Monday, June 2, 2014

Ultralight Backpacking Rifle – Savage Rascal With Modified Stock

As you guys probably know, when it comes to small caliber hunting rifles, I tend to think that lighter is better. These rifles usually come with me when I am backpacking, and want to occasionally shoot a squirrel or other small game. For such use, carrying around a 5 lb rifle is just excessive. To that end, I have been looking for suitable lightweight rifles, primarily chambered in .22LR. About a year ago I wrote about the Ruta Locura Pack Rifle Kit (PRK) which allowed me to build an ultralight .22LR rifle based on the action from a Keystone Arms Crickett rifle. You can read more about it here

I’ve been using the rifle now for a year, and while it works well, I haven’t been happy with the action of the Crikkett on which the rifle is built. In my experience, it’s just not a smooth mechanism and the trigger pull is too heavy. On an ultralight rifle, that makes it somewhat challenging to take accurate shots from an unsupported position. So, I’ve been looking around for a better option. The Pack Rifle was an obvious choice, but I just never liked its design. I’m sure it functions fine, and it’s superbly made, but it just doesn’t appeal to me for some reason. I like having a bolt to work. After some further searching, I settled on trying to make an ultralight backpacking rifle based on a Savage Arms Rascal. In this post I want to briefly go over an easy conversion that will allow adults to more easily use this youth rifle.


I have several Savage Arms rifles, and I am very happy with them, in addition to being used to their mechanism, so the Rascal was a natural choice for me. For those of you not familiar with the rifle, the Savage Rascal is a single shot, .22LR youth rifle. It has a short barrel, just over 16 inches, and a short, miniaturized stock with 11.25 in length of pull. The result is a light rifle, weighing 2lb 7oz, but it is difficult to use for an adult due to the short length of pull (the distance from the trigger to the end of the stock).

I figured, if I could replace the stock of the gun with that provided with the Pack Rifle Kit (PRK), it would make for a very good combination, giving me the longer length of pull I need. I didn’t want to change the barrel to a lighter one, because I wanted a slightly more robust rifle. With the PRK I was always worried about damaging the barrel, and while I like light weight, I don’t want to baby the rifle.

Unfortunately, the results were not good. While the stock that comes with the PRK is made of a cement like material, which is easy to work with a knife and file, the action of the Savage Rascal was too large to accurately fit. I made it fit, but it wasn’t exactly a fine piece of work.

So, I had to switch to plan B. I figured I would shorten the standard Savage Rascal stock to a place near the back of the grip, and then I would attach a back section from the PRK stock to make for a full length of pull. Now, using a section of a PRK stock is an expensive and extravagant option. I only did it because I had one at hand. A bent piece of aluminum tubing will do the same job.

Specifically what I did was to cut the PRK stock about two inches past where the carbon fiber rods end and enter into the cement-like substance comprising the rest of the stock. I cut the Rascal stock as well about two inches back from the grip, where the width was the same as that of the cut off section from the PRK stock. I then cut out slots, roughly an inch deep on the top and bottom of the original Rascal stock, just large enough for the carbon fiber rods to fit into. I then shaped the cement-like substance to fit in the hollow Rascal stock. When everything was fitted together, I epoxied the sections together using Gorilla Glue.




Oh yeah, pink Rascal = cheap! A few coats of paint completed the job.


Because the majority of the stock remained unchanged, attaching the action and barrel is easy. The action is simply held to the stock with two hex screws. The only thing to be careful about it to not overdo the paint in the area around the barrel. The Savage Rascal actually has a free floated barrel, which improves accuracy. You don’t want to layer so much paint in that area so that the barrel actually starts touching the stock. You should be able to pass a piece of paper between the stock and the barrel. 


The completed product is simply a Savage Rascal with an extended stock.


The total weight of the modified rifle, with the iron sights that come with the gun, is 2lb 9oz. Most of that weight comes from the barrel. The stock actually weighs only 7oz. If you were able to find a good carbon fiber barrel and replace the iron one, you can probably drop the weight by another pound.

After the stock was modified, the next stage of the project was to install a scope. The Rascal comes with a fixed front sight, and an adjustable rear peep sight. The receiver is tapped for scope mounts, but you have to buy them separately. I was able to order a set directly from Savage Arms, specifically designed for the Rascal.


The mounts are shorter than those you would find on a full size rifles like the Savage Mark II or the 93R17, but are the same width. They are quite a bit wider than the rail used by the Crickett. If you had scope rings for the Crickett mount, they will be too narrow for the Savage Rascal scope mounts.

The mounts can attach to the Rascal without having to remove the rear sight, although sighting through it would be obscured by the mounts.


For a scope, I used the Weaver Classic Rimfire 4x28 Scope. The scope weighs 8.5oz. It is not the lightest four power scope on the market, but I wanted a high quality scope that would be reliable during travel through rough terrain. I attached the scope to the mounts with a set of Weaver Detachable Top Mount Rings. I used these rings because they were the lowest profile ones I could find. They bring the scope as far down to the barrel as possible while still allowing the bolt to clear the scope without any interference. I wanted a low mount because the rifle is light and a scope mounted higher up would make it top heavy. The downside to the low scope mount is that I had to remove the rear sight, which interfered with the scope. If you use higher scope rings, you should be able to keep it.


The final product is a basic, single shot, Savage Rascal with an extended full length stock an a fixed four power scope.


The reason the back of the stock looks slanted is because of the camera angle. In reality it is 90 degrees to the top of the stock.

The rifle with scope weighs 3lb 4oz. It is 32 3/4 inches in overall length. Here you can see it next to my Savage 93R17.


I’ve been shooting this rifle for a bit over a month now, and I’ve been very happy with it. The action on the Savage Rascal is much better than that of the Keystone Arms Crickett. It is virtually identical to the action on the full size Savage rifles. It is a double action rifle, so you do not need to set the pin manually like you do on the cricket. The safety is in the same location as the other Savage .22LR and .17HMR rifles. Unlike the Crickett, the Rascal has a feed ramp in the receiver, which guides the bullet into the chamber, and makes reloading much easier; a big plus considering this is a single shot rifle. The Rascal also has a vastly superior trigger. It is the standard Savage two stage acutrigger. It is adjustable down to a weight of 2lb 10oz, which makes for a very crisp trigger.

While the Pack Rifle Kit conversion for the Crickett made for an accurate rifle out to at least 50 yards, getting that kind of accuracy was not easy under field conditions, in large part due to the heavy trigger. With the Rascal, taking accurate shots at that range is much easier. At 50 yards, from a bench rest. even with low quality ammunition, you can easily get under one inch groups. With good ammunition, you can get well under one inch groupings at that range, which is impressive considering that this is a youth rifle that most people wouldn’t give a second thought to.

Is it an ultralight rifle? Well, you decide. It is certainly heavier than the Pack Rifle Kit (PRK) Crickett (1lb 4oz) or the Pack Rifle (1lb). At 2lb 9oz it is a pound and a half heavier than those rifles. It is however about half a pound lighter than the next lightest rifle, the Chiappa Little Badger (3 b), which is also a single shot .22LR rifle. Above three pounds we have what I would consider lightweight rifles, the Marlin 70PSS Papoose (3lb 4oz) and the Henry AR7 (3lb 8oz), both of which are semi-automatic. All of the rifles I have mentioned here have the advantage of being collapsible in that they can either be folded or have the barrel removed without tools. If you want to do that with the Rascal, you would need an tool. I don’t like collapsing rifles in the field because I find it effects accuracy, but it’s something to keep in mind. On the up side, the Rascal is probably more accurate than the other rifles listed with the possible exception of the Marlin 70PSS.

I think the Savage Rascal with modified stock is a good compromise between light weight, durability, and ease of use. I’ve only shot it at the range so far. Longer term use while hunting this fall will give me a better idea of any shortcomings it way have. I just wanted to toss it out there as an option for you guys. 

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