If market trends are any indication, interest in long-range deer rifles has been growing in recent years. At least half a dozen of these products—essentially varmint rifles that are chambered for bigger calibers—are available now in production guns.
Previously, these products, which are designed to be used from a fixed position while hunting from some sort of stand, were available only as custom items for hunters who planned to use them for hunting beanfields in the southeastern United States, Texas’s senderos, the western prairies of the U.S. and Canada, and powerline rights-of-way in the East.
This kind of hunting requires a flat-shooting, hard-hitting caliber in a rifle capable of superb accuracy under field conditions. Such rifles must be extremely accurate, incorporate a good trigger, and employ a properly designed stock.
At least three rifles purported to have these qualifications include the Winchester Model 70 Classic Laredo equipped with a BOSS, the Remington Model 700 Sendero SF (Stainless Fluted), and the Savage 110FP Tactical Rifle. We decided to test this trio head to head to see which one is worth your hard-earned dollars. All three rifles were chambered in .300 Winchester Magnum, one of the best long-range cartridges available in these rifles.
We used four brands of ammunition in this test: Federal Premium with a 150-grain Trophy Bonded Bear Claw bullet, a Hornady Custom load with a 150-grain Interlock bullet, Remington 190-grain Extended Range with a boattail bullet, and a Winchester 220-grain Silvertip load.
All testing was conducted from a benchrest using an Uncle Bud’s bench bag. The rear of the gun was supported by a Bench Wizard bag from Ultra Light Arms. This features two 5-pound sandbags connected by a webbing that fits around the rear of the gun to effectively add the weight of the bags to the gun. Another 10-pound sandbag was placed against the rear of this bag. We placed an athletic elbow pad between the gun and shoulder. This effectively controls recoil, allowing a long testing session with these hard-recoiling rifles. Velocities were measured 10 feet from the muzzle using an Oehler 35P chronograph. Temperature during the test was 55 degrees with rain falling the entire time. There was very little wind. All groups are at 100 yards and are measured center to center of the widest holes to the nearest 0.1 inch.[PDFCAP(1)].
Before starting the test each rifle was cleaned using Shooters Choice Firearms Bore Cleaner on a patch, followed with a clean patch. Then a bronze brush saturated with Shooters Choice Firearms Bore Cleaner was passed through the bore several times. This was followed by several clean patches and then with a couple of patches soaked with Birchwood Casey Gun Scrubber. Then the gun was cleaned with the Outers Foul Out Electronic bore cleaner and again given the patch and solvent treatment, this time using Shooters Choice Copper Remover. This was repeated until each bore was completely clean of any fouling as indicated by clean patches with no black marks from powder fouling or green stains from copper fouling. The rifles were not cleaned again until the test was completed.
After firing a couple of fouling shots to ensure that the actions were well seated in the stocks, testing began. The groups were fired in rapid succession with all shots for each selection fired before the rifle was allowed to cool. The rifles were rotated with each ammo selection so that they could cool before starting with the next type ammo. This not only allowed evaluation of the accuracy of the rifle with this load, but also by firing nine shots in a short time span allowed us to see the rifles reaction to heat generated by the shooting. Here’s what we found:
Winchester Model 70 Classic Laredo With BOSS, $879
The Winchester was the most expensive of the three rifles. The gun, introduced in 1996, was listed in Gun Digest for 2000, but doesn’t appear in the company’s 2001 materials. Apparently, it has been supplanted by the Stealth model. Nonetheless, as our test gun witnesses, some Laredos are still available and may even be more affordable now that the name has been retired.
We fitted our gun with a Burris 3-9 Fullfield scope with the Electro-Dot system. The scope was mounted in Burris Pos-Align rings with Millett bases. During the evaluation all the scopes were set at 9 power to ensure a level playing field.
The Winchester’s stock was a charcoal-gray synthetic material with black flecks throughout. The forearm was flat and wide, obviously designed to be used with a sandbag rest. It did indeed sit well on a sandbag, making this a stable gun to shoot from a benchrest. There was no checkering, but there were finger grooves along the upper forend to assist in control when firing with the left hand gripping the forearm. There was a small cheekpiece that directed recoil away from the shooter’s face. The recoil pad was solid black rubber and measured just under 1 inch in thickness, including the black-plastic spacer. Detachable sling swivels were supplied, and there was a drop-plate magazine that held three cartridges. The action was bedded in a machined aluminum block that was molded into the stock.
The BOSS-equipped barrel was 26 inches, including the muzzle brake. However, the rifled portion of the barrel actually ended at 23.5 inches. The barrel sported a heavy contour. The shorter barrel produced the lowest velocities with all but one of the ammos tested and the lowest overall average velocity.
The reason most long-range deer rifles, particularly those chambered in high-capacity cartridges, use a 26-inch barrel is to achieve maximum velocity from any given load. While the BOSS adds more than 2.5 inches to the overall length of a rifle, the Laredo could benefit from having a full 26-inch barrel, we believe.
The action was the Classic Model 70 version of the pre-64 Model 70 action. This features a controlled-feed bolt wherein the extractor grips the shell rim as soon as it leaves the magazine and holds it tight against the bolt face during the feeding process. The bolt was matte blue, as was all metal on the rifle.
The three-position safety was mounted on the bolt. The center position allows the gun to be loaded and unloaded with the safety on. The trigger was adjustable, but not a lot. The test gun’s trigger was set at 5 pounds from the factory. We were able to adjust the trigger down to 4 pounds, but we don’t think it could be safely improved much beyond that without gunsmithing work. It did break clean and had little overtravel.
During the test we did not have the BOSS sweet spot settings for any of the bullet weights tested available to us. So we set the BOSS at the suggested sweet spot for 180-grain bullets of three turns. This worked well for this test, but we recognize that the gun might be more accurate by adjusting the BOSS to each test load. Still, this rifle was the most accurate overall with a 1.27-inch average. With the ability to further tune the rifle using the BOSS system, the accuracy potential is likely excellent.
Another good feature of the BOSS system is recoil reduction. There was a noticeable difference between this rifle and the other two tested in felt recoil. The BOSS eliminates one of the most common reasons that hunters shy away from the .300 Winchester cartridge, we believe. In the field, reduced recoil helps the shooter keep the gun on the target and able to see long-range hits through the scope. However, the BOSS muzzle brake increased noise considerably.
This rifle did turn in the lowest average velocity; however, it was only 43 fps behind the Savage’s 24-inch barrel.
Remington Model 700 Sendero SF, $852
This is the 1996 incarnation of the well-known Remington Sendero rifle. The Remington was equipped with a Pentax 4-16 Lightseeker II scope with the Perm-Align adjustment locking system. This scope was mounted in Leupold rings and bases. Its stock was synthetic/Kevlar with a rough texture, no checkering, and a pattern of gray swirls throughout. The recoil pad was 3/4-inch-thick black rubber with no spacer. Detachable sling swivels were supplied with the gun.
The stock featured a molded-in aluminum frame that reinforced the stock from pistol grip to the forend. This also was machined to provide a precision bedding platform for the receiver while the barrel was floated. The stock on our rifle did not fit the barrel well. It was twisted at the end of the stock. The gap on one side of the barrel was noticeably wider than the other. As the barrel heated up, the stock touched the barrel hard enough to chip the stock when firing. This no doubt contributed to the rifle coming in a distant third in accuracy. While an easy problem to correct, this shows poor quality control, in our opinion.
The action and barrel were stainless steel, with the fluted barrel measuring 26 inches. There were six flutes milled in the barrel to dissipate heat. The drop-plate magazine held three cartridges.
The Remington 700 still has one of the best factory triggers available—but not because they are good out of the box. As a rule, they are not, and this one was no exception. Still, we know the Remington triggers are adjustable by someone who knows what he is doing. A good gunsmith can usually adjust the trigger to 3 pounds with little trouble.
The action was the standard 700 long action with a two-lug locking system. The safety was on the right side of the action and did not lock the bolt when in the On position. This safety feature is touted by some and raged at by others. It requires, though, that a hunter constantly check to make sure that the bolt has not partially opened because the gun will not fire. Remington offers the option of having the old-style safety installed on the rifle. This will lock the bolt when the safety is On. It requires that the gun be returned to Remington. The job costs about $20.
This gun shot well with some loads and poorly with others. The Remington Sendero also turned in the best overall velocity due to its longer barrel.
Savage 110FP Tactical Rifle, $429
The Savage was fitted with a Redfield 2-9 X 50 mm Golden Five Star scope. The Savage was first fitted with Weaver-style rings and base made by B-Square; however, we were not able to fit a scope with this system. Either the base or the receiver of the rifle was drilled out of alignment, and it was impossible to bring a scope into windage zero. Those mounts were exchanged for a set of Millett rings and bases with the rear-ring windage-adjustment style, which allowed the scope to be brought into alignment with the bore.
This rifle was slightly slimmer and trimmer than the other two, which can be desirable to a hunter who is turned off by the massiveness of the other rifles. Don’t be misled, though. The 110FP was still a heavy gun. The stock was injected plastic with graphite/fiberglass and was pure black. There was molded checkering on the forend and pistol grip. The stock had a 0.5-inch (with a plastic spacer) vented black recoil pad. Detachable sling swivels were supplied, and there was a second one 2.5 inches from the one on the forearm. This was designed to allow the use of a bipod or sling.
The bedding was the plastic as it comes out of the mold, with the front action screw having a metal pillar added. The rear action screw was threaded in front of the trigger instead of in the tang. The Tactical Rifle’s tang hole was there, but it was filled with a plastic plug.
The action and barrel have a black-matte finish. The barrel was 24 inches in length, standard for magnum calibers. However, we think this particular rifle would benefit from a 26-inch tube. The barrel was locked to the action with Savage’s unique nut system.
The trigger was adjustable, but in this case it was not necessary. It measured 3 pounds right out of the box. It has been a long time since we’ve seen a new gun’s trigger come out that light. However, it was a little mushy and had a slight amount of overtravel, but it still was quite good for a factory trigger.
The bolt and action are of the 110 design, with a two-lug locking system and a tang safety. The bolt was finished with black titanium nitride coating to smooth operation. The bolt had the Savage name and Tactical model name laser-engraved on it, which added a touch of cosmetic finish. The Savage .300 Win. Mag. rifle featured a blind magazine with no drop plate. It held three cartridges. The lighter weight produced the most felt recoil of the three rifles tested, but it was still less than that of most .300 Winchester rifles of sporter weight.
The Savage turned in a very close second in accuracy, and if we threw out the least accurate ammo for each rifle, it nailed first place in accuracy.
It was a little lighter and had a more slender feel than the other rifles. This made it easier to carry, but it was noticeably less stable in the sandbags than the other two rifles. We would like to see the barrel extended to 26 inches, but it should be noted the average velocity was only 79 fps less than the Remington’s 26-inch barrel. The scope mount problem was troublesome, but we cannot say for certain if the problem was with the gun or the mount.
Gun Tests Recommends
It’s rare when we find three production guns that suffer no fatal flaws and that perform so closely that one doesn’t stand out. In our opinion, most deer or elk hunters would be happy with the Remington, Winchester, or Savage rifles. However:
Savage 110FP Tactical Rifle, $429. A Best Buy. It shot two brands of ammo under moa (the Remington 190-grain extended range boattail and Hornady 150-grain Interlock), and costs half what the other two guns do. In our estimation, that’s a lot of bang for your buck.
Remington Model 700 Sendero SF, $852. Conditional Buy. There’s nothing wrong with the Sendero SF, so we would feel uncomfortable saying Don’t Buy It. But we’re hard-pressed to see why you would pay twice as much as you would for the Savage. It is your money, however.
Winchester Model 70 Classic Laredo With BOSS, $879. Don’t Buy. The list price on the gun really isn’t operative any longer, since it isn’t a cataloged product. That means you could likely find one on closeout. But you shouldn’t buy it unless you can get it for less than the Savage, which is the Laredo’s equal nearly any way you cut it.