• Savage Model 111GL Review in .25-06 Remington

    Over the past three years I have reviewed a number of Savages more feature laden models, but to date I have yet to put one of their entry level models through our testing. I decided to change that and this month offer a Model 111GL chambered in .25-06 Remington. The Model 111GL falls into the Hunter Series of rifles along with all of the 11/111G and the 11/111F models. The G-models feature a birch hardwood stock while the F-models feature a plastic composite stock. Outside of that difference the models are otherwise identical.

    Standard features on the 111GL include the award winning and user adjustable AccuTrigger, a 22 or 24 inch sporter weight barrel with open sights (length determined by cartridge), and an internal (blind) box magazine. New for 2006 is the implementation of Savages new feeding system. By now most everyone has read about or seen the new center-feed detachable magazine system that was introduced last year on select Classic and Weather Warrior models with detachable magazines. This year Savage is phasing the same center-feed design into their blind magazine models and has also developed a new hinged floorplate option as well. Unfortunately no left-hand models in the current line-up are offered with the detachable magazine or the hinged floor-plate.

    Out of the Box

    Unpacking the rifle I was rather surprised to find that this rifle has the High Luster blued finish. This is not the specified finish for this particular model, but Im not going to complain one bit. Whether Savage has recently made a change to include the high luster finish on these models or I just received one from a special run is undetermined at this point.

    Note that the bottom cuts on the action differ from actions using the old-style blind magazines.Pulling the barreled action out of the stock reveals the new center-feed internal box magazine. Unlike the previous design, the magazine box is no longer attached directly to the action, but rather remains in the stock when removed. The magazine well inletting of the stock has also changed slightly and offers a very snug fit to the magazine box. This provides an almost glove fit of the box into the stocks inletting, and any slop in the fit is eliminated by the use of a small metal retaining clip that fits between the rear of the magazine and the stock. This clip has a small tab which hooks into the magazine box which is used to locate the depth of the magazine box in relation to the action itself. The front of the magazine box is supported by the bottom of the magazine box well in the stock.

    To utilize the new magazine box, Savage also made several small changes to the machine cuts on the bottom of the action. This was necessary as the new magazine system has a different profile and attachment system (or lack thereof) compared to the old style.

    The AccuTrigger was pre-set to 3.5 pounds, which is plenty light enough for any hunting rifle in this writers opinion. Bolt lift was on the heavy side as usual, but no worse than other models I have reviewed in the past. The barrel proved to be well free-floated in the stock, and the dual pillars were both flush with the inletting for proper mating to the action.

    New center-feed magazine.  Note the small bracket to the rear which serves two purposes:  setting the height of the rear of the magazine box and applying tension to keep the front of the magazine box on it's lip.One negative I did find was that the action had a noticeable warp to it. Laying a straight edge across the top of the action revealed a 0.015 gap between the rear bridge and the straight edge. While not a huge issue in most cases due to Savages floating bolt head, it will necessitate placing a 0.015 shim under the rear scope base to ensure the scope is parallel with the centerline of the bore.

    Test Setup

    For this review I topped the Model 111GL with a pair of Weaver #46 scope bases and Burris Signature Zee 1 medium height scope rings. For glass I used the Bushnell Elite 3200 3-9x40mm scope that I typically use for reviews.

    I will note however that the above combination leaves almost no room to adjust ones eye relief. As such I would highly recommend substituting one (or both) of the Weaver bases for their extended version (#402). This will allow for roughly to of eye relief adjustment. The other option would be to use a one-piece base such as those from TPS or Ken Farrell which offer additional flexibility in terms of ring placement.

    This photo shows the very detailed inletting for the new center-feed blind magazine boxes.  Note the channel and notch for the rear support clip, and also the locating lip to support the front of the magazine box.Load Development

    Unlike other tests where I have relied on factory ammunition to perform all or part of our accuracy testing, this test will utilize 100% handloads. This decision was made for two reasons. First, factory ammunition is becoming more and more expensive, and with our limited budget saving a few nickels here and there goes a long way. Secondly, we all know handloads typically offer the best accuracy, and since were testing for accuracy potential it simply makes sense to use hand loaded ammunition.

    The .25-06 Remington is considered by many as an exceptional long-range varmint cartridge, and since its varmint season here in Ohio I decided to develop my test loads with that purpose in mind. The receipt I chose consists of new Remington brass that has been fully prepped and full-length sized. For primers I stuck with my favored CCI BR2s as they have proven to be extremely consistent. Hodgon H4350, H4895, and Alliant Reloader 19 were the employed powders. Last but not least, I chose to use the Nosler 85gr Ballistic Tip Varmint bullets.

    After collecting some load data from various members of the Savage Shooters forum and other sources I assembled a series of loads for each powder with charge weights in 0.2 grain increments. This provided me with thirty loaded rounds for each of the three powder types (five rounds of six different charge weights), or ninety rounds total.

    The Reloader 19 loads showed the most consistent accuracy, so this is the powder I opted to stick with for the 85gr Nosler bullets. As you can see from the chart below the groups stayed in the 0.6 range through most of the shooting. Given the results I decided to settle on 56.7 grains of powder as my standard charge weight and then started tweaking the bullet seating depth.

    Reloader 19 Ladder Test
    Charge Weight
    Group Size*
    56.2gr 0.919"
    56.4gr 0.588"
    56.6gr 0.617"
    56.8gr 0.579"
    57.0gr 0.686"
    *Five rounds fired per group in a round-robin fashion to minimize the effect
    of fouling and heat build-up contaminating the results.

    Changing the seating depth showed little effect on group size. The initial load development loads had the bullets seated 0.020 from the lands and in the end I settled on 0.015 off as my final setting. Having the bullets just touching or slightly jammed into the lands showed no benefit and actually caused the groups to open up into the 0.8 to 1.0 range.

    With a proven load now in hand, I started wringing out the 111GL to see just what it was capable of. Shooting off a concrete bench using a bipod, I was able to routinely shoot groups ranging from to in size at 100 yards, and 1 to 1.5 at 200 yards. The 3-9x40mm scope was the limiting factor at 200 yards as I am more accustomed to shooting that distance with more magnification. Even so, the accuracy displayed by the 111GL was top notch, especially considering it wears a sporter-weight barrel.

    The 111GL functioned flawlessly throughout the review, and I found the new center-feed blind magazine not only to feed better but also much easier to load than the old staggered-stack magazines. Removing live rounds from the new magazine did require that I cycle them through the gun rather than picking them out, but live rounds can safely be cycled through the Savage by placing the safety in the middle position.

    Complaints and nit-picks? Sure, I always have a few.

    This photo shows the difference between the appearance of the new and old-style magazines.  The new style is on the left while the old-style is on the right.The bolt lift was heavy and notchy which is typical for Savage and is one area they could improve upon. Additionally, there's a lot of excessive slop in the raceway which permits the bolt assembly to rattle around when opened and closed. My older Savages have much tighter tolerances and are much quieter and smoother when working the bolt, so this could be improved upon as well. Finally we have the warped action which required the rear base to be shimmed up 0.015. While not a huge issue, it does need to be pointed out as without shimming the base the offset will require you to use up valuable internal adjustment on your scope. Editors Note: All production rifles will have a slightly warped action due to the heat-treating process that occurs after the action is machined.

    Outside of those three minor issues I couldn't be happier with the 111GL. The recoil pad is a little on the firm side, but felt recoil was still very acceptable. The rifle shoulders very easily and is well balanced, so quick snap-to off-hand shots aren't a problem. The standard sling swivel studs allow one to easily add a bipod or sling for better shooting stability, though I did have to back the front stud out turn to attach my Harris bipod.

    One other possible issue some might encounter would be a poor cheek weld with a larger diameter scope that mandates taller bases or rings to clear the objective bell. Not a defect or flaw by any means, but something worth noting if you prefer to use large objective scopes as the comb height is designed for using the included open sights.

    For a general all-around hunting rifle or carry rifle the 111GL is the perfect ticket. The AccuTrigger provides minimal creep and over-travel along with a suitable pull weight, and the light weight wont become a burden on those long days in the field. Function and reliability were 100% in all areas, and the "out of the box accuracy" of the 111GL speaks for itself.

    Savage Sports Corp.

    100 Springdale Road
    Westfield, MA 01085

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