Savage Lightweight Hunter 16/116 Rifle in 6.5 Creedmoor Review
In the past, options for lightweight hunting rifles were generally limited. Most hovered around the 7 pound range. The classic Winchester Model 70 and Remington Model 7 come to mind. Recognizing the growing popularity for such rifles, more companies recently joined in, each developing their own version of the lightweight rifle. The increased competition has fueled product innovation as companies battle to differentiate themselves from the crowd. Some of these advancements include incorporating modern materials such as carbon fiber wrapped barrels and synthetic stocks reinforced with Kevlar. Today, Christensen Arms, Proof Research and Kimber each have rolled out excellent sub 6.5-pound rifles. Unfortunately with sticker prices starting above $2,000, the costs can be prohibitive.
Recognizing this under-served market segment, Savage Arms introduced a new line of bolt action rifles called the Model 16 Lightweight Hunter in late 2015. With a remarkably affordable MSRP of $752 and weighing in at 5.65 pounds, the rifles are priced hundreds if not thousands below their competitors. In this review we’ll take a closer look at the Savage LWH chambered in 6.5 Creedmoor to determine if you should pick one up for your next mountain or backpacking hunt.
16/116 Lightweight Hunter Specifications
- Caliber: .223 Rem., .243 Win., 6.5 Creedmoor, 7mm-08 Rem., .308 Win., .270 Win.
- Configuration: Right-handed
- Weight: 5.65 pounds
- Overall Length: 40.25 inches
- Barrel Length: 20 inches
- Ammo Capacity: 4
- MSRP: $752
- Trigger: AccuTrigger
- Magazine: Detachable box
- Stock material: Synthetic
- Barrel material: Stainless steel
- Stock finish: Matte
- Barrel finish: Matte
- Stock color: Black
Upon first viewing, the rifle’s weight, or lack thereof, was apparent. At a relatively short 40.25 inches, it felt well balanced with perfect distribution about an inch behind the chamber. Savage Arms clearly put some thought into how they would reduce weight. Throughout the action, various sections of steel were removed to shave ounces without compromising user safety or reliability. The 20” light profile barrel measures only 0.57” at the muzzle and appeared even thinner than their Sporter contour. The bolt has deep spiral flutes machined and painted in a contrasting black color. Beautiful and practical!
While the barrel and action are solid, I was less enthused with the stock chosen for the rifle. I agree going with a synthetic polymer over traditional wood is a smart decision, being both lighter in weight and weather resistant. However the one included on the Savage Light Weight Hunter felt too flexible and extremely thin towards the forend. With a tight grip, the forend can actually make contact with the barrel which is never a good sign for accuracy. Although you can’t expect a glass bedding job at this price point, Savage actually offers an in-house AccuStock system for certain polymer stocks. The embedded rail chassis which runs the entire length of the stock strengthens its rigidity and improving accuracy. Unfortunately it is not available even as an option on the LWH series.
As with nearly every modern Savage, the rifle is equipped with an AccuTrigger. To be honest I’ve never been a big fan of safety action triggers. The AccuRelease lever puts an additional piece of material on the blade of the trigger. I’ve always preferred a thick bladed single-stage trigger with a curved face. However since purchasing a Ruger Precision Rifle last year which essentially has the same Savage-style trigger, I’ve grown accustom to shooting it. In some respects it feels similar to a two-stage trigger. The trigger on the Savage LWH has a smooth take-up with only a hint of creep. Taking an average of 5 pulls from the Lyman trigger pull gauge, it broke at a crisp 3.3 pounds and required no adjustment out of the box. The consistency was remarkable, never deviating more than 3 ounces either way from the average. For a stock trigger it is certainly more capable than the Remington 700’s X-Mark Pro which tended to break at different pull weights.
A three position safety is located over the rear tang immediately behind the bolt. The clicks feel positive and along with the bright red dot, leave no doubt of its position to the operator. The bolt release button is located ahead of the trigger guard. Attached to the heel of the stock is a thick cushioned rubber recoil pad which is absolutely vital in absorbing the impact on a rifle of this weight. An area I wasn’t impressed with was the detachable magazine. While it fit securely, holds 4 rounds, and never came loose during testing, the magazine’s thin metal walls wobbled slightly against the base plate. The quality of the metal was also not on par with the materials used on the rest of the rifle. When pushing the bolt forward, you can feel the bump as it contacts the magazine lip and dragged over the follower. It ruins the feel of an otherwise smooth operating bolt.
The rest of the fit and finish on the gun was very good. The stainless steel was bead blasted to a non-reflective matte finish. The action was also free from unsightly tooling marks. One thing I had hoped for was a threaded barrel.
From personal experience shooting my Kimber Adirondack, a rifle of similar weight, I can attest lighter rifles have a tendency to kick harder due to less mass to absorb and distribute the recoil energy. By threading the barrel it gives owners the option to install a muzzle brake to help tame the kick or or silencer to protect their hearing. Some of the larger chambered calibers offered such as .308 Win or .270 Win could certainly benefit from it.
The 6.5 Creedmoor is a caliber I’m quite familiar with. I’ve shot about 500 rounds already in my Ruger Precision Rifle since purchasing it early last year. You can find a review of the RPR in the Gear-Report Shooting archives. I was excited to see how this inherently aerodynamic cartridge would fare in the Savage Light Weight Hunter. I’ve always admired this cartridge for its long distance capabilities, moderate recoil and have taken it out to 1000 yards many times. For this review I was provided four different types of quality ammo to test with.
Heading to FrontLine Defense, my home range in North Carolina, I set the rifle on bags at the 100 yard range. For this test, a single five shot group was fired with each type of ammo onto the single target. I used one target specifically to show I wasn’t shooting multiple groups and then cherry picking the best one. When changing ammo I’d fire a couple rounds at a separate target to align the point of aim with the point of impact to reduce POI shifts. During the testing, the pencil barrel heated up quickly so I waited a minute between each shot to eliminate the possibility of shooting an overheated barrel. The scope used for this testing was a Bushnell 4500 Elite 2-10x40mm with DOA 600 CF reticle. A review of this scope will be posted soon.
Previous to this review, all of the shooting I’ve done in 6.5 Creedmoor has been through my Ruger Precision Rifle. With a JP “Tank” recoil eliminator brake and a 50 oz. Vortex Gen II scope, the setup pushes close to 15 pounds. As can be expected, the recoil is negligible, akin to a slow push. Switching to the Savage LWH, a rifle with only half the weight and no brake was a bit of an eye-opener. The difference, although not punishing, still packs a bit of punch. As the day wore on and 20 rounds became 30, then 40, I could feel it start to affect my accuracy towards the end of the session when I began to anticipate the recoil. For most hunters, shooting only a couple rounds, the kick won’t be a concern. However, if you find yourself sitting at a bench firing dozens of rounds continuously, sooner or later it can induce a flinch especially to those sensitive to recoil.
6.5 Creedmoor Advertised Velocity 5 Shot Group Hornady American Whitetail 129 grain 2820 2.26” Federal American Eagle OTM 140 grain 2700 1.96” Hornady Match ELD 140 grain 2710 1.95” Hornady Precision Hunter ELD-X 143 grain 2700 1.66”
While I understand a lightweight hunting rifle is never going to match the performance of a heavy long distance setup, the results I got were slightly disappointing. Still doubting the group sizes, I concluded with rapid 5 shot string from my Ruger RPR to prove to myself the results were not significantly impacted by my personal abilities. The result was a decent group at the center of the target measuring 0.8”. Although not statistically relevant due to the limited dataset, my personal observation tells me the gun may prefer heavier bullets.
At the end of the day, the Savage Light Weight Hunter fills the needs of those whom are looking for a capable, lightweight, yet affordable hunting rifle. Both Jeff and I shot this rifle independently and got similar results. Although 2 MOA is acceptable, it somewhat handicaps the 6.5 Creedmoor cartridge’s otherwise terrific long range abilities. Hopefully the results from this sample are just an aberration and not indicative of what the Savage LWH lineup is capable of. For all its good qualities you’d be hard-pressed to find anything better at this price point.