A new class of rifle is finding favor with those who pursue predators on a regular basis. The “walking varminter” is a cross between the precision varmint rifle with a serious bull barrel and a lightweight hunting rifle that is comfortable to carry all day. Savage Arms recently got in the game with the new Predator Hunter.
Savage introduced the rifle late last year after consulting with serious predator hunters. Carl Hildebrandt, a senior product engineer who has worked for Savage for 45 years, said he and a game call company representative walked around the plant picking and choosing parts for the new gun. The gun is built around a standard Model 10 action, synthetic stock, and the exceptional AccuTrigger. The oversized bolt handle came from Savage’s line of tactical rifles.
“He wanted a light gun, and I wanted a stiff barrel,” Hildebrandt said. “We settled on a barrel profile we developed for our .338 Winchester Magnum guns some years ago. It has a very aggressive taper but still has enough diameter for a target crown. We also used this profile in the ’70s on a .22-250 before heavy-profile barrels were popular.”
|Model:||Model 10 Predator Hunter|
|Purpose:||Varmints, small game|
|Magazine type and capacity:||Blind; four rounds|
|Receiver Material:||4140 carbon steel|
|Caliber:||.204 Ruger, .223 Rem., .22-250 Rem.|
|Barrel Length:||22 inches|
|Rifling:||1:12 RH twist (.204, .22-250); 1:9 (.223)|
|Sights:||None; drilled and tapped for scope mounts and comes with Weaver bases|
|Metal Finish:||Mossy Oak Brush camo|
|Safety:||3-position thumb safety|
|Trigger Type:||Adjustable AccuTrigger|
|Pull weight:||1.5 to 6 pounds|
|Stock finish:||Mossy Oak Brush camo|
|Drop at heel:||1.881 inches|
|Drop at comb:||1.448 inches|
|Length of pull:||13.75 inches|
|Sling studs/swivels:||Fixed studs|
|Weight, empty||7.25 pounds|
|Overall Length:||43 inches|
The Predator Hunter’s barrel is 22 inches long. It measures 1.047 inches ahead of the locking nut and .740 inch at the muzzle. Savage turns all its barrels from a proprietary carbon-steel alloy stock and uses button rifling exclusively. The recessed, target-style crown does a great job protecting the barrel’s business end when it meets a pick-up’s gritty floorboard.
The Predator’s barrel has a 1:9 twist rate that stabilizes all but the longest and heaviest .223 bullets. My sample rifle, chambered for .223, had a sweet spot between 55 and 69 grains. Hornady’s 55-grain TAP was the most accurate load tested. Off the bench, the Predator routinely stacked five shots into 0.480 inch at 100 yards without letting the barrel cool between shots. Black Hills 69-grain MatchKing HP ammo also produced excellent results with five-shot groups, producing a 0.767-inch average.
The Model 10 action does not need an introduction; it has been around in one form or another since the 1950s. Machined from 4140 carbon steel, it is strong and dura
ble, and it will never be described as svelte. A four-cartridge, blind magazine feeds the action. Note that I was able to squeeze five rounds of .223 ammo into the review rifle’s magazine.The bolt release is located on the right side of the receiver bridge, and the three-position safety is positioned on the receiver’s tang behind the bolt.
The bolt, with twin opposing locking lugs, has a lot of parts. The bolt handle and front and rear baffles are castings. The bolt body is machined from tubing, and the bolt head is either machined from bar or contoured stock. A combination of several pins, ball detents, and the firing pin holds the assembly together. A plunger-style ejector sits at five o’clock on the boltface, and a massive claw extractor is built into the right locking lug. All the parts come together to provide positive extraction and ejection and a smooth ride through the receiver.
The AccuTrigger, the most marvelous factory fire control system ever devised, comes standard. On my sample Predator it was set at 2 pounds from the factory. It is adjustable with a provided tool once the action has been removed from the stock. It performed as well as expensive aftermarket units.
The stock is notable for what it does not have–a massive, heavy forend, aluminum bedding block, or other complicated, weight-increasing features. There are quick-detach studs for a bipod or sling. It is the standard synthetic stock found on other Savage hunting rifles, and it works great. The sample stock did rub the barrel ahead of the recoil lug, but that is easily remedied with fine sandpaper.
The Mossy Oak Brush camo has a polarizing quality–folks hate it or love it. It struck me as garish on the rifle rack but quickly proved itself effective in a wide range of habitat types. The dipped finish does offer an added layer of protection against nature’s ills and is easy to maintain. Simply wipe off the mud and blood with a damp rag. Over time, the finish will chip and scratch in places to reveal the original black finish–no big deal for a working gun.
I paired my sample rifle with a Leupold VX III 4.5-14X 40mm Long Range scope equipped with side parallax adjustment and Boone & Crocket reticle. (I prefer the B&C reticle over the varmint reticle because it is thicker and easier to see in low light.) The pairing has served well and accounted for a dozen whitetails, several dozen hogs, and even a predator or two.
|Shooting Marlin’s .17M2 Model 717M2|
|BULLET||VELOCITY (fps)||EXTREME SPREAD (fps)||STANDARD DEVIATION (fps)||100-yard Accuracy (inches)|
|Black Hills 55-gr. PSP||3118||62||20||1.41|
|Hornady 55-gr. TAP FPD||3211||47||19||0.48|
|Remington Premier 55-gr. AccuTip V||3193||74||22||1.02|
|Black Hills 69-gr. MatchKing||2813||60||18||0.79|
|Remington Premier Match 69-gt. MatchKing||3000||57||16||1.05|
|Accuracy is the average of five, five-shot groups fired from a Caldwell Lead Sled DFT rifle rest at 100 yards. Velocity is the average of 10 rounds measured 10 feet from the gun’s muzzle|
At 9 pounds, 8 ounces, the combination is not lightweight, but it’s not overpowering on long hikes. And the barrel’s weight helps settle the rifle when shooting from field positions, allowing an uncommon degree of field accuracy. In one impromptu range session, I dispatched five 16-ounce drink bottles with five shots at 300-plus yards from the top of a truck cab. The test was less than scientific, but it’s a great example of how well the rifle handled in the field. It is near perfect for shooting predators or varmints at extended ranges–the person behind the rifle is the only limiting factor.
Savage is getting things right these days. The newest guns coming out of the plant, including the new F-Class competition rifle and the Long Range Precision Varminter, perform at levels that do not belie their economical price. The Predator
Hunter fits the mold; it’s a rifle that performs exceptionally at a fair price.