Budget rifle test: Ruger American vs Savage vs Howa Model 1500

Budget fox for budget rifle

Budget rifle review

Here we have three bundles of rifle joy. Three UK distributors have put together some super price busting kit in time for Christmas. The cheapest is under £600. The most expensive is under £900 and Sporting Rifle magazine’s rifle reviewer, Tim Pilbeam is going to talk us through them.

The new Ruger American has been recently launched into the UK. Tim is testing it in .243 calibre, an entry level rifle. It has got a very, very compact magazine, which holds 5 rounds. The trigger itself is a 4lb and tough. Tim will find out how good it is when he shoots it. As with all entry level rifles the stocks are quite hollow and has a bendy fore end. If you are going to use a heavy bolt moderator and bipod the you may get a few problems there, because it may affect the point of impact. The rifle itself is £599. Tim has put a quality 3x12x50 scope with some millet mounts.
The middle priced rife is a Savage package from Edgar Brothers. This package is £649. This rifle is in .22-250. Once again a budget stock with a bendy fore end. The trigger is firm and these rifles provide predictability. The bolt is reasonably smooth. The package includes a Picatinny style rail, some mounts and a 3×12 Weaver scope. The weaver scope has a very fine reticule which shoots very well. It is a nice looking rifle. Accuracy is about an inch at 100 yards. Tim likes it.
Last but not least we have the Stealth Hunter combo at £899 from Highland Outdoors. This is superb value for money. It has a Howa Model 1500 Action blue Sporter barrel. The stock is Hogue overmoulded, that means a fibre glasss chassis over moulded with rubber, very grippable. “I actually love this, you either love it or hate it. I think it’s brilliant” comments Tim. The trigger is a 2 ½ lb and the bolt itself, as always with a Howa, is smooth and works beautifully well. In the kit there is a Picatinny style rail which is screwed to the receiver, mounts and 2 ½ -12 x 50 Nikko Stirling diamond scope with an illuminator reticule. All this for £899. If you want a Varmint barrel or Sainstill barrel the price will go up to £1069 including VAT and ready to go. Absolutely superb, but does it shoot well.


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Tim has 3 targets. He points to the various targets. First a fox at 200 yards which is sideways. Then a moving fox at 150 yards. A fox target strapped to a remote control car moves backwards and forwards and Tim puses the stick on the remote. Lastly there is another fox down the bottom which is 50 yards away. The idea is to recreate conditions lamping, the fox does actually stop and start and sometimes it completely disappears. If you are lamping then suddenly you find there is a fox 50 yards away or another one appears 200 yards away. So this is very much what happens at night time. Tim and his friend Matt are planning to have a bit of fun today. It is a competition between Matt and Tim. They are going to shoot the fox targets but there is a twist. They will call out fox A, B or C. It is all about quick thinking and to make it a little harder you only have 3 seconds to take the shot. That is not long to ready your rifle for the next shot.
Before we start we look at version five of the running target on Tim’s range. This time it looks like he’s cracked it with it running on a bit of rope and stabilised the steering so it doesn’t move at all. All it does is goes backwards and forwards so Tim and Matt have a chance of shooting it. Sounds a bit easy.

The Ruger American
The Ruger American

Tim’s shooting mate Matt starts things off with the Howa on the bipod and there are some pleasing results on all the targets.
“Ok Matt, B…A…B..C..B..” orders Tim.
The RC fox has moved behind cover.
“….B has gone go to A” redirects Tim.
“Fantastic piece of kit, 5 shots, 5 hits. Doesn’t get any better than that for under £1000” says Matt.
Next up it’s Tim with the Savage. As there’s no bipod as part of the bundle Tim is using a tree trunk for support. Once again the rifle and the man behind it make this challenging shooting look easy.
Finally it’s the Ruger. Again all the bullets find their targets.

Matt shooting the Stealth Hunter
Matt shooting the Stealth Hunter

“So Matt we have got 3 rifles under £900 and we were doing some fairly extreme conditions today, all rifle shooting under an inch and a half. What do you think?” asks Tim.
“I think they are 3 fantastic packages for someone starting out in the shooting world. I particularly liked the safety catch on the Ruger. It is a great brand as well” decides Matt, brandishing the Ruger.
“That is £599. I wasn’t too keen on the trigger, but I am sure someone could play on the trigger on that. But it performed very, very well” responds Tim pointing to the trigger.
“The Savage is just great, great value for money and the scope on that I particularly liked” says Tim.
“£649 and it shoots beautifully well, so there is nothing wrong with that at all” agrees Matt.
“But my favourite of the 3 was the Howa package I found I shot that really well and it felt a really solid quality rifle” says Matt.
I think overall we have got 3 rifles all under a £1000. You can just walk out the door and shoot and I think that is absolutely fantastic to see. Well done guys this is brilliant” concludes Tim.

Matt praises the Stealth Hunter
Matt praises the Stealth Hunter

Unfortunately the firebird targets didn’t get a chance to shine so Matt has an excuse to bring out his £6000 custom rifle just for fun. It may be 10 times as much as the Ruger but it just shows that there’s something out there for everyone and every pocket. Matt lets off a round and in the distance a large plume of smoke erupts into the air. For more information about the Ruger visit the Viking Arms website, for details on the Howa visit the Highland Outdoors and for the Savage you need to take a look at Edgar Brothers’s website. Happy shopping, I mean shooting.

To watch our film, visit www.youtube.com/watch?v=jpsXCAsGGDI