Compared: Browning A-Bolt Medallion and
By the Guns and Shooting Online Staff
This comparison is an offshoot of our recent review of the new Savage Model 14 Classic Hi Luster rifle. As part of that review, we briefly compared it to a Browning A-Bolt Medallion, an established leader at the price point. These two rifles are within less than $100 of each other in MSRP, available in most of the same calibers and extremely accurate. They are both very handsome rifles with traditional walnut stocks and high polish blue metal finishes.
Browning has been a major player in the premium rifle market for a long time, while the Savage Classic Hi Luster is a new offering at this level of price and sophistication. The Savage rifle is thus the "new kid on the block," challenging the established master. Since we had pristine examples of both rifles in caliber .243 Winchester on hand, a deeper side-by-side comparison seemed in order.
The point of this comparison is not to tell a prospective purchaser which rifle to buy. That is strictly the buyer's decision. Rather, we are attempting to compare and contrast these two fine rifles to provide information that may be helpful. To do that we will look at the barreled actions, stocks, overall fit and finish and accuracy. We will conclude with a brief summary and some comments.
Let's start out with the basic specifications of each rifle. First (in alphabetical order), the Browning A-Bolt Medallion:
Here are the basic specifications for the Savage Model 14 Classic Hi Luster:
These basic specifications certainly do not tell the whole story, but they do highlight some interesting similarities and differences. While both are short bolt actions with the same length barrel, the Browning is about a pound lighter than the Savage. Note also that the Browning has 1/8" longer length of pull but is 1/4" shorter overall. This indicates that the Browning A-Bolt II action is a little shorter than the Savage Model 14 action. The Browning would thus be a little easier to carry on long treks in the field and it would make a better mountain rifle. Having used A-Bolt Medallion rifles quite a bit in the field we can attest that they are among the least burdensome premium rifles. On the other hand, there is no free lunch in physics and the Savage Classic kicks proportionally less than the A-Bolt.
The barreled actions
While both the Savage 110 (basis of the Model 14) and Browning A-Bolt II are well known and popular actions, there are some significant differences as well as similarities. To start with the latter, both actions are push feed types that cock on opening. They have separate recoil lugs trapped between the receiver and barrel. They use multi-piece bolts. These bolts have plunger ejectors located in recessed bolt faces and extractors attached to the bolt head. Their barrels are free floated for their entire length. They both boast tang mounted sliding safeties and hinged magazine floor plates. The overall metal finish is a polished, high luster blue with the bolt bodies left in the white.
The rather distinctive Browning A-Bolt receiver is machined with flat, sloping sides and a flat top. The sloping sides of this receiver are decorated with rolled-on engraving. It is glass bedded around the recoil lug to insure a precise fit in the stock.
The Savage receiver is made from steel bar stock. This round receiver is dual pillar bedded in its stock.
One important difference is the method used for attaching the barrel to the receiver. The Browning's barrel is screwed into the receiver and torqued in place in the conventional manner. The Savage's barrel also screws into its receiver, but it is secured in place by a threaded collar at the front of the receiver, tightened with a spanner wrench, that essentially serves as a lock nut. This allows easy and very precise headspace adjustment that we have always felt contributed to Savage's reputation for exceptional accuracy. We regard this method of barrel attachment as the functional "state of the art," even though Savage pioneered it decades ago. One improvement that Savage has made to the latest Classic Hi Luster is to smooth and contour the barrel collar. It is now very unobtrusive.
The Savage Model 14's bolt is basically of the Mauser pattern with two opposed front locking lugs. It is a strong action that is completely conventional in operation. Approximately 90 degrees of bolt rotation is required to open or close the action.
The Browning A-Bolt uses a full length, non-rotating bolt sleeve and a rotating bolt head with three locking lugs spaced at 120 degrees. This allows a shorter 60 degree bolt rotation. It is theoretically a little faster to operate and this design allows greater clearance between the bolt handle and a low mounted scope. The bolt sleeve closely fits the inside of the receiver and reduces bolt wobble when the action is open. The A-Bolt II is inherently one of the smoothest and fastest bolt actions around. Enhancing that impression of smoothness is a patented cartridge depressor that stays in place independent of bolt rotation. It allows the bolt to slide gently over the cartridges in the magazine. There is a cocking indicator at the rear of the Browning bolt. We appreciated the refinement of the Browning A-Bolt action.
The Browning has a smooth, round, flattened and twisted bolt knob that is, ergonomically, the best design that we have encountered. The Savage's slightly pear shaped bolt knob is checkered on its top surface and smooth on the underside to avoid abrading the hand. It is a comfortable bolt knob, but not quite as comfortable as the Browning A-bolt, at least in our hands.
Savage is engine turning the bolt bodies of the Classic Hi Luster rifles as well as laser engraving the Savage Arms logo on the bolt, a nice touch. This illustrates the attention paid to aesthetic detail on these new Savage rifles.
The A-Bolt's free floating barrel is hand chambered and wears a recessed target crown. The Browning BOSS adjustable muzzle brake is available on the Medallion as an option. The Classic's free floating barrel comes with a smooth and precisely cut sporter crown that we believe provides better protection in the field. Both barrels are carefully manufactured, subjected to intensive quality control and exceptionally accurate. Savage Classic rifles come with a signed test target showing a 100 yard, 3-shot group fired by that rifle. In the case of our Model 14, the factory group measured 0.7".
The Classic Hi Luster uses an internal box magazine with a hinged floor plate. Cartridges are loaded from the top with the bolt open. The feed lips of this magazine are designed so that the cartridges feed from a single location at the center of the magazine, rather than alternating from left and right as with most staggered column magazines, including the Browning. This is a commendably precise way to feed cartridges into the chamber. The Classic is also easy to single load, which can be especially convenient at a rifle range
Savage's hinged floor plate is latched at the front. This unusual design is secure and exceptionally easy to open. Closing the floor plate is also, literally, a snap. There is no need to align the magazine follower with the internal magazine box before closing, as with most rifles. Just push the floor plate closed and the follower will snap into the correct position without any fiddling.
The A-Bolt uses a detachable box magazine that is attached to a hinged floor plate by a clip. Like its receiver, the floor plate is decorated with rolled-on scroll engraving. Use the release button located in the front of the trigger guard directly behind the magazine to open the floor plate. With the floor plate open you can load the attached magazine in place or remove it for loading. This innovative system allows a spare, loaded magazine to be carried in a pocket or pack. At the end of the day, however, you have to either work the remaining cartridges through the action or thumb them from the detachable magazine box. The Browning's floor plate / magazine works satisfactorily, but overall we preferred the simple and precise Savage system.
Both actions use a tang mounted safety slider. The Browning safety is a two position type that locks the bolt closed when "on," while the Savage safety has three positions. Both work fine and are easy to operate, although the A-Bolt's safety is set farther behind the action and is therefore a bit more accessible. The Savage safety is quieter, nearly silent, in operation. Both are excellent safeties, among the best found on modern hunting rifles. We found that we had no preference between them.
The Medallion's trigger is set at for approximately a 4 pound release at the factory and it is user adjustable. It is gold plated, which gives it a rich appearance. The Classic Hi Luster comes with Savage's AccuTrigger, set at about 2-3/4 pounds at the factory. It is also user adjustable and Savage provides an AccuTrigger adjustment tool with every rifle. The Browning trigger is a good one, much better than average in these tort lawyer cursed days, but the AccuTrigger is the best factory trigger on the planet.
Black walnut is the material chosen for both the Browning A-Bolt Medallion and Savage Classic Hi Luster stocks. This is a very practical stock wood of approximately the correct weight, density, stiffness and hardness for gun stocks. It is functionally superior to all but the most sophisticated and expensive synthetic stock materials and far more attractive. Quick detachable sling swivel studs are provided with both stocks. While the A-Bolt and Classic Hi Luster stocks are made from black walnut of similar grade, they are quite different in design, appearance and finish.
The Medallion stock has a straight, fluted comb line and lacks a cheek piece. Its forend is graced by a contrasting rosewood forend tip attached at a "Weatherby-esque" angle. The forend tip terminates in a rounded curve. The pistol grip has a rosewood cap, also reminiscent of a Weatherby Mark V. The use of rosewood, rather than the more typical black plastic, for the forend tip and pistol grip cap gives the Medallion stock a touch of class. Functionally, the Browning pistol grip has a tight curve with a slight hook at the end. It is somewhat teardrop shaped in cross-section. The butt stock terminates in a black rubber recoil pad, a definite plus.
The Savage stock is longer and slimmer through the pistol grip, action and forend. It features a fluted, Monte Carlo comb with cheek piece. The forend terminates in a traditional black (hard plastic) forend tip attached at a 90 degree angle) and the butt terminates is a thin, black, solid rubber pad. The Classic pistol grip is slightly pear shaped in cross-section and terminates in a sculptured black plastic cap that matches the forend tip. Inlaid in this cap is an attractive gold and black Savage medallion. The curve of the Savage grip is more open than the Browning's, which we like. The Savage feels thinner through the grip and forend.
Both stocks feature ample cut checkering that serves to provide a secure, non-slip grip. The Browning's four panel, single border checkering appears to be hand cut. It is a little coarser than the Savage machine checkering, but the diamonds are pointed-up better. The Savage three panel checkering pattern is larger, borderless and wraps around the forend, always a nice touch. The diamonds are smaller, but not as well formed. The Savage checkering looks better at a glance, while the Browning checkering looks better when inspected under magnification.
The stock finishes differ. Browning uses a high gloss lacquer finish that really brings out the grain of the wood. We consider Savage's satin synthetic stock finish good, but less attractive. However, it is probably tougher. Our experience has been that the Browning finish is rather easily marred. One point in Savage's favor is that the Classic stock is completely finished underneath the barreled action to maximize its water resistance. There are no unfinished areas on the Classic stock.
We found that, overall, we preferred the Savage stock's lines. We also liked its comparatively slender feel in the hands. The Monte Carlo comb, and especially the cheek piece, are points in its favor. The Savage stock design probably handles heavy recoil a little better, although the .243 cartridge does not kick hard enough for us to be certain about this. On the other hand, the Browning stock's rosewood accents and superior finish give it a classier look. Both stocks are far nice stocks than the norm. Ultimately, the final choice should come down to which stock better fits its prospective owner.
Overall fit and finish
These are nicely finished rifles, far better than what has become the norm. We have already covered the stock finishes in the appropriate section above, so there is nothing to add here.
We judged the polished and luster blued metal finishes to be equally well done. They are better than that found on, say, a Ruger M77R or a Remington Model 700 BDL, but not quite as nice as the famous Weatherby Deluxe blue job. Never the less, these are superior metal finishes. Browning and Savage should be congratulated for taking the time to do it right on these upscale production rifles.
The barreled actions are properly and uniformly inletted into the stocks and the free floating barrels are centered in the barrel channels. The Browning's inletting is perhaps a bit tighter around the underside of the action (trigger guard and bottom iron).
The smoothness and fit of the actions is good. The crisp trigger pulls and smooth, positive safeties are evidence of well fitted internal parts. Unlike many production rifles today, an effort has been made to smooth the tool marks in both receivers' bolt rails to insure smooth, bind free operation. However, remaining machining marks are more visible inside of the Savage's receiver. In this area, the A-Bolt is superior to the Classic. We concluded that while the Classic Hi Luster is very good, the Medallion has the edge in overall fit and finish.
This is probably the least important of the categories in this comparison. There are two main reasons why this is true. One, the importance of accuracy in big game hunting rifles is greatly over-emphasized. The fact is that the heart/lung area of even the smaller species of big game is a good sized target and almost all modern rifles are more accurate than required for use within the maximum point blank range of the cartridges for which they are chambered. A couple of centuries ago this may not have been the case, but it certainly is today. Second, both the Savage Model 14 and Browning A-Bolt II are known to be very accurate rifles even by modern standards. Choosing between them on the basis of intrinsic accuracy is just splitting hairs. (And how many angels do you think can dance on the head of a pin?)
That said, we did shoot both rifles at 100 yard paper targets from a solid bench rest using a Caldwell Lead Sled weighted with two bags of lead shot. We used Leupold scopes set at 9 power in low, solid mounts on both rifles. What we discovered is that when fed the handloads that they preferred, both rifles would shoot sub-MOA 3-shot groups when we did our part.
The Medallion performed best when shooting the 95 grain Nosler Ballistic Tip bullet at a MV of about 3000 fps, delivering 3-shot groups averaging 1" at 100 yards. The Classic Hi Luster shot its best groups with Sierra 100 grain GameKing bullets at a MV of about 2900 fps. This rifle averaged a nearly unbelievable 5/8" at 100 yards with this load.
The Savage was less sensitive to changes in bullet weight, shooting everything we tried to essentially the same point of impact. We can't remember testing a rifle as insensitive to changes in ammunition as this Savage. Based on these results we'd have to say that the Savage won the accuracy portion of the comparison, but we reiterate that the difference would not be significant in the field.
Summary and Conclusion
These are both very good rifles, at the top of their price class. Both are eminently suitable as general purpose hunting rifles. We think that the Medallion, being lighter, is easier to carry for long periods over very rough country. On the other hand, the Savage, being about a pound heavier, is easier to hold steady when the time comes for a shot and it kicks less. Neither rifle is a burden to carry under normal circumstances in the field nor does either kick hard enough in .243 caliber for recoil to be a problem for most shooters. If chambered for a magnum caliber the extra weight of the Savage would undoubtedly be appreciated.
We liked the form (overall shape) of the Savage rifle, particularly its more slender stock. It got bonus points for its comfortable Monte Carlo comb and cheek piece. We preferred the stock finish of the Browning and its nice details, such as the engraving on the receiver and floor plate, the rosewood forend tip and grip cap and the supplied recoil pad.
Both actions were 100% reliable. We preferred loading and unloading the Savage magazine system. The A-Bolt action is smoother and (at least theoretically) quicker to operate for repeat shots. The Classic Hi Luster rifle that we reviewed was a little more accurate and its AccuTrigger was unbeatable.
As we said at the beginning of this article, the point of this comparison is not to tell a prospective purchaser which rifle to buy. Now you can see why. Choosing between these two fine rifles would be an intensely personal matter. The best advice is probably to buy the rifle that best fits your body and your specific requirements. Certainly both are attractive and deadly hunting rifles that an owner should be proud to take to any hunting camp.
Note: Individual, full length reviews of these rifles can be found on the Product Reviews page.
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