Serious Talk

“Only accurate rifles are interesting.”  — attributed to Townsend Whelen.

We need to have a serious discussion, O My Readers, because I’m wrestling with a gun problem.

You will all recall that the original rifle intended for the Boomershoot giveaway was this Savage Apex Predator .308 Win / Vortex 4-12x scope package:


…which necessitated sending it back to Savage under warranty to address the “hard strike” (primer-puncturing) and chamber-binding problems.  So late last week I got it back, and a couple days ago I took it out to the range to check out its performance — and again, not good.  The two problems had been fixed, but now a new one reared its head:  a bolt action so stiff that after almost every shot I was forced to lay the gun on its side and practically hammer the bolt open with the heel of my hand, then slam it closed with a karate chop.

I didn’t check the serial number, but it looks like Savage may have sent me a different rifle — this one with its own issues.  But that’s not the worst of it.

I could not get a consistent grouping out of the thing at 100 yards:  I’d get two shots inside an inch, and the third two inches off — and worse still, the flyer would come with either the first, second or third rounds.

I’m not a great rifle shot, but I’m not that bad, as anyone who has shot with me can attest.  There was a young guy in the next lane over who’d been dumping rounds into pretty much the same hole all morning, so I asked him to take a few shots to see whether this was the gun, or me.  He couldn’t get a decent grouping either.

Cliff Notes:  I hate this fucking gun.

Now here’s where we come to the point of discussion.

My original plan was to get the “repaired” gun, make sure it was fit for purpose and then either sell it at a loss or else make it “second prize” in the drawing — eating most or all of the cost of the gun because this whole story has been an exercise in total frustration, and I just want to get it out of my safe.

Now I can’t do either, because the gun is a total POS — I certainly can’t sell it in good conscience, and frankly, knowing what I do about it, I don’t even want to give it away to someone who spent good money on a ticket.  And I’m not really interested in spending more money with a gunsmith to fix the bolt action, or to go through the cost and rigmarole of sending it back again to Savage, pox be upon them.  (I’d just take an angle grinder to the thing, such is my frustrated rage, but I don’t have an angle grinder.)

So, Readers:  what do YOU think I should do with it?

By the way:  the Savage’s replacement — CZ 550 Varmint .308 Win — (the original of which was stolen, as you may recall) has been ordered, and as soon as it comes in, I’ll be buying it and a decent scope with the insurance money, and holding the draw.


  1. The American gun makers need a collective boot straight up the arse for the state of the industry today. They are churning out half finished shoddily made guns, and I have seen unfortunate cases like this time and again and even experienced it myself.

    Having said that – many of these guns are unofficially sold as ‘fixer-uppers’. The idea is to get the customer shooting now, and he upgrades his rifle as his finances and tastes dictate. I have seen guys buy these cheap pieces of crap and turn them into tack driving masterpieces. I did it myself with a cheapo Remington SPS. It was a complete dog out of the box… but after a new barrel, trigger, stock, bottom metal, and a few trips to the smith… it made an excellent ‘pocket sniper’ rifle.

    I am not aSavage guy, but I do know that they are a preferred donor rifle for some seriously interesting builds. Maybe you could part it out…?

  2. Send it back with a stern warning.
    You bought a brand new gun and through Savage’s behavior you now have something different. Their fault entirely.

    Or, sell it at full disclosure.
    Shitty situation all the way around.

    One other thing. Trade it in at a gun store for something else, and take a loss. I did this many years ago with an Iver Johnson pistol that never shot right even after sending it back to the factory twice. I traded it for a Beretta Bobcat .22 which I still own.

  3. Funny how things work…just yesterday I dragged out of the safe my K98 built in 1936. Closing in on 90 years old it runs like a fine watch. The bolt is butter-like. Finish on the metal is still intact. As said above, the American gun industry, especially after they smelled money from Covid mania, is churning out a lot of crap today. You really have to jump up to the 1000 or 1200 dollar range for better quality. And even then with no guarantees.

  4. Mr. Du toit,

    Sort of a long rant here, bear with me…

    Remember that Savage Arms WAS owned by VISTA OUTDOORS and ATK (A large corporate conglomerate). Savage as of 2019 was purchased back by PRIVATE INVESTORS, most of whom are management and local to the manufacturer in Westfield Massachusetts (Yes, these rifles are made behind enemy lines – but they are in general AWESOME rifles).

    When corporations are involved, quality sometimes drops like a rock. Wonder if you got a rifle that was made in whole or part when the corporation was still involved. Or made from leftover parts?

    If you want this Rifle GONE NOW – AND you have a conscience, my best suggestion is to find a local FFL dealer, tell him about the BS, and say, whats your offer? With the shortage of firearms at the moment the FFL dealer might just want to take the time and invest in getting this fixed.

    If you CAN wait, and I know it would piss me right off too, I would call Savage, tell them THEY need to cover shipping costs back to them with a pre paid label, and that you want SOMETHING DIFFERENT this time.

    I ran into this issue with Sig Sauer a few years back. I bought a nice Sig P938 (9mm) and a Sig P238 (.380). Both jammed more than Bob Marley. The P938 would have “hammer follow” when it didn’t jam, which is where a single action guns hammer falls forward after almost every shot.

    The P238 in .380 went to Sig once for repair. Came back working. I sold it. Never trusted it.

    The P938 had multiple trips back to Sig. It NEVER worked right. I finally got a “replacement” P938. The barrel hood was not fitted right and it would drag and you would have to pull with way too much force to even rack the slide. I never even took that to the range. I called Sig and argued with a few of their lackey’s on the phone until I got them to agree to replace this with something else.

    Sig ended up saying “Pick whatever you want”. I picked a Sig P229 E2 in 9MM. Ahhh breath of fresh air. It runs like a raped ape. Never a problem. P229 has been around forever, and so I think the bugs are worked out. Sig eventually made things right, but it took around 8 months and many phone calls. But all is well now!


    Don’t get me started on Scam and Worsen… Beautiful designs, but, WRETCHED customer service.

    I have an older Savage bolt actions (Stevens branding actually) that is in .270. Runs great, bolt is smooth, rifle is accurate. It is a simple model made before the AcuTrigger. Some would complain about the trigger, but I find it to be very workable. And best of all, IT IS RELIABLE!

    So basically, out of this long rant, my 3 points are:

    1 – Generally, for the most part, OLDER IS BETTER (“including, but not limited to” this goes for Guns, cars, types of food, and women).


    3 – See if your Local FFL dealer can help. especially in times of shortages, they will buy stuff that you no longer want, if you are in a hurry and don’t want to deal with the manufacturer.

    Hope this is helpful.


  5. Shame on Savage. Do they know how stupidly they have have treated a customer? Time for new management. Get someone in there who understands customer service and how reputations are made or lost.
    It is a mechanical device, there are reasons why it does not work properly. Are there “Lemon Laws” in Texas to call into play? Do you know of a good gunsmith who could look at it? I am sure your readers would contribute to having it looked at by a good gun mechanic. How about Hill Country Rifle ? They look like they know what to do.

  6. Such a shame. I have a Savage from a couple decades ago, back when the gun rags were raving about their quality and accuracy. It’s a savage Model 10 in a Bell & Carlson stock, and I’ve had it lightly smithed, 20″ bull barrel. The thing is smooth as can be and shoots about 0.75 MOA in the right hands.

    Shame they turn out crap like your gun, now. I believe the company was under new, private management back then, then went through the private banker owned stage described above after that. Maybe if you got a person on the horn they’d be sympathetic to your plight. I have no idea if there QC is any better now, though. New management does not always equal fixing problems caused by the private bankers.

    Give them a call. Try not to burn their ears. See what happens, what have you got to lose?

  7. What a first class mess to have the rifle returned or replaced with a rifle in ‘pice of crap condition’. I have a couple of suggestions, number one would be to get a fresh cup of coffee, get comfortable in a good chair and call Savage customer service, become the “I want to speak to the manager person.” Start out describing your situation calmly, as if you were speaking to a young child, plan to spend several minutes talking in circles and then ask this question. “You are customer service and never allowed to hang up on a customer, is that right?”

    Only one time over the years I have had a customer service rep hang up on me because the policy with decent companies is that they can never be the ones to end the call. At this point I ask for a higher level person who can help me get the answer I want and calmly explain that I am comfortable, I have coffee, a bathroom, food if needed and we are going to talk for as long as necessary until my problem is resolved, the resolution recorded and documented with an email confirmation, time, date, person, serial number of item, and repair order number and anything else you can think of just to screw around with them.

    I have had experience working for the parent company, Richemont, of Montblanc Pens, Cartier and all the other fine watch brands repaired out by the DFW airport and I know there becomes a point where companies will do most anything to make the problem disappear not mater how dumb the claim is and your claim is most valid. If approached in the right way messing around and letting the customer service people understand that you are not going to give in, not even a little bit, until you get the right answer can become almost as much fun as sitting in a deer stand in somewhere Texas on opening day patiently waiting for your perfect shot. It is a sad day when a situation reaches this point but, if you have the time and, if you enjoy being an ass occasionally, why not see what you can get done with your rifle to make it right, the way it should have been in the frick’n first place?

    1. I agree with OldTexan, especially his second paragraph. If you explain that you’re ready to stay on the line and talk to a few people, working up the corporate food chain, until you get to the point that YOU are satisfied. Unless you deal with no one but idiots, or they are shackled by stupid corporate procedures, you shouldn’t get yourself to the RCOB moment. You might just need a throat lozenge and a few adult beverages after.

      1. …more….
        There is one more alternative action:
        Print out everything you’ve written about this situation, find the name of the CEO, and mail the letter to him, relying on the old army adage that shit travels best downhill. CEO’s always have some young eager-beaver attached to their office whose sole purpose in life is to make severe customer problems go away in a manner that makes the company look good.
        It’s worked well for me; once with AT&T, and another time with an interstate bank.

  8. It’s time you experienced the joys of your local small claims court.

    Surely that’s an arm of government that the Democrats have not (yet) destroyed.

  9. BLUF: send this rifle back to Savage for repair.

    Caveat. Its hard to diagnose mechanical troubles from distance.

    Details. From your description, the original rifle was probably short chambered. That would cause pierced primers and difficult chambering. Even mildly Short chamber increases pressures quite a bit.

    Savage barrels are easy to set headspace on because of their barrel nut set up.

    I suspect the bench monkey who fixed up your rifle just turned the barrel out till it would accept a field headspace gauge. His problem solved, yours not quite solved. The right answer would have been finish ream the chamber.

    What ive described above would explain hard unlocking because the brass expands to fill the excess headspace and increases bolt face thrust. It might also explain accuracy troubles because chamber slop doesn’t consistently orient the round.

    I would be very interested in looking at your once fired brass for signs of case stretching and taking some measurements.

    All those things can be easily fixed by a factory or a handy gun plumber. Rifle might mot be safe as is.

    1. I think a chamber cast would show this. Too much jump from the cartridge to the lands will do this, and people serious about accuracy at long distances (including the Swiss at their national schuetzenfests) try to minimize this.

      Having said this, I think this is a matter for the Savage Arms CEO to sic his terrier on.

  10. Like I said: I don’t want to spend another minute or another dime on this POS trying to fix it.

    – I’m not interested in dealing with Savage; once was enough. They had their chance and fucked it up. Moral: never buy a “budget” rifle (or any other rifle) from Savage ever again.
    – I think I’m going to take it to my Merchant Of Death and see what he’ll give me for a trade-in, with full disclosure from me. If it’s decent, I’ll get something else. If it isn’t, I’ll sell it to one of you guys for that plus a hundred.

  11. I wonder if Savage has any idea what they’ve just done; no idea how many readers you have but I’d guess maybe an order of magnitude or two greater than commenters, and all of them now know to avoid anything from Savage. Everything about that rifle is fixable, but who would want to risk rolling the dice on having to deal with anyone’s “customer no-service” after a purchase whether it’s a gun or a toaster. And however many readers it may be, everyone has friends/competitors/hunting partners/etc. in the gun community. Not a big drop in a huge pond, but unlimited demand for guns won’t continue forever, in fact we’re seeing the numbers declining a bit right now.

    Even worse, I wonder if they don’t care what they’ve just done.

    1. If I had an angle grinder, I’d cut the POS up into several pieces, and send it back to them with a letter.
      That’s how strongly I feel about it.

      1. OK Kim, don’t hold back, go ahead and express yourself and tell us what you really think about it ! What a piece of goat sex they made of this situation when they sent you back a double screwed up repair of the first mess of a rifle. I own one Savage heavy barrel in 22-250, it does a good job but I will never purchase another Savage firearm after reading about your experience.

        1. Excellent point. The last Savage I bought was in 2004, and I have had no problems with it in the intervening 17 years.
          Things change a lot in 17 years, so warning heeded.

      2. If I remember right, I think that I was one of the guys who said that the Savage should be an okay gun. I offer my most sincere apologies. I’ve got a “budget” angle grinder from Harbor Fright that works just fine and that might be a fitting end for the rifle. Let me know – I’ll even help you take pictures. Before we get the grinder out you should try to recoup some of your loss and I suspect that somebody might enjoy the challenge of getting the POS to shoot straight.

  12. Had me a brand-new Springfield M1A NM that I got… POS right out of the box. Did a whole writeup over at my place about this issues… That being said, GREAT customer service. Quick turnaround, and great work. Runs and shoots like it’s supposed to. Sorry to hear about the Savage. I got an AXIS II 10? or so years ago, it’s still a tack driver.

  13. If the serial number on the gun you got back doesn’t match the serial number on your 4473, they owe you a new gun, or your money back. They can’t replace a defective gun with another defective gun. I don’t recall where you bought it, but if not direct from Savage (if such a thing is possible), then they should get engaged.

    Sounds like you are fed up though. Most gun shops, at least here in Virginia, are hurting for inventory and are paying near retail for anything not shot out. Mebbe they are in Texas too. Chuck it, but not before telling Savage to pound sand in that special way you have.

  14. My inclination would be to ship it back to Savage. With a print-out of this page, the comments…and the visitor count. Demand a refund. Not replacement, a check in certified funds.

    Send a separate copy of the paperwork direct to the company CEO. They’ve jerked around one of the top-tier gun bloggers…a Very Bad Mistake.

  15. It’s not a Savage, it’s not even an American made gun, but I am happy with a bone stock Bergara B14 Hunter in 6.5 Creedmoor.
    With bulk ammo whose velocity climbed noticeably as temperatures climbed, it still printed a group at the end of my session as tight as the one that began it. Bulk ammo – not match grade – and it spat out 1/2″ groups as long as I did my part (the point of impact changed as the ammo heated up and the day wore on, but the rifle just kept going).
    With a better and more heat-tolerant powder, this rifle has potential to be a one-hole tack driver.

    1. And as an added bonus, it’s essentially a cloned then improved Remington 700.
      The finish on the receiver is slightly lacking, but more than made up for by the accuracy.

  16. The issue sounds like a too tight headspace.

    Unfortunately, my .308 go and no-go gauges are on my bench here in Wyoming, a bit far from TX.

    If the go gauge doesn’t fit, fixing this is simple. Just rent a .308 NATO finishing chamber reamer, give it a few turns, make sure the go gauge now fits, and polish chamber with a Flitz’ed patch wrapped around a drill bit mounted chamber brush.

    This kind of stupid shit happens when no one actually inspects finished rifles.

    1. If it’s a headspace issue on a Savage, can’t the barrel just be backed off a smidge and the barrel nut tightened back down?

      1. Depends on which model Savage.

        Later models, yes. You will need their barrel wrench, and a block of wood to stick through the action and clamp to a vice.

        You can fake it without go/nogo gauges by just screwing said barrel out a fraction of a turn, tightening it back up, and then chambering a round to see if it fits. Use a fresh round for each test.

  17. I’m not a gun owner – I will be changing that soon. Stories like this make me wonder what the hell I’ll be getting myself into. For those who are enthusiastically attempting to diagnose the problem and give Kim ideas for fixes, I’ll just say this:

    When you buy a new item of any sort, the minimum expectation is that it performs its most basic functions. When I buy a food processor, I want it to chop food. When I buy a power drill, I expect it to turn on and rotate so it can drill holes. And when one buys a gun, one expects it to fire bullets with consistency and be able to be reloaded. The idea of having to have it modified so it performs its basic functions correctly is a non-starter for me.

    The proper response to this is to take the rifle, find an executive at Savage, shove the barrel up his ass, and pull the trigger. It’s ridiculous.

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