Savage Model 212 12 Gauge Slug Gun

By Randy Wakeman

Savage Model 212
Photo by Randy Wakeman.

There has been a renewed interest in slug guns of late; the Savage Model 220, 20 gauge slug gun has been part of the reason for it. Introduced in late 2009, the Savage Model 220F (now apparently called simply the �220�) was quite an achievement. The new 212, along with the 220, joins the extended Savage �Specialty Series� of hunting rifles, which includes the Bear Hunter, Predator Hunter, Long Range Hunter and the Model 11 Lightweight Hunter. For starters, let's list the basic specifications of the Model 212.


        Savage 212, SKU 19042

        Gauge: 12 Gauge

        Rate of Twist: 1:35

        Barrel length: 22 inches

        Overall length 43.135 inches

        Unloaded weight: 7.45 pounds

        Magazine capacity: 2 + 1

        2011 MSRP: $606


The blued, composite stocked version tested was supplied complete with two-piece Weaver style scope bases installed, the stock featuring the Savage �P.A.D.� recoil pad. The familiar Savage bolt action has a three position safety and features the well-known Savage AccuTrigger. The 212's AccuTrigger broke at a pleasingly crisp 3-1/4 lbs., so even though it is user-adjustable, no adjustment was necessary. Rather than a bolt release on the side of the receiver, the new 212 has the bolt release neatly nested at the front of the trigger guard.


The 212 has a smooth, satin finish blued barrel with no iron sights, so this slug gun is intended for scope use only. The 212 is a long action, so you'll want to use a full length scope with approximately a six inch mounting distance with the factory Savage two-piece bases, like the Bushnell Elite 3200 I've installed above. Alternatively, get an EGW one-piece rail for about forty dollars and you can mount almost any optic.


The factory test target from Savage showed a sub-MOA three shot group out of this rifle with Remington Accu-Tip ammo, so there was little question that the 212 was going to shoot with the ammo it liked. I have Federal Premium Barnes 3/4 oz. 1900 fps stated velocity slugs on hand, along with Winchester 2000 fps XP3 300 grain, Winchester 1900 fps 7/8 oz. Partition Gold and Winchester 1800 fps 375 grain Dual Bond loads to test. All of these shells have 2-3/4 inch length hulls.


My shoulder still sufficiently tenderized from my bout with the harsh-shooting Browning A-Bolt Slug gun, the first ammunition tested was what I had hoped to be a bit more pleasant to shoot, the 3/4 oz. (328 grain) Federal loads. They are significantly softer shooting than the rest of the tested rounds, but the Federal Premium 3/4 oz. Barnes loads shot horribly. The groups sprayed all over the place, most of the rounds going through the target sideways, so for whatever reason this load failed to stabilize out of the 212's barrel.


All three Winchester loads shot far better, more than sufficient for �minute of whitetail,� and all of them were harsh kicking. The easy winner, out of this specific rifle, was the 1800 fps Winchester Dual bond 375 grain round, which had no problem nearly touching holes shot after shot. Based on published Winchester ballistics, this is a 167 yard, six inch kill zone, maximum point blank range load.


The 212 is essentially identical in length and weight to its 20 gauge counterpart, the 220. It is a bit softer shooting than the recently evaluated Browning A-Bolt, attributed to its slightly heavier weight and substantially better recoil pad. Still, it is uncomfortable to shoot and is not remotely an enjoyable target gun, which can be said about 12 gauge slug guns as a class. Currently, the better 20 gauge slug loads and the better 12 gauge slug guns have essentially identical ballistics. There is no reason to opt for a 12 gauge slug gun compared to the far more pleasant shooting 20 gauge slug offerings, unless you just think you want a 12 gauge. There is no tangible difference, except that current 20 gauge offerings are a lot more fun to shoot and have slimmer stocks and barrels.


The Savage three-position safety is superior to many two-position tang or thumb safeties, in that the bolt is mechanically locked closed when the safety is in the fully rearward position. This means that thick cover cannot unlock your action by snagging your bolt. Further, the action can be cycled when the safety is still engaged in the middle position. The gun can only be fired with the safety fully forward and the gun has the additional safety advantage inherent in the AccuTrigger. All firearms need to be treated with respect and it can only be the user who is responsible for loading any firearm in accordance with manufacturer's specifications. That said, Savage's one hundred percent proof testing, three-position tang safety and the AccuTrigger make Savage bolt action rifles among the safest on the market.


With an affordable price, smooth action, outstanding trigger and satisfying accuracy, you might think that it would be effortless to highly recommend the Savage 212. That would generally be the case, were it not for the Savage 220 that brings along the fundamental features of the 212 at an even more attractive price, equal or better accuracy and markedly less recoil. If you are looking for a high performance 12 gauge slug gun, this is it. However, in a practical sense, the Savage Model 220 20 gauge slug gun is a better handling platform. It is nice to have choices, though, and Savage Arms now gives you two extremely competent slug guns.

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Copyright 2011 by Randy Wakeman. All rights reserved.