by Mark Trope
Figure 1. Savage Model
12 Benchrest, Weaver 36X scope, SEB rifle rest, SEB rear bag, Caldwell arm
& elbow bags, Caldwell coated cleaning rod
In the last century there were two large, American
manufacturers that produced centerfire rifles that were match-ready, right
out-of- the-box (Note.1). All one had to do was mount the metallic sights or
scope of his or her choice; and go compete. (Note.2).
Because there were no computer numerical control (CNC)
machines in those days, building such arms was actually a loosing proposition!
The factory’s made no real profit on such guns! Each one required major hand
fitting. Only the very best (and most expensive) men could fit a gun that was
ready to compete when the customer received it.
Of course it begs the question: why even bother producing an
arm that actually lost the company money for each rifle shipped? The
answer is simple. Producing an arm that wins national & international
matches is on of the very best forms of advertisement!
Although every one of those arms actually cost the factory
money, they more then made it back by selling literal train carloads of bread
& butter sporters for each match rifle produced. The reputation gained by
those winning match rifles caused fellows to look to the same company when a
new deer rifle was needed. But, times changed. Many factors juggled for
position, and in the end, the big factories slowly got out of the business of
producing true match rifles (Note.3). However, one other large American
company decided to get into the factory-built, match rifle business.
sat up and took notice. They saw there was a huge need for a factory-produced
rifle, which, right-out-of-the-box was capable of winning factory-class
matches. Savage talked to the men and women that were competing in these
events. They were not shy in telling Savage the most desirable features of
rifle actions; stocks, triggers and barrels. Savage got a picture of the
type of guns they should be producing to get a factory-class shooter
into the winner’s circle.
Savage Arms actually listened to their customers!
Instead of giving the customer what the company thinks you need; they
give the customer what the customer wants, and in doing so, satisfied a growing
segment of the shooting sports.
They also understood that such rifles needed to be regular
production items. Dealers specializing in match guns would have them on the
shelf. However, any man or woman wanting one would only need to see their
local dealer and place an order. The local dealer could get the gun in short
Of course, there is always the customer that just has
to build his or her own! For those folks, Savage wisely decided to make the
action available as a separate item (Note.4), and let the customer barrel and
stock it as they please.
Triggers are always a sticking point on factory guns. Even
the arms available with adjustable triggers usually suffer from very limited
adjustment range; or even more odious, the adjustable trigger is sealed with an
epoxy so strong, heat is the only way to loosen the screws! Usually, these
triggers are simply replaced with an aftermarket unit on match rifles. The
match rifle wants a very light, crisp pull. The way to achieve that is with
minimal sear engagement. In a traditional trigger, minimal sear engagement can
be a bit dodgy. If dropped or jarred hard, the gun can
Savage already had its revolutionary AccuTrigger. The
AccuTrigger has minimal sear engagement, but a very clever way to make
sure the only way the rifle is going to discharge is when the shooter wants it
to. The AccuTrigger has a steel lever, (called the AccuRelease) inside the
trigger that must be depressed before the arm can fire. Unless the AccuRelease
is depressed the sear is positively blocked!
Figure 2. Savage
warning, the trigger is light
Savage took the AccuTrigger one step farther in their target
rifle series. They produced a special version that adjusts from about 6 oz to
Figure 3. Front of Savage stock is a full 3 inches wide
Stocks are another area where builders almost always tossed
the factory stock aside. Savage watched & listened. They produce stocks
with the features and shape that are in line with current state-of-the-art
ideas. The front is a full 3-inches wide, and has vents on the sides and
bottom. The proportions and angle of the palmswell put the hand in a natural
position. Savage’s benchrest stock is made to not only be functional as far as
how a shooter holds and interacts with it; but it also fits and interfaces with
the current state-of-the-art rests and rear bags. It’s also very attractive!
Savage Arms brought it all
together in the new series of rifles. Quite frankly, there is no secret or
trick to making an accurate, match winning, ma’am-a-jama rifle! The
information is in the open. All it takes is bringing all the best design
features of barrels, actions, triggers, stocks, etc. together. Under no
circumstances should there ever be any compromising on quality assurance. Do
those things, and a rifle will succeed.
With all this going for it;
Savage Arms has taken the factory class by storm. Team Savage has racked up an
impressive list of wins! Team Savage recently won the 2010 F T/R National Championship
by taking the team competition. Team Savage won both the 600 and 1,000-yard
events, establishing a new 1,000-yard record of 778-21X. Consider: Team
Savage is shooting stock, regular production Model 12 rifles. They are
many men and women that paid important money for custom built rifles. But,
Team Savage is winning with rifles exactly the same as a rifle you or I
can buy off the shelf. That says a lot!
Savage Arms got into this market niche at just the right
time. Things are easier today then ever before. Steel, both stainless and
carbon are light years ahead of the steels of 50, and even 40 years ago.
Remember the days when a car that had 90,000 miles on it could almost be
counted on to have some bad valves and burn some oil? Today, a car with 90,000
is almost a virgin! The metal technology is simply better today. Now, a CNC
machine can’t hold tolerance any better then a skilled, dedicated man. The
difference is the CNC machine can do it much faster. That translates into a
lower cost to the customer, and a profit to the manufacturer.
in the past meant inexpensive plastic. Today’s Polymer’s are a different breed
of cat altogether. The resins used to make today’s laminate stocks produce an
extremely stable platform.
decided it was time to add a Savage Model
12 Benchrest in caliber.308 Winchester to my posse. Less then a week after my
order was placed, I had it in hand!
Figure4. I love it when my local
dealer says: “Your new rifle is in!”
Figure 5. Savage Model 12
Benchrest, single-shot. Accessories box contains the bolt.
I could start burning powder, there were a few things to be done to the Savage.
► Give it a proper cleaning to remove all shipping
► Lightly lubricated the bolt.
► Check the tightness of the action screws.
► Mount bases, rings and scope.
I usually chuckle when I see adds on some well-known auction
sites touting an out-of-production gun as: ”absolutely new-in-the-box,
unfired”. Rubbish! Every gun is proof- fired at the factory. This
is law. What the ad really means is the arm has not been fired since it was
proof-firing at the factory. The factory does a quick (very quick) cleaning of
the barrel. The factory cleaning removes some (but not all) of the powder
residue. The factory has many, many arms to proof fire. They don’t have the
time to detail-clean a new arm. The factory puts a good coat of preservative
on and in the arm to keep rust from forming during shipment and storage. It’s
left to the retail customer to properly remove the shipping preservative and
clean the barrel prior to shooting.
Figure 6. Proper cleaning & range equipment: Bore
guide (with solvent port), quality, one-piece cleaning rod, caliber specific
jag, powder and copper solvents. SEB front rest, SEB BigFoot rear bag,
Caldwell elbow bag
Proper cleaning equipment is essential. That means a bore
guide made to fit the action, a quality; one-piece cleaning rod of the proper
diameter, good jags, correctly sized patches, and both powder and copper
solvents. I’ll not get into cleaning procedures, there’s thousands of articles
on that. One thing I will say, once your optics have been mounted; always cover
your scope when solvents are used (caps, cover, even an old T-shirt or towel).
Those chemicals should never touch a lens! Any good gun oil is sufficient to
lube the bolt.
like that Allen-head screws are used on the action. I’ve seen too many
slotted-head screws buggered up by an ill-fitting screwdriver
Scope bases and rings are strictly
a personal choice. I will say this: whatever style and brand you choose, make
sure they are quality products! Quality, in this case does not mean
they have to cost hundreds of dollars! I use basic Weaver (true Weaver) bases.
The bases that fit the Model 12 benchrest are Weaver # 46’s. The rings are
Burris Signature Zee rings (with floating, synthetic inserts). The scope is a
Figure 7. Weaver # 46 bases, Burris Signature Zee rings, Weaver 36X scope
Again, there are plenty of articles about mounting a scope
& rings. There is one thing to remember when putting rings on Weaver
bases. With a Weaver (or Weaver style) base; always start the cross-screw of
the ring in, then turn it to the point just before it locks down on the base.
Then push the base forward with your thumb, and finish tightening the
cross-screw. This insures the cross-screw is flush against the front of the
slot in the Weaver base.
One interesting feature of the savage that I really like is
the way rounds are loaded and ejected. In most right bolt / right hand rifles,
the bolt handle and the action opening is on the right, requiring one to reach
around the action to load rounds. The Savage has openings on both sides! Load
a round from the left, and the empty ejects to the right! The top of the
receiver has a solid bridge across it. What could be easier? And, what took
so long for someone to build it?
Figure 8. Target version of the
AccuTrigger releases at a slick 8oz’s (factory setting)
The target version of the AccuTrigger seemed very light
indeed. I broke out my trigger gauge and found it released at 8 oz’s as set by
the factory (Note.5).
When I set my rifle up at the range, I put a target with a
1-inch orange sticky at 25 yards for bore sighting purposes. I had already
made sure the scope turrets were centered, and 0/0 inserts were in both sets of
rings. I removed the bolt, and centered the rifles bore on the dot. Then I
peered through the scope, and did a double take! It looked like the windage
was, as they say in machinist circles, ‘deadnutz’; that is: the windage
appeared perfectly centered! I could not believe it! I checked, and checked
again. Yeppers, it was straight! Sure I mounted the bases, rings & scope
very carefully, but it’s almost unheard of for the windage to be perfect.
Once your new rifle is cleaned, tightened, lubed, scoped,
and set up at the range, it’s very tempting to try for a group right
away! After all, you spent hard earned dollars, and spent some time getting it
ready. It just has to be winner, right? What’s wrong with a few quick
groups? Everything is wrong with trying for a few quick groups! Break
the barrel in the right way. Yes, it takes time and patience, but do it
anyway. It will pay off in the long run with better accuracy, and a barrel
that cleans up quicker in the long run.
1: Fire ONE
round. Put two patches with powder solvent through the bore and
dry patch it out. Put a patch soaked with copper solvent through
the bore. Wait a few minutes and put two dry patches through the
bore. Do this procedure for FOUR more rounds.
2: Fire TWO
rounds. Put two patches with powder solvent through the bore and
dry patch it out. Put a patch soaked with copper solvent through
the bore. Wait a few minutes and put two dry patches through the bore. Do
this procedure five times. By now you will have fired a total of 15
rounds through the barrel.
3: Fire THREE
rounds in succession, put two patches with powder solvent through the
bore and dry patch it out. Put a patch soaked with copper solvent
through the bore. Wait a few minutes and put two dry patches through the
bore. Do this one more time. Now you will have a total of 21
rounds through the
no blue or green is showing on the patches, then fire some 5 round
groups. But, shoot them slowly at first, so as to give the barrel a bit
of cooling time
say it again. Barrel break-in does take a bit of time, but pays dividends in
tighter groups, less fouling & longer barrel life. It is well worth
the time & labor invested.
quite pleased (but not particularly surprised) to report the Savage barrel
broke in rather fast. Their barrels are very smooth!
Hardly any copper showed up on the patches.
load is 43 grains of IMR 4064 over a J4 Nosler 168 grain BTHP. The bullet is
.005 shy of the rifling. The primer is Magtech 9-1/2. My brass is new
Winchester. The brass has been trimmed, inside and outside de-burred (30
degree on the inside), and the flash holes de-burred. I did not weigh brass.
My loads were not individually weighted. I use an old Redding Master #3 powder
measure that came out of the plant in Cortland NY right about the time the
Woolly Mammoth went on the endangered species list!
at 25 yards for break-in purposes disclosed the windage was in fact perfect!
The elevation was about 5-1/2 inches low. I put a +. 005 insert in the bottom
of the rear ring, and a -.005 insert in the top of the rear ring. This
literally points the scope to coincide with bullet point of impact. I moved
the target back to 100 yards. Just a few clicks of elevation were required to
bring the rounds center.
I’m used to good triggers (one Kenyon, a double set-trigger Hämmerli and three
Micro-Motions) I familiarized quickly with the target version of the
AccuTrigger. Get the X hair where you want it, then gently press the trigger,
and the shot is gone. None of that: get the X hair settled and watch it move
around while you fight a trigger designed by a litigation lawyer (my apologies
to the learned, and noted ladies & gentlemen of the bar that are reading
this). During my first range session, I had 2 instances of the trigger going
‘click,’ but the rifle not firing. I just reset the bolt and both rounds
fired. This only happened these two times.
before, one of the old-timers had shown me how to check a stock to see how it
would really handle benchrest shooting. He said: “First, you have a proper
front rest and rear bag for bench shooting rest. Once you have that, lay the
rifle on and settle it in. Push it forward; all the way against the stop.
Slide it back & forth several times. Now, push it forward against the stop
again. See where the X hair is on the target. Slide the rifle back, then
forward again. See if the X hair is in the same spot. Do this several times.
If the X hair settles in the same spot on the target, or extremely close to it
each time, that stock will work for bench shooting. The Savage 12 benchrest
passed the test!
I live in windy West Texas. Wind is constantly blowing across the range where
I shoot. That would not be so bad, but there are usually 3 or 4 different
conditions working against you all at once. It’s a matter of watching the
flags, and making your best guess. If you waiting for the wind to die down
here; you’ll never get off a shot! So, please give the Savage, (and old,
shaky, trifocal-wearing me) a bit of charity when you view the targets!
the website lists the un-scoped 12 benchrest at 12-3/4 lb. I found my scoped
rifle came in at 12-1/2 lb. There isn’t ‘recoil’ per-se; not in terms of
that jarring, slam-into-into-your-shoulder, while the muzzle flips skyward type
of recoil, as is seen on ultra-lite sporters with abbreviated, pencil-thin
barrels. The sensation when firing the Savage is one of steady, subdued push,
sans the muzzle flipping. The heavy, 29-inch barrel provides excellent balance
for a gun made to ride a rest and bag. I got used to the Savage very fast!
The angle of the grip fits my average-size hand about perfectly.
Figure 9. 100-yard target, first range
session. Hole below dime is 3 rounds! The wind shifted, and I didn’t
shift my hold for the last 2 rounds.
Figure10. 100-yard target, second
seeing how easy the Savage rode the bags, I had a wicked thought. I have shot
.22 long rifle match guns ‘free-recoil’, that is: one simply puts the finger on
the trigger, the thumb behind the trigger guard, and ‘pinches’ off the round.
Could this be done with the Savage? It seemed docile enough. So I did it, and
wow, it worked!
Figure 11. Shooting the Savage
free recoil! My shoulder is not touching the buttpad. It’s about ½ inch away
from the pad.
Figure 12. ‘Pinching’ the round
off between my finger and thumb.
Figure13. 100-yard target, shot
If I could change anything, it would be to add a pair of
steel, Weaver-style bases in the box with the rifle, or possibly a 1-piece base
with a continuous series of Weaver slots.
Speaking of the box; a fine rifle like this should be
shipped in a fitted, hard-shell case with a cutout in the foam for the rifle,
and a cutout where the scope will go. Yes, I know the cost for bases and a
fitted, hard-shell case will be passed on to the consumer. However, one will
have to purchase bases anyway, and who takes their gun to the range in a
All in all, I could not be happier with the Savage 12
Benchrest! Savage has really dialed in on features, quality assurance, design
and material. It’s refreshing to see a large factory back in the game!
NOTE.1 These same two American
manufacturers also used to produce rimfire rifles that were match-ready right
Some versions could be ordered with metallic sights.
One company slowly
dropped their match-guns. Another factory still makes them on a rather
One certain company
has steadfastly refused to release actions, though customers have been asking
for decades! The only alternative is to buy a complete gun and take it apart!
Some have reported
problems while attempting to adjust the AccuTrigger to the lowest
weight-of-pull. It seems some rifles will not function properly when set at the
lowest setting. However, some
shooters have wanted an even finer trigger then the AccuTrigger. There are after market
drop-in replacement triggers that offer even more adjustability then the
AccuTrigger, many shooters use them.