Customizing a Savage Model-10 Hunting Rifle

Customizing a Savage Model 10 hunting rifle

I received the following question the other day:

I live in Montana and am putting together a build off of a 308 model 10 Savage with an accu-trigger but not an accu-stock [sic]. I am barreling to 300 wsm. I am planning on using this as my primary elk hunting rifle. It will have the following:

  • Shilen drop-in barrel
  • Will keep the accu-trigger
  • New magnum bolt head. Question 1, is it worth the extra money to get the PTG Bolt Head for $90 vs the Savage for $25?
  • Stock…Question 2 What would you recommend? Would like to stay below $400.

Thanks for any recommendations you might provide.


300 WSM sounds like a great choice for an elk rifle!

Before we discuss parts I’d recommend, let’s talk about the donor rifle, a Savage 10 chambered in 308 Win.  To convert to 300 WSM he’ll have to change the barrel, change the bolt face, and most likely change the magazine.  He also wants to put a new stock on the rifle.

For reference purposes, a schematic of the Savage 10/110 can be found here.

We’ll discuss the options one part at a time.

Aftermarket Savage barrels

Since Savage rifles use a barrel nut system to finalize head space (above, bottom), shooters will often swap out aftermarket barrels themselves.  This is far simpler than installing a short chambered barrel on a Remington 700 (above, top) and only requires a barrel vise, barrel nut wrench and head space gauges.

Before ordering a pre-fit after market barrel, the shank diameter of the action needs to be determined.  Savage Model 10 rifles have two different barrel shanks, small and large.  Small shank barrels are typically encountered on standard (non-magnum) cartridges and measure 1 1/16″x20UN- 3A.  The large shank barrels usually found on the magnum rifles will measure  1 1/8″-20UN-3A.  While it is most likely safe to assume the rifle in question  is a small shank, it is possible that it was rebarreled, so the barrel should be removed and the measured prior to ordering a replacement.

The two brands of replacement Savage barrels I like are Shilen and McGowen.  Both make excellent barrels and both shoot very well.  Either should give ample performance in a hunting rifle.

Since we are swapping barrels, we might also want to change the recoil lug.  The factory lugs are stamped, not machined and normally aren’t that flat.  Use of an aftermarket lug (link) would address this and hopefully increase the likelihood the rifle shoots well.

Savage bolt head options

The Savage Model 10 uses a floating bolt head (above, bottom) that can be taken apart.  There is a big difference between it and the M700, which uses a one piece bolt (above, top).  Since the 300 WSM uses a magnum bolt face and the rifle in question has a standard, 308 bolt face, Joe has a couple of options.  The current bolt face could be opened or he could simply replace the bolt head.

Opening the bolt face on a Savage bolt would be a fairly straight forward operation if you happened to own a lathe and had basic machining skills.  I would guess most gun owners don’t have a metal lathe, so they’d end up replacing the bolt head.

Replacement Savage bolt heads are available from Brownells for less that $25 (April 2017) or from aftermarket providers like Pacific Tool and Gauge (~$90).  I would use a Savage OEM part.  I don’t necessarily think the premium spent on the PTG bolt head would translate into downrange performance, especially for a hunting rifle.

Savage stock options

Joe also mentioned that he wanted to upgrade this rifle with a stock within his budget of $400.  While MDT makes the excellent LSS chassis for around this price, it really isn’t the best choice for an elk rifle.  Yes, I realize some guys go hunting with chassis systems but I would guess most don’t want to.  This means we need to pick a stock.  I would suggest a fiberglass stock, not one that is made from injection molded plastic or wood.

I’m not a fan of the Accustock (above).  Testing on our factory Model 10FCP-SR proved it was detrimental to accuracy.

On a budget, I like stocks from Bell and Carlson and HS Precision.  If you can pick up a used one, it is even better. Both are serviceable.  Bedding a Savage 10 is a bit of a challenge compared to the 700, the rear bedding screw is closer to the magazine well than it is on a 700, but it can be done successfully.

At the higher end of the budget, possibly exceeding the $400 cap, is a basic non-adjustable McMillan.  McMillan offers a great product, the only downside is they are made to order and often associated with a very long wait.

Other considerations

Timney triggers are fantastic and always worth the investment if you can swing it.

Quality rings and bases are an important part of the system. On hunting rifles I like Warne and Talley .  I typically avoid Picatinny rails unless I am running a heavy 30mm scope on a long range rig.

Well, those are my thoughts on customizing a Savage Model 10 as a hunting rifle.  I’m looking forward to hearing about the elk Joe takes with his rifle!