• Savage Model 16 Lightweight Hunter in .223 Remington

    In an era where the current trends for rifles include heavy barrels and a CNC machined aluminum chassis for long-range shooting, itís hard to imagine a company giving much thought to a compact, lightweight hunting rifle - but thatís exactly what Savage has done with the Lightweight Hunter models. The Model 11/111 Lightweight Hunter model was first introduced in 2011 in chrome-moly steel with a matte blued finish and lightened American Black Walnut stock. Last year (2016) Savage expanded their line of Lightweight Hunterís to include a Model 16/116 all-weather version in stainless steel with a synthetic stock which is what we will be focusing on in this article.

    The basis for any of the Lightweight Hunter models is a standard Savage 110-series long or short action that has had additional material machined off in select areas to shave unnecessary weight. Unlike a standard 110-series action that is round, the Lightweight Hunter action has flatís machined at roughly the two and ten oíclock positions. More weight has been shed by milling recessed pockets into the rear bridge of the action as well as along the off-hand side of the action opposite the loading/ejection port. Last but not least, the bolt body has been treated to deep spiral fluting to remove even more weight.

    The action isnít the only area where Savage found ways to cut weight though. The barrel on the Lightweight Hunter rifles is a shorter 20-inch length than the typical 22-inch length of Savageís non-magnum sporter barrels, though the muzzle diameter remains the same (0.550Ē). By keeping the muzzle diameter the same it results in a faster taper which shaves off more material resulting in a lighter contour if compared side-by-side with a standard 22Ē barrel. The difference is small, but over the length of 19-inches it adds up to a couple of ounces.

    Another place Savage chose to shave off a few more ounces was with the stock. Rather than fitting the Model 16/116 Lightweight Hunter with an AccuStock, Savage chose instead to use their standard synthetic stock which doesnít have the molded-in aluminum reinforcement inside to stiffen it up. This saves weight, but as we all know the ďtupperwareĒ stocks are quite flimsy and leave a lot to be desired in regards to rigidity. Itís an area of compromise where with this specific model weight savings was deemed to be more important than the stiffness of the stock.

    Last but not least, Savage was able to save a precious few additional ounces by using plastic accompaniments rather than metal ones. While the weight difference is minimal, a plastic trigger guard does weigh slightly less than a metal one. Savage also chose to utilize the Axis-style detachable magazine with the plastic bottom plate and integral retention clip rather than the premium detachable magazine system with metal magazine bottom plate and separate bottom metal on the stock which saves several more ounces.

    So what does it all add up to? How much weight has been saved? The closest comparison we can make would be to compare the weights of the Model 16 FCSS and the Model 16 LWH. The 16 FCSS in .223 Rem. has a listed weight of 6.9-lbs while the 16 LWH in .223 Rem. has a listed weight of 5.65-lbs. Thatís a difference of 1.25 pounds or 20 ounces. That may not sound like much, but itís a nearly a 20% reduction in weight and is enough savings to offset the weight you will add with your optic and mounts. You would be hard pressed to get a complete package that weighs less than six pounds, but if you stick with a lightweight scope and mounts staying under 7-pounds is well within reach

    Savage Model 16 LWH 91-oz
    DNZ Products Game Reaper Mount 4-oz
    Leupold VX-2 Ultralight 3-9x33mm 11-oz
    Total: 106-oz or 6.6-lbs

    Out of the box the Model 16 Lightweight Hunter has an overall length of 40.25 inches and as previously noted weighs in at 5.65 pounds. Barrel length is 20 inches while the length-of-pull comes in at 13.75 inches. The butt stock features a half-inch of drop at the comb, ĺ-inches of drop at the heel and 6-inches drop at the toe. Magazine capacity for this model in .223 Remington is listed as 4+1, but Iíve had no problem getting five rounds into the magazine. Other cartridges currently offered in the Model 16/116 Lightweight Hunter include .243 Winchester, .270 Winchester, .308 Winchester, 6.5 Creedmoor and 7mm-08 Remington.

    The Lightweight Hunterís action comes equipped with the standard hunting AccuTrigger which can be adjusted from 6-pounds down to around 3.5 pounds. This particular example arrived with the trigger set at 4.8 pounds from the factory. The lightest pull weight I could achieve after adjustment was 3.9 pounds, and it was a fairly stiff feeling 3.9 pounds at that. I suspect there may be a bur on the sear or trigger, but given this rifle is a loaner Iím not going to tear into it to investigate further.

    The spiral fluted bolt body has a very nice look to it and eliminates an ounce or two of weight, but it also causes some noticeable drag on the bolt as you slide it fore and aft. The drag isnít as bad as Iíve experience with some other spiral fluted designs, but itís definitely noticeable as it makes working the bolt fore and aft feel gritty.

    For field testing I mounted a Bushnell Trophy Extreme 4-16x44mm scope to the rifle using a DNZ Products GameReaper mount. Not my preferred style or size of scope for a rifle such as this, but itís what I had on hand. A full review of this scope is forthcoming, so stay tuned!

    Ammunition used for accuracy testing consisted of two different handloads Ė one topped with a 50gr Nosler BT moving along at 3,275fps, the other using a 53gr Sierra Match King with a muzzle velocity of 3,260fps. It should be noted that these are both loads I have worked up for different rifles and neither were tuned in any way for this rifle. Federal XM855 62gr Green Tip ammunition was used for sight-in.

    First off, the Model 16 Lightweight Hunter fed and functioned perfectly throughout my testing. Feeding from the magazine was spot-on and the ejection was very positive throwing the brass about two to three feet when working the bolt with proper vigor. All three positions of the safety functioned as intended as well.

    Moving on to accuracy, the Lightweight Hunter shot fairly despite the factory synthetic stock. Most of my groups were in the 1 to 1.5-inch range which I consider to be respectable hunting accuracy. The few groups that went larger were mostly a result of my losing the fight with the stock. Any slight change in your grip tension or how tightly you pull it back into your shoulder will cause flex in the wrist of the stock Ė enough to pull your shot a good half-inch or better at 100 yards.

    Stepping out to 200 yards the groups opened up a bit more, but still stayed within 1.5 minutes-of-angle. Those that opened up were mostly due to horizontal spread which could have been from stock flex, the wind, or a combination of the two.

    In the field the Savage Model 16 Lightweight Hunter proved it could dispatch groundhogs out to 275 yards with relative ease. The lighter weight was greatly appreciated while walking and carrying the rifle at the ready, and the shorter barrel makes for a very quick handling rifle for those sudden and unexpected shot opportunities.

    One concern I had with the Lightweight Hunter coming into this review was that the balance of the rifle would be too far rearward with the lighter, shorter barrel. That didnít prove to be the case though as the balance point is just behind the front action screw which makes for fairly neutral balance in the hands. I would prefer just a bit more weight out front on my support hand to help steady the rifle, but it points and shoots well as-is so I canít really complain.

    The only issue I ran into with the rifle during the course of my testing had nothing to do with the rifle itself, but rather my extra magazines. When trying to use either of the magazines that I have for my .223 Axis I found that they were just loose enough that they sat a little low and the bolt wouldnít pick up a round unless I was pushing up on the magazine while sliding the bolt forward. I had no such issue with the supplied magazine so I canít fault the rifle, but I wanted to mention it as I know others have run into similar problems when purchasing additional magazines. Itís purely a matter of production tolerances, but given what Savage charges for the magazines I think they could be a little more consistent and uniform to prevent issues such as this.

    Overall I really like how the Savage Model 16 Lightweight Hunter handles and performs. I knew what to expect from the synthetic stock going in so there were no surprises there, and while not up to benchrest or long-range tactical rifle accuracy expectations the accuracy it provided with random handloads was more than sufficient for any type of hunting at reasonable distances.

    And thatís probably the biggest thing people will need to remind themselves of when considering the Lightweight Hunter models. These models were specifically designed to be compact and lightweight rifles for serious hunters who will be carrying them well into the back country or up into the mountains where every ounce matters. Custom rifles of similar compactness and minimal weight can easily cost upwards of three to four thousand dollars, whereas Savage has brought such a rifle to market for well under $1,000.

    While I'm not keeping this particular rifle (it's right-handed after all), I did like it enough to place an order for one in left-hand through the Special Order Department that will be chambered in .250 Savage. I think it will make a fine coyote, deer and antelope rifle that will be much, much nicer to carry around than my other rifles with heavier barrel contours and laminate or fiberglass stocks.

    Additional Photos:

    Contact Information
    Savage Arms
    100 Springdale Road
    Westfield, MA 01085

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