The Savage Custom G&S Online
Model 12 Varmint Rifle

By the Guns and Shooting Online Staff

Savage G&S Online Model 12
The Savage Custom G&S Online Model 12 with Sightron scope. Photo by Chuck Hawks.

The first week of September 2006 saw the arrival at Guns and Shooting Online of a Savage Custom Model 12 varmint rifle. This eagerly anticipated special was inspired by the observations and suggestions we made in our review of the Savage Model 12 Long Range Precision Varminter and our follow-on article, "Compared: Three .223 Caliber Savage 12 Series Varmint Rifles," both of which you can find on the Product Reviews page.

We felt that the 28", no taper, 1" diameter barrel supplied on the Long Range Precision Varminter is too heavy to be really practical in the field, except under special circumstances. The Long Range Precision Varminter is basically a bench rest rifle.

We suggested that the Long Range Precision Varminter could be improved for use in the field by retaining the right hand bolt, left loading/ejecting action, but making the rifle shorter and lighter by shortening the barrel. We think that a varmint rifle should have a heavy barrel, but not necessarily an extra long barrel. We recommended a new 12 Series model built on the Long Range Precision Varminter action and stock, but with a 22"-24" fluted barrel of similar contour to that used on the 12BVSS.

After all, the longest barrel used on the .223 (5.56mm) M16/M16A2/M16A4 infantry rifles by the U.S. Army is 20", which is also the barrel length of the Colt AR-15 Match Target Rifles. Most civilian .223 caliber bolt action rifles come with 22"-24" barrels and 24" is the SAAMI specification test barrel length for .223 cartridges. A 26"-28" barrel is simply not necessary on a rifle chambered for a cartridge with the relatively small powder capacity of the .223 Remington.

We know that the good folks at Savage Arms read, and sometimes respond to, articles involving their products on Guns and Shooting Online. We also know that they pay close attention to feedback from Savage owners. Still, we were somewhat surprised when Savage's Brian Herrick wrote to us suggesting that he have the Savage custom shop build a rifle as per our suggestions for further testing and review on Guns and Shooting Online. Naturally, we jumped at the opportunity! A telephone conversation with Effie Sullivan, High Priestess of Customer Service at Savage finalized the details of the new rifle and the project was a "go."

One of those details was the exact barrel length. When questioned, half of our staff suggested a 24" barrel, while the other half favored a 22" tube. We compromised on a barrel length of 23".

On September 7th we took delivery of what we immediately dubbed the "Savage Custom Guns and Shooting Online Model 12 Varmint Rifle." (Or "G&S Online Model 12" for short.) Yeah, the name's a little long, not to mention pretentious, but how often does a major manufacturer offer to build you a rifle?

Included in the carton with our G&S Online Model 12 varmint rifle was a signed test target that showed a 0.20", 3-shot group fired at 100 yards using Federal factory loads with the 69 grain Sierra MatchKing bullet. That was both encouraging and somewhat intimidating, since we were to review the same rifle and doubted that we could equal that performance. Of course, we would be shooting hunting, not match, ammunition in the new rifle.

Here are the basic specifications of the Custom Guns and Shooting Online Model 12:

  • Type - Varmint rifle
  • Caliber - .223 Remington (.204 Ruger and .22-250 also available)
  • Action - Single shot; right hand bolt with left side loading/ejection port
  • Capacity - 1 round
  • Trigger - Savage AccuTrigger
  • Safety - Tang mounted, 3-position
  • Stock - H-S Precision Varmint, black composite, dual pillar bedding
  • Metal finish - Matte silver stainless steel
  • Barrel - 23" heavy contour, fluted, button rifled with 1 in 9" twist
  • Sights - None, drilled and tapped for scope bases
  • Overall Length - 43 1/8"
  • Length of Pull - 13 5/8"
  • Weight - Approximately 11 pounds (12 pounds with scope)
  • The G&S Online Model 12 is 3" shorter and about three pounds lighter than the Long Range Precision Varminter by which it was inspired, but it is still a heavy rifle. The weight bias is about 1.25" in front of the receiver. The addition of a scope and mount moved the balance back to a point about 1" in front of the receiver, which is not bad for a varmint rifle.

    The Action

    Speaking of actions, this right bolt/left eject Savage action is a seriously heavy action. I don't know what the receiver alone weighs, but it is considerable. The left eject action is essentially a heavy, thick walled steel tube with a small, oval ejection port cut into its left side and a heavy washer that serves as a recoil lug trapped between the barrel and the receiver. There is a lot more metal here than in a conventional Savage 110 action. No doubt this contributes to increased action stiffness, which (at least theoretically) contributes to increased intrinsic accuracy. The oversize bolt knobs of the left eject actions are drilled to reduce a tiny bit of weight.

    Savage G&S Online Model 12
    Look, Ma, big bolt handle but no ejection
    port! Illustration courtesy of Savage Arms.

    Being a single shot rifle, the G&S Online Model 12 receiver has no magazine cut-out, which further strengthens and stiffens the massive action. The lack of a magazine and follower also make the action supremely smooth to cycle and ultra reliable.

    The Savage Model 12 action features a fast lock time, an asset to practical accuracy. Another accuracy enhancing feature of all Savage Model 12 actions, right or left eject, is Savage's ultra precise method of attaching and headspacing the barrel to the receiver. This involves threading the barrel into the receiver and securing the assembly with what is essentially a large lock nut.

    Savage's superb AccuTrigger is the biggest asset to practical accuracy of all. It is user adjustable from approximately 1.5-6 pounds. The trigger of the G&S Online Model 12 broke at a clean 1-7/8 pounds as measured by an RCBS Precision trigger pull gauge.

    The safety is a three-position slider mounted on the tang where it is most convenient to operate. It is an excellent safety, even if it probably won't see much use on a single shot varmint rifle.

    Like all Savage 110 based actions, the Model 12 is a push feed design (any single shot bolt action needs to be a push feed design) using a three-piece bolt, two-piece firing pin, plunger ejector and sliding claw extractor mounted in the bolt face. This isn't the action I'd choose for a dangerous game rifle, but it has the right stuff for a varmint rifle.

    One thing that we have never favored is Savage's rather awkward system for bolt removal. This requires pulling the trigger fully rearward while depressing a tab at the right rear of the receiver and withdrawing the bolt. These three simultaneous actions require some fumbling around that is unnecessary with most bolt action rifles.

    The Stock

    The stock is a composite synthetic H-S Precision Varmint stock with a bedding block chassis CNC machined from aluminum alloy for increased rigidity. According to H-S Precision, the outer shell of the stock is a laminate of woven Kevlar, fiberglass cloth, uni-directional carbon fiber epoxy based gel coat and laminating resin. The core of the stock is an injection molded, fiberglass reinforced polyurethane foam. This stock is supplied with detachable sling swivel bases and a black rubber recoil pad. The barreled action is dual pillar bedded.

    Savage G&S Online Model 12
    H-S Precision fiberglass, Kevlar, and carbon fiber composite stock. Illustration courtesy of Savage Arms.

    This stock is much stiffer and far more satisfactory than the black injection molded plastic stocks found on so many rifles today. Its slightly rough surface texture also feels better in the hand and provides an excellent gripping surface. This stock is functionally equivalent to and lighter than a laminated hardwood stock.

    The Scope

    The G&S Online Model 12 was fitted with a Sightron SII 4-16x42mm AO Target riflescope. (See photo at top of page.) A full review of this fine optic can be found on the Scopes and Sport Optics index page.


    When choosing a Savage 12 series varmint rifle, it is not intrinsic accuracy (which is superb across the board), but other factors that should logically determine the model selected. We are undoubtedly biased, but the shorter, more compact Guns and Shooting Online Model 12 has become our favorite. With the convenience of the right bolt, left eject action, a rigid and lightweight stock and its handy 23" barrel, the G&S Online Model 12 makes both a supremely convenient rifle to shoot at the range and a formidable varmint rifle in the field.

    Guns and Shooting Online readers who wish to order a Savage G&S Online Model 12 for themselves may do so by telephoning Savage Arms at: (413) 568-7001. Ask for Effie Sullivan, the Customer Service Coordinator, and she will assist you with your order.

    Note: A full length review of the the Savage Custom Shop G&S Online Model 12 varmint rifle, with accuracy results, can be found on the Product Reviews page.

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