Product Review

Savage Arms cutting edge sniper weapon system.

When the Philippine needed a sniper rifle to confront their local Al-Qaeda affiliates, they bypassed the expensive European arms and selected a bolt gun familiar to any American deer hunter. The modern Savage bolt-action series, always among the most reasonably priced of this type, has most recently become highly regarded among long-range high power competitors for its superb accuracy.

Savage Model 110

Patent-type drawings, dated 1892, demonstrate that Arthur W. Savage designed the first rotary-magazine, lever-action repeating rifle. Hammerless and with a solid breech, the rifle’s rotary magazine was similar to the Mannlicher design of 1887. It was actuated by a bar-lever also serving as a trigger guard. It was Savage’s intent that his design would serve as a military firearm. He was unsuccessful in doing so, but was granted a patent on 7 February 1893. The rifle was introduced as the Model 1895. After some changes were made, the Savage Arms Company introduced the Model 1899, which was to become the company’s mainstay for many decades. In 1958 the Savage Arms Corporation introduced the Model 110 bolt-action rifle. While not entirely novel and basically a Mauser type, the Model 110 has several internal features never used before in a turnbolt design. The Savage Model 110 action was designed by Nicholas Brewer. Brewer’s action is reliable, economical, easy to operate and easy to disassemble

It forms the basis for the Savage caliber .308 Win. Model 10FCP 308 WIN HS PREC sniper rifle sent to SHOTGUN NEWS for test and evaluation. In addition to their extensive line of sporting rifles, the Savage Arms, Inc. markets an extensive line of sniper rifles for law enforcement applications with stocks from H-S Precision, Choate or McMillan. They are economical, incredibly accurate and both rugged and reliable. These rifles have already been fielded successfully in operations with the Special Action Force, which is the main counter-terrorism unit of the PNP.

The PNP-SAF model has a barrel with a precisely machined taper and thread to accommodate an Ops-Inc. sound suppressor. The PNP-SAF rifle is equipped with a four-round, single-position-feed, staggered-column, detachable box magazine. This is a seldom encountered, but decidedly valuable feature on a tactical turnbolt, as it provides the operator with an instantly available potential for a greater supply of ammunition and also a selection during an operation of alternative specialty ammunition types.

Overall length of the Model 10FCP 308 WIN HS PREC sniper rifle sent to SGN is 45.5 inches (1155.7mm). The 22-inch (558.8mm) Savage heavy barrel has six grooves with a 1:10 right-hand twist. It is fully free floating. The weight, empty, is 9 pounds (4.08 kg). The exterior finish is a matte, shot-blast, black oxide.

The Savage PNP-SAF rifle sells for $1,330 without the bipod. Anyone wanting a rifle exactly like this with the barrel threaded for the Elite Iron sound suppressor and equipped with a thread protector can go through the Savage special-order department, as it is not a catalogued item. The H-S Precision Pro-Series stock is composed of woven Kevlar and fiberglass cloth, uni-directional carbon fiber, with an epoxy-based gel coat and laminating resin. It features reaction injection molded (machine mixed) polyurethane foam that has been fiberglass reinforced. The stock has a high comb that was designed to interface with optical sights equipped with the large objective lenses popular with law enforcement and military snipers without the need for a padded or extended cheekpiece, although for the PNP-SAF contract it was fitted with an excellent Karsten adjustable cheekpiece. An important characteristic of this stock is a proprietary CNC-machined aluminum bedding block chassis system, designed by H-S Precision, which results in an extremely stable and rugged bedding system. The stock is equipped with a rugged rubber recoil pad.

The model 110 receivers start as a large diameter bar of aircraft-quality steel alloy or stainless steel. Bars are cut and gun-drilled, as are the barrels, and then are turned to final diameter and concentricity. Next, five broaches are pulled to change the hole from round to a shape that matches the bolt head. After a few operations on heavy milling machines, the receivers pass through a line of CNC vertical machining centers to machine finish all the critical dimensions. The receivers are induction hardened in a computer-controlled machine that utilizes a robot to load the parts for hardening.

Induction hardening generates heat by holding the part inside a coil that generates a magnetic field with high frequency alternating current, which causes the field to reverse with every cycle. The molecules of steel are pushed and pulled in the field so fast that they rub against each other and the resulting friction generates heat. The entire hardening process takes less than a minute and the parts are dropped into an oil quench. The receivers are pulled from the quench by conveyor. After washing they are tempered in electric ovens to produce the final hardness.

Barrels start as lengths of solid bar 18 to 20 feet long of gun-barrel-quality special alloy steels (carbon and stainless alloys) fully heat-treated to finished specifications. All machining is performed on the barrels in its final heat-treated condition. This is important as heat-treating after machining could change critical dimensions and surface finish, resulting in a barrel that will never be capable of good accuracy.

Some other makers use the hammer forge method that starts with a large diameter short bar of steel in its softest condition and a through hole larger than the chamber, which is then hammered over a mandrel tightly pushing the steel along the length of the barrel nearly doubling the length of the original blank. The tricky part is relieving the stress and heat-treating without changing the inside shape, size and finish. Some target barrels made by this process leave the hammer marks on the exterior, as the maker wants to prevent changes to the bore that result from stress relieving by turning the outside diameter.

At Savage the bars are cut to lengths based on the finished barrel length desired on a lathe-type bar cutting machine, which provides an end with the smooth finish and perpendicularity required for gun-drilling. After gun-drilling, the blanks are reamed to final size and finish in multiple passes. The final size and finish must be held very close so that the button rifling process can create the rifled bore and grooves to the final dimensions. The rifling button is pulled through the bore and is rotated to match the twist on the grooves made in the button. The button forms the rifling by displacing material. No material is removed. Next, the outside of the barrel is created concentric around the hole. This requires that the hole be straight and this is where the “art” in making barrels gets applied. It takes a lot of skill and years of experience to get consistent results.

The first step in the rifle’s assembly is called “swinging.” At this stage Savage assembles a receiver, barrel and bolt assembly and sandwich the recoil lug between the receiver and locknut. The barrel is screwed against the bolt with a “Minimum”headspace gage in the chamber to fit the headspace at dead “Minimum” with the bolt closed. The locknut is tightened with a torque wrench to secure the barrel. Until this operation is completed it’s not known where the top of the barrel is going to be, which is why Savage strives to produce barrels with uniform concentricity.

Another important reason to have uniform concentricity is so the point of impact will not walk as the barrel heats up shot-to-shot. In this manner Savage can build rifle after rifle with minimum headspace. Other manufacturers assemble barrels and receivers and fit the bolt to the space that’s left so that it will close on a “go” gage and not close on the “no go” gage. Savage has assembled rifles with as little as .00125″ difference between the “go” and “no go” gages. The Savage Model 110 bolt head is pinned to the bolt body, permitting a slight motion that ensures both lugs have full bearing on the locking surfaces in the receiver when the rifle is headspaced. This gives long life and aids accuracy. On most turnbolt actions, the bolt only contacts the receiver on a small part of the locking surface. This is why gunsmiths lap bolts before accurizing or fitting custom barrels. There is thus no need to lap the bolt and receiver of a Savage action to get full bearing.

Savage bolt assemblies provide for precision adjustment of firing pin protrusion and preload adjustment on the mainspring. This is performed on every bolt assembly, as it is built to minimize the stack-up of tolerances so that every rifle is fitted with an optimum bolt for uniform function. The Model 110 design has always achieved high ratings for short lock time and was listed in the top 10th percentile of all rifles rated in an independent study. The top of the receiver ring and bridge are tapped for scope mount bases. For the PNP-SAF model Savage installed a one-piece MIL-STD-1913 steel rail.

The receiver ring is about 1.6 inches in length. The Model 110 bridge, about 1.5 inches in length, is longer than that of most centerfire turnbolt actions. This added length provides support to the bolt when it’s drawn rearward so there is very little wobble or play at the end of the bolt stroke. The Model 110 barrel has no reinforced shoulder however, about 1.5 inches of the barrel length is threaded and screwed into this is a contoured lock nut. The breechface of the barrel is counterbored for about .250″, and into this goes the head of the bolt. The bolt head is also recessed about .135″ deep for the cartridge head. The recoil lug, a .150″ thick steel stamping, is positioned over the barrel shank, between the receiver and barrel lock nut.

The bolt and firing pin assembly look complicated, but were designed for ease of series production and assembly. Many of these components are investment castings. The bolt body is tube-shaped with the cocking-cam notch recess milled into it. The separate bolt head, with solid opposed locking lugs, attaches to the front end of the bolt body. The C-type spring-clip extractor is attached over the rim of the bolt head recess on the front end of the bolt head. Lips on the interior ends of the extractor engage grooves cut into each side of the bolt head, and thus prevent the extractor from being pulled off the bolt head during the extraction process. The ejector is a spring-loaded plunger built into the breechface.

The Model 110 is well known for its unique front baffle, which aids in the control of escaping gas (from a ruptured primer or case) by blocking off the bolt raceway when the action is closed. Any gas escaping due to an ammunition failure that enters the bolt head is vented through a hole on the bottom of the bolt head that lines up with one of two gas port holes in the receiver when the bolt is in the locked position. The tear of the bolt assembly is sealed with an assembly bolt and the tear of the bolt raceways are blocked by a rear baffle. The bolt handle is made as a separate component, its base surrounding the rear end of the bolt body. Two projections at the rear end of the bolt body, interfacing with two matching grooves inside the bolt collar, prevent the bolt handle from turning on the bolt.

A solid screw with a knurled head-called the bolt assembly screw-threads into the rear end of the bolt, retaining the bolt handle and sealing the bolt. Three ball-bearing plungers under the head of this bolt assembly screw, and notches at the tear of the bolt handle base, keep this screw from loosening once it has been tightened down. All of the law enforcement versions, such as the PNP-SAF model, feature larger, oversize bolt knobs. The two locking lugs, engaging behind shoulders inside the receiver ring, secure the round inside the chamber. The root of the bolt handle, interfacing with a deep recess in the tang, serves as the third, or safety, locking lug.

The one-piece firing pin is exceptionally lightweight. The threaded front and rear ends of the striker body are milled flat for the entire length of the threads. The firing pin stop nut is threaded over the front end; in assembling the firing pin in the bolt body at the factory, the stop nut is rotated until the firing pin tip protrudes .060″ when it’s resting on the rear of the bolt head. The rear end of this nut is notched, and a toothed washer-held in place by the mainspring-keeps the firing pin from turning and maintains a constant adjustment. One of the most interesting features of the Savage Model 110 rifles, in all their many formats, is the AccuTrigger. The Savage AccuTrigger gives the operator the option to set trigger pull weights to his preference without the requirement of a gunsmith.

Even when adjusted to its lowest setting, the AccuTrigger is completely safe and cannot accidentally discharge during normal use by jarring or dropping. A newly designed teardrop safety is an additional feature on centerfire rifles with the AccuTrigger. It provides better acquisition of the safety button with smoother and quieter operation. The AccuTrigger is designed with an integrated AccuRelease that must be completely depressed or the rifle cannot fire. When pulling the trigger, the AccuRelease is intentionally depressed, which unblocks the sear and allows the rifle to discharge.

Adjustment of the AccuTrigger is quite simple. Remove the stock and rotate the return spring with the tool supplied. It cannot be adjusted below the minimum setting. Trigger pull weights on law enforcement models can be adjusted from 1 1/2 to 6 pounds. The rifle sent to us for test and evaluation was adjusted at the factory with a pull weight of exactly 1 1/2 pounds.

This trigger safety is more than a little reminiscent of those found on the Glock and Springfield Armory XD pistols, which, in turn were taken from the Sauer Model 1930 caliber .32 ACP (7.65mm Browning) pistol, often designated as the Behorden Modell (Authorities Model). In my opinion, sniper weapon systems, whether designed for law enforcement or military applications, should be equipped with a bipod, especially so when chambered for the heavier 7.62x51mm NATO cartridge and when deploying with heavy scopes of high magnification.

Savage Arms keep coming out with better and more accurate rifles and are quickly becoming the standard that all company’s will have to strive to achieve.


  • Mike

    Beautiful! A real Mark Beatty Special! :{)