Savage Model 12  Long Range Precision Varminter


by Jeff Quinn

photography by Jeff Quinn & Boge Quinn

April 25, 2006




Last week, in among the variety of email that I receive, was an inquiry from a gentleman who was wanting to buy a new varmint rifle. His question was simply this: 

"Jeff, if you could have any  varmint rifle you wanted, regardless of price, what would it be?"

That is a simple enough question. There are lots of good varmint rifles available, and a shooter can spend relatively little, or a small fortune, on a varmint gun. To me, a varmint rifle must be accurate; not just mechanically capable of shooting precisely, but also it must have a good trigger and a comfortable stock, so that the shooter can take full advantage of the rifle’s accuracy. A varmint rifle can be beautiful, but it need not be so. It is a precision tool, for placing fast-moving bullets into small targets at long range, everyday, all day if necessary. My answer to the reader was this:

"If I was looking for the best varmint gun at an affordable price, I would get a Savage. If I was looking for the best varmint gun, regardless of price, I would still choose a Savage."

I had never really thought of it that way before, but if I had to bet the farm on which factory rifle would shoot the best, right out of the box, I would grab a Savage every time. Until someone proves differently to me, that will be my choice, based on my experience with numerous varmint rifles from many manufacturers. Savage has proven to me over and over again that they make rifles that will shoot.  Now, the hard decision would be, which Savage varmint rifle to choose?  Savage makes several variations of their basic Models 12 and 112 varmint rifle. The actions are the same; either blued or stainless steel, and they all have that wonderful AccuTrigger. Variations differ in choice of stock, caliber, action length, barrel, and cartridge chambering. Savage also makes a few rimfire varminters, and their Model 40 chambered for the .22 Hornet cartridge, but the meat of the Savage varmint line is the Model 12 and Model 112. The 12 is the short action, and the 112 handles the longer cartridges such as the .25-06 and .300 Winchester Magnum.

Savage's newest varmint rifle is called the Long Range Precision Varminter, and is the subject of this review. I recently received a sample chambered for the .223 Remington cartridge, which is one of the most popular cartridges for long range varmint hunters, such as those who  shoot prairie dogs. Most prairie dog hunters want a heavy barrel to absorb heat, and the Precision Varminter provides that. This varmint rifle wears a heavy, stainless, one-inch diameter twenty-six inch long target-crowned barrel with a one-in-nine inch rifling twist. This rifle also has no magazine. It has a solid-bottomed receiver that has no magazine cut-out, which provides extra rigidity to the action. The action is bedded into the H-S Precision stock using three bolts which  firmly hold the action through a solid aluminum bedding block. The stock has a matte black slightly textured finish and a beavertail forearm. It is fitted with front and rear sling swivel studs, and has a solid synthetic rubber recoil pad. The black and stainless make for a very good-looking, business-like rifle. The barrel is free-floated its entire length. The action has a right-handed bolt, but a left-hand loading/ejection port. This allows the right-handed shooter to easily open the bolt with his right hand and eject the fired cartridge into his left palm, if desired. It also makes loading the rifle very simple and easy. One simply drops a cartridge into the port, and closes the action. All rounds tested fed perfectly this way during the shooting sessions with this rifle. A shooter can get more rounds downrange quicker this way than by stopping  every fifth round to load the magazine on a box magazine rifle. The bolt knob is large and easy to grasp. The AccuTrigger releases crisply, and the release measured two pounds and two ounces on this rifle, adjusted to its lowest setting. The rifle weighed in at eleven pounds and thirteen ounces.

I mounted a Leupold VX-III 6.5 to 20 power scope on the Model 12 for testing. I robbed this scope off of my Savage 12VSS .22-250 to try out this new rifle, and mounted it using Leupold rings and bases. This is a wonderful varmint scope with a 30mm main tube and a 40mm objective lens. The side focus feature makes it easy to adjust the focus for varying ranges without reaching out to the far end of the scope. The windage and elevation adjustments are precise and easy to make without tools or a coin. This Leupold has the Varminter Reticle that is exclusive to Leupold, which makes engaging targets at long range easier.  It is the best  scope that I have found for a heavy bolt-action varmint rifle. The chart below shows a graphic of the Varminter Reticle.

I decided to try this new rifle using some Black Hills ammunition loaded with 55 grain moly-coated V-Max bullets. The V-Max is a dandy varmint bullet, offering explosive terminal performance. I have never been a real big fan of moly-coated bullets, but I thought that it was worth another try. Moly does reduce copper fouling, allowing a prairie dog shooter to fire many shots without stopping to clean the bore.  Starting with a clean bore, I fired a few shots to get the barrel sufficiently seasoned with the moly coating. The first few groups measured about one inch at 100 yards, but soon the bore started getting seasoned in really well, and groups began shrinking. It took a total of about twenty shots through the bore before the Savage started shooting into the same hole. After that, all groups fired from the rifle exhibited superb accuracy. The three-sixteenths of an inch five-shot group shown is representative of what this gun will do. I was impressed, but not at all surprised by the accuracy of this rifle. It is what I have come to expect from a Savage varmint rifle. Used to be when I would get a rifle that shot small groups, I would think of it as a very special rifle; a fluke of some sort in which everything just happened to be right.  Now, I fully expect the next Savage varmint rifle to shoot as well as this one, and the next one after that to shoot the same. They are that good. Choosing just which Savage varmint rifle is the best for you will be the hard part.

Check out the entire line of Savage rifles and shotguns online at:

For a look at the Leupold VX-III and other fine optics, go to:

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

Jeff Quinn

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Click pictures for a larger version.


Savage Model 12  Long Range Precision Varminter.



3 bolts hold action through aluminum bedding block in the H-S Precision stock.





Savage's excellent AccuTrigger.



Heavy free-floated barrel wears a recessed target crown.



Solid bottom receiver.



Savage puts the safety where it belongs: on the tang, equally accessible for right-handed or left-handed shooters.





A supremely-accurate rifle deserves a supremely-engineered scope, such as Leupold's VX-III 6.5-20.



A supremely-accurate rifle also deserves supremely-crafted ammo, and Black Hills' 55-grain V-Max certainly does the job!