The Savage Arms Model 110 has been in continuous production since 1958. Charles Smith-Jones looks at the enduring appeal of this bolt-action rifle
By the early 1950s it was becoming clear that Savage Arms, once one of the largest firearms manufacturers in the world, was in trouble. An over-reliance of underlever rifles as the company’s mainstay had caused it to lose a significant share of the market at a time when the bolt action had conclusively gained ascendancy. Something was needed to boost Savage’s flagging fortunes.
Early attempts to produce popular bolt-action rifles did not do well and despite being one of the few US manufacturers of affordable shotguns, as well as the unusual Model 24 .22/.410 combination gun (a rare offering for the American market), the company, founded in 1894, was in decline. What was required was a rifle that would compete with other bolt actions on the market while selling at a better price.
The Savage Arms Model 110 gamechanger
In 1958, one such started to roll off the production line that was to save and energise the company. Originally called the Model 98, as Savage expected the retail price to be $97.98, the name changed when the price rose to $109.95. The Model 110 was born and today, around five million rifles later, it has become the bolt-action rifle with the longest continuous production run in the USA. Its role as the saviour of the firm was reprised in the 1990s when, once again, Savage was facing bankruptcy. Deciding to concentrate on what it did best, the Model 110 was for a short time the only gun Savage produced.
Why is the gun so popular?
It’s easy to appreciate the reasons behind the Model 110’s popularity. Very much originating as an ‘everyman’ gun in a small number of calibres and basic configurations, it started life with no pretensions beyond a sensible price tag and a reputation for dependable accuracy. It was assembled out of a collection of inexpensive parts with the minimum of complication. With the action machined from a round bar of steel, machining time was kept to a minimum and the bolt itself is and remains a two-lug design that is assembled from several parts. This makes it easier to produce than machining just one single bolt body.
The Model 110 has the distinction of being the first commercially produced rifle to be offered in both right and left-hand bolt configurations. It was also one of the first rifle designs to incorporate a three-position safety catch, which permits unloading even with it applied. Originally chambered for just 30-06 Springfield and .270 Winchester, the range of calibres has since extended to meet the needs of shooters targeting anything from small pests to big game.
Over the years, the Model 110 has evolved and improved to the point that it is now to be found in a wide variety of choices, ranging from the plain to the ultra-sophisticated. Later models offered more luxurious finishes, such as walnut woodwork and engraving, than the original simple birch stocks and stainless-steel barrels were added to the range.
Earlier glitches have also been eradicated. One significant example of this evolution was the original trigger, which was not universally popular with shooters.
In common with many other US manufacturers, the trigger was set with a heavy break point of about 10lb for safety, unhelpful for accurate shooting. Later attempts were little better. The introduction of Savage’s innovative AccuTrigger in 2002, a unique design that was fully user-adjustable, conclusively ended the problem and quickly became an industry standard.
- A glance at the most recent Savage Arms catalogue suggests a tendency towards synthetic stocks and more modern materials, but there is a Model 110 for most shooters.
- Heavy, fluted, black and stainless barrels are all on offer; most of them pre-cut to accept a moderator.
- Many of the more recent stocks are fully adjustable with the Savage Accufit system of replaceable stock extenders and comb raiser inserts.
- Colours vary between plain black or grey and fully camouflaged, while box or drop plate magazines are both available.
- What you will find on the used gun rack will, of course, depend on the age of the rifle.
- Accurate and affordable, the Model 110 has come a long way over its 60 years of production and will appeal to both pest controller and deer stalker. If you are working to a budget but not willing to accept second best, you could do worse than a 110. Expect to find used examples at sensible prices.
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- Country of origin: USA
- In production: 1958 to present
- Action: Bolt
- Stock options: Multiple
- Barrel length: 20in to 26in
- Magazine: Internal and detachable options
- Weight: 7lb 4oz (.223 Rem synthetic stock)
- Available in calibres: Multiple, from .22 centrefire upwards
- Cost new: £963 (RRP, entry-level .223 Model 110 Hunter)
- Cost used: From around £400, depending on specifications and age
If you are working to a budget but not willing to accept second best, you could do worse than a 110.