Colt Sauer Rifle Review: A Bolt Gun in a League of Its Own
What happens when you combine two powerhouse firearms names like Colt and J.P Sauer & Sohn? Well, the creation of one of the finest bolt-action hunting rifles is what happens. Yet, Colt Sauer rifles saw a relatively limited run. But why? What should shooters and collectors know, and what are the reasons this “incomparable” rifle flies under the radar today?
We were lucky to borrow a sweet Colt Sauer from the Guns.com Vault, which allowed us to venture more deeply into this underappreciated bolt-action gem.
Meet the Colt Sauer Centerfire
The rifle was marketed with a single word – Incomparable. Produced in Germany by J.P. Sauer & Sohn, these high-quality bolt-action rifles were built primarily for the American hunting market at the behest and shared specifications of USA-darling Colt. The rifles were introduced in 1971 and saw a 14-year run, fading away quietly in 1985. Perhaps its closest companion is the Weatherby Mark V line of bolt guns, but most folks who own or shoot both favor the Colt Sauer.
The design was unique to the time. To increase operating speed, a Colt Sauer’s bolt locks up without rotating by utilizing three internally-cammed locking lugs. It is fed by a hefty steel single-stack magazine with the brand and caliber neatly engraved on the face of the follower. Colt Sauers are dressed in a fine American walnut stock with 18-line hand checkering and a high-gloss finish. A rosewood forend and grip cap add intrigue, while the deep bluing is an art to behold.
Variations and Collectibility
The rifles were built on four variants. Short actions included .22-250 Rem, .243 Win, and .308 Win. Medium actions housed with longer calibers like .25-06 Rem, .270 Win, and .30-06 Springfield. A magnum action was the basis for big players, including 7mm Rem Mag, .300 Win Mag, and .300 Weatherby Mag. Lastly, the big thumpers – .375 H&H and .458 Win Mag – were built on the safari action.
As far as collectibility, a limited number of higher-grade versions with delightful engraving steal the show but are seldom found. Of the “common” production guns, the rifles known to be produced in the lowest numbers are now generally most highly sought, though a handful of collectors seek to build a complete family. While anomalies exist, the shortlist includes .22-250 on the short action, .25-06 on the medium, and .375 H&H on the magnum build. The .458 essentially holds a class of its own, with every model we’ve seen stamped specifically as “Grand African.” There’s some debate whether the .375 H&H was built on a magnum or safari action. Regardless of the distinction there, the fact of the matter is that the .375 is a grand old fellow.
Our Test Gun
When we saw a Colt Sauer chambered in .375 H&H in the Guns.com Vault, we simply had to get a closer look, especially given that specific chambering’s relative scarcity and our adoration of the round as one of the greatest do-all’s. The limiting factor for most folks – present company included – is the steadily increasing cost of these rifles.
At the time of production – and to this day – Colt Sauers were routinely listed for significantly more than other counterparts. However, that’s not to downplay the quality of the gun. In fact, it’s one of the most aesthetically lovely, feature-laden, and classic bolt-action rifles on the used market.
Its relatively low production numbers keep the demand and value high. Of particular interest, each chambering had its own model number, though they didn’t run in order of size. For instance, the .25-06 started at R8000 running up to our .375 H&H with a model number of R8010.
This particular rifle wears a 24-inch barrel. The trigger breaks crisply at 5.5 pounds, a pull that would make many modern rifles jealous. The bolt is smooth in a manner difficult to describe without actual firing. The handle rotates upward while the bolt body appears to remain stationary, using those cammed lugs mentioned above. Recoil in the .375 H&H Magnum is stout, but the rifle blends looks with capability.
In addition to its reputation for practical accuracy, the bluing is exceptionally deep and beautiful, exactly what we collectors have come to love on earlier classics. There’s a hooded front sight and ventilated rubber recoil pad with the Colt Sauer name.
The Monte Carlo-style rollover comb stock is both comfortable and practical. Soft, swooping lines on the receiver add to the unique aesthetic appeal of these rifles, demonstrating an astounding level of detail, but also making the rifles significantly costlier to produce.
The Other “Colt” Sauers
While Sauer was building the specific rifles at the behest of Colt, that was for the American market. The design held an allure for Europeans as well, perhaps even more so given the platform's extended run there. Sauer produced the Model 80 for its home market. Shortly thereafter, whether at the prodding of Colt or not, Sauer incorporated enough minor design changes to rebrand as the Sauer Model 90 and 92. These rifles were built with essentially the same action, but each offered small part changes, aesthetic options, and caliber additions.
Production continued on these European wonders until the early 2000s, a much longer run than that of the Colt Sauer. Rumors from Colt historians indicate that Colt provided the wood to Sauer for use on all Colt Sauer-branded guns for both control and continuity in the rifle’s appearance. This would make sense, as the rifles produced solely by Sauer use a more varied repertoire of stock types and finishes.
Who Bought Colt Sauers?
There’s little question that the Colt Sauer rifle was a premium product, but that level of engineering along with fit-and-finish details also carried a premium price tag. It was one that it seems average American buyers were often unwilling to pay. The overall production run seems to have timed out around 27,000 units, give or take a few hundred. That’s plenty of well-made rifles, but for an 11-year span from a master gun builder, it’s not a wild production run. What we’re left with, then, is an intriguing line of rifles for discerning hunters.
Colt’s tagline for the gun at the time was, “An Investment in Precision,” and that’s precisely what the Colt Sauer offered to the market it targeted. Colt was after hunters interested in high-end rifles, a dedication to accuracy, and a fine line of production sporting arms.
These were not the bread-and-butter rifles to be dragged willy-nilly through deer swamps and left in the barn. Rather, they were a balance between exceptional hunting performance and the artwork of fine gun builders. Heck, all you have to do is take a look at a few of the High-Grade versions with their lovely hand engraving to appreciate the kind of hands-on production craftsmanship seldom seen today.