Barnes X-Bullet), right up to RWS GECO 105-grain, it consistently grouped within an inch at 100 yards. With a little bit of tuning on the range and the reloading bench, I am now pretty set on a load that launches a Sierra 100-grain Pro Hunter bullet at just under 3,000 feet per second. This makes for comfortable shooting with great terminal results: the much sought-after ‘clover leaf’ on the target, combined with excellent knock-down characteristics, without undue meat damage, in the stalking environment. Fallow deer are this rifle’s most common prey, followed by sika and roe in equal measure. Added to that, even though it does not have the dramatic effect of a lighter polymer-tipped projectile, it is mustard on foxes!
This 202 is now the only Sauer in my gun cabinet. From time to time I wistfully reminisce over silky smooth Sauer 90 actions, sitting atop the most strikingly figured rich walnut stocks. But then reality kicks in, and I know that as a day-to-day working rifle, for me the Outback has been the correct decision. I am certain that this one will remain in my possession for many year to come!