New Sako TRG A1 - latest expansion to TRG family

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New Sako TRG A1 - latest expansion to TRG family

 

Sako TRG is one of global icons in precision rifle word. It has been in production for a long time already, serving as crown jewel in Sako's inventory. Starting point for revised version was therefore very good - but at the same time very challenging: how to improve well selling product which is already very good? With A1, case might be more about reaching broader user base than urgent need to update product getting obsolete. Polymer stock version TRG 22/42 remains in production and is still excellent rifle for various types of shooting - for almost any use where precision rifle is needed.

Finnaccuracy has been using TRG 22:s and 42:s since their original launch. Model is therefore more than familiar to us, we were particularly keen to see how latest version has changed. TRG A1 update is predominant, as A1 design changes appearance beyond recognition- unless 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 comparison.

Note our normal disclaimer: As usually, we do apologize following article typos and even errors in advance. This too is written in rush between thousand other things going on and English is not our native language. Bear with us please.

Short history

Original TRG was unveiled 1989, more or less as Valmet Sniper and Sako Target combined successor. x1 -> x2 facelift mentioned above was done for model year 2000. Update comprised reliefs in magazine well, revised muzzle brake, completely new bipod and changed grip angle. Finnish army took new design to its use immediately, and might have had something to do with changes too. Army named TRG-42 to "8.6 precision rifle 2000", or "8.6 TKIV 2000" as Finnish abbreviation goes. New design was 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.

TRG A1 "core", the TRG 22/42, is still very capable boomstick: ergonomic, accurate and light too in its class. After latest update, it is rather difficult to recognize it to still be good ol' TRG- but barrel, action and trigger module are same with current production 22/42 rifle. A1 version mean new chassis, partially compatible with latest goodies Sako offers to M10. A1 is handguard, M10 folding stock and middle section with magwell. Functionally TRG A1 is 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 modern and more streamlined package.

A1 initiation began with 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. M10 was originally developed to meet US SOCOM PSR- requirements and was a runner-up in 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 side-effect, specification started "modular" design trend in civilian rifle styles: Most of manufacturers participating to PSR competition with their newly developed rifles ended up offering same rifle in their catalogs afterwards, as most expensive flagship model. Switchbarrel can be very beneficial feature in civilian use too alright, but adds some weight.

General construction and features

Original TRG22/42 is exceptionally light for full-blooded precision rile, one of the lightest factory rifles in 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 original meaning of term. Rifle does not consist several modules that can change 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 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.

TRG 22A1 308Win, TRG M10 308Win below. 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. 

 

 

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 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 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 toolbox for additional thorx keys, needed for removing handguard or adjusting trigger for instance. 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, larger key fits also to modular trigger mounting bolt. Trigger module removal requires additional tool, shorter end of key does not offer enough lever to open tight screw with bare fingers. In pic, handguard front screw removed completely. In practice this is not needed, loosening 1-2 rounds is enough for handguard removal. Rear bolt has be opened fully- but it has 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 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 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 additional safety feature: mechanism on front of thorx screwhead prevents key to go inside head unless rifle safety is off and trigger is pressed. In practice, it can not be removed with cocked rifle ready to fire.  As mentioned, key for removing it is always carried with rifle- but in practice opening it with "3 finger grip" from shorter end of key requires inhuman strength that no mortal can have. It is still well doable if key is turned with pliers, Leatherman of similar. Trapezoid shaped part in pic is one holding firing pin/striker back before trigger releases it forward. Bright round-headed part is safety pin moving up and down.

TRG M10, A1, 22/42 trigger assembly removed

 

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

 

Family photo- youngest A1 in foreground. Rifles equipped with typical accessories: high quality mil-class riflescopes Steiner M5Xi 5-25 MSR2 and  Schmidt&Bender PMII 3-27x56 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 rail that holds Aimpoint T-2. Handguards differ if additional rails needs 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 agle all the way to front end. This matters when clip-on night vision is used on front of daytime optics- it is beneficial to use them aligned. Both rifles on photo equipped with Hensoldt NSV - series clip-on night visions. Photo also reveals idea of railed picatinny handguard, night visions very common in both MIL- and LEO use. This was also 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 18x1 RH threaded SL7i. M10 has same thread but SL7i BL installed, meaning borelock-  suppressor mount system with integrated muzzle brake. Brake has 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. Adapter is optimized for Tikka TAC A1, TRG M10 and latest TRG A1 -as in foreground of photo below. 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 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 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. Bare eye is surprisingly precise instrument spotting misalignment and eccentric shapes, we have seen samples during years.

Going to pewpew!

First range trip out of three just about to begin. Standard range kit in pic: Labradar chronochaph, Swarovski STX 30-70x95 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 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.

TRG 22A1, swarovski STX-95, TerrapinX, Labradar

 

Couple of sighters first, followed by first 5 rnd groups: 175 Scenar average 1MOA, average MV 796m/s or 2612fps. 167gr Scenar much better, 3x5 rnd ave. 0.56MOA. Sako 8g/123gr 5x5 ave. = 0.87MOA / 912m/s or 2992fps.

 

Especially 175gr Scenar accuracy was not what we excepted. 1MOA is not terrible at all, but not particularly good either. 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 comparison. Result same or worse. Tried also muzzle brake instead of suppressor, but again no change. At least not to better direction. Total shot count in first trip was about 50 rounds.

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

With next trip, also original TRG bipod + adapter was taken to test (it was left behind in first trip). 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 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 does 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, whole bipod tends to turn sideways after rifle recoils couple of times. This is emphasized if grip is very good, when shooting on 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 round age and condition. Barrel might have been almost new, and was also thoroughly cleaned before 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 have their own effect too with this.

Second trip and much better results - Sako 8g/123gr Speedhead 3x5 rnd average now 0.69MOA, steadily tightening with round count. Very good for short and light bullet.

 

"Third time tells the truth", as old Finnish proverb goes. Third range trip finished. Tightening trend seen already with 2nd trip with Speedheads continues with Lapua. Even with 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, 3x5 rnd average 0.61MOA, last and best very close to 1/3MOA.

Final verdict

After bumpy start, accuracy improved to 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 be 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 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 overweight whale, as it can sometimes happen with aftermarket kits. There is 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 excellent monopod (option) and long free-float handguard. Handguard with MLOK system can be "railed" easily for bipod, laser, flashlight, action camera or even mug holder if needed.

Unfortunately we did not get change to go to proper long range with this - but at least something was captured. Short test just to try recoil behavior with rapid shooting pace.. and maybe, just maybe, to have bit of fun same time. Not to be taken too seriously. Left side rock width 13,5cm/5.3", right side rock height 7.9cm/3.1" Distance 306m/335yd, according to Vectronix Terrapin X. Video taken trough Swarovski STX-95 /120x magnification.


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