This month I tested three different products as a system: The Savage 10-FCP-SR bolt action tactical rifle in 308, a Bushnell Elite Tactical Hunter 3-12x 44mm scope, and Nexus Ammo 175-grain match ammunition in .308.
If you are the type of reader who likes to get to the “bottom line” by reading the end of the review first, here’s the spoiler: Savage’s system worked flawlessly. Bushnell steered bullets to the target without fail. Nexus Match Grade cartridges are truly match grade.
Most of the testing took place in the foothills near Yosemite, in a beautiful part of Mariposa County. Most shooters will appreciate this. There is nothing like a beautiful lazy day in a gorgeous setting for putting rounds downrange. We have a friend who has that “cabin in the woods” that people dream about. It’s perfect for a little range time.
I am a big fan of using the correct application and small unit tactics. When it comes to high risk tactical intervention, using a rifle for overwatch, there are things that ordinary shooters don’t think about. Foremost, all of the range rules that we observe while training have to be modified or somewhat suspended in “real life.” Real shooting applications always have a real person forward of the muzzle of another real person. When it comes to rifles and police work, having great confidence in the shooter behind you in overwatch is a must. We generally don’t train while having another shooter shooting from behind us, but we place shooters behind us in real life often.
I like the Savage/Bushnell/Nexus package because I want quality equipment, and a competent shooter shooting over my shoulder. The Bushnell Elite 3-12x 44mm is a long-range tactical scope with a 30mm tube and illuminated G2H reticle. I selected this scope for their quick adjustment reticle. It has a clean center and the ability to quickly calculate shot compensation with increments from .1 to 6 mils in the same field of view. Because the horizontal and vertical graduations are extended in the lower portion of the scope, shooters can make a quick hold overcorrection without dialing.
Put this in perspective. It took about five minutes to sight in the rifle after mounting the scope. That’s 12 rounds. When I finished sighting it in, I fired several sub 2.5-inch groups at 150 yards.
The Bushnell Elite Tactical Hunter has its reticle in the primary focal plane. This gives the shooter several important advantages. First, it means that the size of the reticle increases with an increase in power. This is important for any shooter that uses it for milling. The shooter can take accurate measurements at any power. Second, the reticle is quickly focused when one goes from 3 to 12x. Third, good optics like this do allow for parallelax correction, critical for the long-range user. Parallax happens when the target and the reticle are not aligned. Since they don’t share the same focus in relation to the shooter’s perspective, any shift of the eye will move the reticle around on the target. The results are almost always disastrous. The Elite Tactical Hunter has a side focusing knob which causes the target and the reticle to coincide.
Does your scope have parallax error? To check, look at a target downrange and for the crosshairs on it. Now move your head around. If the reticle moves, there is an error. The Elite Tactical Hunter has a knob on the side of the scope that adjusts the focal range of the scope, eliminating parallax and insuring a crisp reticle on the target.
I like the zero stop which Bushnell calls the Revlimiter. One sights the scope in 100 yards, then removes the top turret cap. The Revlimiter limits the turret’s travel so the shooter can now make range adjustments using just the capped turret. The scope allows the shooter to always return to a set zero. This scope gives a full 15 mils of adjustment range.
I look through a lot of glass in this business and I really appreciate the controls on the Elite Tactical Hunter scope. Even through gloved hands, a shooter can feel the tactile clicks without letting the whole neighborhood know that a shooter is ranging a target.
This scope truly exceeded the price of the product. Any police precision shooter, training or deployed, will spend most of his time behind glass. The higher the glass quality, the lower the eye fatigue. When it comes to undistorted views inside an optic, the number one feature worth paying for is the quality of the coatings. The treatment of the lens translates to light and bandwidth transmission to the eye. It’s not hard to look at some optics and recognize a shift in color between the object viewed and the object you saw through an optic. I noticed the Elite Tactical Hunter’s ability to pick up good colors at dusk—exactly what we are looking for. I especially appreciated it while shooting up in the mountains, because it got dark quickly and I still had ammunition.
When I put the Bushnell glass to work, I played around with the illumination a little bit. The reticle is cleanly etched and the illuminated part is very clear. On lesser scopes, the glass looks really good until one turns on the illuminated reticle. This one maintained its crisp lines without any type of blotching when it was illuminated. I understand that the battery life is excellent on this model, but I didn’t use it long enough to wear the battery out.
The Savage 10 FCP-SR series of rifles are built around Savage’s 110 action, which has a 2-lug floating bolt and zero headspacing. I have tested a Savage in this platform before and the most notable qualities of the previous test only got better with this rifle.
Before I get into all the things I liked about the 10 FCP-SR, I have to speak to anyone who is wrong handed (all right, left-handed) out there. Savage has continually addressed this need in the tactical field. According to Savage’s Firearms Marketing Director Bill Dermody, they make 18 models for left-handed shooters. For police tactical shooting, this is a must. This particular design loans itself very well to mass-producing an accurate left-handed rifle. Since it uses a floating bolt head, many of the parts can be used in the left-and right-handed version. Our Savage rifle came with a threaded fluted barrel, designed to fit most common threaded suppressors. The .308 is a fairly easy round to suppress, a bonus for agencies who wisely opt for suppression.
The first Savage I tested needs a little full disclosure. I tested a Model 10 series rifle a few years ago and liked the adjustable AccuTrigger. This is a trigger that has a blade in the center that first contacts the finger during the firing cycle. I liked it so much I entered a shooting match with it—though I did not mention this to the company at the time. You see, I shoot competitions where I pour my own bullets (gas checked for those in the know) and load at the shooting bench. I had only been testing this rifle for a week but had already confirmed its match accuracy. I took second place in a regional match using a “box stock” Savage with an adjustable AccuTrigger. Not bad, especially against an entire field of custom rifles. The guy that beat me? He shot box-stock Savage. We definitely had our day at that match.
The Savage 10-FCP-SR is similar in design to my match winning favorite, except it has a detachable box magazine and the action is mounted in a synthetic stock. The integrated scope rail is solidly mounted to the action and the entire package was very stable when shooting from sandbags.
I like box magazines on this type of rifle rather than detachable ones. I did not like this detachable magazine. It worked smoothly, but it was hard to get that 10th round in. I was extremely careful not to mar the Nexus cartridges while loading. The magazine ran ok, but the .308 exposed another issue: If the magazine is up against the sandbags under recoil, the bags often engaged, or disengaged, the release mechanism. It didn’t dump any rounds, but the partially attached magazine prevented the next round from loading. Solve this by backing off the sandbag a bit. The barrel is completely free floated and the area where the sandbag contacted didn’t make any difference.
The 1/10 rifling easily stabilized 168-175 grain bullets. I ran dozens of factory “match” and “tactical” rounds through and the groups varied from 2 to 3 inches at 150 yards. This is acceptable shooting, given the variable winds and conditions.
After warming up the Savage a little, I shot some Nexus 175-grain HPBT cartridges. Through the spotting scope, I had to study my groups for a few minutes, eventually checking them by going down range. The size of the groups using the Nexus 175 HPBT cartridges were half the size of ones by the other cartridges. Seriously.
I had a conversation with an ammunition engineer from Nexus about the inherent accuracy of the cartridge while shooting their products at SHOT Show. I can make accurate rounds, but I have to sort the brass by case volume, weigh each bullet, test the brass for concentricity, use precision gauges for seating and crimping, and measure every grain of powder twice. He told me that the standard deviation for their .338 Lapua was in the single digits for powder weights. I told him that I knew that this particular cartridge, the one I was putting through the Surgeon PSR Rifle at the time, likely used extruded powder. If the SD was in single digits, then the difference could not vary more than a grain of powder in a box of bullets—I was correct.
I guessed how that could be done (only obsessed people can produce that kind of accuracy). My guess was close but they had changed the paradigm a little. I don’t know if I’m supposed to share how they did it, so I won’t. Again, I can make cartridges like this, but they are labor intensive.
But here’s a hint on how Nexus does it: Their scales were not designed for the ammunition industry and their cartridges have the Nexus headstamp on them. (I am saving my brass for the next match.) After we had this talk, I repeatedly hit the 900-meter target using the Surgeon PSR and Nexus rounds.
Back on our shooting range in Mariposa County with a Savage 10-FCP-SR. I did not do any ballistic testing, but their cartridge has a muzzle velocity of 2750 fps for a 175-grain HPBT.
The Savage 10 FCP SR has a MSRP of $785, very inexpensive for a rifle that is suitable for swearing in. Bushnell has their Elite Tactical Hunter 3-12x 44mm on their website for $1,261.45, but the price varies online.
I don’t know how much the Nexus ammo costs. If the job requires extreme precision, I don’t really care. Whatever it is, I would pay it.