Savage Arms offers a number of affordable rifles beginning with the Savage Axis and the impressive Axis II. The Savage Model 12 is a formidable rifle that may be called a rifle for shooters rather than hunters. The machining and heat-treating of the receiver are a step above that of other Savage bolt-action rifles. The bolt is more massive and features opposed locking lugs. Bolt lift is 90 degrees. A feature I particularly like is the oversize bolt handle. The rifle’s bolt and receiver are impressive for those with an eye to quality.
When it comes to rifle calibers, I strongly prefer the .30 caliber as an all around projectile. Whether it is a .30-06 Springfield or .300 Savage, there is an ideal bullet for each loading. I am a handloader, so the projectile means more than the caliber.
The cartridge case simply contains the individual loading. That said, if I were to have to rely on factory loads, the .308 Winchester would be my favorite. The .308 Winchester was designed to offer performance similar, or equal to, the .30-06 Springfield in a shorter more efficient case. The .300 Savage had been developed to offer much the same thing—.30-06 performance in a short action.
The .308 Winchester, then, is similar to the .300 Savage in many ways but more highly developed and with more energy. The .308 is a powerful number that is very accurate and effective at long range. In the right rifle, the cartridge will win a match or take game home. While there are other cartridges that offer impressive performance, I am hopelessly tied to the .308. I have not yet exhausted my experiments with the cartridge and own several nice rifles in this caliber. The moderate pressure, good economy, modest recoil, and overall good-to-excellent accuracy have endeared the .308 to this shooter.
The rifle features a three-position tang-mounted safety. The rifle may be loaded and unloaded with the safety on. The integral magazine is rugged, well protected from damage, and designed for positive feed. Capacity is four .308 Winchester cartridges.
The Savage AccuTrigger offers excellent adjustment and a clean, even break that is free from creep and over travel. I adjusted my trigger to a clean 2.75 pounds. The barrel is forged and then cut and finished from a heavy barrel blank. The result is a stiff barrel that offers excellent accuracy potential.
The chamber is precision cut as well. The barrel features a 1 in 10 twist to handle a wide variety of bullet weights. I have used bullets as light as 150 grains in this rifle, but it seems the 168- to 175-grain weights offer the best accuracy. The barrel is 26 inches long.
Those familiar with the Savage rifle, beginning with the Model 110, know that Savage bolt guns feature a distinctive barrel nut. This barrel nut is part of a process that makes the Savage rifle easier to properly assemble than traditional rifles, but which has also led to excellent accuracy potential.
The stock is a modern synthetic stock that does the business as well as any and better than most. The stock is thick and offers excellent control from the bench or when firing from the prone position. The rifle weighs 8 ¼ pounds, which is heavy but not as heavy as some bull barrel guns. The mission is precision!
I added a Nikon Buckmaster riflescope. This scope is remarkably affordable yet carries the Nikon name. The field of view is 11.3 to 33.8 feet at 100 yards depending on which of the 3 x 9 magnification settings are used. Eye relief is 3.6 inches. Weight is 13.1 ounces. The overall length is 12.3 inches. The Buckmaster features tight ¼-inch click adjustments to bring the scope to zero.
I set the scope up and bore sighted it, intending to do the final adjustment at the range. I dry fired the rifle at length. I found a smooth action that feeds well. The magazine is a little difficult to load to full capacity, but quite easy to load the first three rounds. Most of the groups were fired with three cartridges. The bolt turns 90 degrees to unlock. In testing, the trigger action, while dry firing the trigger, was very crisp with no creep or backlash and a short take-up.
I began the firing test with a handload comprised of the Hornady 150-grain SST and enough Varget powder for 2,700 fps. I sighted the rifle in at 50 yards, then moved the target and confirmed the zero at 100 yards. I had along a half-dozen of my own handloads and promising factory ammunition.
During the test period, I had a single failure to feed from a magazine loaded with four cartridges, but otherwise, the going was smooth. I fired three-shot groups and waited for the barrel to cool between shots. In firing 100 cartridges during the day-long range session, I did not clean the barrel but ran a clean patch through the barrel every 20 cartridges or so. Results were excellent.
I cannot recall better performance from a heavy barrel rifle. The groups fired were good to excellent. The single best three-shot group of the day was .78 inch with the Hornady Black 168-grain A Max loading. Before closing for the day, I replicated this group in another firing string.
I also fired the factory 150-grain SST loading with excellent results. The Hornady American Whitetail load went into a tight 1.0 inch. I fired the rifle at both shorter and longer ranges and against steel plates with excellent results. The reticle is easy to use to aim under or over to achieve good results. The rifle handled well offhand, despite its weight. The wide forend and excellent trigger make for good results.
I would like to say my handloads beat the Hornady factory load, but they did not. A load using IMR 4895 and the Hornady 168-grain A Max has proven well suited to the Springfield M1A. In the Savage rifle, I fired a three-shot group of .85 inch. I have experimented with heavy bullet load in the .308 Winchester. For short-range use against the heaviest animals, they have merit.
The 220-grain Sierra bullet was tested. While a non-standard weight, accuracy was good, with a single, .9 inch, three-shot group at 100 yards. As might be expected, recoil was negligible. I like the advantage of the three-position safety in loading and unloading.
The oversize bolt handle is a great feature. If I were going to change anything, I would like a higher comb on the stock, but as issued the rifle is comfortable and a good performer. The Savage Model 12 is a super-accurate rifle with much to recommend.
Savage rifles and the Accu Trigger are both legendary and deadly accurate, and the Savage Model 12 is no exception. Share your Savage story in the comment section.
Sign up for K-Var’s weekly newsletter and discounts here.