September 23, 2010
Two Industry leaders combine for one hot-shooting cartridge/rifle package
Four of the six Lazzeroni short action magnums. Left to right: 6mm Spitfire, 6.5mm Phantom, 7mm Tomahawk and .30-caliber Patriot. By comparison, at right is the .300 Winchester Short Magnum. Lazzeroni's other short magnums include .338 and .416 versions.
There's been an unprecedented amount of publicity recently regarding Winchester's new .300 Short Magnum, and rightly so. It represents, if not a breakthrough in cartridge design, certainly a new direction. And by the time you read this, Remington will have announced the introduction of its answer to the .300 WSM. Talk about exciting times for rifle cranks! But amid all this hoopla over short, fat cartridges, let us not forget that it is John Lazzeroni who's being chased--at least figuratively--by these two industry giants. It was John who first introduced the squat-case concept to commercial big-game cartridges three years ago with his six-caliber lineup of short action magnums.
To go with his line of squat cartridges, John also unveiled the L-2000SA, a short-action version of his existing L-2000 rifle. Beautifully put together using an action designed and manufactured by McMillan Brothers, and fitted with a Jewel trigger, Schneider barrel and a McMillan stock, this no-expense-spared rifle carries the same $4,500 price tag as those chambered in his full-length magnums. But let's face it, such a price puts Lazzeroni rifles out of reach for most of us.
Two years earlier, in an effort to put Lazzeroni performance within reach of more hunters and shooters, John went to Sako in Finland and contracted with them to build TRG-S rifles chambered to his most popular full-length magnum, the 7.82 Warbird. He was then able to offer an $899 alternative to his L-2000. Sales picked up. More recently, to provide more access for his short magnums, Lazzeroni struck a similar deal with Savage Arms. The company would modify its short-action Model 16-FCSS Weather Warrior to handle Lazzeroni's 7.21 (.284) Tomahawk and 7.82 (.308) Patriot. The resultant Savage 16-LZ, marketed exclusively by Lazzeroni Arms, is priced at $699.
I had the opportunity this past March to spend a couple of days in Tucson with John testing the first production example of the 16-LZ in .30-caliber Patriot. We not only tested the gun for functioning and accuracy, but for velocity and pressure as well, using an Oehler Model 43. John shipped me that same rifle later so I could continue testing it on my own. I've gotten to know the Patriot almost as well as the 7.21 Tomahawk, for which I have two rifles chambered.
The 16-LZ consists of what is essentially the Savage Model 16-FCSS Weather Warrior, featuring an all stainless barreled action in an injection molded synthetic stock with detachable magazine. Only chambered to the Lazzeroni cartridges.
On the first day, we concentrated on recording pressures and velocities on a makeshift 100-yard range in the desert near John's home. The second day was spent at the Three Points Shooting Range, where we could shoot out to 1,000 yards.
Because the Tomahawk and Patriot are based on a case measuring .580 inches at the head and are not rebated, the recessed bolt face that's standard on the 16-FCSS could not be used. Savage modified the bolt head to the same configuration used in the Model 116 Safari Express, which emulates the controlled-round feed of the '98 Mauser. By making the face flush and switching from a plunger-type ejector to a static one, the almost Rigby-size case is accommodated. It is not a true controlled feeding system because the extractor does not engage the case rim until the cartridge is fully chambered and the bolt rotated into battery.
The detachable magazine also had to be modified to handle the stubby round, but its central feed design presented far less of a problem than an internal box would have. The test gun worked perfectly, its two-round magazine feeding cartridges smoothly and reliably.
These four three-shot groups were fired with the 168-grain Sierra GameKing Lazzeroni factory load, with scope adjustments made after the first and second groups.
John was anxious for me to see firsthand that the velocities he claimed for his factory ammunition were accurate, and that they were achieved at pressures no higher than used by Weatherby, for example, 65,000 psi or roughly 55,000 CUP's. That's only about 1,000 more than used for most non-proprietary magnums. His 168-grain. Sierra HP load, for example, clocked 3,240 fps in the Savage's 24-inch barrel at a recorded 65,100 psi. The 180-grain Sierra GameKing clocked 3,140 fps at 65,300 psi.
Shortly after I returned home I received a copy of the pressure test results John had done at the H.P. White Laboratories in Street, Maryland, using the Conformal Piezoelectric Pressure System--the most accurate means of measuring pressure in firearms. The results show a 10-shot string of Lazzeroni Patriot factory ammo loaded with the 180-grain Sierra GameKing bullet as averaging 3,150 fps at 64,900 psi. This is virtually identical to the readings we got out in the desert.
As expected, the most accurate of the four factory loads I fired both in Arizona and at home in North Carolina, was the 168-grain Sierra Match HP. On the first day of testing, in very little wind and with no mirage to speak of, I managed to fire four consecutive three-shot groups that averaged .70 inches. Almost as accurate was the 180-grain GameKing load; three consecutive groups at 300 yards measured 3.3, 2.9 and 1.55 inches.
At right is the recessed bolt face and plunger ejection arrangement that's standard on all but the Savage Model 116 SE series. The 16-LZ system, modified to utilize Lazzeroni cases, is shown at left.
The most interesting load for the Patriot features a specially-sized and lubricated 130-grain Barnes XBT-Bullet that we clocked at 3,560 fps through the LZ's 24-inch spout. Talk about a pronghorn load!
The 16-LZ, sold exclusively through Lazzeroni Arms, (1415 S. Cherry Av
e., Tucson, AZ 85713; 888-4WARBIRD; www.lazzeroni.com) is quite a value and provides an accurate rifle chambered for John's two most popular short action magnums priced within the financial reach of many more people. I believe this group is far larger than the one that exists for the super magnums, like the Warbird, Ultra Mag and .300-378.