The weight is over for Mike Powell as he enjoys the perks of this week’s Gun of the Week, the slimline .243 Model 11 from Savage.
Having owned and shot rifles for more years than I care to remember one thing has become clear to me: rifles have become heavier. I understand that as the years pass we certainly don’t become any stronger, but without a doubt, several of my own rifles are heavy, and were it not for the fact that most of my shooting nowadays is done from my 4×4 or, like the majority of shooters, from sticks of one design or another, it would be virtually impossible to use these rifles freehand.
Much of course is down to the increase in vermin (varmint) shooting where rifles have been designed specifically for that purpose. To increase accuracy, weight has been added in the form of heavy (varmint) barrels and by the time the scope and moderator have been added the weight has risen considerably.
There is also the claim that, by having heavy barrels, the heat dissipation is improved. I have absolutely no argument with this, but at the same time I do question whether it is really necessary.
Much of what happens to a rifle is formulated in the United States. However, most of the shooting carried on there is very different from here. The classic example of which is prairie dog shooting.
From what I know of this, often considerable numbers of rounds can be fired during a session, very often in pretty high temperatures, where clearly things must get hot. Something has to be done to maintain accuracy, hence heavier varmint weight barrels.
However, I can’t really think of any situation that I have ever been in where our weather conditions or a vast quantity of available quarry would mean my rifle lost accuracy due to overheating in normal use. Clearly, repetitive range work could cause issues, but that’s probably not going to affect the majority of shooters.
In the case of my own rifles, the one I use most today is my custom .204 Ruger, a lovely Mike Norris production based on an H-S Precision action which really does the job, but there is no way I could ever use it unsupported. I also have a couple of other rather nice rifles but again, all on the heavy side.
Even the diminutive 17 Hornet calibre – an excellent rifle for long range rabbits – weighs in at over 11lbs when ready for action. This bulk really becomes apparent when I have a session on the rabbits or rats when I take out a .22LR or the .17HMR, or even an air rifle, and they are just so easy to use!
This entire preamble leads up to the fact that I was more than pleasantly surprised to receive a rather nice rifle to review from Edgar Brothers, importers of Savage rifles, this particular model being the Model 11 Lightweight Hunter. You’ll have guessed by now that my eyes lit up when I saw the word “Lightweight”!
Opening the box and assembling the rifle I was immediately struck with not only how good the rifle looked but how incredibly light it was. A trip to the scales showed the bare rifle weighed in at a skimpy 5.5lbs and even when I attached the Bushnell Nitro 4-16×50 scope, plus a mod, it was still less than 7.5lbs.
Looking at the rifle it was obvious where the weight savings had been made, but to be honest they had been done in rather a tasteful way. The fairly short, twenty inch button rifled barrel with a nicely radialised crown, tapered to a slight 14.12mm and felt quite sleek compared with some of the varmint weight barrels available today.
The barrel comes factory screw cut for a moderator and in common with factory rifles today the work is of high quality. The bolt was a rather unusual candy twist design with deeply cut spirals, in fact they were probably the deepest I had seen in this type of bolt design.
There were scallops cut into the side of the receiver and the forend had eight vents cut into it. The stock itself was nicely shaped and quite slim. All of these actions had clearly reduced weight and none looked out of place. They certainly added something to the already rather attractive Model 11.
The receiver is CNC machined from a single billet of carbon steel with flat sides and a rounded top. The aforementioned four lightening grooves reduce in length as they approach the front.
The receiver comes fitted with weaver-type bases. As mentioned earlier the flutes on the bolt are quite deeply cut and are quite striking in appearance. The bolt head has dual opposed locking lugs, a single claw extractor and a single ejector plunger.
The rifle has a three position safety, as in some other makes of rifle in the rear position the bolt is fully locked, centre allows the bolt to be raised to remove the cartridge but the rifle cannot be fired, forward is the firing position.
The bolt knob has a chequered finish that matches the chequering on the woodwork; the safety catch is positioned directly behind the bolt shroud and is ideally placed for operation. There is a red “fire” indicator at the very rear of the tang.
Removal of the bolt is somewhat unique though. The safety must be in the “fire” position; you then press the trigger and depress the plunger that sits in front of the trigger guard at the same time, keeping that pressed in allows the bolt to be removed.
Replacing the bolt the plunger is once more pressed in. Incidentally, the bolt removal plunger also conceals a screw that needs to be removed if you are taking the stock off.
Underneath the rifle, the spacious trigger guard houses the typical Savage AccuTrigger. I really like this trigger system which is basically single stage, however there is a blade that protrudes through the trigger itself, once the movement is taken up on the blade pressure is then applied to the trigger, so the complete operation is similar to a more conventional two stage system.
To adjust the weight of the pull you need to remove the stock from the rifle and the adjuster screw is located just behind the trigger. Adjustment ranges between one and six pounds. In addition, there is a four-shot, flush-fitting metal magazine (not polymer) that is released by pressing the catch located at the front of it.
On the review rifle there was a really smart piece of American walnut. Despite the slim design it handles in the way a traditional wooden stock should. Both forend and pistol grip have sharply chequered panels the design of which is unique to the Model 11.
I mentioned before about the eight lightening vents on the underside of the forend, these are typical of the thought that has gone into the design of this rifle, like the grooves on the receiver; these vents also diminish in length as they near the front of the rifle. A really nice touch is the fact the stock is pillar bedded.
For a very long time American rifles have tended to err on the practical rather than the aesthetic side. However latterly I have seen a distinct move towards designing rifles that not only work well but look good as well.
In the case of the Model 11 Lightweight Hunter, Savage have done more than just given a nod towards the appearance, they have really gone to town and produced a very attractive rifle, and I am really looking forward to giving it a run out in the field.
I set off one morning to zero the Savage. I was using my own home loaded ammunition, 75 grn V-Max over 38grn of IMR 4064, and the 90grn ELD-X that Edgars had supplied for the review. The scope was a Bushnell Nitro, which as a mid-range product worked very well as you would expect from this company.
As I expected recoil was a little more noticeable than my own .243 produced using the same ammo, but this was to be expected from a rifle that was almost half the weight. Certainly though it was nothing to worry about and both weights of bullets produced groups of around one inch at 100 yards which was perfectly acceptable for the sort of work this rifle would almost certainly be used for, fox and roe.
Just before the rifle was due to be returned, and about a week before lockdown, the opportunity arose to try the rifle in the field. A fox was spotted showing an unhealthy interest in one of the poultry houses nearby, and knowing that it would almost certainly head back towards the cliff land I sat and waited as its path would see it pass within about seventy yards of me.
Sure enough it did just that and a shout stopped it long enough for the Savage to do what it was designed to do. The ELD-X 90 grain completed a very enjoyable test.
I found the rifle very easy to handle and shoot, and target acquisition with such a light rifle was easy. In fact it was a pleasure to use a rifle that was more like those I used in my youth!
In the Model 11, Savage have produced a light, accurate and very good looking rifle that for the young shooter, or the ladies among us, or for those that like me who could be described as past the first flush of youth, will fill the bill when looking for a rifle that is not heavy and is really easy to shoot under all situations.
The ‘Lightweight Hunter’ has to be one of the nicest rifles I’ve come across for a very long time.
Further details can be obtained through your local gun shop or direct from Edgar Brothers, 01625 613177, www.edgarbrothers.com
Savage 243 Model 11 RRP prices
.243 Savage Model 11 rifle: £1,514
Bushnell Nitro scope: £447
Hornady 90grn ELD-X ammunition:
£41.58 per twenty
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This review first appeared in our sister publication Sporting Rifle Magazine