In an era where the current trends for rifles include heavy barrels and a CNC machined aluminum chassis for long-range shooting, it’s hard to imagine a company giving much thought to a compact, lightweight hunting rifle – but that’s exactly what Savage has done with the Lightweight Hunter models. The Model 11/111 Lightweight Hunter model was first introduced in 2011 in chrome-moly steel with a matte blued finish and lightened American Black Walnut stock. Last year (2016) Savage expanded their line of Lightweight Hunter’s to include a Model 16/116 all-weather version in stainless steel with a synthetic stock which is what we will be focusing on in this article.
The basis for any of the Lightweight Hunter models is a standard Savage 110-series long or short action that has had additional material machined off in select areas to shave unnecessary weight. Unlike a standard 110-series action that is round, the Lightweight Hunter action has flat’s machined at roughly the two and ten o’clock positions. More weight has been shed by milling recessed pockets into the rear bridge of the action as well as along the off-hand side of the action opposite the loading/ejection port. Last but not least, the bolt body has been treated to deep spiral fluting to remove even more weight.
The action isn’t the only area where Savage found ways to cut weight though. The barrel on the Lightweight Hunter rifles is a shorter 20-inch length than the typical 22-inch length of Savage’s non-magnum sporter barrels, though the muzzle diameter remains the same (0.550”). By keeping the muzzle diameter the same it results in a faster taper which shaves off more material resulting in a lighter contour if compared side-by-side with a standard 22” barrel. The difference is small, but over the length of 19-inches it adds up to a couple of ounces.
Another place Savage chose to shave off a few more ounces was with the stock. Rather than fitting the Model 16/116 Lightweight Hunter with an AccuStock, Savage chose instead to use their standard synthetic stock which doesn’t have the molded-in aluminum reinforcement inside to stiffen it up. This saves weight, but as we all know the “tupperware” stocks are quite flimsy and leave a lot to be desired in regards to rigidity. It’s an area of compromise where with this specific model weight savings was deemed to be more important than the stiffness of the stock.
Last but not least, Savage was able to save a precious few additional ounces by using plastic accompaniments rather than metal ones. While the weight difference is minimal, a plastic trigger guard does weigh slightly less than a metal one. Savage also chose to utilize the Axis-style detachable magazine with the plastic bottom plate and integral retention clip rather than the premium detachable magazine system with metal magazine bottom plate and separate bottom metal on the stock which saves several more ounces.
So what does it all add up to? How much weight has been saved? The closest comparison we can make would be to compare the weights of the Model 16 FCSS and the Model 16 LWH. The 16 FCSS in .223 Rem. has a listed weight of 6.9-lbs while the 16 LWH in .223 Rem. has a listed weight of 5.65-lbs. That’s a difference of 1.25 pounds or 20 ounces. That may not sound like much, but it’s a nearly a 20% reduction in weight and is enough savings to offset the weight you will add with your optic and mounts. You would be hard pressed to get a complete package that weighs less than six pounds, but if you stick with a lightweight scope and mounts staying under 7-pounds is well within reach
DNZ Products Game Reaper Mount 4-oz
Leupold VX-2 Ultralight 3-9x33mm 1-oz
Total: 106-oz or 6.6-lbs
Out of the box the Model 16 Lightweight Hunter has an overall length of 40.25 inches and as previously noted weighs in at 5.65 pounds. Barrel length is 20 inches while the length-of-pull comes in at 13.75 inches. The butt stock features a half-inch of drop at the comb, ¾-inches of drop at the heel and 6-inches drop at the toe. Magazine capacity for this model in .223 Remington is listed as 4+1, but I’ve had no problem getting five rounds into the magazine. Other cartridges currently offered in the Model 16/116 Lightweight Hunter include .243 Winchester, .270 Winchester, .308 Winchester, 6.5 Creedmoor and 7mm-08 Remington.
The Lightweight Hunter’s action comes equipped with the standard hunting AccuTrigger which can be adjusted from 6-pounds down to around 3.5 pounds. This particular example arrived with the trigger set at 4.8 pounds from the factory. The lightest pull weight I could achieve after adjustment was 3.9 pounds, and it was a fairly stiff feeling 3.9 pounds at that. I suspect there may be a bur on the sear or trigger, but given this rifle is a loaner I’m not going to tear into it to investigate further.
The spiral fluted bolt body has a very nice look to it and eliminates an ounce or two of weight, but it also causes some noticeable drag on the bolt as you slide it fore and aft. The drag isn’t as bad as I’ve experience with some other spiral fluted designs, but it’s definitely noticeable as it makes working the bolt fore and aft feel gritty.
For field testing I mounted a Bushnell Trophy Extreme 4-16x44mm scope to the rifle using a DNZ Products GameReaper mount. Not my preferred style or size of scope for a rifle such as this, but it’s what I had on hand. A full review of this scope is forthcoming, so stay tuned!
Ammunition used for accuracy testing consisted of two different handloads – one topped with a 50gr Nosler BT moving along at 3,275fps, the other using a 53gr Sierra Match King with a muzzle velocity of 3,260fps. It should be noted that these are both loads I have worked up for different rifles and neither were tuned in any way for this rifle. Federal XM855 62gr Green Tip ammunition was used for sight-in.