Hunting Rifles in 7mm Mag From Mossberg, Howa, Savage

The contestants: The Savage 110 Storm, Mossbergs Patriot, and the Howa M1500 HS Precision. Any of these bolt guns will do the job in the field, but one surprised us with its exceptional accuracy.

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Rifles chambered in 7mm Remington Magnum are popular hunting setups for whitetail deer up to elk. We looked at three hunting rifles in 7mm Rem. Mag. in a price range to suit nearly any budget. At the low end is the Mossberg Patriot ($542), a traditionally styled hunting rifle with a walnut stock and matte-blued metal. A midrange-cost firearm is the Savage 110 Storm ($849) with a matte-stainless barreled action and synthetic AccuStock. This was the most modern looking rifle of the trio. At the high end is the Howa M1500 HS Precision ($1119). This rifle features an HS Precision laminated stock and a sub-MOA guarantee. The other rifles did not offer an accuracy guarantee. All rifles use a push-feed bolt-action design with two locking lugs, which means the bolt lift on all three is 90 degrees. They also have a cocking indicator that protrudes from the rear of the bolt to tell the user the rifle is cocked. You can see the cocking indicator and feel it. All featured a free-floated barrel and fairly good trigger. What separated the Savage from the Howa and Mossberg was the customizable stock.

7mm hunting rifles

We equipped the trio with variable-power scopes. In the middle is a Simmons AETEC 2.8-10x44mm ($188;MidwayUSA.com), and at the bottom end of cost is a Simmons Whitetail Classic 3-9x40mm scope ($90;MidwayUSA.com). At the high end was a Vortex Crossfire II 4-16x50mm ($279; OpticsPlanet.com). All three were well constructed, used a second-focal-plane reticle, and featured capped turrets. We thought the Simmons Whitetail Classic was a great deal, and it performed well even with its plain Truplex reticle. The Simmons AETEC scope was light weight and short, so it didn’t add a lot of weight to the rifle. It also uses aspherical lenses, which gives the user a flat, distortion-free image. The AETEC also used a Truplex reticle and had the best clarity and contrast between the Simmons scopes. The Vortex Crossfire II also had good clarity/contrast and a Dead-Hold BDC reticle, which we felt offered better aiming. There are numerous hold marks on the vertical and horizontal crosshairs that allow the shooter to be more accurate if he understands his reticle. The simplicity of the Truplex reticle requires the shooter to guesstimate holdover and wind compensation. The Vortex scope was the longest and did provide more eye-relief adjustment in the rings, which also made it easier to mount. Smaller scopes on long-action rifles can be tight to fit, with less room to adjust eye relief. We used Weaver rings with all the scopes and found the 7-M-M did not rattle them loose.

Range Data

Federal Premium Vital-Shok 7mm Rem. Mag. 175-gr. Trophy Bonded Bear ClawHowa M1500 HS PrecisionSavage 110 StormMossberg Patriot
Average velocity2864 fps2888 fps2823 fps
Muzzle energy3188 fps3242 fps3079 fps
Average group0.98 in.1 in.1.38 in.
Hornady Precision Hunter 7mm Rem. Mag. 162-gr. ELD-X
Average velocity2972 fps2969 fps2903 fps
Muzzle energy3178 ft.-lbs.3171 ft.-lbs.3032 ft.-lbs.
Average group1.05 in.0.87 in.2.05 in.
Federal Fusion 7mm Rem. Mag. 150-gr. Fusion SP
Average velocity3027 fps3030 fps2965 fps
Muzzle energy3052 ft.-lbs.3058 ft.-lbs.2929 ft.-lbs.
Average group0.91 in.1.12 in.1.18 in.
Federal Premium Vital-Shok 7mm Rem. Mag. 165-gr. Sierra Gameking BTSP
Average velocity2901 fps2898 fps2832 fps
Muzzle energy3084 ft.-lbs.3077 ft.-lbs.2939 ft.-lbs.
Average group1.2 in.1.04 in.1.55 in.
To collect accuracy data, we fired three-shot groups from a bench using a rest. Distance: 100 yards. We recorded velocities using a ProChrono digital chronograph set 15 feet from the muzzle.

For a spotter we used a Styrka S7 15-45x65mm spotting scope($748; OpticsPlanet.com). This spotter features an angled eyepiece and comes with a carry case that protects the spotter yet unzips so you can mount it to a tripod and still protect the spotter. Not that we weren’t careful, but we did drop the spotter on the cement deck from bench height and it survived the fall. It has a rubber-armor skin. A sunshade is built in, and the magnification ring rotates smoothly and easily, which we like especially when the magnification is high and the field of view is small. It could be adjusted without losing the target. It also has coarse- and fine-focus knobs and a rotating tripod mount that allows the user to adjust the eyepiece for more comfortable viewing. We used it during the day and in the setting glare of the North Carolina sun, and we easily could pick our hits on paper.

We used a variety of hunting ammo in bullets weights that included 150-, 162-, 165-, and 175-grain projectiles from Federal Premium and Hornady. We used low-cost Federal Fusion soft points ($31.53) and Federal Vital-Shok with Sierra GameKing BTSP bullets ($37.09), as well as more expensive Hornady Precision Hunters loaded with ELD-X bullets ($40.50) and Federal Vital-Shok loaded with Bear Claw bullets ($46.12; all from CheaperThanDirt.com). We were able to get a sub-MOA group out of all the rifles, but the Howa and Savage continually surprised us with some excellent groups.

How We Tested

We test-fired the rifles using a UTG Rubber Armored Full Metal QD Bipod ($54.97; Leapers.com), which is designed to attach to the front sling-swivel stud or a Picatinny-style rail. We like the rubber feet since they stick to the deck when you load the bipod by leaning into it. The legs are also fully adjustable from a height of 6 to 8.5 inches. The legs also rotate forward and aft and lock into five different positions. We were also practical and fired the rifles using a knapsack as a rest, which would be more likely how the rifle would be fired in the field.

These skinny barrels heated up fast, so we allowed them to cool prior to changing brands of ammo. It should be rare that more than three shots would be fired in succession in a hunting situation. Sustained shooting with these hunting rifles is not the norm, but we did fire enough to make the barrel too hot to touch to see if it effected accuracy. We didn’t see an impact change, but we did get nice mirages through the scope from the heat waves rising off the barrels.

Howa M1500 HS Precision HHS63701 7mm Remington Magnum, $1119

GUN TESTS GRADE: A (Our Pick)

The Howa lived up to its accuracy guarantee. We like the HS Precision stock, the large bolt handle, and smooth action. Though more expensive, we would buy this rifle in a heart beat.

Howa M1500 HS Precision HHS63701 7mm Remington Magnum

ACTION TYPEBolt, push feed
OVERALL LENGTH4.5 in.
HEIGHT UNBOXED4.5 in.
HEIGHT AS TESTED7.27 in.
WIDTH STOCK2 in.
WEIGHT UNBOXED/UNLOADED7.8 lbs.
WEIGHT AS TESTED10.9 lbs.
WEIGHT AS TESTED/LOADED10.96 lbs.
BARREL LENGTH/TWIST24 in.; #2 contour; 1:9.5 RH
BARREL FINISHMatte black
BARREL MUZZLE DEVICENone; threaded muzzle
STOCKAluminum bedding block; hand-laminated with Kevlar, fiberglass and carbon
STOCK BUTTPADRubber
STOCK LENGTH OF PULL13.5 in.
STOCK COMBStraight
STOCK SLING ATTACHMENTS2 studs
TRIGGER PULL WEIGHT3.7 lbs.
TRIGGER STYLETwo stage, HACT adjustable
TRIGGER GUARD MATERIALAluminum
SAFETY3-position lever
MAGAZINE3-round internal box, hinged floorplate
MAGAZINE RELEASEButton front of trigger guard
BOLT2-lug, 90-degree lift
BOLT RELEASEReceiver latch
SIGHTSNone, drilled and tapped
ACCURACY GUARANTEESub-MOA
WARRANTYLifetime
TELEPHONE(775) 828-0555
WEBSITELegacySports.com
MADE INJapan

This rifle uses Howa’s 1500 action, which is known for its accuracy and reliability. The barrel was 24 inches long, which the 7-M-M uses to get the most velocity out of the load. The barrel had a slightly heavier #2 contour, which gave the rifle some heft. The muzzle was threaded with a thread protector screwed in place. The Howa uses a proprietary HACT trigger that can be adjusted, but we left it at the factory setting. In our opinion, this is a fairly good trigger, but we would adjust the pull weight a little less to get the best accuracy out of the rifle.

Howa M1500 HS Precision HHS63701 7mm Remington Magnum

The three-position safety locks the trigger as well as the bolt, depending on the position. On the left side of the receiver is the bolt stop, which, when pressed, allows the bolt to be pulled fully rearward and out of the receiver. We liked the oversized bolt handle because it allowed us to cycle the action better. It made us feel more in control since the bolt filled our hand. The edges were also smooth, so cycling the action was easier. All three rifles had slick actions, but in our opinion, the Howa had the slickest.

What was also slick about the Howa was the HS Precision stock. This stock is made of laminated fibers and molded so it is stiff. An aluminum bedding block keeps the barreled action place. The finish of the stock was a spiderweb paint style that gave the stock texture while making it aesthetically pleasing to the eye. The black solid-rubber recoil pad did help with absorbing recoil. The floorplate was well fitted to the stock, and the bottom metal was indeed metal. A button on the outside front of the trigger guard dumps rounds from the internal box magazine.

The magazine was easy to load, and there was plenty of room to load cartridges one at a time.

Howa M1500 HS Precision HHS63701 7mm Remington Magnum

We found it easy to shoot this rifle. The slick action, ease in loading and unloading, the large bolt knob, and the extra heft made felt recoil tolerable. Don’t think this is a pussycat — it does produce noticeable recoil, but we thought the balance of weight and stock made it a sweet shooter.

Ring bases were not included with the Howa, so we purchased Weaver two-piece bases ($7), which are the same bases used for a Remington Model 700, and Weaver Tactical Four Hold rings ($33.32). The Vortex Crossfire II scope was longer and gave us more leeway to mount it on the Howa.

All of our smallest groups were sub-MOA except with the 165-grain Vital-Shok Sierra Gameking BTSP bullets. We think if we adjusted the trigger to a slightly less pull weight, all of our groups would be sub-MOA. Even our average groups were sub-MOA with the Federal Premium Vital-Shok 175-grain Trophy Bonded Bear Claw and the inexpensive Federal Fusion 150-grain Fusion SP.

Our Team Said: The Howa had more weight and lived up to its accuracy guarantee. We like the HS Precision stock, the large bolt handle, and smooth action. Though more expensive, we would buy this rifle in a heart beat.

Savage Arms 110 Storm 14361 7mm Remington Magnum, $849

GUN TESTS GRADE: A (Best buy)

The AccuStock with AccuFit and the AccuTrigger make this rifle easy to shoot well and absorb the recoil of 7mm rounds. The action was not as slick as the others, but it was plenty smooth.

Savage Arms 110 Storm 14361 7mm Remington Magnum

ACTION TYPEBolt, push feed
OVERALL LENGTH41 to 44.5 in. (depending on insert)
HEIGHT UNBOXED4.5 in.
HEIGHT AS TESTED7.5 in.
WIDTH STOCK1.87 in.
WEIGHT UNBOXED/UNLOADED7.25 lbs.
WEIGHT AS TESTED8.6 lbs.
WEIGHT AS TESTED/LOADED8.66 lbs.
BARREL LENGTH/TWIST24 in.; 1:9.5 RH
BARREL FINISHMatte stainless
BARREL MUZZLE DEVICENone
STOCKSynthetic w/ aluminum bedding block; adjustable comp and LOP
STOCK BUTTPADRubber
STOCK LENGTH OF PULL12.75 to 13.75 in.; 4 inserts
STOCK COMBAdjustable; 5 risers
STOCK SLING ATTACHMENTS2 studs
TRIGGER PULL WEIGHTAdjustable; 3.8 lbs. factory set
TRIGGER STYLESingle stage
TRIGGER GUARD MATERIALAluminum, enlarged
SAFETY3-position button
MAGAZINE2-round detachable box
MAGAZINE RELEASEAmbidextrous lever, front of magazine
BOLT2-lug bolt; 90-degree lift
BOLT RELEASEReceiver latch
SIGHTSNone; drilled and tapped
ACCURACY GUARANTEENone
WARRANTY1 year
TELEPHONE(800) 370-0708
WEBSITESavageArms.com
MADE INUSA

The 110 Storm is outfitted with Savage’s new AccuStock, which has a modern look and allows the user to customize the LOP and riser to suit his stature. Just remove two screws in the soft, rubbery recoil pad and choose between four spacers to change the LOP from 12.75 to 13.75 inches and change the comb with five different risers. We liked this set up because we could make the rifle and scope adjust to us and not the other way around. The synthetic stock has a permanently embedded aluminum chassis that holds the barreled action onto the stock. This is another stiff setup that does not allow movement between the action and stock. At the shooter’s hold points, the pistol grip and forend, there is rubbery checkering that makes gripping the rifle sure.

Savage Arms 110 Storm 14361 7mm Remington Magnum

The two-position safety falls under the thumb of a right- or left-handed shooter and slides forward and aft. A red dot shows the safety is forward and ready to fire. In safe, the trigger is blocked and the bolt cannot be opened. The middle position just blocks the trigger and the bolt can be opened. This safety is convenient. This model Savage has a bottom bolt release, which is a button located in front of the trigger guard. Press the button and the trigger at the same time, and the bolt can be removed from the receiver. This is slightly more difficult than the other rifles. The bottom metal is actual metal that is well fitted to the stock.

The detachable box magazine fit securely and snapped into place with a click. Push the magazine release toward the magazine and the magazine drops into your hand. A nice set up. The magazine was easy to load and insert and was made of metal. Also, we found loading the magazine while it was inserted into the magwell was easy. We could also load single rounds with ease. There was plenty of room to do this even with the scope mounted. The trigger guard is also metal.

Savage Arms 110 Storm 14361 7mm Remington Magnum

We needed to purchase bases for the Savage, so we used a Weaver one-piece base ($18.32) and Weaver Grand Slam rings ($26.04). This mount allowed us to more easily position the short Simmons Whitetail Classic scope. This was an inexpensive setup, yet it stood up to the abuse of the 7mm’s recoil.

Going hot, we found the Savage to be easy on the shoulder, The recoil was tolerable for extended shooting. We attribute that to the AccuStock design and soft rubber recoil pad. Our best three-shot groups ranged from 0.50 to 0.99 inches. With Hornady Precision Hunter ammo loaded with a 162-grain ELD-X bullet, we achieved sub-MOA accuracy. This rifle was accurate. Average three-shot group sizes opened up to about an inch. This Savage was nipping at the heels of the Howa in the accuracy department. Some testers like the AccuTrigger best out of the three rifles. Between the stock and trigger, it was easy to shoot the Savage well, and the data confirms that.

Our Team Said: We liked the Savage for its ability to be customized to the shooter. We also think the AccuStock and AccuTrigger work in unison to make this rifle easy to shoot well and help absorb recoil. The action was not as slick as the Howa or the Mossberg, but it was plenty smooth. Because of the price, this is a Best Buy.

Mossberg Patriot 27894 7mm Remington Magnum, $542

GUN TESTS GRADE: A-

The Patriot offers low cost with a traditional look. The accuracy was not as good as the Howa or Savage, but it was accurate enough for most hunting.

Mossberg Patriot 27894 7mm Remington Magnum

ACTION TYPEBolt, push feed
OVERALL LENGTH42.75 in.
HEIGHT UNBOXED4.75 in.
HEIGHT AS TESTED7.5 in.
WIDTH STOCK2 in.
WEIGHT UNBOXED/UNLOADED7 lbs.
WEIGHT AS TESTED8.6 lbs.
WEIGHT AS TESTED/LOADED8.66 lbs.
BARREL LENGTH/TWIST22 in. fluted; 1:9.5 RH
BARREL FINISHMatte blued
BARREL MUZZLE DEVICENone
STOCKWalnut
STOCK BUTTPADVentilated rubber
STOCK LENGTH OF PULL13.75 in.
STOCK COMBStraight; cheek rest
STOCK SLING ATTACHMENTS2 studs
TRIGGER PULL WEIGHTAdjustable; 2.1 lbs. factory set
TRIGGER STYLESingle stage
TRIGGER GUARD MATERIALPolymer
SAFETY2-position lever
MAGAZINE3-round detachable box; polymer
MAGAZINE RELEASEAmbidextrous lever, front of magazine
BOLT2-lug bolt; 90-degree lift
BOLT RELEASEReceiver latch
SIGHTSNone; Weaver bases
ACCURACY GUARANTEENone
WARRANTY2 year
TELEPHONE(203) 230-5300
WEBSITEMossberg.com
MADE INUSA

While we appreciate the practicality of synthetic stocks, wood stocks are traditional and typically more expensive than polymer-stocked rifles. This variant of the Patriot line sports a nice walnut stock and matte-blued metal. The wood-to-metal fit was good. The stock featured outlined stippled gripping areas on the pistol grip and the side and bottom of the forend. It also included a black-plastic grip cap. It was well executed and practical.

The barrel length is 22 inches, 2 inches shorter than the standard barrel length of 24 inches for a 7mm. That means we might lose velocity and energy, which we indeed noted in ballistic data collection. The barrel was fluted, and the muzzle was recessed to protect the rifling in case you drop it. The bottom pieces are polymer and were well fitted to the wood. The detachable box magazine was made of polymer and snapped into place with a click. It was easy to load and insert on a closed bolt when fully loaded. The magazine release is located forward of the magazine, and, when pressed, the magazine falls free. A shooter can hold the rifle with his shooting hand on the grip and use a support hand to press the magazine release and have the magazine drop into the palm of the hand. We like this set up. The trigger guard is also polymer and that helps keep the rifle to a lithe 7 pounds. Some testers prefer metal, but for the cost we are not complaining.

Mossberg Patriot 27894 7mm Remington Magnum

The Patriot uses a two-position safety lever located on the right side of the receiver behind the bolt handle. Press it forward to Fire, revealing a red dot in the stock. Rearward is Safe. The safety locks the trigger, but it allows the bolt to be manipulated.

We mounted the Simmons AETEC 2.8-10x44mm on the factory-included bases. We like it when a manufacturer includes bases since it saves us time and money. We had plenty of room to mount the short, compact AETEC scope. We also thought the scope and rifle made a great pair for a lightweight traditional hunting rig. At 7 pounds sans scope, this is a lightweight rifle you can tote up and down mountains.

Mossberg Patriot 27894 7mm Remington Magnum

In extended shooting sessions at the bench, we found the light weight of the Patriot was not our friend. The recoil was more noticeable with the Patriot compared to the other two rifles. Putting that into perspective, a hunter may only need to fire one round to down a deer, so we’d guess the Patriot wouldn’t be fired round after round very often. The LBA trigger was our friend, and we felt this trigger came in second to the Savage’s AccuTrigger. Inserting single cartridges or loading the magazine while it was inserted in the magazine well was an easy chore with plenty of room. The bolt was slick and smooth. The bolt knob was flat on the end. We preferred the bolt knobs on the Savage and Howa better because they made manipulating the bolts faster and easier.

The accuracy of the Patriot gave us confidence to know we could kill an animal humanely. Ironically, the least expensive rifle grouped the least expensive ammo the best. With Federal Fusion 150-grain Fusion SP bullets, we were able to shoot a three-shot best group that measured 0.85 inches. On average, the Fusion ammo grouped 1.18 inches, and that my friends is elk meat in the freezer. All other ammo grouped between 1.15 and 2.05 inches.

Our Team Said: The Patriot Walnut is a low-cost option with a fine traditional look. It did not have the accuracy of the Howa or Savage, but it was still accurate for hunting. The shorter barrel also siphoned off velocity and energy, but we like the value in this rifle. It is less expensive mounted with a scope than the other rifles without a scope. If we were frugal, we would opt for the Patriot and put our remaining budget into an elk hunt.

Getting More Out of These Rifles

Because hunting rifles are loaded and unloaded during outings, we liked the convenience of the Savage and Mossberg detachable magazines. These magazines, when fully loaded, were easy to insert in the magwell and snap into place with the bolt closed. Though we have had issues being up in a tree stand and fumbling with a detachable magazine with numb fingers, the traditional Howa floorplate can’t be dropped, but it dumps out rounds that can slip through fingers and get lost in snow, tall grass, etc. We like being able to push down on the cartridges in the magazine to partially close the bolt on an empty chamber. Problem solved.

At the bench or in the field, the ability to single-load a round is a time-saver. All three rifles allow this procedure, which is a characteristic of push-feed bolt actions. We found the large bolt knob on the Howa was easy to manipulate, and because all three rifles had a 90-degree bolt throw, the bolt handle is nearly flush with the eye piece of the scope. A larger knob means easier cranking. On this function, we liked the Howa, followed by the Savage, and then the Mossberg.

Remember not to lean your head close to the eyepiece of the scope with the 7mm, or else you will get clocked by the eyepiece during recoil. Use the eye relief the scope allows and keep your cheek weld farther back on the stock comb. The riser inserts of the Savage made shooting the 7mm more enjoyable, with the Howa’s stock coming in second. The Mossberg transferred recoil to the face, but that is normal with a traditional wood stock.

Written and photographed by Robert Sadowski, using evaluations from Gun Tests team testers.

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