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Savage's superb model 110.

* Ask most gun buffs how long the Savage Model 110 bolt-action rifle has been around and you'll probably get a "who cares" kind of response. Alas, like Rodney Dangerfield, the M-110 "don't get no respect." It's a shame that this extremely strong, safe and reliable action isn't better thought of by the cognoscenti--the custom '98 Mauser and pre-64 Model 70 clan--but then again, with 27 years of life under its belt, the 110 obviously appeals to somebody! And when you think about it, those somebodies are the kind of folks for whom the gun was designed in the first place back in the mid-1950s.

An interesting time, the mid-'50s, in the ascendency of the bolt-action rifle. A major war had once again reaffirmed the excellence of the .30-06 among several million veterans who, like their fathers before them who had served in WWI, were now looking for a sporting rifle to handle the cartridge which they had become so familiar with, and had such enormous respect for. That meant a bolt action, but there weren't a whole lot to choose from back then. There was, of course, the Model 70 Winchester which was a relatively expensive rifle, and the fairly new Remington Model 721, but there was precious little else in the way of home-grown turnbolts. Most rifles back then were still being put together around Mausers, both commercial and military, '03 Springfields and '17 Enfields.

With the popularity of the bolt action growing steadily, it became obvious to other manufacturers, both foreign and domestic, that if they wanted a bigger piece of the pie they too had better come up with turnbolt designs of their own rather than using commercial Mausers made overseas.

Actually, Savage Arms was one of the first to have responded to similar circumstances that existed after World War I. In 1920, the company introduced its Model 1920 Hi-Power, a short, Mauser-type action chambered for its proprietary .250-3000 and .300 Savage rounds, but it could not handle the two others that big-game hunters wanted even more--the .30-06 and, after 1925, the .270 Winchester.

In 1928 the Models 40/45 (standard and deluxe) were introduced; both were chambered im .30-06, as well as .250 Savage, .300 Savage, and .30-30, but were never very popular; production was stopped in 1940.

About the time the Model 40-series was being introduced, a young design engineer by the name of Nick Brewer took a job with Stevens Arms and Tool Company, already a division of Savage Arms Corporation. In the ensuing years, Nick designed the stevens Model 15, a .22 rifle with an integral barrel/receiver. He also designed two other guns which are still in production today, the Savage M-340 centerfire rifle and the M-987 semi-auto .22. Without question though, Brewer's best effort was the Model 110, a rifle he designed on a consulting basis almost ten years after he left Savage in 1944 due to illness. At his retirement, he was Chief Engineer in charge of Browning machine gun production at Savage's Utica, New york, plant.

If I had to use one word to describe the Model 110 it would be "innovative." Brewer's instructions were to design a centerfire turnbolt utilizing state-of-the-art production methods; one which above all would be economical to produce. After all, Savage had long since earned a reputation as a maker of economically-priced guns, so to come up with a new rifle that couldn't compete in their own market just would not have made sense. You play to your strengths and the Savage folks knew their strengths. Brewer was also told to come up with an action that would lend itself to a mirror-image, left-hand model if and when that decision was made.

So Nick had his work cut out for him. I'd say he succeeded admirably. It's a shame Brewer didn't live to see the M-110 make its debut in 19958; he died shortly before its introduction.

Actually, the current model guns we'll be looking at here are second generation M-110s. In the mid-'60s, the bolt head, extractor and the trigger assembly were redesigned by Savage's Bob Greenleaf, who today holds the position of Product Engineer at Savage. Bob also designed the detachable magazine that is offered on the 110-C model, but the basic design is still Brewer's. Let's now look at how Nick went about answering the challenge.

One must bear in mind that in the mid-1950s, investment casting was still not an accepted method for producing critical components, i.e., bolts and receivers, so Brewer's options were few. He could use one-piece forgings as in the Winchester Model 70, but that would be too expensive. His only solution was to go the way Remingron had gone several years earlier with its 720-series rifles--a fabricated, multipiece bolt and tubular receiver.

The Model 110's receiver, then, starts out as a solid piece of chrome-moly bar stock, which can be machined more easily than a forging. In short, by starting with a cylinder, the required machining operations are simpler, fewer and the amount of material removal less.

Keeping this economy theme in mind, let's now examine the first of many unique design features incorporated into the M-110: the barrel lock ring.

Unlike other turnbolt actions which accept a barrel having a threaded shank of reduced diameter at the chamber end, the M-110's barrel requires no such extra turning-down steps. The rear outside diameter (OD) of the barrel is simply threaded and screwed into the receiver. When a completed action is ready for barrel fitting, a headspace gauge is slipped into the chamber and the barrel screwed on until proper headspace is achieved. The lock nut is then threaded onto the remaining inch or so of threads still exposed at the rear of the barrel, then cinched up tight. This lock ring arrangement not only provides a faster and more precise barrel fitting/headspace operation, but it also allows barrels to be turned from smaller diameter bar stock, which means less material to start with, less to remove, and less waste.

Oh, almost forgot: before that barrel lock ring is cinched up, a 1/8-inch-thick ecentric washer is slipped onto the barrel and sandwiched between it and the receiver. The protruding portion of this "washer" is actually the action's recoil lug--an idea borrowed from the Remington 720 series. Think of it: On a forged receiver having an integral recoil lug, every surface of that lug must be trued up with a machining operation whereas the washer system requires none; it's a stamping. And the washer is no less effective.

The M-110's bolt begins life as a piece of chrome-moly tubing at the front end of which is attached a separate head containing the locking lugs, extractor and ejector plunger. At the rear, the firing pin/cocking cam assembly is inserted, the collar-style bolt handle slipped on, then the whole unit kept together with a massive cap bolt located at the rear.

On the original Brewer design produced by Savage from 1958 through '65, the bolt head had a protruding nose which extendded out beyond the front of the locking lugs about 1/4 inch. This nose,. in turn, fitted into a corresponding recess at the breech end of the barrel. On the nose was fitted a C-type spring clip extractor. The latter was probably the weakest aspect of the whole Model 110 design.

Bob Greenleaf's modifications, which were incorporated in the M-110-C introduced in 1966, did away with the nose by extending the locking lugs forward flush with the bolt face rim and going to a Model 70-style (post '63) extractor housed in the face of the right locking lug. Of course, the counterbore at the breech end of the barrel was no longer needed.

Also redesigned by Greenleaf was the ejection system. On the original 110 there was a slot similar to the pre-'64 Model 70 working in conjunction with an ejector arm housed at the rear of the magazine box. With the M-110-C, Savage converted to the plunger-style button used today by all but a few manufacturers.

One of the several noteworthy features on the M-110's bolt is its highly effective gas baffle system. Directly behind the twin-opposed lugs at the head of the bolt is what appears to be a second pair of locking lugs. Actually, they are not lugs at all but rather gas baffles which rotate freely on the bolt. When the bolt is pushed home and the handle turned down to lock the action, the baffle remains aligned in the lug raceway to effectively seal off the rearward escape of gas in the event of a case rupture or pierced primer. When the action is unlocked, the baffles realign with the locking lugs to where they simply look like rearward extension of same.

The baffle rotates around a shank that is integral with the bolt head and is held to the body by a single massive cross pin with a transvers hole in the center through which the firing pin passes. This separate bolt head is another feature borrowed from Remington and since incorporated into other actions--the Browning BBR and the current Model 70, to name two.

Offering further protection for the shooter against particle-bearing gases is another baffle--actually a collar--which rides the bolt body between the handle and the receiver bridge and seals off the lug raceways at the rear.

A second function performed by this collar-type baffle is that it contains the camming surface for primary extraction. Other turnbolts have the root of the bolt handle working against an angled surface milled into the left rear of the bridge, but it requires separate machining steps--ones that can't be done via turning operations on a screw machine or lathe. On the M-110, the baffle is an investment casting complete with cam angle--again, a simple, easy and inexpensive solution.

Yet further safeguards are provided by not one but two vent holes in the receiver ring, one on each side, and a vent hole in the bolt head. If there's a more "gas-proof" action available than the M-110, I don't know who makes it.

Another departure from convention is found in the sear and cocking piece. For the Model 110, Brewer embraced the universally-accepted principle whereby the upstroke of the handle forces a cocking cam to ride a helical surface--the cam notch--thereby compressing the mainspring until the nose of the cam engages a retaining notch, thus holding the firing pin in the cocked position. But instead of the cocking cam riding in a slot in the floor of the receiver tang as on Mauser, the Model 70, Ruger 77, the Sako, the Remington 700 and most other turnbolts I can think of, the M-110's cam notch isn't a notch at all, but a "window" occupying the 12-to-3 o'clock quadrant more than an inch forward of the bolt handle. The cocking cam itself is nothing more than a large-headed rivet, the shank of which fits into a hole linking it to the striker assembly inside the bolt body, while the head rides in the right locking lug raceway. It sounds complicated but it's ingeniously simple and, more importantly, easy to produce from inexpensive-to-make components.

Even the sear is highly unusual in that it doubles as the bolt stop, triples as a cocking indicator which can be both seen and felt, and quadruples as the bolt release. The latter is in the form of a serrated thumbpiece which is an integral extension of the sear and projects up along the right side of the receiver bridge. When this thumbpiece is in the up position, the striker depressing the trigger allows the sear's thumbpiece to be pushed down enabling the bolt to be withdrawn from the receiver. A downward-projecting leg on the sear engages a retaining step on the forward beam of the trigger where the degree of sear engagement can be readily seen. Sear engagement is adjustable, as is tension and overtravel. The tension spring is unusual in that it's a straight piece of tempered wire which is tensioned across a fulcrum via a set screw. Very simple and inexpensive but one which make a light, yet consistent, trigger pull tougher to achieve than with a coil spring.

The sliding tang safety is a good one, locking the trigger and bolt when in its rearwardmost position. Savage does not claim the safety to be a three-position type but the fact is, the thumbpiece can be halted in mid-slide to where the bolt will unlock yet the trigger is still blocked. The way I see it, it wouldn't take much to give the M-110 a very positive, three-position safety. To do so would be another plus they could talk about.

The original M-110 was designed with a blind magazine similar to that introduced by Remington in its 720 series, i.e., a stamped steel floorplate but one held fast by the guard screws. They have since gone over to the true "blind" magazine with the current M-110-E in that the metal floorpalte has been done away with. The sheet metal magazine box on the E-model is spot welded to the receiver, not loose and simply sandwiched in place as on most other guns of like design. Recoil lips are pressed into the sides of the box which abut the cartridge shoulders inside, thereby precluding forward movement and protecting bullet tips from peeining under recoil. It really works!

As part of the redesign undertaken by Bob Greenleaf in the mid-'60s, a detachable box magazine was introduced with the M-110-C in 1966. It's one of the better detachable magazines in that it fits perfectly flush with the stock belly; it snaps into place with a very positive feel and audible "click," and the release button is perfectly positioned so that the box drops (actually, it's spring-ejected), right into your waiting hand. The follower is of a black nylon material which purists might find offensive but it is quieter than a stamped steel one.

I mentioned earlier that Savage all along intended to make a short version of the M-110 to better suit the stubbier cartridges like the 22-250, .243 and .308 Winchester; this they did right from the outset. A year later, in 1959, they announced the M-110-MCL, a true left-hand version with the bolt handle, ejection port and cheeckpiece on the opposite side. Then, to top it all off, Savage virtually stunned the industry in 1962 when they announced they would offer the complete line of m-110 actions and barreled actions to the gunsmithing trade--short and long, left and right. This latter move did a lot to establish the Model 110 with the trade, and with the more serious yet economy-minded shooters.

As a short action goes, the M-110 is among the most accommodating in that it will accept cartridges loaded to overall lengths of 2-7/8 inches; that goes for both detachable box and fixed magazine versions. The long action will digest rounds of up to 3.4 inches overall.

Surely the addition of the M-110 to the line did a lot to enhance the company's image and helped make Savage the largest manufacturer of sporting arms in the United States--a distinction it held for several years during the early and mid-1970s. It's no secret though that the company underwent several long and bitter labor disputes during that time which ultimately led the parent company, Emhart Corp., to hang a "For Sale" sign on the Westfield, Massachusetts, facility.

Today's Savage Industries is a smaller more streamlined operation than previously; a fact which is reflected in a more abbreviated line than a decade ago. The 110, for example, is currently offered in four models: the C, E, S and V. The M-110-C (for Clip) and its left-hand CL version must be considered the flagship of the line. The C sports an American walnut Monte Carlo stock with a semi-gloss finish, cheekpiece, and a good amount of genuine cut checking. In the short-action version the C is chambered for the .22-250, .243 and .308 Winchester; in standard length, .270, .30-06, 7mm Remington and .300 Winchester Magnum. Barrels are 22 inches in standard calibers, 24 inches in magnums. Suggested retail price is $428 in right hand, $468 in left hand.

The 110-E is the budget, blind magazine model with a stained hardwood stock, no checkering, no cheekpiece, and is available only in .243, .270, .30-06 and .308 Winchester. It goes for $271 with Williams open sights, and $263 without.

The 110-S is the Metallic Silhouette model. It sports a heavy, 22-inch barrel and high comb Monte Carlo stock specifically designed for offhand shooting. The tightly-curved pistol grip carries a Wundhammer swell and, like the fore-end, is stipped to provide a non-slip grip as well as a very businesslike appearance. The S is chambered in .308 Winchester or 7mm-08 Remington. It's a lot of gun for the retail price of $385.

The 110-V is the varmint model available only in .22-250 Remington. The V's stout 26-inch barrel gets all the velocity this hot .22 centerfire is capable of. Like the S version, the V has the stipped Wundhammer grip and fore-end but the butt end has no Monte Carlo; the comb is high and straight making the gun especially well suited to bench and prone shooting. It too is priced at $385.

On an absolute scale, the various Model 110s--even the best-dressed C Model--are not fancy guns. There's no glossy finish, no chrome-like blue job, no rosewood tips, and white spacers. For various esthetic and academic reasons, the M-110 will never be embraced by that cognosecenti crowd I alluded to at the outset, but that doesn't change the fact that it's a very sound, well engineered rifle that will shoot with the best of 'em. That's exactly how Savage and Nick Brewer envisioned it.
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Title Annotation:evaluation; rifle
Author:Sundra, Jon R.
Publication:Guns & Ammo
Date:Mar 1, 1985
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