LOADED FOR BEAR

Fluted barrel, smooth bolt action, camo stock—what more could Savage…

Fluted barrel, smooth bolt action, camo stock—what more could Savage add to the Model 16 Bear Hunter for you to feel confident in bear or whitetail country? Most bruins taken in North America are black bears, for which Savage’s Model 16/116 Bear Hunter in any of the three calibers offered is plenty of rifle.

Over the years, I have written a good many bear hunting stories, as well as articles on bear guns and cartridges, but in all that time I never came across a specific model that was officially designated as being a “Bear Rifle”—until now. It seems the folks over at Savage Arms have come up with a rifle in which they’ve incorporated features that they consider to be particularly well suited to bear hunting—even narrowing it down to just two specific calibers.

Are there, in fact, certain features that make a rifle better suited than others for hunting bears? Well, the first thing we have to establish is the kind of bears we are hunting. I don’t know about you, but if I’m hunting brown/grizzly, I want something in the .375 H&H category, so given the two calibers this gun is chambered for—.300 and .325 WSM—I have to assume we’re talking black bears, which probably comprise 95 percent of the bruins taken annually. So, having established that, let’s take a look at what the Savage folks consider the ideal gun for Ursus americanus.

Bred From The 110

Officially designated the “Model 16 Bear Hunter,” it’s simply a variation of the company’s flagship Model 110 bolt-action rifle. Since its introduction in 1958, the 110 has gone through many minor design changes, but it’s still the same basic action, whether it’s a Model 112, 114 or 116, indicating it’s based on the standard/Magnum-length action, or a Model 10, 12, 14 or 16, indicating the short version. It’s really one of the more intelligent nomenclatures used to indicate various models.

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Savage simplifies the choice of scope rings by furnishing factory-installed Weaver-type bases on the new Bear Hunter.

Over the last couple of years, Savage Arms has incorporated many changes to its flagship rifle, and many of them can be seen in the Bear Hunter. As this gun’s “16” designation indicates, it’s based on the short receiver, specifically, the one that’s designed around the WSM family of cartridges. As such, the bolt face, magazine and feed rails differ from the two other short-action models designed around the .223 Rem. and .308 Win. cartridge families.

The defining features of this rifle are several. For one, it sports an all-stainless barreled action that carries a compulsory matte finish. The catalog specifications show the barrel, which is fluted, as being 23 inches in length, but it’s actually 21.5 inches because threaded to its muzzle is Savage’s on/off adjustable muzzle brake, which is standard on this model. Unlike conventional brakes, this one consists of two tubes, one inside the other. Both are drilled with 12 rows of 0.13-inch-diameter holes, three to a row, 36 holes in all. The outer sleeve rotates just enough that at one setting the holes are aligned, and as such form 36 vent holes that act like a conventional muzzle brake. When the outer sleeve is rotated, the holes are no longer aligned, i.e. they’re sealed; therefore, gases are no longer vented and the recoil reduction effect is nullified. It’s a clever idea that works well.

One of the changes recently adopted for this particular model is a new bottom metal unit that features a hinged floorplate and also does away with the unsightly sear extension that juts up in front of the bolt—a feature that goes all the way back to the original design. Apparently, though, this new BM unit is not compatible with all iterations of the Savage action because all five of the company’s Target series, which are based on the solid-bottom (single-shot) receiver, retain the sear extension.

Although there are now several detachable magazines out there that I could easily live with, I still prefer the hinged floorplate, and this new Savage version offers a couple of features I especially like. For one, the release latch is at the front of the floorplate rather than the rear, which ergonomically places the hand in a position to catch the spilled cartridges. Normally, with a hinged floorplate, you need two hands if you don’t want to just dump the cartridges on the ground—one to push the release latch and the other to catch the cartridges. With this system, after you release the locking latch with your forefinger, you can slide that hand backwards as the floorplate opens to catch the cartridges. This is the only hinged floorplate arrangement I know of that has its release latch at the front. The floorplate, incidentally, carries the image of a bruin footprint.

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You can catch spilled cartridges with one hand thanks to the front locking latch

The other thing I like about this bottom metal unit is that the magazine is long enough to digest cartridges loaded to an overall length of 3 inches, whereas with most other short-action rifles it’s 2.75 inches. Granted, it’s of no concern for non-handloaders, but an important detail for those who roll their own and want to extract every last FPS they can. The shallower a bullet is seated, the more room there is for powder.

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