September 23, 2010
Stock fit is crucial to accurate rifle shooting. You already knew that. But even if you didn't, one look at today's precision long-range guns would tell you how vital it is—with their adjustable stocks that allow shooters to fine-tune length of pull, comb height and other dimensions. But when it comes to hunting rifles, you're basically at the mercy of the manufacturer. One size fits all, except that it doesn't.
Recognizing this, the designers at Savage have come up with a relatively hassle-free way to tailor a stock to your body and the way you shoot. They've done this with a new stock for the Model 110 called the AccuFit, and by simply installing different modules, you can change length of pull and comb height.
Let's start with comb height, which to me is the more critical of the two. My hunting rifles wear strap-on cheek pads most of the time because they help get your eye correctly aligned behind the scope. Why does it matter? Two reasons. One is proper head position. If you're craning your neck to look through the scope, you're not only uncomfortable, you're also prone to having your head position change at the moment the shot breaks, which can move the rifle at a most inopportune time.
The other reason is parallax. Without going into a technical discussion, parallax has to do with the relationship of the crosshairs, your eye and the target. If your scope doesn't allow you to adjust parallax based on the distance to the target (and even if it does unless you've really done your homework on the settings), if you're not looking right down the tube—every time—your shots aren't going to be exactly where you intended. And the best way to tackle this problem is to ensure the height of your stock's comb allows you to maintain a proper, consistent head position in relation to the scope.
Savage's new stock comes with five combs of different heights that are easily changed by removing the buttpad. Heights, measured immediately behind the middle "leg" on the combs, are 1.2, 1.4, 1.6, 1.8 and 2.0 inches. Because everyone has a different facial structure, and because a scope's center depends on so many factors, the only way to tell what's right for you is to try them all with your intended scope mounted on the rifle. Shoulder the rifle with your eyes closed, with your head comfortably resting on the stock, then open your eyes. When you find the correct comb height, you'll be looking through the center of the scope—or as close to center as your setup allows.
With a Bushnell Engage scope installed via Weaver Four Hole Skeleton high rings and standard-height Weaver bases, I went with the 1.8-inch comb. I could've actually gone with the tallest, the 2.0, but for some reason the taller one felt too sharp against my cheekbone. With a day of firing a couple hundred rounds through my .30-06 sample in the offing, I opted for comfort over the exact right height. Funny thing is, I tried to figure out if there was a real difference in the width or shape of the comb between the two, but I couldn't. Sometimes it's just best to go with what feels right.
This new stock also comes with four spacers to permit length-of-pull adjustment. Proper stock length helps you maintain a consistent head position as well, and obviously, one of the beauties of this system, and others like it, is it lets the rifle grow up with a young shooter, adding spacers as he or she grows.
Spacer widths, measured at the outer portion, are 0.25, 0.5, 0.7 and 1.0 inch. To pick the one that was right for me, I went with the old standby length-of-pull test. Place the butt in the crook of your elbow and whichever stock length allows your finger to be positioned correctly on the trigger—with the pad or tip on the center of the trigger's finger lever, not dragging on the trigger edge or easily pushing past the first knuckle—will work.
Having said that, if you're going to be shooting with a heavy coat most of the time, you might err on the short side. And if you plan on shooting from a particular position a lot (prone, for example), you'd be smart to take the various spacers with you to the range so you can experiment.
My sample came with the widest stock spacer and the 1.6-inch comb, and I found replacing the components to be as easy as pie. All you need is a Phillips screwdriver. The only issue I had came when I attacked the stock screws like I normally would: jabbing the screwdriver straight in. Do yourself a favor and study the setup first. You'll see the screws are set at a slight angle, so tip up the business end of your screwdriver just a touch to find the sweet spot. A bit of grease on the screwdriver shaft will make the job easier because the soft rubber recoil pad is pretty grabby.
Savage supplies three different screw lengths in addition to the set installed in the gun and provides recommendations on which screws go with which spacers. The company advises against mixing spacers to achieve a particular length, and you shouldn't need to.
With the butt removed, you can also replace the comb with the height you want. It's a snap. You may be tempted to fit a comb's forward lug or foot into the stock first and then swing it down. Don't. Place the comb horizontally on the stock and push straight down so the feet fit into the cutouts in either side of the stock. Then push forward so the front foot goes into its cutout. Then reinstall the recoil pad and whatever spacer you chose. Alternate turning the top and bottom screws, not letting one get too far ahead of the other, and keep a bit of pressure on the comb so it remains in position.
Is it as fast as turning a couple wheels or popping some levers in a stock to change length of pull or comb height like you can with many target stocks? No, and it doesn't need to be because it's a hunting rifle. Most of us will set it up once and never change it again. But if you need to make modifications due to clothing type or changes in body size, it takes only a few minutes. And with the AccuFit, you're not adding weight like you would with internal adjustment mechanisms—and you're not paying a premium for all that hardware.
In sticking with the "Accu" theme, all-new Savage Model 110s come standard with an AccuStock and AccuTrigger. Surely by now you've heard of the latter—the much-copied adjustable trigger with a safety lever in the shoe that is part of a system that allows incredibly light pulls without sacrificing safety. It's a terrific trigger, and on my sample the pull weighed two pounds, 10 ounces on average—right out of the box.
The AccuStock is not new, either. Basically, it incorporates a full-length aluminum bedding chassis as part of the molding process. It doesn't extend as far back as the tang, but it runs from the rear action screw (which you'll find hidden under the bolt release behind the trigger guard) to just shy of the fore-end tip. This stability and rigidity translates to excellent accuracy, and it doesn't add a lot of weight. With bottom metal in place, the AccuStock on my sample weighed two pounds, nine ounces.
While the AccuFit aspect of this new Model 110 gets all the press, rightfully so, Savage says it actually started this project as a way of updating the platform's looks, and you'll find a number of aesthetic and functional changes on the new stock. For starters, the wrist features tacky (the good tacky) checkered panels that are going to provide a sure grip no matter the weather.
The panels match up with five grooves that encircle the grip to enhance purchase, and the new "S" Savage logo is rendered in red on the grip cap. The roomy trigger guard has a modern, angled look to it.
The fore-end also features no-slip panels and five grooves of diminishing length. It's a good look and one that provides a comfortable and secure grip. The tip is molded with angled flats, which adds some flair.
As to the platform itself, the Model 110 is Savage's legendary workhorse. For those unfamiliar with the design, the bolt features dual locking lugs—one set behind the other. The bolt head floats, which allows it to self-center during lockup, further contributing to accuracy. The bolt face houses a sliding extractor and a plunger ejector. A flange at the rear of the bolt prevents gas from reaching the shooter in the event of a case rupture.
The bolt body is jeweled and sports the Savage logo. Several years ago, Savage changed the bolt release setup, cashiering the side-mounted lever in favor of a push-button at the front of the trigger guard. To remove the bolt it's necessary to pull back on the trigger and push in on the button simultaneously as you draw the bolt rearward.
The safety is a sliding three-position tang: To the rear is bolt-locking Safe; the middle position is Safe but allows bolt travel; and pushing it all the way forward reveals a red dot, indicating it's in the Fire position.
The rifle feeds from a detachable box magazine that's easy to top-load, which I think is important. It snaps into the action with a positive click. The release is a checkered lever in front, and you'll need to pull that back to gain access to the front action screw.
In the case of the Storm version of the new 110, the 22-inch barrel is stainless steel and button-rifled. It's no whippy lightweight, with diameters of 1.04 in front of the smooth barrel nut, 0.72 at fore-end tip, 0.59 at muzzle. Some folks griped about the change from the grooved nut Savage used forever to the smooth nut, noting it makes barrel changes more difficult. I'm not skilled enough to attempt my own barrel changes, so this doesn't matter to me either way.
Since Bushnell is one of Savage's sister companies, I didn't complain when the folks at Savage offered to send the Model 110 Storm with a new Bushnell Engage (paging Capt. Jean-Luc Picard!) 6-24x50mm already mounted. I'm not a fan of big scopes, but this one certainly seems useful. I didn't conduct a box test, but I did a lot of adjusting to accommodate a variety of loads, and movements were sure and repeatable. When the turrets are down/in, they're locked. Pull up to click. To reset to "0" simply unscrew the top cap, lift the turret cover and rotate it to the desired position.
The scope features the new Deploy MOA reticle, which sports non-numbered hash marks on both crosswires. Each mark represents one m.o.a., with every fifth m.o.a. marked with a larger hash. The lower vertical wire provides 30 m.o.a. of holdover. It's a second-plane scope, so the hash marks are accurate only at the highest power—except on the 6-24X, where it needs to be 20X.
Accuracy testing brought no surprises. Savage's barrel-making expertise is legendary, and when paired with all the new stock's attributes plus the AccuTrigger...well, it's going to shoot — although to be honest I've tested (and own) Savage rifles that shot better than this particular rifle on this particular day. Accuracy results are shown in the accompanying chart.
It certainly shot well from field positions out to 200 yards—supported with a Bog Pod as well as unsupported—and that also came as no surprise. The Model 110 Storm is a standard-weight gun (unloaded bare weight is right at seven pounds), and loaded with five rounds of 180-grain ammo and with the big Bushnell mounted, it's right at nine pounds. When you combine this with a properly fitting gun, you've got all the ingredients you need to shoot well in the field.
The Savage Model 110 Storm is one of many newly configured 110s. You can have blued metal (Hunter), longer barrels (Long Range Hunter, Varmint), muzzle brakes (Scout, Bear Hunter, Wolverine) and more. The Storm version is also available in left-handed actions in nine popular, practical calibers.
Savage's long-overdue overhaul of a platform that's been with us since 1958 is not just change for change's sake but a real upgrade worth investigating. If you've never paid attention to Savage's 110 before, now might be the time to start.