November 03, 2011
By Wayne van Zwoll
Detailing and finish on this .243, which weighs just 5.5 pounds, are considerably above par for a rifle aimed at the working-class hunting market. The pillar-bedded walnut is nicely contoured, with a slender grip, generous comb flutes, a bold, classic comb nose and ruler-straight buttstock lines, top and bottom. The thick black Decelerator pad shows perfect fitting. The stock at the receiver is quite trim.
Up front, the stock tapers gracefully. Shorter by a couple of inches than the stock on my Savage M14 Classic, it wears the
forward swivel stud only half an inch shy of its place on the 14 — so it's in a useful spot for sling use.
The fore-end has four pairs of bottom cutouts, ostensibly to pare ounces. They're neatly done. So is the checkering — attractive, unique panels fore and aft. Belly hardware fits closely its stock recess. I'm delighted that Savage did not lop the buttstock to reduce weight or adjust the balance or profile of its Lightweight Hunter. Length of pull is a standard 13.5 inches.
The rifle's mechanism is that of the current Savage Model 11 — the short-action, updated version of the Model 110. One recent refinement is a bolt release plunger in the guard. It replaces the right-side lever on early 110s. You must still pull the trigger while depressing the plunger to free the bolt.
Savage has lightened the action by machining the tubular receiver flat on the sides, then making recess cuts on the bridge
and left receiver wall. Spiral flutes on the bright-polished bolt body (blackened in the grooves) eliminate more metal. The floating bolt head helps ensure proper cartridge alignment and contact. The right-hand lug is split for the extractor, which cooperates with a plunger ejector.
The AccuTrigger adjusts from about six pounds down to less than one. It's safe at all weights because the central blade must be depressed to permit sear release. Light trigger pull with a clean break helps you shoot any rifle more accurately but especially bantam-weights, and trigger pull on this Lightweight Hunter is 2.5 pounds, about half the break weight of triggers on two rifles received from other manufacturers recently.
Savage has updated its tang safety. It's now larger, with more aggressive serrations, for easier manipulation with gloves. It also has three positions. With the tab fully retracted, bolt and
trigger are locked. A middle detent allows you to operate the bolt but not fire the rifle. Forward is Fire.
Rounds are fed from a steel detachable box that fits flush, holds four rounds, feeds reliably from the center and drops conveniently into your hand when you press a forward release tab. The box can be top-fed while in the rifle — a nice touch.
The rifle sports a slim, 20-inch barrel that's well-dimensioned, and while the rifle doesn't feel muzzle-light, I think it could use another inch of barrel. On the other hand, the Lightweight Hunter is quick to point and surprisingly easy to steady.
At the range, I found the Savage Lightweight Hunter a solid performer with several loads — despite the fact that I chose a low-magnification 2.5X scope to conduct accuracy tests because I didn't think it made sense to mount a big scope on such a light rifle.
It gave me a 0.7-inch group with Hornady's 85-grain InterBond, and averaged 1.25 to 1.5 inches with most bullets. That's more accuracy than you need for deer to the lethal limits of the .243. Even for coyotes it's deadly precision to 250 yards, point-blank range with a 200-yard zero.
I like this new Savage better than I thought I would. It's a feather-light rifle that points like a wish but steadies itself obediently. It feels good, looks good and shows more care in finishing than many more costly bolt guns.
- Type: twin-lug bolt-action centerfire
- Calibers: .223, .243 Win. (tested), .260, 6.5 Creedmoor, 7mm-08, .270 Win., .308, .30-06
- Capacity: 4-round detachable steel box
- Barrel: 20 in.
- Weight: 5.5 lb. (as tested)
- Stock: checkered walnut w/ventilated fore-end; Pachmayr Decelerator pad
- Metal: matte blue
- Fire control: adjustable AccuTrigger (2.5 lb. pull as tested); three-position tang safety
- Sights: none; drilled and tapped for scope
- Price: $875
- Manufacturer: Savage Arms, savagearms.com
- Smallest avg. group: 85-gr. Hornady Light Magnum — 1.2 in.
- Largest avg. group: 90-gr. Remington Scirocco — 1.8 in.
- Avg. of all ammo tested (3 types) — 1.5 in.
- Notes: Accuracy results are averages of three three-shot groups at 100 yards. Velocities are averages of 10 shots recorded on an Oehler chronograph 12 feet from the muzzle. Abbreviation: LM, Light Magnum