By Bruce Buck
One thinks of Savage more in terms of rifles than shotguns, but shotguns certainly have been part of the company’s history. It all started when Ansley H. Fox made his first shotguns in 1896. Fox left his third gun company in 1912, but his Fox Shotgun Company continued without him until 1929, when Savage bought it. Savage marketed the Fox Model B shotgun until 1988. Other than the Fox A Grade, made by Connecticut Shotgun Mfg. Co. from its RBL side-by-side, Savage basically stuck to rifles and let its subsidiary Stevens handle single-barrel, pump and over/under shotguns. Until now.
The Savage Renegauge gas-operated semi-auto is a new model, having been introduced this year. The claim is that it can handle 2¾”and 3″ shells equally while significantly reducing recoil. It comes in four versions: the Waterfowl, the Turkey Obsession, the Turkey Bottomland and the Field. The plain gray Field is our review gun and lists for $1,449, while the others are in different camouflages at $100 more.
The Renegauge has a new action design patented by Savage as the Dual Regulating Inline Valve, or D.R.I.V., system. Like other gas systems, it runs off of gas from the fired shell bled from the barrel pushing a piston that drives the bolt carrier to the rear and starts the reloading cycle. Standard stuff. But the way it does it is a bit different. The D.R.I.V. system consists of eight small barrel ports feeding two spring-loaded tubes under the barrel that bleed off excess barrel pressure while allowing the remaining correct pressure to push the piston-bolt assembly to the rear. This way the system operates under consistent pressure whether using 2¾” or 3″ shells of varying velocities.
The action body itself is aluminum. Inside, the action bar is a one-piece chrome-plated part consisting of the gas-piston sleeve, attaching rods and bolt. It is driven by a separate piston set in a chamber slung under the barrel. Because of the D.R.I.V. gas system, the extra energy often transferred into the stock by the action is avoided. Savage claims lower recoil is a result.
Maybe, but this is a good place to quickly discuss recoil. There are two types of recoil: calculated and felt. Calculated recoil consists of the weight of the gun, weight of the ejecta (shot, wad and so on) and speed of the ejecta. Nothing else. The action doesn’t matter. Felt recoil is what you sense when you fire the gun. Gunfit and face slap are important here, but so is the speed of the recoil. This is where gas guns help, because they spread out the recoil pulse over a longer period of time, producing more of a push than a poke. Gas-gun calculated recoil is the same as that of other shotguns with the same weights and shells, but felt recoil is less.
The Renegauge’s trigger body is plastic and contains a fairly standard semi-auto trigger layout. The trigger body is easily removable with just one punch pin. The cross safety is located just behind the trigger, but it was a little stiff to use. The trigger pull was 5 pounds, with a fair amount of creep before engagement.
The exterior of the action is a matte black with “Renegauge” and Savage’s address stamped on the left side. There is no off-putting coloring or cheap engraving.
Our Field gun’s barrel was 28″. It also is available in 26″. The exterior of the matte-black barrel is fluted in an attempt to reduce weight and give it a different look. The finish is melonite heat treated for durability. The ¼”-wide untapered rib is slightly raised. It is laser welded to the barrel, so it won’t come loose. There is a red “inchworm” sight up front and no middle bead.
The interior barrel diameter measures .726″, almost the nominal 12-gauge .729″. No trendy overboring here. Three flush-mount Trulock screw chokes come with the gun: Improved Cylinder, Modified and Full. Those measure .010″, .021″ and .031″. Again, pretty much dead on the nominal dimensions for those chokes.
In addition to the D.R.I.V. action, the other big difference with the Renegauge is the stock and its ability to adjust for fit. The gun comes with three replaceable rubber combs and three different-length recoil pads and spacers. The pads can alter the length from 14½” to 14¾” to ١٥”. One replaceable comb comes with a standard drop of ١11⁄16″ at the nose to 2¼” at the back of the comb. The second comb has the same drop at the nose but is parallel. And the third comb is raised about an inch more than the others at the nose and then is parallel. This comb might be suitable for trap.
The manual does not mention how to replace the combs, and it is not obvious from looking at them. A quick call to Savage advised that I simply twist the rear of the comb to the side and pull up. With a little fuerza bruta, off it came. Putting it back on was more of the same.
Make & Model: Savage Renegauge Field
Action: Gas-operated semi-auto
Finish: Matte black with minimal stamped lettering
Barrel length: 28″
Weight: 8 pounds 2 ounces
Chokes: Three screw-in flush chokes
Stock: Pistol grip, replaceable rubber pads and combs
Accessories: Case, chokes, three recoil pads and three combs, manual, one-year warranty
Price as tested: $1,449
In addition to the three replaceable combs and three recoil pads, the stock comes with four sets of shims to adjust for cast-off, cast-on and different degrees of height. These are also not mentioned in the manual.
Most newer semi-autos come with shims to adjust cast and height, but the Renegauge’s extra combs and recoil pads are a rare addition. Today many target-gun makers use an adjustable comb to alter height and cast. Savage’s replaceable combs certainly look better, but there is more flexibility in an adjustable comb.
The Renegauge comes in a sturdy PVC takedown case that should defeat the most aggressive baggage handlers. Inside the case you get the little box of three chokes, two extra recoil pads and spacers, two extra combs, four sets of stock shims, a magazine plug and some extra stock screws.
A brief manual is supplied but, as mentioned, it fails to cover a few important things. The warranty is for one year to the original owner.
Shooting the gun was interesting. To start, our Field model weighed 8 pounds 2 ounces. That is target-gun weight. You certainly wouldn’t want to haul that around in the field for very long unless you were using a sling, for which the gun has swivels. A better fit might be for waterfowling or turkey hunting—pursuits that rate their own Renegauge camo patterns.
The first thing I noticed when handling the gun was the balance. The Renegauge is exceptionally barrel heavy. A heavy gun can handle well when it is centrally balanced, but when so much of the weight is up front, the gun requires noticeable extra effort to swing and follow-through. On long shots this just meant pushing harder. On short shots, using my usual shooting techniques and holding points, I had more trouble connecting.
The 5-pound trigger pull was OK, but the take-up creep before engagement was not. Between the heavy-barrel balance and the trigger timing, I struggled with the gun. Certainly the Renegauge can be made to perform, but the shooter has to adapt. With a very different swing speed, you will find that your pickup points must change. In the field, where pickup points vary so much, the main difference will be noticeably increased swing effort. A lighter barrel on this gun would be a game changer.
The gun is claimed to have low recoil. It certainly was softer than that of most light field guns; then again it weighs a pound more than most of them.
On the plus side, the gun functioned reliably with all sorts of ammo, including light target reloads. The D.R.I.V. system surely works. The excellent Trulock chokes stayed in place and were correctly sized. The replaceable recoil pads were most convenient, and the replaceable combs offered interesting options. The price of $1,449 is about $300 less than that of the popular Beretta A400.
With many of the internal parts chrome plated and the mainspring up front on the magazine tube instead of in the stock, the gun is simple to clean. The single piston is what gets dirty, and that is an easy-access part.
In all, the Savage Renegauge looks like a good gun mechanically. Barrel weight is a personal thing and may require some getting used to. It really isn’t for open field carry but might do better in the duck blind.
For more information, contact Savage Arms.