Savage Model 12 F-Class Open Precision Target Rifle
By the Guns and Shooting Online Staff
Savage has produced target rifles in bygone years, but their pair of Model 12 F-Class Precision Target Rifles are the first in the modern Savage era. Based largely on the successful Model 12 Long Range Precision Varminter, these F-Class rifles are available in styles optimized for F-T/R ("target rifle" class) and F-Class Open matches. (See the "Competition and Marksmanship" section of the Rifle Information Page for more information about F-Class target shooting.) Our test rifle is the Open class version chambered for the recently standardized 6.5mm-284 Norma cartridge. This cartridge dominates long range, particularly 1000 yard, F-Class Open matches.
Savage is also making Target Actions available separately, with .223 or standard bolt heads, for those who want to custom build a rifle. These right hand bolt actions can be had with either right or left loading/ejection ports. We are, in fact, considering ordering one of these actions for a future Guns and Shooting Online project rifle to be built by our Gunsmithing Editor, Rocky Hays. That project will be featured in an article, if we decide to proceed, at some later date.
The Savage Precision Target Rifles are intended to enhance Savage's reputation as "the definition of accuracy." These serious match rifles incorporate the basic features necessary for success in the highly competitive and rapidly growing game of F-Class shooting. As such, they are designed to win, and they can do so for thousands of dollars less that the custom built rifles that have dominated F-Class competition in the past. Savage sponsored shooters such as Susannah Clary, who is a founding member of Guns and Shooting Online's Competition Department, are demonstrating just how effective this new Open Class Model 12 can be in the hands of an expert shot.
Next year Rocky Hays, who is also a member of our Competition Department, will be shooting the Savage Model 12 rifle reviewed here in selected F-Class Open matches representing Guns and Shooting Online. We will be using the products of Oregon-based shooting sports manufacturers whenever possible in this effort, including Leupold competition scopes, Warne scope bases and Nosler match bullets and brass.
That being the case, we requested a rifle with a special right hand bolt and a left hand loading/ejection port instead of the usual right bolt, right port layout. Rocky prefers the right/left option for competitive shooting and we have all become enamored of that design from our experience with our Savage Custom Shop/G&S Online Model 12 Varmint rifle. (A review of that rifle can be found on the Product Review Page.)
Savage Arms graciously complied with our request, commenting that a number of other F-Class shooters have also ordered the same set-up. Consequently, our F-Class rifle came via the Savage Custom Shop, which puts together rifles in response to (reasonable) special requests. In all other respects our test rifle is the same as the standard right bolt, right port version.
These rifles are, to say the least, impressive when first removed from the box. If size matters, this rifle is a winner. The 30" super-heavy barrel, massive receiver, extra wide laminated stock and oversize bolt handle all make a visual, as well as practical, statement.
The oversize tubular receiver has a small loading/ejection port on its left side. This small port means a very slightly stiffer receiver and the potential for even greater intrinsic accuracy than other Savage Model 12 rifles. The right bolt, left ejection design makes the rifle easier to load and unload at a bench rest. The bolt itself is a conventional Savage two lug, push feed type with a plunger ejector mounted in the bolt face. Its smooth bolt handle is oversized for easy acquisition. The safety is a three-position slider mounted on the tang. Bolt removal requires pulling the trigger fully rearward while depressing a tab at the right rear of the receiver and withdrawing the bolt.
The red-blade Target AccuTrigger is adjustable between 0.5 and 1.5 pounds. It is clean and devoid of creep or over travel. For this review, we used the handy (supplied) adjustment tool to set the trigger to its maximum pull weight of 1.5 pounds. For match use, Rocky will probably set the trigger pull weight for about 1 pound.
The 30", free-floating, button rifled barrel is about one inch in diameter for its entire length and makes the rifle very muzzle heavy. The barreled action is triple pillar bedded in the stock. The 3" wide forend is ventilated to speed heat dissipation and is absolutely flat on the bottom for maximum stability when shooting from a rest. (All F-Class Open matches are shot from the prone position using a rest under the forearm.) The underside of the butt stock is straight and flat from the bottom of the pistol grip to the toe to better accommodate a sandbag or other support, which is legal in F-Class.
Below are some basic specifications for the Savage Model 12 F-Class rifle.
For this review we fitted a Leupold 6.5-20x40mm AO Target scope with a 1/8 MOA target dot reticle to the big Savage using two-piece Weaver bases and Warne rings. For long range competition the standard Weaver bases will be replaced by a one-piece Warne +20 MOA base. This Leupold scope provides first class views of the target and the reticle allows very precise aiming at well-defined targets in good light, which is what is required of a good target scope. If you miss the X-ring with this combination, blame yourself rather than the rifle or scope.
Our new match dies for reloading 6.5-284 cartridges were back ordered for weeks, which effectively put this article on hold. Nosler was kind enough to send us a couple of boxes of their Custom factory loaded ammunition in 6.5-284 Norma for use in this review. We will be reloading 140 grain match bullets for serious long range shooting, but these Nosler Custom hunting loads using 120 grain Ballistic Tip bullets performed very well. We would like to take this opportunity to express our appreciation to the kind folks at Nosler for participating in this review.
Guns and Shooting Online staff members Rocky Hays, Jim Fleck, Bob Fleck and Nathan Rauzon performed the shooting chores. All shooting for record was accomplished at our usual testing site, the Izaak Walton gun range south of Eugene, Oregon. This outdoor facility offers ranges of 25, 50, 100 and 200 yards and solid bench rests from which to shoot. We shot our groups for record using a Caldwell Lead Sled DFT weighted with 50 pounds of lead shot. All groups consisted of three shots at 100 yards on Champion Score Keeper targets, standard fare for Guns and Shooting Online reviews. The fall weather was cold and damp, but at least it was not raining and there was no discernable wind.
Here are the shooting results with our Savage Model 12 F-Class Open Precision Target Rifle.
Remember, these results were achieved by four different shooters using factory loaded hunting, not match, ammunition and an un-tuned rifle right out of the box. Rocky shot the smallest group with the Savage Model 12 and had the smallest overall average group size (0.41"). This was as expected, since Rocky is the only person among us who has any centerfire rifle match shooting experience.
An interesting observation was that everyone's groups were unusually uniform. The extreme spread in group size between the smallest group and the largest group for Rocky was 3/8", for Nate it was 1/4", for Bob it was 1/8" and for Jim it was only 1/16". This caused us to speculate that the group sizes we shot were almost entirely a function of the individual shooter. Our impression was that the rifle was very consistent and the Nosler Custom ammunition a substantial cut above most hunting fodder.
Operating this rifle is identical to operating the Long Range Precision Varminter previously reviewed (see the Product Review Page). Loading is extremely easy; just drop the cartridge into the loading port and close the bolt. Feeding is perfect 100% of the time with the bullet slipping untouched into the chamber. We found the right bolt, left loading/ejection port to be very handy when shooting from a rest and we suggest that Savage make this a catalog option. As expected, there were no malfunctions of any kind.
In conclusion, we can only say that we believe these new Savage Precision Target Rifles are going to become very popular in the sport of F-Class shooting. They offer the basic features of the best custom target rifles at a fraction of the cost. Savage will not get rich selling these rifles, the market for specialized target rifles is simply too small and the production costs too high. However, to date no other manufacturer has stepped forward to offer competitive, reasonably priced, F-Class rifles. The Savage Model 12 F-Class Precision Target Rifles open this fastest growing of the shooting sports to a lot of men and women who otherwise could not afford a competition rifle. We commend Savage for their commitment to the future of our sport and for committing the resources necessary to produce these awesome rifles.
RIFLE REVIEW SUMMARY
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