by Buck Pope
Awhile back Savage Arms introduced a new model for the serious big game hunter called the Model 16/116 “Bear Hunter” Rifle. I first saw this rifle at the Shooting Hunting Outdoor Trade (SHOT) Show. I was immediately impressed with it. It had the looks, design and handling qualities I happen to like in a big game rifle.
The rifle is currently offered in five calibers, the .300 Winchester Magnum, the .300 WSM, the .338 Winchester Magnum, the .325 WSM and their latest chambering the .375 Ruger. All five of these calibers are proven highly effective big game calibers. I have very much enjoyed bear hunting over the years and I like the idea that a major firearm company has designed a rifle mainly for that purpose. As is almost always the case with new product introductions, you rarely will get the new product in your hands for at least 6 to 9 months.
As fall was approaching, I called Savage to get the status on this new rifle. Production was in process; however, the only caliber they had available at that time was the .300 Winchester Magnum. I had originally requested the rifle in the .325 WSM caliber, a caliber I thought would make an ideal bear rifle. Rather than wait another month or two, I asked them to please send me the rifle in the ever popular .300 Winchester Magnum.
The .300 Winchester Magnum cartridge has been around since 1963 when it was introduced by Winchester as one of the four new calibers being made off the .458 Winchester Magnum case. The other three calibers were the .264 Winchester Magnum, .338 Winchester Magnum and .458 Winchester Magnum. The 300 Win Mag has been a huge success and still today is one of the most popular calibers in the magnum line. It is well known for its excellent accuracy and down range performance.
When the rifle arrived I gave it a good looking over. The rifle comes without any sights and is drilled and tapped for a scope. This rifle is a bolt action type and is only available at this time in a right-handed model.
It has a matte finish synthetic Accustock with a one-inch black recoil pad. The action and barrel are stainless steel. Other features include an Accu-Trigger, hinged floorplate magazine with a capacity of three rounds, and a three-position safety.
This rifle has a medium weight barrel that has an OD of .712 at the start of the adjustable muzzle brake.
Overall length with the brake is 44 ½ inches. The heavier barrel, in addition to improving accuracy, added more weight to the rifle and this in turn helps reduce the recoil a bit. Overall weight is 8 lbs. 2 ozs. The satin finish barrel that measures 23 inches including the brake has six flutes which are 12½ inches in length that enhance the looks of the rifle and reduce weight somewhat. The rifle has an adjustable brake that is 2¼ inches in length that you can turn on or off. Certainly a nice feature such as, if you are at the range doing target shooting, you could have the muzzle brake on.
A reminder: you must always wear ear protection. If you’re in the field hunting, you could have the brake turned off. I am personally not big a fan of muzzle brakes because of the increased noise and muzzle blast. With this rifle you have a choice, to use it or not, a nice feature.
The action is the standard Savage bolt action that has been with us for years. The action is stainless with the bolt body knurled along with the Savage Indian logo and Savage name spelled out also on the bolt body. The bolt handle at the knob has a small checkered circle. The hinged floorplate is metal and has a sharp looking bear paw print on it, which looks attractive and highlights the name of the rifle. I very much like the three-position tang safety.
The stock is synthetic material that has checkering at the grip and fore-end along with swivel studs. The stock is one of Savage’s Accustock series, which is designed to anchor the barreled action in place to enhance accuracy.
The barrel is free-floating. The stock is finished in Mossy Oak Infinity Camo pattern. The stock has a length of pull of 13½ inches and has a good solid feel to it; a well-designed stock.
The trigger is the very well-known Savage Accutrigger and it is excellent.
According to my scale the sear broke at 3 ozs. The rifle has a number of nice features, but the bottom line and a most important factor is how well does it shoot?
Using Talley bases and rings, I mounted one of my Leupold Vari X III 3.5-10x40mm scopes with the Boone & Crocket reticle on the bear rifle. The Leupold scopes are always rugged, tough and dependable quality optics.
I had available four brands of ammunition to test the rifle with. I selected the 180-grain bullet, as it is by far the most popular bullet weight.
The following are the results of the shooting session.
I was very pleased with the accuracy of the Savage “Bear Hunter” Rifle. All the loads shot were sub-one-inch groups at 100 yards. The most accurate load was the Federal Premium 180-gr.
with the Trophy Bonded Tipped bullet, which shot a ½-inch group. I have taken game with the Trophy Bonded Tipped bullet and have had excellent results. It is a premium bonded bullet.
The other three loads are also excellent hunting bullets I also had an opportunity presented to me to go on a short black bear hunt and I would take this rifle in the hopes of bagging a bear with it. If I could get a bear using this new Savage “Bear Hunter” rifle I would be one of the first to have had field success with it.
There is a new and upcoming outfitter in our area who is getting established and doing very well on big game here in Northern Arizona. His name is Schylar Cloudt of Horse-n-Hound Outfitters. In addition to bear and lion hunting using dogs, he also guides for deer and elk.
He had a brief break in his schedule and offered to take me on a short two-day hunt. His hunts normally run 5-7 days, but still I might just get lucky. We would be hunting in Northern Arizona in some of the rugged back country that is home to black bear, mountain lion, deer and elk. This was a horseback hunt using his dogs hunting back in some very rough and remote country. In the short two-day hunt, we came close to getting a bear. Two of his dogs had broken off and had actually caught a bear.
However Schylar was unable to locate them due to the distance they had traveled before treeing the bear. It was still a fun hunt and was sure worth a try.