Positioned as an entry-level sporting rifle, this practical "do anything" model is ideal for cost-conscious or occasional stalkers, says Bruce Potts
The Savage brand, imported by Edgar Brothers, offers a great range of rifles and calibres for all forms of shooting, be it vermin, fox, deer or plains game, at decent prices.
A good example is the Savage Model 11 TH XP synthetic .308 rifle, a basic sporting rifle that is here presented in .308 Win calibre, with matt blued steel and a synthetic stock. It is positioned as an entry-level rifle but doubles as a great “do anything” rifle that can take a few knocks. It is made to shoot well and comes threaded for a sound moderator as standard. The model in this review is the Trophy Hunter (TH) and XP means it comes with scope and mounts as standard.
Savage Model 11 TH XP synthetic .308 rifle – the once over
- Savage’s well-built, well-thought-out bolt action was designed more than 30 years ago. The bolt is huge and has Savage’s characteristic twin locking bolt lugs that have two guide lugs behind the main forward locking lugs to maintain a smooth and non-binding bolt action.
- You lift the 90° bolt using the cast metal bolt handle, which has moulded-in chequering to the top to help grip and is sufficiently long to get a secure hold, but rides close to the scope eyepiece. Bolt movement is a full 4in but you do have a generous ejection port cut into the action body for a clean ejection of the cases as well as manipulation by hand.
- The bolt has a polished body, a jewelled finish and, more importantly where function is concerned, a large claw-type inset extractor and plunger ejector pin. Despite its size and weight — or because of it — due to a smooth bolt guide system the bolt is very smooth to operate.
- The bolt rides in an equally large tubular steel action that, due to its size, gives a nice sturdy feel to the Model 11 without being heavy. This, along with the barrel, has a matt blued finish to reduce glare and minimise scratches. All these features add up to a practical hunting rifle, which is what the Savage is all about.
- The magazine is detachable for ease of reloading as well as removal when you need to empty the gun to climb over a fence. You simply pull on the front lever that is attached to the magazine itself and the magazine, half polymer half metal, pops out and you can load four rounds.
- One area in which Savage paved the way was in safe and sensitive triggers. With the AccuTrigger system, a small skeletal inner blade
of the trigger-blade is depressed
as you pull the trigger to ensure
a correct pull is necessary to achieve a shot; pulling the trigger without depressing this inner blade will not fire the gun. Best of all is the adjustable nature to achieve a light trigger-pull with no creep.
Set at 3.5lb on this rifle — a typical hunter pull weight for safety and usability — you can adjust down to 2.5lb or up to 6lb.
- Remember, too light a trigger-pull in cold weather and those frozen fingers can fire before you intend to. You also notice a quick lock time too — in other words, the time between trigger-pull and the firing pin hitting the cartridge primer. This minimises movement on the shooter’s part and increases accuracy.
- The safety catch is tang mounted as on a shotgun so is easy and intuitive to use. Fully forward is fire, the mid-point is safe but you can still move the bolt — to remove a round from the chamber, for example — and fully back locks the trigger and the bolt.
- The barrel, in a typical Sporter profile, benefits from a slim profile to save weight yet is meaty enough not to heat up too much for an accurate second or third shot. It is chromoly in construction and has a useable length of 22in with a muzzle diameter of 0.615in that comes threaded with a ½in UNF thread as standard with a thread protector. It is fully free floated from the stock so as not to be affected by adverse weather that might warp a wood stock and touch the barrel on firing, ruining the accuracy.
- The stock is cheap, to be honest, but quite well designed with some nice features. It is an injection-moulded plastic made in two halves and glued together. It has an overall charcoal black finish with a matt hue.
- There are moulded-in chequered panels to both the fore-end and pistol grip, which I like because they pep up an otherwise drab stock finish and are pretty sharp so they grip well.
- There is no cast nor cheekpiece and the comb is pretty standard height but fine for a scope. There are twin quick-detach sling swivels for use with a bipod or sling, and a very good soft rubber recoil pad. It is all built to work in the field and not designed to attract the landed gentry.
With a .308 Win cartridge, one of my favourites, you have a cartridge capable of being loaded to take vermin, deer or loaded up for plains game. It just works and is also an intrinsically accurate round. Factory or reload, you have an enormous choice of ammunition or components suitable for this rifle — it really is a rifle for whatever game takes you.
Sensibly the barrel is 22in; in fact a .308 can be shorter and still give excellent accuracy and velocities. But 22in is fine and even with an MAE Scout sound moderator fitted only makes the rifle 46in overall.
I set up the chronograph to measure velocities and positioned the target board at 100 yards. It is handy to test a range of ammunition to ascertain the rifle’s preference, and obtaining an accurate velocity from your barrel means you can make precise sighting adjustments down range.
The scope was fitted using a twin Weaver-type base and scope mounts and it came supplied with a Weaver 3-9x40mm scope in proportion to the gun’s size, weight and cost.
Need to know
- Manufacturer: Savage Arms
- Model: Model 11 TH XP synthetic
- Action: Bolt action
- Stock: Synthetic
- Weight: 6.7lb
- Calibre: .308Win
- Barrel length: 22in, screw cut, 1/2in UNF thread
- Overall length: 42.25in
- Trigger: AccuTrigger
- Finish: Blued steel
- Magazine: Detachable, four shot
- Price £858 (includes scope and mounts)
- Importer: Edgar Brothers tel 01625 613177
Mid-range bullets are great for deer and having a lower-expanding bullet than a fox load means less venison spoilage too. Here, the 150-gr bullet weight was excellent, with the Hornady SST load yielding a velocity of 2,789fps for 2,592ft/lb energy and solid 1in groups.
Another great 150-gr load was the Winchester XP, which shot just under the inch mark for three shots at 2,768fps for 2,553ft/lb energy. A good all-rounder.
A non-lead option is the Federal Triple Shok load at 2,689fps and 2,409ft/lb energy with 1.25in groups.
Reloading can perfect a load or offer a bullet the rifle likes that is unavailable factory-loaded, such as the Hornady 110-gr V-Max bullet loaded with 41.25 grains of H4198 powder that gives a flat trajectory from the 2,944fps velocity and 2,118ft/lb energy. A good fox/small deer load is using the Nosler 125-gr Ballistic Tip with 40 grains of RL10X powder, my favourite, for 2,817fps and 1,939ft/lb energy. Both these loads shot 0.75in to 1in groups.
The Savage Model 11 shot the classic Sierra GameKing 150-gr bullet at 2,655fps/2,348ft/lb and 0.85in with 45.5 grains of RL15 powder, making it a good deer load.
In the field
In the field with a sling fitted, you notice how lightweight the Savage is even with a scope and moderator fitted, and with that synthetic and dull blued finish you can concentrate on stalking and not watching every thorn or branch that would damage the rifle.
Today I was after fallow and that involved a lot of wet weather, sleet and muddy ditches to crawl through. I was going to fit a bipod but just took sticks, which were a godsend when it came to keeping steady in the mud. Though the Weaver is a cheaper model, the lenses are fine, but first light at 7am meant I had to wait until 7.20am for a clear picture.
The fallow were out in force and 40 deer were spotted but that half moon meant they had fed most of the night so were already heading for the sanctuary of the woods. We decided to slip down out of the field and on to a small rise behind some conifers and ambush the lead does as they walked through.
Being synthetic the Savage was muddy, but no matter as I was already in the aim and slipping off the tang safety and the AccuTrigger was gone as soon as I thought of the shot. The Winchester XP bullet did its job very well as a doe dropped in her tracks. Now for the long, muddy drag home. In fact, my friend Julian went back to the 4×4 and brought a deer sledge he had made to transport the fallow across the water-logged fields back to the chiller.
No complaints from me in the shooting department. As a practical, hard-wearing rifle for the cost-conscious or occasional stalker, the Model 11 TH XP is more than good enough. The stock actually grew on me after a while and, when all is said and done, it is quite a nice-looking rifle and you know it can take a few hard knocks. The package is priced at £858, which is as much as I would pay for it.
- Accuracy: Pleasantly surprised at the decent groups at 100 yards 17/20
- Handling: Light weight and smoth bolt action 16/20
- Trigger: The AccuTrigger never surprises and is just good 17/20
- Stock: Practical but has a hard plastic feel to it 16/20
- Value: Bit pricey as cheaper competition available 16/20
- Score: 82/100
A practical, hard-wearing rifle for the cost-conscious or occasional stalker