Savage’s New Model 12 F-Class Precision Target Rifle 6.5x284


by Jeff Quinn

photography by Jeff Quinn

August 10th, 2007




F-Class target shooting is one of the fastest growing of the long range precision rifle competitions.  F-Class has been described as benchrest shooting without the bench, and that is a pretty apt description. The rifles are usually heavy, mount a precision high-quality scope of ample magnification to clearly see the target out to 1000 yards, and are chambered for a cartridge capable of delivering good accuracy at a distance. One of the most popular chamberings is the 6.5x284 cartridge; sometimes billed as a Norma cartridge and sometimes as a Winchester cartridge. Norma legitimized the cartridge with factory ammunition. For years, the cartridge was a wildcat based on the .284 Winchester case, hence the title "6.5x284 Winchester". Any way you call it, it is an excellent choice of cartridge for the sport of F-Class target shooting.

The 6.5mm bore has for decades been an excellent choice for long-range target work due to the fast twist given the rifling and the beautifully long bullets of high ballistic coefficient. In a case of moderate capacity, the 6.5mm bullets achieve high velocity with relatively low recoil compared to the larger thirty caliber magnums.

In F-Class shooting, there are different classes in which shooters can compete. The basic entry level allows the use of just about any centerfire rifle that is a production gun, such as standard varmint and target rifles readily available through your local gun dealer, or even your trusty deer rifle. In this class, a shooter can get started with relatively little expense, needing only an accurate rifle and a good scope sight. However, most shooters will want to move up in class to the level that involves a large outlay of cash for a custom rifle that is purpose-built for competitive F-Class shooting, having a heavy barrel, a stock built for prone shooting from either a bag or machine rest, an excellent trigger, and a rigid action chambered for one of the sleek cartridges shooting those long, slim bullets. A rifle of this type can cost as much as a new pickup truck, and can take several months to acquire from one of the specialty rifle builders.

Now, Savage has taken all the features of the high-dollar F-Open-Class custom rifles, and built them into a production gun that can compete in the class that allows any production rifle. In the production, or mass-produced category, the rifles must be pretty much out-of-the-box guns with very few modifications, and be chambered for a factory cartridge. What Savage has essentially done is to mass-produce an open class rifle, having all the features of the expensive custom guns, at an affordable price. Now usually when you read "at an affordable price", you figure that you are giving up something. Not with this Savage!  It has a thirty inch heavy stainless steel barrel that measures 1.113 inch diameter at the receiver, and tapers slightly to .986 inch diameter at the muzzle. The stock is laminated wood, and is shaped perfectly for prone or bench shooting. The forearm is wide, flat, and well-ventilated. The buttstock is flat, with a generous cheek area and recoil pad. The action is Savage’s single shot, solid-bottomed right bolt / right port configuration that is pillar bedded into the stock for rigidity. The action wears a one-piece Picatinny rail for easily mounting a good scope sight. The barrel is free-floated into the stock. The rifle (without scope) weighs in at thirteen pounds, eleven ounces, allowing plenty of leeway in choosing a scope, as F-Class shooting allows a maximum of twenty-two pounds for rifle and scope.

Now for the best part. A few years ago, Savage set the gun industry on its ear with the introduction of their excellent AccuTrigger. I have discussed that trigger many times before, so I won’t plow the same ground here again, but will summarize with my opinion that it is the best factory  trigger available on a production sporting rifle today. Savage has now taken that beautiful AccuTrigger and made it even better for competitive shooting, allowing an adjustment range from a high setting of about one and one-half pounds, down as low as about six ounces! This is on a factory production rifle. A few years ago, most folks, including me, thought that we would never again see even a decent three-pound trigger on a factory rifle. With the AccuTrigger, Savage has led (or forced, however you prefer to see it) other rifle builders into improving their triggers also, but the AccuTrigger is still the one to beat.  It has been a very good thing for shooters, and I am glad that Savage had the good sense to give shooters a superb trigger. Now, with this new Target AccuTrigger, the world is an even better place. The trigger pull on my sample rifle measured just 7.9 ounces, and I left it right there. It is light, crisp, and perfect for a target rifle.

Before we go any farther, I want to clarify that I am not an F-Class rifle shooter. I lack both the location and the ability. It would be great if there was a place for that type of shooting around here, but there is none.  My standard rifle range is but 100 yards long, and to get that I had to hire a dozer operator to push a shooting lane back into the woods. Most of the land in my part of Tennessee is pretty vertical. The only place with a long enough clear path to shoot 1000 yards around here is on the state highway, and the Tennessee Highway Patrol frowns upon such activity. In some places, F-Class shooting is held to ranges of less than 1000 yards, and several ranges use 600 yards, or something between that and 1000. Around here, to test the long-range capability of the Savage Model 12 F-Class, I had to leave my shooting range and go back through the woods to a field known as Sugar Holler. There, I can get a bit over 400 yards, with a good backstop. The shooting platform has to be improvised, as prone is not an option with the terrain and vegetation.  Now understand that a better shooter could get better results, but I was well-satisfied with the two and one-quarter inch group using the Hornady A-Max bullets at 400 yards. That is half-minute-of-angle groups, and the Savage could repeat that performance all day long.

I used Hornady brass and dies for all loads tested, and found that those Hornady A-Max 140 grain bullets loaded over 48 grains of Hodgdon's 4350 powder with a Federal Gold Medal match primer gave a velocity of 2860 feet per second with excellent accuracy, and is my favorite load, so far, for this rifle. The load was not pressure tested, so reduce the charge before trying it in your 6.5x284 rifle, as many rifles so chambered have varying dimensions.

For accuracy testing, I drove about 40 miles to the Wal Mart and bought a 3 by 9 BSA scope for 38 bucks and a set of aluminum Tasco rings.  Just kidding. See how stupid that sounds? Yet many shooters spend a lot of money on a good rifle, and buy some cheap junk glass for a scope. A precision rifle deserves, and needs, a precision scope to fully achieve its accuracy potential. What I really did was put in a call to Leupold for a good target scope to mount atop the Savage. The scope used was a Mark 4 8.5-25x x 50mm LR-T Mark 1, built on a 30mm tube with side focus and target turrets.  I mounted this scope using Leupold steel scope rings. This is a fine scope, and it is not inexpensive, but the clarity of the optics and the precision of its adjustments justify the price. No matter how good your rest and your marksmanship technique, a rifle is going to move around a bit when operated by a human being, especially if that shooter is me. With good glass and a good trigger, the shooter can release the trigger precisely each time, just as the crosshair swings across the target. Seeing the target clearly, at distance, requires good optics, and the Leupold delivers. The reticle is graduated, having several reference marks for elevation and windage on the crosswires. The elevation and windage turret adjustments work very well for adjusting to known ranges. Leupold at one time caught some flack for their adjustments having a bit of backlash, but none was noted at all in this Mark 4 scope. I looked for it. I tried cranking the knobs around and back again, and the settings returned true, just as they should. I have complete confidence in this scope, and plan to test it farther on other rifles very soon.

I like several things about this rifle. For target shooting, the stock shape seems just about ideal. The long heavy barrel adds stability, velocity, and a bit of noise suppression. The weight makes recoil a non-issue with the 6.5x284 cartridge, and the scope rail makes attaching a scope very easy, offering great latitude on ring selection and spacing.  The cartridge is very flat-shooting with long bullets like the A-Max, and the rifle is throated to accept those long bullets without intruding upon the powder space. For those who do not handload their ammo, factory ammunition is readily available from Norma and Black Hills, and most likely Hornady will offer a loading or two soon. This is not a rifle that I would want to carry up a mountain looking for hogs in timber, but it was not designed to be. Savage makes other fine rifles for that. This is a superb target shooting rifle, and an affordable one at that.  It is ready to go, right out of the box, after mounting the scope of your choice. Not a cheap rifle by any means, but when looking at what you get for the dollars spent, it is a real bargain. It is accurate, reliable, fun to shoot, and has the best trigger ever put on a production rifle.

To clarify for those who are not sure what I mean by that; it has the best trigger ever put on a production rifle.

Check it out online at

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

To look at the mark 4 and other fine optics, go to

For dies, cases, and bullets for the 6.5x284 cartridge, go to

To save myself the trouble of answering the inevitable emails, you can order the shooting rest pictured here from

If you are at all interested in F-Class shooting, or even informal long range shooting, I highly recommend this Savage rifle.

Jeff Quinn

To locate a dealer where you can buy this gun, Click on the DEALER FINDER icon at:

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Click pictures for a larger version.


Savage Model 12 F-Class Precision Target Rifle.



Three-position safety is located on the tang, an ideal location for right-handed or left-handed shooters.



Forearm is flat for firing from bench, bags, or machine rest, such as this Target Shooting Inc. Model 1000.





Muzzle crown is recessed, as it should be.



As a further aid to accuracy, the barrel is free-floated.



That wonderful AccuTrigger!



Solid-bottom receiver is pillar-mounted with three bolts.



Action has one-piece Picatinny rail attached with Torx screws.



A rifle can only be as accurate as its sights allow. Leupold's Mark 4 8.5-25x x 50mm LR-T Mark 1 proved to be equal to the task.



Long bullets do not intrude upon powder space in the Savage 6.5x284.



Components used in author's favorite load.





Groups at 100 yards (top & center) and 400 yards (bottom) show this rifle / scope combination to be capable of fine accuracy.