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Savage Bets On A Bolt-Action Handgun Revival

The New 110 Pistol Chassis System Echoes Remington’s XP-100, T/C’s Contender

It’s interesting how all things of human interest are either cyclic or a one-time phenomenon. Either way, the only thing we know for sure is that things change, always. The firearms industry is no different.

Savage Striker

If you’ve been around long enough you’ve seen changing trends in cartridges, guns and competitive shooting. Right now, I’m thinking about handgun hunting, and it was prompted by Savage’s recent announcement that they have once again introduced a bolt-action handgun.

Back in the ’70s you couldn’t pick up a gun magazine that didn’t have at least one or two articles on handgun hunting. I think what started it was Remington’s introduction of their radical XP-100 single-shot bolt-action pistol in 1963. Eventually, almost every manufacturer of bolt-action rifles came out with at least one version of a handgun (some called them hand rifles).

But the most influential manufacturer was Thompson-Center with their Contender break-open pistol that offered barrel/caliber interchangeability. I can well recall when serving on the editorial staff of Shooting Times Magazine with the late Bob Milek; he championed the Contender like no other writer of the time. Another friend and colleague of mine who was influential in promoting handgun hunting was J. D. Jones.

Anyway, throughout the ’70s and early ’80s, handgun hunting and silhouette shooting enjoyed a moderate level of popularity. But, like I said, all things change and by the late ’90s bolt-action handguns were on the wane.

Savage, however, thought differently, for in 1999 they introduced the Striker, a bolt-action pistol based on their 110 action. The Striker differed from the XP-100 in that it was based on a LH version of the 110 action with the handle of the left side and the ejection port on the right.

Also, whereas the XP-100 started life as a single-shot, the Striker had a magazine in both the rimfire and centerfire versions right from the get-go. Only later in its life was a repeating version of the XP-100 offered. Both guns were initially configured with mid-grip stocks, which required a more complicated trigger setup; only later were both offered with rear-grip stocks that allowed the standard rifle trigger assembly to be used. The Striker had a relatively short life. It was discontinued in 2005. As to why, one can only speculate, but usually it’s because sales don’t justify continued production.

Savage 110 Pistol Chassis System

So here we are, 17 years later with another Savage bolt-action pistol, the 110 PCS — Pistol Chassis System. With chassis rifles being all the rage these days, I suppose it was an easy decision. After all, Savage already had the ideal action for a bolt-action handgun: handle left, ejection port right. And they were already using MDT (Modular Driven Technologies) chassis for some of their tactical/long-range rifle offerings.

Completing the picture is a medium contour, 10 1/2-inch barrel with threaded muzzle (5/8-24). The MDT one-piece aluminum chassis sports a 7-inch free floating modular forend with M-LOK slots for mounting accessories.

The receiver hosts a spiral-fluted bolt, a 16-slot rail, and a 2 1/2- to 6-pound user-adjustable AccuTrigger. The detachable magazine is AICS-compatible and held captive by an ambidextrous release. Five chamberings are being offered: .223 Rem., 6.5 Creedmoor, .300 BLK, .308 Win. and .350 Legend. All carry an MSRP of $999.

NEW COPPER BULLET FROM HORNADY

Hornady has announced they’re replacing their highly successful GMX (Gilding Metal eXpanding) monolithic hunting bullet with the CX line (Copper alloy eXpanding). Introduced in 2009, the GMX was Hornady’s answer to the Barnes Tipped TSX (Tipped Triple Shock X-Bullet) that debuted a year earlier.

To have a solid bullet comprised of one homogeneous material — in this case a copper alloy — seems so intuitively superior to the traditional two-piece cup and core bullet that it should be no contest.

After all, with a homogeneous bullet there’s no imbalance problems stemming from possible voids in the lead core or inconsistent jacket thickness. When you have a bullet that’s spinning as fast as 250,000 RPM, the slightest presence of either will affect accuracy.

And monolithic bullets routinely retain 98 percent of their original weight, whereas jacketed lead core bullets are doing great if they retain 55 to 60 percent. This enables one to choose the higher velocity and flatter trajectory of a lighter bullet and still get the deeper penetration that results in the high probability of an exit hole for tracking if needed.

However, it’s not all that simple, as Randy Brooks found out after he introduced his X-Bullet in 1989. Grudgingly I think, other bullet makers eventually followed with monos of their own and experienced similar challenges.

Because copper is lighter than lead, mono bullets can’t be made in the heaviest weights offered in their lead core equivalents that have the very highest G1 ballistic coefficients. A good example is Hornady’s 7mm 150 grain in the outgoing GMX line. It has a BC of .464, and it’s the heaviest in the 7mm GMX lineup. Hornady makes 11 other 7mm lead core bullets ranging from 162 to 190 grains and the lowest BC among them is .514. The remaining 10 boast BCs from .550 to an incredible .838, with most being in the mid- to high .600s!

Other problems arising from mono bullets being longer than lead core bullets of equal weight and caliber is that their shanks have more surface contact, that is friction within the bore. That, and the fact that copper is harder than gilding metal, means that it takes more effort to engrave the bullet. The net result is that you’re looking at higher pressures, all other things equal, and more copper fouling of the bore.

That meant handloaders had to develop new loads, and in so doing also learned that the accepted practice of seating bullets to where they almost touched the lands did not produce the best accuracy. Seating bullets to where there was .050 inch or more freebore not only reduced pressures but surprisingly helped accuracy as well.

But surely the biggest advancement in the evolution of the monolithic hunting bullet was the rolling or machining of annular grooves (drive bands), in the bullet’s bearing surface, which reduced the frictional surface area and further lowered pressures to where handloaders could match or even beat the velocities they were getting with their favorite lead core loads.

Bore fouling was also reduced, and the addition of polymer tips has helped improve streamlining. Today just about every bullet/ammo manufacturer has its own version of a tipped monolithic hunting bullet that successfully addresses the aforementioned challenges. However, there’s one that remains: expansion at reduced velocities.

From the muzzle out to 350 yards or so, mono bullets perform extremely well on game. They expand to 1 1/2 to 2 times their diameter and retain virtually all of their original weight. It varies somewhat depending on the maker, of course, but once you start approaching 400 yards and velocities have slowed to about 1,800 fps, very little expansion occurs.

For a hunting bullet that ain’t good. This proves problematical for the long-range craze that has metastasized from 1,000-yard competitive shooting over to the hunting world. If you’re bound and determined to shoot at game in the next zip code, mono bullets aren’t for you. And because mono bullets can’t be made as heavy as lead core bullets, they aren’t used for extreme range competitive shooting either.

Staying with Hornady’s 7mm stable, as an example, if extreme-range hunting is your thing, you would choose their 162-grain ELD-X bullet with a BC of .631. According to Hornady’s factory ammo ballistics for the 7mm Rem. Magnum, the 162-grain ELD-X starts out 25 fps slower than the 150-grain GMX but at 500 yards, the former is going 210 fps faster and has dropped 3.2 inches less. And at 1,000 yards the differences are even more telling. 

The only visual difference between the GMX and the new CX line is seen in the drive bands, those annular grooves in the bearing surface (mistakenly called cannelures, which they are not). On the GMX these grooves have sidewalls that are 90 degrees to the bearing surface whereas on the CX line, they are tapered to form a very shallow V in cross section.

Obviously, there’s going to be less turbulence with grooves having tapered sidewalls. The grooves, of course, are also there to reduce the frictional surface area, hence pressure and copper fouling. Like the outgoing GMX line, CX bullets are tipped with Hornady’s Heat Shield polymer tips, which resist deformation in the magazine and in the air caused by the extremely high temperatures that can soften and even melt at high velocities. This means more consistent BCs throughout the bullet’s flight.

For those who are anal enough (as I was), to compare the BCs of the new CX line with those of the outgoing GMX, you’ll find that the BCs shown for CX bullets are actually a bit lower than for the GMX. That’s because Doppler radar (G7) was used in determining the BCs for the CX line, then converted to G1values because that’s what we’re accustomed to using as a standard. It’s not that the BC values derived back in 2009 for the GMX line using the G1 standard were inflated; it’s just that the G7 to G1 conversion values are more accurate.

So, despite the slight disparity in favor of GMX bullets, if they were re-tested using Doppler, their BCs would be lower than those of the CX line. Bottom line: CX bullets retain velocity a bit better and expand more reliably at slightly longer distances than the outgoing GMX line.

Initially the CX line starts life with 16 bullets ranging from an 80-grain 6mm to a 250-grain .375. CX bullets can be had in Hornady’s Custom, Superformance and Outfitter lines of loaded ammunition, and as handloading components. See more at www.hornady.com.–Jon R. Sundra

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