When Savage introduced its line of AR 15 and AR 10 guns four years ago, the company named the line “MSR,” co-opting the acronym for modern sporting rifles. It was more than shrewd branding. Savage and its then-parent company, Vista Outdoors, had the marketing muscle to establish a presence in the AR market. The key would be to deliver accurate, feature-rich rifles at reasonable prices, just as Savage had long done with bolt-action rifles.
That’s precisely what Savage did with the first models in the lineup, which could be called anything but ordinary. They featured button-rifled barrels with 5R rifling and a protective Melonite PQP finish on the barrels. MSR 10 models had gas systems optimized to perform best with specific barrels used with each model. Triggers varied by model but were significant upgrades compared to the abysmal triggers that most factory ARs were equipped with.
One of the newer and most impressive guns in the lineup is the Savage MSR 10 Precision. This well-designed and appointed rifle is ready to rock, out of the box, in long-range competition. That is thanks, in no small part, to its heavy contour, 22.5-inch stainless steel barrel with 5R button rifling. Many claims have been made for 5R rifling, including less bullet deformation and friction, better accuracy, less fouling, and increased barrel life. While the jury is still out on the better-accuracy claim, I haven’t found 5R-rifled barrels to be any less accurate than rifles with traditional rifling, and some have delivered tack-driving accuracy. In my experience, these barrels do seem to accumulate fouling at a much slower rate and are definitely easier to clean.
MSR 10 Precision rifle barrel rates of twist vary with chambering. The barrel on the 6.5 Creedmoor-chambered gun sent to me for testing had a 1:8 rate of twist, which is optimal for bullet weights of 120-140 grains commonly used in 6.5 Creedmoor cartridges. Barrels are tipped with a muzzle brake. It’s a nice touch, but not critically needed given the rifle’s hefty, recoil-mitigating weight of 11.4 pounds empty and without an optic. That weight goes up significantly when you attached a scope mount, scope, and loaded Magpul PMAG 20-round magazine, which is included with the rifle. This isn’t a gun you’re likely to use as a walking varminter unless you’re built like King Cong, but all that weight does steady things up nicely when you’re trying to place bullets in tiny little clusters. Recoil, in testing, was so mild as to be barely noticeable.
Even at a glance, it’s obvious that this rifle, which is chambered in 308 Win., 6.5 Creedmoor, and 6mm Creedmoor, is set up for competitive long-range shooting. One of the first things you’ll notice is a non-reciprocating charging handle on the left side of the receiver. The rifle also has a standard T-handle, but it can be difficult to reach with a large, high-magnification scope attached for competitive shooting. The non-reciprocating charging handle allows you to charge the gun without having to move your head away from a scope or change your grip.
Speaking of grip, the pistol grip on this gun is also designed to meet the unique needs of competitive shooters. Savage chose the TangoDown Battlegrip Flip Grip. With this design, you simply pull down on the spring-loaded grip and twist it to change the grip angle from 24 degrees of rake to vertical.
Another solid choice is the highly versatile 18-inch Acra handguard, which has – count ‘em – five rows of M-LOK slots as well as the ubiquitous Picatinny rail up top. Incorporated into the bottom of the handguard is the Acra Rail System, which is designed to not only allow you to slide and reposition bipods along the entire bottom length of the rail, but also attach the gun to the ball head mounts of tripods for stable shooting from higher positions. A red anodized QD sling swivel receptible is mounted forward on the handguard.
The rifle is equipped with the well-regarded Magpul PRS stock. In case you’re not familiar with this stock, it is tailor-made for competition or long-range guns, featuring tool-less length-of-pull and cheek-piece adjustments. It has a substantial rubber recoil pad that is adjustable for cant and height, as well as rotation-limiting QD swivel cups and M-LOK slots on the bottom for rear monopod mounting.
The rifle’s receiver is made of 7075 aluminum with a hard-anodized black finish, which contrasts nicely with the matte stainless barrel and black muzzle brake. The gun is equipped with the Savage +2 gas system, which you can adjust for optimum cycling of specific ammunition, but I found no need to adjust it during testing with four different factory loads.
Controls on the rifle are laid out much as you would expect, but with some important differences. For starters, the magazine release button is mounted on the right side of the receiver, within easy reach of your trigger finger, along with a forward assist and polymer dusty cover. The left side has, in addition to the non-reciprocating charging handle, a standard paddle-style bolt release. Notably, the rifle is equipped with generously sized, ambidextrous red-anodized safety levers.
The two-stage trigger that comes with this gun is one of the best I’ve ever had the pleasure of shooting on a factory AR. I’m pretty much a snob when it comes to triggers, and I simply can’t abide a bad one on any of my personal guns. This trigger passed even my hypercritical standard without breaking a sweat. It has about 1/8 of an inch of initial take-up before the trigger stacks. It then breaks cleanly with just a bit more pressure. As measured on a Lyman trigger gauge, the trigger broke at a consistent pull weight of 2 lbs. 8 oz. If you fail to place bullets where they’re supposed to go with this rifle, it won’t be the fault of the trigger.
For range testing, I mounted one of my favorite scopes for testing AR rifles, a Leupold Mark 4 4.5-14×50, in a Burris P.E.P.R mount. This has proven to be a rock-solid setup, and while the scope wasn’t a behemoth of the sort used in competitive long-range shooting, it had more than enough magnification for basic range testing.
With ammo being in short supply these days, I limited testing to four different 6.5 Creedmoor loads I had on hand and tested for accuracy with three, three-shot groups. Unsurprisingly, the rifle showed a profound fondness for match-grade ammo – and a profound dislike for one tested round with a copper bullet, which printed groups that barely squeezed under three inches at 100 yards. This wasn’t a huge shock to me. Most rifles will show individual preferences in ammunition. I’ve tested many that purely loved copper ammo and quite a few that simply hated the stuff. That seemed to be the case with this rifle.
Interestingly, that one 120-grain copper load was also the hottest load tested. It stepped out at 2,866 fps, which was 66 fps faster than the factory stated number even though factory ammo is normally tested in longer barrels producing higher velocities than the one on this gun. Velocities for the other tested loads were in line with expectations, ranging from 51 fps to 105 fps slower than the numbers printed on the ammo boxes.
While the gun did not favor that copper round, two tested match loads produced entirely different results despite being tested under less-than-ideal conditions. Hornady’s 120-grain A-MAX load, which has been supplanted by the newer ELD Match load, produced 3/4-inch average groups and a best group measuring just 0.38 inches. Mind you, this was with factory ammo shot on a spring day in Texas with the wind varying from 7 to 16 mph, but the results give a solid clue as to the rifle’s accuracy potential with ammo it likes.
Winchester’s 140-grain Match BTHP load also performed quite well, despite the wind, turning in sub-MOA average groups and a best group measuring slightly over 0.75 inches. To satisfy my curiosity, I also tested the rifle with one hunting load and was not disappointed. A 143-grain load from Black Hills Ammunition using Hornady’s ELD-X bullet produced average groups that were barely over one inch and a sub-MOA best group.
Through all of the testing, the rifle ran with monotonous reliability. I’ve shot earlier MSR rifles until they were quite hot and dry, but I’ve never experienced a single failure with either the MSR 10 or MSR 15 guns, including hunting for three days with another MSR 10 model on a ranch where the gun was bathed in dust daily. That perfect record continued with this gun.
Add it all up – reliability, accuracy, and competition-friendly features – and you’ve got quite a bit of gun for the money. With an MSRP of $2,655, the gun is not cheap, but you could easily pay twice that amount for a gun with similar performance.
SPECIFICATIONS: Savage MSR 10 Precision Rifle
Caliber: 6.5 Creedmoor, as tested
Action: Direct-impingement semi-auto
Barrel: 22.5-in. 5R 1:8 twist, stainless
Gas System: Rifle length, adjustable
Receiver: 7075 Aluminum
Hand Guard: 18-in. Acra Rail System
Finish: Hard-anodized black
Charging Handle: Non-reciprocating plus standard T
Butt Stock: Magpul PRS
Safety Selector: Red-anodized ambidextrous
Magazine: 20-round Magpul PMAG
Weight: 11.4 lbs. empty