The Sauer 202 Lightweight Synthetic Rifle -
By Derek Kendall
Back in the summer of 2002 I purchased a SAUER 202 lightweight Synthetic (LAW) chambered in the popular and proven 6.5x55mm Swedish. Few doubted that SAUER had produced yet another very robust, workmanlike rifle with plenty of new designs including a new synthetic stock. A fluted barrel, glass smooth bolt, Ilaflon covering and overall lightweight design completed the package.
Initial impressions were good with ease of use and accuracy unaffected by any normal rough treatment or weather. Fitting of a scope and Zeroing were routine and groups of around 1.5 inch were printed regardless of ammunition, bullet, weight or velocities. How did it perform in the field? . . . read on.
Correct deer management is never cheap nor easy but can in the main be made easier by learning thoroughly the tricks of the trade and by using quality components. Rifles, scopes, binoculars and knives, amid an array of other essential items, should be of the highest quality one can afford.
The new 202 Lightweight Synthetic fits comfortably into this category at the just affordable end of the market. In it's "out of the box" condition the rifle will perform well within desirable parameters. This simple fact gives the sportsman an immediate advantage in the field, not to mention confidence and, let's face it, any advantage is an important step in the right direction. The experience is better understood if one has suffered a rifle that refuses to perform!
My choice of calibre hopefully requires little explanation, being both dependable and inherently accurate with a good spread of bullet weights giving the reloader adequate flexibility. My first choice would have been 7mm-08, but SAUER do not produce the weapon in this calibre, which is a shame. Other popular calibres offered in the 202 Lightweight Synthetic include 30-06 Springfield and .308 Winchester, which were too big for what I needed, .243 Winchester and 25-06 that were also excluded, although 25-06 was my next choice. The one thing that concerned was recoil in a lightweight rifle, especially in the more potent calibres such as .270 Winchester and beyond. The 6.5x55 seemed to fit nicely in-between and so far my reasoning has held water.
In the field:
What matters is how the chosen firearm performs when put to the test, either on the range or in the field. Interestingly, many rifles perform on the range but when fielded against live quarry seemingly go haywire. Personally, I feel this is mainly due to human error and individual situations, but there is maybe some truth in the adage "A bad workman blames his tools."
I know several extremely capable deer managers who use rifles which are nothing short of disgusting to look at but perform superbly regardless. I know more that use all the shiny gear but have no idea and who can often can be found in the bar talking a good miss! Looks can be deceiving but in this case SAUER have created an aesthetically pleasing rifle that also performs.
In order to cut the rifle's teeth I had to use factory ammunition. Developing reloads takes time and I was itching to put the rifle threw its paces. However, this proved a near disaster as the factory rounds were found to have splits along the case. This became apparent on the range during zeroing. Reloaders quickly become accustomed to checking each fired case for signs of pressure and in routine I did this with the factory ammo and to my horror found the splits. A check of the remaining rounds saw 27 cracked and split! A telephone call to the supplier resulted in other boxes of the same batch containing similar flaws. From the remaining good rounds, groups were consistent at 100 meters grouping around 1.5 inches, adequate for normal hunting. Bullets were 131 grain round nose averaging a shade under 2500 fps.
With knowledge of our local cull plan I set out one afternoon to pit my wits against Roe or Muntjac, two of our popular UK deer species. Having arrived on my beat I removed the rifle from its case and fitted both the three round magazine along with the bolt (having re-cocked it using the tool supplied) and applied the safety catch, all very straightforward.
Having gingerly slung the rifle over my shoulder, I moved off. The pop on sling swivel was new to me and I didn't want to drop the rifle before I had even begun. I needn't have worried because they are superb and do the job quietly. Although my enormous scope unbalances the set-up, it still carried easily and felt unobtrusive. I carry my rifle in two ways depending on the situation; either barrel up and forwards or slung conventionally barrel up and rear.
Unlike some of my dextrous friends, who can unhinge their rifle and have it on the sticks in the blink of the eye, I seem to take an age. I was pleased to find that the new rifle, being inherently light, made this action a little easier. Worth noting is the stock is hollow and very hard at the fore end, which means stalking sticks must be rubberised to prevent a noisy contact.
I am a firm advocate of only using binoculars when you are in some doubt or wish to carefully evaluate a given situation. Meaning that if you step into a ride and see a Muntjac buck at 30 yards, why mess about with binos, just get into a stable firing position and take the shot.
The new Sauer Lightweight Synthetic suits this style of hunting superbly, being very maneuverable yet retaining an air of solid dependability. The shot can be taken in a couple of ways. The first conventionally by simply lifting your trigger finger upwards against a plunger to release the safety and squeezing the trigger. The second is to release the safety as before but then push forward the trigger into it's set position. When set the tiniest of touches fires the rifle.
I have now successfully used both methods and prefer the latter for Ranges, highseat work and stalking when deer are being co-operative. The conventional method remains useful for all other situations when time does not permit setting of the trigger. De-cocking the set trigger is simply a matter of applying the safety catch before touching the trigger, which immediately clicks back into the normal position. Sounds slightly disconcerting and is, but a mechanical safety lock prevents the round being fired.
Recoil with factory 131 grain bullets was fine and I was able to hold aim and watch the fall of shot. Later my home loads were running several hundred feet per second quicker and recoil was more noticeable, but still acceptable. I believe that some of the reason folk like the smaller calibres, such as .243 Winchester, is the modest recoil and ability to hold aim and see fall of shot; this gives enormous confidence.
Once the shot is taken, cycling the bolt removes the empty case strongly. Re-chambering round two is also easy and positive. However, I should point out at this stage that whilst loaning my rifle to some candidates attempting their Deer Stalking Level one course, on one occasion the magazine spring failed to seat the last round high enough in order for the bolt to feed it into the chamber. This didn't happen again and has never happened to me.
Post stalk, unloading is easy but requires extra concentration due to the fact that the safety has to be released to open the bolt. The magazine pops out after having pushed a small plunger and the bolt slides out of the receiver after depressing a small lever with de-cock being via a small supplied tool.
Now that the rifle was shot in and giving me more and more confidence. I wanted to develop a couple of different rounds for hunting. Firstly a 120 grain bullet (Speer) for the Muntjac and Roe deer and a slightly deeper penetrating 140 grain (Speer) for Sika and Red deer. Back on Kynoch's Mildenhall range I fired 3 shot strings through a chronograph and recorded each shot.
It quickly became apparent that my new Lightweight Synthetic was following the SAUER time honoured tradition of grouping 2 rounds touching and 1 at around .75 to 1.25 inches above point of aim. This trait is common in most rifles but can be seen clearly on inherently accurate rifles such as is seen in the SAUER range. Sporting rifles are primarily designed to fire 2 or 3 shots before succumbing to heat distortion. I eventually settled on a 100m group of .75 inch, again 2 touching and one just off.
More recently, I have found that by using once fired cases with the same bullet and powder the rifle is now printing groups of .5 inch. This may be down to a combination of things such as further bedding in, correct cleaning and better fitting ammunition. Whatever the cause I was delighted with the end result.
On those occasions when a quick check fire is needed, the Sauer has put the first round within an inch of bull every time. I consider this single aspect as the most important factor when considering a rifle/bullet/accuracy comparison. Most would agree that it is the first round that counts most.
Further Field Work
Over the last few months I have shot Muntjac, Roe and Sika deer with the 6.5 and all have succumbed to its efficiency. However, many have run between 10-50m after being hit. All my bullets have exited as expected, and the blood trails are near perfect with a 100% record of follow up.
I consider myself lucky having started life with a mighty 30-06. Rarely did anything run on after having been hit with a 165 grain bullet (usually RWS Kegel Spitz) travelling at 2710 fps. This includes Wild Boar, Red, Fallow and Roe deer. I have recently purchased some different bullets to the Speer's I am using now and will be interested to see if there is any difference. Nosler Ballistic Tip 120 grain and RWS Kegel Spitz 127grain are the next bullets to be proven.
I would be lying if I said I was entirely satisfied with every aspect of the new Lightweight Synthetic. Unfortunately, SAUER have left the problem of selecting safe alone, which is possibly an error on their behalf. In order to select safe you must first put your finger inside the trigger guard and push the safety button up. At home and on the range this action has proved both easy and faultless but on a cold rainy day with gloves on it would be well to doubly ensure the rifle is pointed in a safe direction! That said I am totally confident with both rifle and calibre. The initial £1050 is money well spent and I look forward to seeing how it performs in the field with the different makes of ammunition.
Copyright 2004, 2015 by Derek Kendall and/or chuckhawks.com. All rights reserved.