Hardware: Savage Arms MSR 10 Hunter

posted on July 27, 2017

Savage Arms jumped into the AR market this year with four new guns, two of which are for big-game hunters. The Savage MSR 10 Hunter and MSR 10 Long Range are built on a custom-size platform similar to the AR-10 and designed for cartridges in the .308 Win. class. Chamberings include .308 Win. (of course), 6.5 Creedmoor and .338 Federal. The other two Savage ARs, the MSR 15 Patrol and MSR 15 Recon, are both based on the smaller AR-15 platform and have a .223 Wylde chamber, which accepts .223 Rem. and 5.56 NATO.

The semi-auto MSR 10 Hunter uses the common direct-impingement method of gas operation. With a 16-inch barrel, it’s designed as a carbine to be easy to use in a stand or box blind. The Hunter has a six-position adjustable buttstock so the length of pull can be adjusted for a small-statured hunter or to compensate for bulky clothing.

All are typical features of many AR-10-style guns, but the Hunter is unique in that it has little else in common with such firearms. Savage shortened the Hunter’s forged aluminum-alloy receivers to minimize length and weight, and made the bolt carrier smaller to fit the smaller receiver. The gas tube is a custom length specific to each cartridge. Few components of the Hunter will interchange with other AR-10-style guns or parts. The Hunter’s upper and lower receivers are not compatible with other firearms based on the AR-10 platform.

The gun has a 12-inch free-floating handguard with Magpul’s M-Lok system for installing rails or other accessories. Rather than hanging on the barrel nut, the handguard bolts directly to the front of the upper receiver. This is not only strong; it may help improve accuracy as well. The handguard extends well past the gas block, is slim and fits in the hand nicely, even when wearing gloves.

Ending in a low-profile, adjustable gas block, the Hunter’s gas system is tailored to each cartridge. For example, the Hunter I tested in .308 Win. has a gas system that’s 1.5 inches longer than the standard mid-length version. Savage says this optimizes projectile dwell time and internal pressure during the operation cycle. The adjustable gas block combined with the custom-length gas system allows the user to tune the amount of gas used by the Hunter during cycling for perfect operation without the over-gas situation common to AR-10-style rifles. With the lighter bolt-carrier group and a tuned gas system, felt recoil is lower as well.

The shortened bolt carrier is coated with nickel-boron. Its Melonite-coated bolt has twin ejectors positioned side by side. Savage also reduced the diameter of the firing pin, presumably to save a little more weight. For extra security, the firing-pin retaining pin is screwed into the carrier. The bolt-carrier key is integral to the carrier, and the gas tube receiver is pinned to the key. This eliminates the need to stake the screws that hold a conventional bolt-carrier key and does away with a potential trouble point.

The Hunter’s barrel has 5R rifling, which is becoming popular as it’s said to be more accurate and much easier to clean than conventional rifling. A Melonite finish protects the barrel, which is fitted with a muzzle brake using a crush washer. Its diameter is .740 inch just behind the brake. The barrel is fluted behind the gas block but not in front of it.

The MSR 10 Hunter uses a Blackhawk trigger with nickel-boron treatment. The pull weight on a Lyman Electronic Digital Trigger Pull Gauge averaged 6 pounds, 11.2 ounces. The trigger starts with a lot of creep, and then breaks cleanly with little overtravel. In my never humble opinion this is much too heavy for a hunting rifle. During range testing I struggled with the trigger and truly believe accuracy would improve with a better trigger.

The safety, bolt release and magazine release appear to be mil-spec. All these controls are positioned for right-handed shooters; none are ambidextrous. Made of hard plastic, the Blackhawk grip has molded-in areas of texture. The six-position buttstock is also from Blackhawk and has a thick recoil pad. The gun doesn’t have sights, but a full-length Picatinny rail integral to the upper will accept any type of optic desired for hunting.

Savage ships the Hunter with a 20-round Magpul PMag. Be aware that many states require a lower magazine capacity for hunting, so you may need to purchase an aftermarket magazine to meet the regulations in your region.

The Hunter is really a “tactical” configuration similar to the M4 design. I question its barrel length for hunting, as a 16-inch barrel sucks velocity from the .308 Win. Also, muzzle brakes are extremely loud and completely unnecessary in the field. However, the gun will be popular with a lot of hunters, including hog hunters who like a shorter carbine. The Hunter can cross over for tactical use and serve as a hunting, target and defensive firearm.

This gun performed well with the three ammo products I used during testing. I did not experience a single stoppage, jam or failure; the Hunter ran perfectly. All guns are unique in their ammo preferences, and accuracy was very good with ammo the Hunter liked.

Normally if you see MSR in my writing, it’s because an editor changed the copy. I detest the name MSR when it stands for Modern Sporting Rifle, because it’s an inexact term created to appease our enemies. Here it means Modern Savage Rifle, so that’s OK. I welcome this fine old gun company into a new world of firearms.

Technical Specifications:

Type: gas-operated semi-automatic centerfire rifle
Caliber: 6.5 Creedmoor, .308 Win. (tested), .338 Federal
Barrel: 16"; 5R rifling; 1:10" RH twist; fluted; 5/8x24 threaded muzzle w/brake
Trigger: single-stage Blackhawk; 6.7-lb. pull weight
Magazine: Magpul PMag detachable box; 20-rnd. capacity
Sights: none; Picatinny rail integral to receiver for mounting optics
Safety: 2-position rotating lever
Stock: 6-position Blackhawk Axiom; adj. LOP 10"-13.25"
Handguard: free-floating aluminum w/Magpul M-Lok mounting system
Metal Finish: black anodized upper and lower receivers; Melonite-coated barrel and bolt; nickel-boron-coated bolt carrier and trigger
Overall Length: 35.75"-39"
Weight: 7.8 lbs.
MSRP: $1,481


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