Review: Savage Renegauge 12 Gauge Semi-Auto

After numerous delays, the new for 2020 Savage Renegauge finally arrived. The firearms industry is hardly immune from the supply-chain disruption that has affected most industries. The specific model tested touted as a “Turkey Gun,” the Savage Renegauge Turkey Obsession, SKU Number 57607, with a MSRP of $1,549.00. It has a 24 inch barrel.

Although Savage has made semi-auto shotguns before, it has been a good long while since the long-recoil Browning-licensed Savage Model 720 (1930–1949) was discontinued. The Model 720 was used in WWII as a riot gun and for aerial gunnery training. Later versions, also using the Browning long-recoil action, were the Savage 755 (1949-1958) and 775 (1950-1965). The Renegauge is the first Savage semi-auto made in 55 years and Savage's first attempt at a gas-operated autoloader as well.

The three-inch chambered 12 gauge Renegauge comes very nicely presented in a hard case, with four Trulock chokes that are Beretta Mobil choke style: IC, MOD, and FULL flush chokes along with an extended turkey choke. Taking a cue from the successful Savage AccuFit stock system used on their bolt-action rifles, the Renegauge comes complete with three comb inserts of varying heights, and three recoil pad / spacer sets giving you different lengths of pull. Savage says the length of pull range is 14.25-15.07 inches. The Savage website describing this model is full of typos, calling the barrel color “black” and the receiver finish “matte” when it is, of course, camo.

The magazine limiter is loose in the box. After installing it, it limits the tubular magazine to just one round giving you a two-shot. If you want a standard 2+1 setup, you'll need to cut the supplied magazine plug to suit you. There were other niggles. Of the supplied chokes, 3 take one type of choke tube wrench, but the 4th takes another. The choke tube threads in the muzzle were not cleanly cut-- the chokes were very rough screwing them in.

The owners manual is spartan. No R&R info, no cleaning or lube info. You get a baggie with a couple of O rings, various plastic shims, and other cheap black plastic parts. No info in the owners manual on what they are for, exactly, or how to use them. The hapless owner can apparently just start unscrewing the buttstock and try to figure it out all by their little lonesome. No choke wrench was supplied and the chokes themselves used two different choke wrenches. Savage claims "The Renegauge has been designed to fit almost any shooter." Not even close. The length of pull goes in three increments from 14.25-15.07 inches. Many female and younger shooters are left out, as are the many shooters that use a 13-3/4 inch to 14 inch length of pull for hunting. Savage also brags of "Oversized controls." Other than the chubby charging handle, there aren't any. The owners manual is sketchy, telling you nothing about how to use the various shims and spacers, or even how to properly clean and lubricate the gun.

The receiver material is stated as carbon steel, but it isn't: it is aluminum alloy. Although marketed as a turkey gun, it isn't much of one, lacking a drilled and tapped receiver and Picatinny rail or iron sights that most dedicated turkey guns have: including Savage's own Model 220 bolt-action Turkey model. The only thing that is “turkey” about this model is the extended Trulock choke. Otherwise, it is just a camo Renegauge with a 24 inch barrel as opposed to a 26 inch or 28 inch barrel. Another oversight is the bright, shiny chrome bolt on this camo gun-- common sense calls for a black or darkened bolt on a camouflage turkey gun. Where the $695 MSRP 20 gauge Savage 220 makes perfect sense as a dedicated turkey gun, this $1549 model seems like an afterthought.

This 24 inch barrel Savage Renegauge weighs 7 lbs. 14.6 oz. unloaded, and naturally the longer barreled versions put it at 8 lbs. and change. It is far too heavy to be an enjoyable field gun, just about the last thing anyone would want for wild pheasants, partridge, quail, or any situation where you do significant walking. The trigger breaks at about 4-3/4 lbs. after initial take-up: a small amount better than average for mass-produced repeaters.

Savage's approach is a gas system at the middle of the barrel with two forward vents. The gas piston system is a mixed bag of sorts. The dual venting valves are in an excessively heavy, bulky barrel housing. A single gas piston drives back the carrier / bolt array. While Savage seems to think that dual vents are revolutionary, the Remington Versa Max introduced ten years ago has dual pistons and dual vents. The same goes for the 3 inch chambered Remington V3 introduced five years ago.

While it functions well enough, this 24 inch Renegauge barrel alone weighs 3 lbs., 6.6 oz. To give you an idea of just how ridiculously heavy this barrel is, I weighed a 30 inch Browning B-80 12 gauge barrel: it comes in at 2 lbs., 5 oz. This is no typo: a 30 inch B-80 (or 303) barrel weighs over a solid pound less than a 24 inch Renegauge barrel. A 26 inch Fabarm L4S barrel weighs about 1-1/2 pounds less.

My interest piqued about barrel weights, I grabbed a camo 26 inch Remington V3 barrel with a Trulock Precision Hunter extended choke and weighed it. The longer 26 inch V3 barrel came in at 2 lbs., 12 ounces: close to 3/4 pound lighter than the Savage Renegauge. The V3's pistons work directly on the bolt, so there are no dual action bars or any action bars at all on a Remington V3. There is little mystery here: the Remington V3 is a 7-1/4 lb. gun and well-balanced with a 26 inch barrel. The 8 pound Savage Renegage gets all of its excessive weight and ridiculous muzzle heaviness from the bloody barrel.

Even with the 24 inch barrel, the Savage Renegauge is the worst-balanced, most horribly nose-heavy repeater I've ever tested. If ever there was a shotgun that balanced like an opossum on a rake, this is it. Shoulder one for yourself, you will either be astonished or appalled … more likely the latter.

Here are a few current 12 gauge production models I've personally tested, most several times, and of course weighed.

Browning Maxus Stalker 3-1/2 in., 28 inch barrel: 6 lbs. 15 oz.

Benelli Vinci, MAX-4 Camo, 26 inch: 7 lbs., 1 oz.

Beretta A400, non-KO, 28 inch: 6 lbs. 13 oz.

Fabarm L4S Hunter 26 inch walnut, 6-3/4 lbs.

Retay Masai Mara Satin 28 inch walnut 6 lbs., 14 oz.

Remington V3 26 inch camo, 7-1/4 lbs.

Sometimes, even the best engineers who do not hunt or shoot get lost in their own mire of getting things to work. That might work well for a sump pump, but it ignores what makes for a truly good shotgun, which is all the human element. Also, it surprises me how someone could release a new product and be ignorant of what is already out there and in common, popular, enthusiastic use.

How could anyone in the industry not know that dedicated turkey guns come with Picatinny rails or iron sights as a de facto, expected standard? Savage already knows this quite well, as they manufacture and sell their Model 220 Turkey and Model 212 Turkey shotguns . . . both camo with black bolts and one-piece rails for optics. MSRP on the Model 220 Turkey is $695 and it weighs about a half pound less than the Renegauge including the rail and is less than half the price. Is the idea to kill a turkey, or not?

Who could not know that a Browning Maxus Stalker with a 3-1/2 inch chamber is the same price as a Renegauge? Who could not know that the Made in USA Remington V3 Field Sport with a written lifetime warranty has an MSRP of $995? The comparatively elegant, walnut-stocked 100% Made in Italy Fabarm L4S Initial Hunter has a MSRP of $1355. Just how can you be in this industry and not know these things?

While I have long held a very high opinion of Savage Arms and their team, the new Renegauge is not a competitive product. If the excessive weight of the Renegauge (for a 3 inch field gun) doesn't turn you off, the spectacularly miserable nose-heavy balance and handling most assuredly will.

As much as I REALLY do not enjoy saying it, the Renegauge just doesn't have much of a chance of making it in its present form. If you looked up “balances like a pig on a snow shovel” in the dictionary, it should say “see Savage Renegauge.” This shotgun is a major league disappointment in my view, offering nothing in terms of value, aesthetics, or performance compared to several other readily available, popular, and less costly models. The Renegauge is a swing and a miss. If there ever was a new autoloader doomed to fail, it is the Renegauge. Unless ugly, heavy, expensive, and lousy handling is what someone wants in a shotgun, its chances are slim to none . . . and Slim just left town.

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Copyright 2020 by Randy Wakeman. All rights reserved.