When Savage called and asked if we would review one of their Youth rifles, I intended to do it right and have an actual kid do the shooting. Then they asked if they could send one in Muddy Girl. While this camo pattern won’t prevent boys from shooting it, I thought I’d try to find a girl who knew her way around guns. After a few phone calls, I had an 11 year old lined up. But when the rifle arrived, it was a .308. How well can an 11 year old girl handle a .308?
Meet Ella. She’s 11. She has the calmest demeanor of any 11 year old I’ve ever met. This may be why she’s so good behind the trigger. She has a patient approach to shooting and a determination I’m not used to seeing in young shooters. And while I’m singing her praises, I’d like to say that she’s also patient with the adults in her life. She was meticulous with her gun handling skills, which made my job behind the camera much easier, and she never shied from my persistent questions (or her father’s shooting advice).
But let’s get to the gun
The Savage Model 11 Trophy Hunter XP–Youth is a big gun. I’d expected one of the smaller Youth models, perhaps in .223. When Ella stepped out of the car, I had my doubts, but she mastered the .308 in no time. And that isn’t easy. The rifle has a 20 inch barrel. The length of pull is modestly shorter than it is on most full sized rifles, but still a shade over 12 inches. It isn’t so youth-like that I felt too cramped (and I’m over 6 feet tall). And the Savage weighs in at 7 pounds. That alone would make it a challenge to hold steady, even before the recoil of the .308 kicks in. In addition to the .308, the rifle comes chambered in .223 Rem, .243 Win, 7mm-08 Rem. Clearly the youth Savage has in mind are older teens.
The Muddy Girl camo dip is applied over a synthetic stock. It is a durable finish, even if it is a bit pink for my taste. I’m not a huge fan of camo guns, much less pink camo, but I’ve already established that the gun wasn’t meant for me. And there plenty of folks who like the Muddy Girl, otherwise these gun companies wouldn’t keep dipping stocks. Ella wasn’t a fan of the Muddy Girl. She said she liked it, but I think she was being polite. She showed up for the shoot in camo shorts (green, woodland camo) and a grey shirt with a 1950’s era trailer above the logo “living the dream.” Still, there are some girls out there who do like pink, I’m sure.
Some Savage rifles comes in ready-to-roll packages that make them even more appealing. On top of the rifle is a Nikon 3-9×40, with a BDC reticle. Savage bore-sights these at the factory, so the rifle comes in close to zeroed. This is the second one of Savage’s package guns I’ve reviewed, and I’m astounded at how well the scopes stay sighted in. Consider that this gun is handled by several people at the factory, packaged in a cardboard box, shipped to an FFL, who then hands it over to me. I handle the gun multiple times, take photos, shove it in the safe, toss it in the back of the truck, drive it down at least three miles of washboard “road” before I get to where I shoot it, and it comes in like this. I don’t baby these things. And I put more than 100 rounds through this one before I ever touched the dials on the Nikon.
Out of the box accuracy
There’s very little to say here. The gun shoots exceptionally well. It shoots under 1 MOA. At 100 yards, we had absolutely no difficulty getting the rounds to connect. We shot a variety of loads. We had Nosler, Hornady, HPR, and some Ultramax Reloads. All of the rounds performed well-even the soft pointed, reloaded Ultramax (which looked really rough).
At 300 yards, we had more difficulty. I’m not a gifted long range shooter, and I wasn’t equipped with any flags to estimate wind speeds. This was a bit of a problem, as we were shooting in a flat Arkansas river bottom. The 100 yard range was enclosed with berms and easy to use. The 300 yard range was wide open, though, and the wind was coming across in brisk gusts.
We were still reasonably successful. Not as solid as I’d wanted. I want a rifle like this to shoot 1 MOA at 100 yards, and at 300 yards (which will still drop a whitetail). I don’t get much more distance than that. The Model 11 in .308 is more than enough gun for North American big game.
Shooting with kids
Ella had no trouble with the .308. The first shot she took with the gun pushed her back, hard. She had the stock farther over on her shoulder than I would have liked, and so the recoil hit her, twisting her back. After a small adjustment, she took another shot. With the stock closer in to mid-line, just an inch, she took the recoil like a champ. After the first ten shots, she’d mastered the motion of the bolt, and had figured out how to reload the magazine quickly.
There were two things that threw her. The first was the long throw of the bolt. Once, maybe every ten rounds, she’d eject the spent brass and slam home the bolt without picking up another round. Yet it was rare. Once she was aware of the problem, she stopped short-shucking. It was fun to watch Ella pull the trigger on an empty chamber, as she flinched very little. When I was 11, I was shooting original Star Wars action figures off a fence post with a BB gun. Ella has discipline and skills that I’m still working on developing.
Her other problem had everything to do with the .308, and came from fatigue. As we pushed through box after box, I could see it the wearing effect of the recoil. The force was jarring enough that she was getting tired. Yet she kept asking for more targets. I’d blown up some balloons and stapled them to the target stand. Some were more than a foot across (as we were also shooting a Rascal in .22 LR). Others I hardly blew up at all, just puffing in a bit of breath so that the balloons were 4 or 5 inches across. She toasted them. There were half split clays on the berm, and she dusted them. There wasn’t a reasonable target that she couldn’t hit in the 100 yard range, but after nearly two hours of shooting, she started to slow down.
Still, there was nothing Ella and the Savage couldn’t do. She could easily hunt with this gun. It may be a bit heavy to carry, and she would need to steady the rifle, but there wouldn’t be any other hindrances. If she was secure in a tree stand, Ella could do serious work with the Model 11.
This gun fits a specific niche in Savage’s line-up. It isn’t their smallest rifle, by a long shot. It isn’t their biggest, either. The AccuTrigger is an ideal addition, as it adds a measure of reliability and safety to Savage’s already solid trigger platform. The modestly smaller length is a transition from too-small guns to full sized guns, yet I could hunt with it comfortably. We’ve covered the camo pattern, which shooters will likely love or not, depending on their predilections.
The package has an MSRP of $660. This covers the rifle and the scope. Retail will be lower, closer to $600. For this kind of accuracy, that’s a fair price. It is more than most will want to spend on a rifle for a kid who may or may not get into shooting, but it is a reasonable investment for a shooter like Ella, one who already hunts and shoots regularly. For Ella, the Savage would help hone skills, and match her abilities, and allow her to grow with the gun.