Test and video: Savage MSR 10 Hunter semi-automatic precision rifle in .308 Win. and 6.5 CM

Savage Arms is known for high-quality, accurate bolt-action rifles, intended for sports and hunting, but also for law enforcement. Savage also stands for value for money. In addition to repeaters, the factory manufactures shotguns too. New in the catalog are the semi-automatic rifles of the MSR series . The abbreviation MSR does not stand for Modular Sniper Rifle or Modular Sporting Rifle – this always refers to a rifle designed for accuracy, made from exchangeable, complex components. The acronym almost always is used for semi-automatic guns based on the AR platform. Savage's MSR series includes 9 versions with 7 calibers each - a total of 63 variants . The AR-10-style MSR 10 Hunter is a direct gas-operated semi-automatic rifle, available in .308 Winchester and 6.5 Creedmoor calibers. As the name suggests, the MSR 10 Hunter is not only intended for sports shooting.

The components of the Savage MSR 10 Hunter in detail

Savage MSR 10 Hunter semi-automatic precision rifle disassembled
Stripped: barrel, handguard and upper receiver including scope, the Blackhawk! stock, lower receiver with pistol grip and magazine, charging handle and bolt.

The upper and lower receiver are made of an aluminum-zinc alloy with the material number 3.4365. Thanks to its tensile strength (up to 540 N/mm²), this high-strength material can be compared with many steels but it weighs much less . The surface is matte black anodized. A full-length MIL-STD-1913 Picatinny rail sits on the upper without any forward inclination. The magazine release button is located on the right within index finger range. This means that right-handed shooters don't have to remove the shooting hand from the grip when changing the magazine. Safety lever and bolt release are on the left. The two-position safety lever works on the trigger, as usual in an AR-15. The supplied Gen. M3 polymer magazine by MagPul holds a total of 10 .308 Winchester rounds. The Hogue pistol grip provides a good purchase.

The trigger of the MSR 10 Hunter comes from the US company Blackhawk! . The Blackhawk! AR Blaze trigger is a drop-in version for AR-15 rifles and therefore is interchangeable. Designed as a two-stage trigger, it breaks at exactly 56.43 oz / 1,600 g and cannot be adjusted by the shooter. Thanks to a chemical surface treatment, the mechanical elements have a nickel-boron coating. This results in a very hard, smooth surface, which ensures exact repeatability of the trigger characteristics.

Magazine of the Savage MSR 10 Hunter
The Savage MSR 10 Hunter's magazine well houses a MagPul PMag10 Gen M3 magazine. Inside the trigger guard, a Blackhawk! AR Blaze trigger.

The direct gas operating system features a seven-lug rotary head bolt. There is a strong extractor claw in the bolt head. Two ejectors ensure a safe ejection of spent cases. Automatic cycle utilizes the classic AR-15's direct gas operating system. The direct impingement is good for accuracy , since there are no additional mechanical parts in movement. A disadvantage is the increased cleaning effort , since with the gases also smoke and powder residues get into the action.

A special feature of the Savage MSR 10 Hunter is the standard adjustable gas block . This is important when using a suppressor. Why is it important? Well, when a suppressor is used, there is considerable resistance at the muzzle. So gas pressure cannot be released directly at the muzzle as usual. The resulting dynamic pressure leads to more gases forced into the action, which in turn cause a strong recoil during cycling. This causes the locking system to be overstressed, so that it can be damaged in the worst case. Therefore, the amount of gas can be reduced by means of a gas port. But if you forget to turn the gas block on again when you shoot without the silencer, this usually leads to cycle malfunctions.

The recess in the Picatinny rail of the Savage MSR 10 Hunter
This recess in the Picatinny rail is designed for convenient adjustment of the gas port, which is necessary when using a suppressor.

The free-float, octagonal handguard is made by M-Lok. At 12 o'clock there is a full-length MIL-STD-1913 Picatinny rail, which is only interrupted in the area of the gas block. This allows the shooter to adjust the gas port without having to remove the handguard.

Muzzle brake of the Savage MSR 10 Hunter
The two-chamber muzzle brake with the chambers facing upwards and sideways. It can also be replaced by a silencer. 

After removing the handguard, the free-float barrel can be seen. It is fluted from the barrel root to about two thirds. Ten relatively deep grooves ensure a particularly good heat dissipation and ensure consistent groups even with quick shot strings . What is special about the barrel is its rifling profile. Here Savage relies on barrels manufactured by Obermeyer Rifled Barrels. They feature a rifling known as "5R". Due to five grooves and lands featruring angular sides, the barrels allow for an even faster twist with minimal wear . The barrel ends with a 5/8 x 24 thread, which is factory fitted with a two-chamber muzzle brake. It has two baffle surfaces which deflect the gas pressure sideways and upwards. This is intended to minimize recoil and muzzle flip . It's good that the gas pressure does not hit the ground, where they usually whirls up dirt. For hunting, the muzzle brake should ideally be replaced by a suppressor with a suitable thread.  

Savage uses a collapsible Blackhawk! butt stock. The 6-position stock can be adjusted up to 82 mm in length and ends with an approximately 25 mm thick rubber recoil pad. Thanks to the standard AR interface, the shooter can also fall back on the extensive range of accessories available on the market.

Savage MSR 10 Hunter: technical data at a glance

Model: Savage MSR 10 Hunter
Price: 1999 euro (price may vary in your contry due to VAT and import duties)
Caliber: .308 Winchester / 6.5 Creedmoor
Magazine capacity: 10 + 1 rounds
Length: 37.5” / 953 to 40.7” / 1035 mm (with MB)
Barrel length: 18” / 460 mm (without MB)
Rifling: 5 grooves, RH
Twist: 1:10" (1:254 mm)

137.2 oz / 3890 g

Trigger pull weight: 56.43 oz / 1600 g / 15.7 N 
Notes: direct gas operating system with rotary head bolt, adjustable gas block for suppressor use, partially floating barrel with 5/8x24 muzzle thread, two-chamber muzzle brake (MB), M-LOK/Picatinny handguard and adjustable Blackhawk! butt stock. Suitable for left-handed shooters, but with some limitations.                                 

The Savage MSR 10 Hunter on the shooting range

We tested the MSR 10 Hunter in .308 Winchester from the shooting table and with a two-piece benchrest. After adjusting the stock and the scope, we shot 5 rounds at 100 meters . Before the actual test, the barrel was carefully cleaned with a bronze brush, lubed and then wiped dry. Then followed the actual precision test, divided into 5-shot groups at 100 and 300 m. The shooting itself was trouble-free . Only the bolt release is very difficult to push in after a magazine change. This is due to the lever itself, which protrudes very far in front of the bolt head. Oil or some polish can help here with relative easy. The use of a suppressor also worked smoothly

Through the gas block you can adjust gas quantity and thus the cycling impulse optimally. The MSR 10 Hunter got along best with a hunting cartridge: the GECO Express with 165 grains bullet, characterized by a plastic-tip. The bright red tip hides a small hollow point. As is well known, this ensures very good ballistic properties. And it certainly initiates the deformation of the projectile even at lower speeds, as is the case when hunting over long ranges.

The Savage MSR 10 Hunter semi-automatic rifle in video:

Wrap-up: rating the Savage MSR 10 Hunter:

The Savage MSR 10 Hunter is a fully featured AR-10-style semi-automatic rifle . It falls in a good mid-price range, as you'd expect from Savage. The components have been carefully selected in our opinion. Especially the barrel profile gives hope for a long life of the MSR10 Hunter. The .308 rifle can be used up to 600 m for sports . Due to the short barrel, targets at an 800 m range might be problematic, as bullets are in the transition area between supersonic and subsonic velocity. For hunting, the MSR 10 Hunter is very suitable for long shots . And thanks to the Picatinny rail and M-Lok interfaces, there are plenty of possibilities for optical and mechanical attachments

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