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Innovative, Remarkable, Reliable. . .Getting Inside Savage's Accutrigger

Our Technical Editor thinks this new adjustable trigger system will forever change shooters' expectations of standard-production rifle triggers.

Savage Arms has long been known for manufacturing extremely accurate, extremely reliable, and extremely economical bolt-action centerfire rifles. Now it has introduced a revolutionary trigger design that will forever change the way shooters expect triggers to function on store-bought guns. The new Savage AccuTriggerTM is absolutely crisp and creep-free. It is easily user-adjustable from 6.0 to 1.5 pounds. And it is absolutely safe. It won't fire if dropped or bumped at the lightest setting or even if you throw it from the top of a 20-foot forklift down onto a concrete floor--which is exactly what Savage Arms owner and CEO Ron Coburn did in the factory to prove to himself it worked when his engineering team showed him their finished prototype.

Think about all that for a minute: An ordinary, production-grade rifle with a trigger that breaks competition-grade crisp and clean at only 1.5 pounds and priced at Savage's traditional moderate level.

The AccuTrigger project got started several years ago when Coburn decided he wanted Savage rifles to have the same reputation for out-of-the-box trigger precision as they already had for out-of-the-box accuracy. A lifelong serious hunter, Coburn was as frustrated as every other rifle shooter in the world by the liability constraints that inhibit the availability of top-quality, adjustable trigger mechanisms on regular-production hunting rifles. Most factory-production firearms triggers today have very heavy pulls. No secret why: No manufacturer can afford the legal risk of producing firearms with light or adjustable triggers that might accidentally discharge. Of course, some factory rifle triggers do have screws to adjust sear engagement pressure or trigger travel/overtravel; on others a gunsmith can polish component interfaces to reduce sear engagement or smooth the creep. However, unskilled adjustments to a factory trigger can create an unsafe condition and will usually void the factory warranty, and many riflemakers who sell rifles with triggers that are mechanically capable of adjustment factory-seal all the adjustment mechanisms with glue or epoxy so that any tampering is irrevocably evident.

To Coburn that was unsatisfactory. He called Savage design and industrial engineers Scott Warburton and Bob Gancarz into his office and gave them a simple mission: design a perfectly crisp, creep-free trigger for Savage rifles. Sometime later they came back and showed him a new mechanism. He tried it and smiled. "That's really good," he said. "Now make it user-adjustable, from six pounds down to a pound and a half." They looked at each other and headed back to their workshop, thinking: "Wish he'd mentioned that before." A few more months went by, and they were back with a perfectly crisp, creep-free trigger mechanism that was fully adjustable with a single screw. "That's really good," Coburn said. "Now go make it so it's absolutely safe and won't jar off no matter what." This time they left his office thinking: "Really, really wish he'd mentioned that before." For the next several months the project kept Warburton and Gancarz awake at night and spoiled their concentration while bass-fishing or watching football on weekends. But they finally came back with a mechanism unlike anything ever done in a rifle before and put it in Coburn's hand. He worked it, felt it, smiled once again, and then threw it off the top of a 20-foot-high forklift with the manual safety off. It didn't fire! Coburn shook hands with his engineers and said, "If I'd told you at the outset everything I wanted, you'd have thought I was crazy."

Now the AccuTrigger is in production, and it's an interesting historical note that the two guys who invented what is perhaps the most innovative rifle trigger action in history came to Savage from previous jobs in the revolver engineering departments of Colt and Smith & Wesson. Reminds me of the days in the 19th century when men like Horace Smith, Daniel Wesson, Oliver Winchester, and Eli Whitney all knew and worked with and for each other at various times. The great tradition of American arms making continues.

When at rest (#1), the top extension of the AccuTrigger's AccuRelease lever is positioned behind the sear. Should anything cause the sear to jar off (#2), the AccuRelease lever blocks the sear and prevents firing.

To understand the innovative simplicity of the AccuTrigger and how it operates, look closely at the accompanying sequence of photographs and illustrations. First you'll notice that the trigger and the sear levers are notably longer than those found on conventional trigger mechanisms with their engagement point out on their ends. This allows for more leverage (technical term: longer force-moment arms) than with shorter parts with less tension required for reliable, crisp engagement. (Think about a seesaw; a long lever is easier to operate.) With the sear engaging a simple sharp, shallow notch in the extreme end of the trigger, only a miniscule trigger movement is required for an instant, sharp, clean release.


The next essential element is the long silver-colored AccuRelease lever mounted within the trigger body and sharing the trigger's pivot point in the housing. When at rest, the forward upper end of the AccuRelease is positioned directly behind the sear, where it will block the sear should any external force cause it to jar out of the trigger notch. In normal operation, the trigger finger will first take up and depress the AccuRelease lever so that its forward tip drops out of the path of the sear, allowing the sear to move fully backward when released by the trigger at whatever weight you have adjusted the trigger pull to be.

In normal operation, the trigger finger completely depresses the AccuRelease lever (#3), allowing the sear to move completely to the rear (#4) to fire the rifle.

Several shooters who have seen AccuTrigger-equipped rifles only from the outside have commented that the system reminds them of a Glock pistol's "Safe-Action." And in broad conceptual terms there is indeed a similarity as both systems involve a trigger-housed lever that prevents firing until it is depressed as the trigger is squeezed. But the actual design and mechanical operating principles are utterly different.

To adjust the AccuTrigger pull weight, simply remove the two pillar-bedding stock screws, lift off the stock, and insert the tool suppli

ed with the rifle into the bottom of the trigger return spring, engaging the spring-tail with the slot on the tool. For a heavier pull, turn the tool clockwise. Maximum trigger pull (nominally six pounds) comes when the spring "clicks" when rotated. For a lighter pull, turn the tool counter-clockwise. Minimum pull (nominally 1.5 pounds) is at the point when the large coil contacts the top surface of the trigger and you detect resistance. If you try to force the spring beyond these limits, you won't create any danger, but you'll destroy the spring and the pull will feel lousy.

Incidentally, as part of the AccuTrigger project, Savage also redesigned the manual safety mechanism for its bolt-action rifles; the newly designed ambidextrous teardrop safety on the center rear of the receiver provides much better acquisition of the safety button and operates much more smoothly and quietly than the previous design. It is a three-position safety, which locks both the trigger/sear interface and the bolt in the full-rear position, locks the trigger/sear but allows the bolt to be operated for unloading while in the center position, and is in firing mode when all the way forward.

Graphics provided by Savage (T) illustrate the comparison of the AccuTrigger trigger pull profile and other gunmakers' trigger pull profiles.

While developing the AccuTrigger, Savage employed Dvorak Instrument's sophisticated TriggerScan analysis computer software to observe the operation of the mechanism and to compare objective measurements of the new system with triggers of other makes and models of rifles. According to Savage's published results (shown in the accompanying graphics provided by Savage), these comparisons confirmed that there is a graphic and repeatable difference between the AccuTrigger and all other triggers tested. The new Savage system demonstrates a lighter trigger pull than all the other major brands (including top-of-the-line imported brands and custom aftermarket triggers). The AccuTrigger was much smoother and crisper and broke cleaner with less creep than any other factory-built trigger tested.

I have used the same computerized trigger/action TriggerScan instrumentation and software for several years and independently repeated the same testing procedure as described by Savage. My results verify all of Savage's claims and, if anything, indicate Savage is being conservative. In the accompanying graphic from my analysis, overlaid tracings of the trigger operation of a Savage Model 12BVSS-S .22-250 both at the maximum setting and the minimum setting are not only equally sharp and creep-free, they are exactly co-terminous up to the point of break. In other words, when adjusting from six pounds to 1.5 pounds, there was absolutely no measurable change in the trigger position, travel, pull, or feel--except for much lighter weight. It's truly a remarkable engineering achievement.

Coburn notes, "Sooner or later, everyone that inspects the AccuTrigger asks how I ever got our corporate attorney's blessing. The truth is, I didn't bother to ask. The AccuTrigger is what shooters have been asking for--an infinitely adjustable trigger that will suit their own personal taste while still being completely safe."

For 2003 the new AccuTrigger is standard equipment on all Savage centerfire bolt-action Varmint models, Law Enforcement models, and heavy-barrel long-range rifles, including Savage's "Package Series" versions of those models pre-equipped with high-quality Leupold and Burris variable scopes. AccuTrigger models replace previous models, which are no longer cataloged. I emphasize that the AccuTrigger is a standard factory-issue item not a custom or aftermarket accessory, and it will also be incorporated into various models in Savage's conventional hunting rifle lines as quickly as production allows--perhaps as early as this autumn. The company is certainly not being slow about it. The production schedule calls for 3500 AccuTrigger units a month beginning last January 1st.

Okay, an obvious question: How much does the new AccuTrigger add to a Savage rifle's cost? Savage says about $35. For example, the manufacturer's suggested retail price in 2002 for a pre-AccuTrigger, top-of-the-line stainless-steel, fluted barrel, laminated-stock Savage Model 12BVSS varmint rifle was $616. The same model in 2003, with AccuTrigger, is priced at $675. That's $59 more, but the other $24 part of the difference is normal annual price increase. That's a real bargain compared to any other maker's standard-production rifle prices, especially considering that the cost of a custom-match-adjustable aftermarket trigger for a Savage rifle (or any rifle), plus precision gunsmith installation, would run several hundred additional dollars.

And to answer the second question that leaps into a previous Savage owner's mind when he first tries the feel of an AccuTrigger-equipped gun--no. The AccuTrigger is not retrofittable. The rear and bottom areas of the receiver are milled somewhat differently for the AccuTrigger module and its accompanying new manual safety mechanism than for the previous Savage trigger and safety mechanism. So you won't be able to buy an aftermarket AccuTrigger package and install it on the Savage rifle you already own.

Having said this, however, I will also report that I recently spent a day at the Savage factory--where, under the expert guidance of the Savage engineering and production staff, I hand-built and assembled a .22-250 Model 12BVSS-S stainless/laminated AccuTrigger Varmint model. I closely observed the differences between the AccuTrigger receiver millings and the standard Savage receiver design, and it is my (admittedly nonmachinist's) opinion that a professionally equipped gunsmith/machinist's shop could in fact reconfigure an existing Savage receiver to install an AccuTrigger mechanism. But that'll happen only if Savage decides to sell the triggers to gunsmiths (which is doubtful at this point) and then only if the gunsmith's customer was willing to pay nearly as much as the price of a brand-new AccuTrigger gun just to put the new trigger on an old rifle.

I've been shooting and working with the AccuTrigger since the spring of 2002 when Coburn first sent me the heavy-barrel Model 10FP-LE1 Law-Enforcement model in .308 shown in the accompanying photograph with a prototype trigger mechanism. Equipped with one of Springfield Inc.'s big tactical scopes, it shoots one-hole groups at 100 yards with factory ammunition, and the absolutely crisp minimum-setting trigger will make it a must-have for law enforcement special operations teams who must make hair-splitting instant-takeup shots with lives at stake. My new Model 12BVSS-S .22-250 Varmint prints 5/8-inch groups at 200 meters with factory am

munition, and the precision trigger is the answer to a predator-hunter's prayer for long-distance shots at varmints.

The mechanism's trigger pull weight can be easily adjusted from six to 1.5 pounds by removing the stock and tightening or loosening the trigger return spring (L). The AccuTrigger's built-in AccuRelease lever (R) ensures complete safety at even the lightest pull weight.

My only problem with the whole thing is--now I'm spoiled. I want an AccuTrigger on every rifle I own.

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