Packages: Remington, Savage Square Off in Value Showdown
The Remington 710 and Savage 111FCXP3 .30-06s come complete with a scope, rings, and bases for just a smidge over $400. They seem like good values, but how do they shoot?
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.
How We Tested
We shot both guns side-by-side at the Tomball Gun Club north of Houston, starting the early afternoon of an 80-degree day. Lighting conditions were clear to partly cloudy, with winds variable between 3 and 10 mph on the partially enclosed range.
For our test ammos, we chose three different bullet weights and shapes from three manufacturers. They were Winchester’s Super-X 180-grain Power-Point No. 30064; Remington Express Core-Lokt 150-grain pointed soft points No. R30062; and Federal Premium 165-grain Vital-Shoks No. 30060, which are tipped with Sierra GameKing boattails. To capture velocity data, we used an Oehler 35P chronograph with proof channel, with the first screen 10 feet from the muzzle. To collect accuracy data, we fired three-shot groups from a Ransom front rest with rear bunny bag, shooting at EZ2C Style 105 targets 100 yards away.
We followed the same break-in procedure with both guns, starting with a single fired shot, followed by a brush-and-patch cleaning; then two shots and cleaning, then three shots and cleaning, and closed with four shots and cleaning. After cool-down, we then fired the 150-grain bullets in both guns, then the 165s, then the 180s.
After the smoke cleared, we had formed several opinions about the guns, which we relate below:
This .30-06 rifle came as a ready-to-go hunting package. We thought the choice of the .30-06 was excellent. It would have adequate power and would be ideal for most U.S. hunting, at least for non-dangerous game. The rifle was fitted with a Bushnell 3-9X scope mounted in simple clamping rings, but with only a single screw at each attach point for the rings.
The 710 is currently offered in .270 Win., 7mm Rem. Mag., .30-06, and .300 Win. Mag. The two magnum guns come with 24-inch barrels and capacities of 3+1, while the standard long action .270 and .30-06s employ 22-inch barrels and hold 4+1 rounds. All of the 710 receivers use steel with molded synthetic bolt guide inserts, and are matte-black finished. Their published OAL is 42.5 inches with 22-inch carbon steel, press-fit-to-receiver barrels. Rifling on the tubes is conventional, six-groove, 1:10 right-hand twist. They all come with Bushnell 3-9X40mm Sharpshooter scopes and lack metal sights. The magazine is a detachable, four-round, staggered-column unit. The stock is a molded gray synthetic with an LOP of 13.4, a drop at heel of 1.4 inches, and a drop at comb of 1.2 inches.
The 710 differs in many ways from the 700-series, but it also contains many elements of the better-known line. The 710, for instance, uses 22 parts instead of the usual 46 required in the Model 700. On the other side, Remington saves money by using some existing Model 700 trigger parts and sling swivel studs.
The Model 710 contains many precision-molded, high-strength polymer parts, such as the stock, that require little or no fitting and finishing. Metal parts are matte-finished and there are no metal sights. The ignition unit and molded polymer insert slide into the rear of the 710’s mild-steel tubular receiver. On the 710, the bolt locks directly to the barrel, and the receiver is made of mild steel tubing. The 3.75-inch-long magazine well and a 3.8-inch-long ejection port will accommodate factory ammunition and handloads with long-seated bullets.
A molded nylon bolt guide insert for the receiver may be removed for cleaning. Raceways for the bolt locking lugs and openings for the ejection port and magazine well are molded into the insert.
The 710’s bolt has four parts — the head, retaining pin, cast body and firing pin assembly with composite shroud. The 1.3-inch-long bolt head has three locking lugs. The bolt locks and unlocks with a short, 60-degree lift. A pivoting, external bolt release lever is located on the left rear of the receiver. On the Model 710’s bolt shroud is Remington’s new Integrated Security System. Operated by a key, it prevents the bolt from closing when engaged.
The barrel is button-rifled with six conventional grooves and a right-hand rifling twist of 1:10. It is not free-floated. Three socket-head screws secure the receiver to the stock. The stock is a gray, fiberglass-reinforced polymer with a non-slip, pebbled finish that gives some traction to wet hands. Steel quick-detachable sling swivel studs, a black plastic pistol grip cap and a soft black rubber buttpad are standard equipment. The stock had a suitable cheekpiece, and had the general configuration of all Remington stocks, which meant it fit the average shooter well enough, we thought.
A few of the controls were different from the Remington 700 we all know so well. The bolt release was a lever on the left-rear corner of the action. The usual round Remington button-type safety lever was simplified into a simple stamping that operated in the usual manner. It was on the right rear of the action. The action had a huge, oval-shaped ejection port. The bolt had the usual Remington checkered knob and recessed head, with Remington’s usual extractor. The bolt travel was quite stiff, we found, and it was stiff to close as well. Feeding from the detachable magazine was excellent, and ejection was flawless, but we had to make sure the rounds were fed directly from the magazine. Dropped loosely into the action, some of the test ammo failed to feed, depending on the shape of the bullet nose.
We had fits loading the detachable magazine. The rounds had to be pressed down and then rearward, not an easy task, we found. We prefer mags that can be loaded with a simple downward press, like most military ones.
The trigger gave us fits too. It broke at a reasonable weight but had a bad step or hitch in its travel that was particularly noticeable. Most of our problems came with the scope, the existence of which was the general idea behind this package. The scope was loose, right out of the box. The base was loose on the action and the rings were loose on the base. We secured the scope before doing any accuracy testing. We found we could not focus the reticle perfectly for anyone’s eyes, and in trying repeatedly to do so, we destroyed the 0-ring that supposedly sealed the movable ocular. The scope also had 3 to 4 inches of parallax at 100 yards, which did nothing for the accuracy of the package. We have found other Bushnell 3-9X scopes (specifically, older ones) to be perfectly suitable, but this one left a lot to be desired, we thought.
This unit is offered in .270 Win., 7mm Rem. Mag, and .300 Win. Mag., in addition to the .30-06 chambering we tested. Overall length was 42.75 inches with a barrel length of 22 inches (for the .270 and .30-06; the magnums come with 24-inch barrels. The gun unscoped weighed 6.5 pounds, and with the Simmons scope, rings, and bases, it weighed in at 7.5 pounds. The detachable magazine held four rounds. The stock was a black synthetic unit with cut checkering (not molded) and dual pillar bedding of the action to the polymer “furniture.” The Simmons 3-9x40mm scope came mounted and bore-sighted over the blued action and free-floating and button-rifled barrel, which had a 1:10 right-hand twist and standard crown. The stock came equipped with a nylon sling and steel swivel studs.
Like on the 710, the Savage contains many polymer parts, such as the stock, that require little or no fitting and finishing. Inletting around the tang, receiver, trigger group, and barrel lock nut were fine, but we noted a mildly irritating form seam down the length of the stock. It was particularly high at the front of the forend and on top of the stock, where the shooter’s face rested. The rubber buttpad was unevenly fitted, too. However, the checkering was excellent, with very defined edges along the outside of the pattern and sharp tips on the diamond shapes in the checkering.
Metalwork on the Savage was very good, with no blueing or polishing flaws that we could see. The laser etching on the bolt is something that Savage promotes, but we could take that or leave it. As you might expect, pieces of the gun you might expect to be metal are plastic instead, both to save weight and cost. The trigger guard is polymer, as was the grip cap.
The two-lug bolt is a push-feed type, with the extractor sitting at 6 o’clock and the ejector at 2 o’clock when the bolt is pushed into the receiver and locked. We had no issues with feeding or extraction using the Savage. The bolt action motion was pretty smooth, too, and the big ball on the handle allowed for a positive forward shove and downward push to lock the action. However, we didn’t like the rear baffle assembly on the bolt, which was loose on the bolt body. It didn’t cause any malfunctions, but it could spin around the bolt shaft if it were hit accidentally.
Getting the bolt in and out of the gun wasn’t difficult. To remove the bolt, we elevated the muzzle of the empty gun, opened the bolt all the way, pressed down the cocking indicator, and pulled the trigger. The bolt fell free. To get the bolt back in the empty gun, we put the muzzle on the floor, started the bolt head into the receiver, and pushed down on the cocking indicator. The bolt then slid home.
As we noted above, the Savage shot one ammo, the Winchester Super-X 180-grain Power-Points, into 1.2-inch average groups, which isn’t bad at all. With the gun on the shoulder, we noted that some shooters couldn’t quite get a full sight picture on the Simmons without creeping forward on the stock. Fortunately, there was enough room on the front base to push the scope and aluminum rings back a half inch to get this needed eye relief. Still, the stock felt too long to get proper head position on the butt, and we would probably cut off an inch of it to make it fit better with heavy clothing, but not all shooters would need to do this.
Elsewhere on the stock, things felt pretty good. The slim pistol grip afforded a good grasp on the gun, and the flat base of the detachable magazine provided a comfortable place ahead of the trigger guard to move the front hand in so the front elbow could rest on the shooter’s body, if desired. The trigger broke at 6.1 pounds, not the worst we’ve ever felt, but unlike other guns in the Savage package line, there’s no AccuTrigger option available on the 111FCXP3.
Deciding to buy the Remington 710 or Savage 111FCXP3 is tricky, because there are plenty of bolt actions available that we’ve tested that offer more accuracy, better cosmetics, somewhat improved function, or some other edge.
In particular, take Savage’s own Model 111F .30-06, $395, which we reviewed in the May 1999 issue. Our take then was that even with a heavy trigger, the 111 Savage was lightweight, fast handling and accurate. Its best five-shot average groups, 1.03 inches at 100 yards, were produced with Remington 125-grain pointed soft points. Winchester 165-grain pointed soft points likewise yielded admirable 1.13-inch groups.
However, even when we add low-cost optics, rings, and bases to the equation, we wind up with prices $100 to $200 higher than these packages. So on a price-and-performance basis, it’s hard to beat them.
Gun Tests Recommends
• Remington 710 .30-06 No. 27410, $426. Don’t Buy. Our overall estimate of this package was that it was not the way to go, and we would not buy it. Despite a generally good feel to the rifle, decent workmanship, and good accuracy with one ammo, the bolt travel was stiff, it was stiff to close, some of the test ammo failed to feed, loading the detachable magazine required a specialized technique, and the trigger had a hitch in its travel. We didn’t like the loose scope base and rings, and a few minutes with the right tools could fix that, but will the would-be hunter even see these problems?
• Savage 111FCXP3 .30-06 No. 16326, $424. Best Buy. This gun shot accurately with at least one of our test ammos, and it shot better than at least half of the bolt-actions we’ve tested over the last five years. Though there were some niggling flaws that we didn’t like, it’s hard to argue with the notion that a customer, new hunter or not, can walk into a gun store, buy this gun, shoot as few as two or three sighting shots, and have a reasonably good chance of killing a deer out to 200 yards. That’s as potent an admixture of price, performance, and convenience as we’ve seen in quite a while.