The Savage Model 111 Hunter in 7mm Rem. Mag. is flat-shooting and hard-hitting with the capability to reach way out yonder to bag big-game.

Savage's new model 111 Hunter rifle

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.

Savage 111 Hunter 2

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.

Savage 111 Hunter 3

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.

Savage 111 Hunter 4

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 111 Hunter 5

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.

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