Since returning from the Annual Meetings two weeks ago I have been putting myself through a crash familiarization with a newly introduced model—the Sako 85 Brown Bear. Most days after work I've stopped by my local range on the way home for 10-15 deliberate shots, and in addition have been escaping my desk for brief sessions on NRA's in-house range. Twice I have taken it out on the family farm where I can shoot at longer distances and practice rapid follow-ups from field positions. It will group about 1-1/2 moa off the bench, and from supported field positions I can hold about 5 inches rapid-fire out at 200 yards. So far I have worked out with Barnes Vor-TX, Winchester Supreme and Norma Oryx ammo, and all are plenty accurate for hunting purposes.
Controlled-round feed capability has made the 85 a real up-and-comer. It doesn't clamp on as soon as the case exits the magazine in the way of the Mauser 98 and full-length-claw clones like the Winchester M70 and Kimber 84/8400 series, and for some, that's the tipping point. Not so for me. The smooth feel of the action, the fast bolt throw, the overall design and workmanship all attain Sako's exacting standards. And because the extractor does take hold of the case rim as it slides up the feed ramp, there remains much less chance of double-shucking two rounds into the loading port as can be the case in push-feed bolt rifles. All in all, it's a clever new solution to what many riflemen consider a make-or-break attribute.
The Brown Bear I've been shooting is part of what Sako calls its "Bear Series," which also includes Kodiak and Black Bear variants. All three share the same profile, marked by a 21-1/4" semi-heavy-contour barrel. Laminated stocks adorn the Kodiak (a black treatment) and Brown Bear (brown), while the Black Bear wears synthetic. Also present are a barrel band sling attachment and stock crossbolts, since these are hard-kickers available only in .338 Win. Mag. or .375 H&H chamberings. The end result is an accurate, fast-handling and powerful rifle that should be perfect for taking on unpredictable and powerful dangerous game. I sure hope so since I will be hunting with it later this week. Hunting brown bear, by the way.