Savage Model 14 Classic Hi Luster .243 Rifle
By the Guns and Shooting Online Staff
This is the improved version of the very successful Savage Classic centerfire bolt action hunting rifle. As most shooters know by now, since Ron Coburn became the CEO of Savage Sports Corporation they have made a concerted effort to continuously upgrade the quality and design of their products. The result is that today Savage has reclaimed their position as one of America's leading gun manufacturers.
A fine example of this is the new for 2007 Classic Hi Luster rifle reviewed here. This model, originally scheduled for introduction last Spring, was delayed by production shortfalls, but is finally available. We received our sample for review in late August, 2007, and it was worth the wait. Not that the original Classic (introduced two years ago), Euro Classic and American Classic were not a big step upward in the Savage bolt action rifle line. Indeed, the introduction of these Savage Classic models substantially elevated the bar and put Savage in direct competition with the class leading Browning Hunter/Medallion and Weatherby Vanguard Sporter/Deluxe rifles.
Therefore, we waited with considerable anticipation for the arrival of our new Model 14 Classic Hi Luster rifle in .243 Winchester caliber. When it finally arrived, the first thing that we noticed was how securely it was double boxed and how Savage ships a complete package. Inside the inner box along with the Classic rifle were a gun lock, owner's manual, warrantee card, Savage catalog, AccuTrigger adjustment tool and instructions, and some little extras such as a set of disposable ear plugs and a factory check list. The latter showed that our rifle had successfully passed its functioning tests and that the trigger pull measured 2 pounds 13 ounces. This trigger pull is perfect for a hunting rifle and we saw no need to adjust it, although it is easily user adjustable.
Stapled to the check list was a test target showing a 0.7" 3-shot, 100 yard group. This was achieved using Federal factory loads with Nosler Ballistic Tip 70 grain bullets. In the past, we have found these Savage test targets to be representative of the kind of groups that the rifles will actually shoot at the rifle range and this example proved to be no exception. We were able to equal the Savage test result, and in some cases exceed it, as will be documented in the shooting results later in this article.
The Classic Hi Luster makes a very good first impression. Its black walnut stock features a fluted, Monte Carlo comb and a graceful pistol grip. This stock is sealed and finished inside and out with a satin lacquer. The forend is furnished with a black forend tip and the butt with a black, hard rubber pad. The black pistol grip cap is set off by a handsome gold and black Savage medallion. Generous cut checkering patterns grace both sides of the pistol grip and wrap completely around the forend. Detachable sling swivel studs are included.
Its polished and deeply blued metal work gleams. The bolt body is left in the white, engine turned and laser etched with the Savage logo. The upper surface of the slightly pear shaped bolt handle is checkered while the underside is left smooth to avoid abrading the operating hand. It is a very handsome rifle.
Upon closer inspection, the Hi Luster Classic continues to impress. The metal parts are all steel. We could find no aluminum or other substitute metals. The only plastic parts we could find were the traditional black forend tip, pistol grip cap and the magazine follower (the one place where plastic is probably an improvement over steel.)
We have described the basic Savage 110 bolt action in previous reviews, so we will not bore regular readers by rehashing it all here. Suffice to say that it is a fairly typical and well proven push feed action with two front locking lugs and a 90 degree bolt rotation. Some features of the Model 14 Classic Hi Luster rifle do deserve mentioning. One such feature is the "cam ring" that circles the bolt body in front of the bolt handle. At one time, this part was allowed to slide a short distance fore and aft on the rear bolt body, but it is now held captive by a clever double ball and detent system.
Another is the sliding extractor mounted in the bolt face, which is held captive in generous dovetail cuts from which it is unlikely to escape. Ejection is by means of a spring loaded plunger in the bolt face.
The magazine feeds cartridges from the magazine in a straight line for maximum reliability. It is a bit slower to load this magazine from the top than a standard staggered box magazine, but it feeds more smoothly. A single cartridge placed on top of the magazine's feed lips slides perfectly into the chamber when the bolt is closed without having to be run through the magazine. Just insure that the cartridge is not loaded to the side of the feed lips.
The latest Classic Hi Luster retains the very convenient 3-position tang mounted safety of its recent predecessors. Forward is "fire," the middle position is "safe" (but allows operation of the bolt), while the rearward position is also "safe" and locks the bolt closed. The safety is almost completely silent when operated gently. This is probably the best bolt action safety found on any mass produced rifle today.
The barreled action is dual pillar bedded in the walnut stock, which is reinforced by two through-bolts. It is a very solid system. The new Classic's barrel is free-floated in the precisely inletted barrel channel of its walnut stock. There is a lot of clearance between barrel and stock, but not quite enough to become unsightly. Free floating a barrel is not the panacea it is often claimed to be. Done right it can work fine, but done sloppily it can be a disaster. This Savage was done right.
We've said it before, but it bears repeating: the Savage AccuTrigger is the best available in a production sporting rifle. It represents such a break through that other manufacturers have been forced to advertise "new, improved" triggers to compete. Some of these are modest improvements over their immediate predecessors and some are just another lawyer-inspired step backward. None of the competitors' "new" triggers are as good as the same companies were supplying as a matter of course 50 years ago and none even come close to the excellence of the AccuTrigger.
Here are the catalog specifications of the Model 14 Classic Hi Luster test rifle:
In the course of previous Guns and Shooting Online reviews of Savage rifles, we have suggested improvements and Savage has responded. Beyond any doubt, Savage Arms listens to their customers. In the case of the excellent Classic models, there was not much to ask for in the way of improvements, but we did suggest a hinged magazine floorplate as an alternative to the detachable box, a more convenient method of bolt removal and a smooth barrel fastening nut to replace the somewhat unsightly original fluted version. Well, in this new Model 14 Savage has addressed all of those areas.
The Classic Hi Luster sports a fixed box magazine with a hinged floor plate. Its floor plate catch is located at the front of the floor plate (instead of the rear). It is not only secure and easy to operate, it is also exceptionally easy to close. 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. This is an outstanding hinged floor plate design, one of the best that we have ever seen.
The new, smooth barrel nut is tightened by a spanner wrench that hooks into a hole drilled into the underside of the nut. This is not only a visual improvement, but a functional one as well. Now, if Savage would only hide the captive recoil lug under the front lip of the receiver, as Kimber does . . ..
Savage has finally addressed the bolt removal system, but you still have to pull the trigger all the way back and simultaneously operate a separate bolt release. This is made easier than it was on previous models by moving the bolt release from the right rear of the receiver to a position in front of the trigger guard. Bolt removal can now be accomplished with two hands, rather than the three previously required. The way that worked best for us was to press the trigger back with the middle finger of the left hand and the bolt release with the index finger, which leaves the right hand free to remove the bolt without risk of dropping it. Re-insert the bolt the same way.
You can only shoot as well as you can see, so we mounted a Leupold VX-7 3-10x45mm scope on the Savage Model 14 using the Weaver 2-piece bases supplied on our test rifle by the nice folks at Savage Arms and Leupold rings. This scope has a 30mm main tube and a larger than necessary objective lens (popular features to be sure), so it is consequently a bit heavy. However, its precise adjustments and excellent optics make it a pleasure to use on the range or in the field. The Leupold VX-7 line represents the apex in the development of the modern telescopic sight.
The .243 Winchester cartridge for which this rifle is chambered has been around since 1955 and is one of the best selling centerfire rifle cartridges in the world. It is well covered in various articles that can be found on the Rifle Cartridge Page, Reloading Page and Rifle Information Page. Suffice to say that it is a flat shooting combination varmint and medium game cartridge that has proven adequate for deer, antelope, sheep and goat hunting under a wide range of conditions.
As usual, we did our test shooting at the Izaak Walton rifle range south of Eugene, Oregon. This outdoor facility offers covered shooting positions, solid bench rests and target ranges of 25, 50, 100 and 200 yards. Aside from two shots fired at 25 yards to confirm that we would be on the paper at 100 yards for the final sighting-in, all subsequent groups were fired at 100 yards. Recorded groups consisted of three shots fired from a Caldwell Lead Sled weighted with 50 pounds of lead shot. It was a sunny day with the high temperature of about 75 degrees and a variable 7-10 mph wind. All recorded groups were fired from a warm, occasionally hot, barrel. Fortunately, barrel temperature seemed to have little effect on either group size or point of impact.
Guns and Shooting Online's Rocky Hays, Bob Fleck, Gordon Landers and Chuck Hawks participated in the shooting for this review. Between us, we amassed four reloads and one factory load. The bullets used in the reloads included the Hornady 87 grain boat-tail hollow point at a MV of 3000 fps, Nosler 95 grain Ballistic Tip at a MV of 2985 fps, Hornady 100 grain Interlock boat-tail spire Point at a MV of 2900 fps and Sierra 100 grain GameKing spitzer boat-tail at a MV of 2900 fps. These reloads were all powered by IMR 4831 or IMR 4350 powders. The only factory ammunition that we had on hand was the Winchester Supreme load using a CT Ballistic Silvertip bullet at a MV of 3100 fps. This is a black, Lubalox coated bullet otherwise similar to the Nosler Ballistic Tip.
Without further ado, here are the shooting results:
AVERAGE GROUP SIZE FOR ALL AMMUNITION = 0.82"
This time out Chuck shot the smallest groups, kudos to Chuck. Note that the 0.7" test group, fired by a Savage technician (initials CLF) using a Federal factory load with a Nosler 70 grain Ballistic Tip bullet, would have fit between the smallest and largest groups we fired with every one of the loads that we used.
We found out that Savage's "The Definition of Accuracy" slogan is very appropriate when applied to this rifle. A lot more than accuracy is required to make a good hunting rifle, of course, but this Savage Classic test rifle certainly delivered accuracy in spades. Not only did it shoot exceptionally small groups with all types of ammunition, it shot them all to within 1" of the same point of impact at 100 yards while appearing impervious to the effects of barrel heating. In fact, out of curiosity we shot a combined group using the reloads with the Sierra 100 grain bullet and the Winchester factory load using the 95 grain Ballistic Silvertip out of a hot barrel and the result measured just less than 1" center to center. THAT is consistency!
Everyone commented favorably on the rifle's smooth feeding and excellent AccuTrigger. The fabulous AccuTrigger is one reason that recent Savage rifles are so easy to shoot well. They have excellent practical accuracy as well as outstanding intrinsic accuracy. The well-shaped, rigid walnut stock does not hurt, either. We all complemented the shape and comfort of this stock. It looks good and it works good.
As the final element in this review we took the unusual step of comparing the new Savage Model 14 Classic Hi Luster side by side with a Browning A-Bolt Medallion, also in .243 Winchester caliber, belonging to Bob Fleck. This is the rifle with which the new Classic Hi Luster is probably most directly competitive in the market place. The Savage is made in the USA and the Browning is made in Japan. Both rifles are plenty accurate, work reliably, are equipped with convenient tang safeties and--unusual for a pair of modern hunting rifles--have decent triggers (although the AccuTrigger is the better of the two). So, the point of this mini-comparison was feel, fit, finish and overall aesthetics. We can't tell you which is the best rifle for you, but we will tell you what we liked about both.
The Browning A-Bolt has a short 60 degree rotation and its flattened and angled bolt knob is still the most ergonomic in the business. This bolt's shape minimizes bolt wobble when open. On the other hand, the Savage's straight line magazine feeding is smoother and more precise and it is easier to single load. We preferred the Classic's conventional internal magazine and hinged floor plate to the Browning system of attaching a detachable magazine to the A-Bolt's hinged floor plate. The Savage floor plate is also easier to open and close, but the Medallion's floor plate is graced by an attractive rolled-on engraving pattern, as are the sides of the Medallion's receiver.
The Browning stock has a straight comb and feels thicker through the pistol grip and forend. The Medallion stock is definitely deeper through the receiver area. The Browning pistol grip is slightly teardrop shaped, while the Savage pistol grip is oval in cross-section. We liked the Savage's grip shape better. We preferred the lines and more slender feel of the Savage stock and we prefer the shooting comfort provided by the Classic's Monte Carlo comb and cheekpiece. Both rifle stocks come with decent and reasonably well executed checkering patterns, but the Savage offers better coverage, especially around the forend.
In the Medallion's favor is its high gloss stock finish, which we all found more attractive than the Classic's satin wood finish and a better match for the high luster blued finish of both barreled actions. We also found the A-Bolt's rosewood forend tip and pistol grip cap aesthetically superior to the Classic's black plastic equivalents.
To briefly summarize, the Browning A-Bolt Medallion and the Savage Classic Hi Luster are very competitive deluxe rifles. Their prices and features are similar is some ways and different in others. Both are well made of high quality materials and should give a lifetime of service with reasonable care. Anyone in the market for a fine rifle should take a look at both before making a decision.
It seems that the proliferation of super accurate varmint rifles (a field that Savage rather dominates) has diminished hunter interest in using standard deer and antelope rifles for off-season varminting. In our salad days, this was a very common practice and it helped fuel the popularity of dual-purpose cartridges such as the .243 Winchester. We mention it because for those who don't have room in their gun collection for a special varmint rifle, but would still like to do a little varminting as well as hunt CXP2 game, this new Savage Model 14 Classic Hi Luster .243 rifle would be a superb choice.
It was Avis Rent-A-Car that copyrighted the "We try Harder" slogan, but it should have been Savage Arms. They do, and their latest products reflect that fact. You will find the Savage web site at: www.savagearms.com
RIFLE REVIEW SUMMARY
Copyright 2007, 2015 by chuckhawks.com. All rights reserved.