Blasts From the Past: Sako Finnbear L61R

Sako Finnbear rifle
The owner of this Sako Finnbear found very little to change about the inherited rifle.Submitted

Blasts From the Past is a weekly look at great old guns and underappreciated shooters from yesteryear. If you have photos of rare, interesting, or unusual firearms, send them to fsgunnuts@gmail.com.

Sako of Riihimäki, Finland—a town rich in vowels—is one of Europe’s best rifle makers. Sako began in 1919 as “Suojeluskuntain Yliesikunnan Asepaja” or “Civil Guard Supreme Staff Gun Works,” opening in a former brewery in Helsinki. The company made guns and ammunition, including their own version of the Mosin–Nagant, said to be a much better rifle than the Russian Mosins, and definitely one that caused the Russians great pain in the Winter War. Sako began making rifles for the civilian market in the 1940s. Today’s rifle, the Finnbear L61R, was in production from 1962 to 1973.

Sako Finnbear rifles are hefty, known for their fit, finish, and accuracy. And they have held their value very well. A Finnbear in immaculate condition will bring $1,100–1,200. This Finnbear is no pristine safe queen but a hunting rifle that has been passed down from grandfather to grandson.

hunting deer with a sako finnbear
Post-hunt photo with the Finnbear.Submitted

Here’s what its owner, Stephen, had to say:

This is my grandpa’s Sako Finnbear L61R, chambered in .270. Made in Finland probably around the early 1960s, it has the Bofors Steel stamp on the barrel and a serial number in the 12000s. Topped with an old Kahles 3X9 scope, the rifle still shoots better than I can.

shot group with a sako finnbear
The owner’s first shot group with his grandpa’s Finnish-made rifle.Submitted

I inherited the rifle in 2014, after my grandpa passed. The gun shows use but was well taken care of. It had not been shot in decades when I got it. But you wouldn’t know that based on my first five-shot group. A few clicks of elevation and everything was right where it should be, and right how my grandpa left it. You can see the first group I shot with the gun (photo right).

I’ve thought about putting a new scope on the gun, but I can’t bring myself to break apart the setup my grandpa started putting together more than 50 years ago. Sure, it might cost me a deer in low-light conditions, but having my grandpa with me on every hunt is worth it.

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