Trigger Adjustment on the Savage 110 Series Rifles

By Daniel Chisholm *

This involves reducing the trigger's "weight of pull" and "sear engagement" adjustment from that which is set by the Savage factory. You must decide if this is safe for your intended use. The following is how I adjust the trigger on a Savage bolt action rifle for target shooting -- what this means is that I never have a round chambered until I am ready to shoot, and if the rifle ever fired unexpectedly, I would be surprised (and perhaps lose points in a rifle match), but no one would be hurt (and for what it's worth, this is how I handle a rifle in the field, so I would not hesitate to take such a rifle hunting).

I own two target rifles, one is a Winchester Model 70 with a single stage Jewell trigger (set to 3.5 lbs, as required for Canadian Target Rifle shooting) (and it cost me $175 in U.S. currency), the other is a Savage 110 with a factory trigger. With the adjustment below, the Savage provides at least a comparable quality trigger pull.

Take your rifle out of the stock. The trigger spring is a more or less straight piece of fairly thick music wire, that rests against a screw with a shallow notch ground in it. This notch engages the music wire spring every half turn. Turn the adjustment screw such that the spring pressure is reduced; this will lighten the trigger pull. At a certain point, the music wire will no longer exert any pressure at all on the screw -- at this point you've gone too far (jarring the rifle may cause it to fire). Be sure to have at least one (preferably two) half-turns worth of compression on this spring. This will give about two pounds of trigger force.

The other adjustment available is sear engagement. This is the "other" adjustment (I've forgotten now exactly where it is -- but it is horizontally oriented, whereas the pull-weight screw just discussed is vertical). With the bolt closed and cocked (chamber empty), you can adjust this screw until the trigger fires -- this is the point of zero sear engagement. From this point, back out the screw 1/8 to 1/4 of a turn. This will give minimum safe engagement. If you have too much engagement, you'll have excessive creep -- the trigger will move a fair bit before firing. Too little engagement makes the rifle quite shock sensitive (i.e., it may fire from a jolt), and some people also argue that the greater resultant pressure on the sear's face may lead to chipping.

After any trigger work, you should check for safe operation. The rifle should remain cocked, even when the bolt handle is slammed shut. The Savage 110 series uses a "trigger block" safety. That is, engaging the safety prevents the trigger from being pulled far enough to fire the rifle. The adjustments I mention above, principally the sear engagement adjustment, may prevent engaging the safety, or the rifle may fire with the safety engaged. This is not a concern to me, since I never use a safety -- the rifle is unloaded until I'm ready to fire. If you need to use the safety, you should understand how it works (prevents the trigger from moving), and the implications on its operation of the adjustments you'll be making. In order to engage the safety, some small amount of trigger clearance is required; to slide the safety "on", you need clearance -- this means that you can also pull the trigger a minute amount. If your sear engagement is minimal, this may be enough to allow the sear to disengage. Reliable and assured operation of the safety will probably require increasing sear engagement beyond what would be otherwise preferred for target shooting.


One important note about Savages and "trigger jobs."

The trigger (and its face that engages the sear) are sintered (made from powdered metal). This process results in a part that has a very hard, thin outer surface, yet is soft and ductile inside (both these properties are desirable). However, a gunsmith that does not know this may attempt to "stone" or polish this part, in an effort to "clean it up" and reduce friction.

This exposes the soft, underlying metal, which will cause this part to rapidly wear (and the soft underlying metal will have higher friction!


By knowing this (and avoiding this mistake), you can get good performance from your Savage trigger. (By the way, the weight-of-pull adjustment screw gives about 6 ounces per half-turn of adjustment). The trigger-pull adjustment screw may be modified by grinding a shallow slot perpendicular to the one ground by the factory. This then makes it possible to adjust the trigger tension in 1/4 turn increments (or about 3 ounces per "click").


* Note:

Mr. Chisholm did submit this article to Sniper Country, but rather to the rec.guns newsgroup on December 1, 1995. He has contributed many informative postings to rec.guns, and they can all be found by doing an author's profile on his name via the Deja News service. This rec.guns posting was acquired via Deja News (see the Deja News policy on materials posted to newsgroups). (He has since given his approval for this article to appear on Sniper Coutnry.

Further note that neither Sniper Country, Savage Arms, Inc., Mr. Chisholm, nor Deja News will accept responsibility for any deaths, personal injuries, or firearms damage that is related, or perceived to be related, to anyone who follows the information above.



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