J.P. Sauer & Sohn S100 Classic XT .243 Rifle
By Chuck Hawks
My first hands-on experience with a J.P. Sauer & Sohn firearm was in the late 1970s. I was managing a small Radio Shack store ("Everything's dandy at Tandy") and a regular customer told me about a J.P. Sauer & Sohn drilling he had just inherited from his grandfather. A drilling is a three barreled long gun similar to a side-by-side shotgun with a rifle barrel added below the two shotgun barrels. Anyway, seeing my interest, he offered to bring the gun in for my inspection.
The next day he did exactly that. It was a finely made gun, beautifully put together (probably early in the 20th Century) and hand engraved. This was my introduction to a J.P Sauer & Sohn long gun and I have never forgotten it.
J.P. Sauer & Sohn, founded in 1751, is the oldest gunmaker in Germany and one of Europe's finest. Like any company that old, they have had their ups and downs. Probably the firm's nadir was following the Second World War, as the Company was in the Russian occupation zone (East Germany) and the Communists stole everything that was not nailed down, including all of the machinery, and shipped it back to Russia. Naturally, they paid no compensation.
Somehow the Company struggled through the post war years and ultimately managed to move to West Germany. Today, they are building rifles in Isny, Baden-Wurtenberg, Germany, where our test rifle was made.
J.P. Sauer & Sohn currently makes handguns, bolt action rifles, semi-automatic hunting rifles and double rifles; also SxS, autoloading and O/U shotguns. Top of the line models are available with high grade walnut (the customer can choose the stock blank) and elaborate engraving. SIG Sauer pistols, a joint design project of the Swiss firm SIG and Sauer and produced by Sauer, are world famous for their quality and accuracy.
Sauer hunting rifles are distributed in the US by Blaser USA, Inc. The Sauer bolt action rifle line includes the deluxe S 404 with interchangeable barrels ("The best Sauer of all time") and classic S 101 ("Simply perfect"); both are premium priced models beyond the reach of most hunters, unless they are highly motivated. The newest Sauer model is the S 100 ("100% Sauer: the entry into the world of Sauer") and the subject of this review.
The S 100 is surprisingly low priced. Our S 100 Classic XT, the basic S 100 version, carries a 2019 MSRP of only $699. It makes an interesting comparison with the Savage Model 110 Apex Hunter that we just finished reviewing here at Guns and Shooting Online. The 110 Apex Hunter sells for a similar price to the S 100 and could be called "the entry to the Savage 110 line."
Sauer is obviously proud of their S 100, which they claim raises the standard for entry level rifles. Key features include an adjustable single-stage trigger, three-position safety, genuine hammer-forged Sauer barrel, an oversize body to nearly eliminate bolt wobble (shades of the Weatherby Mark V, which Sauer originally produced for Weatherby back in the 1960s) and an Ergo Max stock with geometry taken from the premium Sauer S 101 and S 404 rifles. Advertised features include:
The S 100 is built on a modern turn bolt, cock on opening, push feed action with three front locking lugs and a 60 degree bolt lift. The bolt head with locking lugs is pinned to a massive bolt body the diameter of the locking lugs. There are two plunger ejectors mounted in the bolt face and a small claw extractor is mounted in the face of one of the locking lugs.
Unlike a Weatherby, this bolt is not machined in one piece. In addition to the bolt head and main bolt body, we have a rear section of the bolt body to which is added the bolt handle and a separate bolt knob. The aluminum bolt knob is round with smooth flutes around its circumference. The flutes seem pointless, but do no harm. The tailpiece features a recess in which the end of the firing pin (painted red) can be seen when the action is cocked.
A rocker type bolt release (depress to remove the bolt from the receiver) is conventionally located at the left rear of the receiver. There is a 0.190" wide channel machined into the length of the bolt body in which the business end of the bolt release rides. This prevents the bolt from turning in the receiver as it is operated, or coming free unless the bolt release is depressed. The only flaw in this system is the amount of force it takes to operate the bolt release; it is probably the most difficult bolt release to depress I have ever used.
The receiver appears to be drilled from bar stock, with flat panels machined into each side and the top of the rear receiver ring. Unlike the polished and blued barrel and bottom iron, it is given a flat black finish. This finish is hard to understand, as it detracts from the overall appearance of the rifle. The top of the receiver is drilled and tapped for scope bases and matches the contour of a Remington Model 700 receiver; thus the S 100 accepts Model 700 scope bases.
This is a solid top receiver. The ejection port is a rectangular opening cut into in the right side receiver panel (in a right hand action). Such ejection ports may require less machining than an open top receiver, but they make it more difficult to clear a jam, especially in the field where tools are probably few, should one occur.
The conventional, single stage, user adjustable trigger is crisp and clean. I am pleased to report this is not a lawyer trigger. Pull weight is adjusted by means of a small Allen screw near the top of the wide, smooth trigger blade. There is no need to remove the stock to adjust the trigger. The test rifle's trigger released between 2.75 and 3.0 pounds out of the box, per my Lyman Digital Pull Gauge, so I left it alone.
A three-position safety is conventionally located at the right rear of the receiver, just behind the bolt handle. All the way forward is "fire" and all the way back is "safe" and locks the bolt handle closed. The intermediate position is also "safe," but allows the bolt to be operated to eject a live cartridge from the chamber. The "fire" safety lever position is marked by a red dot, while the two "safe" positions are marked by white dots.
Surprisingly, as this is a European rifle, the S 100 Classic XT polymer stock is only slightly corrupted by the Euro-trash styling that has become a fixture of most low priced rifles. The stock is basically a graceful American classic shape with a fluted comb and a Schnabel fore end tip. The straight comb slopes slightly downward from heel to grip to reduce the effect of recoil, something else Sauer probably learned from the days when they produced Weatherby Mark V rifles. The S 100 comb has a much less pronounced forward slope than the Mark V's Monte Carlo Comb. Nevertheless, it slopes just enough to move the comb away from the shooter's face during recoil.
The pistol grip has a rather tight curve, typical of modern rifles. However, it positions the hand correctly to pull the trigger. The fluting at the comb is oversized for no functional reason, again in the modern style. Molded-in "checkering" patches provide a comfortable, secure, non-slip grip. The "checkered" texture is provided by rows of little swooshes, rather than conventional points, but it works well and looks okay.
The butt terminates in a rather hard, black rubber recoil pad. Conventional, steel, detachable sling swivel studs are provided.
The only overtly Euro-trash styling gimmick is a molded-in accent curve about 2.5 inches long at the top rear of both sides of the butt stock. This is located about where a Monte Carlo comb would swoop down to the recoil pad, if the rifle had a Monte Carlo comb, which it does not. Completely pointless, this molded trough merely detracts from the generally graceful lines of the stock.
Unlike most entry level rifles these days, the "bottom metal" is actually blued steel, not plastic. This includes the one-piece magazine well and trigger guard, as well as the trigger itself, which are polished to match the barrel. Substantial hex-head machine screws at the front and rear of the bottom iron hold the bottom iron, stock and barreled action together.
Sauer is proud of its Ever Rest action bedding system. (The name immediately conjured-up images of a cemetery to me.) The barreled action has no conventional recoil lug. Instead, an aluminum bedding block epoxied into the floor of the stock mates to pins in the bottom of the forward receiver ring to precisely locate the barreled action in the stock and keep it there. In addition, the bottom metal screws are pillar bedded to the barreled action.
The full length of the barrel is free floating in the stock. This is a 22", tapered, medium sporter contour barrel that measures 0.665" at the muzzle, which terminates in a target type crown. Unlike so many free floating barrels, this one is perfectly centered in the fore end channel.
I regard a 22" barrel as the shortest practical length for a high velocity cartridge, such as the .243 Winchester. The standard test barrel length for the .243 (and most high intensity cartridges) is 24". Reduce the barrel length to less than 22" and the velocity loss becomes prohibitive.
Unfortunately, like virtually every molded plastic stock I have ever seen, there is enough flex in the fore end to allow it to touch the barrel, potentially changing the rifle's point of impact, with only moderate upward or lateral pressure. The sling swivel studs are for carrying straps only and not for use with any sort of shooting sling, not even a 'hasty sling."
The magazine is plastic and the recessed magazine release is sensibly located in the bottom iron front of the magazine well. It is unfortunate that Sauer could not provide an internal box magazine (impossible to lose and much less likely to be damaged) with a hinged floor plate, but detachable plastic mags are cheaper to manufacture and price is very important in an entry level rifle.
As I write these words, the S 100 is available in calibers .223 Rem., .243 Win., 6.5 Creedmoor, 6.5x55, 6.5 PRC, .270 Win., 7mm Rem. Mag., .308 Win., .30-06, .300 Win. Mag., 8x57 IS and 9.3x62 Mauser. I chose .243 Win. for the test rifle.
The S 100 uses a standard, .30-06 length action, bolt and magazine for both long and short action (.308 length) cartridges. The rear of a short action magazine is simply filled with a plastic spacer to keep the cartridges forward in the magazine and in the proper place to feed into the chamber when the bolt is operated. This means the .30-06 (long) and .308 (short) actions are the same length and weight with the same bolt throw, so no savings are realized by ordering a short action caliber, such as .243.
I took advantage of the S 100's compatibility with Remington 700 scope bases to use Weaver two-piece bases and rings to mount a Bushnell Banner 3.5-10x40mm riflescope that I keep around for use on test rifles.
With the scope mounted and a loaded magazine in place, the S 100 balances just in front of the magazine well. This puts the rifle's weight between the hands for carrying, swinging with a moving target and shooting from the off-hand position.
This is a medium weight rifle. With the scope mounted it weighs 8 pounds, 5.7 ounces empty and without a carrying strap.
Cartridges are easily slipped into the magazine by hand, with little effort, due primarily to the magazine's rounded, polymer feed lips. Make sure the magazine is fully seated in the rifle, which takes some effort, or a sturdy whack with the palm of the hand, or it will not feed properly and is likely to fall out.
The three-position safety is conveniently located and easy to operate. There are easily felt detents for each position. If you keep thumb pressure on the safety lever and move it slowly, it is very quiet.
Opening the bolt requires what I would call a typical amount of effort. However, I found it necessary to run the bolt forward unusually fast and hard to get it to fully chamber and close smoothly on a fresh cartridge. If the bolt is pushed forward with what I consider normal force and speed, it will not rotate closed on the cartridge. Since the bolt closes and locks normally on an empty chamber, its reluctance to close with a cartridge in the chamber may be caused by overly tight headspacing. Unfortunately, I do not have a set of .243 headspace gauges to check this. If this is typical of all S 100 rifles, it is something that must be fixed.
Fired cases were reliably extracted from the test rifle by the small Sako style claw. The dual ejectors easily flip fired cartridge cases out of the ejection port. I have never seen a plunger ejector fail, but should one of the S 100's ejectors malfunction, I am sure the other would still get the job done.
With an empty magazine in place, a single cartridge can be loaded directly into the chamber through the ejection port. However, you cannot just drop a cartridge into the ejection port and close the bolt. Make sure the bullet is started into the chamber before you attempt to close the bolt.
I am 5' 10" tall and I found the stock's 14.5" length of pull a bit long for fast mounting, especially when wearing winter clothes and a heavy hunting coat. On the other hand the LOP caused no problem when I was just wearing a sweat shirt, as I usually do at the rifle range. The stock design handles recoil well and correctly positions my eye to look through a riflescope in medium height rings. I don't think most average height and taller shooters will complain about the length of pull.
Shooting the S 100
Unfortunately, due to inclement winter weather during January and February, 2019 (and, sadly, some personal health issues) I was not able to get the Sauer S 100 to the local Izaak Walton outdoor rifle range to see how it shoots, as is normally standard procedure for Guns and Shooting Online rifle reviews. After waiting two months to get to the range, I ran out of patience and decided to publish this article "as is."
For this I apologize. I can say that Sauer rifles have an excellent reputation for accuracy and I see no reason why the S 100 would be an exception.
Actually, it is rare to find a modern bolt action rifle with an accuracy problem. They may look like a train wreck, feed poorly, jam constantly, come with easily lost magazines and be filled with plastic parts that break, are too flexible and wear poorly, but they usually shoot more than adequately for big game hunting. Offhand, I can only think of one individual bolt action rifle among all those I have tested in recent years that I would call consistently deficient in accuracy with every load tried. (Of course, all rifles are individuals and favor some loads over others; this must be expected.)
As I have written many times before, hunting rifle accuracy is very over emphasized. The vital heart/lung area of even small Class 2 animals is a large target.
Many other characteristics are more important in a hunting rifle than shooting tiny groups from a bench rest. These include such things as action design, quality of materials, construction, reliability, durability, trigger pull, ergonomics, handling and carrying in the field, ease of manipulating the controls and especially the amount and severity of the cost cutting measures employed. (The latter are inevitable these days in any rifle built to a moderate price point). Such things affect a hunting rifle's overall performance in the field far more than whether is shoots sub-MOA groups, or two MOA groups, at the rifle range.
Anyone familiar with bolt action rifles will find the S 100 intuitive to operate. Its controls are laid out in a conventional, intelligent manner. The adjustable, single stage trigger is excellent, as is the three-position safety. Knowledgable shooters will appreciate the one-piece, steel bottom metal and the 60 degree bolt lift, not to mention the ergonomic stock design. The price is right for a rifle of this quality.
They may not appreciate the flexible plastic stock or the detachable polymer magazine (not many experienced shooters do), although Sauer does provide a real magazine release mounted in the bottom iron, not just a plastic tab at the front of the plastic magazine. No one, however, is going to like the hard-to-close-on-a-cartridge bolt. There are times, especially when hunting wary game, that you need to close the bolt softly and quietly.
Note: This review, including a graded rifle review summary, is duplicated on the Member Side Product Reviews index page.
Copyright 2019 by Chuck Hawks. All rights reserved.