Guns and Gear

Gun Test: Savage 12 Model Varmint Rifle

Mike Piccione
Editor, Guns & Gear

By the National Rifle Association

Savage Arms has long enjoyed a reputation for making quality affordable rifles, but often was viewed as being a few rungs below the big-name rifle manufacturing firms of Winchester, Remington and Ruger. Things began to change for Savage, however, in 1995.

Having led the company out of bankruptcy, Savage President and CEO Ron Coburn focused the company on making a new, improved Savage bolt gun. Word quickly spread that this plain vanilla rifle was accurate—tack-driving accurate. With its reputation for accurate barrel building, Savage tackled the other half of the long-range accuracy shooting equation—the trigger. Savage set its sights on manufacturing target-quality triggers and, in 2002, introduced the AccuTrigger.

For safety, the AccuTrigger incorporates what Savage bills as an integrated AccuRelease: a slim blade through the trigger bow that, when depressed, unblocks the sear and allows the trigger to function. On varmint rifles, the AccuTrigger is adjustable down to an incredibly light 1.5 pounds, with no discernable creep and a crisp break. The new Savage Model 12 Varminter Low Profile Single Shot rifle incorporates this feature and many more.

The Varminter submitted for evaluation was a stainless-steel short-action, laminated-stock varmint rifle chambered in .204 Ruger.

The first order of business was to adjust the trigger, which is accomplished by turning the adjustment screw. The trigger has a limited range of adjustment from 1.5 to 6 pounds, and it can’t be over-adjusted at either end of its range.

The wood laminate stock features dual pillar bedding and the barrel channel is sufficiently relieved to free-float the barrel. Designed for benchrest shooting, the low-profile rifle’s pistol grip swoops down to a near-90 degree angle from the sighting plane with palm swells on either side, but is totally devoid of checkering or any type of grip enhancement. The fore-end is straight and of generous size and features a front sling swivel stud.

Savage has made some great improvements on the finish of its bolt-action rifles in recent years. The Varminter is not as butter-smooth as several other mass-produced rifles on the market, but it is a vast improvement over the old Savage 110 of a few years ago.

The Model 12 Varminter’s action is CNC-machined from a billet of 400 series stainless steel and features a push-feed style bolt with a sliding-plate extractor and a spring-loaded plunger-type ejector.

The legendary affordability and accuracy of Savage rifles is the result of several things, one of which is the large barrel nut that attaches the barrel to the receiver. One of the most significant advantages to this unique approach is streamlined production time and lower costs. Additionally, Savage’s approach to barrel manufacturing is quite conducive to accuracy. After drilling and contouring, Savage puts each barrel through a precision reaming process that ensures each bore is uniform and of exacting dimensions. The rifling is formed by the button-rifling process, wherein a steel button with the reverse profile of the rifling’s lands and grooves on its surface is drawn through the bore. The end result is a smoothly surfaced and uniformly rifled bore. The Varminter is fitted with a 26-inch fluted stainless steel heavy barrel with a 1:12-inch right-hand twist.

We tested the rifle in the new .204 Ruger chambering on the range and experienced no malfunctions of any kind. It displayed excellent accuracy, possibly aided by the adjustable trigger that broke cleanly when set at 1 pound, 8 ounces with no discernable creep.

Overall, we were impressed with the .204 Ruger Model 12 Varminter. For anyone in the market for a no-nonsense, accurate varmint rifle that requires no additional work right out of the box, the Savage Model 12 Varminter Low Profile Single Shot is well worth a look.

Manufacturer: Savage Arms; (413) 568-7001; www.savagearms.com

Caliber: .204 Ruger (tested),.223 Rem., .22-250 Rem.

Action Type: bolt-action

Receiver: 400 series stainless steel

Barrel: 26″ fluted stainless steel heavy barrel

Rifling: six-groove, 1:12″ RH twist

Magazine: single-shot

Sights: none

Trigger Pull: adjustable from 1 lb., 8 ozs. to 6 lbs.

Stock: target-style wood laminate with ambidextrous palm swells, dual pillar bedding: length of pull, 141⁄4″; drop at heel, 11⁄4″, drop at comb, 1″

Overall Length: 461⁄4″

Weight: 10 lbs.

Accessories: trigger adjustment tool, manual

Suggested Retail Price: $752

Thanks to our friends at American Rifleman, and please visit their site http://www.americanrifleman.org.