Mike Powell gives his verdict on another Savage Arms speciality – this time, the Model 16 AccuStalker.
The American firm of Savage Rifles really needs no introduction as the name has been synonymous with well-built, accurate and reliable rifles for decades.
I have often thought that, in this country, there was something of a resistance to American rifles as they didn’t quite conform to our European way of thinking.
In years gone by American rifles, and indeed shotguns too, were built as workhorses rather than being the works of art some European firearms are, especially on the design front. This has changed somewhat over recent years and now there really are some very attractive American rifles available.
One thing that Savage has always produced has been accurate rifles and, no matter what a rifle looks like, it’s not a lot of use if it doesn’t shoot well. I have been able to test and review quite a few Savage rifles over the years and it is fair to say they have all shot very well.
The most recent model, the Model 16 Accustalker, has been in production for several years now and in fact there are very few left, which is rather a shame because this has been a very good rifle in every respect.
This particular rifle came in .243 Win calibre with which I had hoped I could get out on a roe buck, but the lockdown put paid to that idea as the arrival of the rifle coincided with everything shutting down as far as stalking was concerned.
Fortunately, I live near farmland, over which I have access for fox control. Regular readers will know that there are a couple of free range poultry farms there, both within walking distance, and written requests were swiftly obtained to enable essential fox control. The Model 16 would therefore become my go to foxing rifle – for a couple of weeks at least!
This particular rifle came equipped with a Bushnell LRTS Elite tactical scope and is the first scope I’ve really used a lot with the reticle in the first focal plane (FFP). Unfortunately, with the present situation limiting the actual shooting I’m doing I haven’t been able to really give the scope the sort of workout I would like.
However, I hope to do more with this type of scope in the future and will report back on my findings. I would say though that from what I’ve seen so far I have been impressed with, not only the FFP system, but the Bushnell scope itself. Over the years I have owned several scopes from this maker and have yet to have had a bad one.
I am no great scope enthusiast – really only needing one that does the job in hand – and as far as that is concerned Bushnell have always turned up trumps and I do have a high regard for their products. This model will set you back about £1,280 and punches well above its weight against scopes costing a lot more.
Returning to the AccuStalker, weighing in at a little less than ten pounds it isn’t the lightest of rifles – but that seems to be the way things have gone over the last few years. Perhaps the increase in the use of very stable shooting sticks and the almost universal use of bipods has contributed to this?
Like all of the Savage models I’ve used, the rifle is well made and you get the feeling that you will get years of service out of it. The rifle looks good with a striking matte stainless finish that was remarkably non-reflective; very important when out after my two main quarry species, foxes and deer.
This is one reason why I have never actually owned a rifle with a stainless finish myself, although having now used one and seen how the reflective shine problem can be cured, I may well think again in the future.
The match quality barrel is 20” long and is deeply fluted; it comes with a quite deeply seated flat cut crown and is factory threaded. Unlike on some rifles, the Savage’s barrel really is generously free floated with ample free space surrounding it, all of which contributed to the rifle’s accuracy. The barrel connects to a tubular receiver which gives the rifle a nice flowing contour and looks good.
The large bolt handle is teardrop shaped, but the Savage’s bolt differs from many other rifles in that it employs a floating head which ensures that when locked, both lugs make solid contact with the abutments, added to which is Savage’s headspace control system. Both of these features mean that Savage can offer one of the most accurate factory produced rifles available.
Whilst on the subject of the bolt, a quick word on how to remove it. With most rifles there’s a release catch mounted more often than not on the left hand side of the receiver, but the AccuStalker uses a different system.
First you press the trigger with the safety in the fire position (having checked the rifle is unloaded of course) then press the bolt release button which is located in the front of the trigger guard, the bolt can then be removed. To replace the bolt, you simply reverse the system. It may sound a bit involved on paper, but you soon get used to it.
The Model 16 AccuStalker, in common with other Savage rifles, is equipped with the excellent AccuTrigger. This is essentially a single stage unit but with a slim blade that protrudes through the trigger itself and incorporates certain safety features.
In operation it works like a two-stage unit and is possibly one of the very best factory produced trigger units made. It certainly is a system I prefer and it contributes to Savage’s accuracy. Not only that, but it is also one of the safest units available.
The safety is tang mounted, rather like a typical shotgun safety, and has three positions, fire, safe with bolt locked, and between these two, safe, but with the ability to open the bolt to remove the cartridge; a very good system.
Some other rifles use a similar system and I think it is a very good one, and possibly one of the most practical and safest to use. The rifle has a four-shot, single-stack metal magazine with a front-placed release catch.
Turning to the stock, it is of lightweight synthetic composition finished in black and grey and is furnished with two sling swivel studs and a bipod stud and is finished off with a thick, soft rubber butt pad. When I stripped the rifle I was really impressed with the bedding system Savage has used on this rifle.
Running the length of the forend it is a three dimensional aluminium block bedding system, and it’s easy to see why the manufacturers claim that this type of system can offer a 20 per cent improvement on accuracy over pillar bedding systems.
Some claim I know, but having examined it closely, I can see just how solid a base it gives for the action and is possibly one of the best factory bedding systems out there.
The rifle looks good and importantly, handles well, as with all Savage rifles it shoots well straight from the box. I zeroed it at the usual 100 yards using Hornady 75 grain V-Max and 90 grain ELD-X ammunition.
As I’ve found before with my own .243 both these rounds shoot very well with little difference from a practical point of view between them. As is to be expected from today’s manufacturers, one inch groups at a hundred yards were straightforward enough which for both deer and fox, at sensible ranges, is more than good enough.
With the limitations imposed by the lockdown I was a bit restricted as to the amount of actual test firing I could do so I didn’t reload any ammunition for this particular rifle. However I have no doubt whatsoever that after using the two different weights of factory ammunition that had I spent some time developing a load suited to this rifle, much tighter groups could be obtained.
As far as actually using the rifle in the field, it wasn’t long after the rifle had arrived that I had a call from one of my poultry farmer friends to say he had seen a fox showing an unhealthy interest in one of the new hen houses holding some broiler birds he was trying for the first time.
The next evening was, once again, a glorious sunny one, so a walk across the fields was a real pleasure. I chose a spot overlooking the house in question and settled down to wait.
It was one of those times when things dropped into place perfectly, which made up for the multitude of others when they don’t! I hadn’t been there for more than half an hour when I spotted a fox making its way steadily towards the poultry house.
Kit used during review
Savage Model 16 AccuStalker
Bushnell LRTS Elite tactical scope
Contact: Edgar Brothers
From its attitude it had clearly been there before as there was no looking around and constant stopping to check for danger (perhaps it should have). As it got to within a few yards of the house I stopped it with a shout and the Model 16 sent the 90 grain ELD-X bullet on its way. A 90 grain bullet of any type versus a fox is a no contest, and down it went.
Over time I’ve grown to like Savage rifles more and more, and the Model 16 AccuStalker is certainly no exception, were I looking for a .243 myself I think I would certainly get one of the few remaining models Edgars have in stock.
For under £1,000 this model offers extremely good value for money, and if I’m honest, I’m not sure what will replace it in the coming years. But no doubt Savage will not be backwards in coming forward with something else of equally high standard.
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