It was a hot Wyoming afternoon, hot and dry as it often is on the prairie, in spite of the fact that the mountain tops were still covered in the last remnants of the winter snows. The action out on the dog towns had lulled; I had to let the rifle cool anyhow. The action was non-stop for most of the day, with prairie dogs offering targets from just inside 100 yards, to the better part of 1,000 yards; it was simply more fun than any rifleman should have.
As the barrel cooled, I reflected on the performance of the rifle. If you've ever shot over an active prairie dog town, you understand the sheer amount of shooting you'll do, and that any flaws in your equipment — rifle, scope or ammunition — will show its ugly face before too long. This rifle — undoubtedly — was a shooter.
J.P. Sauer & Sohn — founded in Suhl, Germany in 1751 — has a long history and an impeccable reputation for producing fine firearms. The Model 100 Classic XT is no exception. It's a synthetic stocked, bolt-action rifle, with some nice features, all rolled up into an affordable package that will satisfy any hunter. Upon picking the rifle up the first thing you'll notice is the feel of the stock. The Model 100 Classic XT uses the ERGO MAX stock — a design that shares the geometry of the pricier Sauer 101 and 404 rifles, complete with the sweet Schnabel forend — affording the shooter both positive grip and good balance. The slightest palm swell is evident - which came in very handy on the Wyoming prairie — on the textured pistol grip, and a correlative textured forend grip allows the rifle to come to shoulder with no slipping or sliding in the hands. A pliable recoil pad sits firmly on the shoulder, and takes the sting out of even the magnum cartridges.
The stock is made with a neutral cast, for use by both left and right-handed shooters. The comb rises as it heads from pistol grip to butt, allowing for proper sight alignment when using a scope. The hammer-forged barrel is made by Sauer, and is nicely blued. While drilled and tapped for scope bases, the barrel is clean, without iron sights. The standard calibers feature 22-inch barrels, while the magnum cartridges use 24.5-inch barrels. Sauer uses a single bolt, set into a milled block, to attach the action to the stock. According to Sauer, no torque specs are issued for the action screws.
The Sauer 100 action is closed, with the ejection port being on the right side of the receiver. A three lug bolt — with dual plunger ejectors on the bolt face — works with a 60Ëš throw for quick reloading. As is typical of all the Sauer rifles I've ever had the pleasure of handling, the action feels as smooth as you could ask for. The push-feed design gathers the cartridges from a detachable, polymer, dual-stack magazine, designed for a 5+1 capacity in the standard calibers, and a 4+1 capacity in the two belted magnum offerings. Those dual plunger ejectors are a nice feature, as all the brass is thrown out from the receiver at a level angle — not upward like we're used to — to ensure that those spent casings will clear the larger target turrets with the huge knobs, that have become so popular of late. At the rear of the bolt, a nice little cocking indicator immediately lets the shooter know whether or not the gun is hot at a glance.
The Model 100 has an adjustable trigger which ranges in pull weight from 2.2 to 4.2 pounds; it came at the factory setting of 3 ¼ lbs — just about in the middle of the range. It had very little creep and broke cleanly, all in all a very useable trigger, even for targets as small as prairie dogs. The trigger weight is adjusted by a small Allen wrench, which is accessible without dismantling the firearm.
The 100 Classic XT uses a three-position safety, but in a conformation reminiscent of a Remington 700, being located on the right side of the receiver and moving parallel with the bore, with forward being the fire position. There are two rearward positions; all the way back locks both the sear and the bolt, while the position just ahead of that allows the user to operate the bolt for loading/unloading the rifle safely.
On the prairie
Six gun-writers were assembled in Elk Mountain, Wyoming, to put this rifle to the test. Prairie dogs are a nuisance to farmers; in addition to carrying bubonic plague, the holes they dig are a detriment to cattle, horses, sheep and goats, breaking and injuring their legs.
They are fair game, and pose a challenge to any rifleman, especially when the distances get truly long in that Wyoming wind. We had a whole bunch of Model 100 Classic XT rifles, predominately chambered in .222 Remington (a classy and accurate cartridge), .223 Remington; all perfect for this hunt.
As an added bonus, the good folks from SilencerCo were along for the hunt, and all the rifles — with the exception of the Creedmoor — were dressed up with a suppressor. I can't express my joy; if you can imagine the amount of noise generated by six or seven rifles simultaneously blazing away, combined with the discomfort associated with wearing ear protection for hours on end, those suppressors were a God-send.
Ammunition was supplied by HSM, the .222 ammo used the 50-grain flat-base Berger bullet in the HSM Varmint Gold line, while the .223 Remington loads were built around the 55-grain Sierra Blue Thrill polymer tipped bullet, in the Varmint Blue line. The riflescopes onboard the various Model 100s were all Minox, of various power ranges and reticle configurations. For the field, D.O.A. Tactical provided their excellent shooting benches; these well-built field benches are sturdy, well-designed, and offer a complete range of motion, as both the bench top and attached seat rotate fully. All in all, we were perfectly outfitted for the mayhem that is prairie dog shooting.
I spent the first day of the hunt in a constant rhythm: load, shoot, reload, shoot, rinse and repeat. I used rifles in both .222 and .223; I was immediately impressed by the accuracy of both the rifle and the ammunition. The Sauer Model 100 uses the same magazine for both cartridges, and that is where I ran into the one and only snag in the design. Things worked fine when shooting .223, but not so much with the .222 ammunition; there were multiple feeding jams and it was evident that for the .222 at least, the design needed to be revised. That said, the .223 ammo worked much better. As you can imagine, the ammunition provided all the terminal damage you'd want for creating the red mist associated with prairie dog hunting. With us in the field were the guys from PhoneSkope — they make the awesome little device that attaches your smartphone to a spotting scope for photos and video, and it was nice to see where the shots were hitting, even out past 300 yards and more. Seeing slow motion video of the kills was certainly an eye-opener.
The Sauer 100 Classic XT is a very accurate rifle, hands down. One zeroed, any missing was a result of my own shooting skills, a misjudgment of distance, or the effects of that prairie wind. Shots inside of 300 were a slam dunk, and in spite of the small size of the targets, shots at twice that distance were possible. My buddy and fellow gun writer Christopher Olsen and I were working with one of the .223s when he spotted a dog further out than I'd ever shot at game. Someone produced a laser rangefinder, and announced that it was just over 800 yards. This rifle wore a Minox 2.5-10x42 scope, with a graduated reticle measured in 100 yard increments. Though it took a half a box of bullets, Chris figured the hold properly and killed that dog! Jumping up from the bench, he told me to look through the scope, and guided me to where the evidence was. Laying sideways on the front of the mound, was a former prairie dog.
"Phil, hold the 800-yard bar just at the right edge for the wind, and tickle the trigger."
I held as Chris instructed, and my first shot flipped the dead dog a foot to the left. With a 55-grain bullet, and the unpredictable winds, that's a feat to be proud of; I'm glad we had witnesses or this would sound like a fish-story of the grandest proportions, but it happened.
The Final Word
Testing accuracy with the Sauer 100, in several different calibers, we proved that it was definitely a sub-MOA rifle.
The six of us made a serious dent in the dog population, calling shots confidently. For a hunter looking to grab a go-anywhere, do-anything rifle, the Sauer 100 Classic XT will most definitely get the job done. If you're after a varmint/predator rifle, look to the .223; for a good big game rifle, the Sauer comes chambered in .270 Winchester, .308 Winchester, .30-'06 Springfield, 7mm Remington Magnum and .300 Winchester Magnum. Simply put, there's a Sauer 100 for everyone.
Model: Sauer 100 Classic XT
Action: Bolt-action repeating
Finish: Blued/black synthetic
Barrel length: 22" (as tested)
Calibers: .222 Rem. (tested), .223 Rem. (tested), .243 Win., 6.5 Creedmoor, 6.5x55mm, .270 Win., .308 Win., .30-'06 Spfd., 8x57JS, 9.3x62, 7mm Rem. Mag., .300 Win. Mag,
Magazine: Polymer detachable — 5+1 capacity for standard calibers, 4+1 capacity for magnum calibers
Sights: None furnished, drilled and tapped for scope mounts
Weight: 6 lbs, 9 oz (tested)