The old saying that you carry a hunting rifle a lot more than you shoot it was created in support of lightweight rifles. As the verve of youth is stolen by time, I find more truth in this every day.
More conventional wisdom conveyed to me during my youth was the "fact" lightweight rifles were not accurate, or at least they were not accurate for more than one shot. But that issue is all but gone today, particularly with the advent of carbon fiber-wrapped barrels like those from Proof Research (PR).
PR barrels start with a rather heavy profile barrel in 416R stainless steel. For example, the muzzle of the barrel on this Savage Model 110 Ultralite measures .745 inch behind the end cap. PR uses cut rifling and the barrels are double stress-relieved to ensure they won’t shift point of impact as they heat up. A computer-controlled machine turns all but the very ends down much smaller. Then the thin metal barrel is covered with a carbon-fiber wrap until it is back to the original diameter of the barrel. This eliminates a substantial amount of weight, while adding back the stiffness of a large diameter barrel. Tests show carbon fiber will also dissipate heat faster than a steel barrel. Yet, the barrel weighs as much as 64 percent less than a steel barrel.
The steel on the PR barrel on the Savage Model 110 Ultralite is left in the raw at both ends, which provides a visually pleasing color contrast. The muzzle is threaded ⅝-24 and comes with a thread-protecting cap with a knurled surface through the center. The reason for the threaded muzzle is to allow the use of a muzzle brake, or, more likely today, a suppressor. The muzzle is finished with what appears to be a machined 11-degree crown.
Savage has mated a PR barrel with a stainless-steel Model 110 action that’s been skeletonized to reduce weight then coated with melonite for looks and protection. The barrel is fitted to the action by the use of a locking barrel nut, which has been a Savage feature for decades. It speeds up manufacturing while allowing precise control over headspacing, which plays a big role in the legendary Savage accuracy.
The action is factory blueprinted. "Blueprinting" is a term used by custom gunmakers and refers to truing the action to center, lapping the bolt lugs and other accuracy-enhancing procedures. The action is drilled and tapped for scope mounts using the larger-than-standard 8-40 screw size. With the lightweight rifle and the trend to bigger, heavier scopes for long-range shooting, this is a good feature. For example, to help unlock the long-range potential of this rifle, I mounted a Zeiss Conquest V4, 4X-16X-44mm scope on my test gun. Another, often unsung, benefit of an Ultralite rifle is it allows the use of bigger optics without increasing its overall weight compared to a conventional rifle.
The bolt body has a spiral flute that also reduces weight and looks rather racy. The flutes on the bolt body are dark colored, with the top edge and the rest of the bolt polished. The cocking ring and bolt handle are black oxide. The Savage 110 bolt uses a separate bolt head that “floats” slightly to help maintain critical alignment of the lugs with the action. The extractor is fitted into a milled slot on the right bolt lug. It slides in this slot and is indexed with a ball and spring fitting into a machined detent on the bottom of the extractor. The ejector is a spring-loaded plunger type fitted in the face of the bolt.
The Savage Model 110 Ultralite uses the Savage adjustable AccuTrigger. Mine shipped with a trigger pull of 2 pounds, 6 ounces, which is outstanding on a factory produced hunting rifle.
This is all installed in a Savage AccuFit stock, adjustable for comb height with five different inserts in ⅛-inch increments. It’s also adjustable for length of pull with any of the four spacers in ¼-inch increments. It comes with three sets of different length screws. This allows the shooter to adjust the stock for a perfect fit and to place the shooting eye behind the optical center of the scope.
The gray stock has black over-molded inserts on the gripping areas. It is fitted with a thick, springy recoil pad and sling swivel studs. The trigger guard is plastic and is fitted with the bolt release button in the front. The rifle uses detachable box magazines. The capacity is either two or four rounds depending on the cartridge selected.
I picked the 6.5 PRC, so the magazine capacity is only two. That is one of the few disappointments with this rifle; I had expected magazine capacity to be three as with most modern rifles and large diameter cartridges. However, I would have complained bitterly if the magazine protruded from the stock right at the carrying balance point, so I think it’s a fair trade-off. Three rounds (one in the chamber, two in the magazine) is enough for most hunting situations.
My second cartridge choice? This rifle is available in one of my all-time favorite cartridges, the .280 Ackley Improved, which has a magazine capacity of four. Look at the cartridge list; I’ll bet your favorite is on there, too, as there are lots of options.
While factory-loaded 6.5 PRC ammo is limited to two offerings from Hornady at this writing, several other companies announced plans to introduce 6.5 PRC at the 2020 SHOT Show, they just aren't in production quite yet. Hunters can hope by hunting season there will be more options, although it’s going to be hard to improve on the Hornady ammo.
This rifle shot the Hornady ELD Match ammo ridiculously well. With a group average of half an inch, most 15-pound precision rifles would struggle to match the accuracy of this ultralight hunting rifle. The hunting load with the 143-grain ELD-X bullet was not far behind. By the way, I used the hunting load on a few whitetails last fall and the terminal ballistics were impressive.
The market for new hunting guns has become extremely competitive recently, but in mating the Model 110 rifle with a Proof Research barrel, Savage has created a winning rifle.