Rifle-7.62 mm

6.5mm Bolt-Action Rifles: Savage and Mauser Compete

June 2019 - Gun Tests Magazine - Subscribers Only

Recently, at one of his favorite shops, a Gun Tests rater saw that one of his friends, a 70-year-old shooter still going strong, was looking for a “long-range” rifle. Long-range rifle shooting seems to be quite popular. We don’t necessarily mean Camp Perry–type shooting, but ordinary shooters wishing to fire their rifles at distant targets and hit the target more often than not. With a wide range of 6.5 Creedmoor ammunition and the introduction of nine new rifles from a single maker in this caliber, we feel that the 6.5 Creedmoor is likely to remain popular for many years. The cartridge is touted as highly accurate, with low recoil, and enough velocity to consistently kill deer-sized game cleanly with a well-placed shot. The 6.5 Creedmoor also offers long-range efficiency with less component expense for handloads, not to mention lower recoil than the 308 Winchester or 7mm Remington Magnum.

Because of the friend’s interest, we elected to test two new rifles in 6.5 Creedmoor and a third in another midrange offering, the 6.5 Precision Rifle Cartridge, introduced by Hornady. The two “Creeds” were both Savages. The first was the Axis II XP Stainless Bolt-Action Rifle with Scope 57289 in 6.5 Creedmoor. The Savage Axis II is the newest development of the Savage Axis line, a package gun. Package guns are simply affordable rifles supplied with scope rings and bases and a rifle scope. The buyer saves considerable amounts of money by purchasing the package versus purchasing each component separately. The rifle will have been mechanically bore-sighted by the manufacturer. In general, these rifles offer good value and save both time and money compared to obtaining and putting together your own package.

The second was a Savage 110 Apex Storm XP 57344 in 6.5 Creedmoor, substantially more expensive than the Axis. The Savage 110 differs considerably from the Savage Axis rifle. The receiver of the Axis is closed and easier to machine, while the Savage 110 is more traditional. A locking lug in the stock attaches to the Axis receiver, while the Savage 110 locking lug is sandwiched between the barrel and the action. The 110 action has more leverage and primary extraction seems better, although the practical difference may be difficult to prove.

Though the 6.5 Creedmoor is increasingly popular, the 6.5 PRC may become a viable cartridge for many users. The 6.5 PRC seems unlikely to be chambered in anything but bolt-action rifles, and we felt this a good opportunity to test a rifle we have not yet put through the grueling Gun Tests procedure, the Mauser M18. This rifle came chambered in 6.5 PRC, allowing us to gauge the difference in accuracy, power, and recoil between this cartridge and the 6.5 Creedmoor. The rifle was fired with the Hornady 6.5 PRC Match load, one of only two available, both manufactured by Hornady. Each box of 20 6.5 PRC rounds cost $31 from SportmansWarehouse.com.

There are also those who flatly state the 6.5 Creedmoor will do nothing the ancient 6.5x55mm round will not do, so we added a rifle chambered in the latter cartridge to give us some historical perspective. There are a few current rifles chambered for this cartridge, but we found an original Mauser rifle, manufactured in 1895, chambered for the 6.5x55mm Swedish, also known as the 6.5x55mm Swedish Mauser, and sometimes called the 6.5x55mm Mauser. The round first appeared in 1891, according to Cartridges of The World’s 16th Edition. We are not collectors per se, but we like testing viable hunting rifles to see if the new stuff gives any better performance than the oldies. A collector may turn up his nose at the humble sporterized Mauser, but we found it to be a great light rifle for woods hunting.

Bolt-Action Hunting Rifles for Compact and Youth Shooters

March 2018 - Gun Tests Magazine

Not every shooter averages 6 feet in height. Some people are physically closer to tank drivers than football defensive ends. With children and the increasing number of women participating in the shooting sports and in the hunting fields, there is growing need for rifles for more compact shooters. Therefore, we tested three compact centerfire hunting rifles in three short-action chamberings: the Browning A-Bolt Micro Hunter in 7mm-08 Remington, the CZ 527 Carbine in 7.62x39mm, and the Savage Axis II Compact in 243 Winchester.

As usual, we shot each rifle with three different kinds of ammunition. After sight in and chronograph testing with the Magnetospeed V3 chronograph, we shot five 5-round groups with each kind of ammunition from the bench using a Caldwell FireControl rest. Our shooting panel was a little differently configured than usual. Along with some of the usual testers, we had a youth group ranging from 8 to 17 years of age participating. You can imagine our fun with this enthusiastic group of testers! We also included some experienced women shooters. These two groups provided useful and sometimes surprising input. As two very different types of shooters tested this rifle, we will provide two sets of recommendations to reflect the different needs and experience of each type of shooter. Let’s see if one of these rifles belongs in your gun safe.

All-Round 308 Winchester Rifle Shoot-Out: Not Our Faves

October 2017 - Gun Tests Magazine - Subscribers Only

Looking for a go-anywhere do-anything 308 Winchester-chambered rifle? If so, in this article we test Remington SPS bolt guns in two variants, a Tactical version with a carbine-length barrel at 16.5 inches and the 26-inch barrel SPS Varmint, to get a good look at opposite ends of the length spectrum. Then we added two rifles with more traditional barrel lengths, the 22-inch-barrel Savage Axis and a semi-auto, the Browning Automatic Rifle Stalker, also with a 22-inch tube.

The truth is, these rifles will fire most of their cartridges on a range. This means we’d like them to be comfortable to shoot and deliver satisfying accuracy. Hunting is a consideration, of course, so the rifle should be useful for thin-skinned game to 200 yards or more. The adage of “200-pound game at 200 yards” will apply here. In a dangerous world in which it may be the only self-defense option for some homes, the rifle should also have some utility as an emergency rifle or for area defense. It should handle quickly enough for boar hunting, or varmints and pests, such as coyotes if need be. Area defense simply means that those of us with a larger homestead or a potential campsite do not wish to be helpless if we encounter adversaries. And we’d prefer our choice not cost as much as a Scout.

Obviously, then, we want a dependable, easy-to-shoot, easy-to-carry rifle that’s well made. Doesn’t sound that hard because we are not expecting to be able to light a match with each round, but we do want to hit the K zone at 200 yards. Some shooters have claimed that shorter, stiffer barrels like that on the Tactical shoot as well as a longer barrel, like that on the Varmint. We are going to see how velocity varies as well, and to compare the chronograph stats bolt guns develop in terms of velocity to that of a semi-auto. We do not want a 4-foot-long 12-pound rifle, but we wondered if we would have to compromise on weight (that is, go heavier) if we do not get the accuracy we want. We are not holding out for accuracy for 50 continuous shots and do not need a heavy target barrel, but, instead, we’re looking for a rifle capable of delivering good accuracy for a dozen shots or so. Durability and quality are important. The rifle should last for the shooter’s entire life. Also, to save money, we looked for used rifles in Like New or better shape, a standard which all four members of the quartet met.

We elected to fire the rifles in four drills. We would fire quickly at human-silhouette targets at 25 yards, for the SHTF situation. It is also a drill that has some merit in learning to snap-shoot predators and coyote. At 50 yards, we used the Innovative Targets (Innovative Targets.net) steel gong. While we fired for precision, we also wished to test speed to an extent in this drill and fired a combination of standing and kneeling. We would expend 20 rounds in each pursuit, at 25 and 50 yards, for 40 rounds. We also fired 10 rounds at 100 yards offhand. Finally, we fired three three-shot groups for accuracy at 100 yards with three different loads, alternating between rifles to let the barrels cool, firing from a solid rest and attempting to obtain the best accuracy possible. During the offhand firing stages, we used Fiocchi 150-grain FMJs for the 25- and 50-yard work. For firing offhand at 100 yards, we used a handload consisting of the Hornady 155-grain SST and Varget powder for 2750 fps. For benchrest accuracy testing, we used three loads. The Hornady 168-grain ELD Match, Federal 165-grain Trophy Bonded, and Gorilla Ammunition’s 175-grain Sierra MatchKing load. Here’s how they performed.

All the cartridges tested gave good-enough results as far as baseline expectations, we thought. That is, we had no failures to feed, fire, or eject in the test. And all three produced a level of accuracy we want to see—1 minute of angle, or 1-inch groups at 100 yards—in at least one rifle. For example, the Gorilla Ammunition 175-grain rounds gave the best results in the Remington SPS Varmint at an eye-popping 0.9-inch average group size, then the SPS Tactical at 1.2 inches, the BAR Stalker semi-auto at 1.6 inches, and the Savage at 1.9 inches on average, far behind the leader. We saw the same pattern with the Hornady ELD Match 168-grain Polymer Tip load, with the Varmint again shooting under MOA with a 0.9-inch average group, the Tactical at 1.4 inches, the MK3 BAR at 1.5 inches, and the Axis coming in at 2.3 inches. Likewise, the SPS Varmint lead the parade with the Federal Trophy Bonded 165-grain Polymer Tip load, shooting 1.0-inch average groups. The BAR jumped into second place with this load, shooting slightly better at 1.7 inches than the Tactical’s 1.9-inch average. The Axis was fourth again with an average group size of 2.2 inches.