Sako Carbon Wolf Long Term Review

Category: Firearms | Reviews

Sako Carbon Wolf Review

At SHOT 2018, I was having a blast looking through the Tikka/Sako wares.  The most eye-catching of these to me was their new (at the time) Sako 85 Carbon Wolf sporting a striking adjustable RTM carbon fiber “soft touch” coated stock, as well as a fluted and threaded barrel.

Sako Carbon Wolf

Sako Carbon Wolf

Upon lifting the Carbon Wolf out of the rack, I noticed a few key things:  The rifle is indeed very light for a 24″ barreled .300WM, yet is rather well balanced.  The texture of the soft touch stock in the hand is really quite pleasant.  It has just the right amount of non-slip grip and is also quiet to handle.  This was my first encounter with a GRS-style stock.  Lefties can stop reading here, as the pistol grip area of the stock is set up purely for a right-handed person.  The spring-loaded square pushbutton controls to adjust the length of pull and height of comb, however, were the best I’ve experienced.  They are very quiet to use as well.

Pushbutton stock adjustments

Pushbutton stock adjustments

I previously had been using a Battue-length 18″ Tikka .300WM with backup iron sights, but a 24″ barrel makes a roughly 200fps difference with that particular cartridge.  This can make all the difference on terminal performance of a bullet when used at ranges of 500+ yards on tougher skinned game such as elk or moose.  The MSRP of $3600 was a daunting goal, but I figured I might as well start saving if I wanted to adopt the Carbon Wolf as my new long-barreled .300 Win Mag hunting platform.

Specs:

  • Caliber: .300 Win Mag
  • Barrel: Blued, Fluted, 24″, 1:11″ twist, Cold Hammer Forged, Threaded 15×1
  • Magazine: Staggered two-column, 4+1 capacity
  • OAL: 44.7″
  • Weight: 3.5kg, 7.7lbs
  • Trigger: 2-4lb adjustable, (single set trigger not available in US)
  • Bolt: One piece, Three-lug, extractor controlled round feed, 6 o’clock ejector, 70 degree rotation
  • Stock: RTM Carbon Fibre soft touch with adjustable LOP and comb.  2 forward studs, one rear
  • MSRP: $3600

I’m on the hunt, I’m after you…

The Carbon Wolf was available relatively soon (as far as the firearms industry goes) after its release.  I was definitely on the lookout for this rifle, as it was one of the few products from SHOT that year that made quite an impression on me.  About 9 months after SHOT 2018, I found one on sale and ordered it.  The Carbon Wolf came in the usual Sako cardboard box, but arrived in great condition.  In order to get this rifle range-ready though, I had a few more steps to go through.

Straightaway, I adjusted the trigger down to 2lbs, as it arrived near the factory maximum weight of 4lbs.  The trigger on most Sako 85’s is easily adjusted by using a 2.5mm Allen key through a hole in the magwell: clockwise to increase weight, counterclockwise to decrease weight.  The trigger pull on the Carbon Wolf was crisp and clean.

Fluted barrel

Fluted barrel

The top of the Carbon Wolf’s receiver is set up to use Sako Optilock rings.  That particular type of scope mount is not my preference, as I really prefer to use Picatinny rail mounts for easier optics interchangeability between platforms.  However, I did have some old stock Optilock rings on hand while I searched for a rail solution for this rifle (more on that later).

The 15×1 threaded barrel is another item for potential customers in the US to be aware of.  While 15×1 may be a common thread for European “moderators/schalldampfers”, it is a very uncommon thread pitch in the US.  A well-made thread adapter is a must if you want to mount your muzzle device of choice on this rifle.  15X1 can be tricky because some 5/8×24 threaded devices will loosely thread onto this pitch.  It’s a great way to destroy your silencer if you’re not careful!

Equipped with thread adapter

Equipped with thread adapter

Wolf on the Range

My first few range trips with the Carbon Wolf were…interesting.  While I waited for the thread adapter to get back in stock, I did a bit of shooting unsuppressed with a Swarovski Z8i 2-16×50 scope.  I fired a few groups at 100 yards, and was initially unimpressed with accuracies of roughly 1.2-1.5 MOA using a few different weight and profile rounds from my stock of .300WM loads including Hornady, Federal, and Black Hills.  Interestingly enough, when I moved back to 200 yards, these same rounds were grouping into half the minutes of angle as at 100 yards.  This may have something to do with stabilization at different ranges, barrel harmonics or some other ballistic witchcraft.

The magazine must be pressed inward before the release can be activated

Sako Carbon Wolf Magazine

The 70-degree bolt rotation made chambering rounds quick and easy.  All rounds fed, chambered and ejected smoothly.  The magazine, while 100 percent reliable, does have an idiosyncrasy: One has to press the magazine mode upwards with one hand before releasing the mag release tab with the other hand.  This is to prevent accidental magazine ejection in the field, as the magazine release tab will not work without the upward pressure on the mag body.  Perfect for big game hunting in rough terrain, but I would not use this system on, say, a driven boar hunt.

70 degree bolt lift

70-degree bolt lift

Sako Carbon Wolf Bolt

Sako Carbon Wolf Bolt

The Sako Carbon Wolf’s stock was designed in conjunction with GRS of Norway.  These stocks are good-looking and easy to adjust.  Due to the inlet cut for the grip, however, the recoil does travel in a direction that makes the rifle not recoil straight backwards, but roll slightly to the left.  It takes some getting used to but is controllable after a bit of practice.

Recoil along this profile can have a bit of torque to it

Recoil along this profile can have a bit of torque to it

Stock cut for righties only

Stock cut for righties only

The adjustability of the stock came into great use when a much taller friend of mine wanted to give the rifle a try as well.  A few quick presses of the buttons, and it fit him quite comfortably.  The double studs at the front allowed me to mount the Harris bipod further toward the muzzle, and still have an independent point of connection for the sling (I hate mounting slings to bipods).

Double studs

Double studs

The soft touch stock material was comfortable and secure to grip in both cold and hot conditions.  It is one of the most comfortable combs I have experienced, and should one need to keep one’s eye on the scope for long periods of time, will be the most comfortable way to do so.

Achieving Accuracy

Later on, I found a 15×1 to 5/8×24 thread adapter from Hughes Precision, as well as a Sako 85 long action rail from New England Custom Gun Works.  Equipping the rifle with these, as well as a SilencerCo Hybrid 46 and the Swarovski back in a one-piece mount, I headed back to the range for a few sessions.  This time, I brought some new ammo as well:  SIG Sauer 180grn Elite Hunter.

Sako Carbon Wolf with SIG, Federal and Hornady ammunition

All these pieces of the precision puzzle seemed to work well together.  The Hybrid 46 helped with both recoil and, I suspect, barrel harmonics.   Groups at 100 were tight, and I went 10/10 on steel at both 500 and 800 yards.  The Carbon Wolf seemed to really like the SIG Elite Hunter ammo as well, turning in a solid .55 MOA group, including a .2 MOA cold-bore shot.

Results are below, all groups are 5 shot groups @100Y, from a bipod front and squeeze bag rear rest, measured center-center.

  • SIG Sauer Elite Hunter 180grn Tipped: .55″
  • Hornady ELD Match 195grn: .87″
  • Nosler Accubond 180gr SP: 1.05″

Overall IMpressions:

The Sako Carbon Wolf is a relatively lightweight, full-length .300WM hunting platform with a very comfortable and easy to adjust stock.  Objectively, it is very accurate when paired with quality ammunition, and does have a factory threaded barrel and a quality, easy-to-adjust trigger.  It is also one of the lightest factory .300WM platforms with a fully adjustable stock.  Subjectively, I do wish that the receiver came with an integrated rail instead of the Optilock system, and I wish there was an option for a 5/8×24 threaded barrel from the factory.

If a lightweight long-range .300WM that has an adjustable comb and LOP is something you are looking for, the Carbon Wolf might be a good item to consider.  Otherwise, the Sako Finnlight II is significantly lighter at 6.4lbs, is less expensive, and still has an adjustable comb.

Pros:

  • Adjustable comb, LOP, and trigger
  • Factory threaded muzzle
  • Very accurate when paired with quality ammunition
  • Reasonably lightweight
  • Very comfortable stock texture

Cons:

  • Recoil torque
  • 15×1 thread requires an adapter for most US suppressors
  • No integrated receiver rail



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