This is follow-up on a long time process of review for a rifle I have now owned for ~ 2 years. The rifle is a Savage MSR-15 Patrol in .223 Wylde. Throughout the entire process I have used this in 3-gun and maxim training, as well as my favorite range toy. Since purchase I have personally changed the following:
Photo Credit: gunsamerica.com (I no longer have the stock photo.)
- Removed stock carbine hand guard and replaced with a free-float M-Lok rail. I removed and replaced the a-frame front sight with a low-profile gas block.
- Replaced the standard bird-cage muzzle device several times to end on a 3 chamber one that works best with the barrel and harmonics.
- Replaced everything that was Blackhawk! (emphasis is the actual company name) and replaced with a Mission First Tactical minimalist stock, Magpul backup sights, and a standard military grip that I did the stippling work on.
- Added a 500 lumen light with tape switch.
- Added a angled fore-grip from MFT as well.
- Have now used 6 different optics on this rifle. Everything from a Primary Arms 1-6 variable to the current setup which is the Sightmark Reflex and 3x magnifier.
- Changed the bolt carrier group for a Black Nitride precision match BCG from Rainier Arms.
- Most important: Replaced the trigger with a Hiperfire Hipertouch 24 trigger.
Since purchase I encountered several issues, the major reason I saved up to buy this model was what I could afford as well as Savage’s reputation for accuracy. I want anyone buying the base model of the rifle to be aware of these issues so that you can decide if this model is right for you. First I had some major issues with accuracy right out of the box. I first went out to my local indoor range and couldn’t get this hitting within ~ 7 MOA… (Lake City 55 grain) at less than 50 yards. Really upsetting. I know the variables in ammo and the lack of a bench to shoot off play a part in accuracy (I was shooting off-hand) so I went out and purchased as many variants of ammo possible and some good shooting rests. My wife and I went out to my local outdoor range with some time on our hands. She sat there with me when I tried 5 different types of ammo, getting extremely frustrated. At 25 yards, I was hitting her target on my left more often than my own target with a center bulls-eye hold. Stopped and looked over the rifle, then called out to the range officer. He has been there a long time and is very knowledgeable. He looked over it with me, took some shots and then we took some measurements. Turns out whoever installed the a-frame front sight installed it completely out of line with the barrel and receiver. I had to adjust the Blackhawk! rear sight all the way to the left in order just to have it shoot to point of aim.
The solution for this was already in the works. I had ordered a free-float M-Lok rail and low profile steel gas block and they arrived shortly after. Found out through this process that this rifle shoots ~ 2 MOA with the right ammo (62 grain 5.56 is best) and obviously me doing my part. One thing I was quick to to change is the Blackhawk! sights. The rear sight seemed very cheap. There is a button to flip it up, however you have to press the button in and hold while dropping the sight blade to lock it back down. Not very intuitive or easy, and the sight blade is very flimsy. Magpul Pro flip sights made it much better. Very much disliked the Blackhawk! grip as well. Not to say that others wouldn’t like it, however it did not fit my hand well. I opted for the MFT minimalist stock for this build. I love the functionality and weight of this stock. Honestly didn’t have any issues with the Blackhawk! stock originally included.
Throughout the magazine after magazine this rifle ran flawlessly. No malfunctions related to the gun to report. Most were ammo related and really easy to solve with a quick use of the charging handle. I did use everything from standard US-GI magazines to Magpul P-Mags, Lancer standard Mags, Hex mags and the Amend magazines. Only one I had any issues with was a Korean made polymer magazine that just would not feed the first 2-3 rounds. This magazine has since been removed from my inventory due to all the problems it has in all my guns. Only on one occasion did I have to mortar the rifle in order to fix a caught round.
This rifle drives home to me the value in an all-around handy rifle. I have put everything from mid-range power variable optics to a basic small Trijicon RMR and the rifle works fantastic 10 yards out to 600 yards. In competition, this rifle is a delight to use once I got the hang of the modern sporting rifle ergonomics. In all of it’s changes, I have had the weight around 6 lbs to 8 lbs loaded. With the lightweight free-float rail and low-profile gas block it is a quite reasonable 7 lbs. Adding variable optics and a bi-pod brings the weight up more. Overall this is an awesome rifle for about anything I need to do in my current lifestyle and range space capabilities. Ammo is plentiful and easy to source, as well as being lightweight and very accurate when I found what the rifle preferred. *As I will always say, even mass-manufactured guns will have quirks. Be aware that you may buy the same exact model and that the ammo preferences will be completely different as to what is accurate for you!
The most important change you can make to any rifle is to install an improved trigger. I tried 2 different models for this rifle. One is more basic, the ALG enhanced mil-spec trigger. I found this had a great clean and consistent break at about 4 lbs, however with buying bulk ammo for training and competition, I would get light primer strikes about 1 out of 30 rounds. I upped the hammer spring weight and found it worked flawlessly, however it brought the trigger pull weight up. Eventually I switched to the Hiperfire 24 Hipertouch trigger. This trigger is awesome (review to follow) and it has special parts that add to the hammer weight without sacrificing the trigger pull weight. Having a trigger like this makes all the difference in your personal accuracy as well as it truly optimizes your shooting and skill. Outside of having a free-floated rail and the limits of your optics; a trigger is the best possible improvement you can make to optimize your shooting.
In closing, this rifle has stood up to all I have thrown at it. It has been dropped, dunked in water, had dirt thrown all over, been used in competition, and been kept ready at the house for self defense. The locking lugs are not only intact but are showing very little wear. Every other component is not only intact but working flawlessly. If you have the mechanical inclination get the base model and plan on upgrading, otherwise spend the extra money and get the premium model. You won’t regret it.