William W. (Bill) Gabbard
First impressions are usually hard to get past, and the Savage 110 Bear Hunter was no exception to that rule. Just looking at the packaging had me convinced that this was going to “shoot the lights out.” AccuFit, AccuStock , AccuTrigger, 23-inch stainless steel barrel with straight fluting and button rifling, adjustable muzzle brake - how could it not? The Mossy Oak Break-Up Country AccuStock has an aluminum channel in the stock that tightens on three sides of the action for its full length. This assures a firm grip on the satin-finish stainless action which ensures a free-floating barrel that is impervious to the elements and blends in perfectly for hunting. The 23-inch stainless fluted barrel should help by decreasing weight and speed up the cooling of the barrel by providing more surface. The Accufit allows the user to customize the comb and length of pull to suit the individual shooter and the AccuTrigger is user-adjustable for weight of pull.
Unpacking the box on a new rifle is always exciting, but this rifle had plastic bags of parts everywhere - spacers and cheekpieces galore! I quickly forgot Savage Arms’ Jared Hinton’s advice about trying the AccuFit stock for proper fit, cleaned the rifle, mounted the Bushnell DMR II Pro 3.5x21x50 scope, and headed to the range. I bore-sighted and zeroed the scope quickly and was quite pleased by the optical clarity and tracking of the Bushnell.
On my next trip to the range, I tried four factory loads and five handloads using three different bullets. I fired three-shot groups allowing plenty of cooling time between groups. While I left the range a little disappointed with the size of the groups, I found myself liking the rifle and questioning my next move. I was really impressed with the adjustable muzzle brake. Shooting with the brake on or off made no noticeable difference in the size of the groups; however, it made a tremendous difference in the felt recoil. With the Savage/Bushnell combo weighing in just shy of 10 pounds and the adjustable muzzle brake in the open position, felt recoil was reduced to levels associated with a similar weight rifle in 6.5 Creedmoor.
The following weekend The Owsley County Sportsman’s Club hosted a Lollipop Shoot, and I took the Savage along to get the impressions of a couple of self-described “Savage Nuts” that are regular shooters at the club. Ben Andrews, competition shooter who almost exclusively uses Savage actions in his custom rifles, was impressed with the rifle and noted the increased size of the stock which would make the rifle more “hunter friendly.” He was also impressed with the increased size of the trigger guard and the textured surfaces on the stock. Jon Landsaw, competition shooter and avid reloader, just grinned and headed to the shooting bench. Jon, after trying some factory ammo, fired a three-shot group using handloads that he had developed for his Savage in 300 WSM. He fired a three-shot group measuring 0.203 in. at 100 yards. Yep, less than ¼ inch with a bone stock rifle.
Ben had noted the high rings and possible need of a higher comb while I noticed the handloads that Jon used had the bullets seated much longer than the factory ammo and remembered that I had seated my preliminary test loads to factory specs. I returned to my workbench where I took Jared’s advice and went to work on the AccuFit Stock. While the process was not as easy as the pictures made it look, it was really not that difficult. In just a few minutes, I had changed the comb and length of pull and the rifle to fit me perfectly!
While I had the rifle on the bench, using the trigger adjustment tool that was included with the rifle, I adjusted the AccuTrigger to its lightest setting. I then loaded another round of handloads seating the bullets to magazine length and about 0.010 off the lands. After making sure that these loads would function through the magazine, I headed back to the range. As the below table for factory ammunition shows the adjustments in the stock and trigger made a remarkable difference. The average of 5 different types of ammunition dropped from 2.09 in. to a very impressive 0.901. The Federal Premium 180gr was the biggest winner posting a gain of 1.461 inches shooting a 0.411-inch group at 100 yards. That is an under ½ inch group at 100 yards with a factory rifle and factory ammo. Three of the five groups were under an inch. Pretty darned impressive! While I can’t say that the adjustments made the rifle shoot better, I can say that they allowed me to shoot the rifle better.
|FACTORY AMMUNITION||GROUP BEFORE ADJUSTMENT||GROUP AFTER ADJUSTMENT|
|Federal Premium 180 gr Nosler Accubond||2.100||0.692|
|Federal Premium 180 gr Trophy Copper||1.872||0.411|
|Federal Premium 200 gr Edge TLR||2.530||1.550|
|Winchester 180 gr Ballistic SilverTip||2.260||1.097|
|Browning 185 gr BXC Controlled Expansion||1.732||0.757|
Reloaders all realize that any change whatsoever can either have an adverse or positive effect on accuracy and that the combinations of brass, powder, charge weights, bullets, primers and seating depth are almost endless. Nearly all rifles will have a “pet load.” Most will have one or possibly two. The Bear Hunter found two in a hurry and showed definite promise with others. The best group of the test was a 0.167 using Federal Premium Brass that had been neck sized for the Bear Hunter, Federal Gold Medal 215 M primers Alliant RL 22 powder, and a Federal EDGLE TLR 200 gr bullet. Testing only eleven loads using four different bullets, four powders, and two primers nearly half of the groups were under one inch. The table below shows that five different groups were under an inch and two of those were under ¼ inch at 100 yards.
|Hornady 178 gr ELDX||CCI 250||IMR 4831||65.5||1.858|
|Hornady 178 gr ELDX||Fed GM 215M||IMR 4831||65.5||0.781|
|Hornady 200 gr ELDX||Fed GM 215M||H4831 SC||66.4||0.203|
|Federal 180 gr Trophy Bonded Tip||CCI 250||IMR 4831||65.5||0.790|
|Federal 180 gr Trophy Bonded Tip||Fed GM 215M||IMR 4831||65.5||0.601|
|Federal 180 gr Trophy Bonded Tip||CCI 250||Alliant RL17||64.0||1.120|
|Federal 180 gr Trophy Bonded Tip||CCI 250||Alliant RL19||67.0||1.601|
|Federal 180 gr Trophy Bonded Tip||CCI 250||Alliant RL22||67.0||1.990|
|Federal 200 gr EDGE TLR||Fed GM 215M||IMR 4831||60.5||1.528|
|Federal 200 gr EDGE TLR||Fed GM 215M||Alliant RL19||65.7||1.118|
|Federal 200 gr EDGE TLR||Fed GM 215M||Alliant RL22||65.8||0.167|
NOTE: All hand loads used Federal Premium Neck-Sized Brass.
CAUTION: All hand loads should start 10% below published maximums and increase while watching for signs of excessive pressure.
The Bear hunter lists for $999.00. A quick check with local retail outlets revealed prices from $775 to $825. Bottom line, if you are looking for a rifle that performs as well as it looks, you really want to take a look at the Savage 110 Bear Hunter 110 in Mossy Oak Break-Up Country!