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Gain a Savage Edge

Gain a Savage Edge

Savage's new economy Edge rifle is not a "cheap gun." It's the result of smart thinking about efficient manufacturing methods...

In business as in hunting, it pays to have an edge. That would seem particularly so for companies whose business it is to build hunting rifles--faced as they are with a stubbornly slow economy and persistent unemployment, which makes it darned hard to entice the average sportsman to spring for a new gun this hunting season.

Savage does have an edge--or, more precisely, the Edge. Its new Edge rifle is an economy gun from a firm long viewed as a maker of economically priced, accurate firearms. However, in recent years, Savage has begun to emerge as a company as well-known for its design innovation as for the price of its guns.

To answer the critics who charged that its triggers were lousy, it developed the excellent AccuTrigger. And even though the company has a well-deserved reputation for producing some of the most accurate off-the-shelf rifles on the market, Savage came up with the AccuStock, which made their guns shoot even better.

But innovation comes at a price. Research, development, tooling, production and materials all cost money. In last year's Rifle Shooter hunting rifle buyer's guide, the suggested price of a Savage 11/111 with AccuStock and AccuTrigger was $669. And while that placed it in the bottom third on our list in terms of cost, $669 is still a lot of money if you've lost your job, the value of your house has plummeted or your retirement portfolio is in the tank.

So Savage once again turned to innovation--this time manufacturing innovation--to build a decent, no-frills rifle that practically anyone who wants a new gun can afford. The new Edge's suggested retail price is $329, which made it the second least expensive rifle on our new-for-2010 hunting gun list (September/October)--beaten only by the $300 Maverick, a Mossberg-built gun produced specifically for big-box stores.

Unlike other Savage hunting rifles, the receiver on the Edge sports a solid top, but the ubiquitous barrel nut is still there.

"The purpose of the Edge was to provide an inexpensive rifle that would also produce a profit for us and for our dealers," says Savage's Bill Dermody. "The goal wasn't to figure out how to build a cheaper gun in terms of materials but to design a rifle that was more manufacturing-friendly, a design that would allow us to produce more units per shift and carry a lower parts inventory. That's how to bring the cost down.


"This was a real Manhattan-type project," he continues. "We got everybody together--engineers, managers, marketing people, vendors. We did time studies to determine what made sense and what didn't."

Take the Edge's recoil pad, for example. Look, Ma--no screws. As Dermody explains it, all the assembler has to do is hook a tab on the recoil pad into a square hole in the top of the stock and, voila, it's installed; the pad is secured at the bottom by the rear sling swivel stud screw, an operation that would've had to be done anyway. The result? Fewer steps, fewer parts.

A tab in the top of the recoil pad fits in a square notch in the top of the stock, saving assembly time. The pad's secured at the bottom by the sling swivel stud screw.

The stock is not, of course, an AccuStock, although it does feature dual bedding pillars. It's a nicely configured, light synthetic, available in either black or Vista Next G1 camouflage. My sample was the latter, and the finish was well-done, although you'll have to live with a conspicuous film-dip seam on the top of the comb. However, the film exhibited no peeling or flaking during heavy use on several trips to the firing range.

The thin wrist on the stock has three textured panels for a sure grip, and instead of the Savage Indian logo grip cap you get a molded-in, stylized 'S.' The fore-end has a shallow groove toward the top on both sides. It, too, features small, textured panels. I'm sure part of the fore-end design is just for show, and the groove does keep the rifle from looking totally plain Jane, but I found the fore-end particularly comfortable.

The trigger guard is a separate unit, secured to the stock courtesy of the rear action screw. That had me stumped until Bill clued me in. The front of this trigger guard unit serves as the rear of the magazine well, and by employing this unit, Savage needs to carry only a single Edge-configuration stock in inventory. To turn out a short-action or long-action rifle, employees simply use the appropriate trigger guard unit to create a small or large mag well.

The magazine itself is a nifty design that holds four rounds--the top cartridge is centered single-stack style, while the rest are staggered beneath. The metal box and its polymer follower are assembled into a synthetic floorplate that mates flush with the stock.

It has an integral magazine release that's molded into the floorplate. Again, the integral release cuts down on parts and assembly time as there's no release button, spring and so forth to install in the stock.

At first glance you might think the magazine chintzy, but it works flawlessly, and it's very durable. I filled the magazine with four rounds and dropped it from shoulder height onto concrete a dozen or so times--half of the drops with the mag positioned so it would land on the integral release. The test battered the hell out of the bullets' lead tips, but the magazine and release passed with flying colors (and with remarkably little damage to the camo finish).

In a departure for Savage hunting rifles, the action has a solid top, but the bolt features the dual twin-lug design Savage is known for.

You may need hi

gher rings than normal due to the shape of the bolt handle, which has a slight hump topside.

I have a bone to pick here. The hole spacing for the scope bases is needlessly long, in my opinion (at least for the short-action .308 sample I had)--requiring either the use of a one-piece base or a scope with a lot of tube length.

That's no big deal if you're aware of this fact before you buy scope and bases, but the combination of the bolt-lift angle and the shape of the bolt handle requires you to mount the scope higher than you might want.

I put a Burris Signature 3-10x40 on the Edge. The scope has a normal-size ocular bell, but with low rings--which you would want on a 40mm objective--the bolt would not clear the scope, so I had to switch to medium-height rings.

Later I compared the Edge's bolt handle with the one on my Savage Model 116. Whereas the handle on the 116 has a slight belly that allows it to clear an objective bell, the handle on the Edge has a very slight hump, requiring the scope to be mounted higher to clear.

Specifications: Savage Edge
Type: dual twin-lug bolt-action centerfire
Calibers: .223, .22-250, .243 Win., .25-06, 7mm-08, .270 Win., .308 (tested), .30-06
Capacity:4-round detachable box
Barrel: 22 in., matte-black carbon steel, 1:10 twist (as tested)
Weight: 6.5 lb.
Stock: synthetic, black or camo(as tested), with rubber recoil pad and dual bedding pillars
Trigger: single stage; 6 lb., 2 oz. avg. pull
Safety: two-position tang
Price: $379 (as tested)
Manufacturer: Savage Arms

Of course, you could eliminate these problems entirely simply by buying the Edge XP series, which comes with scope already mounted and ready to go. That adds about $50 to the price tag, which is still a heck of a deal.

The matte-black action sports the signature grooved nut that joins barrel and action, but rather than a washer-style recoil lug sandwiched between the two, the Edge employs a lug that fits in a notch milled into the receiver.

The drop-in aspect of the lug shaves seconds off the time it takes to install a washer-style lug, and as Dermody points out, a few seconds here and there across the entire manufacturing process can really make a difference in how many guns the company can produce in one shift.

The ingenious box magazine has a built-in release molded into the mag's floorplate. It works like a charm and is very strong.

The Edge's barrel is a 22-inch, matte-black carbon-steel tube with 1:10 twist in .308. It has a standard "sporter" profile, tapering from 1.05 inches in front of the barrel nut to 0.6 inch at the muzzle.

I know what you're thinking. "Enough with the features! Does it shoot like a Savage?"

Yes and no. As you would expect on a $329 gun, the Edge doesn't come with an AccuTrigger, and the trigger it does come with is, well, not outstanding. On 10 pulls measured on a Lyman digital trigger gauge, I got pulls ranging from five pounds, 13 ounces to six pounds, eight ounces. That's a swing of 11 ounces on a fairly heavy trigger, which makes it a bit difficult to get good groups off the bench. However, there's no discernable creep.

As mentioned, I put a Burris Signature 3-9X on the rifle for accuracy testing, securing it in Weaver 4x4 rings. My first few groups with the Edge were not good, but that was all me--I wasn't working hard enough to break good shots.

Once I buckled down and got used to the trigger, I found the rifle to be capable of decent accuracy, and while it may not group as well as other Savages I've shot, it's comparable to other makes I've tested that were more expensive. Results are shown in the accompanying table.

Savage describes the Edge's action as "silky smooth." Meh. It's not nearly as smooth as my Savage 116, and the cocking portion of the bolt lift on the Edge is stiff, although by the time I had close to 100 rounds through the rifle it had eased considerably--although still not as much as I'd like. But, then again, it's unfair to compare the Edge to a rifle that costs twice as much.

In field shooting--sitting and standing at 200-yard gongs--the rifle performed quite well and fed flawlessly during both slow and rapid fire. Hits came easily from sitting, although from standing I had a tendency to get on the trigger and pull shots low and right.

While I was at first suspicious of the thin wrist on the stock, it felt fine in actual use. The overall balance is good, and the weight is just right for a hunting rifle. At 61„2 pounds sans scope, it's not soft-shooting in .308, so I'd recommend that if the gun were meant for a new shooter, I'd look at the 7mm-08, .25-06 or .243 chamberings, depending on what the gun will be used for.

During my final range session with the Edge, I passed the rifle to my wife--an accomplished big game hunter and knowledgeable shooter--and asked her to shoot it a bit.

When she was done, she handed it back, nodding in approval. "Certainly nothing wrong with that gun," she said. "But I wish it had an AccuTrigger."

You can't have everything. But with the Edge you get a respectably accurate, nice-handling rifle that will get the job done for novice or veteran hunter alike. And you can buy it f

or a song, possibly saving you enough money to squeeze in an extra hunting trip or two this fall.

Accuracy Results | Savage Edge
.308 WinchesterBullet Weight (gr.) Muzzle Velocity (fps)Standard Deviation Group Size (in.)
Hornady Custom InterLock 150 2,705 14.8 1.29
Winchester Power Point 150 2,820* n/a 1.41
Federal SP 150 2,747 17.6 1.63
Remington Core-Lokt 150 2,756 27.9 2.10
Notes: * Factory velocity figure (from 24-inch barrel) used due to chronograph malfunction. Accuracy results are averages of three three-shot groups at 100 yards off a Caldwell Fire Control rest. Other than noted above, velocities are averages of nine shots measured on a CED M2 chronograph set 10 feet from the muzzle. Abbreviations: SP, softpoint

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