Back in 1976, the first Savage bolt gun I ever owned was a Model 112V single-shot in .220 Swift. It had a heavy 650mm barrel and beefy varminter stock and was capable of shooting very tight groups. There were a lot of three shot strings that cut one ragged hole in the target, but it planted five shots in 0.338 inch with remarkable consistency. That rifle engendered in me a healthy respect for the Savage 110. But it wasn’t just the accuracy that impressed me about the Savage Model 12. The way the bolt cycled smoothly and the excellent gas-handling characteristics of the rifle, together with its simplicity of design, were all impressive features. Yet, despite its undeniable attributes, the basic Savage 110 never managed to gain the prominence of other popular bolt-action rifles. In my estimation the Savage 110 has been a real “sleeper” since all the sporters I tested were capable of outshooting a good many more expensive brands and were just as reliable.
Savage Arms has had its up and downs over the years, at one stage reaching a very low ebb, but the company recovered, rising like a phoenix from the ashes to once again become a major player in the American firearms industry.
While the basic 110 action has remained virtually unchanged over the years, the rifles I’ve tested in recent years have impressed me with their quality of manufacture and fit and finish, and they’ve kept adding new models every year. One of the latest is the Model 111 Long Range Hunter which incorporates several significant improvements. The first thing I noticed when I pulled it out of the box was that the comb of the AccuStock is adjustable for height. This is a decided advantage since it allows raising the shooters head to place his eye in line with the scope. This is a big advantage if he attaches a scope with a large objective that requires high mounts. While the exterior of the stock is overmolded with black rubber, making it user- friendly the comb is not, but has a smooth finish that won’t rasp the shooter’s cheek.
Gas leakage within the receiver is blocked by two heavy baffles rotating on the bolt body and a large horseshoe-shaped rear baffle.
The stock has studs for Q/D-type sling swivels. My review rifle is chambered for the 7mm Remington Magnum cartridge, and the butt is fitted with a rubber pad about 20mm thick which has a lot of give. The pad is rounded on all exterior corners and soaks up recoil like a rock star soaks up adoration. There is a pistol grip cap made as a separate piece which appears to be glued on rather than attached with a screw. It carries Savage’s Indian Head logo.
The forward portion of the underside of the forend is rounded, and the section around the magazine’s drop-out floorplate has rounded edges. When you carry the rifle here at the balance point, it feels comfortable in the hand.
The injection-molded Savage AccuStock has a rubberized finish resembling that of the Hogue and Browning stocks. It is lightweight, does not absorb moisture, and highly resistant to breaking or splitting. But more importantly Savage tackled the most serious shortcoming of the injection-molded stock which is the tendency of its forearm to warp when subjected to high temperatures. Unless the clearance between the free-floating barrel and the barrel channel in the stock are big enough to drag a tomcat through, the forearm can warp against the barrel, causing the rifle to change its impact point. Shooting a rifle with a bipod attached to the forearm can also cause a slim forearm to be bent into the side of the barrel. The same thing can happen when the carrying sling is wrapped around the forearm to steady the rifle when taking a shot. Free-floating the barrel and pillar bedding the action as Savage have done in the past, provided only a partial solution, so Savage solved the problem by designing the AccuStock with a highly refined, three-dimensional bedding block system that has a really positive effect upon accuracy.
The AccuStock features a molded-in aluminium chassis which makes the stocks stiffer and less sensitive to extreme temperatures. To ensure consistent stock-to-receiver contact they developed a patented action cradle that encircles the magazine well and stretches from the front of the trigger guard housing to within 55mm of the forend tip, but does not extend rearward past the trigger housing to the tang. The main bedding platform extends 110mm ahead of the magazine well and extends rearward along each side of that opening. The 368mm long AccuStock chassis with rib-like spine is made of aircraft-grade 6061-T6 extruded aluminium, and weighs a mere 177 grams.
The rifle’s comb is adjustable for height and can be raised to allow the shooter to align his eye with a high-mounted scope.
A pair of action screws thread into the receiver ahead and abaft of the magazine well; a third screw attaches the rear of the guard bow to the stock. The bedding system of the Model 111 Long Range Hunter differs from the Model 16 Weather Warrior I tested a few years ago. Savage has done away with the tapered wedge-shaped block in front of the recoil lug which was held to the chassis by a screw through the stock. Its purpose was to engage a tapered face on the rear of the forend rib and draw the wedge downward ensuring full contact of the redesigned recoil lug against its alloy abutment to prevent any fore-and-aft movement. Obviously, Savage found the wedge unnecessary, because the recoil lug now sits squarely in a close-fitting recess which is actually a corresponding notch cut in the rear end of the rib-like spine.
This “three dimensional” bedding system is rather unique because the action cradle on either side of the magazine well has tapered sides so that when the screws are tightened to pull the round-bottomed action down, they spring apart as much as 0.010 inch acting rather like a Vee-block.
Tighten the action screws to Savage’s recommended 40 to 50- inch pounds and the receiver comes to rest atop a precisely machined bedding surface which allows the walls and base of the bedding cradle to bear tightly against the receiver The heaviest recoil won’t move the action in the stock and the forend won’t bend when rapid fire heats the barrel up, hence the point of impact remains unaffected by either the stock or its bedding.
Built on the Savage Model 111 long action, the Long Range Hunter features the firm’s marvellous AccuTrigger which allows pull weight to be adjusted from 170 grams to 1.134 kg. And the let-off can be easily adjusted by the user thereby allowing the shooter to have a pull-weight suited to his or her personal preference without having to pay a gunsmith.
Model 111's drop-out floorplate is released by pressing on a plunger located in the front of the trigger guard.
The Savage AccuTrigger is absolutely crisp and creep-free. And it is totally safe. It won’t fire if dropped or bumped at the lightest setting. Like the Glock pistol’s Safe Action, the Accutriggersystem involves a trigger-housed lever that prevents firing until it is depressed as the trigger is squeezed, but the actual design and mechanical operating principles are entirely different.
The innovative simplicity of the AccuTrigger is based on trigger and sear levers that are notably longer than those found on conventional trigger mechanisms with their engagement point on their ends. This furnishes increased leverage (technical term: longer force movement arms) than with shorter parts with less tension required for reliable, crisp engagement. Since the sear engages a simple,sharp, shallow notch in the extreme end of the trigger, only a miniscule amount of movement is required for an instant, sharp, clean release.
The other essential element is the long AccuRelease lever mounted within the trigger body which shares the same pivot point in the housing. When at rest the forward upper end of the AccuRelease is positioned directly behind the sear, where it will block the sear should any external force cause it to jar out of the trigger notch. In the course of firing, the trigger finger will automatically take up and depress the AccuRelease lever so that the forward tip drops out of the path of the sear, allowing the sear to move fully backward when released by the trigger at whatever weight you have adjusted the let-off to be.
Adjusting the pull weight is easy. Simply remove the stock, and insert the tool supplied with the rifle into the bottom of the trigger return spring, engaging the spring-tail with the slot in the tool. To make the pull heavier, turn the tool clockwise; maximum trigger pull comes after the spring “clicks” when rotated. To lighten the pull, turn it counter clockwise. Minimum pull is at the point when the large coil contacts the top surface of the trigger and you feel resistance. Don’t try to force the spring beyond these limits or you will wreck the spring and ruin the quality of the pull.
As part of the AccuTrigger project, Savage also redesigned the much criticized manual safety mechanism for its bolt-action rifles. The newly designed teardrop ambidextrous tang safety operates much more smoothly and quietly than the previous design. It is a three-position safety which locks both the trigger/sear interface and the bolt in the full rear position; locks the trigger/sear but allows the bolt to be operated for unloading in the mid-position; and is in firing mode when fully forward.
Another desirable feature is Savage’s centre-feed internal box magazine. While the cartridges are held in the box in the familiar staggered formation, its feed lips are formed in such a manner that the top cartridge is positioned directly in line with the chamber. It feeds as smoothly as a single-column magazine but has greater capacity. Depending on the cartridge, capacity is one round less than for a conventional staggered magazine, ( 3 in 7mm Rem Mag) but this insignificant reduction is far outweighed by extremely smooth and reliable cartridge feeding.
The magazine is 88mm long, and while it can be loaded by thumbing each round in from the top, I find it easier and quicker to open the floorplate and dump cartridges in through the bottom. The design of the latch for the hinged floorplate is quite unusual. Even though the floorplate drops open from the rear in the normal way, its latch is at the front rear of its hinge. While different it is very convenient and is not likely to be accidently opened in the field.
Savage AccuTrigger has an AccuRelease lever within the trigger body which must be depressed to release the sear.
Measuring 19mm at the muzzle, the 650mm button-rifled barrel has 6-groove rifling, and while quite slim in contour, it is obviously heavy enough to deliver excellent accuracy. Rifling twist rate will vary among the available calibres, but is 1:9- 1/2 inches for the 7mm Rem. Mag. This is fast enough to stabilize the majority of .284 bullet weights but may be marginal for the extremely long Barnes 175gn TSX FB. However, it will handle the 160gn TSX BT which has a higher B.C (.439 against .417) and can be driven 150 fps faster. Like the receiver, the barrel was bead- blasted to have a matte finish prior to bluing to eliminate any game spooking reflections.
The Model 111 Long Range Hunter was equipped Savage’s on- again-off-again muzzle brake which unlike most of the aftermarket add-ons makes a smooth transition and blends into the barrel. The outer sleeve is twisted clockwise to uncover the ports for shooting on the range where you can wear some form of ear protection and the P.A.D soft rubber recoil pad can make its contribution by absorbing 45 percent more recoil than standard OEM pads. However, your hearing doesn’t suffer in the field because all you have to do is twist the outer sleeve counter- clockwise to block the holes off, effectively putting the brake out of action.
The Savage brake is machined as an integral part of the barrel and the 60mm tube is 19mm in diameter with 36 holes drilled in it - the 6 ring array of holes has 6 in each in staggered formation, The “bore” of the 7mm muzzle brake is .307 inches in diameter, just large enough to clear the .284 inch bullets without touching the brake. The brake is not rifled, doesn’t touch the bullet and doesn’t redirect the gas until the bullet has left the rifled muzzle, thus the accuracy and ballistics of the cartridge are not affected.
Shooting the Model 111 with the brake turned “On” and the soft recoil pad was pleasant - more like shooting a 7mm-08 than a 7mm Magnum. Brakes that can be screwed on and off usually suffer impact shift because they affect the barrels harmonics and change its vibration pattern. Happily the Savage brake allows the rifle to shoot to the same point of impact whether switched on or off.
Another feature that’s different is having the bolt release located in front of the trigger guard. All you do, is simply push on the button while holding down the AccuTrigger to free the bolt for removal from the receiver.
Weight of the rifle is a hefty 4kg naked, and adding a Leupold Vari X III 6.5-20x in two piece Leupold mounts increased its heft to 4.8kg. Not even the fittest, strongest nimrod is going to hump this rifle for mountain hunting, but that’s not what it was intended for. It is a specialized item, designed to be a beanfield rifle, for use in the southern U.S.A where hunters hunker down in a tree stand and shoot deer across open cultivation paddocks or reach way out yonder down a sendero to bag a trophy buck. The Model 111 Long Range Hunter proved just as well suited for hunting pronghorn antelope and mule deer on open prairie country in the south west. But what would be its role in OZ? In 7mm Rem. Mag. I can see it being used on camels and donkeys across open plains in the outback as well as for fallow and red deer in open country.
I had no doubts about how well the Savage would shoot; I’ve never had one that didn’t. The Model 111 proved to be an easy rifle to shoot well thanks to the crisp AccuTrigger which left off at a consistent 1.58kg. Just how well it grouped though impressed me. Using Federal ammunition supplied with the rifle, Power Shok shooting a 150gn soft-pointed bullet produced 3-shot averages of 1.25 inch at 100yd., while the first group fired with Vital Shok loaded with the 150gn Nosler Ballistic Tip went into .75, and averaged .980. But it hardly seemed sensible testing a seven-mag at 100yd., so I set up a target at the 200yd. mark. Average group size with the Power Shok load was 1.85 with a best of 1.55. As expected the premium Ballistic Tip load did better- averaging 1.50 with the smallest group barely 1.35.
The criteria of what any 7mm Magnum will do is with the ballistically efficient 160gn bullet. I concocted a warmish handload consisting of the Nosler 160gn Partition bullet over a stiff charge of 66gn of Supreme 780. This recipe churned up a useful 2958 fps and at 200 yd. produced the second tightest group average of 1.80 for three shots.
An old established company, Savage Arms is not only still in production but going from strength to strength. Their range of models has been expanded and is made on hi-tech computerized machinery. While the company earned a reputation for building a quality product at a reasonable price, today it is even better. I, for one, am happy to see this historic American arms maker doing so well.
This article was first published in Sporting Shooter, September 2011.