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IHMSA News Feature Article
Published in The IHMSA News, the Official Publication of The International Handgun Metallic Silhouette Association
Published monthly except November/December - January/February
IHMSA on the web at http://www.ihmsa.org
 
Custom .22 Savage Striker
And The Dewey Custom Match Grade Triggers
By Todd Spotti
 
     When I first saw the 22 Savage Striker at the 2000 Shot Show in Las Vegas, I really got excited. Its similarities to the Anschutz 22 bolt action pistol were unmistakable. It definitely looked like there was another potential player in the silhouette game. Ten inch free floated button rifled barrel, 1:16 right hand twist, bolt action, double claw extractors, composite stock. Looking good. Also, like the old Exemplar, the Savage was equipped with a left hand bolt that ejects the spent cases to the right. The advantage of the left hand bolt is you can eject a spent case and chamber a new round with your left hand while continuing to hold the gun with your right hand. To the competitor, that means that you donít have to change or disturb your grip on the gun every time after youíve fired a shot. A consistent grip is an important element to accurate pistol shooting. Unfortunately, Anschutz has changed the configuration of its current pistols, and now is using only right hand bolts giving up the advantage provided by the older Exemplar model.

     Now for the differences. While the 22 Striker shares much of the handsome profile of the Anschutz, itís spoiled somewhat by its protruding ten shot magazine that looks something like a miniature AK-47 banana clip. I also immediately saw that the gun was not furnished with iron sights but rather came equipped with a couple of short Weaver scope bases. It obviously is set up for scope shooting only. I also noted that the muzzle was equipped with a standard crown rather than a target type step crown. Similarly, the barrelís chamber is also a standard configuration and not a match type like the Anschutz.

     Undoubtedly, one of the most important differences between the two guns is the price. When the Savage rep told me the gun would retail for $210, I was totally flabbergasted. (Note: I recently saw the Savage advertised for $148.43 at W.L. Baumler 440-288-1271.) I couldnít believe my ears. A good stock alone will sell for more than that. I thought that if the Savage would shoot halfway decently at all, they should be able to sell an awful lot of them. I then quickly made arrangements to get a loaner gun to check things out.

     Some time later, the Striker showed up as promised. It looked exactly like the display gun I saw in Las Vegas. I immediately slapped on a set of Weaverís superlative Grand Slam scope rings and the only spare scope I had available at the time, a Leupold 3 X 9 extended focal range type, and rocketed out to the range with a variety of ammunition. Once there, I quickly discovered the biggest mechanical difference between the two guns - the trigger. The Anschutz has THE best out of the box trigger in the industry - a beautiful, pristine 9 ounces. While the Strikerís trigger was completely crisp and clean breaking, it was also HEAVY. I mean really, really heavy. I sincerely regret not checking the weight with a trigger pull gauge at the time, but I would estimate that it was in easily in the range of around six pounds, or perhaps even more. In fact, while trying to hold the crosshairs on a paper target from a sand bagged rest, my hand actually started to tremble with the effort. The wide plastic trigger shoe also left a deep groove in my finger from the effort needed to pull it. It was immediately apparent that it would be impossible to accurately assess the gunís inherent mechanical accuracy with the current trigger.

     The following day was our monthly match at the Inland Rod & Gun Club in Redlands, California. While there, I showed the gun to Mike Dewey who is both a master trigger smith and designer as well as an accomplished gun smith. Fortunately for me, Mike volunteered to take the gun and would look into what could be done to lighten the trigger pull to something more reasonable for silhouette shooting. After some time, Mike informed me that after a thorough study and experimentation, he felt that it really wasnít practical to modify the existing trigger. Basically this wasnít a typical situation where you could simply smooth the sear, or change itís engagement angle, and perhaps clip a coil off a spring. No, it was much more complex than that. For one, there was no sear to work on. It was obvious that this trigger was specifically designed to make the gun as lawyer proof as possible, and I certainly canít fault Savage or any other gun maker for that - not in todayís world. In Mikeís opinion, the best option would be to replace the trigger completely with a custom type that he would design and build from scratch. While there were things that could be done to reduce the pull of the gunís unconventional factory trigger, Mike felt that safety would likely be compromised in doing so. I agreed and Mike did exactly what he said he would do and built from scratch, a fully adjustable, three lever, competition grade trigger that can be safely taken down to a scant, but safe, 2 ounces. This trigger is very similar in design to the custom trigger that Mike builds and sells for the XP-100. I have to admit that Iím uncomfortable with a 2 ounce trigger, so I ended up with the pull adjusted to 4 ounces, which I can control much more effectively. You can also adjust the trigger to a much heavier pull if you prefer.

Savage Striker with 3X9 Leupold and Dewey Custom match Trigger

     As you can see in the photo in my Ranging Shot column, the Dewey trigger is stainless steel and has been skeletonized by having several holes drilled through the sides. After I picked up the gun from Mike, I put my RCBS trigger pull gauge on it, and as predicted, the trigger consistently registered 4 ounces without missing a beat.  Perfect.

     To check out its safety, I then cocked the action and gave the bottom of the stockís grip a couple of good hard whacks with a rubber mallet. The trigger held perfectly and did not release. Again - perfect.

     Shooting groups off the bench was definitely facilitated by the design of the Striker composite stock. Itís fairly flat on the underside of the forend, which helped it snug into the sandbags. Even the protruding 10 round magazine turned out to be a significant help as I could hook it into the sandbags with a little forward push on the stock. This also helped in stabilizing the gun. I also found that the finger grooves in the grip fit my hand perfectly and helped me finesse the crosshairs on the target. However, one of the biggest aids was the wide, flat bottom on the grip. The bottom of most grips is rounded which usually results in side to side rocking when trying to shoot groups. On the other hand, the flat Savage grip did a great job of keeping the gun steady in the bags. Whoever designed this stock definitely had bench shooting in mind and came up with a very successful design.

     As you can see, I used a fairly wide variety of ammo in the evaluation ranging from CCI Mini Mag to the expensive stuff from Eley, Federal, and Lapua. The first thing that I have to say is simply that when combined with the Dewey trigger, the little Savage shoots as well or even better than many expensive competition rifles. To say that I was surprised would be an understatement. I have to admit that I wasnít expecting a lot from the gun, primarily because of the fact that it didnít have a match chamber or a match crown. However it showed me that it was as capable as just about any other 22 out there. Overall, the ammo used in the evaluation worked the way you might expect them to work i.e. the inexpensive stuff didnít do as well as the premium ammo. There were a few surprises however. CCI Pistol Match, one of the best kept secrets around, and RWS Target, both put in excellent performances at reasonable prices. However, Federal Ultra Match and Lapua Mida were the real stars of the evaluation by providing stellar and almost identical efforts for the first place spot. Interestingly, almost all the ammo used in the evaluation seemed to cut very similarly shaped patterns, with the only difference being their respective sizes. It would seem like the Savage would put the first three or four shots into nice little cluster and then the next shots would be some small distance away. This occurred with every brand of ammunition except one - Lapua Midas (M) which was the king of the competition by the narrowest of margins. All five shots cut one beautiful little tight group of just over a half inch. One fact was particularly pleasing, and that was this gunís ability to shoot a wide variety of ammunition very well. With the notable exception of the Mini Mag's, all of the other ammo used in the evaluation would work just fine for silhouette competition. This means the competitor has lots of choices, and as Iíve always said, having choices is a good thing.

     If anything, this little evaluation very forcefully illustrated the extreme importance of a good trigger to good accuracy. You can have the best barrel, the best stock, and the best chamber, etc. but if you have a heavy trigger, you just wonít be able to take advantage of all those good qualities. Let me give you a real world example. My good friend Bob Brisette recently sent me a magazine article that reviewed another 22 Striker equipped with the standard factory trigger. That particular gun was grouping around 2 inches at 50 yards. If we eliminate the Mini Mag results, which were obviously atypical, the AVERAGE group size of the Dewey trigger equipped Savage was a tiny 1.19Ē at 100 yards - a very large difference indeed. Good triggers are essential to accurate shooting whether at tin cans or steel silhouettes.

100 Yard Evaluation Results

in Descending Order

AMMO

GROUP

Lapua Midas (M) .576
Fed Ultra Match .584
CCI Pistol Match .944 (tie)
RWS Target .944 (tie)
Eley 10X 1.03
Lapua Pistol Match 1.09
PMC Rifle Match 1.33
Winchester Match 1.66
Fed Match 1.82
CCI Mini Mag 2.72  

     This gun has just absolutely tremendous potential. However, in order to achieve that potential for shooting the extremely popular 22 Unlimited Class, be prepared to spend some money. When you figure the cost of the gun, a Dewey trigger ($150), drilling and tapping, and a set of good iron sights, the cost is equal to or more than a current Anschutz - but so what. If you want to buy this gun, do so not because itís inexpensive,  but because it shoots like the devil with a wide variety of ammo, and the fact the Dewey trigger is a superb instrument that is 100% fully adjustable and can be taken down to a kittenís whisker in pull if you prefer. If you want to use the gun in IHMSAís Unlimited Standing category, youíre in luck. Ken Lightís three inch high rise scope mount fits the existing Weaver bases very nicely. In that case, there is no need to invest in drilling and tapping or in buying iron sights. Similarly, if you want to use the gun for the Unlimited Any Sight Category, again there is no need for the expense to accommodate iron sights.

     Last thoughts. If I were president of Savage, I would offer a target grade trigger for the 22 Striker, just as they do for their center fire rifles. Iíd also drill and tap it for iron sights. If I wanted to get really crazy, Iíd also offer a match chamber and a match crown as options, and if I were able to do all these things, Iíd make some real money. Dewey Triggers available from: Ken Light Mfg. - The After Market Sight Specialist

     Good luck and good shooting, Todd

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Warning: All technical data mentioned, especially handloading, reflect the limited experience of individuals using specific tools, products, equipment and components under specific conditions and circumstances not necessarily reported in the article or on this web site and over which IHMSA, The Los Angeles Silhouette Club (LASC), this web site or the author has no control. The above has no control over the condition of your firearms or your methods, components, tools, techniques or circumstances and disclaims all and any responsibility for any person using any data mentioned. Always consult recognized reloading manuals.