Both Remington and Savage make more than a few lower-cost rifles, but the two companies really try to shave prices on package guns — complete gun-and-scope combos you can buy over the counter ready to shoot. Presumably, these ready-to-go hunting packages are for beginning hunters or those with little experience from which to draw, and who would thus have trouble assembling an adequate rifle setup for the field. Because they come scoped and bore-sighted, it's reasonable to assume these packages can get nimrod on the paper the first shot, and for many shooters, leaping the whole optics/bases/boresighting hassle would be worth more money, not less.
Of the two companies, Savage has been packaging longer than Remington, at least in these current configurations. Savage introduced its 110-series package guns in 1989 and followed up with the 111-series package guns in 1994. For its part, Savage currently offers quite a few packages, including the short-action hardwood-stocked 10GXP3 and 10GLXP3 (left handed), $556 with AccuTrigger; a long-action hardwood 110GXP3 and 110GLXP3 with AccuTrigger, $556; a short-action polymer-stocked youth gun, the 11FYXP3, $519; the 11FXP3 and 111FXP3, $534; and the 16FXP3 and 116FXP3 stainless guns, $618. Also in the lineup is a 111FCXP3, a detachable-magazine model that is the least expensive package Savage offers at $424. All of the Savages come with a Simmons 3-9x40 riflescope, a two-piece scope mount, and see-thru lens covers. The 111FCXP3 in .30-06, No. 16326, is the model we tested against the Remington 710.
Remington rolled out its 710 package in 2001. Remington tops its gun with a factory-equipped one-piece, aluminum alloy scope base, aluminum alloy 1-inch rings and a bore-sighted Bushnell 3-9X Sharpshooter riflescope with 40mm objective lens and a Multi-X reticle. Our specific package was the Remington 710 .30-06 No. 27410, $426.
We tested the fine Olympic Arms K3B (AR-15) in the December 2005 issue, and liked it a whole lot. It was one of the better AR-15s we've seen. It had an excellent trigger and lots of good stuff like a flash hider, 30-round mag, and a collapsible stock. Though it probably had enough accuracy for almost anything, on the order of 3 inches at 100 yards, we wanted more. To that end we decided to test three "drop-in" barrels obtained from Brownells to see if we could get tighter groups for our money. When we told the fine folk at Brownells what we intended to do, they asked us if we had the required tools. We planned to use the services of a gunsmith on our staff who had zero experience with AR-15s, so we had no tools at all. Therefore we acquired not only three 16-inch barrels, but also all the tools needed to do a barrel swap on the K3B Oly.
The barrels were Olympic Arms' own stainless-steel Ultra Match (Brownells No. 795-020-016), $318; Merchant's Service Rifle Match Barrel Model 2 with 1:8 twist (565-015-802). $397; and Evolution's Match Barrel (298-015-015), $415. We stuck with 16-inch tubes because we didn't want to sacrifice handiness for accuracy if we could help it. When everything arrived, it seemed like a daunting array of tools. There was a high-impact polymer (Rynite) block (Peace River Upper Receiver Action Block, Brownells #702-003-015, $44) that fitted around the action to hold it in the vise, with an insert to keep the action from collapsing under stress. Next was a serrated barrel wrench (Smith Enterprises Armorer's Wrench, Brownells' #851-115-001, $37); a strap wrench for "free-floated" forends (Glenair AR Strap Wrench, 382-100-015, $24); and a set of snap-ring pliers (531-460-000, $12). There was also a tool that made removing the two-piece forend extremely easy (Darrel's Custom E-Z OFF Hand Guard Tool, 100-000-438, $25). These tools came to about $142, and though you might not need them all, you'd surely need the block and wrench, which will set you back $81 plus shipping. Any tool expenditure probably won't make a lot of sense for only one job, especially if your local gunsmith can do it for you. But the use of a gunsmith makes these less than drop-in barrels -- unless you define the job as dropping in to your gunsmith and dropping money into his pocket.
No instructions came with the barrels, so we were temporarily stymied. But a search of the Internet found a detailed and well-illustrated set of steps to follow, so we jumped in. We suggest you start by looking at http://www.ar15.com/, and follow your nose. Here's what we discovered about each barrel.
When it comes to choosing a defensive weapon, there are as many choices as there are applications. But how about a firearm that is more powerful than a handgun, more controllable than a shotgun, and easier to handle than a full-sized rifle? Add economical to buy and feed as desirable characteristics, and you have our choices for this test.
We recently got three handy carbines, two lever actions and one autoloader, chambered for .44 Magnum. Why .44 Magnum? Because for most people, the .44 Magnum creates too much recoil in a handgun, but is not nearly as punishing when chambered in a shouldered weapon. Yet the .44 Magnum has plenty of self-defense potential, but less "shoot-through" problems that standard rifle cartridges might cause in a home or apartment protection situation. Our test guns included two short lever actions, the $591 Marlin 1894 and the $458 Winchester Model 94 Trapper. We also found a $702 semi-automatic by Ruger, the 99/44 Deerfield.
The lever-action models would function with .44 Special ammo, but the Deerfield would not cycle the shorter rounds, so we limited testing to magnum ammunition. Our choices were 180-grain JHP rounds from PMC, 270-grain GDSP rounds by Speer, and 300-grain JHP/XTP rounds from Hornady. We bench-tested the guns for accuracy at 50 yards at American Shooting Centers in Houston, shooting them off Protektor leather bags front and rear.
Also, to evaluate the guns' self-defense capability, in particular ease of target acquisition and elapsed times between follow-up shots, we set up a Hoffners ABC16 humanoid silhouette type target (hoffners.com) at 10 yards and from port arms delivered five strings of three rapid-fire shots. This drill was engaged five times for a total of 15 shots on target. The point of aim was the chest area, with hits counting within any vital area. We also looked at characteristics such as magazine capacity and the ability to reload under stress. We also considered the availability of aftermarket parts to enhance performance.
Eyes and ears everyone, this test made some noise.
In self-defense use, pinpoint accuracy isn't necessary, but reliability and ease of use are paramount. In this report we evaluate how well these two .223s perform those tasks.
Henry's brass-framed Big Boy outshone Winchester's Trail's End nearly everywhere: accuracy, smoothness, and trigger function.
We liked Fulton's Service Grade over Springfield's M1, but the CMP deal is hard to beat in terms of bang for the buck.
DPMS Panther's Long Range was Our Pick over ArmaLite and Bushmaster AR-15 type rifles, which both had lousy triggers.
Our other test guns were the Browning A-Bolt II Micro Hunter No. 0350202111, a 6.25-pound gun with a 20-inch blued barrel, $684; and the Remington 700 SPS Youth No. 27475, a less expensive synthetic-stocked gun that weighed 6.75 pounds unloaded. Because of its $400 street price (MSRP $510), an Alaskan sheep-hunter GT reader had recommended his .308-chambered SPS "youth" gun as a steal, opining that because it was marketed to beginners, it was priced lower than similar guns. We found his recommendation to be right on the mark, along with the SPS's ability to shoot.
Our test ammos for these .243s showed a range of utility designed to express flaws in the barrels' rifling (we thought). From lightest to heaviest, they were Federal Premium Vital-Shok 85-grain Sierra Gameking boattail hollow points, No. P243D; Winchester Supreme 95-grain Ballistic Silvertips, No. SBST243A; and Remington's Express Core-Lokt 100-grain pointed soft points, No. R243W3. Also, as part of barrel break-in, we shot Remington 80-grain Express Rifle rounds, No. 243W1, but we did not collect accuracy or chronograph data with these rounds.
These two bargain rifles are favorites of close-quarters deer hunters. But which one offers the most bang on the buck?
The $640 Kel-Tec SU-16 and the $1,727 Springfield Armory SOCOM 16 offer different solutions for long-gun self defense.
The lighter, more accurate Kimber shot rings around Ruger's Compact rifle. The 84M is one of the best .308s we've seen.
Ruger's M77 Mark II Target in .25-06 and Winchester's M70 Coyote in .25 WSSM cut it, but Weatherby's .257 WM Vanguard Sub-MOA didn't live up to its accuracy-defining name.