Savage Model 11 Lightweight Hunter 6.5mm Creedmoor Rifle
A year ago, I reviewed the Savage Model 11 Lightweight Hunter in 7mm-08, a rifle that proved to be easy to carry, handsome and an effortless MOA shooter. It is one of the most enjoyable hunting guns I own and has since become one of my personal favorites. At the time, Savage V-P Brian Herrick mentioned that the Lightweight Hunter and the newly introduced Hornady 6.5 Creedmoor cartridge made a superbly satisfying combination. It has taken me about a year, but it is finally time to discover exactly what Mr. Herrick was talking about.
The Savage Model 11 Lightweight Hunter platform relies on standard 4140 chrome-moly steel, no exotic or temperamental metals to machine. The folks at Savage looked at aggressive profiling of the receiver, a deeply fluted bolt and removal of extraneous walnut from the stock to accomplish the impressive weight reduction. Savage has categorized the Lightweight Hunter into their “Specialty Series” lineup.
The modern classic style, standard grade, American black walnut stock comes with a straight, fluted comb. It carries four panel, machine cut checkering in a point pattern. There are eight ventilating/lightening slots cut into the underside of the forend. There is a cap on the pistol grip and a solid (not ventilated) recoil pad terminates the butt. Detachable sling swivel studs are provided. Except for the slots cut into the bottom of the forend, this stock is functional and should appeal to experienced hunters and shooters.
I've had impressive results from the Hornady Superformance ammunition line in general and the Hornady GMX bullet specifically, so I opted to test with the Hornady 120 grain GMX Superformance load: a .450 G1 B.C. load Hornady rates at 3010 fps MV from a 24" test barrel. You can expect perhaps 2900 fps from the Savage's attenuated 20" barrel.
On went a Bushnell Elite 3200 3-10x40mm scope with Warne Maxima medium height, quick release rings. Then it was off to the field to get some shooting results.
At 100 yards, right out the box, on a breezy Illinois summer afternoon, the Savage produced ¾", three-shot groups at 100 yards. After the 100 yard shooting, the elevation knob on the scope was not touched. I only turned the windage knob two 1/4 MOA clicks to the right. I shot at 177 yards and then 205 yards, both to verify the accuracy at longer range and to get an idea of how the 6.5 Creedmoor's exterior ballistics held up in terms of drop.
Shooting farther than two football fields seems like a long distance, and it is. Although it might take a while to find the 205 yard target across a bean field, I want “minute of coyote” level of accuracy at this distance, a typical shot for coyotes running a fence row. Given the 8-10" kill zone of a whitetail, the Savage Model 11 / 6.5 Creedmoor combo produced much tighter groups than needed, about 1-3/4" CTC at 205 yards. Every shot I took was in the instant kill zone, both impressive and confidence-inspiring from a lightweight, sporter barreled rifle.
Hornady feels their new 6.5 Creedmoor is quite appropriate for everything inclusive of moose and elk. Claiming almost 1600 ft. lbs. of kinetic energy at 300 yards from a 24" barrel with a 140 grain bullet (SD .287), I see no reason to disagree. (They are undoubtedly correct, as the 6.5x55mm SE has been doing it with virtually identical ballistics for about 116 years! -Editor)
Launch a 140 grain spitzer bullet at 2700 fps, zeroed to put the bullet 2.7" above the point of aim at 100 yards, and the maximum point blank range (+/- 3") is about 265 yards. If you hold the crosswire of your scope level with the animal's back, you can stretch the 6.5mm Creedmoor into a reasonable 300 yard hunting cartridge. Ballistically, the 6.5mm Creedmoor is a 6.5x55 SE clone in a shorter but fatter case, as a glance at Hornady's published ballistics for both cartridges will verify.
On the functionality side, the Savage Accu-Trigger as supplied broke at a crisp 3.2 pounds. This is close to perfect for a hunting rifle and I felt no need to adjust it. The Savage center-feed, detachable box magazine is easy to load, locks into place easily and fed perfectly.
I'd characterize the recoil as moderate. It is a noisy load, in part due to the 20" barrel. However, after shooting 60 rounds through this rifle in a short time, I didn't feel like I had done a lot of shooting, despite wearing just a thin shirt, as you might expect on an 85-degree July afternoon. Brian Herrick was right, this gun and this cartridge combine to make for an immensely satisfying combination.
My 84 years young father, perhaps still a bit delirious from celebrating his 61st wedding anniversary, commented that hunting rifles don't need to be nearly this accurate. Dad can stick with that one if he likes, but whether shooting a long range coyote off a hedge row or dropping a 300 yard pronghorn buck, it is highly desirable, confidence-inspiring and usable. If he means there are scant little excuses for poor shot placement, well, yes . . . Savage and Hornady have combined here to make excuses hard to find. The Savage Model 11 Lightweight Hunter is an outstanding hunting rifle and I can't think of any hunter who wouldn't enjoy carrying and using this firearm. Sometimes, really good combinations find each other and this is one of those rare examples.
Copyright 2012 by Randy Wakeman. All rights reserved.