Price was the major edge the $429 Savage had over the Winchester Model 70 Classic Laredo and Remington Model 700 Sendero SF.
If market trends are any indication, interest in long-range deer rifles has been growing in recent years. At least half a dozen of these products—essentially varmint rifles that are chambered for bigger calibers—are available now in production guns. Previously, these products, which are designed to be used from a fixed position while hunting from some sort of stand, were available only as custom items for hunters who planned to use them for hunting beanfields in the southeastern United States, Texas’s senderos, the western prairies of the U.S. and Canada, and powerline rights-of-way in the East.
This kind of hunting requires a flat-shooting, hard-hitting caliber in a rifle capable of superb accuracy under field conditions. Such rifles must be extremely accurate, incorporate a good trigger, and employ a properly designed stock.
Three rifles introduced in 1996 that purport to have these qualifications include the Winchester Model 70 Classic Laredo equipped with a BOSS, the Remington Model 700 Sendero SF (Stainless Fluted), and the Savage 110FP Tactical Rifle. We decided to test this trio head to head to see which one is worth your hard-earned dollars. All three rifles were chambered in .300 Winchester Magnum, one of the best long-range cartridges available in these rifles. Here’s what we found:
Winchester Model 70 Classic Laredo With BOSS
The Winchester was the most expensive of the three rifles, with a suggested retail of $879. We fitted it with a Burris 3-9 Fullfield scope with the Electro-Dot system. The scope was mounted in Burris Pos-Align rings with Millett bases. During the evaluation all the scopes were set at 9 power to ensure a level playing field.
The Winchester’s stock is a charcoal-gray synthetic material with black flecks throughout. The forearm is flat and wide, obviously designed to be used with a sandbag rest. It does indeed sit well on a sandbag, making this a stable gun to shoot from a benchrest. There is no checkering, but there are finger grooves along the upper forend to assist in control when firing with the left hand gripping the forearm. There is a small cheekpiece that directs recoil away from the shooter’s face. The recoil pad is solid black rubber and measures just under 1 inch in thickness, including the black-plastic spacer. Detachable sling swivels are supplied, and there is a drop-plate magazine that holds three cartridges. The action is bedded in a machined aluminum block that is molded into the stock.
The BOSS-equipped barrel is 26 inches including the muzzle brake. However, the rifled portion of the barrel actually ends at 231/2 inches. The barrel sports a heavy contour. The shorter barrel produced the lowest velocities with all but one of the ammos tested and the lowest overall average velocity.
The reason most long-range deer rifles, particularly those chambered in high-capacity cartridges, use a 26-inch barrel is to achieve maximum velocity from any given load. While the BOSS adds more than 21/2 inches to the overall length of a rifle, the Laredo could benefit from having a full 26-inch barrel, we believe.
The action is the Classic Model 70 version of the pre-64 Model 70 action. This features a controlled-feed bolt wherein the extractor grips the shell rim as soon as it leaves the magazine and holds it tight against the bolt face during the feeding process. The bolt is matte blue, as is all metal on the rifle.
The three-position safety is mounted on the bolt. The center position allows the gun to be loaded and unloaded with the safety on. The trigger is adjustable, but not a lot. The test gun’s trigger was set at 5 pounds from the factory. We were able to adjust the trigger down to 4 pounds, but we don’t think it could be safely improved much beyond that without gunsmithing work. It does break clean and has little overtravel.
During the test we did not have the BOSS sweet spot settings for any of the bullet weights tested available to us. So we set the BOSS at the suggested sweet spot for 180-grain bullets of three turns. This worked well for this test, but we recognize that the gun might be more accurate by adjusting the BOSS to each test load. This rifle was the most accurate overall with a 1.27-inch average. With the ability to further tune the rifle using the BOSS system, the accuracy potential is excellent.
Another good feature of the BOSS system is recoil reduction. There was a noticeable difference between this rifle and the other two tested in felt recoil. The BOSS eliminates one of the most common reasons that hunters shy away from the .300 Winchester cartridge, we believe.
In the field, reduced recoil helps the shooter keep the gun on the target and able to see long range hits through the scope.
However, the BOSS muzzle brake increases the noise considerably.
This rifle did turn in the lowest average velocity; however, it was only 43 fps behind the Savages 24-inch barrel. Still, we would like to see a longer barrel on the rifle.
Remington Model 700 Sendero SF
This 1996 incarnation of the well-known Remington Sendero rifle costs $853 retail. The Remington was equipped with a Pentax 4-16 Lightseeker II scope with the Perm-Align adjustment locking system. This scope was mounted in Leupold rings and bases. Its stock is synthetic/Kevlar with a rough texture, no checkering, and a pattern of gray swirls throughout. The recoil pad is 3/4-inch black rubber with no spacer. Detachable sling swivels are supplied with the gun.
The stock features a molded-in aluminum frame that reinforces the stock from pistol grip to the fore-end. This also is machined to provide a precision bedding platform for the receiver while the barrel is floated. The stock on our sample rifle did not fit the barrel well. It was twisted at the end of the stock. The gap on one side of the barrel was noticeably wider than the other. As the barrel heated up the stock touch the barrel hard enough to chip the stock when firing. This no doubt contributed to the rifle coming in a distant third in accuracy. While an easy problem to correct, it should not have occurred in an $853 rifle. This shows poor quality control, in our opinion.
The action and barrel are stainless steel, with the fluted barrel measuring 26 inches. There are six flutes milled in the barrel to dissipate heat. The drop-plate magazine holds three cartridges.
The Remington 700 still has one of the best factory triggers available—but not because they are good out of the box. As a rule, they are not, and this one was no exception. Still, we know the Remington triggers are adjustable by someone who knows what he is doing. A good gunsmith can usually adjust the trigger to 3 pounds with little trouble.
The action is the standard 700 long action with a two-lug locking system. The safety is on the right side of the action and does not lock the bolt when in the On position. This safety feature is touted by some and raged at by others. It requires, though, that a hunter constantly check to make sure that the bolt has not partially opened because the gun will not fire. Remington offers the option of having the old-style safety installed on the rifle. This will lock the bolt when the safety is On. It requires that the gun be returned to Remington. The job costs about $20.
This gun shot well with some loads and poorly with others. The Remington Sendero also turned in the best overall velocity due to its longer barrel.
Savage 110FP Tactical Rifle
The $429 Savage was fitted with a Redfield 2-9 X 50 mm Golden Five Star scope. The Savage was first fitted with Weaver style rings and base made by B-Square; however, we were not able to fit a scope with this system. Either the base or the receiver of the rifle is drilled out of alignment, and it was impossible to bring a scope into windage zero. Those mounts were exchanged for a set of Millett rings and bases with the rear ring windage adjustment style, which allowed the scope to be brought into alignment with the bore.
This rifle is slightly slimmer and trimmer than the other two, which can be desirable to a hunter who is turned off by the massiveness of the other rifles. Don’t be misled, though. The 110FP is still a heavy gun. The stock is injected plastic with graphite/fiberglass and is pure black. There is molded checkering on the forend and pistol grip. The stock features a 1/2-inch (with a plastic spacer) vented black recoil pad. Detachable sling swivels are supplied, and there is a second one 21/2 inches from the one on the forearm. This is designed to allow the use of a bipod or sling.
The bedding is the plastic as it comes out of the mold, with the front action screw having a metal pillar added. The rear action screw is threaded in front of the trigger instead of in the tang. The Tactical Rifle’s tang hole is there, but it’s filled with a plastic plug.
The action and barrel have a black-matte finish. The barrel is 24 inches in length, standard for magnum calibers. However, we think this particular rifle would benefit from a 26-inch tube. The barrel is locked to the action with Savage’s unique nut system.
The trigger is adjustable, but in this case it was not necessary. It measured only 3 pounds right out of the box. It has been a long time since we’ve seen a new gun’s trigger come out that light. However, it was a little mushy and has a slight amount of overtravel, but it still is quite good for a factory trigger. The bolt and action are of the 110 design with a two-lug locking system and a tang safety. The bolt is finished with black titanium nitride coating to smooth operation. The bolt has the Savage name and Tactical model name laser-engraved on it, which adds a touch of class. The Savage .300 Win. Mag. rifle features a blind magazine with no drop plate that holds three cartridges.
The lighter weight allowed the most felt recoil of the three rifles tested, but it was still less than that of most .300 Winchester rifles of sporter weight. The Savage turned in a very close second in accuracy and when we threw out the least accurate ammo for each rifle it nailed first place in accuracy.
It is a little lighter and has a more slender feel than the other rifles. This makes it easier to carry, but it is noticeably less stable in the sandbags than the other two rifles. We would like to see the barrel extended to 26 inches, but it should be noted the average velocity was only 79 fps less than the Remington’s 26-inch barrel. The scope mount problem was troublesome, but we cannot say for certain if the problem was with the gun or the mount.
Performance Shooter Recommends
It’s rare when we find three production guns that suffer no fatal flaws and that perform so closely that one doesn’t stand out. In our opinion, most deer or elk hunters would be happy with the $853 Remington Model 700 Sendero SF, the $879 Winchester Model 70 Classic Laredo With BOSS, or the Savage 110FP Tactical Rifle. In our opinion, however, the $429 Savage 110FP Tactical Rifle is a best buy. It shot two brands of ammo under moa (the Remington 190-grain extended range boattail and Hornady 150-grain Interlock), and costs half the bucks of the other two guns. In our estimation, that’s a lot of bang for your buck.