11 Year Old Girl Masters Savage .308 (Gun Review)

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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).

The package gun comes topped with a Nikon 3-9 x 40 Scope.

The package gun comes topped with a Nikon 3-9 x 40 Scope.

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.

Savage Youth would be a great band name. As is, it is big gun that can grow with a young shooter's abilities.

Savage Youth would be a great band name. As is, it is a big gun that can grow with a young shooter’s abilities.

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.

How's this for out of the box accuracy. 5 shots from 100 yards, aimed at the #6.

How’s this for out of the box accuracy. 5 shots from 100 yards, aimed at the #6.

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.


Aftert the first rounds of .308, Ella adjusted to the kick and had no more problems.

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.

How did she do? Not too bad. She dialed it in quickly, and got to the point where she was hitting within a 3 inch circle on each shot.

How did she do? Not too bad. She dialed it in quickly, and got to the point where she was hitting within a 3 inch circle on each shot.

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.

The Trophy Hunter isn't as small as you'd expect a "youth" model to be.

The Trophy Hunter isn’t as small as you’d expect a “youth” model to be.

Wrap up

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.

The Nikon BDC Reticle is very easy to use, and offers hold over points for known yardages.

The Nikon BDC Reticle is very easy to use, and offers hold over points for known yardages.


The Muddy Girl is sometimes open and pink, and sometimes very dark.

We had good results with a variety of ammo, but our tightest groups were shot with HPR.

We had good results with a variety of ammo, but our tightest groups were shot with HPR.

3 rounds from 300 yards, with no adjustment to the scope's factory presets.

3 rounds from 300 yards, with no adjustment to the scope’s factory presets.

After handling the .308, she wasn't impressed with the .22.

After handling the .308, she wasn’t impressed with the .22.

Aren't kids supposed to shoot little .22 LR single shots, like this Rascal?

Aren’t kids supposed to shoot little .22 LR single shots, like this Rascal?


In addition to punching paper, we put up varied sizes of balloons, which are easier to see when hit. The big pink one was for the .22.

The Muddy Girl pattern is all over guns these days. Some like it. Others don't.

The Muddy Girl pattern is all over guns these days. Some like it. Others don’t.

{ 17 comments… add one }
  • Chris Nuxoll October 27, 2014, 9:19 am

    I love to hear about kids shooting. My 8 year old daughter has a 10/22 with the pink Hogue oversold stock. She loves it and loves to hunt with me. When she gets a bit older she will get a 7mm-08. I’m Leaning toward the Ruger American. Got one in .308 for my 14 year old son and it shoots as well as my Remington 700 for half the price. He got his first deer with it this year. We have to pass our love for hunting and shooting to our kids or the government will take it away.

  • Cleat Lloyd August 26, 2014, 12:00 am

    See what Ella thinks of the Savage 25–204 Ruger with scope and thumb hole.
    zeroes in at 200 yds. +0.7″ at 100 yds, 4.3″ low at 300 yds, 13.2″ low at 400 yds
    and 28.1″ low at 500 yds. It is a verry nice looking rifle. Cleat;

  • JCitizen August 25, 2014, 4:53 pm

    Savage has proven to me time after time, that for the price, at least last time I checked, they are the tack drivers of choice! I and all my buddies prefer them and continue to make astounding shots at unheard of range, even with surplus ammo. I also get a BIG kick outta the funny colored guns, because I am so tickled that the sport is finally doing something to recognized that women and girls want to get into the shooting sports. Anything we can do to make that happen is going to help spread the number of folks interested in maintaining our God given rights.

    In fact it tickles me so much, I’d love to collect these vividly colored guns in all brands and calibers! I’d have to be rich, though, so I’ll just have to be happy in making sure any female that is interested in shooting sports, can get whatever she wants. Ella is a pretty name, it figures in our family ancestry, so I’m prejudiced! HA!

  • Andrew N. August 25, 2014, 3:18 pm

    My 9 year old nephew BEGGED to shoot my 45-70. Despite all the warnings, he wanted to anyway. Finally, his father and I said “OK”,. WE told him to “lean into it” to help with the recoil, he didn’t. He pulled the trigger…I caught the rifle as it came up and off his shoulder, my brother caught him. End of story? Nope! He demanded another chance, tightened his grip, and this time, “leaned” into it. Lesson learned. He stayed upright, and despite the bruising, continued to shoot it a few more times, until we made him stop. Needless to say, that 45-70 “has his name on it” in my will. He earned that at age 9. He’s now 34 and still loves big kickers. Despite 3 shoulder surgeries, and tears every time I pull the trigger, so do I. I guess it’s a “guy” thing. You will notice I didn’t say a “smart guy” thing…

  • aydene militello August 25, 2014, 2:13 pm

    Ahh, the macho driven debate. Actually at the developing years many girls outweigh their male counterparts, and for the most part have the same level of physical development, height, limb structure and such. In addition to that, females have greater control of their concentration. In any case, Ella’s concentration and skill has to do with Ella, neither female or male, just plain ol’ Ella. As far as the pink cammo goes, great since most critters hunted are color blind, but I think it best not to put it on our military rifles. Who can remember the old movie “The Pink Submarine.”

  • Max August 25, 2014, 1:12 pm

    I have 2 daughters who love to shoot and hate pink. They wouldn’t be caught dead with a pink gun. Now if it came in Tardis blue… or nice wood.

  • Tom G August 25, 2014, 12:35 pm

    Congrats on a great story and a great kid/young lady. Started both my kids on pellet guns at a young age and now everybody shoots. When I was an Assist. Scoutmaster with the BSA our troop had a Shooting Sports Weekend 3-4 times a year, I learned that the earlier you start training, the more it is accepted, the less false ideas are spread and the more confidence you develop in these kids, many of them went on to the military.

  • Chuck August 25, 2014, 12:18 pm

    Dad, You should be Proud!!!!!!

  • mesaman August 25, 2014, 11:38 am

    A fine story and a great little champion on her way up. I won’t be surprised to read about her being on the USA shooting team in a few years. Thanks for the enjoyment.

  • Chris August 25, 2014, 11:36 am

    I assume that’s a pretty substantial recoil pad, but I wonder if she had bruises. And the real question is not about gender but height and weight.

  • Tom Smith August 25, 2014, 10:29 am

    Manufactures have it wrong, not all girls like pink on their guns.

  • William E Handy Jr August 25, 2014, 10:26 am

    Great shooting Ella. I get tired after two hours large caliber shooting at the range too, especially when I’m only wearing a thin shirt. My best work is always when I’m fresh. You’re a lucky girl that your dad is teaching you shooting skills.

  • Abe Nelson August 25, 2014, 8:22 am

    My 14 yr old shoot HER A-Bolt .300 Win Mag . . . so this is not so astonishing to me. When She was 11 she already mastered my M1 Garand at 100 and 200yds, Benelli Super Black Eagle for clays, and 686+ at 5, 7, 15 yards. It is a matter of early conditioning and practice. She has her eye on my .338 but that I told her is when she turns 16!

  • NavairDan August 25, 2014, 8:08 am

    I’m lovin this kid. Tough and sweet. Reminds me of when I took my daughter shooting. Shooting my m44 mosin, it jarred her glasses loose on the first shot, but, she came back for more. She was 18, however. Still, there’s just something very nice when a lovely young lady handles a beast and wants a bunch more shots. Very cool.

    Good luck to this 11yr old in every possible way.

  • Augest West August 25, 2014, 7:44 am

    Incredible Her fist time shooting 308 even in a so called youth model was impressive. That’s a lot of round for a young person to shoot boy or girl. She has experience which came into play shooting 20 gauge and other round I guess. It was funny after shooting the 308 she shot the 22 and said did it fire? This is our future people, pro gun young people who are trained by their parent at a young age to use and handle a firearm safely.

  • Bill Box August 25, 2014, 7:40 am

    I am a grndpa to five kids 3 boys and 2 girls.They all love to shoot.I have owned Savage guns now for many years I think they are one of the best firearms built and for the money you can’t go wrong.If we don’t get our kids involved in the shooting and hunting sports we are going to lose this great heritage so I am glad to see you involve a young lady like you did good job.

  • Steve K August 25, 2014, 6:23 am

    Good shooting, and GREAT choice . Black always looks better on guns. No funky dark earth, camo, green, or any other color for me too.

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