Modern Savage Rifle Test

BY Herschel Smith
1 month ago

From American Rifleman.

They were using a 16.125″ barrel.  Isn’t it interesting that slowing the round down just a bit and making it a wee bit heavier reduced the spread by more than one inch?  Also, remember that published 5.56mm muzzle velocities in the range of 3100+ FPS are for a 22″ barrel, not a 14.5″, 16″, 18″ or even 20″ barrel.

I expect advocates of heavier 5.56mm rounds to make hay over this.

The barrel had a 1:8 twist (which is about optimum for a wide range of weights).  I would have expected a little better accuracy with the lighter rounds than 2.3″.  And yet, this is still good.  I’m also willing to bet that if they had used a better ammunition (like Hornady) for the lighter rounds, they would have gotten better accuracy.


Comments

  1. On September 17, 2018 at 10:34 pm, Longbow said:

    ” Isn’t it interesting that slowing the round down just a bit and making it a wee bit heavier reduced the spread…”

    Not exactly. The first two loads were a military grade FMJ and a hunting bullet. Those two bullets are less consistent from bullet to bullet. Less consistency equals less accuracy.

    The third load was a match grade bullet and with that you get improved accuracy. Consistency equals accuracy.

    Simple.

  2. On September 17, 2018 at 10:52 pm, Herschel Smith said:

    Don’t know about that Longbow. They were all Federal loads and bullets. The only thing I can say about the 77 gr is that it was HP which is more accurate. Still, the trend is what it is.

  3. On September 17, 2018 at 10:54 pm, Georgiaboy61 said:

    @ Herschel

    Re: “They were using a 16.125″ barrel. Isn’t it interesting that slowing the round down just a bit and making it a wee bit heavier reduced the spread by more than one inch?” and “I expect advocates of heavier 5.56mm rounds to make hay over this.”

    It would have been nice if the reviewer/tester had tried at least one load in the 65-70-grain range, such as the Sierra Match King 69-grain BTHP or Hornady 68-grain BTHP Match. I suspect – every rifle barrel is unique in its preferences and performance – that the 1:8 RHT twist 16.25″ barrel would have done well with these.

    “The barrel had a 1:8 twist (which is about optimum for a wide range of weights). I would have expected a little better accuracy with the lighter rounds than 2.3″. And yet, this is still good. I’m also willing to bet that if they had used a better ammunition (like Hornady) for the lighter rounds, they would have gotten better accuracy.”

    There are so-called “fast” barrels and “slow” barrels, i.e., tubes which deliver slightly faster or slower-than-expected muzzle velocities, degree of wear being equal. And each firearm, each barrel, is an enigma to be unlocked by its owner/user. Most of the time, a given barrel performs as intended and within what would be expected for the length, twist rate and materials & techniques used in its manufacture – but occasionally, you will run into a particular barrel that confounds those expectations.

    A 1:9 twist barrel which consistently and accurately shoots bullets heavier than 70-grains; a carbine whose MV’s are close to those of a rifle, despite being four to six inches shorter in barrel length. A barrel that “likes” everything or one which seems not to “like” anything tried. A rifle which attains spectacular levels of accuracy with one load, but mediocre results with another.

    The only way to truly ascertain what your particular carbine or rifle likes is via experience and empirical, real-world testing and use. That said, Savage Arms is noted for the quality of its barrels, which are renown for delivering a high degree of consistency and accuracy, often on par with much more-expensive custom after-market barrels.

    The quality of the factory ammunition fired plays a very large role in the results obtained, as you suggest in your remarks about the group sizes obtained with the lighter loads. Even the best barrel can’t compensate entirely or make up for sub-standard quality ammunition, or ammunition which is inconsistent.

    Some manufacturers do an outstanding job, while others slap stuff together and don’t care all that much about delivering top-end quality and results. Cynically, everyone in the business talks about wanting to be the best at manufacturing ammunition, but not every firm or company takes the steps necessary to make that happen. Time and experience will tell you who delivers the goods, and who doesn’t.

    Try running some loads in the 55-64-grain weight range using a known, established high-end manufacturer. Black Hills probably makes something that will fill your needs, and they don’t skimp on quality – ever. I would be very surprised if their loads don’t deliver substantially better results.

    For lack of a better term, a dark-horse recommendation for ammo for your AR/M4: Prvi Partisan (PPU), a European firm which has been manufacturing ammunition for more than a century. They make excellent match-quality .224-caliber (.223 Remington) loads in 69-grain and 75-grain BTHPs, and I have had plain, garden-variety FMJ (in 7.62 NATO, not .223/5.56) shoot sub-moa in a rack-grade rifle.

    The Czech firm Sellier and Bellot is also reliably excellent and quite underrated. Lapua, the Finnish firm, makes excellent quality ammunition, but it isn’t cheap – and isn’t always easy to find here in the U.S.

    One last recommendation: If you want stellar accuracy from lighter bullets and are only punching holes in paper, try varmint ammunition. It usually shoots better than FMJ. Since varminters require a high degree of precise and accuracy from their loads, the manufacturers go the extra mile to make the slugs more uniform and of more consistent dimensions. Hornady’s varmint loads often deliver match-quality results – I’d start with them first and try some V-Maxes.

  4. On September 18, 2018 at 11:13 am, NOG said:

    I agree with GB61 about every rifle being different about ammo. My wife has a Mini 14. It would pattern with American Eagle 223, Fed M193 and M855. But for some reason it would shoot Privi M193 down to 2-3 inch groups. But Black Hills 68gr OTM blew my mind. 3/4 inch groups. It is a 187 series, bedded and a Mo Rod – rifle with 1/7 twist. Scoped. Don’t even make her mad or try to steal one of her ladies (chickens).

  5. On September 19, 2018 at 4:22 am, DAN III said:

    ALCON,

    I am a big fan of the 77 grain, 5.56mm load. My reloads are clones of the Mark 262, Mod 1 cartridge. Over-the-counter I favor the Magtech loadings. My 5.56mm shooting has been 77 grain loads for years. I saw the light some time ago. This posting by the blog author reinforces, IMO, that DoD does NOT need a bigger caliber long arm. DoD only needs to do four things:

    1. Cease all/any contracts for 62 grain Green Tip.
    2. Make 77 grain, Mark 262 Mod 1 standard issue.
    3. Invest in variable, quality optics of 1-8x w//mount (Nightforce NX8 comes to mind).
    4. Immediately implement monthly, live-fire training exercises for ALL combat arms and engineer units.

    The bottom line is to simply keep shooting whatever you want and can get. Bullet weight, weapon choice is one’s decision. My choice is not better than your choice except for myself.

    Keep shooting. Endeavor to keep as much Freedom remains in this country, alive.

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This article is filed under the category(s) Firearms,Guns and was published September 17th, 2018 by Herschel Smith.

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