Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Savage 10FP HS Precision: 1/2 MOA

Splotchy, basic cammo designs blend in just about everywhere- even in the urban jungle.

It was a calm evening, about 8:30 p.m., and I was packing up to leave my favorite shooting grounds. I left my Savage 10FP, chambered in .308Win, pointed downrange with a plastic ammo box lying open nearby. Three rounds remained of the eighteen I had brought for testing. A flock of starlings swirled around some trees at about the hundred yard mark. My shooting buddy bet I couldn't hit one at that range, and being a competitive type, I took him up on it. One unlucky bird landed on a low branch. (Relax, the trees were well below the top of the hill at the 200 yard mark.) I sprinted ten yards over to the rifle, put a single round into the magazine, and closed the bolt on a handloaded 168 grain Nosler Competition HPBT. I watched the bird bob and weave on his branch, happily unaware of his fate. The bird turned broadside (if a starling has a broadside), and I squeezed the trigger. A puff of IMR 4064 flashed across the bottom third of my scope, and the crosshairs settled to reveal the bird falling from the tree, dead as a hammer.

Earlier in the evening, my shooting buddy and I both turned in sub-MOA groups with my 168gr HPBT handloads. In fact, the worst group of the outing was just over 1.10" according to my electronic calipers. I was testing two different loads for accuracy, and found my pet load for now. All of my groups for the evening measured .49"-.64". Not bad for a former machinegunner.

Yes, that's a dime in the middle. Holes with check marks were my alternate load; hotter, but less accurate.

This rifle will shoot big bullets in small groups, but what about ergonomics? Well, It fits me like a glove. This is the HS Precision stock, available as a factory option. It costs about $860, while a Model 10FP standard is about $580. In my estimation, it is worth every penny. The stock has a wide, flat forearm that is comfortable for offhand shots, and handy for shooting over sandbags/obstacles/etc. It also comes with three swivel studs- a brilliant move by Savage. One stud is for your bipod, and the other two for your sling. The stock has a coarse, porous finish that really soaks up a good paint job. My favorite feature is the generous recoil pad. It really soaks up recoil, and is sticky so it doesn't shift around on your shoulder.

The bolt action is smooth, but not the best I've felt. Sako has it beat by a mile, but it also cost about twice as much. After an injection of Wilson Combat gun grease, things smoothed right up. The bolt itself has an oversize bolt knob, and a relatively short throw. The business end has four massive lugs that lock up tightly and positively. The action is fed by a four round detachable box magazine. I usually leave the mag locked in place and feed it from the top like an old Remmington 700. The mag aids in clearing the weapon, but really isn't a "must have" in a weapon like this. Still, it isn't a detriment either. Oh, and before I forget, the barrel is free floated and the action is bedded with aluminum pillars.

The Accutrigger on the "law enforcement" series is something of legend. It adjusts down to 1.5lbs, or up to 6lbs. It has no creep or overtravel and breaks like the proverbial glass rod. There's no reason to "upgrade" the trigger in this rifle.

All in all, the 10FP HS Precision is brilliantly designed, and a bargain to boot! There aren't too many out-of-the-box sniper rifles in this price range. Actually, there aren't any. Mine is kitted out with a Millett 4-16x 50mm scope, B-square one-piece base, Warne permanent rings, and a Harris 6-9" bipod. All in all around $1200. Out of the box 1/2 MOA. What more can I say?

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

M&P15 User Review

I was in the market for an M-4 clone (or AR-15 carbine, as it is known in the civilian world), and at the top of my list was Bushmaster, Armalite, and Rock River Arms. I had used both the Bushmaster and RRA carbines, and was impressed with both. However, my favorite gun store didn't have RRA in stock (the cheapest of the three makers), they were sold out of Armalites and the Bushmaster had a price tag well over $1,000. The kind salesman pointed out that there was a fresh shipment of Smith & Wesson M&P15's. S&W makes the M&P15 in several configurations: a fixed carry handle A2 style, A3 detachable carry handle, and a flat top with front and rear flip-up sights and a quad rail handguard, just to name a few.

I selected the A3 model, as it has the utility of the picatinny rail, and the lightweight carbine length handguards. This makes for a lightweight package with nearly endless optics possibilities. It came in just under a thousand dollars. The M&P15 came with a padded hard case and a 30 round magazine. The case is okay, and the magazine seems to be very high quality.

I've had the little carbine out to the range a few times and put about 200 rounds through it. I've used Wolf ammunition, both 55 grain and 62 grain full metal jacket. The M&P chowed down on both quite happily. I have yet to sit down and to a serious accuracy test, but I have done a number of 25 yard zero and cqb "double tap" drills. I have also shot a few 100 yard groups kneeling and standing unsupported. I put up about a 6 inch group kneeling, and about a 12 inch group from standing. I'm guessing a prone supported group would come in at about 2 inches, maybe a little more. Add some match grade ammo and that might shrink down toward 1 inch.

Fit and finish are what you would expect from Smith & Wesson. The stock has a little bit of wobble to it, but so does every M-4 I've ever shot. The only collapsable stock I've used that didn't wobble was a VLTOR Clubfoot. In addition, the trigger is about what you would expect from a military rifle. It is a little gritty, and trips at about 7lbs. It breaks very cleanly, but could be better. Rock River's two stage trigger is among the best factory AR triggers.

All in all, the M&P is a very nice M4 clone. It is just a shade cheaper than Armalite and Bushmaster, and is just as high quality.

The M&P15 after a few minor changes:
Millett DMS-1, , Weaver picatinny riser, and Falcon Industries ergo grip.