Savage Model 16FHSS 7mm-08 Rifle
By Barr Soltis
For some time I have wanted a rifle that would serve me well while hunting in inclement weather. I wanted a rifle that was resistant to the effects of rain and snow and a scope that would provide a clear picture regardless of the weather conditions.
As time passed I made a few rifle purchases, but none of them filled the requirements of an inclement rifle/scope combination, nor were they intended to be. I procrastinated, but finally decided that I had waited long enough and had to make a move before my anticipated 2009 whitetail hunt in West Virginia.
I am a fan of lever action rifles. I prefer to hunt with them and my big-game hunting rifle collection supports this statement. I also adore walnut stocked rifles with blued barreled actions and have never been enamored of laminates or synthetics. However, given my weather resistant requirements, I opted to cut against my grain and purchase rifle with a plastic stock and a stainless steel action and barrel.
I own several rifles and the most accurate of all is my Savage Law Enforcement Series 10FP chambered in .308. Therefore, it should come to no surprise that when I was looking for an inclement weather rifle that I would turn to Savage. They boldly state that their rifles are the “Definition of Accuracy.” Savage rifles are made in the USA.
It has been said repeatedly that a good hunting rifle does not have to shoot one minute-of-angle (MOA) groups and I agree. However, I enjoy range shooting and it is nice to have an accurate hunting rifles that can pull double duty every once in a while and most of my hunting rifles have been modified for this very purpose.
Sometimes you have to believe that things happen for a reason and maybe there was a reason for my procrastination in buying my inclement weather rifle. If I had purchased one year ago I would have missed Savage’s newest innovation, the aluminum, double pillar-bedded, synthetic AccuStock.
The rifle that I finally selected was the Savage 16 FHSS, partly because it came with an AccuStock. Primarily, I wanted this rifle to serve as a substitute for any of my lever action rifles when the weather was not cooperating. After much consideration and research, I selected the 7mm-08 Remington caliber. Chuck Hawks made this comment about the 7mm-08 in his article titled “The Sensible 7mm-08 Remington,” which can be read in its entirety on the Rifle Cartridge Page:
"I can't summarize the 7mm-08 any better than the Barnes Reloading Manual Number One does, so I quote: 'This is a sensible cartridge that efficiently burns powder to produce velocities not much less than the .270 Winchester and .280 Remington.' Its performance, much like the 7x57, qualifies it for consideration as an all-around hunting cartridge."
Wayne van Zwoll of Petersen's Hunting magazine wrote, "Efficient case design and a bullet weight range suitable for most North American big game make the 7mm-08 a fine choice for all-around hunting. Civil in recoil, it's a perfect match for lightweight, short-action rifles. It has also courted favor on metallic silhouette ranges, where its 140-grain bullets reach 500-yard targets faster and with as much energy as 150-grain .308s." He also described it as "deadly" for elk.
Here are some basic specifications for the Savage Model 16 FHSS Weather Warrior:
I know that the MSRP on rifles can be disconcerting and I initially thought that the price tag on this rifle was a bit hefty, but after considering the fact that I would not have to pay my gunsmith to tune it, I decided that the cost was justified.
At first blush, I was impressed by this rifle. It is based on the proven Savage 110 push feed action (described in detail in previous Savage rifle reviews--see the Product Reviews page) and incorporates the industry leading AccuTrigger system as well as the new AccuStock. The latter features precisely molded four panel checkering. It has good lines and the visual contrast between the matte black synthetic stock and high luster, stainless steel barreled action is quite nice.
The three-position safety is a top tang mounted slider, a sensible and convenient design. The magazine floor plate release is a simple, spring loaded plunger in the front of the trigger guard. A test with a single George Washington proved that the button-rifled barrel was correctly free-floated; there was no contact between the barrel and stock. The action was smooth, but I did lighten the user adjustable trigger pull using the thoughtfully provided tool. The minimum pull weight is about 2.5 pounds.
The decision to top my new rifle with quality optics was difficult. I vacillated between a several scopes with a variety of optical ranges and ultimately decided on the Nikon Monarch 2.5x10x42mm. I am certain that this scope with its broad focal range will perform well in most hunting situations and for range shooting. The Nikon Monarch is a four-star scope and, of course, it is waterproof, fog proof and shockproof.
At The Range
Given all that has been said thus far, there is only one question that remains, will this rifle/scope combination classify as a “shooter” in my eyes? This question can only be answered at the range.
Since this rifle will be primarily used as a hunting rifle, I decided to use factory loads for my range test. I thought that I would first try some inexpensive 140 grain Prvi Partizan cartridges just to sight in the newly mounted scope as well as for some brass retention for future reloading. The primary load for this test and for hunting applications would be Winchester Super-X 140 grain Power-Point ammunition.
The range test was completed using a Caldwell’s “The Rock” front rifle rest with ProtekTor front and rear bags. The venue was the Boulder Valley Sportsmen's Association range in Sumneytown, PA that has covered shooting positions from 25 to 200 yards. All tests shots were fired at 100 yards.
Day 1: The first range session was cut short. From my first shot to the last (there were not many), this rifle with its four round magazine became Savage's first and only single shot 16FHSS, as with each shot the hinged floor-plate dropped open. I must admit that this was a very irritating development, but after a quick phone call to Savage Arms and a minor adjustment to the retaining latch the problem was fixed. Otherwise, functioning was normal.
In addition, the shots were “all over the place.” I decided to replace the scope mounting rings and bases with Warne products.
Day 2: This day was not a good one, either. 100 yard groups were so inconsistent that I was convinced that my fine Nikon Monarch was defective. I replaced it with a Bushnell 4-12x Trophy scope using Leupold dual dove-tail rings.
Day 3: I was ready to do some serious shooting now that the “defective” Nikon scope had been replaced. The Bushnell scope was bore sighted by viewing the target through the barrel and the first shot hit the target at 100 yards. With an adjustment here and there, I knew I would be able to achieve the desired three inches high point of impact. Unfortunately, none of my shots hit even close to the other, similar to my previous attempts. I had two trusted and very competent range shooters try their hand and the best we could manage was a five inch group.
Day 4: After the action bolts were torqued in proper sequence at the recommended 40 inch pounds, I just knew that this rifle would shoot MOA groups from the bench. Unfortunately, there was not a group at all. The four shots that I made were, let’s just say, again “all over the place.” So there I was, just weeks before I was to leave on a whitetail hunt in West Virginia and my new Savage Weather Warrior Series rifle was nothing more than 50 yard deer rifle.
I sent my rifle back to Savage and I was told that their tests of my rifle found no problems when Winchester Supreme 140 grain Ballistic Silvertip ammo was used; they achieved one MOA or better groups. I don’t know about you, but if I buy a hunting rifle chambered in a non-propriety caliber, I expect to be able to shoot acceptable hunting groups with just about any standard factory loaded ammo. Being limited to one particular type of cartridge for acceptable accuracy is unacceptable to me. I cannot say if this rifle’s performance was typical or atypical, but I can say that it was an expensive disappointment.
This update provides a possible explanation for the problems I experienced with my 16FHSS. I recently learned that Savage no longer lists the 16FHSS in 7mm-08 on their website, but they continue to offer it in its sister model the FLHSS (left hand version). I find this development interesting, but not nearly as interesting as the fact that Savage now only produces 7mm-08 rifles with a 1:9.5 barrel twist rate vice the 1:11.5 twist of the rifle that I reviewed.
Not included in my original article was the letter I sent to Savage Arms with my rifle. Here is a portion of that letter:
Dear Mr. De Grande,
Per our telephone conversation, I am returning my Savage 16FHSS 7mm-08 rifle (serial # G 895XXX). As I mention before, there seems to be a problem with this rifle, as the groups that I have obtained at 100 yards are consistently three inches (or more) from a total of three boxes of both Winchester and Prvi Partizan 140 grain SP bullets. I bought and tested three different scope base/ring sets (the last two were Warne and Leupold). I tried Nikon Monarch 2.5-10x and Bushnell 4-12x riflescopes with similar results. I also lightened the trigger pull and bolted the action to the stock using the prescribed sequence and torqued the bolts to 40 inch pounds.
If you find that it is a problem with the barrel, please call me before you switch barrels. One of my concerns with the supplied barrel is its twist rate of 1:11.5 inches. I believe this may be marginal for 140 grain bullets. During our conversation, you stated that this configuration is best served by using Winchester Ballistic Silver Tip ammo. With that said, I would not be happy if I am confined to one particular bullet style to obtain acceptable levels of accuracy.
I hope that we can agree that the 7mm-08 is a big game caliber and one of the primary reasons I chose 7mm-08 was the option of using heavy for caliber bullets. The second problem that I have is that this twist rate will make target shooting with the 162 grain A-Max bullet a real challenge.
I have spent a considerable amount of time talking about the twist rate and I admit this can be a confusing subject. I am curious as to the reason that Savage chose this twist rate, especially when the 7mm Mag. comes with a 1:9.5 twist. Hindsight being 20/20, I should have bought my rifle in .308, but now I have to live with the consequences of my decision.
Copyright 2010, 2011 by Barr Soltis. All rights reserved.