Savage Model 11 6.5mm Creedmoor Lightweight Hunter Bolt-Action Rifle

 

by Jeff Quinn

photography by Jeff Quinn & Boge Quinn

August 7th, 2011

 

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Savage Model 11 Lightweight Hunter in 6.5 Creedmoor.

 

 

Hornady Match ammunition.

 

 

Fluted bolt.

 

 

Relief cuts in receiver and forend to reduce weight.

 

 

Three-position safety.

 

 

Free-floated barrel.

 

 

Four-shot detachable box magazine.

 

 

Bolt stop release.

 

 

Sling studs.

 

 

 

 

The 6.5mm Creedmoor cartridge was developed several years ago for the purpose of punching holes in paper at long range. In that role, it has succeeded greatly. Those beautiful, long 264 caliber bullets have a very high ballistic coefficient, allowing the bullets to fly along with very little wind resistance, and to hold their velocity out to extended ranges. For many years, long range competition has been dominated by 30 caliber rifles, chambered for the 308 Winchester and 300 Magnum class of cartridges. For target shooting, the 30 calibers are hard to beat, but the 264 is better. Much better, and the 6.5 Creedmoor cartridge case is a very efficient means of launching those slick little bullets.

For example, in the Creedmoor, the beautifully streamlined Hornady 140 grain A-Max bullet can be pushed to over 2700 feet-per-second (fps). It takes a lot of powder to push a 30 caliber bullet of matching ballistic coefficient to those same speeds. The 140 A-Max has a ballistic coefficient of .585. A 140 grain 30 caliber bullet is closer to .277 BC. Even the long 190 grain A-Max cannot match the BC of the 140 grain 264 caliber, coming in at .485. It takes a 300 Magnum class cartridge to push that 190 grain bullet as fast as the Creedmoor pushes the 140, burning twice as much powder and producing a lot more muzzle blast and recoil. Even the 129 grain 264 caliber bullet shoots flatter than the 190 grain 30 caliber, and the 6.5 Creedmoor cartridge is a very efficient means of launching that bullet. The ballistic coefficient of the Hornady 123 grain 264 bullet matches the flight path of the 190 grain 30 caliber when pushed to the same speeds, and the 6.5 Creedmoor pushes that bullet to that speed with less recoil, blast, and powder.

As a hunting cartridge, the 6.5mm Creedmoor is pretty much a ballistic twin to the 260 Remington. The Creedmoor has a slightly shorter case body, but works better in a short action rifle when those long bullets are used, as seating the 140 grain class bullets into the 260 case encroaches upon the powder capacity, when seating to fit a short-action magazine. Still, there really isnít much difference between the two cartridges, and any animal hit with either could not tell the difference. With the ballistics of the 6.5 Creedmoor being solidly established, that brings us to the topic of this piece, the Savage Model 11 Lightweight Hunter bolt-action rifle.

Savage has a well-earned reputation for accuracy, and the 6.5 Creedmoor has a stellar reputation for accuracy and high velocity out to extended ranges. However, I was curious as to the wisdom of marrying a long range target cartridge to such a light, handy hunting rifle. My first question to answer for myself was just how much velocity would be lost by firing the cartridge from a twenty inch barrel, as opposed to the twenty-six and twenty-eight inch barrels used on most dedicated 6.5 Creedmoor target bolt guns. My thinking was that if the short barrel did not sacrifice too much velocity, and accuracy was as good as I expected, that this combination would indeed make for a dandy hunting rifle for medium-sized game, in the whitetail deer and pronghorn antelope class. Before getting into the chronograph and accuracy results, a closer look at the rifle is in order.

The Savage Model 11 Lightweight Hunter is built upon the short-action version of Savageís time-tested 110/10 series. Depending upon the trim and length, these rifles are titled Models 10, 11, 12, 14 or 16 for the short action, and 110, 111, 112, 114, and 116 for the long action. Savage catalogs almost 70 different versions of this bolt action, plus their economical Axis line, which uses the same basic action, all chambered for a wide array of cartridges. In addition, some of their more popular models are sold packaged with a scope, mounted and bore-sighted at the factory. Savage also offers more variations and chamberings for left-handed shooters than does any other bolt action rifle maker. Some of the Savage bolt guns are built for hunting, some as dedicated target rifles, and others for law enforcement and other social work.

The Savage bolt action is a ninety-degree turn bolt with two forward locking lugs. The barrel is threaded into the receiver, and is locked into place with a collar nut. The latest versions of the Savage action, including this Model 11, have a smooth locking collar nut that is more aesthetically pleasing than the original grooved collar nut. Savage free-floats their barrels for consistent accuracy, and the receivers are pillar-bedded into the stocks with two threaded bolts. Most of the bolt guns in the savage line, including this Model 11, have the excellent Savage AccuTrigger that was introduced several years ago. Prior to the AccuTrigger, most rifle makers in the US shipped their rifles with trigger pulls that were much too heavy for good practical accuracy. Since the introduction of the AccuTrigger, every other rifle maker in the US has greatly improved the triggers on their rifles as well. The AccuTrigger is user-adjustable from a low of around two and one-half pounds up to around six pounds. I adjusted the trigger on this Model 11 down to two pounds, fourteen ounces, which is about right for a hunting rifle. The Model 11 Lightweight Hunter has a detachable box magazine, which I prefer for hunting. It has a capacity of four cartridges, giving a total loaded capacity of five. The safety on the Savage is one of my favorites. It is a three-position safety, placed in the center of the tang, where God intended it to be. In its rearmost position, the safety locks the bolt handle and blocks the trigger. In its mid position, the safety allows the bolt to be cycled, but still blocks the trigger. Fully forward allows the trigger to be pressed to fire the weapon.

The Model 11 Lightweight Hunter has been pared down where possible, resulting in a light, handy, and accurate little rifle. Savage lists the weight as five and one-half pounds, but that weight will vary, depending upon the caliber and the variations in wood density. The rifle shown here weighed in three ounces heavier, at five pounds, eleven ounces empty, but with the magazine in place. Savage shaved an ounce here and an ounce there by relieving the sides of the action and by fluting the bolt in a spiral pattern. Even if it had not reduced weight, I really like the spiral-fluted bolt. It just look cool. The Model 11 is drilled for scope bases, and it has sling studs in the stock, as should any hunting rifle. It wears no barrel sights or other mechanical sights. The walnut stock has cut checkering where needed for a secure grip, and the bottom of the forend has relief cuts to reduce weight. The barrel is slender, tapering from 1.03 inches at the locking collar to just .559 inch at the muzzle. The lightweight barrel heats quickly, but also cools quickly, aided by the free-float design and the vents in the bottom of the forend. The trigger guard and magazine well are formed in a one-piece design, and are made of reinforced polymer to further reduce weight. The magazine box is blued steel, and the magazine floorplate is polymer. The exposed steel and polymer parts all wear a matte black finish, and they match very well. The buttstock is of thick, soft synthetic rubber, and the length of pull measures thirteen and one-half inches. The pistol grip wears a handsome grip cap with the Savage Indian Chief logo. The overall length measures just forty inches from butt to muzzle.

Choosing a scope for the Model 11 Lightweight Hunter, I had to make a choice. Keeping with the lightweight theme, I would have normally chosen a trim little 2 to 7 power with a 28 or 32mm objective lens. However, being as this rifle is chambered for such a fine long range cartridge, I wanted more power, without adding too much weight or bulk. The Leupold 3.5 to 10 power VXL is just what I needed. I mounted it atop the Savage using Leupold Rifleman lightweight vertically-split rings. This VXL scope has a 50mm objective which gathers a lot of light for hunting at dusk and dawn, but with its notched objective bell design, it still sits low atop the rifle, allowing the shooter to keep his cheek firmly pressed onto the comb of the stock, where it belongs. The Leupold VXL has high-tech multiple lens coatings for excellent light transmission, tracks smoothly and precisely, and is fogproof and waterproof. The matte black finish matches the rifle well, and it only adds about one pound to the overall weight of the package. Like all Leupold Golden Ring scopes, it is backed by Leupoldís forever warranty, and is made is the USA.

Back to shooting, I set up my chronograph at twelve feet from the muzzle, and proceeded to clock the speed, using the same lots of Hornady factory ammunition that I used a couple of years ago when testing a Ruger 6.5 Creedmoor with a twenty-eight inch barrel. I was using the excellent Hornady Match ammunition that is loaded with the 120 grain and 140 grain A-Max bullets. These are beautiful bullets, very streamlined with high ballistic coefficients, and have always proven to be very accurate in my experience. Comparing the velocities of the twenty-eight and twenty inch barrels, I expected to lose more speed than we did. Chronograph readings were taken at an elevation of 541 feet above sea level, with an air temperature of 101 degrees Fahrenheit, with high humidity and a slight breeze. The weapon, ammunition, chronograph, and thankfully, the shooter were all in the shade of the shooting shack. The 120 grain A-Max ammunition clocked 2776 feet-per-second from the Savageís short barrel, and the 140 grain A-Max ammo registered an average of 2624 feet per second (fps). This is a loss of only 117 fps for the 120 grain bullet and only 95 fps loss for the 140 grain load, compared to the previously-tested heavy twenty-eight inch barrel. That is not a bad loss at all for eight inches of barrel, and is just barely over 13 fps per inch. The 6.5 Creedmoor cartridge is very efficient, and losing an average of only 106 fps in the eight-inch shorter barrel is a good tradeoff for the light weight and portability of the Model 11 Lightweight Hunter. This average minimal amount of velocity loss carried over in the handloads tested as well, and using Hornady 120 and 140 grain bullets, as well as Barnes 100 grain TSX, Remington 120 grain Core-Lokt, and Nosler 100 grain Ballistic Tip bullets, Hodgdon Hybrid 100V, Varget, and H4350 powders proved to be the best.

Accuracy was excellent. The little Savage turned in a stellar performance, grouping its favorite handloads and both Hornady factory loads into less than one inch at 100 yards. The Hornady 140 A-Max shot between one-half and three-quarters of an inch at 100 yards, and the 120 grain A-max did almost as well. This was using a solid rest and the Leupold scope set at ten power. I usually test accuracy using a dedicated 8.5 to 25 power Leupold Mark 4 target/tactical scope, but tested this Savage with the VXL hunting scope mounted. I was very well-pleased with the accuracy, and the groups did not drift as the barrel heated, due to the free-float design.

The trim little Model 11 Lightweight Hunter proved to be light, handy, accurate, good-looking, and soft-recoiling. Even after a long shooting session, no shoulder pain was noticed. This would make for a superb whitetail rifle that is easy to carry all day, and capable of making a long range shot across a bean field if necessary. The 6.5 Creedmoor cartridge is an excellent choice. The little Savage is available chambered for a variety of cartridges, but this one will be hard to beat. Like all Savage centerfire rifles, the Model 11 Lightweight Hunter is made in the USA.

Check out the vast array of Savage rifles and shotguns online at www.savagearms.com.

For the location of a Savage dealer near you, click on the DEALER LOCATOR at www.lipseys.com.

To order the Lightweight Hunter online, go to www.galleryofguns.com.

For a look at the extensive line of quality Leupold optics, go to www.leupold.com.

Jeff Quinn

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Click pictures for a larger version.

 

Leupold VXL scope.

 

 

 

 

Savage's wonderful AccuTrigger is easily user-adjustable for pull weight.