During the summer, I reported on the Savage 10/110 Stealth, the company’s chassis-stocked rifle for tactical and precision shooting. It’s an unlovely, heavy rifle that shoots like merry hell, and people must be buying lots of them because there is now a more expensive, and nicer-looking version called the Stealth Evolution, with such refinements as 5R rifling, a different stock, and a bronze-toned Cerakote-finished rail.
My Stealth, a left-hand 6.5 Creedmoor, would shoot anything acceptably, and with handloads it really liked, would print under ½-MoA, which is about as accurate as factory rifles get. Part of this was due to the stock, which is incapable of the evils of conventional stocks, part due to the barrel, which we will come back to, and part to the action.
Savage did something extremely interesting here. The average gun company, when they build a tactical rifle, screws a heavy barrel into a standard action, beds the result in a target stock, and sends it out the door. But Savage rebuilt the Stealth from the inside out by blueprinting the action—making it as close to dimensionally perfect as it is possible to do. A Stealth action is like a stock car engine, not the powerplant that takes you to work in the morning.
My Stealth barrel, while accurate, was rough, collected copper fouling like crazy, and required an obscene amount of cleaning after each trip to the range. I’m much too old to put up with that, so I gave it to my gunsmith, John Blauvelt, to have it rebarreled.
John specializes in competition rifles and handguns, and when he speaks, I listen. Here’s what he had to say about the Stealth action:
“The action’s barrel thread is very tight—at least a Class 3 or 4 fit. [I had to look this up. There are five classes of thread fit. One and two are more or less average. Three is tight. Four is very tight. Five is for special applications and requires special tools to turn anything with that thread.] I had to lap the threads to the action to get it to turn smoothly and without galling. I could have picked up the thread in the lathe and chased it for a looser fit, but since this is a target gun I thought that lapping the threads made for a tighter and truer fit.
“Savage did it right. I tip my hat to the Savage engineering department. The locking lugs make full, even contact. The action face is true and square. The barrel nut makes full and even contact with the action face. The recoil lug is thicker than standard, robust, and dead flat. It’s not made out of a piece of stamped sheet metal.
“If this gun does not shoot well, there is no hope for humanity.”
John and I decided on a McGowen barrel. A few years ago, he rebarreled a .25/06 Savage of mine with a McGowen and the results were spectacular. McGowens are medium-priced, hand-lapped, and do not take forever to make. McGowen’s Savage Prefit barrels come with all the work done except for screwing the tube into the receiver and headspacing. The barrels come in polished blue, which I take it is chrome-moly ($295) or polished stainless ($325). Anything longer than 26 inches is $10 more per inch. They’ll make you nearly anything you want provided it’s not too grotesque. You can look it all up at Mcgowenbarrel.com. And, very important, John Blauvelt says that if you’re going to rebarrel a Stealth, you need the Large barrel shank and thread. The standard shank and thread will not fit. What I got was stainless, No. 6 contour (which is Light Target), 24 inch, 1-8 twist. The total bill was $500.
The rebarreled Stealth doesn’t shoot the same as the original, which would shoot just about anything into at least acceptable groups. The new version doesn’t like bullets of less than 140 grains, which is fine, because I don’t either, and will signal its displeasure by producing 2-inch spreads.
But if you feed it something that weighs 140, or 142, or 143 grains, it will go under a minute of angle and stay there. I got the tightest spreads with the same bullet that did best in the original rifle—the Nosler 140-grain RDF (Reduced Drag Factor), a projectile of imperishable beauty, the smallest meplat around, and a galaxy-spanning BC of .658. The five-shot group average for these bullets was .425, and occasionally I got one that was down in the .300s or high .200s.
I think the rifle will eventually shoot better because the barrel is still brand-new, and because some of my cases are suspect and, I think, are spreading the groups out. It may end up as a quarter-minute rifle.
And, it cleans up in minutes.
I hope we don’t see a lot of improvement in factory-rifle accuracy from here on. I’m running out of superlatives.