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of steel bar, linked by computer to their chosen supplier. The raw materials arrive without the need to be ordered as the supplier knows the stocking levels required and needed for the production- runs planned in the system, one less thing to worry about!

The actions and barrel blanks are cut from the same bar and are sent through in batches to begin the process of being transformed into a rifle. Now for those of you that aren’t familiar with Savage rifles, you may not know some of the features that make them distinctive from other brands.

The first and possibly most obvious is the use of a barrel-nut just in front of the action. Using the barrel nut to set the headspace means that the barrels can be completed without even coming into contact with the action. The barrel nut makes headspacing a breeze, with a go-gauge in the chamber an action is screwed on until it is on the gauge at which point the barrel nut is tightened, a quick change over to the no go gauge to confirm that all is well and it is on with the next one!

This also means that all Savage Rifles are set to minimum headspace. Another key feature of Savage rifles that both aids manufacture and increases accuracy is the floating bolt-head. Savage bolts are made up of several common components to aid manufacture, this means that all you have to do is assemble the components you need to create the desired bolt.

When you consider the number of variations you can have this seems to make sense, for example you can have 223, 308, Win Mag and WSM bolt faces all running off a similar action. The design allows you to simply change the bolt-face for the one you need.

Moving further into the factory, we came to the section that produces all the barrels from the raw lengths of steel, from the drilling, rifling, threading and chambering, culminating in the final straightening. At this point we were introduced to Ray Silva, the most photographed man at Savage. If you own a Savage built in the last nine years chances are Ray has looked through your barrel and straightened it by hand. With one other colleague who Ray trained up, they are responsible for checking, by eye, every barrel that is made. Ray demonstrated how he did this with the familiarity gained by doing 300 plus, barrels a day!

Leaving Ray and the barrel production area behind,

Al was keen to show us the high-end CNC machines Savage purchased to produce the actions in what was a major capital investment that paid for itself in an extremely short time. Indeed as we were being shown around another new CNC machine was being delivered, wasting no time Al told us it would be working and earning its keep later that day!

Savage’s ongoing investment in technology will help to keep their products affordable in these challenging times. Their ethos has always been “Accuracy and Affordability”. Accuracy has for a long time now been a ‘given’, with its rifles winning matches at the highest level regularly.

Moving ever onwards we came to the assembly stations, where some of the smaller components were being put together. Boxes upon boxes of bolt bodies, handles, firing pins and springs etc were being deftly assembled into bolts ready for their next stage. Boxes also of trigger-units that looked slightly different to the standard Accutrigger that Savage is known for. Closer inspection showed that they were in fact the trigger units for the new Axis rifle (formerly known as the Edge).

At this point it is worth mentioning this new series of rifles because they are a going to be a huge success - how can I be so sure? Well, they are built in exactly the same way as every other Savage rifle and the inherent accuracy that brings but the killer feature is the price, they are already retailing on the high street in the US for less than $300! By the time they reach our shores though the price becomes £399 but what else can you buy for that money? Savage have really gone all out on this project and are looking for a large chunk of the hunting-rifle market with the release of the Axis and, if initial reports are anything to go by, they are going to get it. (TS have just got their hands on an Axis and will be doing a full test very soon - Ed)

Next up was headspacing, where the barrels and the actions were introduced to each other for the first time. As mentioned before the process for a Savage is simplicity itself and this, arguably the most critical part of the assembly is completed in short order. This part of the shop floor is adjacent to the test range where the function of the rifle is tested and the rifle is fired.

Dozens of rifles were lined up in racks waiting to be tested for both function and accuracy. All the rifles that we saw were the new Axis models destined for Germany, with a few of them being put together as ‘packages’ with scopes mounted, bore-sighted

Target Shooter 51

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