• Savage 110 Bolt Handle Comparison

    One of the parts frequently swapped out or upgraded by Savage rifle owners is the bolt handle. The reasons for this vary, but the vast majority replace their stock bolt handle with one that is longer that offers more surface area to grip and provides more leverage when lifting the bolt to recock the firing pin.

    Due to a decades-long issue with bolt timing, most every Savage 110-series (and Axis) made in the last 50 or so years suffers from a heavy bolt lift with a noticeable hard spot just before the handle reaches the top of it's rotation. The heavy lift is due to the firing pin spring being compressed more than it needs to be when lifting the bolt to cock the rifle. The hard spot at the top of the bolt lift is due to the cocking pin ramp and locking lug ramps not being properly in time with each other thus causing a bind which requires more force to overcome.

    The ideal solution to these two issues is to have the action trued and timed by a competent gunsmith with sufficient experience and knowledge of Savage rifles and the special tooling required to do the work properly. Unfortunately such gunsmiths are in high demand and are few and far between - so much so that you can count them one hand with several fingers left over.

    As a result many Savage owners look for a quicker and easier fix which is where a longer bolt handle comes in. The longer bolt handle offers more mechanical advantage via leverage to overcome the resistance of the firing pin spring and the binding of parts during bolt lift. The reduction in effort required to lift the bolt with these longer bolt handles makes cycling the rifle much smoother, but they also have some negatives that need to be considered as well.

    To start, the longer handle and larger knob means more mass which when slammed down on closing the bolt can cause the safety feature of the AccuTrigger to trip if you have the trigger pull set extremely low. This is mostly an issue with the Target AccuTrigger, but I have seen it pop up on a few rifles with the Varmint weight AccuTrigger as well.

    Secondly, the longer bolt handles stick out further from the side of the rifle and hang down lower on the rifle meaning they are going to catch on more things. This isn't a concern for those who just shoot from the bench or in controlled competition settings, but it can be a problem for hunters as they work their way through the bush. The same mechanical advantage that allows the shooter to more easily work the bolt also makes it easier for a branch or vine to open the bolt, and the longer handle offers more surface area for such things to snag on it. Some say the odds of this ever happening are more speculation than reality, but having seen it happen in person on two different occasions its probable enough to warrant ones attention.

    Both the aftermarket and Savage Arms themselves offer various bolt handle designs that are longer than the "standard" sporter-style bolt handle found on most factory rifles. The photos below show the current bolt handle designs offered by Savage Arms for the 110-series as well as the SSS Tactical design side-by-side for comparison. The measurement listed for each represents the length of the bolt handle from the centerline of the bolt to the end of the ball or knob.

    In my experience the Savage Standard, Savage Large Ball and Savage Scout bolt handles aren't ideal for a Savage action that hasn't been trued and timed as they just don't offer sufficient leverage with their shorter lengths. That said, all three are just fine for an action that has been trued and time and will typically allow the shooter to cycle the bolt with only significantly less effort and only minimal disruption of the rifle in it's rest.

    The SSS Tactical bolt handle has sufficient length to noticeably reduce the bolt lift on a stock action, but it's not going to be as light or as smooth as an action that has been trued and timed. When installed on an action that has been properly trued and timed you can often times cycle the bolt with one finger with no disruption of the rifle in its rest.

    If you don't want to take the time and/or spend the money to have your action trued and timed, the best option for reducing bolt lift effort will be the Savage Tactical bolt handle. At 3.8" long it offers the most mechanical advantage of all the bolt handles featured here - so much so that one can almost work the bolt on an unmodified action with one finger. It still has a noticeable hard spot at the top of the bolt lift, but the added leverage makes it much easier to overcome. I haven't tried this handle on a trued and timed action so I can't comment to that, but I really don't see where the additional length would offer any benefit over the SSS Tactical given how it performs on one.

    And with that I will wrap this up. Hopefully this will help some of you decide which bolt handle may best suit your needs and save you the time and money of having to try out several different one before finding that perfect match to your needs. There are other bolt handle options out there for Savage 110's as well that you may wish to consider (Glades Armory, Stockade, etc).

    Comments 10 Comments
    1. PhilC's Avatar
      PhilC -
      Very informative Jim, thanks for posting it.
    1. celltech's Avatar
      celltech -
      Thanks for the info Jim...it made me order a cheap tactical handle to play around with. I would also point out the Axis handles are !@#$. The ends are way to tiny and I cut/threaded all of mine for bigger and longer knobs. Plus I have to grind relief cuts in them for low mounted scopes.
    1. J.Baker's Avatar
      J.Baker -
      Yeah, the Axis bolt handles have been a joke from the get-go. Savage really needs to come up with a new design for them that allows adequate scope clearance. Best solution is to grind down the top of the bolt handle where the three recessed pockets are until it's flat - gains you about 1/8" or so clearance.
    1. ttexastom's Avatar
      ttexastom -
      Jim, thank you for the info.
    1. Robinhood's Avatar
      Robinhood -
      Thanks for the article Jim. How were your measurements taken if I may ask. Centerline of bolt to edge?
    1. J.Baker's Avatar
      J.Baker -
      Centerline of the hex in the BAS to the furthest point out on the bolt knob.
    1. PapaB's Avatar
      PapaB -
      New to the site, learning what I can about my 110, thanks, good read.
    1. Bigfoot's Avatar
      Bigfoot -
      this is a great site, thank you for this information, I am new here and I have a 110 CL that is really nasty at the top of the lift but also when you push the bolt forward and start to close it. It is very difficult to start the downward movement but once it has rotated about a third of the way it becomes super easy. I don't think this is the same issue as discussed, anyone have any suggestions? Is there some place where I can get a good description of how to time the pin? Just so I can understand what is happening. Thanks.
    1. Bigcantruck's Avatar
      Bigcantruck -
      Good article. Thanks. I have a new 110 Storm-just starting out with it. The bolt has been a bit of a concern, but need some more time with it to see if I want to replace it.
    1. Goober's Avatar
      Goober -
      Outstanding article
      Just started working with a 110E from 1982.
      I would rather buy a handle than a bolt assembly, but great to know this is common issue. My bolt is also loose in the action and handle hits my scope. Disappointed but hey seems to be adequate options.

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