A couple of months back, the Savages took me on a prairie dog hunt and the evening before the shooting started I was handed a new version of the Model 12 Series Varmint in .223 to sight in. I did so, and what I saw 100 yards away in the fading light caught my interest–all five shots went in one ragged hole. Could this, I wondered, be the long-sought factory rifle that would break the ½-moa mark?
So when the hunt was over, I asked Savage for a loaner so I could beat on it at length with a variety of ammo and, after a suitable delay they gave me one with 600 rounds through it, also in .223. Now, before I tell you how I did, I should describe the rifle.
The Model 12 SLRPVDP is a lineal descendent of the Model 12, which won our Best of the Best award in 2006. It’s a single-shot with an oversized bolt knob, an H-S Precision Varmint stock with an aluminum bedding block (and three bedding screws), a special Accu-Trigger that can be set from 6 ounces* to 2.5 pounds, a 26-inch, deeply-fluted, extra-heavy 26-inch stainless barrel** and a ball-breaking weight of 12 pounds. “Dual Port” refers to the slots cut on both sides of the action, enabling a right-handed shooter to load from the left and eject the empties from the right. This was developed for benchrest shooters who want to get their five shots downrange as fast as possible, and is also good for prairie dog hunters whose blood is up.
This rifle is exactly what you’d get if you went to a cutting-edge builder of varmint gunss, gave him $5,000, and asked for his best effort, except that the Model 12, etc., costs $1,273.
The one I was loaned has a Picatinny rail on it, and I strongly recommend this. The scope I mounted is one of the new Bushnell Elite 6500s in 4.5X-30X with mil dots. A better varmint scope I have not seen, and neither have you.
And so to shooting***. I first fired five varieties of reasonably low-rent factory ammo through the Model 12 and so forth, and it responded by doing its own version of projectile vomiting. However, with the very first handload, it announced that it was the rifle I had been looking for all these years. I was shooting 50-grain Nosler Ballistic Tips, W 748 powder, Remington brass, and CCI 450 primers, and the groups averaged .293, with the smallest group .251.
So now the question was whether it was a one-load rifle. It is not. Using various combinations of W 748, RelodeR 7, Berger bullets, Winchester brass, CCI BR4 primers, and some match bullets that gunmaker Mickey Coleman gave me and whose maker I have forgotten, I was able to get comparable groups with ease. The overall average for everything is .306-inch, and is just about what I get from my varmint rifles that cost a hell of a lot more than $1,273. If I had used prepped cases, the groups would have been smaller.
The Model 12 etcetera also comes in .22/250, which will probably not shoot quite as well (it being axiomatic that the more powder you burn the bigger the groups), .204 Ruger (your guess is as good as mine; I am not a fan) and 6mm Norma BR (which may actually shoot a little better). In any event, this particular rifle is the most accurate one I have ever shot that you could buy over the counter, and after 40-plus years of writing about these things, that is saying quite a lot.
*You can set it at that weight, but it will malfunction. The trigger will release but the sear won’t. Twelve to 18 ounces will do you fine.
**Savage, which still button-rifles and hand-straightens its barrels, takes some extra pains with these.
***Temperature in the 70s, and no wind at all.