The fascinating 7x33 Sako

Discussion in 'Sako Short Actions' started by Rubicon, Jan 18, 2014.

  1. Rubicon

    Rubicon Well-Known Member

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    The 7X33 Sako is a very short, rimless, bottleneck cartridge. It was only ever loaded with a 77-79Gr softpoint or FMJ bullet. It was produced for only a short time, by only one manufacturer and only in one model of rifle.

    A little history is in order.

    During the last War, Sako in Finland spent its time producing ammunition and rifles for the War effort and prewar sporting firearms development was put on hold. At the cessation of hostilities the harsh terms of the Moscow Peace Treaty decreed the Civil Guards, the owners of Sako, had to be disbanded within 6 days. To save Sako from dissolution it was donated "lock stock and barrel" to the Red Cross. As the Red Cross was a non profit, non political organisation it was exempt from the terms of the treaty. A very smart move by the Finns and this unusual business venture percolated happily along until 1962 when Sako was taken over by Oy Nokia AB, one of Finlands biggest companies. Beretta now owns Sako and Tikka.

    Originally concieved in 1942, the 7X33 only ever had a few prototype rifles, naturally enough called the L42, made for it before Finland’s war involvement stopped further development. Sako nomenclature by the way is quite simple. The "L" in Sako designation is short for Ludo, the Finnish word for rifle. The numerals generally indicate the year of introduction, L46 in 1946, L57 in 1957 etc.

    Anyway after the War, Sako, under the leadership of a Colonel Hyden refined and started to produce a dinky little bolt action, clip fed sporting rifle called the L46. Start of production was naturally 1946. First calibre produced was 7X33 and this chambering was in production until 1959. A total of 6337 rifles were produced in this calibre. Other calibres for the L46 were 22 Vierling, which is the European version of the 22WCF which later became the 22 Hornet, 22 Hornet, 218 Bee, 25/20 and the 222 Remington. Just before the L46 was superceeded by the L461 in 1961, a variation, known as the L469 was made and it was chambered for the 222 Remington Magnum. Rifles were made in 20" and 24" barrelled fullwood models with both one and two piece stocks and 24" barrelled sporters.

    The L46 has been manufactured in three action variations or lengths if you like. The earliest rifles in Hornet, Bee 25/20 and 7X33 had an action and magazine just long enough for these four cartridges which are all almost identical in length. The safety is a wing on the port side of the bolt head, not a lot unlike that on the Mauser 98 or Anschutz Match 54.

    When the 222 Remington was introduced in 1951, and Sako was among the first to prodcue rifles for it, the bolt stop was shortened and the magazine lengthened. For a time Sako made both the short and longer versions simultaneously but soon only the longer version was made and for the shorter cartridges a spacer of approximately 8mm was put in the rear of the magazine, similar to how other manufacturers use the 308 sized action for the 222/223 class of cartridge. The safety became a pivoting lever on the right side of the bolt which now had its rear end encased in a squarish steel "block".

    When the 222 Magnum was introduced in 1959 the bolt stop was shortened still further and a slightly longer magazine made. This "Magnum" length L46, the L469, was only ever produced in 222 Magnum.

    The 7X33 is a cartridge of Sako's own design and was not really based on any existing cartridge even though it shares a head size identical to the 9mm Luger. Sako wanted to produce a cartridge that was patriotically of Finnish design and use existing tooling to produce cases. The 7mm was settled upon for the calibre as it was thought it would be a good one for bird hunting, what sort I dont know but bear in mind the Europeans have a fondness for full metal jacket bullets and their shooting styles are very different from our own. I suppose potting a duck or goose on a dam with an FMJ would be quite an effective way of putting meat on the table that wasnt already minced. An FMJ and the 7X33's moderate velocity and reasonable calibre would also be effective on furbearers where big holes in pelts mean little money on the auction block. With a soft point bullet the 7X33 was found to be ideal for seal hunting and the cartridge has been known as the “Seal Calibre”. I expect the 7X33 has also taken its fair share of Roe deer, which appears to be a bit smaller than our own Hog deer. From my own experience I feel the 7X33 would be perfectly adequate for Hog except it does not meet the size criteria laid down by the Victorian Government. Interestingly enough the very earliest 7X33 cartridge boxes have what appears to be a capercaille depicted on them. Soon after the boxes were changed and the bird (or whatever it was supposed to be) was changed to a seal.

    The case length at 33mm was the longest that could be made with the machinery Sako had. Bullets are either FMJ or soft point and weigh 78 grains on my scales. Case neck is very short at approximately .13" and when properly seated to the canelure the bullet sits flush with the base of the neck. Bullets are what is best described as semi pointed.

    Factory ballistics are the 77Gr (sometimes listed at 78 or 79 grains) bullet at 2360fps (720m/s) at 38400 psi. I have seen velocities of 2950 fps quoted in a very old Australian magazine, load unspecified, but I feel this could not safely be achieved. The case capacity is just too small and trying to achieve 25% above factory ballistics despite the fact that the case and action is quite strong and is actually proved at 60000 psi would be giving the tiny case just too much of a boot in the rear.

    My own interest in the 7X33, and subsequently the L46 Sako, was ignited with the purchase of half a box of factory cartridges for my collection at a gunshow in Sydney. Being intrigued by the "cute" little rounds I decided to find out what I could about it and see if it was at all possible to locate a rifle. First stop was to consult Barnes, "Cartridges of the World" 6th Edition but it was not listed at all which was very surprising as other more obscure cartridges get a good write up.

    Official Sako records state only around 100 rifles in this calibre were ever exported to Australia, the first and last shipments in 1951 and 1955 respectively. Other countries to get a share of the 6337 produced were Norway, Sweden, Brazil and Great Britain. Surely there were others as individual rifles were sent to various Finnish Embassies around the world, to be shown to potential buyers to try and generate export sales.

    With only 100 rifles in Australia (I am quite sure many more were imported here and this figure is incorrect) my chances of finding one were pretty slim I thought but eventually I became the owner of #18006, a 24" barrelled Fullwood rifle that showed a little honest hunting use but was as neat as could be inside. Along the way I located about a dozen other rifles in 7X33 but they were all sporters and mine is the only fullwood that I know of. Six of those sporters came to live with me.

    Now that I had my first 7X33 I wanted to get it shooting. I had the ammo I had bought at the Gun Show and about 100 rounds in factory packets that I did not want to use came with the rifle. A quick call around the gunshops found some factory ammo and about 800 projectiles sitting on the shelf at Arthur Langsfords Myras Sports Store at Broken Hill (Arthur, a genius who always thought outside the square has since passed away). Trouble was - this was all in even older factory as new boxes and I didnt want to spoil the packets or contents by just banging it away.

    Bruce Bertram at Seymour in Victoria produces unprimed cases for the 7X33 (among many other weird calibres) so a few hundred at a very reasonable price considering its rarity solved that problem. A fax (no internet then!!) to RCBS in the USA established they have 3 die sets sitting on the shelf so a set was duly ordered which, as per usual RCBS fashion, arrived almost as soon as I posted the cheque.

    Interestingly enough the Bertram cases would not chamber in my rifle being about 1mm too long in the head to shoulder length. This is no criticism however and I would rather have them a little long than short by the same margin. A quick trip through the full length size die found they were still a whisker long and would not chamber. I had to put the shellholder in a lathe and take about .005" off the face after which the problem was solved. Also, RCBS list their #32 shellholder as being correct for the 7X33. This is not the case as #32 is for the PPC range of cartridge as well as the 7.62X39 and there is a considerable difference. The correct shellholder is as for the 9mm Luger. I guess with something as obscure as the 7X33 specifications and knowledge about it can vary a little and as I said this is no criticism.

    The project was starting to gather pace. I chose Sako two piece mounts for my rifle (what else?) and started to scout around for a period scope. In due course an old Pecar 4X36 was unearthed but it had no turret caps and the reticule was a flat post. It was sent to Fielder Optec at Arncliffe where Rod Fielder made some caps and changed the reticule to
    crosshair. The internals were overhauled and regassed as well.

    Bullets were a pain. Letters and faxes to gunshops in Finland whose addresses were supplied to me by the Finnish Embassy here in Canberra eventually had an initial shipment of 1,000 soft point bullets on a boat. Despite serious language difficulties this was later followed by two further shipments of 2,000 and 3,000 each which I think I was lucky to get. Sako rarely produces ammo, projectiles or cases for the 7X33 but make a run every five years or so although I expect the runs are becoming less and less frequent. After all, with only 6000 plus rifles to start with, the last being made 36 years ago, and more and more being taken out of service due to age, conversions and being put into collections I expect the demand for components has just about evaporated.

    Now I had everything. Except some loading data. This was the biggest problem of all. I hunted through some very old Australian manuals but found nothing. Even if I had it would most likely have been for a long out of production powder anyway but at least it would have been a start.

    So I would be flying blind. Literally. I scoured my cartridge collection looking for a similar capacity, similar pressure cartridge for which current load data was available. The closest I got was the 256 Winchester Magnum, originally designed for a pistol but at one time used in a clip magazine Marlin lever action rifle. No doubt it has found its way into some Winchester 92 lever action conversions and various single shots. Capacity of the 7X33 was about 15% more than the 256 which suited me fine. It would be reasonable to assume a "normal" load for the 256, for which Winchester list a pressure of 41000 psi with an 86 grain bullet would be a bit soft in the 7X33 for which Sako quote 38400 psi with a 77 grain bullet.

    The only data I could find for the 256 (at the time) was with American powders and I specifically wanted to use Australian Mulwex. So a bit of transposition saw two powders, 2205 and 2207, show up as prime candidates. I hoped 2205 would be the one most suitable as it meters better through a measure.


    Before starting I ran five rounds of factory ammo through the chronograph which gave a reading of 2478 fps average with a spread of 35 fps. This was a pleasant surprise, partly for the low variation in velocity of ammunition that must be nearly 40 years old and partly because it was over 100 fps faster than the factory quote. My rifles all have 24" barrels which would get the most out of the small cartridge and may account for the difference.

    Pulling another cartridge apart found it was loaded with 16.5 grains of a powder that appeared identical to IMR4227 but which was most likely some bulk lot of European powder and no conclusions should be drawn from this. I expected however that 4227 would be an excellent powder just the same.

    I guess it should be pointed out here that it was never my intention to conduct a full blown load development program. I can with hindsight think of about 5 powders that would most certainly be suitable for the 7X33 and any one of them may be more suitable than Mulwex 2205. Also my 7X33's are not the sort of rifles I want to wear out punching holes in paper trying for group averages a fraction of an MOA better. What I wanted was a load that gave about 1.5 MOA with velocities somewhere around the factory quote of 2360 fps. If it would do that, thats fine, and I was not going to throw scarce and expensive projectiles down range searching for something I didnt really need anyway.

    So, my calculations in relation to 2205 had me thinking about 17.5 grains would be the upper limit and with 2207 I expected the load to peak at about 18.5 grains.

    Tossing all the reloading gear into the truck I headed off to my high country retreat where I could conduct these tests at my leisure. The chronograph and targets were set up in line so I could shoot for both velocity and group simultaneously thereby saving more of those precious projectiles.

    Starting with 15.0 grains of 2205 five new Bertram cases primed with Winchester Small Rifle primers were loaded and fired very carefully over a solid sandbag rest. Velocity and group size were recorded and the cases checked with a micrometer for head expansion. Powder charge was increased .5 grain, using new cases still, and the process repeated. By the time I got to 17.5 grains the velocity had climbed to 2508 fps and the group was starting to open out a little. There was still no measureable case head expansion. Fired cases popped out easily and there were no adverse pressure signs by visual inspection of the primer, admittably an unreliable indicator at best.

    Changing to 2207 the starting load was 16.5 grains and the whole process repeated. I stopped at 18.5 grains as the case was full and I avoid wherever possible compressed loads. The average velocity, spread and group size for the two powders are listed in the table that follows.

    MULWEX 2205 MULWEX 2207
    LOAD AV SPR GROUP LOAD AV SPR GROUP
    --------------------------------- ---------------------------------
    15.0 2172 97 2.0" 16.5 1973 115 over 5"
    --------------------------------- ---------------------------------
    15.5 2278 83 1.9" 17.0 2011 32 over 5"
    --------------------------------- ---------------------------------
    16.0 2320 25 2.1" 17.5 2072 31 3.4"
    --------------------------------- ---------------------------------
    16.5 2362 55 .8" 18.0 2161 32 2.0"
    --------------------------------- ---------------------------------
    17.0 2442 67 1.9" 18.5 2257 10 2.2"
    --------------------------------- ======================
    17.5 2508 76 3.2"
    ======================

    So I have settled happily on 16.5 grains of 2205 and any further load development has ceased. I expect 2207 could be pushed a bit harder with a compressed load as pressure was obviously quite mild but I doubt I could improve much on the load on which I have settled. As a final test I loaded the one case with 16.5 grains of 2205 a total of 10 times and measured it in detail after each firing. There was no measurable head expansion or case stretch. It was neck sized only after each shot and it chambered and extracted with ease. The primer pocket was still tight.

    The case capacity of Bertram versus Sako cases was compared and the difference was of no consequence. The load of 16.5 grains of 2205 was tried in Sako cases and it performed with no discernible difference as to outward pressure signs, velocity, accuracy or case life.

    I was greatly surprised at the group produced by 16.5 grains of 2205. A few more groups of 5 shots each were fired to check the original results and they went just under or just over the MOA mark which is more than adequate for my purposes.

    And what are my purposes? Well I have a number of rifles in odd or obsolete calibres that I like to take out and dust off occasionally. All my Sporters and Fullwood I found to be lightweight, beautifully balanced little pieces that I like to carry when I intend and expect to fire only the occasional shot at game.

    The 7X33 is quite an effective round and to date it has accounted for a couple of dozen kangaroos shot under license, half as many foxes, half a dozen good size pigs and 4 goats, a few cats that have come to the fox whistle, been spotted and stalked or stuck their heads out of rabbit warrens at he wrong time, and sundry rabbits. It has no excess power for larger game however and bullet placement needs to be precise. The little 7 tends to knock foxes around some and I have not yet had a bullet stay inside the animal. Not that I care anyway as my fox skinning days finished some 30 plus years ago when I quit shooting for a living. Rabbits really come apart at the seams and damage is comparable to that of a hit with a 222. Roos, no matter how big, with a good chest shot either topple over on the spot or bound off 20-30 metres and collapse in a heap. Never had a pig or goat take a step after being hit.

    I have been quite surprised at the performance on game of this little round believing it can be attributed to the moderate velocity. This does not place the enormous stresses on a bullet the ultra high velocity rounds do and terminal bullet performance is much more consistent and reliable. I recovered a perfectly expanded bullet from a big pig that weighed 60 grains neat.

    If you were to decide you cant live without a 7X33 Sako rifle I wish you luck. With not many ever coming into the country, the last of those nearly 40 years ago, your chances are slim at best. Also I believe some of those were rebarrelled to 222 Remington when it became such a hot item in the early 1950's when imported rifles were hard to come by. I expect a few more got turned into 17 Mach 1V's and 17/222's when .17 mania swept the place in the mid 70's.

    Perhaps the best course for obtaining a small 7 would be to go the 7mm TCU route. It has the advantage of greater case capacity than the 7X33 which would be useful when pushing 100 - 120 grain bullets at velocities that would ensure expansion, something I think the 7X33 would struggle with. Said bullets as well as cases (the parent is the 223 Remington) and dies are much easier to come by as well and there is loading data already out there.

    If you still cant live without a 7X33 an L46 in 222 would be the best place to start. Magazines from later 7X33's and the 222 L46 will interchange and when using a 222 magazine you can use longer 100 grain bullets without seating them deeply in the case. I dont like your chances of getting any 77 grain bullets but the Australian agents for Sako may special order some for you, just dont hold your breath waiting for your order to be filled. A reamer could be ordered from Dave Manson, who supplies all my reamers, in the USA and the slowest twist 7mm barrel you can find would be fine. As near as I can measure it my barrels have about a 1 in 13" twist. A good gunsmith would have no trouble opening up the boltface the few thou necessary for the slightly fatter rims on the 7X33. Then you could get some dies from RCBS, some cases from Bertram and you are in business.

    I must admit to having enjoyed myself immensely playing around with these little rifles and they still give me many hours of pleasure carrying them around the hills even though sometimes I dont get to shoot them.
     
    Last edited: Jan 18, 2014
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  2. eddsako

    eddsako Banned

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    Thanks for the post it is very informative and provides great information. One excellent post.
     
  3. deersako

    deersako Well-Known Member

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    Bravo Rubicon, an excellent read mate. Thanks for posting.
     
  4. dodgyrog

    dodgyrog Well-Known Member

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    I have just acquired a lovely Sako Riihimaki in 7x33.
    The only strange thing about it is the magazine is stamped 25-20!
    I just wish somebody in Europe would sell me bullets to reload with!
     
  5. Rubicon

    Rubicon Well-Known Member

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    Nice find dodgyrog! If I have learned anything during my decades long pursuit of these lovely little gems it is to never, EVER give up! Your 25/20 magazine should still feed just fine without modification. I have both and cant see any difference except the calibre on the bottom. Projectiles are the big problem, sending them from country to country is a pain in the you know what now - I got 6,000 when the guy in Finland just packed 'em in a sturdy cardboard box with lots of tape and just posted 'em. Came home one day and they were sitting on my doorstep! But we guys who fool around with these old beauties might be terrorists y'know - as if !!! If I was gunna try and bump off a world leader I dont think I'd be using a 7x33

    Rubicon
     
  6. deergoose

    deergoose Sako-addicted

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    Thanks for this.

    You Aussie dudes are all-right !!

    DeerGoose
     
  7. L-46

    L-46 Well-Known Member

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    Rubicon,
    A great read!
    Thanks for taking the time,
    L-46
     
  8. eddsako

    eddsako Banned

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    Hi dodgyrog Are there any importers in the UK and recommended gun sales websites in Europe.
     
  9. dodgyrog

    dodgyrog Well-Known Member

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    GMK are the importers for Beretta and Sako in the UK. They are about as much use as a chocolate fireguard.
    Midway (UK) import from the States as do Hannams Reloading and Edgar Brothers.
    The problem with the small 7mm bullet is the lack of demand so nobody wants to make them except the small 'hobby' manufacturers. For example I make and sell cast bullets for rifle shooters and sell small quantities of them around the UK.
    I would like to get a set of Corbin swage dies for the 7mm but it would be very expensive and uneconomical. I doubt that there is much of a market for the small 7mm bullets around Europe, but if there were I would set up manufacture of them.
     
  10. Rubicon

    Rubicon Well-Known Member

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    I have no doubt there are still 7x33 pills still available - I seem to remember a post last year asking if anyone wanted any as someone was prepared (L61R perhaps????) to put in an order as Sako was doing a run?

    Also, Henry Krank in the UK (if he is still in business????) was importing Bertram brass and Bertram still makes 7x33. I have dealt with Krank and got the impression if there was a quid/buck to be made he'd find a way to make it?

    You could get a cottage industry going by making swaged pills for the 7x33. I'm pretty sure a lot of guys here in Aussie would keep you busy for a while. I dont know if "legally" you need an export permit to send from the UK but if you just posted them surface mail to keep the cost down the drama wont start until they get here. Our Customs would probably seize them but getting a clearance form called a B709 is a mere formality. Like you said though, the start up cost is considerable.

    Perhaps there is someone else who has already set up a little sideline making pills who has already made the major investment who would get the dies and raw materials as an extra string to their bow?

    I have spoken to Berger about 17 cal projectiles that are now discontinued - they told me for an order of 10,000 they'll do a run of just about anything. That is worth considering too.

    Rubicon.
     
  11. dodgyrog

    dodgyrog Well-Known Member

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    I'm starting to think the swaging dies would be a good investment!
    I'll email Corbin and check prices - how many of you would want 7mm bullets?
     
  12. dodgyrog

    dodgyrog Well-Known Member

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    $1000 or thereabouts - ouch
     
  13. David_S

    David_S Well-Known Member

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    Thanks Rubicon for a very interesting post. Who would have thought that the Red Cross once owned Sako? - David
     
  14. bsmith

    bsmith Well-Known Member

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    Interestingly the recent edition (13th) of Barnes' Cartridges of the World does include 7x33. States 6,000 were made and includes fol loading data: 16.5 grains of Vita Vuori N110 with velocity of 2430 fps and 1030 psi energy with the remark that it is effective for bird hunting up to 150 yds. Could there be more than a handful of us in the U.S. that would be enough to warrant a manufacturing run of 78 gr bullets?
     
  15. Rubicon

    Rubicon Well-Known Member

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    I'm sure there are a heap of guys who have Corbin swaging units who maybe make some odd bullets for themselves and possibly make some money to help pay for their sport. After all, Corbin make and sell these things and have been in business for a long time - I have their guide manuals that are dated 1977 - and they wouldnt still be in business if people werent buying their stuff, right?

    If you were to contact Corbin and ask for the addresses of people who use his equipment to make bullets for sale he would be happy to help. After all it would mean more sales of equipment for him and more income for the guy he sells it to. And if you could talk some guy into adding 7x33 pills to his inventory it's a win win win situation. Just dont expect them to come cheap as a Hornady/Speer etc offering but you wont be shooting many anyway. 2,000 6mm jackets are a bit under $300US alone.

    About the only problem I can see is that 7mm jackets may be a bit thick for 7x33 velocities but this could be fixed by using 6mm jackets. Commercial jackets like J4's are also be a bit long, the shortest 7mm jacket they make is 1.2" and have to be trimmed unless they will make them to any specified length - they used to do this on request but not sure about now. The shortest 6mm jacket they make is .79" - still a bit long but they are easy to reform.

    As a matter of interest I saw a Corbin "migty mite" press and dies for a calibre I cant remember for sale on an Aussie website perhaps a year ago.

    Rubicon
     
  16. L-46

    L-46 Well-Known Member

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    A really good point, alot of work to go too, and find that it turns into a FMJ when it gets there!

    L-46
     
  17. misako50

    misako50 Sako-addicted

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    Fantastic bullets for the Capercaillie, L46. You can import them and maybe they will not be quite as successful as bunnies.-Misako
     
  18. Luomu

    Luomu Member

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    Hello from Finland.

    I was doing some correspondence elsewhere about the 7x33, when I stumbled here. Main point of that discussion was contemplating the possible use of 7x33 in automatic weapons. So I thought to add my two cents worth here as well:

    a bit off topic, sure, but some historical backround about the 7x33mm Sako calibre:

    Envisioned as a hunting round, and thought to be especially good at hunting large birds (Lyrurus tetrix, Tetrao urogallus), common game in Finland at the time, the 7mm Sako also won dubious fame in crime.
    A finnish criminal, Tauno Pasanen shot and killed four policemen with his 7x33 hunting rifle, 7 march 1969. The police were called on his farm because of domestic disturbance (Pasanen was known to drink and to have a temper). The policemen even had a m/31 Suomi SMG on them. It made no difference, the rifle prevailed in the end.
    Police tactics can be questioned, of course, but I do not have specific details, engagement ranges or whatnot. Pasanen did not even have a scope on his rifle, however. The rifle has a 3 round magazine. All of the police were armed. Pasanen was found to be 1,2 pro mille (1/1000?) drunk.
    Some of the 8 rounds fired were shot at close range, execution style.

    So, an argument could be made that the 7x33mm Sako might have some merit in combat applications as well?

    [​IMG]

    This incident was later on basis for a finnish movie as well.

    Also, the finnish word for rifle is "kivääri". "Ludo" is not a finnish word, and I have no idea what it means. The letter L stands for "Luodikko" which is an oldish finnish word specifically meaning a hunting rifle, as opposed to other type of rifles.


    Best regards,

    -Luomu
     
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  19. 16b410

    16b410 Well-Known Member

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    Thank you for the post and welcome to the club. I have been collecting, shooting , and hunting with these fine rifles for years and have always wondered what the 'L' might have referenced.
     
  20. topgear

    topgear Sako-addicted

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    Luomu welcome to the forum and great 1st post. It's good to get some people from Finnland posting on the forum.
     

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