Savage Model 12 Low Profile Varminter in .204 Ruger


by Jeff Quinn

photography by Jeff Quinn & Boge Quinn

August 2nd, 2004




One of the more successful rifle cartridges of 2004 has been the new .204 Ruger. I was introduced to this new little varmint cartridge back in February at the SHOT Show, and later did a full test of a Ruger Number One single shot rifle so chambered. The .204 has proven to be a hot little number, with factory Hornady ammunition exceeding 4000 feet per second with the thirty-two grain bullet, and exceeding 3800 feet per second with a forty grain bullet. The .204 is rapidly gaining in popularity. It offers high velocity, low recoil, and excellent accuracy,  without excessive pressure and barrel erosion.

In my earlier evaluation of the cartridge, I had no forty grain factory ammunition available to me, but I did handload some of the Hornady forty grain V-Max bullets.  Since then, I have received and tested the forty grain factory load. It offers a better ballistic coefficient than the thirty-two grain load, but at a lower velocity.  There was very little load data available to me back in March, but now good pressure tested data is available online at

As noted in my earlier article on the .204 Ruger, a smaller powder funnel is needed than what is normally used. I also found the need to acquire smaller cleaning equipment than what I had on hand. Otis Technology makes an excellent small bore cleaning kit that features their flexible rod and smaller brushes. It comes with everything needed to thoroughly clean a .204 rifle bore, and fits into its own compact carry case for easy use in the field. It works extremely well for seventeen and twenty caliber rifles, and I highly recommend it to anyone with a smaller than twenty-two caliber rifle.

I have recently been testing a new Savage Low Profile Varminter bolt action rifle chambered for the .204 Ruger. The Low Profile is a new stock design for Savage. It has a flat fore end to better shoot from a bench or improvised rest, and is a bit sleeker than the stock of the BVSS. While both are made of laminated wood and weigh about the same, I prefer this new stock design to that of my .22-250 BVSS.

The Savage Low Profile action is built of stainless steel, and has a fluted stainless free-floated heavy profile barrel. The barrel is twenty-six inches long, and is finished with a recessed target crown. The barrel measures .820 inch at the muzzle. The Low Profile has stainless sling swivel studs front and rear. For easier operation, the safety button is right on top as it should be, and the bolt handle has an oversized knob for a better grip.

One of the best features of this rifle is the excellent trigger. Regular readers of Gunblast already know that I am in love with Savage’s AccuTrigger. It is easy to adjust and easy to shoot. It is also safe. I have other triggers that have been reworked to a very light trigger pull, but if dropped, they will go off. The AccuTrigger can be adjusted to a light, crisp pull for better practical accuracy, but it will not go off if dropped, and can be adjusted between one and one-half to six pounds easily with the tool provided. There is no better trigger in a production bolt action rifle, and helps to make the Savage the best out-of-the-box production bolt action varmint rifle on the market.

For testing the new Savage, I mounted a Mueller 8.5 to 25x50mm Eraticator target scope in B-Square rings using Weaver bases. The Eraticator has a fine crosshair glass reticle with a one-sixteenth minute illuminated dot. It also has an adjustable objective lens and one-eighth minute target turrets for easy windage and elevation adjustments, and is fitted with an optional sunshade. The illuminated dot reticle has eleven levels of intensity for any low-light condition, and the dot appears black when not illuminated. The quality of this scope is excellent, especially considering the low price.

Shooting factory Hornady ammunition, the Savage exhibited exceptional accuracy. The factory thirty-two grain load chronographed faster from the Savage than it did from the Ruger, although both guns have twenty-six inch barrels. The air temperature was higher when testing the Savage than it was back in March when I tested the Ruger, and might have been a contributing factor. The thirty-two grain load averaged 4120 feet per second across the PACT chronograph, with a low of 4033 and a high of 4184, which is a pretty wide spread, but it still exhibited excellent accuracy, grouping three shots into just three-eighths of an inch at one hundred yards. The forty grain load clocked in at an average of 3865 feet per second, and grouped into nine-sixteenths of an inch. Further load development, working toward a lower velocity spread, should tighten these groups a bit. All cases extracted easily, and were not even warm to the touch. The recoil was, as expected, very mild. Cleaning the bore after shooting in excess of forty rounds, there was almost no bullet jacket fouling, and very little powder fouling. This speaks very well of the efficiency of the cartridge and the smoothness of the bore.

The new Savage .204 is an accurate, reliable, and beautiful varmint gun that is easy on the shoulder and the budget. You can spend a lot more on a varmint rifle, but it would be hard to beat the Savage Varminter. The .204 is developing into a fine little cartridge for small vermin and pests, and I look forward to further load development in this rifle and others.

Check out the full line of Savage rifles at: and the excellent Mueller scopes at:

Order the Otis cleaning kit at:

 Jeff Quinn


To locate a dealer where you can buy this gun, go to:


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Click pictures for a larger version.


Author tests the Savage Model 12 Low Profile Varminter at the NRA Whittington Center in Raton, NM.



The Savage Model 12 Low Profile Varminter features (top to bottom): recessed muzzle crown, free-floated and fluted barrel, top tang safety and large bolt knob, flat-bottomed fore end, sling swivels, and Savage's excellent AccuTrigger system.





Mueller 8.5 to 25x50mm Eraticator target scope. Mueller is quickly becoming one of Jeff's favorite scope makers, offering precision and optical clarity at a very competitive price.



Otis Technology's small bore rifle cleaning kit is highly recommended for sub-.22 caliber guns.



Hornady's 32-grain and 40-grain factory ammunition proved to be both fast and accurate in the Savage.