Nimble and powerful, Savage has cooked up the nearly perfect big-game semi-automatic with the MSR 10 Hunter.
By now, the hunting credentials of the AR-10 and its little brother, the AR-15, are well established. A rare combination of firepower, speed and manageability, the popular rifles have earned their stripes downing everything from lowly rock chucks to towering bull elk. Yet, there are still issues with finding the best black iron to shoulder next time you shoot to fill a tag.
While the AR-15 is light and nimble as they come, big-game appropriate chamberings aren’t standard fare. On the flip side, the AR-10 has power to spare—particularly when talking most North American large game—but generally has the agility of Peterbilt truck. If there was only some way to combine the endearing attributes of Eugene Stoner’s brainchildren, then you’d have one heck of a hunting rifle. A regular whack-and-stack ‘em shooter fit for everything from tree-blind whitetails to third-ridge-back mulies.
Thing is, there is—Savage Arms’ MSR 10 Hunter.
Power And Grace
Part of the vanguard of Savage’s MSR (Modern Savage Rifle) line, when it was released two years back, the Hunter more than lives up to its name. Is it any surprise? From the Model 99 to the Model 110, the gunmaker has turned out some of the most trusted and accomplished hunting rifles of the past century.
Where Savage’s latest game getter excels is striking a nearly perfect balance between power and grace. Its chambering options (.308 Winchester, 6.5 Creedmoor) are fit to tackle nearly any American game animal. At the same time, it’s a slight package that’s quick to the shoulder and intuitive to the eye. That quite a combination, and rare.
Though, words don’t truly do the MSR 10 Hunter justice. To understand its advantages you have to get one in your hands. Only then can you appreciate its mountain rifle heft (7.8 pounds) and surprisingly compact size. Just the things that make it ideal for long treks to a stand and ready at a moment’s notice.
Yet at the same time, the rifle doesn’t suffer the manageability issues—thus shot-to-shot accuracy decay—common to many featherweight hunters. Yes, there’s a bit more buck in the Hunter than, say, a comparably chambered AR-10 creeping up on 10 pounds. But, Savage didn’t skimp in putting together the MSR 10, thus the rifle isn’t something you have to manage to the hilt. Quite the opposite—it shoots and operates as smooth as greased skids.
If you hunt with an AR-10 you know the routine: find one with a good barrel and receivers, then strip and renovate the rest. It’s accepted that time, money and upgrades are part and parcel of the platform. Except they aren’t with the MSR 10 Hunter.
Savage jettisoned the idea the AR is something you aftermarket to perfection with the Hunter, giving shooters a finely tuned rifle from the box. While it might not suit some who can’t live without a SuperDuper Black X Roundabout Stalker Handguard on their rifle, for the rest it’s a huge energy-saver.
Even if you have a pet upgrade, before swapping out it’s well worth looking at what Savage brings to the game with the MSR 10 Hunter:
- Magpul MOE Stock
- Free-float M-LOK handguard
- Two-stage trigger
- Proprietary Savage muzzle brake
- Adjustable gas block
- Melonite QPQ coated, 5R rifled barrel
- Full-length Picatinny rail
It would take weeks to tinker a rifle to the level the MSR 10 Hunter comes off the rack. A huge advantage when you think about it. After all, wouldn’t you rather spend time looking for sign and mapping out potential bedding areas, not scrabble through parts sites hunting for the right pistol grip?
It’s lingering on a few facets of Savage’s build and what they bring to the table. Chief among these is accuracy. If you didn’t mind a lighter rifle at the range, the MSR 10 Hunter is a more than capable target rifle—which spells big things in the field. To this end, there are two aspects that really milk precision out of the platform.
The first is the barrel. Certainly on the compact side (16-inches in .308, 18 in 6.5 CM), Savage ensures excellent ballistic potential through 5R rifling. Those not familiar with the relatively new rifling design, it’s fairly straight forward. The lands are tapered, causing less deformation as the bullet travels down the bore, thus the integrity of the projectile’s ballistic coefficient is maintained in flight. Basically, you’ll get a bullet drop and wind drift performance closer to what’s on the side of an ammo box—excellent news, especially for those who opt for the long-range specialist 6.5 Creedmoor. A side benefit, no matter the caliber, a 5R rifled barrel is easier to clean.
Equally important, the MSR 10 Hunter boasts a lights-out trigger. Unfair as it may be, that one little motion in your finger has more to say about if you hit the mark than nearly anything else. With no creep, the proverbial “like-glass” break and minuscule reset, the trigger is everything you want on a semi-auto hunting rifle. A bit more, considering it’s nickel-boron impregnated, leading to less wear and better lubricity (that is, the 1,000th trigger pull will be as smooth as the first).
Magpul’s furniture contribution also plays a role in the MSR 10 Hunter’s field performance. Combine with Savage’s solid-bottom brake, the MOE buttstock goes a long way in taming the rifle’s recoil. An important factor in this case. Remember this is a light AR-10, which means snappy hunting loads aren’t only going to have bite downrange.
Aside from the adjustable length of pull, where the MOE cuts some of the kick is the addition of a rubberized recoil pad. Absorbing some of the rifle’s kick, it allows for lightning-fast follow-up shots—an impossibility if you’re rattled to the bone after your first trigger pull.
Furthermore, Magpul originally designed the MOE for use with body armor. While this sounds off base when talking hunting rifles, it is an important factor. Bulked up in winter gear, you never have to worry about getting the MSR 10 Hunter properly shouldered or having to hunt for your cheek weld.
The AR-10 is here to stay in the hunting field. The rifle has just too much going for it, whether you’re talking its pinpoint accuracy or breezy heft. This leaves only one question up in the air: which is the right rifle for your next hunt. With the MSR 10 Hunter, Savage Arms has made the answer simple.