Sabatti Tactical EVO, the precision shooting rifle
Exclusive review on the brand new Sabatti Tactical EVO bolt-action rifle, by which the Italian Sabatti company challenges the International industry of precision shooting rifles
Since forty years now, the Sabatti company has been an international leader in the manufacture of bolt-action rifles large, and increasingly so recently on the field of precision sport shooting rifles.
As the years went by, the Company catalogue has gradually evolved its focus, shifting from a mainly hunting-oriented production with some limited digression on sport shooting products to a marked change in 2012, when the launch of the Sabatti Tactical rifle led the mid- and long-range sport shooting and tactical applications market to a position of core business for Sabatti.
In the past few years, we have witnessed the introduction of several sport and tactical precision shooting models, such as the Sabatti STR, the Sabatti TLD and – in 2019 – the Sabatti ST-18. The Company’s new-found commitment towards dedicated precision shooting rifles is attested today by a new model, which GUNSweek.com had the chance to unveil and try for an absolute preview: the Sabatti Tactical EVO bolt-action rifle.
It is not a custom rifle, and yet it offers custom-grade performances. As the name itself suggests, with this new Sabatti Tactical EVO rifle we have a natural evolution to the previous Sabatti Tactical rifle, one of the Company’s most successful designs ever, known for having strongly contributed to bring many new shooters to try various precision and mid-range shooting disciplines, with great results. At a first glance, the Sabatti Tactical EVO could indeed look like a slightly refurbished variant of the baseline Sabatti Tactical, but that’s not the case.
A more in-depth examination will indeed be enough to realize that, despite the look, the Tactical EVO rifle is quite different from the previous model - and indeed, in terms of performance, ready to compete right out of the box with some of the best names in the market.
Starting from the heart itself of the gun – the action – a keen eye will recognize that the Rover action found on the previous Sabatti Tactical model (a traditional, yet very accurate action developed for the Company’s line of hunting rifles) has been replaced by the new Blizzard action, specifically designed by Sabatti for long-range sport and tactical shooting, and already installed on other similarly oriented, recently released rifles from the Company itself such as the Sabatti TLD and ST-18 rifles.
The Tactical EVO Blizzard action is connected to the stock on two points, using a front and a rear interface that keep it “suspended” within the stock itself so that vibrations won’t afflict accuracy in a negative way. The system basically holds action and stock together as solidly as they need to – a paramount feature for precision shooting – while leaving the action free to vibrate naturally with minimum to no interference from the stock for consistent, uniform and repeatable shooting performance.
The Blizzard action is built around a high-strength alloy steel receiver that’s milled and turned from solid bar stock, then heat-treated for superior resistance.
The bolt itself is machined to extremely tight tolerances, then chrome-lined to achieve the desired thicnkess levels and provide an extremely hard and smooth surface that will ensure smooth cycling even with such tight tolerances, while at the same time protecting the component from dirt and external elements.
The set of helical grooves fluted all along the surface of the bolt serve a double purpose: they make the component lighter, and at the same time they guarantee that the bolt will cycle smoothly even in presence of dirt – a condition that may arise on the field, eg. during a shooting competition.
The bolt of the Sabatti Tactical EVO rifle opens to a 60-degrees throw, so that the shooter’s hand and cocking handle both remain out of the way of any riflescope that may be installed.
The profile and increased contact surface offered by the three locking lugs make locking easier: the bolt will close comfortably without the need of a generous push from the shooter on the handle, making chambering smoother for any sort of factory or hand-loaded cartridge.
The bolt also features a new 17-4PH extractor, ensuring a firm hold on the case head even under high pressures, reducing the risk of a case head rupture which may arise with high pressure loads.
Last, but not least, the cocking handle knob is installed on a 5/16” thread and can be easily removed and replaced with any compatible aftermarket model.
As usual with all of Sabatti precision shooting rifles, the new Tactical EVO features an MRR Multi-Radial Rifled, cold-hammer forged barrel that’s 71 cm (27.9”) long and is available with a matte black or chrome outer finish. The advantages of the Sabatti MRR barrels - not cutting the bullets, yet offering a remarkably improved level of accuracy – are well known to many shooters worldwide.
On the Sabatti Tactical EVO rifle, however, years of experience led to a further improvement of MRR barrels. Caliber-specific twist rates have been improved and bore roughness was further improved to ensure superior consistency, velocity, and accuracy, as well as much easier cleaning if compared with standard rifling.
The barrel is threaded at the muzzle for the installation of accessories and covered by a removable thread protector. It’s our feeling, anyway, that the thickness and depth of the thread should be increased, as the use of muzzle brakes with powerful calibers – such as the 6,5 Creedmoor – will generate high levels of energy that will put the muzzle and the threads under considerable strain.
A Multi-Radial Rifling can be told apart from a traditional rifling or a polygon rifling by the lack of any sharp edge whatsoever. Strictly speaking, the MRR rifling may not even be considered a true "rifling" at all: what we have here is a barrel section featuring different twist radius tracts all through its length (hence "Multi-Radial"), on a helical pattern, on a pitch that's apt to a given caliber.
This leads to several technical and manufacturing advantages. Multi-Radial Rifling is perfect for cold-hammer forged barrels because it allows more barrels with the same level of accuracy to be made with the same chuck before the tool needs being replaced.
MRR barrels are also easily lapped – a procedure that won't require the tampons used on standard rifled barrels, since MRR barrels do not have any sharp edge.
When shooting, the bullet will engage the rifling in the forcing cone more gradually, keeping more in-axis with the barrel, and is not cut; in turn, this will result in less bullet deformation and more consistency, regardless of any potential defect of the bullet itself.
Last, but not least, an MRR barrel is much easier to clean than a standard barrel: without sharp edges, there is nowhere for fouling, lead and copper to build up.
The stock of the Sabatti Tactical EVO rifle retains the design of the previous Tactical model, but is manufactured out of fiberglass-reinforced Nylon in a formula that makes it very rigid and resistant, as well as heavy – as it should be, at least for sport shooting.
The length of pull can be adjusted through Sabatti optional spacers, while two dedicated screws allow the cheekpiece to be adjusted both horizontally and vertically. The pistol grip and handguard feature a slip-proof checkering on all contact surfaces. The lower portion of the handguard is flat for shooting off a bench rest and is partially drilled for accessories such as bipods or Picatinny rail segments.
The stock also sports a special outer treatment that makes it more resistant to scratching. On both the Sabatti Tactical EVO Black and EVO Chrome models – which can be told apart by the matte black or matte chrome finish on outer metal surfaces – the stock is black with appealing white veins.
The three-lever Match trigger was likewise improved: by using EDM wire machines for the manufacture of all the trigger group components, Sabatti can perfectly tune and calibrate the shapes and geometry of all mounts and levers. The difference is there to be seen in performance… and felt at touch.
Unlike any other common two-lever trigger, Sabatti three-lever trigger allows for the action to be demultiplied more easily, with no need to intervene manually on the striker and its spring; the striker remains powerful, providing reliable hits and minimum trigger time.
The Sabatti Tactical EVO rifle feeds through detachable magazines. The standard magazine issued with the Tactical EVO hold 3 rounds, but a 6 rounds magazine is also available on requests. The Sabatti Tactical EVO US rifle instead, specifically conceived for the North American market, will come instead with a 7-rounds AICS (Accuracy International Chassis System) compatible magazine: it is a standard that for bolt-action rifles has grown till to become a market standpoint not unlike STANAG magazines are for .223/5,56mm semiauto rifles.
The Sabatti Tactical EVO bolt-action rifle is 114 cm (44.88”) long overall and weighs 6,2 kilograms / 13.66 lbs empty. The rifle comes without sights from factory, but the receiver is drilled and tapped for MIL-STD Picatinny rails or scope mounts for civilian and military optical sights. Six calibers have been announced for the Sabatti Tactical EVO rifle as of today: 7.62x51mm/.308 Winchester; 6.5x47 Lapua; 6.5 Creedmoor; 6.5x55 SE; .300 Winchester Magnum; and .284 Shehane.
Always wary of the peculiar demands of export markets, Sabatti will launch in 2020 a variant of the Tactical EVO rifle specifically conceived for the United States, where the needs of shooters and professional operators vary from those of their European counterparts under several points of view, particularly when it comes to practical shooting and tactical applications.
Said version – dubbed the Sabatti Tactical EVO US – does without the standard fiberglass-reinforced Nylon stock, replaced by a polymer stock that's 400 grams (14.1 oz) lighter than the standard, with QD sling swivel cups. Likewise, the 28mm-diameter, 71 cm / 27,9" cylindric barrel is replaced by a conic-profile barrel with a 22mm-diameter threaded muzzle that is "barely" 66 cm / 25.98" long overall
This "slimming cure" brings the Sabatti Tactical EVO US rifle down to 109 cm / 42.9" of length vs. the standard 114 cm /44.88" of the standard European versions, and makes it approximately 1 kg (2.2 lbs) lighter. In line with the peculiar needs of the US civilian and professional markets, the Sabatti Tactical EVO US is easier to carry and brandish.
The Sabatti Tactical EVO US bolt-action rifle also ditches the proprietary 3-rounds and 6-rounds single-stack found on their European counterparts, replaced by a 7-rounds polymer magazine that's compatible with the Accuracy International Chassis System (AICS); last, but not least, the Sabatti Tactical EVO US comes factory-issued with a Picatinny scope rail and a shorter Picatinny bipod rail, while the European version is drilled for both but leaves them to the user to purchase and install.
What we are facing with the new Sabatti Tactical EVO is a potential game changer in the world of precision shooting rifles, for both sport shooting and professional applications, both in terms of performance and industry standards. Should the rifle live up to the Company’s statements and expectations, we would potentially be facing not just the first entry in a whole new line of rifles that will leave a mark on international markets, but also a tangible revolution in the manufacturing standards for series-produced precision firearms.
The Sabatti Tactical EVO rifle is being delivered to distributors in Europe as we write. Check with your local Sabatti distributor or retailer for availability and pricing near you.
Sabatti Tactical EVO - Technical specs
Manual repetition, bolt-action rifle
Precision shooting, for both sport or professional applications
.223 Remington, 6 Creedmoor, 6,5x47 Lapua, 6.5 Creedmoor, 6,5x55 SE, 6.5 PRC, .284 Shehane, .308 Winchester, .300 Winchester Magnum
Manually-operated rotating bolt with three front locking lugs, 60° opening angle
Three-lever Match type, adjustable
3 rounds detachable magazine; optional 6 rounds magazine
71 cm / 27.9", cylindric, 28 mm muzzle diameter
None; drilled and tapped for MIL-STD 1913 Picatinny rails
114 cm / 44.8"
6,2 kg / 13.7 lbs
Steel for metal parts; matte black or chrome finish; fiberglass-reinforced Nylon stock, available in black color with white veins, or desert finish