May 13, 2020
By John M. Taylor
In many places, 9 a.m. to noon is mallard time, and true to form as the sun glistened off those orange feet, the Renegauge barked twice and their flight was cut short.
Okay, imaginations run wild at times. They were actually clay targets on our club’s skeet range. WILDFOWL’s big shots didn’t return my calls asking for travel to Uruguay to test the Renegauge, so clays were it, though our editor-in-chief did test it extensively in North Dakota last October (full story, WF April 2020).
Great feel to this gun. A crisp, light trigger; big bolt handle and release, rotating bolt head, adjustable stock, large trigger guard, lightning-quick cycling, a hard flight-style case…what more could you want?
Savage has been known for decades for their rifles, the great Model 99 hammerless lever-action and their huge lineup of Model 110 bolt guns. The Renegauge isn’t their first semi-auto. Between 1930 and 1949 they made a Browning Auto 5 clone, the Model 760, but this is a 21st Century gas-operated gun.
The D.R.I.V. — Dual Regulating Inline Valve — gas system of the Renegauge has two in-line gas-relief valves that project straight out of the fore end. They carefully regulate the amount of gas that operates the gun equalizing the thrust against the bolt. Called “bolt speed,” in some systems a light load will give it a small shove; shoot a magnum load and it gives the bolt a real whack. Savage vents off the gas before it hits the piston that drives the bolt, equalizing the bolt speed, cutting recoil and eventual wear on the internal parts. The bolt, chrome-plated action bars and piston are a single unit making disassembly for cleaning easy and quick.
With its in-line D.R.I.V. valves the cycling is extremely fast, aided by the rotating bolt head, adopted from military rifles and ensuring a fast rock-solid lockup.
One quirk, most shotguns are shipped with the two-shot magazine plug installed, but the Renegauge is not! It is included, but easily overlooked. Make sure it is installed per the instructions before you head to the blind. Also, during patterning I noticed that the shells were ejected six to eight feet but slightly behind the gun, not forward like most semi-autos.
Trigger pulls are light and crisp, unusual in pumps and semi-autos. With my Lyman Digital Trigger-Pull Gauge the average of five snaps was 4.26 pounds! Like a good rifle.
Recoil on the Renegauge is relatively light. This is due to the controlled bolt speed and by what Savage calls a “stock rod buffer” that in combination with the soft gel-filled recoil pad and soft comb takes up a lot of the kick from 3-inch magnums.
Unlike the current trend of using high-strength aluminum for the receiver, the Renegauge’s is milled from high-carbon steel, which gives it some heft. Our test gun, the camo-clad Waterfowl model, weighed over 8 pounds, which also knocks down recoil. The synthetic stock and fore-end cap have sling swivels to help with luggin’ it around.
Along with being able to shoot about any 12-gauge 2 ¾- and 3-inch load you want, the stock of the Renegauge is highly adjustable. First off, it comes with a set of shims that go between the back of the receiver and the front of the stock. With them you can adjust the height of the stock as well as cast. Cast compensates for the thickness of our cheek by slightly shifting the stock to the right for right-handed shooters, or left for southpaws. As I do with any shotgun, I took it to our club’s 16-yard plate and fired several shots. Out of the box it put the patterns one-inch high and two inches to the right, due to fit. To make it perfect for me, I would install the spacer that swings the stock to the right (adjusting cast) to bring my pattern to where my eyes, the rear sight of a shotgun, look.
To adjust the height of the comb, Savage includes three snap-on/snap-off soft rubber combs. Also in the hard case are two recoil pads and a set of spacers that let you shorten or lengthen the pull — the distance between the trigger and the butt. The screw holes in the pads are open so you don’t have to fish around finding the screw heads to change the pads.
I shot a series of patterns using Kent’s excellent 2 ¾-inch 1 ¼-ounce No. 4 Bismuth shells that come darn close to same the density as lead — 9.6 gr/ccm versus 10.5gr/ccm — and will really put a hurt on the birds. In addition, I used Kick’s Comp-N-Chokes. Not that the included Savage chokes weren’t good, it’s just seemed that the Kick’s improved accuracy when compared to the .724-inch cylinder bore of the Renegauge.
A good bet for duck hunters is light modified with a constriction of .015 inches and for geese, modified at .020. When I compared the Kick’s number 15 to the Renegauge’s cylinder bore it came in at .016 and the choke marked 20 was dead-on at .020. On paper they didn’t disappoint with number 15 putting 64.79-percent of the No. 4 pellets into a 30-inch circle at 40 yards and 70.42-percent for the number 20. Right on industry standard! Shooting clays with light target loads was fun and the misses were all mine.
A great shotgunner can shoot many guns well, but for most of us the “shootability,” overall balance and pointy-ness are really proven when average shooters are firing a new gun. WF’s editor reported that watching more than a dozen hunters have at it, shooting many dozens of ducks and lots of clay pigeons, most people shot the gun really well on both birds and clays with little warm up. A solid testimony.
Although it’s a crowded field, the Savage Renegauge offers a lot to the hunter and shooter. I would like to taken it to the blind for a week or two, but given the testing I do — in or out of season — it’s clear that it is a fine shotgun worthy of your attention.