Savage’s Stainless Varmint Rifle
by Jeff Quinn

photography by Jeff Quinn & Boge Quinn


Savage Arms has been building accurate bolt action varmint rifles for many years now based on their famous 110 action in it’s various forms. The accuracy of their 112 varmint gun is legendary among shooters who remember when this was the rifle to beat in the 1970s and ‘80s. Savage was providing no-frills but very accurate varmint rifles back when most varmint guns were custom barreled Mauser 98s chambered in a variety of wildcat cartridges.

Today, Savage produces the most extensive line of dedicated varmint rifles of any major gun maker, listing no fewer than eleven different models chambered for eight different cartridges. Savage is also the only major gun manufacturer to offer its varmint rifles in a true left-handed bolt action. Savage has always provided the most available choices to the rifleman who shoots from the port side, listing a decent variety of cartridges from which to choose.

The rifle tested for purposes of this article is based on Savage’s relatively new true short action. This short action provides a shorter bolt throw and stiffer receiver, and is chambered in the premier varmint cartridge, the .22-250. The .22-250 is capable, with the right bullet, to excel in just about any long-range varmint situation, from crows to coyotes, at extreme distance.

The model tested here is the 12FLVSS, meaning that it is a left-handed short-action, stainless gun with a fluted barrel and synthetic stock. This rifle, upon first inspection, exudes a quality of manufacture and materials that is both beautiful and practical at the same time. The black synthetic stock contrasts nicely with the stainless barreled action, resulting in a striking two-tone finish. One very nice surprise is the use of a stainless steel trigger guard on the black checkered stock. It is a welcome touch on this rifle, as many new bolt-action guns come with either plastic or aluminum trigger guards.

The action on this Savage is pillar bedded at two points into the synthetic stock, just ahead of the trigger guard and aft of the recoil lug, resulting in a very rigid and stable bedding of the action. The stainless steel fluted barrel is of a tapered, heavy design, as a good varmint barrel should be. It is free-floated in the stock, and tapers to a diameter of .785 inches at the muzzle, which has a recessed target crown. The flutes in the barrel, aside from their aesthetic value, serve to lighten the barrel slightly without sacrificing rigidity, and aid in cooling by increasing the outside surface area of the barrel. A nice touch. 

While on the subject of the barrel, this gun is furnished with a 26 inch barrel. A few gun manufacturers furnish their .22-250 varmint guns with a 24 inch barrel, which is ludicrous. A .22-250 needs the extra two inches of barrel length to realize its potential, and it makes no sense on a heavy varmint gun to not have a proper barrel. Savage thoughtfully equips their varmint-weight .22-250s with the longer barrel. The barrel has a rifling twist of one turn in12 inches to properly stabilize the bullet and provide good accuracy.

One of the best features of all of the Savage center fire rifles is the location and operation of the safety. It is placed right behind the bolt in the center of the tang, as it should be. The safety is of the three-position type, enabling the rifle to be safely unloaded and still locking the bolt handle in its rear-most position. Beside the bolt is a cocking indicator, which can easily be seen and felt to allow the shooter to know the condition of the striker at all times.

The trigger on the test gun is easily adjustable, by either a good gunsmith or a knowledgeable shooter, and results in one of the best trigger pulls of any rifle made. The trigger break was crisp and clean, without a hint of creep or mushiness, allowing the shooter to concentrate upon the target rather than the trigger.  Most rifles sold today suffer from a horrible trigger pull, resulting in poor accuracy. Thankfully, Savage provides their varmint rifles with a decent trigger.

The 12FLVSS weighs between  8.75 and nine pounds, depending upon the caliber of the gun and has a  listed  magazine capacity of four rounds in .22-250 chambering, although the test rifle would accept five.

Overall, this Savage is a great looking gun with the features necessary to make a good solid varmint rifle. It has a heavy stainless barrel, great trigger, and a smooth action bedded into a stable synthetic stock, chambered in my all-time favorite centerfire varmint cartridge, but the proof is in the shooting. Nothing is as disappointing as an inaccurate rifle.

For testing this rifle, I mounted a Tasco 6 to 24 power Varmint/Target scope with a mil-dot reticle. This scope has proven to be accurate and clear, and enables the shooter to see those tiny .22 caliber bullet holes at long distances. I gathered a variety of ammo for testing. All accuracy testing was done at a range of 100 yards with an air temperature of 34 degrees and a slight wind.

Initially, the rifle would group no tighter than three-quarters of an inch, which is decent accuracy from a new rifle, but the rifle soon started shooting much better groups. I have found this to be the case with many new rifles. Most shoot better after a few shots have gone down the bore. The barrel takes on a sort of "seasoning", and shoots better as the bore is slightly fouled. There is also the factor of the shooter becoming more accustomed to the gun, gaining familiarity with the trigger and scope. At any rate, this new Savage will shoot! With two loads in particular, I was able to shoot three-eighths inch groups with regularity. These were not loads worked up especially for this gun, but were handloads already assembled for other guns that I had on hand. I am very anxious to see how this gun shoots with a specific load developed for it, but 3/8 inch groups at 100 yards is very good accuracy indeed, and should serve well for small targets at long range.

This 12FLVSS  has done well to uphold Savage’s stellar reputation for fine accuracy and exceptional value in a varmint rifle. The suggested retail price of this gun is only $549, selling hundreds below its competition, and leaving the shooter with enough cash for a decent scope and mounts. 

This gun is offered in a right-handed version as well, and is chambered in several other cartridges in addition to the .22-250. Check it out online at:

When you factor in the quality, accuracy, and value……….. this rifle really has no competition. It will out-shoot rifles costing twice as much, and look great doing so.  

I like it.

Jeff Quinn

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The Savage 12FLVSS represents an excellent value for the varmint shooter. Chambered in the author's favorite long-range varmint cartridge, the .22-250, the Savage is available right-handed (Model #12FVSS) or left-handed (Model #12FLVSS as tested) for Southpaws like Jeff.



The action is pillar bedded at two points in the nice synthetic stock, offering a rigid and stable platform.



Savage's trigger system as used on the 12FLVSS is easily adjustable, offering the feel and precision of an expensive custom unit. Author considers the trigger on the 12FLVSS to be one of the best available on a modern production rifle.



The safety is one of Jeff's favorite features of Savage's line of centerfire rifles. Perfectly positioned to fall naturally under the thumb of right or left-handed shooters, the three-position safety allows the bolt handle to be locked in the rear-most position.



The muzzle is nicely crowned to protect the critical last bit of rifling as an aid to accuracy. And speaking of accuracy...



After a short "shoot-in" period, the Savage 12FLVSS consistently grouped into 3/8" at 100 yards with some of the author's favorite stock .22-250 handloads. Jeff is looking forward to seeing what this rifle will do with loads developed specifically for it!



Author considers the Savage 12FLVSS to be one of the finest production bolt-action varmint rifles available today at any price. At only $549 retail, this rifle easily out-shoots guns costing hundreds of dollars more!