February 01, 2024
The Sabatti Tactical EVO was the last in a long line of dedicated long-range bolt-action rifles, a direct heir to the Sabatti S.p.A. company’s own “Rover Tactical Syn” model; announced officially in 2019 and introduced at the 2020 SHOT Show along with a variant initially dedicated only to the US market and aptly dubbed the Tactical EVO US. Three years later, the Tactical EVO remains a top seller among Sabatti rifles in Europe, and the changes that made the Tactical EVO US rifle more portable and versatile sparked up demand, leading to Sabatti starting distribution of the model outside of the United States by early 2021. At the 2023 edition of the EOS gun show — held in Verona, northern Italy, in mid February — the Italian national association of firearm retailers (ASSOARMIERI) presented the Tactical EVO with their award for the top-selling bolt-action rifle of the year. Not bad for a three-years-old design, in a market that’s so prone to change. What’s the secret for that success, you may wonder?
Two Sides of the Same Coin
Aside from some modifications implemented following feedback from American users — largely aimed at making the design lighter and more mobile in the face of both professional and sporting applications, such as PRS (Precision Rifle Shooting) competitions, which have been popular in the US for quite a while and are only relatively recently booming in Europe —the Sabatti Tactical EVO and Tactical EVO US are basically the same rifle, based on the same technical design and the same “Blizzard” action. First introduced in 2018, the Blizzard is Sabatti’s flagship action for competition and tactical rifles. At its heart is a three-locking lug bolt, CNC-machined out of a special steel alloy whose exact properties are closely guarded by Sabatti as one of their most cherished trade secrets. The bolt is heat-treated and subsequently chrome-lined to match the extremely tight tolerance levels of the receiver, resulting in smooth and fast operation with very little friction.
The level of machining precision — possibly one of the highest on any mass-produced long-range rifle worldwide — makes the Blizzard action also very quiet to operate, almost as a custom build. That’s reinforced, in part, by the deep spiral fluting that lightens the bolt body without weakening it. As the Blizzard action is built on such tight tolerances, a fluted bolt is also necessary to contain potential foreign bodies
or other elements that may otherwise interfere with normal operation. At the rear end of the bolt, the charging handle features a 5/16" thread allowing the bolt knob to be removed and replaced with any compatible aftermarket alternative at user’s will. Regardless, a very tight, 60-degrees bolt throw adds to the cycling speed, but most important, since the use of riflescopes on the Tactical EVO and EVO US is more or less a given thing, it has been calculated to keep the shooter’s hand clear of the eyepiece.
Another feature shared by the bolt of the Sabatti Tactical EVO and EVO US rifles, and other Sabatti rifles, is a 17-4PH stainless steel extractor, dubbed the “guillotine extractor” due to its form and function, and developed once again following feedback from professionals and sport shooters in Europe and north America, this time regarding potential case rupturing — hardly a common occurrence with quality factory loads, more of a concern for those who use surplus ammunition, high-pressure loads, or handloads prepared with reused and thus potentially weakened cases. The Sabatti “guillotine extractor” fully supports the case at the rim at all times, preventing ruptures even under massive pressure spikes and ensuring safety and reliability in extraction, in basically all conditions. Sabatti machines the Tactical EVO and EVO US receivers out of solid high-strength, heat-treated steel billet, strictly matching the bolt specs as previously mentioned. Like all outer metal finishes, they are available in matte black or matte chrome. Receivers are drilled and tapped for scope mounts and Picatinny rails; a 17-slot machined alloy Pic rail comes standard with each rifles, but alternatives such as 10 MOA or 20 MOA inclined base rails — for easier holdover in extreme long-range shooting — are available separately for the company.
Same-Same… But Different
Both the Sabatti Tactical EVO and EVO US rifles are built on Italian-designed and Italian-made synthetic stocks, available in flat dark earth or — for those who want to indulge in typically Italian elegance — in a mesmerizing black finish with a white veining. The handguard and pistol grip are well molded and aggressively checkered, providing a positive grip in most shooting conditions, while a set of rubberized stock spacers and an adjustable cheek riser make the Tactical EVO and EVO US rifles easily customized to each shooter’s physique. The differences between the two stocks are all in the materials and a few minor features. The Sabatti Tactical EVO stock is made out of a super-rigid, very stable fiberglass-reinforced Nylon blend; a lighter polymer is used for the Tactical EVO US stock instead. Depending on the final configuration, the different stock makes the Tactical EVO US rifle anywhere from 14 oz. to 2.2 lbs lighter than the baseline Tactical EVO. The Tactical EVO stock is set up for the easy installation of a short portion of Picatinny rail for bipods; the EVO US comes with such rail portion from factory, and additionally features a set of QD sling swivel cups on both sides of the handguard and stock, while the standard Tactical EVO only comes with standard sling attachment points.
What both rifles lack is a standard bedding, opting instead for a patented Sabatti coupling system dubbed the “Azione sospesa,” which translates as “Suspended action” or “hanging action” in English — a fitting name, since it consists of just two screws that couple the barreled action to the stock on two points and keep the rest “suspended” over the hollow inner portion of the stock itself, as if hanging on a cradle. The two screws represent the only direct contact points between the stock and the barreled action. The action and the barrel are thus free to float, eliminating — or at least severely reducing — the coupling tensions that could interfere with barrel harmonics and be detrimental to accuracy. The so-called “Azione sospesa” also makes the Sabatti Tactical EVO and EVO US rifles extremely easy to take down completely for cleaning, maintenance, or adjustments, and just as easy to bring back together. Sabatti has no qualms in publishing the proper torque level of the screws: they’re respectively 6 N·m, or 4.42 ft·lb, for the rear screw and 7 N·m, or 5.16 ft·lb, for the front screw on the Tactical EVO; 8 N·m, or 5.9 ft·lb, for the rear screw and 9 N·m, or 6.64 ft·lb, for the front screw on the EVO US. As long as the shooter — or any gunsmith — will stick to those torque spec, the barreled action will maintain the same zero it had from factory when removed from the stock and subsequently reinstalled, or mounted on to another stock.
Everyone Gets a Multi-Radial Barrel!
The Tactical EVO and EVO US rifles both feature Sabatti’s signature MRR (Multi-Radial Rifling) cold hammer forged, conic profile barrels, available in a matte black or shiny chrome finish. First introduced in 2011, the Multi-Radial Rifling is a patented Sabatti technology based on a modified forcing cone geometry that improves the alignment between the bullet and the bore, and on a peculiar, soft rifling pitch with less sharp edges between the lands and the grooves, allowing it to engage the bullet in a tighter fit than standard or polygon rifling patterns. When traveling through a MRR barrel, a bullet will be deformed without being cut; friction levels are reduced, thus improving service life and reducing the time and effort necessary for cleaning or maintenance. Additionally, a tighter bullet-to-bore barrel decreases the quantity of gas that is allowed to escape through the rifling ahead of the bullet, thus increasing the propelling force and muzzle velocity with it: Sabatti has consistently recorded muzzle velocities up to 12% higher with MRR barrels than with standard barrels, on average. MRR barrels require less break-in (approximately 200 rounds) if compared with standard barrels. Sabatti also guarantees all of their MRR barrels to be sub-MOA capable at 100 yards right out of the box. The Sabatti Tactical EVO rifles come with 26" or 28" barrels, while the EVO US barrels are shorter, at the shooter’s choice of 22" or 26" options – all with a 22 mm muzzle diameter and a 5/8-24 thread for accessories, including silencers.
Pick Your Poison!
As of today, Sabatti offers the Tactical EVO and EVO US rifles in eight calibers, getting most bases covered when it comes to hunting, competition shooting, and law enforcement or tactical applications: .308 Winchester/7.62×51mm; 6mm Creedmoor; 6.5 Creedmoor; 6.5 PRC; .300 Winchester Magnum; 6.5×47 Lapua; 6.5×55 SE; and .284 Shehane. A .223 Remington/5.56×45mm caliber version is slated to be launched sometimes around Summer 2023 in Italy, but nothing is set in stone yet. The two models, however, do not share the same feeding system: the Tactical EVO model feeds through a proprietary single-stack, detachable polymer magazine, whose capacity ranges between three and six rounds, depending on the caliber; the models manufactured starting this year will feed from a new type of magazine that will not be compatible with previous models. The Tactical EVO US feeds through AICS-compatible magazines of Sabatti manufacture, but when choosing an aftermarket AICS-compatible magazine for their Tactical EVO US, they should keep in mind slight differences in the width of magazine wells between standard stock rifles and chassis rifles, as well as the fact that the Sabatti Tactical EVO and EVO US rifles are essentially long-action rifles and may thus not be compatible with short-action AICS magazines.
The magazine release on both the Sabatti Tactical EVO and EVO US rifles is located within the trigger guard, allowing shooters to swap mags and reload easily without losing eyes on target. Both rifles come with a Match-grade three-lever trigger designed and manufactured by Sabatti that breaks at an average weight of 1.3 lbs and can be further adjusted upon field-strip. Shooters with the right tools and know-how could do this by themselves, and the specs are published on the Sabatti website; the Company, however, strongly recommends that their customers seek the assistance of a gunsmith for any adjustment of the trigger, just to stay on the safe side.
Here’s the Beef
As of today, no third-party supplier offers aftermarket triggers or stocks that are compatible with the Tactical EVO and EVO US rifles, nor with a vast majority of other Sabatti rifles, due to the peculiar “suspended action” design. Sabatti’s own Custom Shop, however, provides shooters with the possibility to obtain their rifles with a certain level of custom adjustments or personalized features. It will not come as a surprise, to some, to know that modifications requested by customers here and there are thoroughly studied by Sabatti, and if found to be sound, they are more often than not turned into standard factory features for the next generation of rifles. Feedback acceptance at its finest! The manufacturer’s suggested retail price for the two models in Europe starts at 1.830,00 € for the Tactical EVO and at 2.195,00 € for the Tactical EVO US. As of today, official distribution of Sabatti rifles in the United States is still temporarily halted, and is planned to reprise through a yet-to-be-designated new importer in the coming months.
Sabatti EVO US Specs
- Type: Bolt-action rifle
- Calibers: .308 Winchester / 7.62x51mm (1:11"), 6,5x47 Lapua (1:8"), 6mm Creedmoor (1:8"), 6.5 Creedmoor (1:8"), 6.5 PRC (1:8"), 6.5x55 SE (1:8"), .300 Winchester Magnum (1:11"), .284 Shehane (1:81⁄4"); .223 Remington, 5.56x45mm will be available starting June 2023
- Action: Blizzard action, three front-locking lugs with 60 degree opening angle
- Trigger: Match-grade, three-lever
- Safety: Manual
- Capacity: 3, 5 rds./ 7 rds. with AICS magazine
- Sight: Picatinny rail
- Barrel: Cold-hammer forged, Multi-radial rifling
- Overall Length: 45 - 48 in.
- Weight: 12.6 lbs.
- Materials: steel barrel, receiver, action/ reinforced polymer stock
- Finish: Matte black or chrome finish, stock available in white veneer or desert tan, or black
- Contact: sabatti.it/en
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