The Savage Model 10


Dennis Dezendorf

copyright 2005

Last June, I was shopping at Wal-Mart and happened to walk through the Sporting Goods section. I saw a black rifle and asked to look at it. The rifle was a Savage Model 10, a package gun, with a scope attached, and with the Accutrigger. I have fired the Accutrigger on my son's rifle, and I like that trigger a lot. I also remembered a conversation that I had with my wife when she noticed my sparse collection of hunting rifles. "The grandsons are going to be getting older, and they'll want to hunt with PawPaw. You better start picking up a few rifles when you find them."

Click for full size photo I'm not one to argue with my lady. The rifle I was holding was in .243 Winchester, a great starting cartridge. I personally had no experience with the .243, but I knew folks who swore by it. The rifle was on sale for about $100.00 under list price, to make room for new models. I put it on layaway. Then, I started doing research on it.

The Savage Accutrigger is a great development in trigger design. It combines all the attributes that the casual rifleman demands in a trigger. It is safe, crisp, adjustable, and user friendly. My son has a Savage in 7mm Remington Mag, and he loves the Accutrigger. I shot it on a couple of occasions, and after getting familiar with it, came to see the benefits it had over a standard factory trigger.

The Accutrigger may never replace aftermarket triggers like Timmey, or Basix but for the guy who wants a good trigger on a rifle he buys in a box, the Accutrigger is the best thing going. I like the Accutrigger and I can't see any reason to do anything at all to this trigger. It suits me fine and I am convinced it is the safest trigger I can use to teach my grandsons to shoot. I am also convinced that the Accutrigger is the biggest advance in factory firearms in the last fifty years. Superlatives fail when trying to describe the Accutrigger.

The .243 Winchester cartridge was introduced by Winchester in 1955. The cartridge itself is widely credited to Warren Page, then the editor of Field and Stream magazine, who wildcatted the cartridge by necking down a .308 Winchester. The little 6mm cartridge was designed as a dual purpose, varmint and deer cartridge. Winchester picked it up and chambered it in their small action Model 70. It was destined to become one of the most successful cartridges of all time. I find it ironic that I haven't any experience with this cartridge, after fifty years as a successful commercial cartridge. Perhaps it was time for me to move into 20th century cartridge use.

Click for full size photo

A patch easily slides between the barrel and forearm.
During August of 2005 I took the rifle off layaway and took it home. The stock is black synthetic and the rifle disassembles easily. First, remove the bolt and then take out the front triggerguard screw and the recoil screw. The stock will slip from the action. The stock is pillar bedded, which means that two aluminum pillars are embedded in the stock. The action sits directly on these pillars and provides rock-solid mounting. The barrel is free-floated from the barrel nut forward, with no contact at all. I had no trouble threading an oiled patch between the barrel and forearm. The rifle is mounted with a low-end Simmons scope.

Scopes today are a whole lot brighter, sharper, and more durable than when I was a youth. The Simmons scope on the rifle may be low-end, but it isn't cheap. It should be sturdy enough for years of use.

The Savage Model 10 has a black finish. The finish doesn't look like blueing, having a darker tint. I would best describe it as a matte finish. The barrel comes without sights, and has a thin sporter taper. The rifle is a hunting rifle, through and through. It isn't particularly pretty, but it looks as if it can do the job day in and day out for years to come.

All that was left was for me to shoot the rifle. I sent off to Midway USA for dies and started doing the research for powders and bullets. The .243 Winchester is a dual use cartridge, but I didn't want a varmint rifle. I wanted this rifle for the deer woods. I chose bullets in the 90-100 grain claass from Nosler, Speer, and Remington for testing.

Looking through the various reloading manuals shows that the .243 Winchester works with a number of medium range rifle powders, from IMR 3031 and Hodgdon 414 for the smaller bullets, through the slower powders like Reloder 19 and IMR 4831 for the heavier bullets. I had both IMR 4831 and Reloder 19 on my bench, so I started with those powders for load development.

The standard disclaimers about reloading should be reviewed here: Reloading and use of reloaded ammunition can be hazardous. Read up on safety procedures and seek competent instruction. Wear safety equipment such as eyeshield and gloves. The author assumes no liability for other persons who may use methods or data in this article. The Frugal Outdoorsman assumes no liability for persons who may use methods or data in this article. We are all adults here, and are expected to know the dangers inherent in our hobby. If you are a minor, please talk with a responsible adult before enjoying the hobby of reloading.

I've liked the Nosler Ballistic Tip for accuracy. That bullet works extremely well in my son's 7mm Mag, turning in MOA accuracy when he does his part. I had a batch of new Remington cases and a brick of Winchester Large Rifle Primers. So, I worked up some loads with both Reloder 19 and IMR 4831 using the 95 grain Nosler bullet. The results are in the table below. Again, all cases are Remington and all primers are Winchester Large Rifle.

Savage Model 10 - .243 win - 95 gr Nosler Ballistic Tip.
all groups fired 09-10-2005 - 100 yards
weight (grs)
velocity (avg)
extreme spread
std dev
group size
Rel 19
Rel 19
Rel 19
Rel 19
IMR 4831
IMR 4831
IMR 4831
IMR 4831

There are some interesting things in this table, but MOA groups aren't one of them. I noticed some vertical stringing in the 41 grain Rel 19 load. That particular group was only a half-inch wide, but walked up the paper. Some of the other groups showed the same propensity. Evidently that skinny barrel was less forgiving of heat than the heavy barrel 7mm Mag that my son shoots.

But, lets look at the table. Notice the average velocities of the loads using Reloder 19 powder. The 38.0 grain load gave us a base velocity. An additional grain of powder gave us an additional 22 fps. Stepping up to 40 grains of powder gave an additional 29 fps. But, stepping up to 41.0 grs of Reloder 19 gave us a whopping 101 additional fps of velocity. There is something magical in that extra grain of powder and I believe it has to do with the efficency of the load. I increased the load an additional grain, and got about 20 fps, but the load exhibited signs of pressure. The primers started to flatten. So, with 41.0 grains of Reloder 19, I got a load with good velocity, with good accuracy and no troubling signs of pressure. I'm not quite up to the maximum load listed for this bullet combination., but this is the maximum load for my rifle. Adding that additional grain of powder showed indications for pressure. As in all reloading, this data is only good for my rifle and this particular powder/bullet combination.

The IMR powder showed some potential at 41.8 grains. Vertical stringing was evident again, but the horizontal dimension of that group was small too, under half an inch. Evidently, some more testing was in order.

My next task was to load the Nosler Ballistic Tip, the Sierra GameKing and the Remington PSP bullets over loads of 41 grains of Rel 19 and 41.8 grains of IMR 4831. The results are below. All cases are Remington new, and all primers are Winchester Large Rifle.

Savage Model 10 - .243 Win - Reload performance
2 powders, 3 bullets, fired 10-01-2005 - 100 yards
Rel 19- 41grs
100 Sierra GameKing
best target today
Rel 19 - 41 grs
95 Nosler Ballistic Tip

Rel 19 - 41 grs
100 Remington PSP
vertical stringing .05" wide
IMR 4831 - 41.8 grs
100 Sierra GameKing

IMR 4831- 41.8 grs
95 Nosler Ballistic Tip
vertical stringing 1.1" wide
IMR 4831 - 41.8 grs
100 Remington PSP
worst target today

Click for full size photo The table only tells part of the story, so we have to look at some targets to get an idea of what the table represents. Over on the right is a target I shot with using 41.0 grs of Reloder 19 and the 100 grain Remington PSP bullet. This was the least expensive bullet used in the evaluation. Remington makes them by the truck load.

The first two shots are in the 10 ring at 10:00. The next bullet is in the 10 ring at 11:00. The fourth bullet fired is in the 9 ring at 11:00. I quit firing that group because it was deteriorating rapidly due to barrel heat. This is a classic example of vertical stringing. I am convinced that the stringing is due to barrel heating. Other things that can cause vertical stringing are the pressure of the forearm against the barrel (for barrels that aren't totally floated) and variances in the way the rifle is held. I am convinced that had I taken my time and allowed the barrel to cool between shots, the group would have been under Minute of Angle.

Click for full size photoThe next target was fired about a half hour after the one above. It uses the same powder charge (41 grs Reloder 19), but with the Sierra GameKing bullet, and I took my time between shots. This target represents a five shot group, with four of them in one hole, and one flier opening up the group. When I showed my buddy the target, he asked me if I cussed when I saw the flier. No, but I wanted to cry. Fliers are tough to take sometimes, but they are part of our quest for the perfect load. Fliers exist to remind us we are human. This target represents the accuracy this rifle is capable of producing and is what we should strive for. It shows the inherent accuracy availabe in the .243 Winchester cartridge, the care and quality that Savage built into Model 10, and the obvious ease of use of the Accutrigger.

We should remember that this is a hunting rifle. We will judge the accuracy and utility of this rifle by its ability to put one well-aimed bullet into a target at a reasonable hunting distance. I am convinced that this rifle will do that admirably. It is durable, popularly priced, and capable of excellent accuracy right from the box. Savage makes great rifles, and this one is going to be in my gun rack for a long, long time.

Oh, and should anyone at Savage be reading this article, if you need someone to evaluate a heavy barreled rifle like the Model 10FP-LE1, send it along. I'd be happy to wring one out for you.

Copyright 2005 by Dennis Dezendorf

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