A Pair of Savage Strikers - With Extraordinary Accuracy

by Phil W. Johnston
Handgun Editor

A couple of years ago, I got a chance to work with a brand-new Savage Striker handgun, chambered for the .22/250 hot rod. I was part of an extermination crew working for/with Chuck Cornett at his annual Prairie Dog Conference.

As usual, my shooting partner was Jim Spalding and we managed to turn out the lights on a fair number of the critters with the then-new Striker. It was obvious that it was a shooter, right off the bat. I vowed then and there that I would get my hands on a Striker one way or another.

The chance came at the 2000 SHOT Show when Savage presented the world with a second Striker bolt action “hifle,” if you don’t mind my play on words—chambered for the world’s most fun cartridge: the .22 rimfire. Dubbed the Sport Striker, I thought the little rimfire was attractive, reasonably priced and would be a great addition to any collection. After working with a pair of Strikers—a .223 tack driver and the Sport Striker rimfire—I must say that my collection should have included a Striker from day one!

First up comes the Sport Striker rimfire. New for this year, the Sport Striker simply can’t miss. For starters it is a magazine-fed, bolt action rimfire repeater that carries a suggested retail price of a buck over $200, placing it in the bargain bin, pronto.

Left-Hand Bolt
Like the centerfire brother that preceded it, the Sport Striker features a left-hand bolt action with right-hand ejection—a system that works great if you’re right handed as I am. Bolt removal is as easy as pulling the bolt completely to the rear while holding the trigger back. The safety is located on the left side of the action immediately behind the bolt handle. The safety is pushed forward to fire. Safety operation is manual, as it should be.

The Sport Striker features a great looking rear-grip composite stock. The grip feels like it was molded to my hand and the firearm presents a far more expensive appearance.

The Sport Striker features a 10-inch, button-rifled barrel that looks at home on the rig. The barrel and action are nicely blued and look “right” in the black composite stock. The Sport Striker weighs 4 pounds and measures 19 inches in overall length.

The Sport Striker features a detachable, 10-round magazine that is easy to load and a blast to unload, if you get my meaning. The magazine release is behind the magazine and makes dropping the magazine a snap.

The trigger of the Sport Striker is also a composite offering, and while it looks different it works just fine. Although the trigger cannot be called target quality, the sample trigger broke reasonably clean at 4-3/4 pounds. The trigger probably feels better than it really is, simply because it is so wide; it works much the same as a trigger shoe that I used in competition long ago. At any rate, I didn’t have to mess with it for the range session.

Too Accurate
The Sport Striker is shipped sans sights but equipped with Weaver-style bases that make more sense. This rig is simply too accurate to justify open sights. It didn’t take long to attach a bright Burris 4-power scope to the Sport Striker with a pair of Burris rings.

On the range, the Sport Striker proved that it is a bargain, indeed. I set my DATA-TARG targets at 50 yards and the Oehler 35P chronograph screens about 15 feet from the muzzle. I ran 10 rimfire loads, ranging from CCI Stinger hyper-velocity hunting ammo all the way through Federal’s best, Ultramatch Gold standard velocity target ammo, downrange.

When the dust settled the Sport Striker accounted for 20 10-shot groups that averaged just over 1.8 inches, center-to-center. The best group was under an inch, suggesting that with a high magnification scope and the very best ammo, the Sport Striker would classify as one inexpensive tack driver. Rather than pick a favorite lot of ammo, however, I’m going to sort the ammo out in chart form.

I do want to point out that this is in no way a real measure of ammo. Bear in mind that the scope was only 4X and that leaves room for sighting error at 50 yards, to be sure. I also had to contend with some typical North Dakota winds, although my range tends to be sheltered to a certain degree.

Shooting the Sport Striker was a pleasure all the way. The rig didn’t miss a heartbeat, ejection was positive and the rig shoots where it is pointed. Gophers aren’t safe around here as long as I have a Sport Striker handy. The Sport Striker is offered in two models, the long rifle 501 and a magnum version dubbed the 502. The WMR 502 sells for $20 more. The Sport Striker can run in any crowd to be sure.

The second Striker in this roundup is the centerfire version introduced in 1998. Based on the famed 110 action, the Striker “hifle” features either a forward grip black composite or laminated wooden stock. Both feature a thumbhole and tend to give the Striker a pleasing outline right off the bat. The top of the line is the 516 BSAK that features a stainless steel receiver and fluted stainless barrel, convertible muzzle brake, and the great looking laminated stock. The sample BSAK was chambered for the little .223 Remington.

Like the Sport Striker, the centerfire Striker features a left-hand bolt and positive right-hand ejection. The safety is behind the bolt on the tang and is pushed forward to fire the gun. The bolt cocks on lifting and slides through the receiver smoothly. Bolt removal is accomplished easily when the trigger is pulled and the bolt release, on the right side of the receiver, is pushed downward. The Striker centerfire features a recessed magazine with a capacity of 3 rounds.

The big Striker weighs 5 pounds and measures 22-1/2 inches overall. It is a rig designed for specialized work at long range. Wisely, Savage ships the centerfire drilled and tapped for scope mounts and open sights are omitted. That’s a wise choice.

Since the Striker design moves the action back in the stock, the trigger is operated through a linkage much like Remington did in the XP. Initially, I was disappointed with the trigger of the centerfire Savage, but it didn’t take long to pull the action from the stock and rework the fully adjustable trigger. I managed to clean up the two-stage trigger quite a bit and a little gunsmithing could improve it even more. Still, as adjusted, the trigger action was good enough to allow some great shooting.

Burris Variable
Since I expected this rig to shoot, I decided to equip it with the best scope in the business—Burris’ newest 3-12 power variable gem. I mounted the scope using Burris bases and state-of-the-art Signature rings. Signature rings rely on composite inserts to keep things in place and they allow a scope to be fine-tuned in the rings quickly and easily.

The new Burris 3-12 variable is a gem indeed—bright, clear, and offering the most magnification in the industry in a scope that makes long range work much less difficult. The big 3-12 features Burris’ Plex reticle and the matte nickel LER scope looks at home on the stainless Striker. The Burris 3-12 weighs 14 ounces, and measures but 10.8 inches in length. This scope gives a 100-yard field of view of 14 feet at 3X and 4 feet at 12X and provides eye relief ranging from 9 to 13 inches at 12X and 9 to 22 inches at 3X. The big variable features an objective lens that is 32mm in diameter and an ocular lens that measures 38mm. Target turrets are available on the 3-12 at extra charge. For more information about the great Burris handgun optics, drop them a line at Burris, 331 East 8th St., Dept. GWK, Greeley, CO 80631.

With the Striker bore-sighted, it was simply a matter of time as I waited for the winds to calm down. I didn’t have to wait long.

Again I set the Oehler 35P skyscreens up 15 feet from the muzzle, but this time I moved the DATA-TARG (Rocky Mountain Target Company, 3 Aloe Way, Dept. GWK, Leesburg, FL 34788) out to 100 yards.

Greatest Group
While I fully expected this rig to shoot right off the bat, I wasn’t prepared for the first 5-shot, 100-yard group fired with Black Hills Ammunition (Box 3090, Dept. GWK, Rapid City, SD 57709). These first five 50-grain V-Max spitzers left doing 2,862 fps with an extreme spread of only 42 fps, and they kept slipping into the same hole—literally! Later, the dial caliper would indicate that the first five shots out of this .223 slipped into a group that measured .322 inch center-to-center! An out-of-the-box stock, shooting factory ammo and I’d just fired the greatest 5 shot group I’ve ever fired! Savage won’t see this one back.

I ran four brands of ammo through the Striker and 50 rounds averaged 1.39 inches, center-to-center, including a couple of groups that the Striker didn’t like—Lapua 55-grain spitzers that averaged but 2.51 inches at 100 yards. If these two groups are excluded, this Striker handgun averaged 1.12 inches, center-to-center. I’d pit this against any out-of-the-box, mass production handgun or rifle in the business.

I also wanted to see if the effective muzzle brake would impact accuracy or velocity, so I rotated the brake to close the vents and fired two more 5-shot groups with the phenomenal Black Hills moly-coated 50-grain V-Max loads.

With the brake “switched off,” I noted a great deal more muzzle flip to be sure, but the rig still accounted for a pair of groups that went under an inch, .993-inch and .908-inch, center to center. Velocities didn’t seem to be materially affected by the brake. I suspect that the Striker BSAK .223 is slightly louder with the brake open, but that’s the way I’ll run it in the future. Savage claims up to a 30% reduction in recoil with the brake, and I believe it.

Top of the Line
The top-of-the-line BSAK carries a suggested retail price of $618, placing it in the bargain bin alongside the new Sport Striker. Priced hundreds of dollars below much of the competition, the BSAK takes the honors to be sure. Eliminating the muzzle brake nets the Striker BSS, carrying a suggested retail price of $566. If you prefer a synthetic stock, the 516 FSAK is so equipped and sells for $512, while a similar model without the brake is dubbed the 516 FSS and carries a MSRP of $462. If dollars are tight, you can get the same tack-driving accuracy in a no frills, blue steel, no brake Model 510 that goes for $411!

The centerfire line is available chambered for .223; .22/250; .243; 7/08; .260 Remington, and .308 Winchester. The centerfire arms feature a 14-inch barrel, fluted in the stainless steel versions. The sample .223 features a 1- in 9-inch twist.

I’m impressed. Savage has a pair of winners here pure and simple. Savage has been around since 1894 and it looks like I’ll be shooting one of them for the duration. As I said earlier, I took an out-of-the-box, stock Striker .223, Burris 3-12 variable scope, and a box of factory Black Hills Ammunition and then ran 5 rounds into a .322-inch group at 100 yards. Wow!

For more information about the entire Savage line, drop them a line at Savage Arms, 100 Springdale Road, Dept. GWK, Westfield, MA, 01085 or you can look them up on the Internet at www.savagearms.com. I hope Savage and their great Strikers will be around for another hundred years!

Savage Striker Centerfire Chart
@15 feet
@ 100 Yards
Black Hill Ammunition
50 Grain V-Max Moly Coated Spitzer
2,682/42/17 fps
2,880,/55/19 fps
.322"/.819" .570"
Black Hill Ammunition
Same load as above with Muzzle Brake switched off
2,887/45/15 fps
2,921/78/30 fps
.993"/.908" .950"
Federal Blitz 40 Grain Hollow Point 3,125/70/28 fps
3,153/43/16 fps
1.316"/1.515" 1.41"
Laupa 55 Gr. Spitzer 2,689/59/21 fps
2,674/66/24 fps
1.727"/3.30" 2.51"
Winchester 40 Grain BST 3,060/46/19 fps
3,070/44/17 fps
1.458"/1.604" 1.53"

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