Over last winter without snow to snowmobile on, I got a hankering to buy a lightweight super accurate inexpensive dedicated coyote rifle. I'd been lugging my duty M-4, which I am plenty happy with, but you know how it goes..Oh, and my 6 pound model 70 30-06 shoots 3/4 inch groups all day long with 110 grains, so I didn't NEED a coyote rifle. Just say'n. So I sold two rifles I owned, and researched cheap accurate varminters. It was a toss up between .223 and 22-250, but settled on .223 for cost and availability. After about two months research I settled on the two rifles you see below, the first is a Savage model 11 with hinged floor plate, pillar bedded composite stock, and accutrigger. The 22 inch barrel is free floated. Everything I read about Savage proclaimed great accuracy. It is not a guaranteed MOA rifle though.
This Savage does not have a crowned muzzle which I do prefer. The barrel while free floating requires a rest just forward of the floor plate however, because resting this gun at the fore end will bend the stock enough that it touches the barrel, and before I figured that out I was getting 2 inch groups. While pillar bedded it did not come with the accustock. The accutrigger is excellent, zero creep, just about perfect let off. Superior to the Thompson I felt. The gun felt good, came up well, and is well worth it's price. I limited myself to sixty rounds with each rifle. The Savage turned out a be a tad more accurate by my measurements. Practically speaking it probably is not superior innately, but it does comes with a 1 in 9 twist so it shot certain bullets (heavier) more accurately. With skinny guns like this I do 3 shot groups. The first three shots though this little Savage were American Eagle 55 grain full metal jackets from Federal. These first three shots measured an astounding .526 inches ( I measure outside to outside minus caliber). I was thrilled and ready to sell the TC before I even shot it. Then I ran into the stock issue and ran a series of 1.5 to 2 inch groups. Once that was figured out, I never did match that first group, but regularly achieved .75 inch groups with the Federals, Hornady 60 grain TAP, and Ultramax 55 grain SP remanufactured rounds. The largest group this rifle fired measured a cool .875 inches. Now I do know from research that Savages come with rough barrels, and the more you shoot them, the more accurate they tend to become. For less than $550 bucks in rifle and rings, this baby is a tack driver. And, you can carry it all day long. It is for sale, see why below.
Second rifle my research led me to is the Thompson Center Venture Predator. This rifle comes with a MOA accuracy guarantee, an adjustable trigger, fluted barrel which is also 22 inches and free floating. Personally I prefer the look of the TC over the Savage, probably because I wore camouflage for so many years.
Both rifles weigh in about 6 1/2 pounds sans scope. Both were accuracy fired using the same Leupold 3.5x10 AO scope.
I just plain liked the looks of this rifle to begin with, and I always wanted a fluted barrel for some reason. This Venture Predator just flows to the shoulder. I don't believe any other rifle I've ever picked up for woods work ever came as close to my model 70 for fit and feel. The muzzle is target crowned. This rifle comes with one removable box magazine. Why rifle manufacturers won't include two is beyond me. Normally I prefer a hinged floor plate but the Savage could not be loaded from above with it closed so there was no advantage there.
The magazine was extremely difficult to remove initially, and frankly I had to dress up the magazine catch with a fine file before it became doable. I did not bother to adjust the trigger on this rifle, as it is new and will break in. It has just a bit of creep to it, but lets off quite well. The Savage trigger is better. Initially the bolt was difficult to close - just approaching lock up it required major effort. The Savage was not much better in this respect, but the TC definitely took more effort, and quick follow up shots would be impossible. I finally lubed the bolt lugs with Mili-Tec, and this fine metal lube cut the effort in half. Interestingly enough, after 60 rounds the lugs show zero contact wear at all. A mystery. An advantage of the TC is that it has fewer parts than the Savage. Just the Savage bolt has more parts than my entire model 70.
OK, so how did it shoot? I used the same 60 rounds as I did in the Savage, and the TC definitely shoots MOA, but prefers different loading because of the 1 in 12 rifling. The American Eagle in this gun shot at 1.5 inch groups. Remember the 1/2 inch group in the savage? Then we got to Hornady 60 grain TAP rounds that consistently gave me 3/4 inch groups. Next through the rifle was the Federal 69 grain match rounds. I was shocked to find this rifle shooting no better than 3 inch groups. No good!
On to remanufactured Ultamax 55 grain soft points, and back to consistent 3/4 inch groups. I might add that in most of these 3/4 inch groups the first two rounds were touching. (barrel warming?)
So, Here are the results of my unscientific testing of two rifles:
Fit and finish- TC Venture Predator by a hair
Aesthetics - TC Venture Predator
Weight - tied
Trigger - Savage 11 by a hair
Accuracy - Savage 11 by .25 inch
Price - Tied
Loading/unloading - tied
Heft and body fit - TC Venture Predator
Conclusion: I chose the TC to keep. I believe that I can wring another quarter inch of accuracy out of it with other loads, and breaking in and then adjusting the trigger. Both rifles exceeded my expectations of an inexpensive light varminter. Rifles this accurate 30 years ago would have been $2000.00. For five bills you cannot go wrong with either one. I prefer the looks and feel of the TC, but was not displeased in any fashion by the looks and feel of the Savage. Purely a personal choice. Better trigger on the Savage. Better barrel on the TC. If I were to keep the Savage I might consider having it fit to an Accustock. So there you have it! Anyone looking for a Savage coyote gun?