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Sako Pistol History

Sako Collectors Club Discussion Forum


Active Member
I thought I had posted this item but maybe I just prepared to do it and then it fell by the wayside. Len Mott's contribution at the end is priceless. Enjoy.

I have surfed the net looking for the historical background to the Sako handguns which were made between 1976 and 1988 - 12 years of production. Right from the start, the guns were made with interchangeable uppers in rimfire and centre fire calibres. According to the factory record available on the sako.fi website, the first series was designated the 22-32 (1976-1977) being for rimfire .22 and centre fire .32. The latter almost certainly .32SWLWC as used in the ISSF Centrefire match. I cannot ascertain if the .22 calibre was in both LR and Short or in just one of these two. I suspect both though the total number of serial numbers used was just 543 of which the major portion would have been the frames as these had separate serial numbers not matched to the uppers. The later series could be purchased in one, two or three calibres (.22Short, .22LR and .32SWLWC) so, if the same practice applied in the earliest series, it becomes almost impossible to derive the numbers made of each from just the range of serial numbers. These early pistols were apparently sold with plastic grips!

The second series, made from 30 July 1977 to 23 October 1981, was also designated the 22-32 in the factory record and described as "New model". This would have been what was marketed as the Three-in-One, this time definitely in the three calibres and with wooden orthopaedic grips. The serial numbers for this 4-year run are from 800543 to 808225, some 7,682 items. Again, the mix of purchasing options would make it hard to figure out how many frames were made. The minimum would have been 1,920 if every frame was accompanied by all three uppers, which is probably not the case: I have seen 3-in-1s for sale in Australia with different combinations of uppers.

After a 2-year hiatus, the final run of Sako pistols was the TriAce from s/n 808226 to 814484 (a total of 6,259 pieces), manufactured from 21 October 1983 to 22 Sept 1988, the end of the run for these handsome and very accurate pistols. The TriAce had a number of differences to the 3-in-1s, notably the extended underlug with take-up adjusting screw (to minimise the tendency for the upper to rock up and down longitudinally), and a rib along the top side of the uppers; these differences make the TriAce easily distinguishable from the earlier pistols which are often erroneously advertised as TriAces. The trigger blade was also now adjustable longitudinally and the trigger mechanism had some other differences; strangely, a trigger stop had been omitted though the range of longitudinal movement of the trigger blade would have made this a tricky item to incorporate. These pistols were dispatched from the factory in very expensive looking, cut-out plastic foam lined, lockable cases with full tool and cleaning sets and two magazines for each calibre.

The method of adjusting the trigger weight for each discipline/calibre was quite ingenious as it was automatically increased or decreased when the respective upper was fitted. Fitting the .22Short upper was a little more complicated than the other two requiring repositioning of the trigger bar pivot point in the trigger; the sear engagement could also be increased to give more of a roll-off trigger action. Again, it’s almost impossible to say how many "pistols", i.e. frames, were produced as the various purchasing options muddy the water but it would have been at least 1,600 (one quarter of the serial number run).

I have no knowledge of how well these pistols were used. I assume that they figured in the major UIT /ISSF competitions of the day and were successful as the cover photo on the TriAce instruction booklet would suggest - it shows two medals from the 1978 World Shooting Championships in Seoul, South Korea. Finland came away from that meeting with 6 medals in 25m Centrefire and Standard Pistol both individual (1xG, 1xS 2xB) and team (2xG). It is a good bet that at least some of those Finnish competitors were using the second series 3-in-1 pistols. It should be mentioned that Finland did very well in 10m Air Pistol too (2xG, 1xS) and in the other long arm shooting disciplines. It is to be regretted that UIT/ISSF competition records do not note the firearm used by each of the competitors. No doubt manufacturers keep a note!

The 1980 Olympics did not have the preferred disciplines of the Finns (only Rapid Fire and 50m Pistol) and in 1982, at the World Championships in Caracas, the Finns only managed a bronze in the 25m Centrefire team event. This championship marked the rise of the Soviet and Eastern Bloc countries and their dominance of the sport. The 1984 Olympics saw one bronze medal for Finland in the Rapid Fire event. What pistol was being shot is not known but at that time, almost certainly the .22Short.

Which brings us to the final question: why did Sako embark on the handgun trail for 12 years, with much development along the way then suddenly stop production? The pistols were very high end, well fitted and very accurate, if a little heavy. The latter point could easily have been overcome by the use of lighter weight materials and/or reducing the bulk of the barrel shroud and providing a rail or dovetail for attaching weights of choice.

I would be grateful for any information anyone has to enlighten me about this pistol's history. The company (now owned by Beretta) website is of little help, only referring to the pistols in the production record and providing a downloadable scanned TriAce manual.

From Len Mott on sakocollectors.com forum (7 August 2016):

The history of the Triace that I was told was that they decided to do what NSU did in the 1950's in the motorcycle world championship series. NSU announced that they were going to start racing, they were going to win the world championship just to show everybody they could. And then stop after all it's a very expensive business.
They were as good as their word. They entered the 250cc class in 1953 and won and the entered the 250 and 125cc classes in 1954 and won they then retired from racing.
Sako, so I was told, was a rifle making company who considered they were the best. They also made a small number of pistols. They decided to make a set of pistols for people specifically to take part in the Olympics with and make it so good they would win with them. They called the set The Triace. It consisted of one pistol body and three barrel and slide sets for .32, .22 long rifle and a .22 short (for Olympic quick fire) calibres.
This was put into a leatherette case with two magazines for each calibre, a cleaning rod, a complete tool set and a comprehensive handbook. They succeeded in going to the very top in Olympic competition but did not make or sell many of the sets. A significant number of clients made it known that they did not require the .22 short barrel, so some sets were sold as pairs in three barrel cases and some in two barrel cases. They were of course painfully expensive.

Sako Pistol Manufacturing Dates.png
Ed: I’ve only just noticed (doh!) that the medals that decorate the TriAce manual cover predate it's introduction - 1978 vs 1983. It would seem, from the manufacturing dates above, that the pistols that won these medals were the 22-32 New Model (3-in-1).

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Thank you for posting this information. It will come in handy if I ever decide to buy one of these pistols. I was not aware of the differences between the 22-32 and the Triace. It does explain why we see pistols without a case. One thing that would be interesting to know is when were the two-tone models made and were they the Triace or the earlier version.
Hmmm. My TriAce, which I think was built in 1985 (from markings on the u/s of the conversions), is solid black but the manuals for both the “Three pistols in one” The Sako 22-32 Conversion Pistol (green cover) and the TriAce show silver slides, so there may not be definitive dates. I have to say that I have not been focussed on that feature of the sets so am not aware of whether what is shown on the manual covers is consistent with actual sets. My colleague's TriAce is a two tone version and I’m pretty sure another's 22-32 is likewise.


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