As more than a few coyote hunters will attest after changing setups several times during a morning, a heavy-barreled varmint rifle is not necessarily the best gun with which to chase songdogs. The fast pace of predator calling has drawn a growing number of hunters to the game, but it also begs for a rifle that won't slow down the action. On the other hand, a lightweight sporter may not be the answer either. Wily coyotes didn't get that way by loping around as easy targets, and some heft to the muzzle can be a wonderful thing when the shots are on the long side.
Such was the dilemma at hand when Gary Roberson, of Burnham Brothers Game Calls, and Savage Arms set out to design a rifle especially suited for predator hunters. Roberson envisioned a quick-handling, easy-carrying rifle that wouldn't weigh him down while on foot to the next calling location. The folks at Savage—ever mindful of the company's dedication to accuracy—wanted a gun that could split guard hairs on a coyote's hide and thus appeal to any shooter interested in tight little groups. What the team put together manages to cover both bases and is appropriately dubbed the Predator Hunter.
The rifle combines Savage's Model 10 bolt action with an aggressively tapered, medium-contour barrel set in a synthetic stock and covered in Mossy Oak Brush camouflage. It weighs 7 pounds, 4 ounces and is available in .204 Ruger, .223 Rem. and .22-250 Rem. Taking a closer look at the Predator Hunter's features reveals that a lot of thought from both sides went into its creation.
First, the Model 10 action was a sensible component on which to build the new rifle. Savage has relied on its rugged function for around 50 years, and it is still going strong in a host of models with various chamberings. With its cast set of baffles and collared bolt handle the machined bolt may appear ungainly, but it nonetheless performs its role admirably. An oversized bolt handle on the rifle makes the assembly look even more unbalanced, but its large grasping knob is a boon to hunters wearing gloves. The bolt's deeply recessed face is bordered by dual opposing locking lugs, one of which houses the extractor, and includes a plunger-style ejector. Throughout testing, the bolt fed cartridges from the four-round blind magazine to the chamber and expelled spent cases without fail. Two action screws—one at the front of the trigger guard and the other slightly behind the recoil lug—hold the barreled action to the stock and are surrounded by aluminum pillars to provide a stable bedding surface.
The medium-contour barrel represents an agreeable compromise between mobility and stability. At 22 inches long, it isn't difficult to quickly swing around brush when a coyote isn't looking, yet it certainly doesn't feel whippy. It emerges from the barrel lock nut a beefy 1.05 inches in diameter and quickly slims down to .74 inch at the muzzle, ending in a recessed target crown. In .204 Ruger and .22-250 Rem., the button rifling has a 1:12-inch RH twist, while the .223 Rem. version has a 1:9-inch RH twist.
A three-position safety slide resides on the tang where it is easily reached by the thumb. Its serrated surface is another nod to positive function with gloved hands. When it's time to show a coyote there's no such thing as a free meal, the AccuTrigger makes delivering the bill a clean, crisp experience. Removing the barreled action from the stock frees the AccuTrigger for adjustment from 1.5 to 6 pounds of pull weight.
Like the rest of the Predator Hunter's features, its stock was designed with a careful eye on function. The fore-end is slim and nicely rounded over its last 3 inches to facilitate securely placing it in the V formed by shooting sticks. While the dipping process used to coat the stock in the Mossy Oak Brush pattern makes for a somewhat slippery surface, panels of checkering on the fore-end and pistol grip are molded with enough depth to provide the needed bite for a solid grasp. Two sling swivel studs provide points for attaching a sling or bipod. The olive-drab, rubber buttpad is .75 inch thick at the heel and toe, but its concave shape reduces the thickness to .5 inch at its middle. The heel slightly angles forward to prevent the buttpad from hanging up on clothing when the rifle is brought to the shoulder. Four cross-members molded into the interior of the fore-end give the stock rigidity.
The Predator Hunter is devoid of iron sights, but Weaver-style bases come pre-mounted from the factory. Matching the rifle's exterior—save for the bolt body, AccuTrigger, bolt release lever and the two action screws—they too are dipped in Mossy Oak Brush.
Conditions were less than ideal for accuracy testing the day I took the Predator Hunter, topped with a Zeiss Conquest 3.5-10x44 mm scope, to the range. Blustery winds were gusting to more than 30 mph, and the temperature was just above freezing. In other words, it wasn't much different than what is often encountered while hunting coyotes during the winter months. Luckily, the wind was coming from the 6 o'clock position, though within the confines of the range's berms, it had a nasty tendency to swirl wildly. Despite the uncooperative weather, I was impressed with the rifle's performance. I tested five .22-250 Rem. factory loads from the bench at 100 yards, and the Predator Hunter turned in five-shot groups of less than an inch with three of them. The rifle preferred 55-grain bullets, which just so happens to be my favorite bullet weight for this cartridge when a coyote is the target. The best results came with Hornady's 55-grain V-MAX load. Five, five-shot groups averaged slightly more than .5 inch. I also shot the rifle from kneeling and sitting positions, and found the muzzle-heavy feel would be just the ticket for quick shots at coyotes.
The Savage Model 10 Predator Hunter is a perfect example of what can happen when a firearms manufacturer builds a gun along the requests of its customers. Coyote hunters, this one's for you.