Fist full o'fury
the new Savage Striker in .300 WSM
is a one-hand powerhouse
by Sam Fadala
Guns Magazine,  July, 2003

The Striker Pistol A Tactical Alternative

Striker! The name conjures images of coiled rattlers ready to lash out with deadly fangs. It's a good handle for the new Savage bolt-action hunter's pistol, especially when it's chambered for the 21st century .300 Winchester Short Magnum.

Sometimes companies reach out with new products strictly to grab a chunk of the market. In this case, neither pistol nor cartridge fall into that niche. The combination is viable and exciting, producing big one-hand power with accuracy. The Striker that came my way for testing was the Model 516FSAK Camo, with stainless steel barreled action and synthetic ambidextrous stock.

Sister Strikers chambered for the .243 Winchester, 7mm-08 Remington, and other slimmer rounds are three-shot affairs, but the magazine of the 516 handles only one fat .300 WSM cartridge, making it a two-shot repeater. While the .22 rin-ifire versions have detachable box magazines, centerfire Strikers do not.

I don't know if the Striker can be called pretty. It looks like something that might be found on the Starship Enterprise's mission into the final frontier. One thing is certain - small it's not - with an overall length of 22 1/4-inches. Weight with scope is over 5 1/2-pounds, which is good considering the powerhouse .300 WSM cartridge.

Lefty For Righties

While the Striker is built around the Savage Model 110 bolt action, it is not a short rifle. It is a pistol with a button-rifled 14-inch barrel. The bolt handle is on the left for right-handed shooters. This way, the right hand remains on the grip while the left hand works the knurled bolt knob.

A three-position, top-tang sliding safety is located directly behind the bolt. Drawn fully to the rear, the trigger is deactivated and the bolt is locked. In the mid-point, the trigger remains locked, but the bolt can be worked to eject a live round. Full forward is the fire position.

The bolt works smoothly, albeit it takes a little getting used to for a right-handed shooter. The typically massive Savage locking lugs provide plenty of strength for high-intensity cartridges. The bolt release, on the right side of the receiver, is extremely easy to work.


Designed For Scope Sighting

The receiver is drilled and tapped for scope mounting, no iron sights provided. The Savage mount matches the stainless steel receiver/barrel. It was simple to install with its one-piece bridge and five slots for ring location. My choice of Thompson/Center's long eye relief No. 8315 pistol scope fit perfectly. The contrasting black finish of the scope added to the overall appearance of the Striker -- a personal opinion.

All target work was accomplished with the 2.5x-7x variable set at its highest magnification. The company calls this one-inch tube scope its Recoil Proof[TM] model. That's good, because the .300 WSM does raise a little ruckus when the Striker is touched off.

The adjustable muzzle brake, which switches off or on with a single twist, was left in the "on" position to enjoy its promised 30-percent recoil reduction. Velocity is slightly higher when the brake is active. The muzzle brake is revolved to the "oft" position for reduction of side muzzle blast, as well as shooting prone, where the brake raise a mini-cyclone of dust in front of the shooter.

The Striker's action is pillar bedded, the barrel free floated. Groups with both Winchester and Federal factory ammunition varied. Considering the accuracy potential of the Striker, combined with the excellent factory ammo, clusters should have been tighter than a swollen cork. Some were, but the heavy trigger on the test gun made it impossible to wring the true potential from this handgun.

Heavy Trigger

A few 50-yard groups fell under an inch, but others were twice that size. These would shrink after a little trigger tuning by a qualified gunsmith. My RCBS trigger pull scale showed a let-off of 4.5 pounds with considerable creep. The Striker deserves a more refined trigger pull. Savage provides instructions, but the company says: "Striker trigger adjustment steps for use by qualified gunsmiths only." That's the right policy.

In the hunting field a convenient way to carry the Stiker is required -- and in .300 WSM, this is a big-game hunting pistol, not a plinker, with power similar to a .30-'06 rifle. Savage provides a means of adding sling swivel studs. Instructions are in the owner's manual. The front stud is installed similarly to the normal approach with a bolt-action sporting rifle, using a machine-threaded stud secured by a nut from inside the stock. The rear stud should be mounted in place of the factory grip cap screw. It's a simple process, and Michaels of Oregon can supply the swivel studs.

For me, carrying the pistol in the field means a narrow strap, not a military type sling, the strap retaining the pistol on a hook integral to the strut of my modified Camp Trails Freighter packframe. The Striker will be completely out of the way using this system, but ready for action in seconds.

The .300 WSM

This is about the Striker pistol; however, part of the story rests with the cartridges it chambers, specifically the .300 WSM in the test gun. Short and fat powder columns provide the best accuracy, but that rule can be taken too far. I've watched the .300 H&H Magnum print bullets into Ebenezer Scrooge patterns in spite of its long, narrow, tapered powder column. On the other hand, having worked with the 6mm PPC cartridge and other shorties, I defer to the experts who insist that shorter and fatter is the trail to best accuracy.

What's more, there is something to powder burning efficiently when it exists in a short column, as proven by the fact that my own .25-284 Winchester wildcat produces higher velocity than my .25-'06 with the same loads. The .300 WSM, unlike most new cartridge developments, is not based on any pre-existing case, nor does it behave exactly like other .30-caliber rounds.

I learned in a seminar on the new series of short magnums that they tend to burn slightly faster powders better than their full-length counterparts. For example, my best loads in the .300 Winchester Magnum are with H-1000 powder, which easily propels the 180-grain bullet at over 3,100 fps. However, the .300 WSM does well with H4350. Chronograph data from a reliable source included a 180-grain bullet with 65.0-grains H-4350 for 3,054-fps, from a rifle of course, not a pistol.

On the other hand, there is no free lunch, as the cliche goes -- bullets over 150 grains do invade the case, effectively reducing the powder capacity. Of course a longer magazine remedies this little problem, whereby bullets can be seated farther out. Nevertheless, the .300 WSM in the Striker is a powerful handful.

Test Ammo

My factory .300 WSM test ammo came from two companies, Winchester and Federal. Winchester has three loads in its Super-X and Supreme lines. There is a 150-grain Supreme Ballistic Silvertip at an advertised 3,300 fps for 3,628 ft-lbs of energy. A Supreme 180-grain Fail Safe bullet is shown at 2,970-fps for 3,527 ft-lbs. The Super-X load comes with the company's tried and true 180-grain Power Point at the same advertised velocity as the Supreme.

Federal gives the shooter two 180-grain loads, both listed at 2,970 fps. One carries the praiseworthy Trophy Bonded Bear Claw bullet, the other with the 180-grain Speer Grand Slam. Both are fine game bullets. I had only the latter to test.

So what velocities did we actually see from the 14-inch barrel of the Savage Striker? With Winchester's 150-grain Ballistic Silvertip, the chronograph read speeds of very nearly 2,900 fps. The 180-grain Fail Safe load clocked at 2,600 fps. The Federal 180-grain Grand Slam was just a bit more sedate, at 2,300 fps.

A Ready Market

There's no doubt about it, the Savage Striker will tickle the fancy of big-game handgun hunters. At the 2002 Safari Club International convention in Las Vegas, I listened to a lady Diana talking about her adventures upon various continents for different species. She had turned to the handgun, finding it more challenging and rewarding than the rifle. I suspect a hunter such as she will take to the .300 WSM Striker like a gopher to the garden.

Meanwhile, Savage was smart to offer the Striker in different cartridge choices. Some shooters will gravitate to less boisterous calibers for big game, such as the 7mm-08 or .308, while those interested in pistol shooting for varmints, target work, and pure fun, will choose the small-frame Striker in .22 Long Rifle or .22 Magnum.


Savage Arms, Inc.

[413] 568-7001

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