The Best Sauer of all time
Putting a Sauer to the test and loving it.
To hunt is an ancient human instinct. To track a wild animal and bag it by applying knowledge and determination is a true challenge. And when you do that with one of the best bolt-action rifles ever made, it is a privilege.
I own a whole range of Sauer rifles and have ordered a Sauer 404 for my collection but when Helgard of L&O, the agents for Sauer, asked me to do an article on the Sauer Model 404 in .308 calibre, I gladly accepted!
I have fired a Sauer 404 on a previous occasion, but never had the chance to test all the new features on this gun or to take it out hunting.
The first thing that caught my eye was the high-grade walnut stock of the test model. The stock’s comb slopes upwards to the rear to significantly reduce felt recoil. Another nice feature is the cast-off for right-handed shooters. This, combined with a newly-designed cheekpiece, gives the shooter more positive contact with the stock. A welldefined palm swell on the pistol grip is standard on the Model 404. These features help reduce recoil significantly and also gives
the rifle that “custom-fit” feel.
The fore-end can be removed within 30 seconds by removing the front sling swivel which doubles as an Allen key wrench. In order to get to the Sauer’s adjustable trigger it is necessary to remove the fore-end. Sauer calls this new trigger the Sauer Quattro which means that the trigger is adjustable for four different trigger pull weights: 550g, 750g, 1 000g and 1 250g. Adjusting the trigger to your desired pull weight can be done in seconds.
The same sling swivel/Allen wrench is also used to remove the barrel when you want to switch to another. Yes, the Model 404 is a switch-barrel rifle!
I decided to test the rifle with Norma Oryx 165gr ammunition (which I will use on my hunt) as well as with some Federal Match 168gr ammunition on the shooting range.
I set up my Kongsberg Target System at 100m and proceeded to shoot some groups with the Norma ammunition.
For the tests I set the trigger to the lightest setting (550g or 1.2lbs). In addition to the trigger-pull weight settings, the S404 also features settings for the length of pull of the trigger and the trigger blade itself can swivel about five degrees on the trigger (some people prefer a trigger that slants to one side). The test rifle fitted me perfectly as it came from the factory so I did not fiddle with the other settings.
My first three-shot with the Normas group measured 16.3mm which is more than adequate for hunting purposes. Antonie Smith from Lekana Gunshop, who accompanied me, tried his hand with the Sauer and shot a 9.3mm group!
Antonie immediately fell in love with the rifle and urged me to move the target to 200m and we proceeded by using the Federal ammunition. My three-shot group at 200m measured 21mm and Antonie’s 19.2mm. Antonie fired a fourth shot which opened the group up to 21.5mm. We were really impressed by the Sauer’s accuracy.
After experimenting with the other trigger-pull settings I settled on setting number three (1 000g/2.2lb) for the hunt. Because of the clean, crisp break of the trigger, even the 2.2lbs setting feels light.
My hunt would take place on our family farm near Musina »
» and I planned to try for impala and something bigger such as kudu or gemsbuck. This would also be a proper walk and stalk hunt because I wanted to carry the rifle in the bush to test how it handles and carries. I was also curious to see how the Norma Oryx ammunition would perform.
The test gun was fitted with a German Minox ZX5 3-15x56 scope with a fine plex reticle. L&O used Sauer’s new universal quick-release mounting system. Quick-release mounting systems are handy when you disassemble the rifle for travelling purposes. I used a custom Sauer case which worked very well indeed.
This scope worked to perfection on the shooting range, and I was keen to try it out in the bush.
Another nice feature of this thoroughbred Sauer is the patented safety concept. The cocking slide on the bolt shroud allows the rifle to be cocked both comfortably and silently since the sound of the detent button in the rear third of the slide is automatically muffled by the soft flesh of your thumb. In addition to the manual cocking feature, an automatic firing-pin safety works inside the S404 to prevent it from firing when the bolt is not fully closed.
Not being used to the new cocking feature, I carried the 404 in the same way that I normally carry my Sauer 202 – magazine filled with cartridges but with an empty chamber. Upon spotting impala, I cycled the S404’s bolt silently and stalked with the bolt half closed. The Sauer S404 has a definite “halfcock” setting which prevents the bolt from sliding open accidentally, but the rifle will not fire in the half-cock position.
The S404 comes with a threeshot magazine. When hunting I normally use two magazines; one fully loaded that goes into the rifle and another fully loaded one that I carry in my pocket.
I took the impala with a solid shoulder shot and the 165gr Oryx bullet fully penetrated the body, so I was obviously unable to recover the bullet. On day two, I finally got a chance at a gemsbuck and shot it while the animal was quartering slightly away from me. The bullet hit behind the nearest shoulder and we recovered it under the skin on the opposite shoulder. It mushroomed perfectly, the core and jacket did not separate and the weight retention was 91% of the original.
When hunting the gemsbuck, I tried the “one-up” method of carrying the rifle with the cocking slide on the bolt in “safe” mode. This worked very well, but is something you need to get used to. It is, however, definitively a nice safety feature.
A variety of calibres and optional extras are available for the Sauer. The S404 comes in 13 different calibres in varying barrel lengths and profiles. Optional extras include increased capacity replacement magazines, muzzle threading for a silencer, a choice of wooden stocks (10 different grades of walnut). Polymer stocks are also available. Left-handed versions, ladies’ versions (S404 Artemis), standard as well as custom hand-engraved versions are available too.
I am convinced that Sauer & Sohn GmbH is one of the top manufacturers in the world when it comes to hand-finished, first-class hunting rifles.
The Minox 3-15x56 scope mounted on the S404.
Sauer S404 rifle.
ABOVE: The S404 bolt in the “halfcock” setting.
The cocking slide on the S404.
Sauer Quattro trigger settings. The four settings adjust the trigger pull from 550g to 1.250kg.
The integral Sauer SUS universal key.
I used my Kongsberg Target System to test the Sauer on the range. The Kongsberg allows you to see and plot your shots without having to go forward to inspect the target.
Norma Oryx bullet recovered from the gemsbuck I hunted.
The same Norma bullet from another angle.