Savage B.MAG Target Rifle Improvements
By Rocky Hays with Chuck Hawks
When we reviewed our sample Savage B.MAG Target Rifle, we loved the .17 WSM cartridge and were impressed by the rifle's accuracy. Despite its name, this is a varmint rifle, not a target rifle. We know of no .17 WSM competition class, all .17 WSM rimfire ammo uses hunting bullets and the rifle is supplied with Savage's standard AccuTrigger (minimum pull weight 2.5 pounds), not the (red) target model AccuTrigger, which can be set for a much lighter pull weight.
However, we found some unnecessary and unsightly production flaws that we felt could (and should) have been corrected, as they cheapened the overall impression of the rifle and made it less comfortable and less functional in use. These included:
1. An unsightly, shiny black plastic trigger guard with a mold line down the middle that did not match the matte black finish on the rifle's other parts.
2. The mass produced, gray/black laminated stock is a generally satisfactory design for a varmint rifle and represents a big functional improvement over the plastic stock of the base model B.MAG rifle, but its shape is neither refined nor ergonomic. The stock is useable, but not well shaped for human hands.
The stock is too thick through the grip area, for example, and there are uncomfortable corners and angles. Factory stock designers these days seem to forget all too often that the shape of human hands, arms, shoulders and bodies are composed of curves, not straight lines.
3. Nor was the stock well finished, as there were wood whiskers everywhere cuts had been made. Of course, after the stock has been reshaped, it will need refinishing, so this problem will automatically be solved.
4. The magazine requires too much force to insert and lock in place.
There are other issues, such as the force required to operate the rear-locking bolt and the shape of the bolt handle/knob, which are inherent in the basic design and a lot more difficult to improve. The average purchaser should leave such things alone. However, practically anyone with a modicum of skill can fix the issues mentioned above.
Since Guns and Shooting Online's Gunsmithing Editor, Rocky Hays, participated in our staff review of the B.MAG Target model rifle, he was well aware of both the rifle's promise and its deficiencies. Rocky decided to do something about the latter, limiting his improvements to things an average consumer could do at home with common hand tools. Following is Rocky's description of the changes he made.
The first thing you do before handling a firearm is to make sure the firearm is unloaded and safe to handle. In the case of a B.MAG rifle, remove the magazine and the bolt before beginning.
Remove the trigger guard and sand it with 320 grit wet-and-dry sand paper, used dry. Just sand enough to get the casting line out and give it matte finish, so it matches the bottom of the magazine and the rifle's matte finished metal parts.
Remove the two Allen screws and remove the action from the stock. Remove the three detachable sling studs, but leave the recoil pad. Run painter's tape around the recoil pad to keep wood finish stripper and, later, the new stock finish off of the recoil pad.
Strip the factory finish from the stock. I used a chemical stripper to remove the original finish, but it can be done with just sandpaper, if you don't mind working harder.
Use a medium wood rasp and start rounding off the stock's sharp corners, especially where your hands naturally grip the rifle. Stock contours should be rounded, not angular. Fortunately, these laminated wood stocks are very easy to re-shape.
When you get the shape you like and it feels good in your hands, it is time to start sanding, which can be done by hand. Begin with 100 grit paper and work up to 320 grit, using it dry. I went from 100 grit to 150, 220 and 320, all dry. Be sure to remove all of the wood whiskers in the barrel channel, ventilation cuts, magazine well, etc.
The finish I used on our test rifle, which really worked well, is Burchwood Casey Tru-Oil. Note: I do not use Tru-Oil on walnut stocks; the only wood I like to use it on are laminated hardwood stocks.
Apply Tru-Oil in cool weather or a cool place. In hot weather, it dries too fast. Apply it in a chilly environment and move it into a heated room to dry for 24 hours.
I apply it using my fingers and rubbing on a thin coat. After it is dry, buff it lightly with #0000 steel wool. Dust throughly and apply another coat. I applied four coats on this B.MAG stock.
The last thing I did was take 0.002" off the magazine latch. Out of the box, the magazine latch was so tight it took two hands to force the magazine in far enough to latch in place. By taking 0.002" off the latch, it can be inserted and locked into place one-handed.
The above changes dramatically improved the looks, handling, feel and desirability of the rifle. They were not difficult or time consuming to accomplish. Actually, one wonders why Savage did not "do it right" in the first place, as these improvements would cost very little at the factory level.
The stock, for example, is produced on automated machines by an outside supplier and should simply be delivered to Savage with a more ergonomic shape. The magazine body and magazine latch are molded plastic, so getting the dimensions correct should be fundamental to the manufacturing process.
In any event, the modifications described above can be accomplished at home in your spare time. The result was inspected by the rest of the Guns and Shooting Online home staff and received rave reviews. The result is definitely worth the effort.
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