(This is a reader gun review contest entry, click here for more details.)
I consider myself to be a fairly pragmatic individual when it comes to firearms. Every gun I own serves a purpose. Whether it is a shotgun for hunting or a pistol for concealed carry, I make sure that each guns fills a designated role. I also try to avoid buying anything that is overly flashy or covered in superfluous accessories. To put it simply, I like my guns to do their job right and look average while doing it. The one area where I was failing in this was deer hunting. I didn’t get serious about deer hunting until I was in college, and for the first few years I had been using my 1942 Mosin Nagant 91/30. While not entirely impractical, it did fail on several accounts . . .
- It is fairly heavy to be lugging around in the field (~9 lbs.)
- It only had iron sights; no scope for longer distance shots
- Sloppy doesn’t even begin to describe the trigger
- It was accurate, but not accurate enough
I was hankering for a better tool to complete the task, but funds were low and I couldn’t afford anything better. Luckily, I have a father-in-law who is both thoughtful enough to see my predicament and practical enough to provide me with the correct firearm. He bought me a Savage 110 in .270 Winchester as a birthday/Christmas/college graduation present. Needless to say, it was exactly what I needed.
My father-in-law purchased this gun for a few specific reasons. First, he knew I needed a better rifle for deer hunting. Second, he was able to get it at Walmart for a decent price. Lastly, he and his two sons (my brothers-in-law) already owned rifles in .270, so when he reloads ammunition he doesn’t have to buy a new die set. Again, practicality is the backdrop of this rifle’s story.
Now that you have a short history of this rifle’s significance (which is important to understanding the review), let’s move on to the rifle itself.
The Savage Model 110 in .270 Winchester is a no-frills bolt-action rifle designed for engaging targets at long range. The rifle arrived in a standard cardboard box, nestled in Styrofoam bedding. Included with the rifle were the boilerplate instruction/safety manual and a gun lock, which quickly found itself in a box with many of its unused cousins.
Upon first examination of the rifle I saw that it had a basic, black synthetic stock. A black carbon steel barrel and action sits on top of the stock. The rifle is, for lack of a better term, plain, but boy is she wonderful.
I do a majority of my deer hunting along the bluffs of the Missouri River, so keeping track of the weight of my gear is important. The gun does not weigh that much – just a hair over 8 lbs. unloaded, including scope and sling. With a proper sling this makes it more than comfortable to carry on long hikes up and over the hills throughout the day. It came with swivel studs already installed, making sling installation a breeze.
Shouldering the Savage 110 is exactly what one would expect. The length of pull is 13.75 inches and has a small rubber butt pad on the end of the stock. The ergonomics of the rifle are perfectly suited for the task at hand. There is no need to deal with a fancy or expensive aftermarket stock when the factory stock functions flawlessly (at least for this reviewer). I added an elastic ammunition holder to the butt stock that holds nine round, but doesn’t interfere with my check weld.
The rifle has no iron sights, but came with a Bushnell 3-9×40 rifle scope and rings. The rings were loose upon arrival (which was expected), but it didn’t take me long to get it set up. I constructed a makeshift vise out of towels and boxes and used my set of levels to align the scope on its axes. I also properly positioned it along the fore/aft plane for correct eye relief. With the included Allen wrench, the process didn’t take more than 20 minutes to complete.
The scope itself is nothing fancy. It has a 3-9 adjustable zoom with a 40 mm objective lens. I find this scope to be perfectly adequate for shooting deer at 200-300 yards, perhaps further if I can eliminate a certain amount of user error from the equation.
The safety on the 110 is located directly behind the bolt and has 3 positions:
All the way to the rear is full safe, locking both the trigger and the bolt.
The middle position, which shows half of the red dot, locks only the trigger, allowing the user to operate the bolt and unload the rifle with the safety on.
The forward position takes the safety completely off and makes the rifle ready for firing. Personally, I love this safety and prefer it to any other safety mechanism I’ve used on a rifle. Of course, the only real safety when using a firearm is the one between your ears.
Taking apart the 110 is incredibly easy. Using an Allen wrench, you must remove three screws on the bottom side of the rifle. The stock then comes off with little resistance. All internal maintenance on the rifle may now be completed.
The trigger on the Savage is where the rifle truly starts to shine. The 110 is fitted with Savage’s Accutrigger system, considered by many to be the best factory trigger on the market. I have not fired enough rifles to be an authority on the subject. However, I will say that from my experience the Accutrigger works wonderfully.
The Accutrigger is an adjustable trigger with a very clean break and little to no creep. Out of the box the trigger is set at about 2.5 lbs., but can be moved up to 6 lbs. or down to 1.5 lbs. Savage has made adjustment very easy. Once the stock has been removed (as mentioned above) the trigger assembly makes itself known.
The Accutrigger has what Savage has termed an Accurelease that bisects the trigger itself (think of the trigger safety on a GLOCK). The Accurelease must be engaged before the trigger is pulled, otherwise the sear hits the forward end of the Accurelease and the gun will not fire.
To make adjustments to the Accutrigger you must release or add tension to the trigger return spring, located on the rear portion of the trigger assembly. This is done with an adjustment tool provided with the rifle. If you’re anything like me and tend to misplace small tools you hardly ever use, you can make a small, flat head screwdriver work instead. I used this video from Tactical Advantage to learn how to adjust my Accutrigger.
I had adjusted mine up to 6 lbs. and down to 1.5 lbs just to see how those trigger pulls felt. Six pounds was too much and 1.5 was a little light so I returned it back to the factory setting of 2.5 lbs. Some may criticize my decision to not turn the trigger down to the lightest setting, but that just exemplifies the beauty of the Accutrigger – you can adjust the pull to whatever YOU desire and make it work for YOUR applications in the field or at the range.
At the Range
When I first took the rifle to the range after initially mounting the scope, it was easy to sight in. I started at 25 yards with a large piece of cardboard and took a practice shot. I hit very low – about 14 inches below center and 3 inches to the left. No problem here, I took off the adjustment caps and dialed in both my elevation and windage. My second shot was slightly high, but much closer to where I was aiming. It was now time to move out to a longer distance and perform a true test.
I set up at 100 yards and settled my rifle into my front and rear bags. After a few shots and some more tweaking I had a nice small grouping, about 1 MOA. With further minute adjustments I was able to dial the sights exactly where I wanted them, hitting at almost three inches above center at 100 yards. This would allow me to be right on at about 250 yards and three inches low at 300. While not perfect, it would be practical enough for me to hunt deer at reasonable distances.
I have put several types of ammo through the Savage 110 – from 130 and 150-grain factory ammo to custom loads from my father-in-law – and have not experienced any issues with feeding or ejection. I’ve shot mostly 130-grain because they shoot flatter than the 150-grain bullets.
In the Field
This past deer hunting season was spent with my in-laws near Chamberlain, South Dakota. Chamberlain is a sportsman’s paradise – great fishing year round, pheasant and dove hunting in the fall, varmints of all sorts to plink at, and both mule and whitetail deer hunting, depending on your proximity to the Missouri River.
Deer numbers in Brule County have been down the last few years, resulting in a lower number of tags being distributed by GFP. Luckily, I drew a tag for Any Deer – buck/doe/mule/whitetail. I packed up my sighted-in Savage 110 in .270, along with the rest of my hunting gear, and got ready for a great week of hunting.
Great is the wrong word. Frustrating would be more appropriate.
We hunted around my wife’s family’s family farm (a half section about 5 miles east of the river) and on some public land along the bluffs of the Missouri. We expected to see whitetail around the farm and mule deer along the river.
But what we saw was nothing.
At least anything that we could legally shoot. We saw a few nice bucks on private land next to the bluffs, but there was no way we could ever coax them onto public land to take a legal shot.
I went out every day for a week and did not see a deer that I could shoot. My Savage was begging to be used. I was frustrated from the lack of deer, tired from waking up early and hiking all day, and disappointed that I never even had a chance to take a shot. Finally, on Saturday, November 29, we went out for one last hunt. My wife and I would be going home the next day and I was determined to bring home some food for her and my unborn child.
We went back to where we had seen the bucks the day before. My wife’s grandfather had surprisingly gotten permission from the landowner to let me take a shot at one of the bucks we had seen. We just had to hope that they were still sitting in their usual spot. As we came around the curve for the last time there they were: two bucks sitting in a thicket on a side hill watching us get closer.
We were upwind and they definitely smelled us before we saw them, but fortunately they hadn’t moved yet. My brother-in-law and I walked about 20 yards to the left and took cover behind some smaller hills. We were about 200 yards away at that point. I flipped off the safety on my rifle and crept closer. We moved slowly over the hills and I took cover behind a cedar tree, 150 yards from the deer.
I brought up my scope to put him in my sights.
As I did he got up to run away and started trotting backwards up the hill; his body was turned ¾ away from me. “That’s okay,” I told myself. “I got this. 150 yards = ~2 inches high, just aim behind the shoulder and your golden.” I wrapped the sling around my left arm for support, pulled the rifle in tight, and squeezed the trigger gently.
The shot rang out and the deer kept running. I missed. I finally got a shot and I missed.
I worked the bolt and reloaded quickly. I got him back into my sights for another shot, but by then he was at the crest of the hill and I was not about to take a horizon shot, even though my bullet probably would have landed in the river. I ran up the hill to try to get an eye on him, but he was already gone, down into the hills to live another day.
To say I was disheartened would be an understatement. I put in all that preparation and effort and I had nothing to show for it. My rifle had performed perfectly. It was my fault; I had a good shot and I pulled it. As I sat there feeling sorry for myself my eyes picked out two blobs about 700 yards away. There were two does grazing down in the valley.
They either hadn’t heard the shot or didn’t care. My brother-in-law came up beside me and asked if I wanted to search for the bucks or go for the does. Obviously I wanted to get that buck, but I was sure I could get one of those does if we got closer; 700 yards is much too far for me to take a shot. I took a second to remind myself that I went hunting for practicality, not glory. We started heading down the hill toward the does, wind at our backs, hoping that we could get close enough to take a shot before the smelled us.
We inched closer for what seemed like hours. In reality it was about 10 minutes, tops. We came up over a hill and it happened again – they started to run. I took a seat and got my rifle ready. My brother-in-law took a range measurement: “310 yards,” he said. I got the front doe in my sights as she stopped to look back. I slowed my breathing and squeezed as gently as possible. As the shot went off I saw her jump. She staggered a bit and ran for about 10 yards. She then wavered and started to bed down. Thus, after over a week of hunting, dozens of miles hiked, and countless hours put into the process, I harvested a deer.
After butchering it I only got about 40 lbs. of meat. Though not a substantial amount of food, it was better than going home empty handed. I was able to bring home the bacon venison because I had the correct tool for the job. My Savage 110 was the perfect companion for the hunt and it worked flawlessly when I needed it to. The shot went straight and killed the deer humanely; the bullet entered halfway down her left lung and exited her right lung just behind the shoulder.
The Savage 110 is, when all is said and done, a boring rifle. It’s not pretty and certainly not extravagant in any way. But it will shoot straight and bring down a deer at 300 yards, perhaps further if you have a better scope and a more skilled shooter.
If you need a simple rifle to complete a simple task, the Savage 110 in .270 is the perfect rifle for you. Are there better long-range rifles out there? Of course. Is there a better deer-hunting rifle out there? Probably. Will those rifles cost more? Absolutely. But the 110 performs its task well and will do it time and again, at a fraction of the price of any high-end firearm. It is a practical rifle for the practical sportsman.
Caliber: .270 Winchester (other calibers are available).
Barrel Length: 22”
Overall Length: 43 3/8”
Weight (unloaded): 8 lbs. 2 oz.
Sights: No iron sights; Bushnell 3-9×40 scope included
Action: Bolt Action
Capacity: 4+1 (internal magazine).
Price: ~$500 (I received this as a gift, so I’m not exactly sure of the price).
RATINGS (out of five stars):
Style * * *
It’s a black gun with a black scope and black barrel, although the Accurelease is a shade of silver. To quote The Boss, “You ain’t a beauty, but hey you’re alright.”
Ergonomics (carry) * * * *
With a good padded sling the rifle is easy to carry. Eight pounds isn’t a chore for anyone used to lugging around firearms.
Ergonomics (firing) * * * * *
The rifle shoulders nicely and the Accutrigger eliminates much of the user error from the shooting process.
Reliability * * * * *
In the ~150 rounds I have put through it I haven’t had any problems.
Customization * * * *
The 110 comes ready for any number of scopes or slings to be attached. Aftermarket stocks are available if you’re into that sort of thing. The Accutrigger eliminates any need to install another trigger or to even make a trip to a gunsmith. Savage makes customizing trigger pull almost too simple.
Overall * * * * *
This gun is accurate, reliable, and inexpensive. It’s everything you need and nothing more.