Bolt-Action Rifle Comparison: Savage, Weatherby, Browning in .270 Winchester
Over the last several forty or fifty rifle reviews, three brands have emerged as generally the most accurate bolt-action rifles: Savage, Weatherby, and Browning. This is only a generalization, for there are always exceptions when it comes to one specific rifle, one specific chambering, and one specific type of ammunition.
The tested rifles are the Browning AB3, the Weatherby Vanguard, and the Savage Accu-stock Model 116FCSS, all in .270 Winchester. The Browning AB3 and the Weatherby are carbon steel, while the tested Savage is stainless steel. The Browning and the Savage have detachable box magazines, while the Weatherby has the internal box magazine with the familiar quick-dump floor-plate. The tested Weatherby is the new WBY-X™ Vanguard® Kryptek® model, which Weatherby calls “Distinctive Kryptek Highlander Reduced camo with full 24" barrel.”
WBY-X™ Vanguard® Kryptek®
All three rifles have clean triggers, but a slight edge goes to the Savage Accu-Trigger that breaks at 2 lbs., 15 oz. Right out of the box and is user adjustable from there, something that was not needed from the factory setting. The Weatherby trigger was light and crisp as well, breaking at 3 lbs. on the nose. The Browning AB3 trigger was noticeably heavier than the Savage or the Weatherby, breaking at 4-1/4 to 4-1/2 pounds via Lyman electronic gauge.
The Weatherby action was the smoothest, with the Savage a close second. The Browning AB3 bolt was a bit rough by comparison, with a bit of stick-slip. The Weatherby has the smoothest feeding and the most positive ejection.
All three rifles are quite pleasant to shoot, however the Savage “P.A.D.” pad was the clear winner in soaking up recoil. The Browning ranked second, with its excellent In-Flex pad, while the Weatherby came in last with its generic pad.
All three rifles are easily sub-MOA with the ammunition they prefer. The Savage factory test target was .6 inch center-to-center with 130 grain Federal-loaded Nosler Ballistic Tips. The best group I personally shot was with the Browning, inside 1/10th of one inch with 140 grain Winchester Accu-Bond ammo. If I had to pick a rifle that was most accurate with the most brands of ammo, it would likely be the Savage though by a trivial amount that makes no difference when hunting deer-sized game, or larger.
The Savage has sharp molded in checkering that grips better than either the Weatherby or the Browning. Both the Browning and the Weatherby stocks have palm swells, and the Weatherby has a Monte Carlo cheekpiece as well.
None of the three rifles are things of astonishing beauty, yet they still are better-finished than many. Naturally, this is all personal preference but the Browning has a plastic trigger that is off-putting, and its detachable box magazine protrudes from the bottom of the receiver. While the Savage has a jeweled bolt, it does not compliment the black plastic stock or the simple, smooth stainless steel look of the barreled action. None of these rifles are breathtaking beauties, yet I'd have to give a slight edge to the Weatherby.
None of these rifles are particularly expensive, with the Browning having a MSRP of $599. Catalog prices don't mean much, for the Browning goes for $475 street price as this article is written, and there are often manufacturer's rebates in addition to this. The tested Savage Model 116 Weather Warrior goes for about $700, yet naturally the stainless steel and Accu-Stock brings a premium. I'm reticent to spend much time on price, for you can buy a carbon steel Savage 111 Trophy Hunter XP 270 Win with a Nikon Scope right now for $499. You can get the tested Weatherby right now for about $550, and the basic Weatherby Vanguards with black plastic stocks are $399 or so. With even normal care, it is hard to actually wear out any of these rifles for hunting, so getting what you prefer is the most important thing compared to just dollars.
While I would happily hunt with any of these three rifles, I do have a preference of these three. The winner, in my book, is the Weatherby Vanguard Kryptek. It fits me the best of the three, has the smoothest feeding, and its extra two inches of barrel length vs. the Savage or the Browning yields approximately an extra 75 fps, contingent on specific cartridge. It shoulders (for me) the best, and between the palm swell and the Monte Carlo cheekpiece, it feels the best and is the most fun to shoot. It is also the best looking rifle, if only by the thinnest of margins. I also like the three-position safety mounted on the right side of the receiver, as opposed to the tang. None of these rifles is a mistake by any means, but for me, the Weatherby edges out on top of this trio.
Copyright 2015 by Randy Wakeman. All Rights Reserved.