• Savage Mark II "Convertible"

    Submitted by Tom Sullivan
    Junior Rifle Coach, Detroit Sportsmen's Congress

    Since the rise of the Euro against the dollar and the exit of the target rifle market by American manufacturers, it is becoming very difficult to outfit junior rifle clubs with entry level and intermediate target rifles.

    Both Marlin and Savage discontinued their target rifles just as the exchange rate began to favor domestic products. The Remington 504, with its robust cylindrical receiver and clamped in barrel, could have been a rifle competitors dream but was never developed as a position rifle and has since been dropped. The Savage 900TR had a good stock design with an accessory rail but the trigger was so bad that lawyers wouldn't even buy them for their kids! Savage discontinued the 900TR just before they adapted their AccuTrigger for the rimfire series. Some companies just seem to stay in business in spite of themselves. As the gap in exchange widened, Anschutz was forced to discontinue the Achiever and Walther no longer markets the KK100. A few of the Russian-made CM2s show up now and then, but they are hard to find and leave some things to be desired for a small-bore target rifle. That leaves the Anschutz 1903 from the CMP at around $1,100 with sights as the least expensive target rifle in the American market.

    The CMP and NRA have responded by developing new competitive events such as the Rimfire Sporter and Light Rifle events to lure new shooters to competitive shooting with inexpensive sporter rifles. These events, however, don't develop young peoples skills to the degree necessary for traditional small-bore events or collegiate shooting and require competitive shooters to buy another rifle in order to shoot those events.

    Our club purchased a couple of Savage MK I FVTs as entry level guns for our junior program. The plastic stocks were too long and didnt allow the addition of an accessory rail. The sights were decent and the AccuTrigger showed promise as a poor mans two stage trigger. It would only adjust down to about 2.5 pounds, but by cutting a couple of coils off the return spring, I could get the second stage down to less than a pound. I thought with the right stock I may have a viable junior target rifle!

    In considering the Savage product further, I tinkered with the idea that the repeater version (Mark II FV) may make a decent convertible rifle that could be used for Small-bore, Silhouette, and Rimfire Sporter competitions with simple changes like changing out butt plates and sights. The overall trigger weight could be increased up to 3 pounds and the rifle weight could be kept to 7.5 pounds in sporter configuration to comply with Rimfire Sporter rules.

    Taking the idea further, the first thing to do was to buy a Mark II and do some ammo testing before I invested anymore in the project. The first lot of SK Standard Plus ammunition I tested produced outstanding outside groups of 12mm at 50 yards. Enough testing for me! Next was the stock.

    I called the parts department at Savage to see if any of the old Model 900TR stocks were still available. They had one in stock without a trigger guard for over $200 not an option as I would need several for our junior program. After looking at a couple of other options on the internet, the stock from Sharp Shooter Supply seemed to offer the best choice. Their Match/Target Rimfire stock is a standard rifle stock with a fish belly forearm design deep enough to offer support in the standing position and completely recess the magazine while not being too deep for the kneeling position. Sharp Shooter Supply also offered to mill a channel in the forearm for the accessory rail and shorten the stock to allow the addition of an adjustable butt plate and to provide some length of pull adjustment for different sized shooters. A green and gold laminated stock was ordered giving me time to work on a sight solution.

    The Match/Target Rimfie stock from Sharp Shooter Supply has a "fish belly" forearm design that is deep enough to offer support in the standing position and completely recesses the magazine while not being too deep for the kneeling position.

    Savage offers their Mark II as an FVT that comes with Williams Sights. While these sights are functional, being mounted on the side of the receiver limits the adjustment for eye relief and prohibits height adjustment via riser blocks. The European style top mounted sights are preferable, but Savage does not groove the top of the receiver. Savage does drill and tap the receiver for scope mounts so I purchased a 3/8 inch grooved rail from Brownell's, cut the length to fit from the back of the receiver to the loading port, and drilled holes to match the spacing in the receiver. Inexpensive rear sight options are few but Daisy offers a rear sight for their Avanti line of target air rifles. I purchased an Avanti Precision Diopter for less than $50 that was surprisingly repeatable and free of lash. I did have to reverse the thumb screw to the left side of the sight so the bolt handle would clear. For the front sight, I used an old Anschutz model I had laying around and mounted with a barrel band base that I purchased from Champions Choice. The 20-inch barrel on the Mark II makes for a fairly short sight radius, which is OK for younger shooters, but a sight extension tube (bloop tube) or rail may be in order for older eyes. With the arrival of the stock, I was ready for assembly and testing.

    A 3/8" dovetail rail was purchased from Brownells then cut to length to fit the rear of the Mark II action.  Brownells p/n 080-029-844 An Avanti Precision Diopter rear sight was attached using the 3/8" dovetail rail and proved to be very repeatable and free of lash.

    The stock came with a good rubber butt plate that I will use with spacers in the sporter or silhouette configuration. For small-bore shooting, however, I added a vertically adjustable Anschutz hooked butt plate. The Morgan curved adjustable plate would be an inexpensive alternative. After finishing with polyurethane, I installed the accessory rail and assembled the rifle. The balance point was right under the magazine as it should be. I had my 16-year-old son (510 tall) test the rifle in all three positions. He cleaned the A-36 prone target and shot very well in standing and kneeling considering it was a new rifle. He did require the use of a palm rest in standing but other shooters may not, depending on arm length. My 14-year-old daughter (53) found it comfortable as well. The rifle weight of between 8 and 9 pounds with the small-bore trimmings is ideal for a beginning to intermediate level target rifle.

    This project demonstrated that a competitive small-bore target rifle can be produced for less than half of what the European offerings cost. This is a viable option for junior rifle clubs in the making and those that need to update their equipment. Why the American rifle manufacturers don't respond to new competitive shooters is a question to be answered.

    Comments 1 Comment
    1. johnbiros's Avatar
      johnbiros -
      I have been thinking of doing a good target build for small bore on the exact same rifle.
      Great job!!