At a mere 5 feet 2 inches and 110 pounds, my friend Coni Brooks, co-founder of Barnes Bullets, is proof that small-sized shooters can handle the “big guns”—providing they fit. She hunts Cape buffalo with a .500 Nitro Express double rifle and mule deer with a .338 Win. Mag., calibers noted for super-stout recoil. On the other hand, I once met a woman in hunting camp who had trouble shooting the less powerful 7mm her husband had given her. She flinched—and missed twice—until she was handed a smaller-stocked .270. With a rifle sized to her proportions, she was dead-on and shooting was fun—as it should be.
Obviously, selecting the right rifle is key, as a gun that doesn’t fit properly can’t be mounted or fired accurately. When it came to women’s rifles in the past, many manufacturers thought trimming an inch from the stock was the answer. Of course, there is much more to it, as shopping for a gun is like shopping for a pair of shoes: There is no such thing as “one size fits all.” So I paid attention when Savage Arms’ marketing manager, Bill Dermody, said the company was designing a rifle specifically for women. Corporate engineers consulted with female hunters first—and took our advice to heart. The end result: the Model 11/111 Lady Hunter.
Several features make this gun the real deal, starting with the stock. Women proportionally have longer necks than men so the Lady Hunter’s stock sports a very high comb to maximize fit and comfort. The way the stock is sloped is also a bonus because it makes target acquisition easier when looking through a scope and provides for proper eye relief. To address length of pull, Savage shortened the distance from the trigger to the butt plate to 12½ inches so someone of smaller stature can fit the butt pad snugly into the shoulder and apply consistent trigger pressure. To be honest, I’m 5 feet 11 inches and can shoot most guns right out of the box so the length of pull is actually a bit short for me, but it’s still a very comfortable gun to shoot as my smaller-statured female colleagues in NRA Publications also attest. On the flip side, Savage intends to offer spacers to lengthen the stock as needed.
Savage then addressed weight as a gun that is too heavy is tough to keep steady. Instead of just trimming overall weight, which is a little more than 6 pounds before adding a scope, Savage honed in on front-end weight. The result? The Lady Hunter has a short, light 20-inch barrel and a trimmer fore-end to diminish issues with balance, and make for easier aiming and handling. Savage topped this off by trimming the grip to fit a woman’s typically smaller hand and moving it closer to the trigger guard.
While Savage already has a reputation for building rifles that are accurate out of the box, the adjustable AccuTrigger is worth a mention (it's present on other models, too). Hunters and shooters sometimes find standard factory triggers a bit heavy, but the crisp AccuTrigger is user-adjustable from 6 to 1½ pounds. The ability to get just the right trigger pull enhances accuracy.
But despite the Lady Hunter’s features and what Dermody calls its “ladies’ specific geometry,” perhaps the best thing going for it is the feedback Savage receives—including from men. Though smaller-statured men who tried it out told Savage they weren't about to buy anything dubbed "Lady Hunter," any thought of changing its name was quickly shot down internally as doing so would go against Savage's goal of offering something for everyone.
In a nutshell, those who fired the Lady Hunter alongside me on the range were quick to note what a pleasure it is to shoot a high-performance rifle that fits. From a sheer cosmetic standpoint, the rifle’s custom-looking walnut stock and fore-end aren’t bad either. And an MSRP of $819 makes the Lady Hunter quite a fair deal.