Review: Savage Model 116 Bear Hunter

Any instrument designed for dispatching bear had better be engineered to be tough and reliable, and the Savage Model 116 Bear Hunter (and its short-action stablemate, the 16 Bear Hunter) is all of that. The synthetic stock is dipped in Mossy Oak Breakup Infinity camo, and it looks good against the stainless action and barrel. A generous recoil pad helps absorb recoil and reduce the significant punch of a rifle chambered in .300 Winchester Magnum, .338 Winchester and .375 Ruger (long-action Model 116), and .300 Winchester Short Magnum, .325 Winchester Short Magnum (short-action Model 16).

Also helping tame the significant kick of the Bear Hunter is an adjustable muzzle brake. While they reducing recoil, muzzle brakes also significantly increase the level of muzzle blast and noise, so much so in fact that some outfitters and guides starting telling their clients not to bring a gun with a fixed muzzle brake.

Savage's Bear Hunter offers the best of both worlds: You can turn the brake on and off by rotating it. That means you can open the ports on the rifle while shooting on the range, then turn off the brake by closing the ports while hunting.

Range tests require a lot of shooting and the ability to minimize painful recoil makes a day at the range much more pleasant. At the end of the range test I turned the muzzle brake off and fired a few groups at full impact. The reduction in recoil when using the break is significant. In addition to the muzzle brake, the Savage also sports the company's new Personal Anti-recoil Device (PAD, how clever). This extra thick, extra spongy recoil pad does the job, though. Between

the muzzle brake and the PAD, the Savage Bear Hunter was very easy to shoot off the bench.

The concept of a dedicated bear rifle conjures up images of a gun that is big and rugged. The Savage certainly is no shrinking violet with its 23-inch medium-contour stainless fluted barrel and a sensible weight just shy of eight pounds in long-action guise.

And it had better be accurate as well. After all, it's very important to hit the bear in a very vital spot with the first shot so you don't have to follow a wounded bruin into thick alders. No worries where the Savage is concerned. The barreled action is free-floated and secured to the stock via an aluminum bedding system courtesy of the company's AccuStock, which is important because in large, hard-kicking guns it is essential that the action and barrel are firmly secured to the stock so that there is minimal movement.

The Bear Hunter also comes with Savage's AccuTrigger , one of the most significant advances in modern firearms history and the impetus for every other rifle company to improve on their existing triggers. However, none of these companies have met with the level of success the AccuTrigger has enjoyed. The more I shoot rifles equipped with the AccuTrigger the more I like it.

For the range test I topped the Savage with a Bushnell Elite 4200 3-9x40 scope secured with Weaver rings. While I never achieved the level of accuracy shown on the printed test card that came with the rifle (.90 inch), I was impressed by the Savage's ability to produce good groups with a variety of ammo.

The best single group of the test was produced by the Hornady 165-grain Superformance GMX; it was just under an inch. On the other hand, none of the ammunition tested grouped larger than two inches, and most of the groups hovered around 1.5 inches or less, which is good out-of-the-box accuracy.

While Savage is calling this the Bear Hunter, don't think the rifle is just for those hunters who plan on pursuing bruins. Its accuracy, toughness, reliability and good looks make this Savage a no-nonsense rifle capable of taking a wide variety of game.

Fast Specs

  • Type: bolt-action centerfire
  • Caliber: .300 Win. Mag. (tested), .338 Win. Mag., .375 Ruger (also available in short-action calibers in Model 16)
  • Capacity: 3+1; internal box magazine with hinged floorplate
  • Barrel: 23-in., medium contour, fluted with muzzle brake.
  • Overall Length: 44.25 in.
  • Weight: 7.75 pounds
  • Stock: synthetic, Mossy Oak Breakup Infinity; Personal Antirecoil DeviceĀ  recoil pad
  • Finish: satin stainless
  • Trigger: Savage AccuTrigger, 3.5 lb. pull
  • Sights: none; drilled and tapped
  • Price: $966
  • Manufacturer: Savage Arms

Accuracy Results

  • Smallest avg. group: 165 gr. Hornady Superformance GMX — 1.22 in.
  • Largest avg. group: 150 gr. Winchester Power-Core — 1.57
  • Avg. of all ammo tested (3 types) — 1.42 in.
  • Accuracy results are averages of three three-shot groups at 100 yards from a fixed rest.

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