An Ideal Varmint Hunter's Rig: Sako 75 & Burris Diamond Scope
September 23, 2010
According to Layne, the Sako Model 75 fitted with a Burris Diamond scope is one smooth-operating varmint-hunting combination.
Back in 1996 my old friend Henry Paasikivi, who is general manager at Sako, invited a handful of writers from around the world to attend the official unveiling of a new rifle at the factory in Finland. The rifle was so new it had yet to be named.
A few days later as we traveled by bus from a moose hunt, another friend of mine, Australian writer Breil Jackson, opined that since the number "7" (as in Model 70, Model 700, and Model 77) had proven to be a winner for other companies and since Sako was celebrating its 75th birthday when the first rifles were built in 1996, it should be called Model 75. And so it was that the new rifle from Finland got its name.
The Sako Model 75 holds the distinction of being the only commercially built centerfire rifle to be offered in five different action lengths, from the extremely short No. 1 action for the .223 Remington to the No. V action, which is long enough to handle full-length belted magnums such as the .300 Weatherby Magnum and .375 H&H Magnum.
|Sako Model 75 Varmint|
|Model:||Model 75 Varmint|
|Caliber:||.223 Rem. (.204 Ruger, .22-250, .243 Win., .260 Rem., .308 Win. also available)|
|Barrel Length:||23 5/8 inches|
|Overall Length:||43.25 inches|
|Weight, empty||8 rounds|
|Sights:||None, receiver dovetailed for scope mounting|
|Stock:||Laminated (European walnut also available|
|Magazine Capacity:||6 rounds (5 rounds for other chamberings)|
|Finish:||Matte stainless steel or blued carbon steel|
|Price:||$1684 (blued/walnut), $1959 (stainless/laminated)|
The new SM action is about the same length as the No. III action, which is of the correct length for the .308 Winchester, but it was designed specifically for the .300 WSM and other short, beltless magnums. Regardless of which action length you choose, you will find a 70-degree bolt lift, compliments of three locking lugs, along with an extremely smooth bolt travel.
I first discovered how smooth the Model 75 action actually is during the 1996 trip to Finland. Anyone who hunts in that country must first pass a shooting test to obtain a license, and the test consists of shooting from the offhand position at a running moose target at about 85 yards. After qualifying for my hunting license with a Sako Model 75 in .30-06, I decided to have some fun by attempting to rapid-fire as many rounds as possible into the target during a single run rather than only one shot per run as required by the official test.
Even though the target was exposed to view for only four seconds per run, I managed to place three shots into its vital area in two out of three tries from the offhand position. Considering that it probably took me at least one second to take aim and squeeze off my first round, I was averaging one bullseye hit per tick of the clock. That's as good as I have ever done with any bolt gun.
Some of the speed also comes from one of the smoothest cartridge-feeding systems you will ever encounter. Soon after adding a Model 75 Hunter in .30-06 to my personal big-game battery, I asked a friend to assist me in an experiment. Instructing him to close his eyes, I handed him the rifle with its magazine empty and asked him to cycle the bolt. I then took the rifle, loaded its magazine with a dummy cartridge, and asked him to operate the bolt once more.
The Model 75 Varmint features a new single-set trigger. The unset pull weight can be adjusted from two to four pounds, and the set weight is a smooth nine ounces.
Randomly reversing the order, I repeated the experiment several times. He could not tell whether he was cycling the bolt on an empty magazine or on a loaded magazine. The extreme smoothness is due to a number of design details, not the least of which is cartridge-specific action lengths that allow feeding to be adjusted for a specific cartridge rather than attempting to make one action length work with all cartridges.
Grooves machined into the two bottom locking lugs mate with tracks machined into the rails of the receiver, and this reduces wobble of the bolt during its travel.
The safety of the Model 75 is another great idea from Sako. Its two-position design prevents the bolt from rotating when pulled rearward to its "On" position, but there is more to it than that. Pressing down on an override tab located between the safety and the bolt handle allows the bolt to be rotated while the safety is engaged, thereby allowing a cartridge to be removed from the chamber while the safety is in
its "On" position.
The Model 75 Varmint With Single-Set Trigger
When first writing about the Sako Model 75 in the August 1997 issue of Shooting Times, I mentioned the possibility of a single-set trigger being eventually offered as an option over the standard trigger, and I must say it was a long time coming. While attending a couple of combination coyote/prairie dog shoots in June 2005, I got to try a pair of the first Model 75 rifles with that type of trigger.
The Model 75 Varmint Layne used on prairie dogs featured a stainless-steel barreled action, a detachable magazine, and a laminated stock.
They were the Model 75 Varmint with walnut stock and blued steel and the Model 75 Varmint Stainless Laminated. Both rifles wore the equally new (and wonderfully bright) Burris 3-12X Xtreme Tactical scope. On one of the shoots I used Federal Premium ammo loaded with the 55-grain Ballistic Tip bullet, and on the other I was issued Black Hills ammo loaded with the 50-grain V-Max bullet. Both proved to be so accurate I had to look for an alibi anytime I missed a prairie dog inside 400 yards.
To merely say that I was impressed with the performance of the Model 75 and its new trigger would be quite an understatement. I grew up on varmint rifles wearing Canjar single-set triggers, so I felt right at home shooting the one from Sako. The rifle can be fired by simply pulling the trigger or by first pushing the trigger forward and then pressing it against a lighter pull. And when I say lighter I mean just that.
In its unset mode the trigger can be adjusted for pull weights ranging from two to four pounds, and I found it to be quite smooth with no detectable creep or overtravel. Pull weight of its set mode is not adjustable, but it does not need to be because it breaks like an icicle in January at a consistent nine ounces.
As this is written, the single-set trigger is available only on two versions of the Model 75: the Varmint with walnut stock and blued steel and the Varmint Stainless Laminated (VSL). The barrels of both measure 235/8 inches, with the one on the VSL wearing lightening flutes. And, yes, the new single-set trigger will work fine on any Model 75 rifle, even the one I have owned since 1996.
Soon after returning home from the varmint shoot I had a Model 75 Varmint Stainless Laminated in .223 sent to me for a bit of serious accuracy testing on paper. Prior to heading to the range, I equipped the rifle with a Burris 6-24X Black Diamond scope, which brought its weight to 10.75 pounds.
In addition to checking out the Federal and Black Hills factory loads I used on the varmint safari, I threw in a couple handloads that seldom fail to shoot extremely accurately in any rifle in which I choose to try them. As you can see in the chart, not a single one of the four loads exceeded 0.60 inch for five shots at 100 yards. Think of match-grade accuracy combined with the best trigger presently available on a factory rifle and you have the Sako Model 75 Varmint.
Burris Diamond Riflescopes
There was a time when I had little use for any riflescope with a tube measuring larger than one inch. Then one day while on an industry-sponsored hunt for whitetail deer, I was issued a rifle wearing a Burris 2.5-10X Euro Diamond and, if you will forgive me for the pun, immediately saw the light.
|Sako Model 75 Varmint Stainless Laminted Accuracy & Velocity|
|Bullet||Powder||Muzzle Velocity (fps)||100-yard Accuracy (inches)|
|.223 Rem. 23 5/8-inch Barrel, Burris 6-24x Black Diamon|
|Berger 52-gr. HP||H335||26.0||3337||0.52|
|Shilen 52-gr. HP||Reloader 10X||23.5||3311||0.50|
|Black Hills 50-gr. V-Max||Factory Load||3368||0.58|
|Federal Premium 55-gr. Ballsitic Tip||Factory Load||3115||0.51|
<td colspan="5"NOTES: Accuracy is the average of five five-shot groups fired from a sandbag benchrest at 100 yards. Velocity is the average of 25 rounds measured 12 feet from the gun's muzzle. Powder charges shown should be reduced by 10 percent for starting loads in other rifles. Federal cases and Federal GM205M primers were used in the handloads.
The Euro Diamond and its top-quality lens system with multiple coatings and Burris's own Hi-Lume antireflective process is rated at 99.5 percent light transmission for each lens surface, and I'm convinced that's no brag. With up to 4.7 inches of eye relief, any member of the Euro Diamond line is quite suitable for use on a hard-kicking rifle. Reticle options presently available are Ballistic Plex and 3-Post #4, the latter in standard or illuminated style. Magnification options are 1.5-6X 40mm, 2.5-10X 44mm, and 3-12X 50mm.
|Burris Diamond Scopes Specifications|
| ||EURO DIAMOND||BLACK DIAMOND||XTREME TACTICAL|
|Windage & Elevation Click Value (inch)||.50/.25/.25/,25||.25/.125/.125||.50/.25/.25|
|Overall length (inches)||12.6/13.6/14.1/13.7||15.7/16.2/16.9||12.2/15.2/15.6|
|Magnification/Field Of View||Reticles|
|1.||1.5-6X-40mm (60-20 feet)||A.||Ballistic Plex|
|2.||2.5-10X-44mm (35-10 feet)||B.||3-Post #4|
|3.||3-10X-40mm (38-11 feet)||C.||3-Post #4 Illuminated|
|4.||3-12X-50mm (34-10 feet)||D.||Fine Plex|
|5.||4-16X-50mm (27-7.5 feet)||E.||Ballistic Mil-Dot|
|6.||6-24X-50mm (19-5.3 feet)||F.||Ballistic Mil-Dot Illuminated|
|7.||8-32X-50mm (14-4 feet)||G.||Plex|
|8.||10X-50mm (28 feet)||H.||Plex Illuminated|
After returning home from that deer hunt, I eventually got around to using a 1.5-6X Euro Diamond on a couple of outings and liked it so much I decided to try other members of the Diamond family. First came the installation of a 6-24X Black Diamond on an incredibly accurate Volquartsen custom Ruger 10/22. The one I have is a first-generation scope with parallax adjustment up front whereas on the latest version parallax is adjusted by turning a knob located on the left-hand side of the turret housing.
That makes it much more convenient to use in the field than the old front-adjustable scope. Windage and elevation adjustments of the entire Diamond family have steel-on-steel contact points, and each scope comes with Burris's famous "Forever Warranty." Each scope is purged 24 times with laboratory-grade dry nitrogen to absorb moisture and is then sealed.
The Black Diamond family is made up of scopes in three magnification ranges: 8-32X, 6-24X, and 4-16X, the latter also available in titanium. All have 50mm objective lenses, which is plenty big for adequate light transmission at all magnifications in good ambient light conditions and optimal for up to 10X magnification under poor ambient light conditions. Reticle options are Fine Plex, Ballistic Plex, and Ballistic Mil-Dot.
The Burris Xtreme Tactical Riflescope was designed for law enforcement use, but Layne says varmint hunters also will appreciate its attributes.
For the benefit of those who are unfamiliar with the latter two reticles, the Ballistic Plex has hatch marks on the lower quadrant of its vertical crosshair for holdover while the Ballistic Mil-Dot has those as well as dots on both quadrants of its horizontal crosshair to be used for holding into the wind.
The latest addition to the Diamond family is the Xtreme Tactical Riflescope, or XTR for short. While it was designed specifically for use by law enforcement, I am sure varmint shooters will also be attracted to it because of its ability to take uncommonly hard knocks in the field. It is available in a fixed 10X magnification and in two variables: 1.5-6X and 3-12X, the latter available with black or olive drab finish. All have 50mm objectives. As you can see in the specifications chart, the XTR in 3-12X is five ounces heavier than the Euro Diamond with the same magnification range.
This is due to the 25 percent thicker wall of the XTR tube, which gives it approximately 42 percent more strength. Its reticle options are Plex (regular or illuminated), Mil-Dot, and Illuminated Ballistic Mil-Dot. The tactical adjustment knobs of the XTR have both radial and vertical resettable zero references as well as up and down revolution indicators. A knob on the lefthand side of the adjustment turret contains parallax adjustment as well as a reticle illumination switch with various intensity graduations between its on/off positions.
|Hunting Coyotes With The Model 75 Varmint & Burris XTR|
Most of the coyotes I have taken through the years were enticed within shooting range by an ancient Burnham Brothers mouth call that is capable of imitating the spine-chilling screams a terrified rabbit makes as it is being ripped apart. Using it to bring coyotes in close can be exciting, but in no way does it compare to the excitement of using dogs to outwit an extremely intelligent opponent. And I don't mean chasing them with
dogs. The method I recently experienced was new to me and is actually the other way around.
The Sako Model 75 Varmint in .223 and Burris 3-12X XTR scope proved to be very effective on coyotes.
A coyote is extremely territorial by nature, and when it spots another canine in its stomping grounds it often reacts by attempting to chase the intruder away. If the dog is properly trained, it won't stand and fight. Rather, it will run away from the coyote and directly to the camo-clad hunters who have set up downwind with rifles ready. That's exactly what happened on the very first setup my friend Will Ross and I made. As we were setting up, we momentarily lost sight of his two dogs, and when they suddenly reappeared behind me at about 10 yards, three irate coyotes were bearing down with fangs bared, fur standing on end, and blood in their eyes. After the dogs and their pursuers ran between Ross and me, one of the coyotes stopped long enough at about 90 yards to allow me to plaster the crosshairs of the 3-12X Xtreme Tactical riflescope on its chest and end its career with a single round of Federal Premium .223 ammo loaded with a 55-grain Ballistic Tip.
Other things also worked nicely on that hunt. The nine-ounce pull of the set trigger on the Model 75 made the rifle easy to shoot accurately from the Shooters Ridge monopod I was using. And our Faded Sage camouflage clothing with its No Trace scent eliminator from Conk's Camo prevented the coyotes from seeing or smelling us even at extremely close range. n
The Ballistic Mil-Dot reticle of the XTR scope is subtended for the .308 Winchester loaded with the 175-grain MatchKing bullet and for the .223 loaded with the 77-grain MatchKing. With a bit of imagination it can be used with other cartridges and bullet weights. When using an XTR in 3-12X for shooting prairie dogs, I often found a number of targets at about the same distance from my position with wind velocity quite consistent, so I chose to click into the wind rather than hold into it.
The extremely accurate adjustments of the scope allowed me to do that quite successfully, and calibrations on the adjustment knobs made it easy for me to go back to my original zero and start all over each time the wind shifted or the range changed. Windage and elevation adjustment knobs of the entire family of Diamond scopes, and this includes the XTR as well as the Euro Diamond and Black Diamond, come with screw-on dust caps.
All in all I have been quite pleased with every Diamond scope I have tried. All have proven to be extremely durable, click adjustments have been dead on the money, and optical quality has been second to none. On top of all that, the entire line of Diamond scopes looks as good on the outside as on the inside. They are, in fact, the most handsome scopes Burris has ever built.