‘Legendary’ Savage 110 has quietly served many owners well

I won’t take a bolt-action rifle hunting unless it has had the action bedded, the barrel free-floated, had the trigger worked over and mounted with a good scope in solid mounts.

Savage Arms can accomplish 75 percent of that for you with their 110 Series of rifles, right out of the box.

They do have an option that they think will do it 100 percent.

They used to equip their “package guns” with scopes that were hit-and-miss when it came to reliability,  but now there is some good glass on many of these packages. The mounts are not the strongest available, but usually get the job done if attention is paid to their tightness.

Many hunters have looked down their noses at Savage’s now-legendary 110 Series of rifles throughout the decades but they have quietly been faithfully serving their owners.

Although I have stated my preference for the Winchester Model 70 above all others there is room in my battery for a few Savages. In fact, the last three rifles I put together for myself are Savages.

One of my favorites is a Savage Model 16FSSDBM in 6.5 WSM. I did have to give in to my biases by repurposing a stainless steel pre-1964 Model 70 barrel in 264 Win. Mag. for the project. It now reads .264 Win. Sht. Mag.

Being a “cheaper” gun, many shooters/hunters are suprised to learn that the Savage design has many advantages over other actions/rifles.

The first advantage is the one that leads the pack in turning most people off to the Savage system: the barrel nut.

The barrel of the Savage is actually retained – and headspaced set – by a locking nut that is visible right in front of the action/receiver. Many gun buyers find this atribute to be ugly.

Personally, I couldn’t care less and it makes the Savage rifle anywhere from 50 to 75 percent cheaper to rebarrel. When you’re talking about the hundreds of dollars it can cost to rebarrel a rifle, that’s some serious cash that stays in your pocket.

There are other atributes of Savage’s rifle that have turned away potential customers, such as their admittedly ugly stock. Not all of their rifles had ugly stocks; in fact, some have had downright good- looking stocks on par with almost any main-line rifle manufacturer. Of course, these were higher-priced arms as well.

Additionally, there is a cottage industry catering to Savage/Stevens rifles now that will sell you any manner of stock you desire.

The new standard-issue synthetic stock of the last few years is also light years ahead of the previous attempts and is the stock I retained on my 6.5.

All of the Savage/Stevens stocks of the last 15 years or more have also been pillar bedded across the board; synthetic, wood or laminated. There are two aluminum pillars through the stock where the two main action screws attatch it to the rifle. This gives a very consistent, non-crushing, attachment/mating surface between the rifle’s action and the stock that is very condusive to accuracy.

There’s 25 percent of the equation; it’s pre-bedded at the factory. (Unfortunately, the most recent injection molded stock in Savage’s line has not proven to be as durable or rigid.)

Another little secret no one seems to be impressed with, which is very good engineering, is the placement of those two action screws.

Anyone who has taken the stock off of a Remington, Winchester, Browning, Ruger, etc., etc. etc. knows that the two main or only action screws go into or behind the recoil lug (which is good) and then into the rear tang.

The problem with this is that the rear tang of the action is not very strong/stiff. If the stock is not inletted correctly (which they almost never are) or bedded correctly, this tang is easily bent by torqueing the rear screw down.

Savage engineers wisely moved this rear screw to directly in front of the trigger gaurd where the action is MUCH stronger/thicker and more rigid.

Twenty-five percent of the advantage is due to the almost always free-floating barrel of the Savage 110 series rifle as well.

The last quarter of the equasion has to do with the Accu-Trigger that Savage brought out, with much fanfare, a few years ago. (The lesser-priced Stevens rifles do not have this feature).

There has always been a legitimate gripe among shooters that most factory rifles come out of the box with stiff to absolutely attrocious trigger pulls. It is well known that this is to keep litigation at bay, but this fact of modern life necessitates a trip to a competent gunsmith to either smooth and lighten the factory assembly or replace it altogether.

The Accu-Trigger is owner-adjustable down to about 2.5-3 lbs. in their hunting rifles. Some of the target/tactical/varmint rifles have a version that can be adjusted to weights measured in ounces instead of pounds.

The trick is that the trigger’s finger lever has a safety lever built into it that hinges away when you pull it, but pops back out when your trigger finger is taken off of it, much like the excellent Glock pistol has. If the cocking piece and/or sear should be jarred out of engagement, this safety lever prevents the rifle from firing.

Basically, the Savage comes with a “trigger job” right out of the box.

That takes care of my requirements for a hunting rifl,e but the Savage has a few more tricks up its action.

Unlike other turn-bolt rifles, the bolt head/locking lugs on the Savage are not fixed to or part of the bolt body. (Remington owners, your locking lugs are not part of the bolt body either, but are a seperate piece welded to the body permanently.)

The bolt head of the Savage “floats” in the bolt body, which allows it to make full contact with the action’s locking lugs, even if they are not perfectly square and/or concentric to the centerline of the reciever/barrel. Much time and money is spent correcting the potential flaws, in this regard, to other rifle manufacturers’ action types.

An added advantage is that these bolt heads are available from Savage, which allows you to change from one family of cartridges with the same case head/rim to a whole different size. Nobody else can pull that trick off.

This is such an advantage that some Remington fans pay big bucks to have their rifles changed to the Savage system. That’s saying something.

Basically, you could take some versions of this rifle in .223 Remington and make a .458 Winchester Magnum out of it just by changing parts with absolutely no machining necessary. And any version from .204 Ruger, .223 Remington, .243 winchester etc. can be made into any of the family of Short magnums that are all the rage, or that .270 caliber 110 you inherited from ’ol Grandpa could become the dream .375 Ruger you’ve wanted since it came out a few years back, again just by swapping parts.

Try that with your Weatherby Mark V, or any of your other rifles for that matter.

Buying replacement parts for a broken gun can be quite expensive and even impossible, but not for the owners of these 110 series rifles.

The price for Savage parts is downright reasonable. I can’t say that about very many firearms makers, or car builders or ATV manufacturers etc. It appears that Savage wants to keep their customers (happy) by taking care of them after the initial sale.

Old guns are a problem all on their own.

Most gun makers abandon models that are discontinued pretty rapidly, and Savage is no exception to this, but the slight changes to the 110 series are mostly “backwards-compatible,” which means you can install the new parts into an old rifle and get it up and running.

I did just that by converting an old rusty 110 in 30-06 Springfield that was one of the very first series into a high-tech, modern 300 Rem. Ultra-Mag. precision rifle.

I had to buy a complete bolt assembly to do it as the old-style rifle’s fixed ejector and bolt head were not compatible with the newer parts, but it was still significantly cheaper than the cost of a whole new action/reciever.

The sum of all of these advatages and engineering feats is one of the most accurate factory rifles ever made, especially at its price point.

If plagarism is the sincerest form of flattery, consider the afformentioned fact about Remington shooters trying to make their favorite more “Savage-like” and Mossberg, Ruger T/C and Marlin (just to name a few) basically copying the design to the point that I have put Savage parts in most of these rifles as replacements with no fitting required.

The formerly berated Savage 110 series must be blushing.