We have reviewed various Savage tactical rifles over the years but yet Savage continues to develop and introduce new models and make significant changes to their existing line up. This does warrant occasionally grabbing one of their latest offerings and giving it a fresh look. This time around it is the Model 10 Precision Carbine, somewhat of a light-weight precision tactical rifle designed to be lugged around easily and without much weight. Savage has had their AccuTrigger for a while and now has what they call their AccuStock; which is an attempt to improve upon what has been a very poor offering in regards to a rifle stock. With these changes and an opportunity to evaluate a new, unfired, off the shelf Precision Carbine, we thought now was as good a time as any to take a look at one of the newer offerings from Savage Arms.
Savage has perhaps introduced more new tactical and long range target oriented rifles than any other mainstream rifle maker out there. Whether it is a F/TR or Palma target rifle or a chassis system tactical rifle, they have been rolling out new versions of their precision rifles on a fairly regular basis. This does sometimes make it a bit difficult to keep track of them all and there are several new features that they develop that can actually prevent backward compatibly for after market parts, such as when they changed from the flat style rear portion of the action to the rounded style a few years back. While this can be aggravating to the after market supplier of parts, and therefore the end user, it also shows that Savage is not afraid of making bold changes and trying new things. Savage has come a long ways in the past 20 years from when they were just the “cheap” alternative to where they now are being innovative and perhaps ground breaking; and now their pricing is the same, or even in some cases, more than the other big rifle makers like Remington, Tikka, and others.
In this particular case we have the Savage model 10 Precision Carbine. This is intended to be a light-weight and easily portable tactical style rifle that does utilize Savage’s new AccuStock and detachable box magazine. We wanted the opportunity to take a look at the AccuStock to see if it was an improvement over their older injection molded stocks that were not even able, without major work, to keep the barrel free floated while using a bipod.
Overall the rifle is compact and easy to handle with a short overall length and for a heavy barreled rifle, light-weight. If you have handled a Savage rifle before, then you should feel right at home handling the Precision Carbine. Because the rifle is only offered in two caliber choices, the 308 Win and 223 Rem, It does utilize the short action version of the 10/110 series of actions. This action is typical Savage with its modular bolt design which does allow for easily changing bolt knobs and even the bolt head. The modular bolt is handy for switching things up, even calibers with a barrel swap, but it does make the action not quite as smooth as say a Remington 700 or Tikka T3. Savage does claim that the modular bolt face acts as a “floating” bolt head and negates the need to lap your lugs. There may be some merit to this fact, though I’m not sure I have ever quantifiably verified that. The provided bolt knob on the Precision Carbine is their large tactical style knob and I like the size and shape of the knob, which does work well with gloved hands. The rear of the newer Savage actions is fully rounded like the front of action, instead of being flattened like they used to be. This leaves substantially more metal there and gives the rear of the action a very tall and large appearance.
The barrel is 20″ long and made of carbon steel with all of the barreled action metal being finished in a nice matte black bluing. The barrel uses a different contour than the standard Savage heavy barrel and it tapers quicker which contributes to the lighter weight of the barrel and rifle as a whole. The diameter at the muzzle on the Precision Carbine is .764″ according to our caliper which compares to the standard diameter of .854″ on a normal heavy barrel Savage. The barrel on the 308 Win version of the Precision Carbine has a 1:10″ twist with 6 lands and grooves. The faster twist rate does allow for the use of heavier weight bullets such as 190gr HPBT ammo. As many of you know, on Savage rifles the barrels are threaded into the action like any other rifle, but their is no shoulder that bumps against the recoil lug like on a Remington or other, instead the barrel is set in place at it the proper head space by the use of a barrel lock nut. The barrel nut on the older Savage rifles has little notches in them so you could easily use a specially designed wrench to loosen and tighten the barrel nut allowing for easy barrel swaps. The new Savages use a smooth barrel nut without notches which makes it, by design, not as easy to swap out a barrel. With that said, there are strap wrenches out there that do allow you to do it if desired. (Liability disclaimer here: only a qualified gunsmith should swap out a barrel due to the dangers involved with incorrect headspacing)
One major complaint with Savage rifles for a while has been their cheap injection molded plastic stocks that were not even stiff enough to maintain a free floated barrel when using a bipod or shooting from a sand bag. The front forearm was flimsy enough that it would just flex and touch the barrel. In answer to this problem Savage came out with what they call their AccuStock which not only resolves the free floating issue by adding stiffeners, but also includes a unique mounting system that is suppose to improve accuracy by applying pressure not only vertically in a traditional way, but also horizontally with embedded rails on the side of the action as well as fore and aft by the forward action screw and the way it is designed to apply pressure to the recoil lug to tighten it in the stock. The stock itself is a thinner lightweight style profile that reminds us here a bit of the original M40A1 stock with thin forearm and raised comb. On the Precision Carbine rifle it has a digital camouflage pattern. The stock material itself is still an injection molded style plastic and does not have a very solid feel, but the forearm is now stiff enough to maintain a free floated barrel even when using a bipod or sand bags.
Overall the rifle is a lighter weight rifle that is handy and easy to lug around in the field. The advertised weight from Savage for the rifle is 7 lbs, which we thought was a bit optimistic, so we put the bare rifle, with empty magazine inserted, on our calibrated shipping scale and it sure enough, it weighed 8.2 lbs. That is quite a bit of discrepancy over the published weight and while Savage does indicate that all weights and dimensions are approximates, I would probably encourage Savage Arms to make it a little more accurate, perhaps 8 lbs. Regardless, we still consider the rifle light weight in terms of a tactical rifle.
The Precision Carbine uses the Savage Detachable Box Magazine (DBM) system that holds 4 rounds in a magazine that fits flush to the floorplate. The magazine is released by pulling back on a magazine release lever at the front of the floorplate which then positively releases the magazine. When inserting the magazine it snaps into place with a positive click and is fairly easy to insert and operate. There are no larger capacity magazines that we are aware of at this time. The magazines were straight forward to load with 4 rounds and the rifle chambered rounds from the magazine smoothly and without any hiccups during our tests. If you do occasionally single feed your rifle when shooting, be aware that you will need to be careful while single feeding the Precision Carbine as in some cases you can get a “nose dive”, jamming the cartridge down into the front of the magazine/feedwell area. For duty use, I would advise only feeding from the magazine and having spare magazines already loaded for rapid reloading.
Like most all Savage rifles, the Precision Carbine has the standard AccuTrigger and not the extra light target trigger. The AccuTrigger has a blade that protrudes through the trigger shoe and that blade must be depressed in order for the firing pin to strike the primer. This allows Savage to avoid liability concerns and therefore they are able to set their triggers at a lighter trigger pull weight. The trigger on this rifle, from the factory, measured 2.25 pounds with our trigger pull gauge. Indeed this is light for a factory trigger. There was a tiny bit of creep before the trigger broke fairly clean. I personally am not a huge fan of the protruding blade in the trigger and we actually had some problems while at the range which I will comment on below when discussing the shooting evaluation. While the AccuTrigger is not my favorite trigger, I do credit Savage for innovation and striving to provide improved safety and trigger performance.
For the shooting portion of the evaluation we mounted a Bushnell Elite 4200 6-24x50mm Tactical scope using a set of two piece Weaver steel bases combined with Burris XTR rings. This particular setup would not allow us to go to long ranges as the bases were not canted and the scope only has 50 MOA of vertical adjustment. But it allowed us to get to medium ranges up to about 500 yards. We bore sighted the scope to the rifle and headed out to the range to see how the rifle performed. One of the first things we noticed was that the stock really is not a comfortable stock, especially for prolonged use. The biggest culprit to the uncomfortable feeling of the stock is the shape of the cheek piece. The top of the cheek piece is a bit too pointed and could stand to be more rounded as this would help provide a better cheek rest and would probably not add any additional weight. For a hunting rifle the shape is probably fine as it is only used briefly when bringing the rifle up to the cheek when preparing to fire, but for a tactical rifle where a shooter may be behind the scope for hours observing the situation and target, it would be quite uncomfortable. Though with all that being said, the quick solution is to just put an Eagle or TacOps cheek pad onto the rifle and the problem is solved.
For the short range (100 yard) accuracy evaluation we used Federal Gold Medal Match 168gr HPBT, HSM 168gr HPBT Match, and HSM 178gr AMAX match ammo. All shooting was done from a bench using a sandbag up front and a sandsock under the rear butt stock. The forearm of the stock is thin and this does make the rifle not as stable in regards to lateral tipping, but it is not too bad. The operation and shooting of the rifle is pretty straight forward and as was mentioned previously, feeding from the magazine is smooth and we had no problems, though you do need to be more careful if single feeding the rifle.
It was late winter for the shooting session and in Montana that means it is usually hovering around freezing temps even during the heat of the day, which leads to using gloves. Typically for better trigger feel and control, when settling down to get the best groups with a rifle we will remove the gloves or use a fingerless glove on the trigger finger. When doing the initial zero of the rifle with the gloves on it became apparent the AccuTrigger was going to be a problem. On several occasions while wearing gloves we had a trigger squeeze where the center blade was not fully depressed and the firing pin was not allowed to strike the primer which resulted in a non-fire event. Removing the gloves helped tremendously but if you were not diligent, even without gloves on, in making sure you had the tip of your finger completely depressing the blade on the trigger, you could get a click without a bang. This was a big enough problem that it is a concern for me. I would even consider replacing the trigger with a Timney or other upgraded trigger that did not have this safely mechanism.
The accuracy of the rifle was good for a more affordable priced rifle with all three types of ammo averaging under 1 MOA, though perhaps not quite as good as we have come to expect from Savage heavy barrel rifles. But with the lighter profile barrel one would probably expect a bit less accuracy. We did try some heavier 178gr loads since the rifle had a 1:10″ twist but it still seemed to favor the lighter 168gr loads. We also keep in mind that these were groups fired from a new rifle without a break in period and after several hundred rounds I would expect the rifle to tighten up a bit more. The Federal Gold Medal Match load performed the best with a best group of .480″, though I would probably not classify this rifle as a consistent .5 MOA rifle, at least not currently as it sets. Maybe with time and some tweaking it might get there.
|Federal GMM 168gr||.742″||.480″|
|HSM 168gr Match||.847″||.612″|
|HSM 178gr AMAX Match||.953″||.687″|
We did not do much in the way of longer range shooting, just a quick engagement at 400 yards to verify shooting capability and purpose. The rifle is lighter than most which tends to lead to stronger recoil, but it does have a nice recoil pad that seemed to keep recoil under check. The large bolt on the rifle was nice with gloves on and provided a good positive feel to operate the action. One other operational note was that just as a test, we tried to insert the detachable magazine in backwards and it surprised us to note that it would insert almost completely into the action. In tense situations things can get a bit crazy and I would like to see some means of helping insure something like inserting the magazine backwards wouldn’t happen when things are tense.
Looking at the rifle objectively as a whole one needs to consider the price and the target market. The rifle is a part of the Savage Law Enforcement lineup, but it is not intended to be an all out long range tactical rifle. It is targeted more toward an accurate bolt rifle that might ride in the trunk of a patrol car, much like the FN PBR or Remington 700 SPS Tactical. When looked at in the company of those rifles, it compares okay with accuracy and function with the DBM being a good feature. But the stock is a short coming, even with the new AccuStock, and the trigger is something that while it breaks light, has some flaws. The price is about in the middle of the pack. It would be hard to recommend the rifle over those others, but it certainly should at least be considered and looked at for a precision patrol rifle.
I would really like to see more mfg get away from the 1/9 and go to a 1/7. Especially in these bolt guns where you can run them long.
Precision (Carbine)? I guess I’ve always considered the term carbine associated with short barrels, shorter stocks and lighter weight rifles. Cutting a couple inches off of the barrel still leaving a rifle over 8 pounds and 40 inches. Rifles under 36″ and 6 1/2 pounds enters the carbine world.