By John Johnston

At the 2020 Shooting Hunting Outdoor Show, Savage Arms unveiled their latest hunting rifle, the 110 Ultralite. Savage and Proof Research joined up to make a light weight hunting rifle with a carbon wrapped barrel for hunting. It turns out that this is one of the first of the major companies to install carbon wrapped barrels on their rifles besides Proof Research and Christensen Arms.

Why use a carbon wrapped barrel? First, it cuts down the weight of the barrel by as much as two thirds. Second, it allows the barrel to cool off quicker but with the actual steel part of the barrel being much thinner, the steel barrel heats up quicker. Third, it absorbs the shock when a round is fired and keeps the barrel stiffer. Fourth, some say a cooler barrel will allow the barrel to last longer. I personally think this may be incorrect since the actual chamber is the full diameter of the original steel barrel. Both Savage and Proof stated the only difference between the barrel used by Savage and their own rifle's barrel is the taper. The barrel has a 5GR cut rifling with a 1-8" barrel twist. It is threaded at the muzzle to 5/8 by 24 for the use of a muzzle brake or a suppressor but comes with a threaded cap.

The first thing I did when I took the rifle out of the box was to weigh it and it was just barely over six pounds. I used a Weaver brand picatinny scope base for a Swarovski X5 scope. The action is threaded for 8-40 scope base screws. Savage states they have blueprinted this action which means they have made the tolerances of the action close to the original design. They have also skeletonized the action and fluted the bolt to take off a few more ounces. All the action is covered with a Melonite finish even though the metal parts are stainless steel.

The trigger had a 3.5 pound pull. Using the small tool provided, I adjusted the trigger pull down to one and a half pound pull. Since my scope is rather large, I took advantage of the AccuFit stock. I removed the two butt screws and then the spacers that were installed. I replaced the shorter cheek piece with the tallest one but that was too tall. So I installed the middle height cheek piece which was perfect. While I had the recoil pad off, I measured the thickness of side walls of the stock, at the rear it was a quarter of an inch thick but appeared to slim down as it went forward. In the open space of the butt of the stock was a piece of Styrofoam. I assume this was there to help absorb the shock of a round. However it did not touch either side of the stock. To keep the weight down there was no metal used in the stock. The stock does come with shims to increase or decrease the length of pull. It has a detachable box magazine.

Now it came time to break in the barrel chambered in 6.5 PRC. I had looked down the barrel before I started and was surprised that there was stiffness when closing the bolt on factory ammunition. I cleaned the barrel and the chamber out. There was a heavy lube in the chamber. I started back to the process and had a misfire due to a light tap on the primer. I retried the same round and it went off. I never had that problem again with over one hundred rounds fired.

For the sighting in and accuracy test I used VihtaVuori Powder and Berger bullets. I own two other rifles chambered in 6.5 PRC, one of which absolutely loves the 156 gr. Berger bullets. For powder I chose the N560 and N565. VihtaVuori, which has been manufacturing gun powder for almost a century, recently came out with a new series of powders in the N500 range. One thing that makes these powders different is they are temperature change tolerant. I can personally state the powders I shot are tolerant since I shot in temperatures of 106 to 50 degrees with no changes. This group of powders was also designed for high capacity magnum rounds. The powders are slower and cleaner burning with an ingredient that reduces fouling. They also have nitroglycerine added for better energy per load. N565 was developed for sniping application since it is easily fine tuned for long range and extended long range shooting. If you are looking for a new powder for your 6.5 Creedmoor you should try N555. It has been reported to provide the energy and accuracy that the 6.5 Creedmoor is known for.

The bullets I used for this 6.5 PRC testing were hunting bullets from Berger, the 156 grain and the 140 grain both of which I have had hunting success. Before I started actual testing I mounted a muzzle brake. Shooting a 156 grain bullet at high velocity, in a very light rifle, does produce uncomfortable recoil. This is a point to be considered by bench shooters. This is not my first rifle with a carbon wrapped barrel to own and shoot. I have to say this rifle does not absorb or handle recoil as well as my others.

The first load was with N560 and the 156 grain Berger bullet. Doing a ladder test I was getting good groups but my ES and SD were a little high. I finally came up with a load which proved to be the best all around. At 55.50 grains, the best group was .23" with SD of 9 and ES of 11 at a velocity of 2916 fps. After almost 100 rounds of 156gr bullets this was the best load for this rifle with its Proof barrel. I did try to duplicate the group this five shoot group three more times. The groups were not that small but all were less than one half MOA.

Moving on to the 140gr. VLD and N565, I found the sweet spot rather quickly. It grouped well with 60.0 grains N565 with a velocity of 2985 FPS. The group and subsequent groups with this load were hovering under .50". I decided that this bullet and load would be what I used to set up my turret on the Swarovski X5. With this being set and having a precise drop chart, I will be able to shoot accurately over a thousand yards.

Savage has been known for making accurate rifles and this rifle model followed suit. A few things I did notice: the stock was adjustable but I wish it has been a little stiffer, the trigger was great at an adjusted 1.5 pounds, the action was rough and stiff, the barrel supposedly had been lead lapped, but since the rifle shot so much better after 100 rounds, I am not sure. At a suggested price of $1495.00 and a street price of $1250 it should give you an accurate light weight rifle, maybe too light for some people. This was the start of major manufacturers using carbon fiber wrapped barrels. Just remember, a carbon wrapped barrel is only as accurate as the steel barrel inside.

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VihtaVuori Powder did the job well in this testing. If you have not used it, give it a try.