Terje’s TRGs — Norsk Tactical Hunters
When we decided to do a story about SAKO’s TRG series of rifles, we remembered our friend Terje Fjørtoft in Norway. Terje has owned, and hunted with, both the TRG-22 (in .308 Win), and its big brother, the TRG-42 (chambered in .338 Lapua Magnum). Unlike many TRG owners in the USA, Terje has carried his “tactical hunters” into the field, and tested their effectiveness on large game in both coastal and mountain environments, in warm weather and cold. Terje tells us the TRGs have proven to be rugged and reliable. And they are accurate. The .308 delivers about 0.45 MOA groups at 420 yards shot from bipod. The .338 LM shoots about 0.55 – 0.7 MOA at that distance. We supplement Terje’s report with a technical analysis by Jim De Kort, explaining the details of the TRG-22 rifle and its sub-systems.
Terje seal hunting on Fjørtoft Island in Norway. Click Here to download VIDEO of this rifle.
|A Tale of Two TRGs by Terje Fjørtoft
I live in Brattvåg, along the coast of Norway, but I hunt and shoot at the nearby island “Fjørtoft” (same as my last name) and a small island outside Fjørtoft. I grew up on Fjørtoft as a child, and we hunt seals there in the spring and fall. The large, top photo shows me with my black TRG-42 338 Lapua Mag (“LM”) during a seal hunt a couple years ago. Click on the thumbnail at right to watch a video that shows me shooting the .338 LM. Most of the photos in this story are from that hunt. Because the .338 LM was really “overkill” on the seals (and expensive to reload), I replaced that rifle with a TRG-22 in .308 Winchester.
We hunt seals primarily for wildlife control. This is because the seals carry an internal parasite, called “Kveis”, a small worm that breeds inside the seals (after eating contaminated fish). When the seals expel the Kveis into the water, the Kveis larvae are consumed by the fish and then the fish become unfit to eat. The parasite literally eats the fish from the inside out. It’s not very pretty and it has hurt our Norwegian fishing industry. So there is an important purpose for our seal hunting. We hunt mostly from islands, targeting the seals in the water, and retrieving them with a small boat.
Because the seals spend most of their time in the water, a seal-hunter needs a very accurate rifle. We take head shots at distances of 200m or so, and sometimes much farther. I like the TRG-22 because it is very accurate out of the box, with a “tactical look” and a very nice bipod that works well in the field. The stock is comfortable with good adjustment range. The TRG also features a 10-round magazine and the barrel comes pre-threaded for a muzzle brake or suppressor.
I have also used my TRGs for hunting big game, deer and what Americans call “Elk”. You can see, further down on this page, a picture from a hunting stand taken late in the evening, in the fading light. Yes I successfully bagged a nice buck during that trip with my TRG-42. When hunting, I use a Leica 900 rangefinder, Swarovski 7×42 Habicht binoculars, and a Silva windwatch. For Optics on the TRG-22, I have a Zeiss 6-24×56 scope, in Tikka Optilock rings. To get more scope adjustment I milled 0.9 mm off the front scope base mount. The Zeiss is great for viewing small targets past 400 meters. So far I only tried my TRG-22 out to 387 meters, but soon I will try it at 575 meters and perhaps at 930 meters. I’m working on a new shooting place where I can shoot at 930 meters. It was very difficult to find a longer shooting place than 575 meters on this Island (Uksnøy) but I found a place where I can shoot out to 930 meters, and I’ve made an 80-cm steel gong for a target. But at this range, the bullet must fly nearly all the distance over the water.
Both the TRG 22 and 42 are very accurate right out of the box. The only thing I did before I first shot the TRGs was to clean the barrels very thoroughly. This is because the SAKO factory test shoots the gun without cleaning the barrel. I also adjust the cheek piece upward when shooting the rifles with a big scope. However, if you raise the cheek piece too high you can’t get the bolt out without removing the whole cheek piece. The only real modification I’ve made to my TRGs was to put rubber foot pads on the feet of the SAKO factory bipod. This gives the bipod better grip on slick surfaces such as concrete, or the rocks on the offshore islands.
.338 LM vs. .308 Win — Smaller Can Be Better
Though it is fun to experience the big boom and flash of the .338 LM, I’ll admit that it is just too much rifle for most applications. The .338 LM is REAL overkill for seal hunting. Here in Norway we have a rule that the smallest caliber we can use is 6.5×55 with a 140gr (or heavier) bullet, but everyone who hunts seals knows that the seals stay mostly in the water, and therefore you must take a headshot at distance up to about 200 meters. Making the headshot with a smaller caliber is advised for two reasons. First, when a big .338 bullet hits the water, there is a danger it will skip and ricochet quite some distance. Second, if you use too powerful a load/gun/caliber and take a headshot on a swimming seal, the seal sinks like a rock.
Reloading for the TRG-22 (.308 Win)
With the TRG-22, I found it was easy to get an accurate load. My groups with 155 Scenars are consistently good with a variety of different powders. I’ve tried both light and heavy bullets, but I favor the 155gr Scenars over the 185gr Scenars because the 155s fly a lot faster and drop less. Three loads (all with Fed 210m primers) that have worked well are:
155 Scenar, VV N-150 (46.8 gr), 74.0mm OAL, 885m/sec.
155 Scenar, Norma N-11* (47.0 gr), 74.0mm OAL, 890m/sec.
185 Scenar, VV N-150 (42.0 gr), 73.0mm OAL, 770m/sec.
* Norma N-11 is a low-cost powder for target shooting. N-11 is similar to Norma 203B or Norma 202 but it varies quite a bit from lot to lot.
I use a RCBS Rock Chucker press, and currently use a standard RCBS full-length die kit to reload my .308 rounds. However, I recently ordered a Redding Competition 3-die set with a .335 bushing. I look forward to trying the Reddings. I have just started to test different seating depths. The 155s just “kiss” the lands at 74.10 mm. I’ve tried 74.00 mm, 74.10 mm and 73.55 mm, but so far saw no significant differences.
Reloading for the TRG-42 (.338 LM)
For the .338 LM, I started with a 250gr Scenar and 95 grains of Vitavuori N-170. That load was very accurate at about 850 m/sec, but it produced excessive muzzle flash. And, in the winter, the muzzle velocity was inconsistent, and there was too much unburned powder. Next I tried Norma N-15. An 84.8 grain load of N-15 proved very accurate at about 880 m/sec. With that load I shot my best TRG-42 group at 380 meters. I set the 250gr Scenar to touch the rifling with 93.2 mm COAL, and I used Federal 215m primers in Lapua-brand brass. Norma MPR2 (92.6 grains) and VV N-560 (85 grains; 860 m/sec) also were very accurate with the 250 Scenar.
My seal hunting bullet was the 200gr Nosler BT. This bullet grouped very well with 90-94 grains Norma N-15. Velocity was about 970m/sec if I remember correctly.
I also tried the 300 Sierra MK, and got 1/2″ 3-shot groups at 100 meters with 93.5 grains of VV N-170, but this combination produced terrible groups at longer range.
Loading for the .338 LM was not difficult–about the same as loading for .308 Win, except that you use nearly twice the amount of powder. I didn’t crimp the bullets in the neck, didn’t use any special tricks or neck lube. I used RCBS .338 LM full-length die. That functioned, but it would not be my first choice today. Overall, my better loads in the .338 shot in the 0.5-0.7 MOA range. My best group was four shots in 25mm (1″) at 380 meters (416 yards).
|Hunting in Norway
Hunters Tested Annually
Every big game hunter that passes this test is authorized to hunt at “dusk and dawn” and in moonlight. So, we do a lot of our hunting in the twilight hours. However, no night-vision or artificial illumination (spotlights) are allowed. We usually hunt deer at dusk and dawn. In the evening, we go on post two to three hours before it is dark, and sit there waiting for the deer to show up–hopefully before it is too dark. In the morning we go to the post one hour before you see any light of the sun, and wait for the deer to show up until the daylight. But when it is full moon we sometime have enough light to hunt in the middle of the night. In the photo, you can see a deer through the scope of my TRG-42. This was very late in the evening. CLICK HERE for BIG Photo.
Seal hunting has become quite popular here in Norway. The seal hunt (steinkobbe) season runs from January 2 to April 30, and from August 1 to September 30 each year. We hunt seals to reduce the numbers for wildlife, because the seal is a problem for local fishermen. However, we also eat the meat and some hunters use the skin. The problem with the seal is that he harbors the Kveis parasite, a small worm that passes out with the seals’ waste and is eaten by fish. A fish that been attacked with the worm is disgusting on the dinner table. Photo of tainted fish. (If you are interested, Norwegian authorities allow hunters from other countries to apply for permits to hunt seals in Norway, and some companies in Norway offer private, guided seal hunts.)
|Sound Suppressors for Hunting Rifles
Suppressors are legal to use for hunting in Norway. I have suppressors on all my rifles, even my little CZ 452 in 17 HMR. To me, shooting a rifle without a suppressor is like driving a car without an exhaust system. The suppressor reduces both noise AND recoil significantly. With a good suppressor, there is no loss of accuracy. The only “negative” in using a suppressor is extra weight on the end of the barrel.
I recently crafted my own home-made suppressor. It’s similar to my commercially-made TRG-22 suppressor, but the core is made from titanium to be lighter in weight and more corrosion-resistant. I used a lathe at my workplace to craft the inside of the new suppressor. The core of the unit is built from a 27.5 cm X 40 mm round bar of titanium while the outer cylinder is made from a 42 mm stainless steel tube. I wanted to use titanium for the exterior cylinder as well, but I couldn’t source the right size titanium tube in any Norwegian metal shop.
Commercial Suppressor on TRG-42
Comparing Calibers: .308 vs. 6mm BR
Since this is 6mmBR.com, I should admit I also have a 6BR hunting rifle (compensated of course). I have a lot of field time with the 6BR rifle, and feel very confident with that gun. When I got the Kreger 6mm BR barrel on the SAKO Varminter, I fell in love with that rifle from day one, and that rifle is my first choice for small game hunting. I also like the TRG-22 gun very much and enjoy it more and more with each new field trip. That .308 is my big game rifle and my long-range target rifle. I recently tested my TRG-22 rifle at 387 meters. This was just “fun shooting” at steel plates, and I didn’t measure groups. But I was happy with the results. Once I corrected for the 5 m/sec crosswind, I was able to put five successive shots on a 10 cm (4″) diameter steel target at 387 meters (423 yards).
My SAKO Varminter in 6mm BR and my TRG-22 are two very different rifles. The TRG-22 is much heavier. I guess the TRG-22 is about 6.5-7 kg while my SAKO 6BR is about 4.5-5 kg, both with suppressor, scope, and bipod. The 6BR with suppressor is much quieter than the TRG-22 with suppressor. The recoil of the 6BR is a lot softer than the TRG-22. So far my 6BR is more accurate. A typical three-shot group with the 6BR is 25-40 mm at 387 meter (423 yards), and that is with just 10X magnification from a Zeiss scope. With my TRG-22, my 3-shot groups run about 50-60 mm, shooting with bipod and beanbag. But I think with a better .308 Win reloading die and more practice, I can improve my groupings with the TRG-22.
Jim’s shooting partner René, shooting TRG-22 with front and rear rest adapters on stock.
Commentary by Jim de Kort
Ergonomics and Adjustability
The trigger offers three adjustments–trigger shoe angle, plus first-stage and second-stage pull weights. Pull is factory-rated between 1.0 and 2.5 kg, but if you’re lucky it will go a little lower (I got mine reliable to 510 grams). The trigger is very reliable and can be removed by loosening a single Allen-bolt which makes maintenance and adjustment very easy. The safety locks both the trigger AND the bolt handle, and the trigger group can be removed without disassembling the rifle.
Options for Optics
Accuracy and Reloading
The TRG-22 is not hard to tune. I have yet to find a load using SMKs or Scenars that does NOT shoot under 0.5 MOA. Anything from 31gr to 46gr will shoot under 0.5 MOA at 100m for me, so all you have left to do is match the load with the conditions and you’re in business. For 100m I use 37.0 gr N135 and Fed 210 primers behind a 155gr Scenar seated 0.005″ from the lands. I use the standard 210 primers, the M gave no difference in result and costs €37 per 1000 over here vs. €25 for the standard 210. Average groups in the hands of a good shooter are 1/3 moa, with occasional 1/4 moa groups. When I shoot on our one and only 500m range I tend to go for 44.0 gr N140. I don’t see how pushing it with 46-47 grains gives any real advantage over that. You might as well get a different calibre if you’re not satisfied with the 308 ballistics. (That’s one of the reasons I am switching to a 6.5x47AI barrel soon by the way. Initial tests for AccurateShooter.com show this should push a 123gr Scenar to 3050 fps.) Contact Dave Bruno for replacement Sako barrels (Dave’s the man).
SUMMARY–A Lot of Rifle for the Price
What are the downsides of the TRG? The rear stock does not work well with a Benchrest-style sandbag–the cut-out is the problem. I also hear complaints that the factory accessories are too pricey. I concede that accessories for the TRGs are anything but cheap, but all you really need is a muzzle brake. (There’s no need to upgrade trigger or barrel). In my humble opinion, don’t blow your budget on the factory bipod–get a Harris instead. The Harris is steadier, and with the money you save, you can buy a set of premium rings and a hard case. Then, load up some Lapua brass with Hodgdon or Vihtavuori, seat a SMK or Scenar and you are good-to-go.
The SAKO TRG-22 and TRG-42 are built in Finland by SAKO, a subsidiary of Beretta. In America, the guns are distributed by Beretta USA. Both TRGs (22/42) are available in forest green or a matte black textured finish. A two-stage match trigger is standard.
The stock is somewhat unconventional. It is an external shell, bolted to an internal metal chassis. The action bolts directly to the chassis, without bedding. The injection-molded stock is adjustable for comb height, length of pull (with spacers), vertical butt-pad height and cast-off.
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Topics: SAKO, Beretta, .308, 308, 7.62×51, .338, 338 LM, Lapua Magnum, F-TR, F-Class, Sako, Beretta, Finland, TRG, TRG22, TRG-22, TRG42, TRG-21, TRG21, 6mm BR, 6BR, 6BR BS, Norway, Hunting, Seal, Fishing, Norsk, Terje, Berger, Hornady, Lilja, Krieger, 1000 yards, IBS, NBRSA, Hunter, Hunting, Varmint, Varminting, Magazine, Benchrest, BR, Bench Rest, competition, rifle accuracy, Norma, Hodgdon Powder, Varget, Norma, N-15, N-11, N 170, N 560, Vihtavuori, N 140, N 150, Berger, Lapua Scenar, 250, Nosler 220, Sierra, MatchKing, Competition Shooting, stocks, Hammer forged, factory, stainless barrel, Stealth, Tactical, reloading, powder, Lapua Brass, Scenar, bullets, precision.