TFB Review: New Sako TRG A1 – the latest expansion to the TRG family

    So far this is The Bible on the Sako TRG A1, with almost 3 000 words of cleaning, shooting, testing and wisdom from Finland.

    This review and videos are taken from FinnAccuracy with permission. FinnAccuracy is a Finnish company concentrating on premium optics and high-tech products. Their specialty is know-how related to high-end products to serve both private and professional customers.

    Please bear in mind that the original author is from Finland, a language very different from English (latin based). I have tried to edit some words here and there, but if it looks a little bit silly you know why, I think the pictures and the testing is Universal language.

    Sako TRG – The Background

    Sako TRG is one of the global icons in the precision rifle World. It has been in production for a long time already, serving as a crown jewel in Sako’s inventory. A starting point for the revised version was therefore very good – but at the same time very challenging: how to improve a well-selling product which is already very good?

    With A1, the case might be more about reaching a broader user base than an urgent need to update a product which is getting obsolete. The Polymer stock version TRG 22/42 remains in production and is still an excellent rifle for various types of shooting – for almost any use where a precision rifle is needed.

    Finnaccuracy has been using TRG 22:s and 42:s since their original launch. The model is, therefore, more than familiar to us, we were particularly keen to see how the latest version has changed. TRG A1 update is predominant, as A1 design changes appearance beyond recognition- unless an observer is ninja-level TRG expert. In fact, A1 version changes rifle much more than TRG 21-22 and 41-42 updates did in 1999, as the comparison.

    Note our normal disclaimer: As usually, we do apologize for any typos and errors in advance. English is not our native language. Bear with us, please.

    A short history of the TRG

    The original TRG was unveiled 1989, more or less as Valmet Sniper and Sako Target combined successor. x1 -> x2 facelift mentioned above was done for the model year 2000. Update comprised reliefs in the magazine well, revised muzzle brake, completely new bipod and changed grip angle. Finnish army took the new design to use immediately, and might have had something to do with changes too.

    The Army named the TRG-42 to “8.6 precision rifle 2000”, or “8.6 TKIV 2000” as Finnish abbreviation goes. New design was an instant success, and is used by governmental agencies or armies in over 20 countries at this moment too. In many more countries if sport shooters are included.

    Same base rifle, beginning from models TRG 21 and 41, has been in constant production for 29 years, this long lifespan and popularity does not happen for no reason. Both rifle and its accessories have been updated many times naturally, but these changes are rather subtle, not too apparent in most cases.

    The TRG A1 “core“, the TRG 22/42, is still very capable boom-stick: ergonomic, accurate and light too in its class. After the latest update, it is rather difficult to recognize it to still be good ol’ TRG- but the barrel, action and trigger module are same with current production 22/42 rifle.

    The A1 version mean new chassis, partially compatible with latest goodies Sako offers to M10. A1 is handguard, M10 folding stock and the middle section with magwell. Functionally TRG A1 is a similar successor to TRG 22/42 update kit including ITRS or even more so MMRS rail system with TRG 22/42 M08 folding stock – but as a modern and more streamlined package.

    A1 initiation began with a comparison to TRG line current flagship, latest multicaliber TRG M10. TRG 22 A1 we received from Sako was not 100% final production version – but very close if not identical to it already. Test rifle barrel was was 20” stubby. Only principle difference between A1 and M10 is switch-barrel system- which leads to other differences too.

    The M10 was originally developed to meet US SOCOM PSR- requirements and was a runner-up in the final selection. What made winning Remington better than TRG M10 is bit unclear. Interchangeable barrel with many other features were mandatory in 2009 PSR specification. As a side-effect, specification started “modular” design trend in civilian rifle styles: Most of the manufacturers participating to PSR competition with their newly developed rifles ended up offering the same rifle in their catalogs afterwards, as the most expensive flagship model. A switchable barrel can be a very beneficial feature in civilian use too alright, but adds some weight.

    General construction and features

    The original TRG22/42 is exceptionally light for full-blooded precision rile, one of the lightest factory rifles in the market we would guesstimate. This is especially valid with 338 Lapua version 42. With 20″ barrel, 308 Win TRG 22 weight without ammunition or accessories is 4.7kg/10.36lbs, M10- with same barrel length pushing scale to 6kg/13,27lbs. Latest TRG 22 A1 is, not too surprisingly, intermediate between tipping scale to 5.3kg/11.68lbs.

    TRG M10 rifle – as many other alike it – is described to be “multi-caliber” and “modular”- which might not be fitting perfectly to the original meaning of the term. Rifle does not consist several modules that can change the purpose of rifle too radical way. A magazine fed bolt action rifle will remain as magazine fed bolt action rifle. It will not transform, for instance, from short and light magazine-fed carbine to vehicle-mounted belt-fed machine gun, like the mother of all modular rifles, Stoner 63 does.

    However, “modular” term describes idea correctly and represents basic construction well.  Modular rifle’s character changes to substantially different if 27″ 338 Lapua barrel and full-length handguard is changed to 16″ 308Win barrel and short handguard, for instance. Conversion takes less than 2 minutes without special tools- as it was also determined to PSR rifle specification.

    Below: TRG 22A1 308 Win and TRG M10 308 Win. New TRG A1 with same stock, pistol grip, bolt handle. Other way around, TRG A1 has same cold hammer forged CrMo barrel, action and bolt with original TRG 22/42. M10 barrel is stainless, in spite of its black cerakote coating. 

    Things of Beauty and Precision under the Sun.

    TRG M10 308 Win magazine and TRG/TRG A1 308 Win magazine below. A1 338 Lapua capacity is 7. 308 version, as in pic, capacity is 10. Original TRG 42 magazine had a capacity of 5 but it is also offered with 7 round capacity now. TRG M10 vs TRG 22/42 or TRG 22/42 A1 are not interchangeable. With M10, filling block is needed as both magwell and magazine dimensions have to be scaled according to largest offered (multi)caliber option, 338 Lapua.

    Both the M10 and A1- versions have identical removable plastic covers between magwell and handguard. Plastic part can be removed with hidden thorx- key inside bolt handle knob. Cover is the toolbox for additional thorx keys, needed for removing handguard or adjusting trigger for instance.

    Note: Trigger adjustment is absolutely NOT recommended – unless one knows exactly what he is doing!

    Smaller key also fits to tiny screws inside stock adjustment buttons. By tightening these screws, buttons can be disabled and stock adjustment positions are locked. This prevents all adjustments, intentional or unintentional. Besides handguard, the larger key fits also to modular trigger mounting bolt. Trigger module removal requires an additional tool, shorter end of the key does not offer enough lever to open tight screw with bare fingers. In the pic, handguard front screw removed completely. In practice this is not needed, loosening 1-2 rounds is enough for handguard removal. Rear bolt has to be opened fully – but it has a lock and can not be removed (and lost).

    M10 vs A1, both with identical fully adjustable trigger modules. Note thorx – head peeking inside bolt knob. TRG trigger has always been one of the best feel factory triggers- if not the best. This is also case with the latest version as in pic. Last version reliability has been improved. Trigger is less sensitive to particles (sand, dirt) inside modular housing.

    We took some video and measured trigger delays with a high-speed camera, by the way, video with some additional info can be checked here.

     

    Removed A1 trigger module, thorx key needed for removal still inside screw head. Module is fixed to action with one screw. Removal procedure has an additional safety feature: mechanism on the front of thorx screwhead prevents key to go inside head unless rifle safety is off and the trigger is pressed. In practice, it can not be removed with cocked rifle ready to fire. 

    As mentioned, a key for removing it is always carried with the rifle- but in practice opening it with “3 finger grip” from the shorter end of key requires inhuman strength that no mortal can have. It is still well doable if the key is turned with pliers, Leatherman of similar. Trapezoid shaped part in the pic is one holding firing pin/striker back before trigger releases it forward. Bright round-headed part is safety pin moving up and down.

    Simplified view, older TRG trigger. Safety lever not in the pic.

     

    Below: Family photo- youngest A1 in the foreground.

    Rifles equipped with typical accessories: high-quality mil-class riflescopes Steiner M5Xi 5-25 MSR2 and  Schmidt&Bender PMII 3-27×56 Highpower with MSR2 reticle as well. Both secured in their place with excellent Spuhr– QDP lever mounts. Spuhr mounts have handy interfaces for accessories, such as a rail that holds Aimpoint T-2. Handguards differ if additional rails need to be added: A1 handguard is compatible with Magpul MLOK- system rails, system that was used first time in Tikka TAC A1 rifles by Sako btw. M10 MLOK compatibility update was done as well in 2018.

    With M10, handguard 6 o’clock rail is permanently attached, unlike with TRG A1 or TAC A1. Both rifles have 30MOA integral cant in receiver Picatinny rail. Handguard top rail is aligned in same continuous angle all the way to the front end. This matters when clip-on night vision is used in front of daytime optics- it is beneficial to use them aligned. Both rifles on photo equipped with Hensoldt NSV – series clip-on night visions.

    The photo also reveals the idea of railed Picatinny handguard, night visions very common in both MIL- and LEO use. This was also the reason why Sako offered ITRS and MMRS rails for TRG 22 and 42 already earlier. Both rifles silenced with Ase Utra SLi -series suppressors. A1 has 18×1 RH threaded SL7i. M10 has the same thread but SL7i BL installed, meaning bore lock-  suppressor mount system with an integrated muzzle brake. Brake has a coarse-pitched thread for fast suppressor mounting, as well as ratchet- type pin system preventing suppressor getting loose.

    Sako has not made new dedicated M10 bipod yet. Often copied original TRG 22/42 bipod still very good support for any practical field shooting, but it can not be mounted to M10 or any other rifle with Picatinny handguard. Adapter making this possible is available in our webshop.

    The adapter is optimized for Tikka TAC A1, TRG M10, and latest TRG A1 -as in foreground of the photo below. The same adapter fits basically to any rifle having Picatinny rail underneath handguard. Bipod model below is updated “M08” version of TRG 22/42 bipod, having a slightly narrower angle between bipod legs. Those who are using TRG 22/42 bipods – you might want to take a look on small bipod tuning trick we came up, see it here.

    Preparations

    Prepping was started traditional way: with very careful barrel cleaning. Tools used were Dewey rods, jags and brushes, and Boretech odorless cleaner. Round count history, as well as cleaning history, were both unknown, so we did not save patches, brushes or sweat during the intense procedure.

    All good! Spanking clean chamber, throat and bore. No signs of dull or misaligned reamer- as case naturally should be with this category precision rifle anyways. A bare eye is surprisingly precise instrument spotting misalignment and eccentric shapes, we have seen samples during years.

    Going to Pew Pew!

    First range trip out of three just about to begin. Standard range kit in pic: Labradar chronograph, Swarovski STX 30-70×95 spotter (which is also available via us btw), Vectronix Terrapin X -range finder and factory loads from Lapua and Sako. Labradar was updated to latest firmware, with Bluetooth activation and phone app support.

    Worked fine and operating with the phone was easy. Nice to have string stats visible instantly. Sako Speedhead is topped with short, light and fast 123gr/8g bullet, intended to be trainer and varmint/small game load. Usually short and light bullets are more difficult to make accurate, so it was interesting to see how it performs with A1.

    All test groups in this article were shot to 100m distance, from prone position with bipod support. From Lapua, both L10.85g/167gr and latest .30 -caliber addition Scenar-L, 11.3g/175gr were used.

    Couple of sighters first, followed by first 5 rnd groups: 175 Scenar average 1MOA, average MV 796m/s or 2612fps. 167gr Scenar much better, 3×5 rnd ave. 0.56MOA. Sako 8g/123gr 5×5 ave. = 0.87MOA / 912m/s or 2992fps.

    Especially the 175 gr Scenar accuracy was not what we excepted. 1 MOA is not terrible at all, but not particularly good either. The same cartridge has delivered very good accuracy with other rifles, so expectations were for better accuracy.

    Just to exclude variables, bud shot same ammo too as a comparison. Results were same or worse. I also tried just the muzzle brake instead of a suppressor, but again no change. At least not in a better direction. Total shot count in the first trip was about 50 rounds.

    Afterward, I checked everything possible from the weapon, but everything seemed to be in perfect order. No apparent reason for 1 MOA average grouping was found.

    With the next trip, also original TRG bipod + adapter was taken to test (it was left behind in the first trip). The shooting was still done prone and with bipod, but this time with light/medium bipod load to forward. Meaning pushing rifle bit forward with shoulder while aiming.

    In the first trip and with PSR bipod, all shots were taken with virtually no forward load at all. Loading rifle forward is personal practice learned during years with big magnums. Very difficult if bipod slips on gravel. Hemispherical rubber feet do not get grip from dirt, unlike TRG claw. Another difference with TRG “floating” bipod – which I have used to over years – is that tilt is rather difficult to handle:

    If adjustment is left loose enough to make effortless fine-tuning of tilt possible just before breaking shot, the whole bipod tends to turn sideways after rifle recoils a couple of times. This is emphasized if your grip is very good when shooting on a table or any similar surface providing good friction between platform and rubber foot. Re-alignment of bipod requires “opening” shooting position, and this is naturally not a good thing if hunting good groups.

    Another thing that mattered possibly, even more, was bore age and condition. The barrel might have been almost new and was also thoroughly cleaned before the first range trip. Grouping after most intensive cleaning only may require 2..30+ shots after settling, depending about caliber, bullet and/or individual barrel. Star positions seem to have their own effect too with this.

    Second trip and much better results – Sako 8g/123gr Speedhead 3×5 and average now 0.69MOA, steadily tightening with round count. Very good for a short and light bullet.

    “Third time tells the truth”, as old Finnish proverb goes.

    Third range trip finished. Tightening trend seen already with the 2nd trip with Speedheads continues with Lapua. Even with the very same way, last group being best again. Originally worst grouped 175gr Scenar with 1MOA/5 rnd average was showing its potential after app. 60-70 rnd. As in pic, 3×5 rnd average 0.61MOA, last and best very close to 1/3MOA.

    Final verdict

    After a bumpy start, accuracy improved to a very good level. Solid explanation for difficulties could not be pinpointed eventually, but seem likely that it was related to either barrel condition, unfamiliar support or both combined. Support can still not be blamed really as it is very much depending about what style shooter has used to use.

    In spite of my personal preconception, new TRG A1 turned out to be a bit more than just simple chassis upgrade. Rifle not only looks but also feels like completely new. All nice characteristics that are TRG trademarks, like a very good trigger, smooth bolt and accuracy, can be found from new A1 too – but then something else too on top of it.  Sako’s A1 chassis fits, looks and feels good to any shooter who has used to slightly heavier modular rifles with rather high point-of-mass. A1 can also be updated with some nice TRG M10 parts, such as 3-link monopod. Which is, shortly said, excellent.

    Similar aftermarket chassis systems are almost always optimized for lower productions costs and short machining time. “Squared” shapes, big flat surfaces, simplified/rectangular cross-section skeleton design of stock or oversize thick trigger guards revealing it can not be found from TRG A1. A1 has also not turned into an overweight whale, as it can sometimes happen with aftermarket kits. There is a difference in weight compared to “normal” TRG 22 alright, but not significant. Small additional weight brings also some additional stability, which is not a bad thing itself.

    Person, or organization, purchasing TRG A1 is probably one who does not need or want to pay switchbarrel system addition- but still wants to get genuine Sako TRG meeting latest modern features: fully adjustable folding stock with an excellent monopod (option) and long free-float handguard. Handguard with MLOK system can be “railed” easily for a bipod, laser, flashlight, action camera or even mug holder if needed.

     

    Unfortunately, we did not get the chance to go to a proper long range with this – but at least something was captured on video:

    YouTube: Rapid fire recoil behavior test..and maybe, just maybe, having bit of fun same time..

    Sako Speedhead 8g/123gr factory load. – First rock on left, width 13,5cm/5.3″ – Second rock on right, height 7.9cm/3.1″ Video taken with Swarovski STX-95 spotter + ME 1.7 magnifier, 120x optical magnification.

    With the Sako TRG A1 being priced around half the price of the Sako M10 I think it is going to be a popular rifle among high-end precision shooters.

    Again thanks to Finnaccuracy.

     

    Eric B

    Ex-Arctic Ranger. Competitive practical shooter and hunter with a European focus. Always ready to increase my collection of modern semi-automatics, optics and sound suppressors. TCCC Certified medic.


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