Savage Model 40 .22 Hornet Varmint Hunter Rifle


by Jeff Quinn

photography by Jeff Quinn

August 15th, 2005




When it comes to bolt action varmint rifles, Savage has for many years been my first choice. There are a couple of good reasons for this. The most important is accuracy. Savage bolt guns are generally very accurate, right out of the box. No need for rebedding the action or lapping the bolt lugs, no need to recrown the muzzle or replace the trigger. Up until a couple of years ago, I would carefully rework the Savage trigger for a lighter, smoother trigger pull, but all of that changed with the introduction of their wonderful AccuTrigger. Another very good reason that I usually look to Savage first is that their rifles offer excellent value, and usually outshoot rifles costing twice as much, again without any special tuning.  The Savage Varmint rifles have been legendary with serious varmint shooters for decades. I was first introduced  to the  Savage varmint rifle while reading the stories that Bob Milek wrote for the gun magazines back when I was a kid. His .22 Swift in the single shot Savage 112 was a varmint rig supreme. I have since owned several Savage varmint guns, and have recommended them without hesitation to many other shooters.

Last year, Savage introduced a new varmint rifle to the shooting public, calling it the Model 40 Varmint Hunter. This year, Savage has really upgraded that rifle by fitting it with the excellent AccuTrigger. While the Model 40 is billed as a value-priced varmint gun, Savage did not cheap-out on its fit, finish, or features. I am certain that a plastic stock would have lowered the price a bit, but the Model 40 wears an excellent varmint style laminated wood stock. The metal finish is also a very nicely-polished blue. The Model 40 wears a varmint weight twenty-four inch barrel that measures .804 inch just ahead of the receiver and tapers to.740 inch at the muzzle, which has a recessed target crown. The barrel is supported very well by the extra-long receiver, effectively sleeving the barrel for almost five inches. The remainder of the barrel is free-floated. The laminated stock has an extra sling swivel stud on the fore end for attachment of a bipod. I commend savage for putting swivel studs on their rifles. Every hunting gun should be equipped with swivel studs. I have purchased hunting rifles costing four times the price of this Savage that came from the factory without swivel studs. The Model 40 is a single shot action, and is chambered for the .22 Hornet cartridge only, so let’s briefly examine that dandy little varmint cartridge.

The Hornet is a masterpiece of efficiency. It propels twenty-two caliber bullets to speeds which are all out of proportion to its diminutive size. Properly loaded, the Hornet can push 35 to 45 grain bullets to speeds between 2800 and 3000 feet-per-second (fps), using only 10 to 13 grains of powder. That gives a handloader up to 700 shots from a one-pound can of powder. Winchester has three factory loads that carry 34, 45, or 46 grain bullets at speeds of 3050 fps for the first and 2690 fps for the latter two loads. The cartridge is also relatively quiet compared to other common varmint cartridges such as the .223 Remington and the .22-250. While the little Hornet is not as flat-shooting as those two, it is a dandy little varmint cartridge out to 250 yards or so on medium-sized vermin. As for handloading the Hornet, there are many bullets available made especially for the cartridge. There are also several good powders available including Alliant 2400, Hodgdon H110, Winchester 296, and the 4198 and 4227 powders from IMR and Hodgdon. However, the relatively new Hodgdon Lil’Gun powder is perfection in the Hornet case. It is as if it was made just for this cartridge. I have settled upon Lil’Gun as my one and only powder to use in the Hornet for my personal use. There is nothing better. It offers top velocities at moderate pressure, and exceptional accuracy.

The Model 40 weighs in at seven and three-quarters pounds, and has very good balance, actually feeling lighter to me. The stock wears a solid synthetic rubber butt pad, and a wide beavertail fore end. The load platform is well-designed. Just drop a cartridge into the receiver and close the bolt. Extraction is handled by two opposed extractors, much like most rimfire bolt guns.  The safety is located just to the right of the bolt, just behind the handle, and is easy to manipulate by either a right or left-handed shooter. It moves silently and smoothly in both directions. The AccuTrigger is easily adjusted by the shooter, and at its lowest setting, the trigger on my sample released crisply at two pounds and four ounces. As stated earlier, it is a superb factory trigger, and Savage is to be commended for putting it into their low-priced Model 40 rifle.

Shooting the Model 40 proved to be a real pleasure. I mounted a Mueller 8.5 to 25 power scope in B-Square rings and Weaver bases. The Model 40 takes two number eleven Weaver bases. The recoil was nonexistent, and the report was mild. Accuracy proved to be very good, especially for a .22 Hornet. Factory Winchester ammo grouped into just nine-sixteenths of an inch at one hundred yards. Feeding and extraction were perfect.

This Model 40 Savage .22 Hornet is an excellent rifle, at an excellent price. The Hornet can easily handle ninety percent of my varmint hunting needs, and costs just a few cents per shot to shoot.  Current MSRP is only $436. The real world price is usually less than that. I really like this Savage Varmint Hunter rifle. I have a few very good varmint guns, and need another about like I need a third nipple, but I will be purchasing this fine little rifle from Savage. I cannot think of a better endorsement.

Jeff Quinn


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Savage's Model 40 .22 Hornet Varmint Hunter Rifle. Group testing was done using a Model 1000 Rifle Rest from Target Shooting, Inc.



The Model 40's bolt features dual extractors.



The Model 40 features Savage's excellent AccuTrigger.





Recoil lug is made of solid steel.



The Model 40's safety is located just behind the bolt, and is easily operated by right-handed or left-handed shooters.



Although billed as a "budget-priced" gun, the Model 40 has many features normally found on much higher-priced rifles, such as (top to bottom): knurled bolt handle, rubber recoil pad and laminated wood stock, target-style recessed muzzle crown, and dual sling swivel studs.



Barrel is free-floated for maximum accuracy.