Boyds Heritage + Athlon Ares Upgrade (Savage 30-06)

I’ve got a killer upgrade package for my Savage 116 30-06 rifle utilizing a Boyds Heritage Stock, plus an Athlon Ares scope– and in this story we are going to put it all together!

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About the Project

I’ve had this factory Savage 30-06 for quite a while now. It’s been sitting around the shop in this “tupperware” type factory stock, and looking a little dull. I haven’t really taken it out much because, while it gets the job done, it doesn’t quite say “pick me up”. It’s lightweight, but a little too lightweight. It’s simple, but a little too simple. It’s not attractive, and off hand shooting could be enhanced.

I want to keep the setup relatively light, but still add some mass to steady it out, and I want to give it some luster.

To achieve my new goals, I’ve got a Boyds Heritage Hardwood stock, and an Athlon Ares ETR UHD 3-18×50. I’ll mount this scope with some new Athlon Precision Rings, and use the existing factory hardware. I’m sure this will get the job done, and on a budget! Speaking of budget DIY projects, be sure to check out the budget shooting and reloading playlist on the Ultimate Reloader YouTube channel!

About the Savage Factory Rifle

This rifle is still exactly as I bought it from a sporting goods store.

  • Savage 116 stainless 30-06 long action
  • 22″ stainless barrel
  • Simmons 3-9 scope (including the weaver bases & rings)

Overall this is a good deer hunting rifle, but it’s about to get better!

About The Upgrade

Here is the high level overview for this upgrade. I will upgrade the factory stock to a Boyds hardwood gunstock (Heritage Shape), and I will upgrade the scope to an awesome Athlon Ares ETR UHD 3-18, mounted on Athlon Precision Rings. I will use the existing hardware from the Savage factory rifle.

Let’s break down the specs and features of the upgrade components.

Boyds Heritage Hardwood Gunstock

The Heritage Savage 116 Hardwood Gunstock from Boyds is the perfect fit for this upgrade. It includes a top bolt release, blind magazine, staggered feed, and factory barrel channel.

From Boyds Website Listing:
Barrel Dimensions: Point A = 1 5/16″ and Point B = 3/4″
Center to Center of Action Screws: 5 1/16″
Over All Length of Part: 31 1/2″
Comes with Boyds’ 1/2″ Rubber Recoil Pad.

I decided to go with the Pepper Laminate. I think it will look fantastic with the stainless barreled action.

Athlon Ares ETR UHD 3-18

From the Athlon Ares ETR UHD Product Page:
Hunters and PRS shooters alike can benefit from a scope like the Athlon Ares ETR UHD 3-18×50, especially one with high end glass. Keep the edge in tough and low-light conditions with UHD glass and Advanced Fully-Multi Coated lenses. No matter how tiring the trek to your hunting spot or how brutal the PRS stage plan is, the Ares ETR’s locking windage turret and Precision Zero Stop will keep you on target. This 6x magnification range is ideal for those needing a great field of view on low power, and a high enough magnification to address long range targets.


Athlon Precision Scope Rings

Here’s some specs for these Athlon Precision rings:

  • Made in USA and machined into the cross-bolt, this ultra durable recoil lug eliminates ring shift in picatinny and weaver cross slots.
  • The optimum balance of weight savings and retention.
  • Aircraft Grade Aluminum provide extra strength and durability to handle the toughest terrain and offers lifetime of use.
  • Increased area across the flex point of the rings increases mating surface contact ensuring a no-slip lap free design.
  • Hard anodizing increases the rings durability and wear resistance. While producing a glare free matte finish.
  • Sport type: Hunting

The Upgrade A-Z

I’m ready to get started! Before taking this factory rifle apart, I made sure to capture the weight as it was right out of the box. The pre-existing configuration (with scope and rings) without a bipod weighed in at 7.60 lbs.

Do you think the finished product will still be a good lightweight hiker-hunter package?

Taking apart the Savage Factory Rifle

I started with removing the factory scope. To make the job easy, I used my Wheeler 55 piece gunsmithing screwdriver set.

The tear-down was easy. I started by loosening the screws that hold the clamps for the scope rings with the screwdriver, and then finished removing them by hand. Once I had the scope and rings removed, it was time to remove the barreled action.

There are 3 screws removed to uninstall the barreled action (the trigger guard screw, and the rear and front action screws). These are 5/32″ allen head. Once I had the barreled action out, I started to think about how it would settle into the new Boyds stock. To get on with that, I needed to remove the blind magazine from the Savage factory stock.

At first, the magazine didn’t want to budge. I honestly thought I may damage it. So I check out a video from Vaughn Precision (Curt Vaughn) to get info about how to remove the magazine from the old stock. It ended up needing to pry it out with a flat head screwdriver (thanks for the tip Curt)! If you face the same issue upgrading from your Savage factory stock, keep that in mind.

Once I had the old stock out of the way, I got right to the upgrade!

Stock Upgrade

We can now use the same parts and pieces to install the Savage 116 30-06 barrelled action into the new Boyds stock.

The first note I’ll make is that the magazine install was a bit tough. I had to drive it down with a ball peen hammer and punch. Before I really drove it into the stock, the bolt would not close. This is completely normal, and to be expected! Just giving it some additional taps set the magazine in nicely.

Now, installing the barreled action was easy. Simply reinstall the screws! The barreled action in the new stock looks great. I performed a basic function check, and it passed. Onto the scope!

Optics Upgrade

As I was testing the rings to make sure they would fit the weaver bases, I found that a base screw was loose by about a quarter turn! I can’t have that sneaking loose on me if I want to rely on this rifle shooting accurately. I decided to Loctite the bases down!

With the bases secure, I started the screws for the scope rings, getting them hand tight.
I followed that up, torqueing the rings down with the Wheeler Fat Stix to 65 inch lbs,
I like to push forward on the rings while I torque down.

I made sure the scope was set just right for the eye relief I wanted, and then installed the scope ring caps. To get the gaps even on both sides, pull down on the one side and screw down on the opposite side – then go to the opposite corner and repeat (ending up with even ring gaps on both sides!. This time I used the Wheeler Fat Wrench to torque down the caps to 19 inch lbs.

Wheeler Tools for the Scope Install


It’s still relatively lightweight, but still has some more mass to it

Shotting and Conclusion

With the new scope installed, I headed up to our 100 yard mid-mountain range to zero the rifle. I’ve got the system down now, so it didn’t take long to get things dialed-in!

It was fun to shoot this rifle after the upgrade. The Heritage stock really improved the weight, balance, ergonomics, and appearance for this rifle. The scope is a HUGE upgrade as well. Now I have 18 power on the high-end for magnification, twice the old max magnification of 9 power! I also have an illuminated holdover reticle which will make longer-range shooting much easier.

Here’s the final product:

When I see this rifle, the first thing that comes to mind is: Let’s go deer hunting!

Get the Gear

Boyds Heritage Hardwood Gunstock for Savage 116

Athlon Eres ETR 3-18x50mm UHD Scope

Athlon Precision Scope Rings (I used 34mm low rings for this project)

Wheeler tools used in this story:



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