The .338 Lapua Mag is popular among agencies that need some serious range and penetration. The cartridge rather nicely bridges the gap between the standard .308 and the .50 BMG. The .308 can certainly be used at very long range, but such distances are not its sweet spot. And the “Big 50” is great for anti-materiel use but is heavy, expensive and not always a joy to shoot—for some agencies it is a must, but for most, it is just too much.
While the .338 Lapua is not best suited to typical deployments, under such circumstances the caliber will not suffer many of the issues that the .50 BMG will. And unlike the .308, the .338 Lapua shows impressive results against car engines and other hard barriers, and at ranges between 300 and 500 yards, such as at an airport or in the backcountry, the .338 Lapua is superb.
Now let’s talk cost. Ammunition in .338 Lapua Mag is expensive. Luckily, .338 Lapua rifles cost a bit less than typical .308s while being only slightly larger, with manageable recoil, good suppression and easier carry. Still, .338 Lapua rifles, while nothing like those chambered for .50 BMG, aren’t cheap. Many start at about $7,500, and you’ll be hard-pressed to get a hold of a custom rifle for much less than $5,000. Add optics and everything else, and you can easily get to $10,000 or more. Such costs take many agencies, operators and units right out of the .338 Lapua game. For the LEO, custom rifles are great but not a necessity; he or she needs a rifle that is accurate, rugged, reliable and able to tackle deployments. One such rifle is the Savage Arms 110 BA.
Savage Arms has been offering the 110 BA for a while now. It is very popular among those needing a larger caliber and available in either .300 Win Mag or .338 Lapua. The 110 BA is built with the operator in mind, providing all you really need for some long-range deployments. The aluminum chassis supports a free-floated, match-grade, fluted barrel. Regardless of caliber, the rifle features a 26-inch barrel topped off with a muzzle brake. (The muzzle device can be removed and replaced by a suppressor or other device that is threaded at 5/8×24.) Rifles chambered in .338 Lapua use 1-in-9-inch twist rates, while the .300s use 1-in-10-inch twists.
The 110 BA employs an AICS-style single-feed magazine system, which holds five rounds. The bolt uses an oversized knurled knob, which makes for reliable manipulation no matter the weather. The safety is behind the bolt like those of most Savage rifles, with a bolt release on the right side of the receiver. The 20-MOA scope rail accommodates large scopes and night vision, and two side rails allow for lights or other devices. Savage’s excellent AccuTrigger is present and covered by an oversized triggerguard.
Magpul’s PRS G-3 stock provides for a wheel-adjustable length of pull and cheek height, as well as a couple of sling attachments. The pistol grip is an oversized unit with a bottomplate reminiscent of the HK PSG1’s. The adjustable palm shelf offers a custom fit for your hand and locks into place with a hex screw. The forend has sling studs on either side as well as a stud for a bipod.
The 110 BA, in either caliber, is available in left- and right-handed models—the left-handed .338 Lapua Mag model is new for 2013. If you can even find a left-handed bolt gun in this caliber, it often requires a custom build and hundreds of extra dollars, so having this option in a factory gun is fantastic. Southpaws are sure to appreciate it, but the 110 BA LH is often chosen by right-handed users, as it keeps the control hand on the gun all the time, which facilitates fast follow-up shots, and makes slung carry a bit more comfortable since the bolt knob isn’t stuck in the user’s back. The only real drawback to right-handed use of a left-handed bolt gun is in unsupported shooting—not something you do a ton of with this rifle for sure, but something to be considered.
The only addition to the 110 BA LH I tested was a U.S. Optics 5-25X TPAL scope. It sees a ton of use on all the larger rifles I evaluate and is a copy of the original scope submitted for the PSR contract. The TPAL’s glass is superb; parallax is taken care of with a side knob; both wind and elevation is measured in mills with an EREK on top and zero stops for both; and a lighted Gen II XR reticle is mounted in the first focal plane. Simple push buttons on the side allow for on/off and intensity adjustments for the lighted reticle. Mounted in a set of U.S. Optics rings, the TPAL is steady as can be, and when not used for testing, it sits on my .338 Norma and has produced some impressive groups at very long range. It dropped right on the 110 BA LH’s rail with plenty of room to spare, even with a 56mm objective. A few turns of the wheel, and the scope lined up perfectly.
Savage Arms rifles have always been accurate, especially since the introduction of the AccuTrigger. While these triggers don’t always fit in with the “my rifle’s more money than yours” crowd, they often out shoot them. And that’s the rifle’s primary task. The best groups were produced with the RWS Target Elite Plus 250-grain BTHPs, measuring a scant 0.6 inches. This ammunition is often the most accurate .338 Lapua 250-grain load tested. Nothing fell outside an inch, with most groups measuring under 0.75 inches. For me, at least, it does not get much better with a .338 Lapua. (With this caliber, it is not uncommon for me to shoot better groups at 300 yards.)
All of the groups were fired from prone using an Eberlestock G4 Operator pack. Looking at the best group, I saw some vertical stringing. That is shooter error, and I could not shake it all day—the rifle is likely more accurate than I am. Given the time I spend on a single-stage trigger, the AccuTrigger took me a minute to get used to, but it was excellent once I was accustomed to it. I have always liked these triggers—they give you a two-stage feel without the two-stage complication. This AccuTrigger worked perfectly and was crisp and predictable.
The muzzle brake worked great and supplied some pretty soft shooting. It is loud, as you would expect, but no louder than most. There was no serious down blast or debris after shooting, so the brake worked as expected. I have fired .338 Lapua without a muzzle brake and can tell you that doing so would not be my first choice or a recommendation. The caliber really calls for the use of a brake or a suppressor. My only .338 suppressor requires a taper to the barrel, so I could not test the 110 BA LH suppressed. Even so, it was very comfortable to shoot.
The rifle was tested both left- and right-handed. The stock accommodates either style of shooting. The bolt was smooth and easy to manipulate with that large knob—there was no need to come off the stock to run the bolt—and it was kind of nice to stay on the trigger through the whole process. Shooting a left-hand bolt as a right-handed shooter is fast as long as you are in prone. For dedicated left-handed shooters, it should prove to be very comfortable.
Out to the longer ranges the Savage 110 BA LH proved to be equally as accurate. Shooting the Tubb Tactical Stake Target at 300 and 500 yards, it was dead on, holding under 1 MOA throughout. It was still way too muddy to get any farther at this point, but the Savage seemed to hold its accuracy at the longer ranges.
The rifle’s overall weight and balance are actually pretty good. It is no lightweight at 15.75 pounds minus the scope, but it carried well. The longest “standard” drag bag in my inventory is an Eberle-stock Sniper Sled. Originally picked up to fit my comp gun with a 26-inch barrel, the bag is just a tad longer than most. Most .338 rifles don’t fit in drag bags at all, but to my great surprise the 110 BA LH fit (although barely) into the Eberlestock, even with the adjustment for LOP. It not only fit well but also carried well and made for a really nice total package.
The Savage Arms 110 BA LH is an excellent precision rifle built to satisfy just about any long-range tactical need. The accuracy was excellent, rivaling that of some very expensive rifles. The 110 BA LH was actually tested side by side with a custom rifle almost four times its price. And while much of the 110 BA LH’s ergonomics (and even some of its options) was different, the accuracy was almost identical. Any difference was minimal and would not be noticed by anyone using it in the real world. For a simple, straightforward rifle the Savage was excellent.
The 110 BA LH’s operation was flawless, with no failures to feed or extract. The stock and pistol grip allow the rifle to fit most anyone, and the rail system accommodates one of the largest scopes on the market with a 56mm objective. Although it would be tight, there was still room for a PVS 24 or similar night-vision scope. The AccuTrigger is crisp and predictable, the bolt operation is smooth, and the rifle is steady and pretty soft to shoot. The AICS magazine system is proven and remains the first choice for most any magazine-fed .338 Lapua precision rifle. The muzzle brake works as well as most in a tactical environment, and it all fit in a commercially available drag bag.
Finally, the 100 BA LH’s price puts it well within the budget of any agency or unit looking for a rifle in .338 Lapua Mag. If you or your agency needs a solid .338 Lapua, give the Savage 110 BA a good look, no matter what side you mount the rifle from. Visit savagearms.com or call 413-568-7001 for more information.