Savage Model 25 .223 Caliber Lightweight Varminter Bolt-Action Rifle


by Jeff Quinn

photography by Jeff Quinn

March 10th, 2008




Savage Arms Company has for many years led the market in the manufacture of reliably functioning and superbly accurate bolt action varmint rifles. As a kid, I would read every word that I could find in gun magazines about heavy-barreled, super accurate bolt action rifles that were built for the sole purpose of varmint hunting. While most writers back then wrote about hunting in far-away lands for exotic animals, writers like Bob Milek and Hal Swiggett wrote of using the Savage Model 12, a purpose-built bolt action of the highest order, on many types of vermin. I could relate to that kind of hunting., and absorbed every word penned by those two men regarding the sport. Since that time, I have pulled the trigger on many Savage varmint rifles, and have not once been disappointed in their accuracy.

My main heavy varminter is a Savage .22-250 VSS that I had a hand in building a couple of years ago at the Savage factory. It is a wonderfully accurate varmint gun, and would be ideal to set up in position overlooking a prairie dog town. However, for carrying over the hills and hollows of Tennessee, or in the rocky slopes of some of our western states in pursuit of rock chucks or predators, it is a mite heavy. That rifle wears a twenty-six inch heavy barrel, a Choate stock, and weighs in at eleven and one-third pounds, plus the weight of the scope, mounts, and bipod. It is a sweetheart to shoot, but a bear to carry around all day, at least it is for an out-of-shape gun writer that is pushing fifty years old. Okay, I’ll admit that I could carry the VSS all day if necessary, but I am always looking for a good reason to add another rifle to the battery, and that brings us to the subject of this piece; the new Savage Model 25.

The Model 25 is a derivative of Savage’s excellent little Model 40, which is chambered for the .22 Hornet. While the outward appearance of the Models 40 and 25 are very similar, the new Model 25 has a three-lug bolt with the locking lugs at the front, has a detachable four-round magazine, and is chambered for the more powerful .204 Ruger and .223 Remington cartridges, with the rifle reviewed here being the latter. The Model 40 is chambered for the .22 Hornet only, and has a single shot action with the locking lugs amidships of the bolt, similar to many rimfire actions. While that bolt arrangement is plenty strong for the Hornet, Savage engineers wanted a front-locker for the higher pressure cartridges, and thus the Model 25 was born. I am also glad that Savage chose to add a magazine to the design. At the bench, a single shot is just fine, but in the field, I prefer to not have to fumble with dropping a cartridge into the receiver port of a varmint rifle. The Model 25 magazine is detachable, made from a heavy-duty plastic, and is very easy to load. Even with the changes, the Model 25 is still a handy little rifle, with the sample gun weighing in at eight pounds, two ounces unloaded and unscoped. By comparison, my Model 12 VSS weighs over eleven pounds empty.

The three-lug bolt design makes for a nice, low sixty degree bolt lift, keeping the knuckles from hitting a low-mounted scope. The action cocks upon opening, and is very smooth to operate. Bolt travel is just three and one-eighth inches, and the trim receiver is perfectly scaled to fit the .223 cartridge. The safety is both easy and quiet to operate, pushing forward about three-quarters of an inch to the “fire” position. It works better for a right-handed shooter, but was also easy enough for a left-hander like me to manipulate. The safety blocks the sear, is a two-position type, and does not lock the bolt, allowing the safe working of the bolt with the safety engaged. The stock is made of laminated wood, with a Monte Carlo cheek piece and a beavertail forend, which has two swivel studs attached to mount both a sling and bipod. Another sling swivel stud is located two inches forward of the toe of the buttstock, and the butt is capped with a well-fitted synthetic rubber recoil pad. The trigger guard and magazine well is of a one-piece design, and is made of a matte black plastic. The barrel and receiver are a highly polished deep blue-black. The twenty-four inch barrel is of a medium-heavy profile, measuring .6925 at the muzzle, which wears a recessed target crown. The barrel is fluted for about half its length, and is free-floated its entire length, and sleeved into the front of the receiver a full two inches for excellent barrel support. The barreled action is bolted to the laminated stock in three places, and is rock-solid stable, with no movement between the stock and action. One of the best features of the Model 25 is of course, that wonderful AccuTrigger. The AccuTrigger has been around for several years now, and Savage puts it on all its bolt action rifles. It is a reliable, safe, easy to use trigger, and is now being copied by other rifle makers. A good trigger can make or break a great varmint gun, and the AccuTrigger is one of the best on the market. It is easily adjustable by the rifle’s owner, and the trigger pull on the test rifle measured barely over two and one-half pounds at its lowest setting. In case I have been too vague up to this point, I love the AccuTrigger. It helps me to shoot better.

Savage ships the Model 25 with Weaver style bases already attached, which is a nice touch, especially on a rifle in this price range. For shooting the little Model 25, I gathered a variety of factory and handloaded ammunition, and mounted a Leupold VX-III 6.5 to 20 power scope in low Warne quick detach rings. The rings clamped solidly to the bases atop the Savage action, and held the Leupold scope down as low as possible to the rifle. Combined with the excellent design of the stock’s cheek piece, a good cheek weld places my left eye directly in line with the scope, exactly as I like it to be. This Leupold has proven itself on other rifles in the past, and I chose it because I trust it. The optics are clear, and the adjustments precise. No rifle can shoot better than its sights, and I wanted to see just how well this Model 25 could shoot. I fired the Model 25 for accuracy at a distance of 100 yards, on a forty degree day with a slight gusty breeze. My shooting range is in a hollow between two ridges, and the wind has little effect on group sizes, unless it is really howling. I started off shooting the Black Hills and Winchester factory ammunition, and it performed well, with even the largest group fired measuring an acceptable one and one-quarter inches. That is not too bad for a factory rifle shooting factory ammunition, but this rifle is a Savage, and I wanted to see how it would shoot my favorite varmint bullet, the Barnes 36 grain Varmint Grenade. I also tried a few of my Barnes 50 grain VLC coated bullets, which I love, but that bullet has been discontinued. Anyway, the velocity and accuracy results are listed in the chart below. Velocities are listed in feet-per-second (fps), and were recorded using a PACT Professional chronograph, set up at ten feet from the muzzle of the rifle. Accuracy is listed in inches and fractions thereof, and are for three consecutive shots at 100 yards. Bullet weights are listed in grains. JSP is jacketed softpoint. V-Max is a load using the Hornady V-Max plastic-tipped bullet. HP is a match hollowpoint. VLC is the Barnes coated bullet. VG is the Barnes Varmint Grenade bullet. FMJ is a full metal jacket bullet.

Ammunition Bullet Weight Velocity Group Size
Black Hills JSP 55 3036.5 1.125
Black Hills JSP 60 2935 0.812
Black Hills V-Max 60 3050.5 1.25
Black Hills Match HP 68 2815.5 0.825
Winchester 62 3039.3 0.375
Handload VLC 50 3203.4 0.500
Handload VLC 50 3033 1.137
Handload VG 36 3763.3 0.187

I was genuinely surprised at how accurate that Winchester load was out of this rifle. It is not promoted as a match grade load, and is the relatively inexpensive white-box stuff. It shot into just three-eighths of an inch, and was repeatable. This just goes to prove that rifles are individuals, and this Winchester load proved more accurate in this Model 25 than it has in other rifles. I was elated at the accuracy displayed with my favorite Barnes Varmint Grenade load. This Savage would put them into tiny little one-hole groups repeatedly. The best group fired with this rifle, and I believe with any rifle that I have ever fired, measured just three-sixteenths of an inch! Now I know that a couple hundred of you are going to email wanting that load recipe, so I will list it here. Keep in mind that your results may vary, but this is a smoking load on small vermin, is accurate, and safe in every rifle in which I have tried it. You, however, are cautioned to start with a powder charge ten percent below that listed here, as I am not a certified ballistic laboratory. I am just a shooter, so use due caution. If you hurt yourself or your rifle, I am not going to buy you a new gun nor raise your children. When I try this load in a new rifle, I always start lower and work back up. You should do the same. The load uses Remington cases, Remington number 7 ½ Benchrest primers, and 27.4 grains of H-322 powder. Adjust overall length to suit your particular rifle, but I always want at least one caliber of bullet shank in the case neck for proper alignment and tension.

I like the new Model 25 Savage. It is scaled to better suit the smaller varmint cartridges like the .223 Remington. It is much handier and less expensive than the comparable rifle in the Model 12 line; the 12 Varminter Low Profile. While the 12 is a fine rifle, you will save about two pounds of weight and $350 by going with the Model 25 instead. The best part is, you still get the AccuTrigger, a high-polish blued finish, a laminated stock, and are giving up nothing in accuracy. That 350 bucks will go a long way towards the purchase of a quality scope, and the lighter weight makes the gun handle more like your favorite deer rifle than an artillery piece. I am glad to see the Model 25 added to the Savage lineup. I like rifles that are scaled to the size of the cartridge, and I really love rifles that are as accurate as this Model 25, and still priced way below the competition. As a side note, when you get into the realm of affordable rifles that will shoot one-hole groups, the Model 25 has very little competition, if any.

Check out the Model 25 and other Savage products online at

Look at the line of quality Leupold optics at

To order the Barnes Varmint grenade bullets, go to

For the location of a Savage dealer near you, click on the DEALER FINDER icon at

To order the Model 25 online, go to

As of this writing, these rifles are just starting to ship to dealers, so finding one might take some searching, but it is definitely worth the effort.

Jeff Quinn


For a list of dealers where you can buy this gun, go to: To buy this gun online, go to:


Leupold VX-III 6.5-20x scope.





Warne quick-release scope rings.



Black Hills .223 ammunition.



The Model 25 proved to be capable of jaw-dropping accuracy, as shown by these 100-yard benchrest groups using two handloads and Winchester's 62-grain factory load.



Barnes' Varmint Grenade bullets proved most accurate in Jeff's Model 25.



NOTE: All load data posted on this web site are for educational purposes only. Neither the author nor assume any responsibility for the use or misuse of this data. The data indicated were arrived at using specialized equipment under conditions not necessarily comparable to those encountered by the potential user of this data.  Always use data from respected loading manuals and begin working up loads at least 10% below the loads indicated in the source manual.

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Click pictures for a larger version.


Savage Model 25 .223 Caliber Lightweight Varminter Bolt-Action Rifle.





Savage's extraordinary AccuTrigger.



Receiver is bolted to the stock using three bolts.



One-piece plastic trigger guard and floorplate.





Dual swivel studs on forearm allow attachment of sling and bipod.



Magazine release (top) and four-shot detachable magazine (bottom).



Safety is located behind the bolt handle.



Jeweled bolt has a three-lug bolt head and 60-degree lift.



Barrel is free-floated and sleeved to the receiver.



Beautifully polished, fluted, medium-heavy barrel.



The Model 25 is dwarfed by the author's Savage 12VSS heavy varminter.