The Savage Model 10 BA Stealth

savage rifle
The Savage Model 10 BA Stealth.Savage Arms

Which brings us to the Savage Model 10 BA Stealth. This is a bolt-action chassis-stocked rifle that's made in .308 and 6.5 Creedmoor, and is carried by Savage under its Law Enforcement Series. It's what I think of as a New Generation gun, which is what I see mostly now at the range in the hands of the true accuracy freaks.

In the .308 version, the Stealth comes with a 20-inch barrel, and in the Creedmoor with a 24-inch tube. The former is the supreme law-enforcement rifle cartridge, but the Creedmoor is a puzzle, as it was developed for target shooting, and is now branching into hunting with great success, but is in no wise designed for shooting people. Savage has a history of slipping unlikely cartridges into the cop category. In the late 1990s, I bought a Savage LE in .25/06 to use as a beanfield rifle. It worked splendidly, but .25/06 as a social gun? What could they have been thinking?

Anyway, in the real world, the 6.5 Creedmoor is for shooting targets, or for dropping deer at long range, so I’ll treat it accordingly. The Model 10 Stealth is based on a blueprinted action, bedded in a monolithic aluminum chassis that’s machined from a solid billet, not a casting. It has an M-LOK fore-end, a one-piece EGW scope rail, a Fab Defense GLR-16 buttstock with an adjustable comb, and a fluted barrel that’s threaded for a can, or a muzzle brake, and comes with a cap that doesn’t work loose in the course of firing.

An Accu-Trigger is standard; mine is set to just over 2 pounds, and breaks very nicely. Weight of the rifle is 9.2 pounds, and it feeds from a detachable 10-round magazine. The list price of the Stealth is $1,207, although in the real world it sells for substantially less.

Let us return to the receiver. “Blueprinting” means making an action dimensionally perfect. All the flats are flat. All the straight lines are straight. Tolerances are kept to an absolute minimum. Radiuses are radiused precisely. Everything that is supposed to be square is squared. Blueprinting an action is common among makers of high-end custom rifles, but Savage does it at the factory. Permit me to quote from a Savage representative: “For blueprinted target and long range rifles, more stringent tolerance limits are required. The following areas are custom ground to extremely tight tolerance: locking lug recesses, receiver face, bolt face, locking lugs, barrel nut, and recoil lug, which is thicker than the stock recoil lug.”

Savage is not woofing about this. The Stealth action doesn't feel like a standard Model 110 action. There's no wobble, no wiggle, no slop. The chamber is of absolute minimum dimensions.

All this is intended to produce maximum accuracy. The 6.5 Creedmoor version of the Stealth is for shooting F-Class, the unrestricted variety where you get to use a pedestal rest. Or any other kind of long-range shooting, including hunting, that tickles your fancy. So I tested it as a target rifle, leaning heavily toward match ammo and bullets, and firing five-shot groups. Here’s how it did. Each average is of three five-shot spreads.

  • Handload, 142-grain Hornady SMK, .718
  • Factory load, Hornady 140-grain ELD Match, .670
  • Handload, Nosler 140-grain RDF, .443
  • Factory load, Nosler 140-grain Ballistic Tip, .495
  • Handload, 127-grain Barnes CRX, .924

Any time you go below a half-inch in a factory rifle, you’re talking about very serious accuracy. The Nosler RDF (which stands for Reduced Drag Factor) did the best. It’s a new target bullet with the smallest meplat since the invention of meplats. It has an unheard-of BC of .658 and is nothing short of sensational in this rifle.

A High Master shooter I know who hands out humility at every match says that a target rifle should be measured by 20-shot groups, since you fire 20 shots for record at each distance. So I did. At 100 yards, on a day with perfect conditions, I fired one round per minute 20 times and got a group that measured 1.069. Eighteen of the 20 shots went into a single ragged hole that was .775 across. This is a rifle that you can take to the rodeo and win a belt buckle.

rifle target
A 20-shot group at 100 yards.David E. Petzal

It’s also extremely unfussy, extremely consistent, and sends everything it shoots to the same place on the target. When I was testing the Stealth, the same High Master who opined about 20-shot groups was watching. When I was done, he said:

“That little rifle impresses the hell out of me.”

“Can I quote you?” I asked.

“Of course, that’s why I said it. For a factory gun to shoot like that out of the box…”

Is it perfect? Sorry, no. There are occasional failures to eject, usually one in 30 rounds or so. The shell clears the chamber but then lies on the magazine follower like a beached alewife. Since all F-Class shooting is single loading, this is not ruinous. As it says in Matthew 5, “If thine empty offendeth thee, pluck it out.”

More significant is the bore. Early on, I saw that my regular cleaning procedure didn’t come close to removing all the copper fouling, so I peered down the barrel with my Hawkeye borescope and emitted an unmanly shriek, as though I had seen a Gaboon viper, or Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL).

It is one of the roughest bores I’ve ever seen—maybe the worst of any button-rifled barrel—with deep annular tool marks from lede to muzzle. One wonders if Savage remembered to lube the rifling button when they made this one. I fired 60 rounds through it, and looked again. There were rivers of copper, and globs of copper, and great gouts of copper. The only place I’ve seen more copper is in Zambia.

I mention this because honesty compels me to, but the truth is that it doesn’t make a lot of difference. If you know the condition exists, you clean the living hell out of the bore at frequent intervals and keep shooting tiny groups. If you let the bore go, your rifle will very quickly lose its accuracy.

Competition-rifle barrels have much shorter life spans than hunting-rifle barrels because of the way they’re used. When you fire everything in 20-shot strings, that barrel gets hot, which dooms it. Most of the serious F-Class shooters I know re-barrel every season, and some do it halfway through the season.

Rough barrel and all, this is a remarkable rifle. It's the only New Generation gun I've tried besides the Bergara B-14 HMR that you could take to a match and do something worthwhile. The real-world price is $950 or so, and I've seen Stealths for $100 below that. Savagearms.com

And a barrel footnote. I eventually burned out the barrel of my Savage .25/06 tactical rifle and replaced it with a McGowen Savage Pre-Fit barrel, which shoots .400-MoA with hunting bullets. McGowen makes barrels for all sorts of rifles, but the Pre-Fit is a specialty of theirs. All your gunsmith does is unscrew the old tube, screw on the Pre-Fit and headspace it, and give you the bill. They're very good barrels and the prices are very reasonable. When the barrel on this Stealth is fried, that's what I'm doing. Mcgowenbarrel.com.