Savage MSR-10 Hunter: A Repeating Dream

Savage’s MSR-10 Hunter qualifies as an accurate, purposeful hunting rifle.

Savage MSR-10 Hunter: A Repeating Dream

The MSR-10 Hunter's lack of recoil and spot-on downrange accuracy made for hours of shooting enjoyment at the bench and in the field. (Photo: Jace Bauserman)

My first rifle was a Savage. It was a Model 110 chambered in 7mm Remington Magnum. What a sweet gun. I killed my first bull elk with it when I was 16 years old. Then, like an idiot, I sold it. So dumb.

I’ve been a Savage fan ever since. My collection of the brand’s rifles is quite extensive. I wasn’t over the moon when Savage launched a full line of direct-impingement AR-style rifles in 2017. I’m a traditional bolt-action guy and I’ve never been much for semi-automatic rifles of any sort. The hype surrounding the line grew, though, and after chatting with a few buddies I decided to give the MSR-10 Hunter a fair go.   

The MSR-10 Hunter is offered in three calibers — .308 Win., .338 Federal and 6.5 Creedmoor. Call me a bandwagoner, but I went with the 6.5 because I wanted a rifle that would work well on hogs, deer and pronghorn. Plus, if a coyote calling session was on the menu, I knew the 6.5 with a 120-grain round wouldn’t blow pelts to smithereens.

First Impressions

The gun is an out-of-the-box stunner. The Matte finish reduces shine and I took immediate notice of the adjustable stock. The Melonite QPQ finish looked tough and durable, and the BlackHawk! trigger with nickel-boron treatment was a nice touch. Nickel-boron coating is an engineered surface deposit coating that has proven to be three times as wear resistant as medium phosphorus-electroless nickel. I like it when a manufacturer takes extra steps to ensure product longevity. I was also a fan of the Savage-branded dust cover.

Getting Set Up

The rifle’s Picatinny rail made for easy, quick attachment of my one-piece Weaver base/rings system. I topped the MSR-10 with a Bushnell Nitro 2.5-10x44 scope. The long rail allows for the attachment of long-tube scopes. Stock adjustment was a breeze. A small lever integrated into the Axiom Carbine buttstock enables easy in-and-out movements of the stock. Simply depress the lever and push or pull.

The MSR-10 6.5 Creedmoor comes equipped with a 10-round PMAG 10 LR/SR magazine. The magazine is easily released via a push button located just above the front-half of the trigger assembly. Federal Premium’s 6.5 Creedmoor 120-grain Trophy Copper rounds were a cinch to load. The magazine spring isn’t at all sloppy, but it doesn’t require heaps of downward pressure, either.

Send It

After getting the scope on paper at 25 yards, it was time to start having some fun and testing the gun’s capabilities. Shooting from a bench using standard sandbags, the rifle was sighted in at 100 yards. The outside temperature was 62 degrees and a stiff crosswind of 10-12 mph slid across the landscape. My last three-shot group measured 1.42 inches in diameter. That’ll do.

Before we move back in distance, I want to note that the MSR-10 seemed a tad lighter and a bit more maneuverable than other AR-platform rifles I’ve shouldered. I credit this to the rifle’s custom-forged 7075-T6 upper and lower receivers. These receivers help reduce weight, and less weight equals better maneuverability. Total measured weight with the attached scope and base as well as a full magazine was 8.74 pounds.

I opted for a long-tube scope, which extended back over the rifle’s charging handle. This made loading the rifle more difficult, which is something to make your customers aware of when they’re looking at optics for the MSR-10. The charging handle has an easy-to-depress lever on the left side. Though the handle is stiff, loading a round doesn’t require much effort. I was also a fan of the safety lever, which was easy to locate and operate. I appreciated the laser-engraved marks. The upward mark shows a bullet, while the bottom-left mark shows a crossed-out bullet. These are great references that boost safety. When the lever is flipped to the bullet, the rifle is hot.

The adjustable Axiom Carbine stock made customization a breeze. My advice is to keep tinkering until you get it set right where you want it. I absolutely tip my hat to the Blackhawk Knoxx AR Pistol Grip. The textured surface seems to resist hand moisture and the palm-swell melted perfectly into my hand. When it comes to recoil, there isn’t much. Of course, the AR-style platform helps with this, but so does the rifle’s solid-bottom design. This design forces gases upward, ultimately thwarting frustrating muzzle rise. I noticed I could easily get back on target after each shot. The padded Axiom buttstock aids in recoil reduction, as well. The MSR-10 has an adjustable gas system located at the barrel-end of the Picatinny rail. You will see a break in the M-Lok attachment points. Further evidence of the rifle’s lack of recoil is my 14-year-old son, Hunter, ran more than 250 rounds through the rifle over a 30-day period. This gun just doesn’t abuse your shoulder.

The Blackhawk trigger was crisp and consistent. I wouldn’t call it a competition-grade custom trigger, but for hunting and shooting, it performs just fine. The measured break was just a shade over 6 pounds. The trigger’s curved design accepted my trigger finger and promoted a smooth and consistent squeeze.

Moving back to 200 yards, the MSR-10 Hunter continued to perform. The 18-inch barrel boasts a twist rate 1 in 8 and rifling is 5R. My good buddy and rifle fanatic, Jason Weaver, did the honors from 200. When it comes to accurate shooting, I’ve been around few who are better than Jason. His average 3-shot group size taken from a total of five separate groups was 1.73 inches. I repeated the same test at a distance of 200 yards. My average three-shot group was 1.93 inches. We didn’t get to move out to 300 yards, but the rifle is certainly capable at that distance and beyond. The 6.5 Creedmoor round has eye-popping ballistics. The case is short enough to work with all high-BC 6.5mm bullets, but still provides enough powder capacity to push those bullets really, really fast. The bullet shoots flat and hits the mark.

Field Test

While my plan was to hunt deer with the MSR-10 Hunter, things changed when my wife and I purchased a new house right before my Oklahoma whitetail trip. No biggie. We’d been looking for years and finally found our little slice of country heaven. With that noted, I’m a firm believer that any hunting rifle is no better than a paperweight until it proves itself in the field. We have predators close to my southeast Colorado home. Lots of them. So I shifted my attention.

Over the course of two months, I hunted coyotes, fox and bobcat. While I will admit the 6.5 Creedmoor is overkill when it comes to predator hunting, I absolutely loved toting the gun afield. I’ve already touched on its light weight, but twice I pulled the gun off the shooting sticks and made shots on running dogs.

When on the sticks, the platform is stable and balanced. Just be sure your customers know they’ll need hearing protection. This weapon will rattle your cage. Recoil was light and I loved being able to send my copper rounds downrange quickly and accurately. I shot the gun in temperatures ranging from the 60s to as low as 2 degrees. I shot it in rain and snow. It didn’t matter. The gun performed regardless of conditions.

More To Love

The Hunter features a free-floated Savage hexagonal M-Lok handguard, and as previously mentioned, a full-length Picatinny rail. The rail sports a total of 49 M-Lok attachment points. For customers who live to accessorize their rifles, the MSR-10 Hunter offers accessory attachments in spades. While my only attachment was the Bushnell Nitro scope, I did a few tests with some gun-mounted flashlights and all were quick and easy to attach.


I want a rifle that is durable. One of my biggest complaints with semi-automatic rifles is feed jams. I hate them, and if they happen at an inopportune time, can ruin a hunt. In total, throughout my six-month testing period, I had zero feed jams. This rifle cycles ammunition like a dream.

The MSR-10 is fitted with a forward assist located just in front of the bolt. If for some reason the bolt doesn’t close all the way, give the foward assist a hit and the bolt will close. I didn’t have to use this once, and though I did clean the rifle multiple times during the testing period, it got plenty dirty on more than once occasion. During one afternoon of shooting, my family and I sent over 200 rounds downrange. We had zero issues.

Final Thoughts

No, the MSR-10 didn’t convert me from a bolt-action hunter to an AR-platform hunter. I like a lightweight bolt-action gun when I’m trekking across the western landscape.

However, the rifle handled more like an AR-15 platform than an AR-10 platform. For those times when the style of the hunt is sit-and-wait, I just may tote my Savage MSR-10 hunter to the blind or stand, and it will be my weapon of choice on an upcoming Lone Star State hog hunt.


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