Although they sell well and are widely available, there seems to recently be quite some hate or stigma around Savage rifle actions, and that they are apparently bad, or unreliable or not accurate, especially in the precision rifle community. Or should we rather just say the online precision rifle community. I have also heard a few times at different ranges some hate for Savage actions. Is this hate warranted? Are the claims that Savage rifle actions are bad actually true? Read on as we explore the common perceptions or misconception regarding Savage rifles, see what the fuss is about, and see what can be done to improve your Savage rifle for both hunting and precision rifle shooting.
As with absolutely ANY bolt action rifle, if it does not come from the factory with aluminum bedding or a chassis, bedding the rifle action into the stock is the fastest and biggest accuracy and consistency improvement you can make. Some even do custom bedding on their rifle actions in expensive competition aluminum chassis. You can also just drop it into a aftermarket chassis that already has built in aluminum bedding like the MDT XRS that I put mine in.
The biggest complain I always hear with Savage actions, is actually nothing to do with it breaking or not functioning, but merely the fact that it has a very heavy bolt lift. The reason for this is that lifting the bolt after a shot, the action is simultaneously doing primary extraction and cocking at the same time. That bothers some, and not others. Generally it gets better with time as it begins to break in, but polishing the lift ramp or getting a lighter bolt lift kit improves it. There are also many gunsmiths that do timing work on them to solve that problem, so with that and a bolt lift kit, it is no more a problem at all.
First things first, no matter which way you look at it, remove the safety blade and it’s connecting parts from the accutigger, and chuck it in the bin. The whole premise of a good trigger pull, is not having a blade in front of your trigger. More moving parts also means more that can go wrong.
The next and very important step to get your Savage trigger reliable, consistent and most importantly, safe, after having polished the friction parts of the trigger to get it breaking smoothly, is to modify the adjusting spring/screw. The trigger pull weight on the Savage trigger is adjusted by screwing or unscrewing the spring which acts as a screw underneath the trigger (as seen on the very far right on the image above). The problem with that design concept, is that it does not stay or lock in place well enough after adjustment and most Savage shooters complain of it changing after a few shots. The best modification I made to my Savage trigger, was to make a grub screw, that could fit into that hole from the bottom, and lock the spring setting in place. Just apply a dab of loctite to the grub screw before screwing it in, and your trigger setting will not budge from the adjusted point ever without you adjusting it again yourself.
This not only ensures the set trigger pull stays consistent, but also ensures it does not lighten up, to the point where the firing pin fires when closing the bolt, causing dangerous negligent discharges as I have seen happen on a few Savage rifles where the shooters have tinkered with the triggers. Of course this cannot happen with the accutrigger safety blade in place, but we removed it as mentioned earlier to get the trigger accurate and light for precision rifle shooting.
The savage action screws also need work to be improved on. Especially the front action screw, which surprisingly one some Savage actions, come so long from the factory, that if put in a chassis that requires it to be torqued down to 60 or more in/lbs, it actually binds up the bolt by jamming into the side of one of the bolt lugs. Slightly shortening that action screws sorts that problem out quickly.
Truing The Action
Savage action truing is not really necessary as with most other rifle bolt actions, as the whole Savage design is based on a free-floating bolt face, instead of surfaces jammed together which benefit from truing.
Extractor and Ejector
The extractor and ejector parts on the savage bolts are parts that I have seen break in PRS matches. Personally I have only had one ejector break in a rifle that had over 6 000 rounds through it. But on my other Savage, I upgraded them from the start and have not had a single issue. It is a cheap upgrade for peace of mind. PT&G make a good replacement bolt head with upgraded extractor which ensures reliable extraction and that the bolt never binds.