Monday, October 5, 2020

Savage Arms .308 Model 11 Scout Rifle Review

Savage Arms .308 Model 11 Scout Rifle Review

Despite being quite old, the scout rifle concept originally developed by Jeff Cooper is still very hot. Ruger’s versions are reportedly still selling well on the retail shelves and now Savage Arms has joined in with its own Model 11 Scout Rifle offering. Like all Savage rifles, the already frequently backordered Model 11 Scout Rifle delivers a lot of value and accuracy for customers paired with Savage magazine compatibility and a design with proven durability and accuracy. For a $799 MSRP, customers now have available a very affordable scout focused rifle which is about $300 less than the competing Ruger model.


The late great Jeff Cooper was quoted as saying, "The natural habitat of the general-purpose rifle is the field, the forest, the desert and the mountain -– not the shooting shed with its bench rest. To be really useful a rifle must be as short, light and quick to use as is technically compatible with adequate power and useful accuracy. What matters is not what the equipment can do, but rather what it will do in the hands of its operator under field, rather than laboratory, conditions."
Cooper’s influenced Steyr Scout Rifle was offered in .223/5.56, .243, 7mm-08, .376 Steyr, and obviously .308/7.62x51 Nato.  The rifle weighed in at only 6.6lbs without an optic and was only 38.6” in length. By today’s standards, it was very light and still had a number of forward thinking features such as spare mag in the buttstock, forward mounted optic, and integrated bipod. Most people have netted down Cooper’s concept to a magazine fed .308 Winchester based bolt action rifle with a length around 40-inches and a weight under 8-lbs which allows for a forward mounted optic and can support iron backup sights. That noted, any Scout Rifle student knows that an individual’s “scout rifle” can look much different depending on the shooter’s needs.
I am going to jump in with both feet and make many comparisons between the Savage and Ruger offerings, because after all, buyers will on the showroom floor. The Savage Arms Model 11 Scout rifle follows closely to the original design intent of a scout rifle as outlined by Copper, but does have a few welcome departures. The Savage Scout Rifle shared many great features with the Ruger including adjustable stock pull length, magazine fed action, free-floated barrel to maximize accuracy, dual sling studs to support a scout sling, a forward optic mounting rail, and iron sights. When customers are comparing the two competing rifles, that is where the similarities end and value starts to tip over to the side of the Savage.

Out of the box, the Savage Scout rifle arrives with an exceptional peep sight system that is significantly higher quality than the included Ruger iron peep sight system. The same can be said for the Savage trigger system which is arguably as good as most entry level aftermarket match triggers. The Model 11 Scout includes an incredibly effective brake with recoil reduction that takes a huge bite out of the bolt action .308 recoil which delivers a rifle that is extremely comfortable even during all-day range training. This effective brake is a huge plus on the Savage. The current line of Ruger Scout Rifles can start to pommel the shooter after a day at the range. Savage offered the initial Scout Rifle released with a top tier billet aluminum pillar-bedded Hogue Polymer stock that is completely waterproof and allegedly stiffer than a wood stock.
On the Ruger, even after using the lowest rings possible for mounting an optic, the cheek rest height was still too low for a comfortable cheek weld. I solved the problem on my Ruger with a nice Hornady cheek rest bag, however Savage solved the problem up front by including an adjustable cheek rest out of the box. Notably, with the cheek rest in place, the factory peep sights are too low for regular use. If you plan on using the iron sights, owners will need to remove the cheek rest first.
The stock on the Savage is better equipped than the Ruger out of the box for those that want to add an optic. On top of integrated cheek riser, I found it ergonomically more comfortable as well with less felt recoil that the Ruger. Overall the Savage is 1-inch longer and about a half pound heavier than the Ruger, though both felt nearly identical in weight.
Feeding and functioning was perfect from the box fed Savage magazines. My only real complaint with the proprietary Savage magazines is that they are proprietary vs being AICS magazine compatible like the Ruger Scout Rifle. For someone with a couple other bolt guns with AICS magazines this may alone be a deal breaker for them.
The adjustable Savage AccuTrigger on the Model 11 is really very impressive. The trigger weight is adjustable from around 2-lbs to 6-lbs, however I would leave it set at the factory 2.25lb weight (as measured by my Timney trigger gauge.) As is, the trigger is amazing when compared to the crunchy Ruger trigger.
Savage has made a name for itself in the accuracy department and this scout rifle format delivered good accuracy for the $800 price tag. I think it would be an epic head to head battle between the Ruger Scout Rifle and the Savage Model 11 Scout for which could deliver better accuracy out of the box. I spent the better part of an afternoon attempting to show a clear winner, but there is no clear winner. Both of these guns will easily deliver 1.25” 100-yard groups, however I have personally seen both of these guns deliver touching five shot .5”-inch groups. I would really not say that either has the advantage from an accuracy perspective, but I do feel confident that the Savage Model 11 will deliver consistent 1-1.25-inch 100-yard groups with good ammo.
With a better factory trigger, stock, sights, brake, included adjustable cheek rest, and lower price, the Savage Arms Model 11 Scout Rifle is sure to please Savage loyalist and potentially convert many Ruger customers. Out of the box it is easier to shoot and better equipped.
Notably the Savage AccuTrigger is leagues better than the factory Ruger Scout trigger. My only significant complaint with the Savage Model 11 Scout Rifle are the proprietary Savage magazines. As a guy that has a bunch of rifles that accept AICS compatible .308 magazines, it makes my eyes roll that I need to go out and buy more mags for the Savage. Many will note that you can buy a lot of ammo and spare magazines for the $300 price difference between the two rifles.
Since many will wonder if the Model 11 can be a good suppressor host - it is. After attaching my Asymmetric LYNX suppressor, the Savage Model 11 Scout Rifle was a quiet and tame beast which delivered easy .75-inch 100-yard groups with the pictured Federal Gold Match ammo. Actually it was “lovely to shoot”.
The Cooper Scout Rifle concept notates useable accuracy sufficient for the application and the Savage Model 11 Scout delivers easily on that concept. The Model 11 is a rifle that can do “everything” for and owner and serve as that single rifle for everything that can hunt any North American game. I think Savage nailed the concept with the Model 11 Scout Rifle.
Savage Model 11 Scout - .308 Winchester
Series: Specialty
Magazine: Detachable box
Stock material: Synthetic
Barrel material: Carbon Steel
Stock finish: Matte
Barrel finish: Matte
Stock color: Natural
Barrel color: Black
Sights: Adjustable iron sights
Features:Includes a one piece rail
Caliber - 308 WIN (Other Calibers reportedly planned)
Rate of Twist:10
Weight:7.8 lbs
Overall Length:40.5"
Barrel Length:18"
Ammo Capacity:10


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Saturday, September 26, 2020

XLR Industries Tactical Evolution Remington 700 Chassis Review

XLR Industries Tactical Evolution Remington 700 Chassis Review

Everything seems to snowball for me and this is what happened when I started looking at Remington 700 Short Action Chassis Systems, so continues the string of reviews featuring and reviewing all the various Remington 700 aftermarket chassis including this stunning XLR Industries Tactical Evolution chassis. XLR Industries offers several versions, however this version delivers a hard use design with a full shrouded free floated forend.

The main question everyone will ask is why go to the trouble and expense to move from a factory stock to a billet chassis system like this XLR Industries Tactical Evolution stock or a premium target stock? There are a number of reasons to upgrade, however the most popular reason is consistency and improved accuracy due to a platform which is not affected by weather and humidity, and provides the same positive and precision grip/bedding on the action from shot to shot. These higher end chassis also free-float the barrel for the best possible accuracy from your Remington 700 barreled action and in most cases feature positive mechanical bedding which further increases accuracy and negate the need for the mess of resin or epoxy bedding the action.

Accuracy Improvement - That barrel free floating and mechanical bedding systems delivers an accuracy improvement. Every billet Remington 700 chassis I have tested has shown to deliver about the same 15% accuracy improvement over the factory Hogue stock. For example, this reduced my best 100-yard .65”-ish groups down to just over .5” and my more typical .8”-.9” groups down to the .7”-.75” mark. Not transformational, however it is an improvement and delivers more consistent groups which could make a huge difference at 800-1000 yards. I can only speculate based on my experience, but this stock in combination with a match trigger upgrade could increase accuracy by as much as 30% depending on your trigger.

Magazine fed Conversion - Most of the aftermarket chassis, including this XLR stock, also deliver integrated AICS style box magazine compatibility which saves you around $200 for a “bottom metal” AICS compatible magazine adapter for your factory stock. So instead of just a three or four round floor plate style magazine, you can feed your precision beast with 10-rounds at a time and delivers the ability to quickly reload or conveniently unload the rifle without "dumping" your rounds on the ground. AICS obviously makes various capacity magazines however ALPHA, Magpul, and MDT all also offer great options as well. The ALPHA are my favorite simply because they are a very compact double stack design.

Comfort - Yet another benefit of these chassis are that they are typically ergonomically and stability optimized for prone or benchrest shooting positions which deliver more long term shooting comfort behind the gun over long periods of lying or sitting down.

Most find there is a world of difference in comfort and fit when they get behind one of these chassis. If you want the best accuracy possible from your Remington 700 Action and additional features, then it makes sense to look at one of these chassis systems. Of course the obvious point I should make is that these target and sniper chassis are usually pretty heavy and are not really for field rifles that you are going to lug around for miles or use for a brush/walking stalk hunt. The purpose built chassis are designed for the most part to be supported with a bipod or sandbags and deliver the stability to increase long-range precision.

Adjustability & Customization - XLR are the newer kids on the block when it comes to billet Remington 700 chassis however people are going a bit nuts over them due to the impressive comfort, adjustability and the huge breadth of chassis offered for various guns as well as customization options.

All the XLR buttstocks are fully adjustable for cant, cheek rest position, cheek rest height, length of pull, and buttpad height. You can get insanely comfy behind this rifle. About the only thing it is missing from a comfort perspective is a memory foam pillow. The base of their buttstocks are angled to work with sandbags for elevation adjustments when prone or on the bench.

Easy Upgrade - Among the many different bolt actions XLR offers billet chassis for, the Remington 700 short and long action are of course by far the most popular. Shooters get a drop in stock replacement which delivers everything the professional and amateur shooter could ever want in a precision stock with literally every aspect of the stock is adjustable all while remaining completely backward compatible with off the shelf Remington upgrade components.
As with all the XLR industries chassis, this chassis is made from 60601 T-6 US sourced virgin billet.  Evolution series is available with any of XLR’s own billet buttstocks. In this case I choose their Tactical stock, so this chassis I am testing is called the Tactical Evolution Chassis. If I had selected the Standard buttstock, this model would have been the Standard Evolution. Hopefully you get the idea of their naming convention of the models.

XLR stocks all accept AR15 grips, however it comes with the best one I could ever come up with to put on a rifle like this. The grip is a soft rubber santoprene style ergonomic grip - feels awesome. XLR’s chassis can accept “some” AR15 buttstocks, however why would you go there when XLR’s are better, more adjustable, higher quality, in some cases lighter, and less expensive starting at only $180. XLR’s folding $115 stock adapter can also be added to any of the stocks.

The XLR Industries Tactical Evolution chassis I tested is XLR’s most popular chassis offering both lightweight and durability. It is not a lightweight stock at just over 4lbs and nearly twice as heavy as my stock factory Hogue stock, however it is lightweight compared to most billet chassis systems. It is a chassis which can be heavily knocked around and will take the abuse. The tubular handguard allows a structurally rigid forend with minimal weight to help offset barrel weight. A friend who is one of those legitimate “yeah I dropped the deer at 650-yards with a single clean shot with my 8mm belted magnum” kind guys and shoots regularly at over 1000-yards loved this chassis. Loved it like I thought I wouldn’t see it any more kinda loved it. His comment was that although a rifle like this will likely spend most of its life supported, there will be times where a full handguard delivers positional shooting options to overcome a bad shooting position. His point was that in most cases a bolt gun shooter would likely grip the barrel during this poor shooting positions which would impact the point of aim, with the Tactical Evolution chassis you have a enclosed barrel and full handguard to leverage without impacting free-float barrel accuracy. It all made sense to me.

The other nice thing is that you have the potential to mount rails and accessories at 12, 3, 6, and 9 o’clock positions with the XLR Tactical Evolution handguard. So if you wanted to add night vision, thermal, lights, or IR equipment you could.  I can see why this is XLR’s most popular chassis.

The Evolution chassis has been lightened a little however not as much as their Carbon milled skeletonizing model. I would fully expect one of their chassis to appear in a Bond film at some point due to amazing looks.

I will note that extended Remington scope bases do not work with this chassis due to the handguard tube unless you want to cut to shorten them down. XLR sells a high quality 20MOA base, however I had to remove an extended 20 MOA xTreme Hardcore extended scope base and swap it for a Brownells steel standard length scope base which worked perfect. Also higher scope rings will likely also be required for clearance. I ran out of scope rings and plurged on a set of premium American Precision rings to mount the Lucid Crossover scope high enough to clear the handguard assembly. From my estimation, you will need high rings versus medium rings, however this is all dependant on your scope dimensions.

Where the XLR’s Element model and other similar open top chassis allow you to just drop in an existing Remington 700 setup, this XLR Evolution chassis has that front forend and receiver trunnion to contend with. It was a a bit of a pain in the butt to need to re-order and buy all new parts, so this would be the potential notable downside of this style chassis. If you are building up a precision rifle with any enclosed forend style chassis, I would forewarn you that great attention should be paid to the required base and ring height before you start buying items.

The Evolution chassis is not a 2 min chassis swap like the XLR Element. The Evolution stock needs to have the forend and trunnion removed for installation of the action. Once I dropped my Remington 700 SPS .308 action in, the forend is re-assembled back on the chassis. Not a long or involved process, however it does take about 15 minutes.

Remington 700 SPS AAC Tactical barreled action, Brownells Steel Remington 700 SPS scope base,  American Precision high rings, Lucid 4-16x44 Crossover Optic, and KRG Bolt Lift bolt handle.

Considering the stunning beauty of this chassis and craftsmanship, it's surprising that XLR is selling this at only $790 considering many other billet chassis are much more. It is a deal, wrapped up in a attractive design that actually, you know… performs as good as it looks. The major advantage of this chassis is that it delivers full coverage free-float handguard which according to my long-range expert could be handy in the field. The only downside I saw on this chassis was having to work around the handguard with scope mounting, other than that I see no downsides to this chassis.
XLR Evolution Chassis
6061 T-6 billet action block
Type 2 Class 2 anodized finish
12 inch or 14 inch hand guard
Ergo overmold tactical AR grip
Right or left hand configurations
Fully adjustable stock
Sling ready
Single shot or DBM setup
No gunsmithing required
Made in U.S.A
MSRP $790 + Optional $115 Stock Folder Adapter


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Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Training Trumps Equipment

Training Trumps Equipment

Etha2 - Awesome Paintball gun

I was reminded again that training always trumps equipment as two two rounds exploded into me; one hitting my exposed right knuckle and the other against my shin. I raised my hands as the two pre-teens that had been randomly showering my position with hundreds of rounds screened “we got him”. Paintball and its airsoft counterparts are both very painful reminders that I always need more training and a whole crapload more cardio work. In this case one of the .68 caliber paintballs left me with a sore knuckle and bleeding bruise all because I leaned out for a shot with my leg exposed and forgot to keep my leg in and  angle the barrel out instead of the whole gun. The net was I exposed my entire hand and leg when taking the shot. 

I know not to do this, I have had a lot of training on not doing this and been shot with a lot of paintballs and airsoft rounds as a reminder, but I was tired, hot, tired and sweaty. The previous two hours of running paintball around paintball ranges in 98-degree heat. Discomfort and fatigue were showcasing that I needed a bit more muscle memory training and my cardio certainly played a factor in all that. The net was that despite all twelve of us on the field having exactly the same equipment and me with boatloads more training, two random shots from over 100 rounds spraying my position showcases a momentary lapse in the moment. That and if I would have moved instead of letting my ego keep me in that position. If they would have been real bullets, I would have been out of the fight or at least a lot less effective.

My fatigue was a factor and a lot of that really could be pinned on my Covid bod which unfortunately has gained weight and had far less exercise that it should have had since all this started. A higher level of fitness training would have allowed me to focus a bit better even after being tired instead of dropping by from a more aggressive pace, focus more clearly, and not just want to finish the game to grab a quart of Gatorade.

Training Trumps Equipment - Fitness, Tactics, and Equipment

All this noted, a tournament tier paintball gun like an Etha 2 or Axe 2.0 that would have allowed me to shoot twice as fast and with twice the accuracy but would not have helped me get shot less. A whole lot more cardio and more tactical muscle memory would have kept my hand and leg behind cover. That noted, we all fall back on equipment upgrades and I really do "need" a new marker with an electronic trigger and high rate of ramping fire would not hurt to barrage opponents.

The caveat here is that we all had good high quality loaner paintball guns that ran perfectly, so for equipment you do need the best, the most accurate, or the most featured, you just need reliability that will keep working. Skip the budget stuff, but quality, but most importantly get training and if possible get out there on the field to to test yourself once and a while.

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Brigand Arms Carbon Fiber Handguard

Brigand Arms Carbon Fiber Handguard

One of the holey cow wow factor AR15 accessories that came out in 2016 that still has a wow factor today is the Brigand Arms Carbon Fiber Handguard. The Brigand Carbon Fiber handguard optically looks like it is fragile, however the company put those doubts to bed with a display that had 100-lbs hanging from the end from one of their handguards. Brigand Arms actually makes three different models including the EDGE, BLADE, ATLAS. The impressive clean EDGE handguard deserved a special build to show off this incredible handguard.

The build started with the proprietary patented woven handguard is made from 3/16-inch carbon fiber rods. Capped at both ends with billet aluminum and mounted with an aluminum barrel nut. My one complaint on the Brigand handguard is that the far too substantial and heavy of a design considering the amazing light weight of the handguard - the decision was an AR15 pistol build.

The Brigand Arms carbon fiber handguard is extremely well made and installs just as any handguard would. Tighten the supplied barrel nut down on the barrel and index it properly for the gas tube pass through. Drop a little LockTite on the external threading of the barrel nut and thread on the brigand handguard and then tighten the locking ring.

In this case, the Brigand handguard was attached to a Phase 5 Tactical billet Upper Receiver loaded with a Phase 5 billet charging handle, Sharps Reliabolt, and Phase 5 Carrier. A special handguard requires a special barrel and I reached for a top and Ballistic Advantage Hansen profile .233 Wylde barrel tipped with a Kineti-Tech Brake. The optic used was the new Hi-Lux Leatherwood MM-2 Red Dot which has proved to be exceptional. Later I move to a Nikon fixed 3X AR optic which is super clear and allow the accuracy of the barrel to shine through. Currently this little rig delivers sub-moa groups at 100-yards and tiny little ragged holes at 50. It is a crazy impressive little rig.

The lower was a custom Faxon/Houlding Precision billet lower with Phase 5 Tactical Hex buffer tube complete with a newly introduced Timney Targa Flat Trigger, and a host of components from V Seven. V Seven manufacturers a variety of titanium parts including their selector, pivot pins, magazine release, magazine release button, egg-plate, buffer detent, and dual castle nuts used in this build. Of course there was a significant amount of customization on this build. All the titanium V Seven parts were hand mirror polished along with the stainless steel KNS model JJ anti-pivot pins and the Timney trigger. I know the Brigand Arms carbon fiber handguard deserved a special build, but hand polishing titanium is no small task.

The final custom touches were adding in some HexMags customized with Hex Grips and chopping down a completely perfect Mission First Tactical 15-Degree Engage grip to fit in with the more compact look and feel of this AR15 pistol build. The look I must say is pretty special.

On the range the Brigand Arms Carbon Fiber Handguard is an insanely light and open design which delivers full and unrestricted cooling ventilation of the barrel during spirited shooting. Despite the unusual design the handguard is comfortable to hold and grasp while being unbelievably cool looking.

Brigand has brought to market one of the coolest (literally) handguard designs on the market. It is something truly unique and different from anything else which applaud their ingenuity.

3.6-5.00 ounces depending on handguard length
Large gauge design provides ample room for suppressors
$260-$399 MSRP depending on model and length
9” Version Featured - $279


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