• Savage Arms 93R Minimalist in .22 WMR

    I have a confession to make: Looking back through the archives here it appears the last time I reviewed one of the Savage Arms Mark/93 series rimfire rifles was in 2010. There are a few reasons for this, but the main one is that I just find the overall design to be lacking compared to other available bolt-action rimfire rifles.

    Don't get me wrong - every Savage Mark/93 rimfire rifle that I've owned or received for review over the years has been very accurate and you definitely can't beat the price, but there are some shortcomings that have steered me away from them. Some of those shortcomings included magazines that always seem to need tinkering with to get them to feed reliably, an extractor design that greatly weakens over time to the point of failure, and inconsistency from shot-to-shot with the feel and pull weight of the rimfire AccuTrigger.

    Those issues ultimately lead me to sell my three left-hand Savage Mark/93 series rifles roughly 8-10 years ago and have since been replaced by two left-hand CZ 452's and a Browning T-Bolt.

    With that out of the way, I decided earlier this spring to request one of the new Savage Arms 93R Minimalist rifles in .22 WMR to see if Savage had sorted out any of those problems from the past and also reacquaint myself with the platform.

    The details...

    The Minimalist models were first announced in early December of 2019 as a new for 2020 model. The action is the basic repeater version of the Mark/93R platform with a two-piece bolt assembly with the firing pin located at the 12 o`clock position. The extractors are positioned at the 3 and 9 o`clock positions and a standing ejector is used to dispense spent cases from the action. The rear of the bolt serves as a cocking indicator and the safety is a two position side mounted lever. Two-piece Weaver-style bases are included in lieu of iron sights.

    The trigger is a user-adjustable AccuTrigger design specific to Savage's bolt-action rimfires and adjusts from roughly 3-6lbs. based on the sample I received. Savage has updated the trigger housing and magazine retention hardware on these rifles in recent years to a one-piece casting in place of the old assortment of stand-offs and brackets. The new unit is much cleaner looking and should help alleviate some of the trigger consistency and feeding issues of the past. The rifle is fed by a single-stack 10-round stamped steel magazine.

    The carbon steel barrel on the Minimalist is a sporter contour and features a 1/2-28 threaded muzzle with thread protector should you wish to affix a muzzle device. The barrel is attached to the action via a slip fit and is secured by two pins located in the lower half of the receiver below the stock line. The twist rate is the standard 1-16" common to most all .22 caliber rimfire rifles, and the length comes in at just 18 -inches.

    The most noticeable feature of the new Minimalist rifles is the laminate stock which has a very unusual design. Starting at the rear, the Minimalist stock features a Monte Carlo comb and a rather open and slim semi-pistol grip. The bottom of the buttstock features a pronounced cut-out that starts just behind the grip and ends roughly two inches before the butt plate. Length-of-Pull is fixed at 13.75-inches. The midsection of the stock is also very svelte before widening slightly at the forend which features a flat-bottom and angled tip. A single stud is provide both front and rear for affixing a bipod or sling.

    The laminate stock on the Minimalist also has a few unique design elements that are strictly there to appeal to the eye. The first is the prominent engraving of the newer Savage "S" logo on either side of the buttstock. The second are the stylish stippled panels on both the grip and forend. The third is the Savage name engraved in bold block letters down the length of the bottom of the forend. Last but not least, the discerning eye will notice that the pattern of the laminate differs from that found on most laminate stocks as the layers emanate from the centerline of the stock outward at an angle rather than running parallel longitudinally to the centerline of the stock. It's a very attractive, but clearly a more time consuming (and costly) pattern to layup. The result is a more colored and varied pattern along the flat sides of the stock providing an almost tiger stripe effect. I must stay it is a real eye catcher.

    Overall weight for the 93 Minimalist comes in right at 5.5 pounds, and the overall length is 37-inches making for a rather lightweight, compact package - thus the "Minimalist" nomenclature. MSRP at the time of this writing is $359 U.S. greenbacks.

    For testing purposes I mounted a trusty old Pentax 6x42mm scope to the supplied Weaver-style bases using a set of Burris 1" Signature Zee rings. Ammunition used during testing consisted of CCI 38gr V-Max, CCI 30gr Maxi-Mag TNT and CCI 30gr Maxi-Mag HP+V. Shooting was done from the bench using both a bipod and mechanical front rest in combination with a rear bag.

    Let's start with the bad...

    Right out of the gate I found the bolt to be very rough and gritty, as in bastard file gritty. It was completely dry so I took the time to disassemble, clean and lube it before heading out to the range. This helped a little, but it still felt much stiffer and grittier than both of the B-series rifles I had more recently reviewed. I will point out however that the B-Series rifles use a totally different bolt design that in my opinion is far superior to the bolt on the Mark/93 rifles.

    Once at the range and with a few hundred rounds fired through the rifle the bolt operation did get much better as the interacting surfaces got "worked in" for lack of a better term.

    Another major issue I ran into with this rifle in the fact that it just didn't want to feed from the 10-round magazine. With a full mag locked into place, the bolt would stop dead in it's tracks when the nose reached the rear of the magazine. Removing and reinserting the magazine I noticed there was close to 1/8-inch of up/down play when locked into place, but neither pushing it up, pulling it down or holding it anywhere in between while trying to chamber a round resolved the issue consistently. Basically it was a "keep fiddling with it until it decides to work" kind of affair. This naturally made shooting groups problematic as it's hard to remain consistent when you're having to fight with the gun for 30 seconds to a minute to get it to chamber the next round. Oddly enough, this problem would disappear once the magazine had 5 rounds or less remaining in it.

    Clearly this is a magazine/hanger related issue and is an obvious indication that the quality of the Mark/93 magazines is still somewhat sketchy and hit or miss as to whether you will get a good one or not.

    How about the good...

    Unlike the first year AccuTrigger equipped Mark II I had owned years ago, the trigger on this sample was very consistent breaking cleanly and repeatably at just a touch over three pounds. I can only surmise that this improvement is due in part to the new cast trigger housing as it has to be more uniform from part to part than the old stamped metal brackets.

    While initially skeptical of the pattern of the Minimalist's stock, it grew on me. The slim overall profile makes it a very nice carry gun for in the field, yet the forend is still wide enough to provide a snug fit in a #1 front bag when shooting from the bench or mount up a bipod without the mounting plate overhanging the sides. My only real gripe would be the placement of the rear sling swivel stud - only because with the aggressively notched buttstock there's very little real estate left to ride a bag and the stud is smack dab in the middle of it. A flush-mount QD cup on the bottom or side would alleviate this issue.

    Accuracy from the 93 Minimalist was consistent with what I've come to expect from Savage rimfire rifles. The .22 WMR cartridge isn't exactly known to be an exceptionally accurate rimfire cartridge, but the Minimalist consistently put 10-shot into 1 to 1-1/2 inch groups at 100 yards with all three types of ammunition tested. Mind you, this was with a fixed 6-power scope with a fairly heavy hunting reticle.

    I have little doubt that this rifle probably would have grouped a fair bit better if I hadn't been forced to fight with it so much to get the next round chambered. Aggravation and frustration never equate to the best groups.

    Extraction and ejection was flawless throughout my testing, but as noted earlier the extraction issue typically doesn't rear it's ugly head until you have a few thousand rounds through the rifle. The extractor design is the same as it has been for decades, so my best recommendation would be to order and keep a few spare metal spring clips on hand for if/when the original starts to go south.

    Final thoughts...

    On a scale of 1-10, given the feeding issues I had with this particular example of the 93 Minimalist I would rate it somewhere around a 4.5 to 5. The accuracy is there, there's nothing inherently wrong with the design of the Mark/93 Series rifles, and aside from the initial gritty feel of the bolt the fit and finish was very good. However, when the rifle fails to function properly you really can't expect it to get a glowing review. If I limited myself to only loading the magazine with five rounds it would run flawlessly, but what's the point of a 10-round magazine if the rifle will only function reliably when loaded to 50% capacity?

    The feeding issue I experience with this particular rifle is not what I would classify as "normal" quality from Savage, but at the same time we've seen enough people come through our forum over the past two decades struggling with similar magazine issues. While Savage has always been great about sending a new magazine out to those customers free of charge, they shouldn't be having do deal with such an issue on a brand new rifle. It's an area where I really think Savage needs to improve upon their quality control.

    Price-wise the Mark/93 Series still presents a great value, and if you're not wanting to spend a lot of money but still want great accuracy they are hard to beat. This is especially true in today's market where many new bolt-action rimfire rifles are priced at two to five times that of the new Savage Minimalist models.

    As always, special thanks to the fine folks at Savage Arms for providing us with this rifle and making this review possible.

    Contact Info
    Savage Arms
    100 Springdale Rd.
    Springfield, MA 01085
    (413) 568-7001