March 06, 2023
By Pierangelo Tendas
The Sabatti Rover series was first launched by the Sabatti S.p.A. company of Italy in the 1990s as a comprehensive line of bolt-action hunting rifles that would basically get all bases covered when it came to the needs of European hunters. This model handles all types of game in the Old Continent from Italian boars all the way up to Scandinavian elk. Under that point of view, the original Sabatti Rover line was a success: a solid all-steel receiver and cold hammer forged barrel, a Mauser-type action with two locking lugs, a plethora of calibers available — basically all the most popular hunting calibers for both European and North American game with some versions even available in African big game calibers. Overall, excellent construction made sure that the first generation of Rover rifles would remain in the hearts of hunters in Europe for decades to come, with substantial sales also made outside of the continent. Many shooters still hold dear to their years-old Rover rifles.
But times change, technology evolves and so do the needs, tastes, and demands of shooters and hunters worldwide. Ever since the first Rover series of rifles was launched, Sabatti not only earned a solid reputation as a manufacturer of quality firearms, but also evolved its products line with new engineering, great focus on R&D, and attention to users’ feedback. In the meanwhile, the company also underwent a shift of paradigm from a strict focus on hunting firearms, with only a small amount of competition-dedicated products, to a production oriented mainly towards long-range rifles for shooting competitions and tactical applications.
A synthesis of years-old tradition and new experience and technology, the new Rover series was launched by Sabatti in late 2021 on the European market and introduced on the US market at the 2022 edition of SHOT Show. As it stands, the new Rover line includes ten variants; those are, in strictly alphabetic order, the Rover Alaskan, Hunter, Hunter Classic, Hunter Classic Pro, Pathfinder, Patrol, Ranger, Scout, Shooter, and Thumbhole. Each one of them is unique in its own way, and yet all are based on a set of shared features that make the design completely modular.
Out of the Same Mold
The first and foremost common feature of all the new Sabatti Rover rifles is the barreled action. All variants, in all calibers, are built on the same receiver which is CNC-machined out of a solid billet of 7075-T6 aluminum alloy, also known as ERGAL-55 by the European industry — a major departure from the original all-steel construction. The only notable exceptions are the versions in 5.56x45mm/.223 Remington scheduled for release in October 2022. These rifles are built on a smaller, shorter action that is likely to pave the way for even smaller caliber variants (think .22 LR or .17 HMR) in the future. A common receiver means that changing caliber on a factory Sabatti Rover is as easy as changing the bolt, magazine, and barrel, but we will get to all of that later.
All the variants of the Sabatti Rover series also feature a new bolt, replacing the earlier Rover series’ Mauser bolt. What we have with the new Rover action is something more similar to what the company dubbed the “Blizzard” action, which is at the heart of all of Sabatti’s latest long-range competition and tactical rifles. The bolts are manufactured out of special steel (the exact specs of the alloy are an industrial secret of the company) and are heat-treated, hardened and tempered, quenched, then blued or chrome-lined until they reach the exact level of thickness to match the tolerances of the receiver. This makes them extremely resistant to both wear and tear and corrosion, and extremely fast and smooth to operate.
The new Rover action prominently features three solid locking lugs and a 60-degree bolt throw, which may not be as fundamental as, to say, the right tolerances, materials and treatment in construction for fast operation, but does keep the shooter’s hand away from the scope mount or eyepiece better than a 90-degree bolt throw ever could. Bolt knobs are threaded on to the handle and can be removed and replaced by aftermarket alternatives if the shooter decides. The bolt stop is located on the right side of the receiver, while a three-position safety lever is placed right behind the charging handle, an easy and convenient thumb reach for right-handed shooters, which also allows the bolt to be cycled manually to clear the chamber in total safety, as it blocks both the trigger and the sear. As of today, the Sabatti Rover rifles all come with blued or chrome-lined cylindrical bolts; fluted bolt prototypes already exist and should be made available in the future.
The Rover bolt design cocks the striker on opening and has a cam on front of the bolt which interacts with an easily replaceable screw for primary extraction; the extractor itself is located on the bolt face and is manufactured out of special steel, again, the exact specs of the alloy are a Sabatti industrial secret that has been designed from the ground up for reliability and durability in mind. Sabatti’s owner and general manager, engineer Emanuele Sabatti, describes the new Rover extractor as “virtually eternal,” regardless of the level of wear and tear that the rifle goes through, or how hot your loads may be.
Barrel specs, profile (16mm or 18mm diameter at the muzzle), and length will vary from variant to variant, but all models are cold hammer forged, threaded at the muzzle for a plethora of devices: flash hiders, compensators, silencers, and all actions are mated to the barrel through a set of three screws. Headspacing is provided by the interaction of the locking lugs within the barrel extension, so that headspace check and adjustment will not be necessary should you ever re-barrel your Sabatti Rover rifle. This also means that shooters can easily swap their factory barrel with a different one to match their rifle to their individual needs, but while a shooter with the right level of skill and the right equipment at hand (including a quality torque key) may proceed to re-barrel his or her Sabatti Rover rifle at home, the company strongly recommends that re-barreling be carried on exclusively by a competent gunsmith, as the screws that secure the barrel to the receiver are made out of steel and tightened at a very specific level of torque. Over-tightening the screws can damage the aluminum receiver. On a side note, all the Sabatti Rover barrels come with standard rifling patterns and twist rates for their respective calibers. No sign here of the proprietary Multi-Radial Rifling (MRR) pattern that is unique to the Sabatti production and made the Company’s long-range competition shooting and tactical rifles so famous in the past decade or so. A new entry in the Sabatti Rover line with an MRR barrel is being designed currently, but no expected launch date has been disclosed so far.
All the entries in the Sabatti Rover line of rifles also share the same stock design, with slip-proof contact surfaces on the grip and handguard, slight lightening around the detachable magazine area (but we will see that in a minute), a set of front and rear sling swivel studs, and two M-LOK slots underneath the handguard for a bipod. All the variants of the Sabatti Rover rifle design come with a solid, rigid rubberized recoil pad, and a set of shims and spacers are available to adjust the length of pull, and the height, of the cheek riser which is manufactured out of polymer in all versions.
Stocks are available in fiberglass-reinforced polymer variants, of different colors, or in different wooden versions (walnut or laminate). Barreled actions are attached to the stocks by a pair of screws, located behind and in front of the action, with a standard bedding embedded in the stock but with no pillars. The screws are tightened to a specific level of torque depending on the version — 53.1 inch-pounds (in-lb.) per square inch for the rear screw and 62 in-lb. for the front screw for the wooden stocks; 70.8 in-lb. for the rear screw and 79.7 in-lb. for the front screw for the polymer stocks — but the interchangeability of stocks between barreled actions is total across the line.
To Each His Own
That is essentially where the similarities between the different entries in the Rover family end and the peculiarities of each individual model begin, although what they have in common: receiver, bolt design, and barreled action is more than enough to make the entire system modular. Technically speaking, a shooter can build his or her own Sabatti Rover rifle by putting a receiver, barrel, and stock together and using a bolt and barrel of the desired caliber. All models come with a black hard-anodized receiver and a blued barrel, except for the Pathfinder, Ranger, and Alaskan models, where those elements are chrome-plated. The Pathfinder model is also the only one to feature a fluted barrel. Likewise, all models are built on a reinforced polymer stock except for the oil-finished walnut stock of the Hunter Classic, the Optowood-finished walnut stock of the Hunter Classic Pro, and the blue laminate stock of the Scout model.
All models have Picatinny rail segments machined directly over the receiver, providing solid attachment points for scope rings. It should be pointed out, however, that those two segments are not precisely spaced like they would be if there was a continuous Pic rail segment in their place. This means that, should a shooter decide to remove a scope from his or her Rover rifle and attach it to another kind of firearm with a full-length Picatinny rail, one of the two rings will have to be moved slightly for it to fit. In addition, the Alaskan, Patrol, and Scout rifles also come from factory with a fixed fiber-optic front sight and an adjustable rear sight, both mounted on the barrel — a good alternative for battue hunting and short range shooting. On the Sabatti Rover Scout, the rear sight is foldable and is installed at the rear end of a front Picatinny rail segment, located on top of the barrel, as an attachment point for low-power, long-eye-relief forward-mounted optics.
Aside from 5.56x45mm / .223 Remington, which as we stated above, is not yet available. The calibers available for the Sabatti Rover family of rifles include; .243 Winchester, .270 Winchester, 6.5x47 Lapua, 6.5x55 SE, 6.5 Creedmoor, 6.5 PRC, 7mm Remington Magnum, .30-06 Springfield, 7.62x51mm / .308 Winchester, .300 Winchester Magnum, .338 Winchester Magnum, and .458 Winchester Magnum. The feeding system will vary, according to the model: the Sabatti Rover Hunter, Hunter Classic, Hunter Classic Pro, Pathfinder, and Thumbhole variants feed through Sabatti’s own, proprietary single-stack magazines that hold up to four or five rounds, depending on the caliber. All other entries in the line take Accuracy International Chassis System (AICS) pattern single-stack, single-feed detachable polymer magazines, offering a maximum capacity of five rounds in magnum calibers, and seven rounds in standard calibers. Those are front-in, rock-back magazines with a release paddle located at the base of the trigger guard. By contrast, the models with proprietary magazines feature a release button inside the trigger guard, in both cases, the mag release is easily accessible with the shooter’s index finger.
We do admit that the use of other types of magazines would have been preferable for some calibers, such as STANAG 4179 for 5.56mm or AR-10/LR-308 P-MAGs for 7.62x51mm. However, Sabatti decided to adopt a common magazine for all variants so that a different bolt design would not be required for the vast majority of calibers across the board, as it would have indeed been the case if a completely different bolt had to be designed in order to feed reliably from the typically double-stack, double-feed magazines originally developed for semi-automatic rifles. After all, the use of AICS pattern magazines does not represent a drawback for the Sabatti Rover series. AICS magazines are becoming an international industry standard for long-range bolt-action rifles, and with MagPul and other well-regarded suppliers now manufacturing AICS pattern magazines in many popular calibers, market availability of spare magazines will not be a problem.
The Sabatti Rover Alaskan, Hunter Classic Pro, Patrol, Scout, Shooter, and Ranger models come from factory with a muzzle device attached. This is in the form of an improved Birdcage-style flash hider for the Patrol and Scout models; a conical flash hider with eight rows of round holes for the Ranger model, a machined Sabatti three-chambers muzzle brake for the Shooter model, and Sabatti’s own Jet-Brake compensator on the Alaskan and Hunter Classic Pro models, which are the ones available in the hottest chamberings and dedicated specifically to dangerous game hunting.
A three-lever Match trigger is available on the Sabatti Rover Shooter rifle, and a set trigger (or Stecher for those who like European terminology) is available for the Rover Hunter Classic Pro rifle — all others feature a classic two-lever trigger. All triggers are engineered and manufactured in-house by Sabatti using precision laser-cut components. The trigger is set from factory at a maximum weight of 2.6 pounds can be adjusted upon total disassembly of the rifle to a minimum of approximately half that, and once again, that is something that a competent shooter with the right tools at hand can do, but Sabatti still strongly recommends that the job be left to a competent gunsmith, if ever required, that is. The truth is, by our direct experience, Sabatti’s triggers are excellent right out of the box. The weight, travel, and break have been studied and engineered specifically to maximize the performance of each variant for their main intended purpose. The Company doesn’t publicize the adjustment range and procedure for the triggers because they don’t need adjusting, and Sabatti rifles aren’t compatible with any aftermarket trigger because they don’t need replacement.
All About Performance
It is never easy, nor a good idea, given the precedents, for people in our position to believe over-the-top claims from manufacturers concerning the performance of their products. And indeed, anyone without a direct knowledge of Sabatti’s background, know-how, and technological levels would be hard-pressed to believe the company’s claims about the accuracy of the Rover design.
Things changed as we went up to northern Italy for a full brisk spring day to be spent entirely hands-on with the Sabatti Rover family of rifles — all ten of them. In the end, we decided to pick two entries of the line that are just as far apart as they could be in terms of main intended use — the Rover Shooter and the Rover Patrol. Both rifles were tested at a 300 meters using two different types of target: a one centimeter (cm) grid MIL-based Cold Bore target for the Shooter model, and a one-inch-grid target for the Patrol model. Both rifles were equipped with Sightmark Citadel scopes; a 1-10x24 HDR was installed on the Rover Patrol, and a 3-18x50 LR2 on the Rover Shooter. Ammunition chosen was Fiocchi EXACTA 7.62x51mm / .308 Winchester, this is a factory commercial version of the load developed by Fiocchi and issued as standard to Italian Army snipers. Fiocchi’s EXACTA ammunition is loaded with the same propellant used for their Italian military counterparts and with Sierra Match King HPBT 168-grain or 175-grain bullets.
The results, on paper, show that the claims of the Sabatti company concerning the accuracy of the Rover series. We are fully within 1-MOA territory, and that’s with a run of the mill scope, factory ammunition, and standard rifling pattern barrels. The use of MRR barrels in the future, along with Sabatti’s own dedicated line of MRR reloading balls and supplies, will likely push the Rover series into sub-MOA territory, leveling them to other Sabatti creations dedicated specifically to long-range shooting competitions or Police and tactical applications.
Affordability is the Cherry on Top
That’s a lot to process for a family of rifles based on a common receiver and stock design, conceived to be essentially an entry-level jack-of-all-trades platform, and to be as conveniently priced as it could be, with the manufacturer’s suggesting retail price in their motherland Italy ranging between 930 and 1.530 Euro depending on the model (approximately $915 to $1,600 US dollars at the current exchange rate).
That’s a frankly low tag even for the insanely price-driven US market, not exactly on level with the super-cheap Savage Arms rifles, but actually closer to the Ruger American Rifle, Scout Rifle, Hawkeye, or 77 series. However, the Sabatti rifles are definitely more refined, more accurate, packing more features, and with all the extra pizzazz. If there ever was something that came close to being an Italian version of the Remington 700 system, the new Sabatti Rover line of bolt-action rifles has the full potential to be just that. It’s modular, it’s complete, it’s all-purpose, it’s well built and it’s reliable. The Sabatti brand and its products aren’t as well known on the US market as they deserve to be, and that’s a shame, but with distribution issues being fixed as we speak, fondness for the quality and performance levels of the Sabatti rifles could soon become another thing that hunters and shooters on both sides of the “big pond” have in common.
Sabatti Rover Rifle Specs
- Type: Bolt-action Rifle
- Models: Rover (Alaskan, Hunter, Hunter Classic, Hunter Classic Pro, Pathfinder, Patrol, Ranger, Scout, Shooter, Thumbhole)
- Calibers: 5.56x56mm (.223 Remington); .243 Winchester; .270 Winchester; 6.5x47 Lapua; 6.5x55 SE; 6.5 Creedmoor; 6.5 PRC; 7mm Remington Magnum; .30-06 Springfield; 7.62x51mm (.308 Winchester); .300 Winchester Magnum; .338 Winchester Magnum; .458 Winchester Magnum.
- Trigger: Two lever standard trigger, three-lever Match trigger, or set trigger on demand
- Safety: Three position manual safety, blocking both trigger and sear
- Capacity: 4 rounds in detachable proprietary magazine or 5 to 7 rounds in detachable AICS pattern magazine, depending on variant
- Sight: MIL-STD 1913 Picatinny rail segments, fixed fiber-optic front sight, adjustable or folding rear sight, depending on variant
- Barrel Length: 22" to 24" with .63" to .71" muzzle diameter, depending on variant
- Overall Length: 42" to 44", depending on variant
- Weight: 6.2 lbs. to 7.3 lbs., depending on variant
- Finish: Matte black, hard anodized black, chrome
- MSRP: Sabatti Rover Shooter - $1,180 / Sabatti Rover Patrol - $995
- Manufacturer: Sabatti Armi S.p.a. / Italian Firearms Group
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