The shooting world has a lot of trends associated with it and one of the trends emerging in the past five years is mountain guns or lightweight guns that people can easily trek through elk or sheep country. Recent studies also show that the average age of hunters is increasing and, as one of those aging hunters, I’ve come to appreciate how saving a pound or two off a hunting rifle helps offset the pound or two or 20 that have settled around my waist. I want to keep hunting hard and being successful despite the fading stamina, and have acquired the wisdom to go with a lighter but still accurate gun.
But something lighter is not always something better, as you trade off such things as stability for less weight, and lighter guns simply kick harder. Lighter guns are also more difficult to shoot accurately because under recoil they can move a lot during the bullet’s dwell time in the bore. They also typically have thinner barrels that heat up more easily and can start stringing shots over extended shooting sessions.
All of those potential deficiencies are easily overcome and, fortunately, there are well made lightweight rifles on the market. One of the most recent ones to come to market is the Savage Arms Model 16 Lightweight Hunter. It’s part of that company’s Specialty Series and adds the weather resistance of synthetic and stainless steel construction to an accurate and lightweight rifle.
“Basically when I think of the Lightweight Hunter, it’s for the backpack elk hunter or bear hunter or someone who is going out deep in the woods and doing it themselves and something they need is a lightweight gun,” says J.J. Reich, Communications Manager for Firearms and Ammunition for Vista Outdoors, Savage’s parent company. “But, I have to say that, being from Wisconsin and Minnesota, it is an excellent treestand gun or shooting house gun because of the shorter length barrel and how light it is to maneuver quickly,” he adds.
Weighing-in at less than six pounds, the Lightweight Hunter certainly achieves light weight. And since Savage rifles are known for their high accuracy-to-value ratio, the company has a good foundation on which to build an accurate lightweight rifle.
“Savage is known for its accuracy,” says Reich as he explains the lengths Savage engineers went to in designing the Lightweight Hunter. While nothing is compromised, overall mass is reduced by making several smart machining cuts on the receiver, fluting the bolt in a spiral fashion and using a 20-inch, button-rifled light-contour barrel.
Savage kept many proven accuracy enhancing features such as the AccuTrigger that lets owners dial down the trigger pull weight without sacrificing safety or reliability and the very exacting zero-tolerance headspacing that is done by hand. While the AccuStock is another accuracy enhancing feature pioneered by Savage, the Lightweight Hunter uses a conventional synthetic stock with dual pillar bedding that is fully free floated and reinforced with internal ribs for rigidity. “Because this is a specialty [series] gun with superb accuracy, some think it comes with the AccuStock,” says Reich. “It does not, and the reason for that is for even more weight reduction.”
Currently, chamberings include .223 Rem., .243 Win., 6.5 Creedmoor, .270 Win., 7mm-08 Rem. and .308 Win. The .270 Win. is a long-action chambering so there is potential to add more long action chamberings in the future.
SCI recently had the opportunity to range and field test a Savage Model 16 Lightweight Hunter chambered in .223 Rem. The gun comes drilled and tapped for scope bases that you have to buy separately and we topped the sample with a 3-9x40mm Bushnell Elite 3500 scope, which is physically a good size for such a svelte rifle.
As we planned on taking this rifle to Namibia for smaller plains game, it was sighted-in at 100 yards using Federal’s Vital-Shok 62-grain Trophy Bonded Tip loads. This load’s bullet weight combined with its heavy and bonded construction has the expansion and penetration needed for medium-size game such as small whitetail and springbok.
As has been our experience with practically all lightweight rifles, the Savage shot most accurately when shooters really choked down hard on it so it didn’t move much under recoil in the sandbag rest. We didn’t find the Lightweight Hunter whippy or “fly-away” when shooting off-hand, from shooting sticks or from various field positions.
The trigger pull is a wonderful 2.7 pounds pull and, when combined with the inherent accuracy of Savage rifles and the rigid stock, helped it shoot average three-shot groups of less than one inch at 100 yards. In the field, game was taken by accurate shots out to 380 yards.
With Savage’s Lightweight Hunter, it doesn’t look like you give up anything for lighter weight. If anything, the Model 16 with composite stock and stainless steel is more weather resistant and requires less maintenance than guns with blued steel and wood stocks. At the same time, it offers the kind of accuracy you normally have to pay more money for, but for which Savage rifles are legendary. If there is a knock against the Model 16 Lightweight Hunter, it’s that Savage does not currently offer it as a “package” gun complete with scope, and there are no camo or left-hand options.–Scott Mayer
- Manufacturer: Savage Arms
- Model: 16 Lightweight Hunter
- Calibers: .223 Rem., .243 Win., 6.5 Creedmoor, 7mm-08, .308 Win. or .270 Win.
- Action: Bolt-action repeating rifle
- Capacity: Detachable box, 4+1
- Barrel: 20-inch stainless steel button rifled
- Trigger: User-adjustable Savage AccuTrigger 2.7 pounds pull
- Sights: None. Drilled and tapped for scope bases.
- Stock: Black synthetic, pillar bedding
- Overall Length: 40 1/4 inches
- Weight: 5.5 to 6 pounds depending on chambering
- MSRP: $752
Originally Printed in Safari Magazine Mar/Apr 2017