Mike Powell tests out a switch-barrel rifle from Sako that offers shooters four calibres.
The concept of having interchangeable (or switch) barrels on a rifle is nothing new, but rifles incorporating this system almost always came from Austria or Germany, were invariably centrefire, and generally only offered a choice of a couple of calibres. Then around 2006 the well known Finnish company Sako announced the arrival of the ‘Quad’. As the name suggested were there four calibres to choose from, but not only that, they were all rimfires. The choices are, 17HMR, 17Mach 2, 22LR and 22WMR, thus giving the vermin shooter in particular every choice of rimfire calibre available, while only requiring them to purchase the rifle of choice, and if wishing to add to the armoury by purchasing another barrel and magazine you can, with a quick barrel change, move on to another calibre while retaining all other components.
After approaching GMK to see if I could get my hands on one to review, who soon had one on its way, I chose the 22LR and the 17HMR as an additional barrel as I would suspect these would be the choice of many shooters.
From the box the rifle certainly didn’t let the make down. Having owned Sako centrefires myself I was already aware that this manufacturer turns out well-finished rifles, and this one was no exception. The walnut stock, although not heavily figured, was oil finished with cut chequering that was sharp and of a nice design, which set off the overall appearance very well. The shape and height of the cheekpiece was well designed and brought your eye nicely in line with the scope, which is not always the case in modern rifles. Length of pull was 14 ½ inches, and suited me very well indeed. The forend is slightly tapered and is fitted with studs for sling swivels. The butt is finished with a black plastic spacer and a rather nice rubber pad that, although quite smooth, was grippy enough in use.
The 22 inch tapered, fully floated barrel was finished black, and it has a profiled chamber end enabling it to be slid into the action facilitating the changeover of the various barrel options, which I will come to later. The action has integral scope mount dovetails (11mm). The barrel comes screw cut from the factory in the usual ½ inchUNF rimfire thread.
Overall the Quad hunter is a classic, good looking, nicely finished rifle.
Returning to the action, it is very similar to the old Finnfire, that proved itself very good indeed over many years. However some changes have had to be made to allow for the quick changeover of barrels, the most obvious being the enlarging of the ejector port to allow for the ejection of the longer 17HMR and WMR rounds.
The bolt is nicely shaped, and with its low lift and short throw it is very quick and positive to operate. Initially I was a bit disappointed in the smoothness of the bolt action, which I felt was not up to the usual Sako standard, but then I realised this rifle had made the rounds of other reviewers and testers. I read up on it and put a couple of drops of oil on the bolt, which transformed it!
Just in front of the bolt handle is the bolt release catch which, upon depressing, releases the bolt itself. Behind the bolt handle is the thumb operated safety catch, which was both smooth and positive in its action and was found easily when needed. Turning the rifle over revealed the magazine. It is held in place by a forward mounted catch that allowed the mag to drop out easily, and unlike on some makes the five-shot magazine was also easy to insert. The same sized magazine is used for all calibres with the shorter versions (22LR and mach 2) being catered for by way of a reducing plug inserted at the rear.
The trigger itself is a grooved blade set at around four pounds at the factory, but it is adjustable. It is a single stage unit and in operation is one of the best rimfire triggers I have come across; breaking cleanly with no sign of creep, it was a pleasure to use.
The barrel change system is simplicity itself. First open the bolt, then remove the magazine. Just in front of the magazine opening is a 5mm allen screw, the key for which comes with the rifle. Once loosened off, the barrel can be tilted upwards and withdrawn. To install the new barrel you simply reverse the procedure. Depending on the size of the objective lens of your scope you may need to either take off the scope or loosen the forend to change barrels.
Colour coding is used to identify the various magazines and barrels as they are all the same weight, profile, and length once fitted, and there is no noticeable difference in handling characteristics. Colours used are 22LR Green, 17HMR Orange, 17Mach 2 Blue and WMR is Yellow. A colour coded O-ring is located forward of the barrel receiver joint.
Overall, I thought this was a very useful and well-made rifle, as you would expect from Sako. I would think the two most useful calibres would be the 17HMR and the good old 22LR. Whilst the other two do the job and certainly have their followers, I am not sure as to when a UK-based shooter would use the 17Mach2 over the 17HMR. Agreed, the WMR could be better for fox, but would you set off on a foxing outing with that particular round?
Next up was to try the rifle on the range. There has been mention in the past about the Quad not extracting fired rounds due, it would seem, to the lubricant on some makes of ammo. During the test I did have one round that failed to extract and, despite several goes, it just wouldn’t come out. Strangely, I was able to hook it out with my fingernail very easily indeed, so I am not sure what that was all about!
Zeroing at 75 yards I tried CCI standard velocity hollow points, CCI segmented, CCI ‘Quiet’ and, my usual ammo of choice, Winchester subsonic.
The best by a small margin turned out to be the CCI subsonic hollow points, closely followed by the segmented variety. Just for a change, the Quad in this test really didn’t like the good old Winchesters! I had never tried the CCI ‘Quiets’ before and while they were indeed quiet, I found at anything much more than 35 yards or so they were a bit of a waste of time. I did try them at much shorter ranges on a few rats and they were absolutely fine out to 25 yards. However, you would need to check how they perform in your rifle as there is of course a very big difference between them and normal velocity ammunition. I slipped out with the Sako in the late evening for a quick try of the rifles and saw one rabbit at 85 yards and the one shot from the Quad did the job.
To sum up, the Sako Quad is a well made and attractive looking rifle and together with its ability to have a variety of calibres would make it an attractive proposition to anyone looking for a rifle that would perform a variety of tasks.
Model: Sako Quad Hunter
Price: From £1,040
Contact: 01489 579999