Savage Model 111FCNS .30-06 Rifle with AccuStock:
Savage Arms has spent a lot of time and money refining their bolt-action rifle. By now, most are familiar with the resounding success of the AccuTrigger and the stress it has caused to Savage’s competitors throughout the industry. It is hard to find a rifle without a “new, improved trigger,” whether it is truly improved or not. Many tested examples are inadequate in our view, but the AccuTrigger remains great.
For a discussion of the AccuStock, let us go back to “Once Upon A Time . . . .” As a professional gun evaluator, writer and consultant, I hear a common lament: “they just don’t build them like they used to.” Firearms today are not just as good as the highly romanced models of yesteryear--they are often better. More correctly, they can be. This has nothing to do with an appreciation of the historical handwork involved in fitting parts, nor does it discount the tremendous accomplishments made with primitive tooling and primitive metallurgy. Many examples will always be works of art. As you might imagine, many of the advancements in metallurgy and production we have today are (like many things) attributable to war. The nuclear age, the space race and the “Cold War” have all combined to give us not just “Tang” and the pen that writes upside down, but a far greater understanding of alloyed metals, polymers, ceramics and the ability to produce them both in quantity consistently.
The rifle tested for this article was a Hunter Series Savage Model 111FCNS in .30-06 Springfield. This is a basic hunting rifle built on the Savage 110 bolt action and supplied with a blued barreled action that is pillar bedded in an injection-molded synthetic stock incorporating Savages latest breakthrough, the AccuStock bedding system.
Other than the novel AccuStock, operation, function, quality, fit, finish, assembly and so forth were typical of modern Savage rifles, several of which have previously been reviewed on Guns and Shooting Online (see the Product Review Page), so I won't go into such matters in detail again, except to mention that the tested rifle was supplied with Savage's AccuTrigger. The AccuTrigger is still the best OEM trigger system in the world. The Model 111FCNS also comes with Savage's detachable box magazine system, an improvement over the blind stocks of yesteryear. Here are some basic specifications for the rifle reviewed in this article:
Recently, I ran some 400 rounds of .30-06 ammo through the Savage Model 111FCNS AccuStock rifle. With factory Hornady GMX 150 grain ammunition, the average 100 yard group size measured one inch (1 MOA). With 150 grain Stars & Stripes ammo, the average 100 yard group size shrunk still further, to 9/10ths of one inch, with the best group fired measuring right at 0.1 inches center to center. All this in 42 degree F. weather, with the wind variable at 11 to 17 mph. This level of real-world accuracy is rarely achieved with an out of the box rifle shooting hunting ammunition, yet that is exactly what the Savage did. The trick is to hazard a guess as to the precise role the AccuStock played in all this, as accuracy is comprised of countless factors. For comparison’s sake, note that a 2009 Winchester Super-Grade Model 70 recently tested by the G & S Online staff (see the Product Review Page for details) could manage no better than a smallest group size of 1-1/8 inch, despite being fed four different types of ammunition and with three different test-shooters having a go at it.
The challenge in presenting an innovation such as the AccuStock is that it is something not readily seen. The physics behind it are sound, the concept clear, yet what it means to an individual rifle or shooter is not nearly as obvious. The AccuStock includes an integral spine system that applies preload to the action, gripping it firmly. The notion of preload is something with which I am intimately familiar; high-speed spindle bearings are preloaded when assembled to stop deflection due to variable thrust loads. Not using preloaded bearings results in tooling chatter, drift and imprecisely machined parts.
Here, the premise is to stop the action from moving around in the stock, stopping it cold. In addition to the clamping action of the aluminum spine in the stock, an “AccuWedge” bolt further inhibits movement with positive interference with the recoil lug, another form of preload.
When a scope experiences recoil, it must flex so as not to break, must tolerate that tremendous stress and must return to the exact same position before the next shot is taken. That is why “holding its zero” is the most important thing a scope can do. Any reticle float from shot to shot impairs accuracy. One thousandth of an inch equates to an inch at 100 yards; isn’t hard to see how a loose scope can ruin your day.
We have a similar situation with the barreled action to stock interface. Some movement of the action is fine, assuming everything returns to exactly the same place after every shot. It often does not, of course, which is why glass bedding can improve a rifle’s accuracy. The caveat is, as discussed in other G & S test results, is that there isn’t always much barreled action movement in an individual rifle to dampen or eliminate. The question as to whether bedding helps an individual rifle greatly is always a case by case situation. We will never know unless we do before and after testing. It may help a lot, a little, or not at all. It never hurts, though.
Now we get into the devilish details of the AccuStock. Though Savage is not the type of company to make the wild claims we hear every year in the industry, Savage has mentioned they have seen “up to a 50% improvement in accuracy.” As a practical matter, it is also just as fair and as accurate to say they have seen up to a 0% improvement in accuracy as well. Though the AccuWedge is presented as “vastly superior to hand bedding,” that too is an unsupported statement. Hand bedding alone may do a lot, or may do nothing at all. A lot of this remains to be seen and rifles are still individuals.
So, let me attempt to pull all of this into perspective. Talk of two and three-dimensional systems may often sound hyper-technical and a bit confusing, particularly to easily confused folks such as me. A rifle remains a system, a complete system, so to focus heavily on one aspect tends to obfuscate that. No stock can possibly compensate for low-quality ammunition, a bad scope, an out of spec barrel, or a bad trigger. It all has to combine into one seamless unit. Barrel makers like to say it is the barrel, scope makers like to say it is the scope, ammo manufacturers like to say it is the ammo and aftermarket stockmakers stress the importance of the stock. None of them are wrong, but none of them are entirely right, either.
An AccuStock cannot hurt anything; it tends to help far more often than not. Savage Arms conducted a series of testing using high-speed cameras to quantify the amount of action movement inside the stock. It seems they found a lot more movement in conventional rifles than they expected. Not only was there back and forth movement, but also up and down movement during the firing pulse. In many cases, this resulted in an oval or circular movement pattern. It is all of this unwanted movement that the AccuStock seeks to eliminate and it succeeds in doing so. How much it helps an individual rifle remains an open question. It was seen as helping both sporter profile barrels and heavy varmint barrels. A trend that was noted is that the amount of improvement had a lot to do with the intensity of the cartridge. It is reasonable to believe that the AccuStock provides more potential benefit with stouter recoiling, big game hunting cartridges than with a .223, for example.
I will not call the AccuStock a revolution, but more properly a further, but very important, evolution in the development of the modern hunting rifle. We still need excellent barrel quality, we still need a proper trigger, we still need quality ammunition and a scope that holds its zero.
Predicated on building on top of the AccuTrigger and Savage Arms’ precise head-spacing and uniform barrel quality, the AccuStock is another important building block in the advancement of the Savage system. Best of all, it is available as factory supplied product. The buyer does not have to go to the costly and time-consuming aftermarket stock route that might set you back hundreds of dollars without achieving results as good as you can get right out of a Savage box.
The tested Savage .30-06 shot "lights out." I cannot say it was solely due to the AccuStock; but I believe it plays a vital role. The AccuStock strives to improve the system and the breed and is superior to other factory synthetic stocks at anywhere near the price point of the Savage.
With that, I will end with congratulations to Savage Arms for stepping ahead of the industry once again. As for your individual results, there is no substitute for getting your own AccuStocked Savage rifle and seeing for yourself.
Note: In depth reviews of the Savage Model 16FSS Weather Warrion and the Model 14 and 114 American Classic rifles can be found on the Product Reviews page.
Copyright 2009 by Randy Wakeman. All rights reserved.