.270 Bolt Action Rifle Comparison: Savage 116FCSS, Weatherby Vanguard Kryptek and Browning AB3
Over the last forty or fifty rifle reviews, three brands have emerged as generally the most accurate bolt-action rifles: Savage, Weatherby and Browning. (See Who Makes the Most Accurate Bolt Action Rifle?.) This is only a generalization, of course, for there are many accurate rifles and there are always exceptions when it comes to one specific rifle, one specific chambering and one specific type of ammunition.
The rifles compared here are the Browning AB3, Weatherby Vanguard and Savage Weather Warrior Model 116FCSS, all in .270 Winchester. The Browning AB3 and the Weatherby are carbon steel, while the tested Savage is stainless steel. The Browning and the Savage have detachable box magazines, while the Weatherby has the internal box magazine with the familiar hinged floor-plate. The tested Weatherby is the new WBY-X Vanguard Kryptek model, which Weatherby calls "Distinctive Kryptek Highlander Reduced camo with a full 24 inch barrel."
I will compare these rifles in the categories of Trigger Pull, Action, Accuracy, Stock Design, Recoil Pad and Aesthetics. At the end of the comparison, I will pick my favorite in the Conclusion.
All three rifles have clean triggers, but a slight edge goes to the Savage Accu-Trigger that breaks at 2 lbs., 15 oz. It is user adjustable from there, something that was not needed for this comparison.
The Weatherby trigger was light and crisp as well, breaking at 3 lbs. on the nose. It is also adjustable.
The Browning AB3 has a plastic trigger that was noticeably heavier than the Savage or the Weatherby. It released at 4-1/4 to 4-1/2 pounds per my Lyman electronic gauge.
The Weatherby action was the smoothest, with the Savage a close second. The Browning AB3 bolt was a bit rough by comparison, with a bit of stick-slip. The Weatherby has the smoothest feeding and the most positive ejection.
Unlike the others, the Vanguard uses a forged, flat bottomed receiver with an integral recoil lug and the complete Weatherby bolt, including handle and knob, is machined in one-piece, not assembled. The other two are built on receivers drilled from bar stock, lack integral recoil lugs and use assembled bolts, which are all production economies eschewed by Weatherby.
All three of these inexpensive .270 rifles are sub-MOA with the ammunition they prefer. The best group I personally shot was with the Browning, 1/10 inch with 140 grain Winchester Accu-Bond ammo. The Savage factory test target was .6 inch center-to-center with 130 grain Federal-loaded Nosler Ballistic Tips. Weatherby guarantees the Vanguard will shoot sub-MOA groups with premium ammunition. If I had to pick the rifle that was the most accurate with the most brands of ammo, it would be the Savage, although by a trivial amount that makes no difference when hunting deer-sized game.
The Savage has sharp molded in checkering that grips better than either the Weatherby or the Browning. Both the Browning and the Weatherby stocks have palm swells and the Weatherby has a Monte Carlo cheekpiece.
All three rifles are quite pleasant to shoot. However, the Savage P.A.D. recoil pad was the clear winner in soaking up recoil. The Browning ranked second with its excellent In-Flex pad, while the Weatherby came in last with its generic recoil pad.
None of the three rifles are things of astonishing beauty, yet they still are better-finished than many. Naturally, this is all personal preference, but the Browning has a plastic trigger that is off-putting and its detachable box magazine protrudes from the bottom of the receiver. While the Savage has a jeweled bolt, it does not compliment the black plastic stock or the simple, smooth stainless steel look of the barreled action. None of these rifles are breathtaking beauties, yet I would have to give a slight edge to the Weatherby Vanguard.
None of these rifles are particularly expensive, with the Browning having a 2015 MSRP of $599. Catalog prices do not mean much, for the Browning sells for around $475 discount retail price as this article is written.
The Savage Model 116 Weather Warrior goes for about $700, as the stainless steel and Accu-Stock brings a premium. I am reticent to spend much time on price, for you can buy a carbon steel Savage 111 Trophy Hunter XP with a low end Nikon Scope right now for $499.
You can get the WBY-X Vanguard Kryptek for about $550 and the basic Weatherby Vanguards with black plastic stocks start at about $399. With even nominal care, it is hard to actually wear-out any of these hunting rifles, so getting what you prefer is the most important thing.
While I would hunt with any of these three rifles, I do have a preference. The winner, in my book, is the Weatherby Vanguard Kryptek. It fits me best, has the highest quality and smoothest feeding action, and its extra two inches of barrel length vs. the Savage or the Browning should yield approximately an extra 75 fps. It shoulders the best and, between the palm swell and the Monte Carlo cheekpiece, it feels the best and is the most fun to shoot. It is the best looking rifle. I also like the three-position safety mounted on the right side of the receiver, as opposed to the tang.
None of these rifles is a mistake, by any means. However, the Weatherby comes out on top of this trio.
Copyright 2015, 2016 by Randy Wakeman. All rights reserved.