Back in May…
…with the Red stag season on the distant horizon, I decided it was time to invest in something a little more refined than the old (t)rusty Savage Axis I have had for years, and so, started to ask around my usual suspects that I know enjoy their premium or custom rifles, many who shoot Blaser, Sako or Mausers, Sauer, Tikka Semi Customs and the like. I searched and searched for a .308 Sako 75 but at the time to no avail.
So… I got in touch with a gunsmith, who came recommended from a number of trusted sources. Phrases like “if you don’t mind waiting”, “if you can afford to wait”, “if you can be patient”, “his work is worth the wait” were attached to the recommendation, and in all honesty, left me intrigued.
I’ve waited for cars before, I’ve waited for clothing to be made, and I feel that waiting for a rifle is perfectly acceptable, after all, it’s a dangerous process in the wrong hands, so I’d rather it was done properly, first place, after all, it actually IS rocket science!
And so… I contacted James Clark of Jager Sporting Arms.
We chatted and I explained I was in the market for a rifle in .308, something nice to have, look after and enjoy the quality, and with the birth of our first son, something I can one day hand down to him. I explained that he had been recommended by a number of people and James, as humble as he is, remembered every piece of work he had done for each of them. We joked that I knew I would have to wait, and he explained some of the debacles that had gone before. Anyone in retail or customer sales will know, that relying on a multitude of other people to be able to conduct your business can be frustrating at the best of times, and for James, it had left him floundering on the odd occasion, with nothing other than apologies to pass to people when something was delayed arriving from the global parts pool that now exists.
It made me think… people want the best for their hard earned, and quite right too! But when they want the best, and that part happens to be produced in the USA, or over in Europe, or further afield places such as New Zealand, any reasonable customer would understand that there can be delays that are out of our control.
I was happy to leave James with the work, the first part was simple, he was to strip and prep the action and stock, and procure a barrel. On James’ advice, we went for a Pac-nor Stainless, Heavy Match barrel. There were a great number of reasons to go for such a barrel, I wanted a short stalking rifle that could be trusted out to acceptable culling ranges, whether lowland or highland, it didn’t want to be too heavy, and although I wanted a wooden stock, the rifle was to be relatively low maintenance for those trips that last more than a few hours. Nothing was a problem when it came to advice from James, often calling me after hours or before work in a morning. So forthcoming with his extensive knowledge, James left me in no doubt that I had made a good decision with trusting him for the work.
We then had a little wait while a donor rifle was sourced and then, as if by magic, a Sako 75 Deluxe Varmint in .243 became available. It was the correct bolt face and in a condition perfectly suited to being re-barelled to fight on for the next decade or five. The stock needed some TLC, the action was to be stripped and cerakoted, so I was happy that this could be the one. James sent a group of photos through and it matched my brief to the letter… work could begin.
We needed to make a few decisions at this point, what barrel length, moderator thread, coating colour etc. We chatted back and forth and I eventually settled my decision on a twenty-inch barrel and the moderator thread of choice was to be 18×1. Still torn with the coating colour, we left that decision until a later date, as he needed to get the majority of the work done anyway, and then we had a gap for proofing, so I could decide up until the last minute.
Excited with the thought of a high quality rifle I left James to his work and we communicated back and forth every so often, James sending photos and updates on the build, explaining processes that were taking place and that it would all come to a head when the rifle went to proof, from there I could expect to collect within a day or two, subject to the work passing the proof test in the London Proof House.
The time arrived and James messaged to say the rifle was off to the proof house in the next batch he was taking for testing, and so we were nearly at the end of the process. The rifle headed to London and I waited with an excited nervousness to hear if the rifle had passed the proofing. Of course, the phone call came, that the rifle had passed, and I had managed to decide that the colour for the coating was to be Armour Black, a nice, matte black finish from Cerakote. On his return to the workshop, James put the finishing touches to the rifle, with one of his invisible thread protectors, and then set about the coating ready for me to collect 36 hours later.
On arrival to see James, he was keen to show me his latest creation, with the rifle nestled in a lambs wool lined rifle slip, ready for me to receive. As he opened the slip, the first thing that hit me was the familiar smell of walnut oil as the woodwork came from within the slip, the action, looking remarkably smart in matte black, and then the barrel, a perfect balance of weight and length making this one of the most balanced rifles I have had the privilege of holding. James explained a few bits about the set up, some pre-shooting checks to do and even lent a set of scope rings that would fit as I had managed to forget that I needed specific Sako bases to attach a scope in the traditional way rather than attaching to a standard rail. Eager to get home and get out shooting, I departed James with a huge smile on my face, filled with the excitement only a child entering a toyshop experiences… and so, with a batch of ammunition knocked up, all that was left was a little clean and then the process of breaking in the barrel… without compromising content from a future post, she shoots well, she groups really well, and the proof is the smile that I get when I take her out of the cabinet prior to every trip!
To reflect on my experience of Jager SA and James himself, I couldn’t be happier, he took the time to work out what was right for me, he searched high and low for the rifle that I decided on, his work is immaculate, the rifle is second to none, and all at a reasonable price.
If you want craftsmanship, done well, employ a craftsman… if you want a rifle today, buy it off the shelf and pay the prices that the same standard rifle would attract. It’s simple in my eyes.
Good things come to those who wait!
To see some of JagerSporting Arms work and get in touch, visit their facebook page by clicking this link https://www.facebook.com/jagerservices/