Savage Custom Shop Model 10 Predator Hunter Max-1
By Tony Hagen
Illustration courtesy of Savage Arms.
I had been away from the high power rifle scene for a while when a friend from work asked if I would like to go to a local rifle range and burn up some of his ammo in his rifle. I jumped at the chance, considering the price was right. I had done a lot of high power shooting in the past, dabbled with rifle modifications and done a lot of reloading. My friend knew this and would often send his new firearms and ammo home with me to zero scopes in or work on triggers.
He had just purchased a new Savage Model 10 FCP-K in .308 Winchester and wanted me to check scope zero. This is a law enforcement model that has the Savage AccuTrigger, AccuStock and muzzle break. I had yet to shoot the new Savage rifles that were making a name for themselves and I was in for a surprise. This rifle out of the box would easily shoot 3/4 MOA with low cost factory hunting loads. I mentioned that he should try to find some Federal gold medal match ammo to see what the rifle is really capable of. The next week we went to the range again and he showed up with a box of the Federal gold medal ammo. I was able to shoot a 1-1/2" group at 200 yards with a rifle that I had only fired a couple times, in a 5-7 mph cross wind. That was three years ago.
I have owned several Remington, Ruger and Thompson Center heavy barrel varmint rifles in the past. They all shot well and they probably would have shot better if I had known as much about developing handloads then as I do now.
I have purchased six Savage rifles since that time. I started my Savage obsession with a used Model 12 FV with an AccuTrigger in .204 Ruger. The next was a new model 10 Predator Hunter Snow in .243 Winchester, then a Model 10 Predator Hunter Max-1 in .243 Winchester, a Model 10 Predator Hunter Max-1 in .204 Ruger and a Model 10 Predator hunter Max-1 in 6.5 Creedmoor.
It sounds like a broken record, but I have grown to favor this rifle and hope to eventually be able to obtain one in each of the calibers offered by the factory, plus one. I already have the plus one, which is 6mm Norma BR as detailed in this article. This rifle actually started to take shape about fifteen years ago with the purchase of a Thompson/Center Encore. I had purchased a second barrel from Thompson/Center in 6mm BR Remington, as I had read some articles on this cartridge and knew its accuracy potential, but I could not get it to shoot well in the Thompson/Center. I soon lost interest in the Encore, even though it was a great firearm, but I had kept a full set of Redding competition dies and 100 rounds of Lapua brass in 6mm Norma BR, hoping to someday try this cartridge again.
Earlier this year I was searching the internet looking at the companies that offer custom parts and accessories for Savage rifles when I noticed a forum where someone had mentioned having Savage build them a custom rifle and they gave an email address for Effie Sullivan (firstname.lastname@example.org), Effie is the Customer Service Coordinator for Special Orders at Savage. I did not know that Savage had a custom shop, but after more research I found that they will built a custom firearm in any standard production caliber, from production parts, as long as they will fit together.
I knew that Savage was chambering rifles in 6mm Norma BR so the question was, would they build a model 10 Max-1 in this caliber? Not knowing if this was a good email address, I took a chance and sent my request to Effie. Within 20 minutes I had a response back with a price and a phone call shortly thereafter from Effie explaining the process. I sent her the details, being that I wanted a model 10 Max-1 identical to the production models, but chambered in 6mm Norma BR with the 1:8" twist rate to stabilize heavy bullets.
Effie wrote up a special order ticket with my name on it and delivered it to the Special Order shop. I then went to my local dealer and told him the details, so when he called the order in, Savage pulled my order ticket and started production. A few months later I received my custom built Savage model 10 Max-1 chambered in 6mm Norma BR with 1:8" twist rate. This rifle was assembled by Jim Wellspeak Jr., Master Gunsmith for Special Orders and it shipped with a test fire target. Thus, it is true you can order a custom rifle from Savage; it just has to be built from production parts that will work together, in production chamberings. This can result in unlimited configurations, such as stainless steel, matte blue, polished blue, barrel fluting, barrel length, fluted bolt, lightweight action, etc.
Savage Model 10 Predator Hunter Max-1 Specifications
Shortly after receiving the new rifle I had a new Vortex Viper 6.5-20x50mm PA scope with a 30mm main tube and Mil-Dot reticle mounted using Burris Signature Zee rings. The Vortex scopes function well with positive clicks for windage and elevation adjustments. Also, the lift and turn zero adjustments work very well. I also have been using the Burris Signature Zee rings on all of my rifles, as I like the self-aligning inserts that allow shimming with optional inserts to gain elevation adjustment. The inserts grip well, do not mar the scope finish and allow stress free scope mounting without having to lap the scope rings.
I had done research on the internet to determine a starting point for handloads for the 6mm Norma BR cartridge. Being that I was already loading Berger 95 grain VLD bullets coated with HBN in my .243 Winchester, I wanted to use the same bullets in the 6mm BR. I had some cases already primed, so I loaded four cases with Varget powder and seated the Berger 95 grain VLD's just touching the lands. I bore sighted the scope and fired one shot at 50 yards, then adjusted the scope accordingly to get on the paper at 100 yards.
The first group at 100 yards was less than 1” center to center. I then loaded three more cases with the same weight charge, as the initial firing did not show any pressure signs and produced good velocity for this cartridge and bullet combination, but I seated the bullets 0.010” deeper. This combination produced a 0.25” group center to center.
I had just taken a production rifle, with no special treatment to the barrel, such as hand lapping or select match grade, and shot a 0.25” group with the second load I tried. Every Savage rifle I have shot has produced exceptional accuracy with both factory loads and handloads.
The 6mm Norma BR was developed from the original 6mm BR Remington by lengthening the neck to help with seating heavier bullets in order to take advantage of their higher ballistic coefficient for longer ranges. The 6mm BR Remington came to life as an American based answer to the 6mm PPC, which was dominating bench rest competition at the time. The original cartridge did not find much favor and never became popular, as there were few factory load offerings. The competition community retained the 6mm BR, as it would rival the 6mm PPC in accuracy and, because of its slightly greater powder capacity, it would also show a slight advantage over the 6mm PPC at longer ranges out to 600+ yards.
The 6mm Norma BR really shines as a varmint hunting cartridge and with heavier bullets it will provide enough energy for deer and antelope. It will shoot within a couple hundred feet per second of the .243 Winchester with 30% less powder. This means you get longer barrel life, reduced recoil and lower reloading costs in a cartridge that has proven its accuracy in competition. The cartridge is easy to reload and there is plenty of information available to get you close to an accurate load, no matter what the intended use will be. 6mm Norma BR brass is readily available, Lapua brass being popular because of the quality and cost. The other components needed to assemble handloads for this round are also readily available.
The preferred powders are Vihtavuori N-135 and H4895 for 70-90 grain bullets, Varget and Reloader 15 for 90-108 grain bullets sparked by CCI 450 primers. There have even been new powders introduce recently designed specifically for the bench rest cartridges, IMR 8208 XBR being one of them. .243 (6mm) bullets are available from almost every bullet manufacture, from 55-108 grains, in varmint, medium game and match configurations. Norma and Lapua offer factory match loads in several different bullet weights. Savage offers three different twist rates in the 6mm bore size, so you will be able to choose the appropriate twist rate to stabilize anything from a 55 grain V-Max varmint bullet all the way up to a 107 grain Match BTHP for long range accuracy and everything in between.
The chart below shows a comparison between the 6mm Norma BR, using the high ballistic coefficient Berger 95 grain VLD against the .22-250 Rem. and .243 Win. with common weight Hornady varmint bullets. You can see that the energy levels of all of them are high initially, but the 6mm Norma BR dominates the .22-250 and even surpasses the .243 after 300 yards. (Of course, loaded with the same bullet, the .243 would be superior to the 6mm BR at all ranges. -Editor.) This is accomplished with approximately 25% less powder than the .22-250 and .243.
Savage offers a large selection of both centerfire and rimfire rifles in a wide range of cartridges to fit almost any use. I have always liked the looks of a medium weight varmint rifle with a fluted barrel and the Model 10 Predator Hunter series fits the bill perfectly. The rifle comes with a soft recoil pad that soaks up the kick and I prefer a detachable box magazine, as it is easy to unload the rifle by just dropping the magazine out and cycling the bolt to eject the cartridge in the chamber. This is more convenient than cycling the bolt to unload every cartridge.
The AccuStock has an integral full length aluminum bedding block and there is a close tolerance cut in front of the forward action screw that the recoil lug fits in very tightly, to maintain a constant recoil lug to stock fit. The AccuTrigger is easily user adjustable (an adjustment tool is provided) and the safety blade built into the trigger makes accidental discharge of the firearm a non-issue, even at the lightest setting for weight of pull. With the light varmint contour of the 24” barrel the weight is not excessive when carrying the rifle in the field and contributes to good accuracy when shooting for a bipod, shooting sticks and from sand bags on a shooting bench.
In the 6mm Norma BR chambering the recoil is very light, even with the heavier 6mm bullets. You can shoot all day without developing the dreaded flinch.
There are a lot of good features built into this rifle, from the recessed muzzle crown to the quality recoil pad that makes it appealing, functional and accurate. Judging from the way this rifle shoots, the added cost of the special order will most likely be more cost effective than having a production rifle modified by a gunsmith with a replacement barrel.
Savage builds a quality firearm with great accuracy and the special order option just adds flexibility to an already great product. The Savage Predator Hunter in 6mm Norma BR, combined with the Berger 95 grain Hunting VLD bullet, make a great combination for long range varmint hunting or punching tight groups in paper. The 6mm BR cartridge also has sufficient energy to be effective on deer and antelope (Class 2 game).
If this cartridge were given a second chance, by introducing both rifles and commercially available ammo to suit the needs of the user, I think it would become as popular as the .204 Ruger. In the meantime, if you are into reloading and looking to try something new, this little round could become one of your favorites. With its low recoil, excellent accuracy and versatility, the 6mm BR should be around for a while, even if only with the competition community.
Note: A full length review of the the Savage Custom Shop G&S Online Model 12 varmint rifle can be found on the Product Reviews page.
Copyright 2013 by Tony Hagen and chuckhawks.com. All rights reserved.