Petzal: Savagery in South Dakota

I started out as a varmint hunter, and the thrill of persecuting rodents has never dulled. Last week, I was the guest of Savage Arms at the Buffalo Buttes Ranch (run by Gregory and Colleen Springer) near Gregory, S.D., where I got to put the power to a fairly tasteless number of prairie dogs courtesy of a Savage rifle that I had not seen before, and which impressed me as much as it did the rodents, or perhaps more, since I'm alive and they're not.

It's called the Model 12 Long Range Precision Varminter Dual Port, and is a remarkably well thought out piece of ordnance. The rifle is a single-shot bolt-action with the oversized bolt handle on the right side, but it can be loaded either from the left or right side, which means a southpaw like me can cycle those rounds through fast when the spirit is on him. The Model 12 (etc.) has a 1-inch diameter fluted barrel, no taper that I can see, and a 1 in 9 twist in .223. It's 26 inches long, and the rifle weighs 12 pounds.

Savage has equipped the Model 12 (etc.) with an H-S Precision synthetic stock, and a Target Accu-Trigger which adjusts from 6 ounces to 2.5 pounds. These are the bare facts. There are two other parts to the equation: With the exception of the dual-side loading, this rifle matches, feature for feature, a prairie dog rifle I had Kenny Jarrett build in the late 1980s, which I've always considered the ideal gun for that use. Second, I got hardly any chance to shoot it on paper, but I think it may be a world-beater and Savage is sending it to me so I can wring it out. The price is $1,273, which I consider a bargain, and you can see it at savagearms.com

(An aside: Many prairie dogs hunts involve staying at motels that would frighten Norman Bates and eating at places where there are dead things on the grill that you can't put a name to. Buffalo Buttes, on the other hand, is a first-rate place to stay, and Mrs. Springer is a hell of a cook. springer@gwtc.com)