Thursday, May 15, 2014

Building an inexpensive Hunting Rifle

For most of the modern world, a hunting rifle is a bolt action rifle of medium to large caliber.

In North America, the choice of caliber is usually somewhere in the .26-.30 (6.5 to 7.62mm) caliber range.

The .30-06 has been a very popular cartridge for nearly 100 years. The reason is simple. It is good for any game found in North America. The ammunition is easy to find and the choice of bullets and loadings is nearly limitless.

When choosing a candidate for an "affordable" hunting rifle, we need to look at what the word "affordable" means. To me it means within reach of the common hunter. A firearm that most people could afford, say in the $200-$400 range, completely outfitted.

This Savage 110 kind of found me. At the time I owned a Remington model 710 in .30-06. I wasn't really looking to buy another '06 rifle, but the 710 model had some quirks that had me concerned. The bolt to receiver fit was loose and goofy and the reviews of the gun were not very favorable.

Anyway, a friend brought me this gun to reblue. Before I could get to cleaning it up, he decided that he needed to sell it, and some of his other guns to finance a trip to Alaska. I gave him what he was asking for the gun, which I thought was a decent price. looking on Gunbroker the prices for the older model 110s like mine range from $180 to $300. 

The gun is a Savage model 110E Series K. It was built before the design changed in 1966 (money saving engineering changes). Exact production dates are not easy to find, most likely this gun was built between 1963 & 1966.

The model 110 was introduced in 1958 with an initial price of $109.95 (thus the model 110 designation). The gun sold very well, well enough that in 1988, when Savage was on the verge of bankruptcy, it was the model 110 that kept the company from going under. It was the only gun Savage made for a few years. Outdoor Life Magazine listed the Model 110 as one of the 26 best deer rifles of all time.

The barrel & action are made from forged high carbon steel, where the balance of the parts are investment cast (perhaps made by Ruger's Pine Tree Casting co.?)
The barrel is threaded into the receiver and fixed via a large locknut located just ahead of the receiver, with a recoil lug sandwiched between the two. This system allows barrels to be changed or headpsace to be adjusted relatively easily, making for an extremely accurate yet inexpensive rifle.

My Model 110 has a fixed 4 round box magazine with no floor plate. The safety has 3 positions: 1. fire, 2. safe with the trigger locked but the bolt is free to open for unloading and 3. safe with the trigger and bolt locked. 

I like the ability to open & close the bolt with the safety on!

 It looked just like this one when I got it:

At any rate I paid $225 for the gun, which I thought was fair. The gun has a good bore and was tight. The wood stock was not walnut and thus not worthy of a refinish. The "checkering" was pressed, not cut and the bluing was all but gone.

So I scuffed the metal and wood and gave it a camo finish. 

 I installed a Simmons "8-point" 3-9x40mm scope That I had from another rifle.
  I bought a camo Beartooth neoprene scope coat, a hand made camo sling made from leather (from a guy on ebay) and a Harris 6-9" bipod.

I free-floated the barrel by removing any wood that touched the barrel, of course all that can change when the barrel gets hot or the wood gets wet....
 I then added a Limbsaver recoil pad. 

This was supposed to be a "pre-fit" pad, I guess the measurements must have changed over the years, because it didn't fit perfectly, but I will fix that.
The limbsaver pad increased the Length of Pull a bit, it is now at 14 1/4", which feels about right for me.

I took the recoil pad back off to fill the holes. I thought I would try this method: mixing sawdust with wood glue and filling the holes. The sawdust is from the sanding on the handles of my knife projects.

That didn't work out too well. The new holes are so close to the old ones that the repair was not strong enough. Luckily I am a pack rat and I had a nice 1/4" wood dowel. I drilled out the holes to 1/4", poured in some wood glue and hammered them in place. I'll trim them flush when the glue is dry.
Sanded down, ready for drilling

 much better

Here is a break down of what I have invested:

Gun: $225
Scope: $0 (I had it from another gun I bought, they retail for around $50)
Scope Coat: $19
Harris Bi-Pod: $59
Leather Sling: $19
Limbsaver Recoil Pad: $35

Grand Total: $357

For about the same price you could buy a new Savage Axis rifle:

 Or a Ruger American Rifle. The Ruger represents a very good buy. The American Rifle comes in a lightweight synthetic stock with integral pillar bedding and an adjustable trigger.
But then you would have to add the other accoutrements like the scope, scope mounts and bipod.....So this was still a bargain build!


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