Newbie gets first Sako. what do I have here?

Discussion in 'Sako Long/Magnum Actions' started by Larry E, Apr 8, 2015.

  1. Larry E

    Larry E Member

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    I recently bought a used, Stainless Steel L61R in excellent condition for $450 (US). But I've never owned or shot a Sako. Don't know anything about them.

    You guys are the experts, and I badly need your thoughts.

    What do I have here? Accuracy? Dependability? Age? Value?

    Here's a comprehensive description.

    BARREL

    The barrel is marked 300 WIN MAG ZAP. It is about 24 inches long, fluted, and free floated all the way to the action. It is a slightly grayish color (unlike the rest of the rifle's shiny stainless). Is this the original barrel? What does the "ZAP" mean?

    ACTION

    High on the left side of the action itself is stamped "L61R No. 72xxx" followed by 2 markings: (1) What looks like a cat's face, then (2) What looks like an "M" or possibly "MV" in cursive, not blocked lettering.


    I can find no other markings on the rifle (haven't removed the stock yet, but I can if you need more information).

    SIGHTS

    This rifle has no iron sights, and no Picatinny-type rail. Instead, it has side grooves cut directly into the top of the receiver - for direct attachment of scope rings? No scope, rings, or additional mounts of any kind came with the rifle.

    The two rail sections (separated by the bolt chamber opening) have lines lightly cut across their flat tops, at even intervals about 1/16th of an inch apart.

    STOCK

    The rifle has a solid black composite stock, with a built in non-adjustable comb/cheek riser, wide flat forend, and a factory fit "Decelerator" recoil pad. It has good checkering at the handgrip and forend.

    The stock also has two quick-detach type sling studs - one centered under the forend, the other centered under the buttstock.

    The front one is suitable for a bipod (my Harris works perectly on it). Can this be the original stock?

    LOADING/UNOADING

    There is no detachable box magazine.

    Apparently thumb-loaded through the opened bolt space, this rifle has a stainless steel hinged floor plate for removing unfired ammunition. The floor plate release button is immediately in front of the trigger guard. Both it and the floor plate work very smoothly.

    Given the 300 WinMag caliber, I assume the internal magazine holds 2-3 rounds.

    OPERATION

    The bolt action is smooth, solid, and must be operated "with authority." Bolt removal button (on the left of the bolt) and simple two-stage safety (on the right, just above and behind the closed bolt handle) work fine, though the safety is a bit stiff/sticky.

    The trigger is excellent for a target gun (my intended use) - crisp, very light, no take-up or "after travel." I have not yet shot this gun, nor tool-tested the actual trigger pull.

    CONDITION

    The bolt handle and knob are shiny stainless steel - smooth in texture except for a 1/8th inch-wide ring of checkering around the equator of the bolt knob. The chamber appears to be in very good shape, as does the inside of the barrel.

    This rifle has no additional engraving or checkering not already mentioned here.

    This entire firearm, including the stock, is completely free of scratches, nicks, abrasions, signs of wear, etc. Either extraordinarily well kept, or recently updated (or both). Basically, though slightly dirty inside, the rifle looks new.

    ANY information anyone can provide about this rifle, its value, etc., would be deeply appreciated. I'm pretty much lost here!

    Many thanks,

    Larry E.
     

  2. 16b410

    16b410 Well-Known Member

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    What you have is a custom built on a Sako action. They were very accurate production rifles, never offered in stainless way back then, so what you think is stainless is polished steel or a coating. Yours has had the barrel and the stock changed out. The value is exactly what you paid for the rifle.
    The big unknown is the cartridge. It is either a .300 Win Mag barreled by a builder whose mark is ZAP or it's a wildcat cartridge called the .300 Win Mag ZAP. I would take no chances and make no assumptions. Prior to firing a .300 Win Mag in the rifle, I would have a chamber cast done.
     
  3. paulsonconstruction

    paulsonconstruction Sako-addicted

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    As 16b410 said, there were no stainless L61Rs made by Sako, so your action is either polished in the white or plated/coated with something that appears stainless. You have some type of custom built rifle with a L61R action as the only thing Sako. You paid about what the action is worth if it is not plated/coated. A barrel of questionable chambering & a specialty stock have little resale value. A chamber cast is prudent on any custom rifle not clearly identified. The stampings are the proof & inspector's mark.
     
  4. Larry E

    Larry E Member

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    To 16b410 and paulsonconstruction - thank you VERY MUCH for your quick replies. I'm not a collector, so a good-shooting 300 WinMag is all I really care about. Hope I didn't get screwed here.

    The stock, though not original, looks nice on the gun, feels good in shooting positions, and has the ideal comb height for my glass. So I'm pleased with that. (I think it's a Bell and Carlson).

    The rifle's metal sure as heck looks like stainless steel. And not a spot of rust on it. But Sako didn't use SS in those days. Any idea when "way back then" was for this receiver?

    Not surprised by the barrel change. But the "ZAP" marking concerns me. Thank you for the heads-up!!! I'll carefully follow your advice before I shoot it. (Or else just let my ex-wife give it a try.)

    So those odd receiver stampings are just the proof and inspector's marks? Hate to sound so stupid, but what's a "proof" mark?

    Oh, and what the heck is a "chamber cast" (and how much does it cost)?

    Again, many thanks for your help, guys. I'm learning a lot here!
     
  5. paulsonconstruction

    paulsonconstruction Sako-addicted

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    Based on your serial # I'd guess your action is from around 1970. Sako didn't keep good records & didn't build guns in sequential order so without a hang tag production dates are "guessimates". Based on the fact that whoever built your rifle used a Sako action tells me he probably knew what he was doing. Once you figure out what load it likes & get it shooting you could end up with a nice usable rifle. A "proof" mark indicates that the gun has been fired with a proof load (which is of higher pressure than what any factory ammo is) & it passed the "test". A chamber cast is done by plugging the barrel just ahead of the chamber & pouring melted Cerrosafe into the chamber. After it cools & solidifies this casting can be removed from the chamber & examined & measured to confirm the chamber dimensions. Cerosafe melts at a very low temp & is safe to use in your gun. Any good smith should be able to do a cast for you for a minimal cost. The ZAP could mean anything. Some guys create their own wildcats & this ZAP thing "could" mean just that, so confirmation of what chamber you have is critical before you fire it. Good Luck!
     
  6. Larry E

    Larry E Member

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    Again, I am in your debt, paulsonconstruction. I'm checking with a company specializing in wildcat work. Awaiting their response now. We'll see.

    More and more, I'm thinking "ZAP" is the barrel-maker's ID. But I'll not shoot this rifle until I know the situation for certain. If need be, I'll pay for the chamber cast you so clearly described. Makes perfect sense. (You should be a teacher.)

    Like you, I considered that whoever built this rifle may well have known exactly what he was doing. He recently sold several of his guns (to pay back taxes) to a pawn shop my nephew owns. (Including a magnificent Anschutz benchrest rifle.) That's how I got this "Sako".

    Who knows? I may have stumbled across a seriously tuned piece of long-range equipment here. Now that would be nice, indeed.

    If you're interested, I'll pass along what I learn. A little extra knowledge is generally a good thing.

    Again, many thanks for your time and trouble helping a newbie. Not everyone would do that.
     
  7. m995

    m995 Well-Known Member

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    At the price you paid, the build parts are well worth it. a good SS barrel will set you back 300+ . If you have a decent caliper , measure the diameter of the barrel in front of the action to where the taper starts, This will give an idea of what could be done with the barrel if it a is wildcat that is not worth working with. If you take it to a smith, have them scope the throat 1st.
     
  8. 16b410

    16b410 Well-Known Member

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    A bit more info on the action markings. The cat's head is actually the crowned Finnish Lion, part of Finland's Coat of Arms and MV is the initials of Matti Vartia, one of the Sako inspectors. There were several other inspectors whose initials will appear on Sakos. Certainly not important information, but fun to know.
     
  9. Larry E

    Larry E Member

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    Thanks 16b410! That IS fun to know. But now I'm embarrassed. Comparing the proud, crowned lion on Finland's coat of arms to some house cat. Feel like I should write a letter of apology to the Finnish embassy... and maybe it's just the historian in me, but now I feel a strange connection to old Matti when I hold the still flawless action he personally approved nearly half a century ago.
     
  10. Larry E

    Larry E Member

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    Excellent thoughts here, m995. Just last night I was approaching this whole issue differently. As in, if I were building such a rifle, how would I go about it? (I've never "built" a gun.)

    Seems I would start with a good action. By all accounts, the Sako L61R is that.

    Then I'd want a good barrel. The SS fluted 24-inch barrel I have seems to fit the bill (though figuring out who made it is a frustrating challenge).

    And I'd want a good stock. There are more expensive ones than the rifle's current, like new, Bell and Carlson. But it seems to be a good stock. Feels right, etc., and the barrel remains free-floating, even with my bipod attached.

    From what I've learned, these parts alone would cost me about $1,000 (+ gunsmithing costs - I know nothing about that part of the process). So - assuming this is not some oddball wildcat - the $450 I paid seems quite good. Yes?

    Regarding the smithing you and others have mentioned... The gunsmith who was as fooled as I about the "stainless steel" Sako action, has taken this on as a personal challenge - at no charge to me.

    Like you, he suggested precise measurements of everything. On Saturday, we're going to spend the day with the rifle (he offered to teach me as we went, which is great). This to include the chamber cast.

    If all checks out, we'll mount my Vortex Viper PST 6-24x50 (my favorite scope!), take hundreds of varied brand-name match rounds (to see what the rifle likes to eat), a lead-sled (never used one), and spend Sunday at the range.

    If all goes well, by Sunday night I should know what I have in all respects that matter to me (remember, I'm not a collector).

    Assuming weather and life cooperate (and I can figure out how to add pictures here), I'll post a full range report with photos. (Never done a range report, so any advice would be very welcome).

    Can't wait for the weekend!
     
  11. Larry E

    Larry E Member

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    Truly, I've learned so much from you guys on this thread. And your patience, as much as your knowledge, remains impressive.

    If I may, just a couple of general questions... Forgive me in advance if they seem stupid. Unfortunately, that often goes with being a "newbie" like me.

    You know from this thread the rifle I have, in considerable detail.

    If it fires an untenable wildcat, would you recommend (1) Reworking it into a standard caliber (if feasible), or (2) Just returning it (I can get a full refund if I wish).

    Also, I'm hoping for a sub-MOA 100-yd shooter, consistent out to 500-700 yards. Assuming I do my part, is that realistic, given this round (300 WinMag) and rifle combination?
     
  12. paulsonconstruction

    paulsonconstruction Sako-addicted

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    If you don't like the cartridge it is chambered for you can set the barrel back & rechamber to another commercial 30 cal cartridge. Your smith can tell you about this process. The last one I did cost under $100, but that depends on reamer costs. Does the smith already have the reamer, can he rent it, or do you have to buy it? To rebarrel with a quality match grade barrel in the caliber of your choice will be $500 to $700 dollars. Your initial costs of $450 makes either option reasonable considering what a new custom rifle would cost. No one can predict how your rifle will shoot, but to consistently shoot sub MOA groups will more than likely require handloads with much attention paid to brass preparation, bullet selection, overall cartridge length & a host of other things. Factory ammo is very good these days & you may find a load that shoots bugholes, but be aware that it will vary from lot to lot & the next box of the same load/brand, but from a different production lot, may not perform the same. All that being said, you can probably find factory ammo that will give you MOA accuracy if your barrel, bedding, & the shooter are capable of that.
    A lot of people talk about shooting at these extreme ranges (700 yards), but don't have a place to actually do that, so take that into consideration before investing a lot of time & money. If you can't practice at that range what's the point.
    You've got a great action, a solid stock, possibly a good barrel at a very reasonable price & a smith you wants to work with you. What better place to start creating the rifle you want?
    BTW, about half my rifles are "built" & I'm still trying to get it "just right". Best of luck!
    Be sure to let your barrel cool & clean between groups, as shooting hundreds of rounds in one day thru one rifle will be quite an undertaking.
     
  13. Larry E

    Larry E Member

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    Paulsonconstruction, please forgive my delay responding. As usual, you're a fountain of thoughtful advice, presented in teacher-quality style. My compliments to you, and my thanks.

    At my gunsmith's suggestion, we took this "Sako L61R" to an old "master" gunsmith (Jerry Cleveland) for some of the work I wanted and the definitive answers I needed. Don't have the rifle back, but I do have some answers so far. Should know the rest next week.

    Chamber cast is tricky for this one, and not finished, so still don't know if this is a true 300 WinMag instead of a wildcat, but 99.9% sure. He says the "ZAP" was almost certainly stamped on the barrel by the professional smith who put this gun together - known locally by that mark - to "sign" his work.

    He also says whoever built this rifle knew his stuff.

    The SS barrel is high quality and in excellent condtion, though the manufacturer info was cut off the end when the barrel was installed (or cut off at the factory and the included cut-off section has been lost).

    Looks like the "rebarrel" and "new barrel" options you discuss may be unnecessary. Lets hope!

    The action is in superb condition. He confirmed that this Sako couldn't be stainless steel, but offered to test to see if it's polished or treated. I'll pass on that. Not important to me - unless it somehow significantly effects the gun's value.

    Do you think it would?

    He also confirmed that the stock is a good quality Bell and Carlson and that it is double-bedded - using both pillars and glass. Never heard of that.

    Have any of you?

    BTW, you're absolutely right, paulsonconstruction. What is the point of having a 500-700 yard gun but no place to practice?

    Here I am fortunate. Located within 20 minutes of me, are:

    (1) A public 500-yd range at "Top Gun Texas" (http://www.topguntexas.com/)

    (2) A semi-private 850-yd range at "Texas Rifle and Pistol Academy" (http://www.texaspistol.com/)

    Then,

    (3) About two hours away is a 1,000 range at the "Tac Pro Shooting Center"(http://www.tacproshootingcenter.com/facilities.html).

    Best of all, I inherited several hundred acres of (mostly flat) land about two hours away. I've verified a clean line of sight to targets out to 1,400+ yards.

    The land came with a long-abandoned dirt road on site - flat and straight, a perfect firing lane cut through a thick blanket of old-growth oak trees. The road ends abruptly at a hill about 60 ft wide and surveyed at 23 ft high - a natural berm.

    With my full blessing, whether I'm around or not the few neighbors there love to get together and shoot on that lane, bringing iced tea, fried chicken and potato salad, with cold beer for a nice end of the day around a campfire - old-style rural Texas life at its best.

    My wife and I will soon be building a house on that land and moving out there. We're considering installing wifi-powered camera-to-laptop/smartphone equipment to observe the targets, shot by shot. (Wifi is proving to be something of a technical challenge at the longer distances.) The 4-wheelers are ok for swapping targets, but...

    Guess this is a little off the subject, but seeking advice on my related little project...

    Considering building a 20x30 shooting shed. Gunsmithing and reloading areas with complete tools and materials.

    Little lounge around a woodstove for hanging out, exaggerating about that monster buck or fish that got away. Sharing gun/shooting knowledge - or just relaxing and complaining about how getting old sucks. Classic guy comradery. Group therapy before they "professionalized" it.

    Air conditioning, of course, for all those brutal 100°+ days (with lots of 90% humidity) in these north Texas summers.

    Nothing extravagant. But with comfy bench-shooting positions. Any suggestions on this little "dream" project?

    Any and all comments welcome. You guys have proven to be a wealth of ideas and information.

    As I find out, I'll update you on the status of my Sako L61R build. Can't wait to get it to the range.

    Many thanks in advance!
     
  14. paulsonconstruction

    paulsonconstruction Sako-addicted

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    You are indeed fortunate to have access to multiple long range shooting sites & also have property suitable for such activity. It looks like you are in north Texas, just south of the Red River. I pass thru that area when I visit my sister in Austin. Next time I head that way I'll give you a shout & maybe stop for a cup of coffee (or possibly a Shiner Bock) on the way through!! Sounds like your Sako is in good hands & you'll be shooting it soon. Glad I could be of assistance. Air Conditioned shooting bench sites!!!!!!! Now that's doing it right!! I could tell some "whopper" stories in that environment.
     
  15. Larry E

    Larry E Member

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    PLEASE DO stop by for coffee, beer, etc.! I assume you run I-75 south to DFW. I'm in Sherman, about a mile from the I-75/HWY 82 intersection. Not sure how to get you my email address and phone number here. Do you just post it for all to see?
     
  16. paulsonconstruction

    paulsonconstruction Sako-addicted

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    Most use the forum's PM (personal messages) system for private messages & negotiations on items for sale. I just sent you one. Check on your "in box" in the upper right of the forum page. To send one just click on a members name & options will pop up or just click "in box" & sending a new message will be possible.
     

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