Swellboy on… Sako rifle factory in Finland

Our man trains as a sniper – and finds getting his eye in easier than he expected…

Image: Brijesh Patel

My older son’s friend is convinced that I am a spy. This analysis is based on the fact that I travel a fair bit and have a varied field of interest. If this is the case, then I rather fear for the safety of the realm, as I would argue that any secret agenting I might undertake is likely to be more in the Johnny English line than the James Bond.

That said, when I arrived at the Sako rifle factory, about 45 minutes out of Helsinki, I could sort of see where my son’s friend was coming from. I was handed a visitor pass numbered with a double 0 prefix and taken to a bunker complex located in a hollowed-out mountain where technicians were busy making bullets, tens upon tens of thousands of bullets.

Sako is owned by my friend Franco Beretta’s eponymous firearms firm and it makes rifles, everything from handsome-looking wooden-stocked things to foldable sniper rifles that have a highly technical look to them and can – so the nice retired sniper from the Finnish army told me – be disassembled in two minutes. Yes, that’s right, I was being instructed on how to use a firearm capable of hitting a target a mile or more away by a seasoned veteran of two tours in Afghanistan. He told me that he particularly liked this gun, the TRG M10, because he could go swimming with it and it did not corrode. That’s very handy to know, now that summer is upon us, given that I will need to take a dip in the pool at the Marbella Club while completing my advanced firearms training.

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However, it will be a while yet before I can match up to the onscreen example set by Bradley Cooper in American Sniper, although when it comes to sniper weapons, I tend to favour Edward Fox in The Day of the Jackal. I positioned myself on the shooting mat and aligned my body with the weapon so as to mitigate the effect of the recoil, hooking my left arm under the stock of the gun and gripping my right bicep slightly lower or higher to perform minute adjustments of the sight on a target that seemed so far away as to be across the border with Russia. I pulled the trigger and… bang. I have no idea if I hit the target, as the recoil brought the scope into contact with my ocular orbit, leaving me with a nice bruise.

As well as being an inept sniper, I would make a terrible secret agent, as I completely forgot to ask the most important question: namely how to fit this 4ft-long weapon – with its muzzle brake, tool kit, bipod and interchangeable barrels, not to mention the rather large-looking bullets – under my dinner jacket without spoiling the line of my eveningwear.

Find out how our man puts his shooting skills into practice with his tale of dove shooting in Argentina.

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