The Savage 12 Series Varmint Rifles

By Chuck Hawks

The 2006 Savage Arms catalog said this about the main features of their 12 Series Varmint rifles:

"With features like the revolutionary AccuTrigger--allowing you to easily adjust trigger pull weight from 1.5-6 pounds--button rifled, free-floating barrels and dual pillar bedded stocks, this series establishes the standard and continues to raise the bar for factory produced rifles."

The Savage 12 Series really does live up to Savage's advertising slogan, "the definition of accuracy." Features common to the 12 Series not mentioned in the opening of this article include a strong Savage 110 series bolt action with a fast lock time, oversize bolt knob, three-position tang mounted safety, and a heavy profile barrel (most are fluted). Model 12s come with laminated hardwood, composite, or synthetic stocks that offer a fluted comb, black rubber butt pad and detachable sling swivel studs. Selected models are available in a single shot version for added receiver stiffness (no magazine opening in the receiver). The 12FLV and Varminter Low Profile are available in left hand versions. Common calibers are .204 Ruger, .223 Remington and .22-250, with certain models available in .25-06, .308 Winchester and .300 Magnum.

Another common feature is Savage's unique barrel attachment/headspacing arrangement. This achieves very precise headspacing and we are convinced that it contributes to the outstanding accuracy of Savage rifles.

Above all of the other features, the Savage AccuTrigger is a tremendous breakthrough for which Savage Arms deserves all the credit they have received. It is light, clean, safe and easily user adjustable. If you have not experienced an AccuTrigger you simply do not know how good a factory-installed trigger can be.

The Savage 12 Series gives the serious varmint hunter an unsurpassed selection of rifles from which to choose. The line includes the Long Range Precision Varminter, Varminter Thumbhole, Varminter Low Profile, 12BVSS, 12 FVSS / 12FV / 12FLV and Varminter 12VSS. This selection pretty well covers the varmint rifle field, from relatively standard heavy varmint rifles (Thumbhole, Low Profile, 12FVSS), prone varmint rifle (12BVSS), bench rest varmint rifle (Long Range Precision Varminter) and tactical style varmint rifle (12VSS).

At the moment the top of the 12 Series line is the single shot Long Range Precision Varminter. This is a bench rest type varmint rifle. It incorporates an extra-heavy 1" diameter barrel 28" long, stainless steel barreled action, extra heavy receiver with a small ejection port for increased receiver rigidity, H-S Precision composite stock that incorporates an aluminum bedding block chassis, and an unusual right bolt but left port action. It is a very heavy (and muzzle heavy), specialized rifle designed for long range accuracy when portability is not an issue.

The extra-heavy right bolt/left eject action used in the Long Range Precision Varminter is unusual. I know of no other commercially produced rifle that uses this sensible configuration. The oval loading/ejection port is on the left side of the cylindrical receiver, but the bolt is operated normally from the right side. This layout makes the rifle easier and more convenient to load and unload at a bench rest with your free hand. If you like the concept of the Long Range Precision Varminter but would like it in a package more suitable for use in the field, see the Custom G&S Online Model 12 described later in this article.

Savage G&S Online Model 12
Long Range Precision Varminter: bolt handle but no ejection port on right side of action
Illustration courtesy of Savage Arms.

The new addition to the 12 Series for 2008 is the Varminter Thumbhole. This is basically the same stainless steel barreled action used in the 12BVSS and Low Profile in a brown, laminated hardwood, thumbhole stock with a ventilated forend. A detachable magazine feeds the cartridges in the Varminter Thumbhole. There is a complete review of one of these rifles on the Product Review Page.

Savage 12 Low Profile
Model 12 Varminter Thumbhole. Illustration courtesy of Savage Arms.

The Varminter Low Profile is probably the most handsome of the 12 Series rifles. It comes with a heavy, tapered (3/4" diameter at the muzzle), 26" fluted barrel and a stainless steel barreled action. This is bedded in an attractive laminated hardwood stock with a beavertail forend. The popular Low Profile is available in both long and short actions, as a repeater or a single shot, and for right or left handed shooters. This is a general purpose heavy varmint rifle with a stiff, wooden stock.

Savage 12 Low Profile
Model 12 Varminter Low Profile. Illustration courtesy of Savage Arms.

The 12BVSS also comes with a laminated hardwood stock, but this stock is designed for shooting from the prone position. It incorporates a deep forend with a black tip and a very tight pistol grip. The stainless steel barreled action is the same as that found in the Low Profile. The 12BVSS uses a short action in right hand configuration only, but has been made in both single shot and repeater versions.

Savage 12BVSS
Model 12BVSS. Illustration courtesy of Savage Arms.

The Models 12FVSS / 12FV / 12FLV are the standard, synthetic stocked, short action versions of the 12 Series Varmint rifles. The 12FVSS uses the fluted, stainless steel barreled action of the Low Profile and 12BVSS, but in a more conventional black synthetic stock. The 12FV uses a blued barreled action (no fluting), and the 12FLV is the left handed version of the blued barreled action. These are all repeating rifles, and the most economical of the 12 Series.

Savage 12FV
Model 12FV. Illustration courtesy of Savage Arms.

The rather radical Model 12VSS comes with a Choate adjustable synthetic stock with accessory rail, alloy bedding block with integral pillars and swivel studs. This rifle uses the Low Profile/12BVSS fluted, stainless barreled action. It is a short action, repeating, right hand only model.

Savage 12VSS
Model 12VSS. Illustration courtesy of Savage Arms.

You can even get Savage Arms to put together a custom 12 Series Varmint rifle to special order. The Savage/G&S Online Model 12 is such a rifle. This uses the right bolt, left eject Long Range Precision Varminter action and H-S Precision stock mated to a shortened (23") Low Profile fluted barrel to create our version of the ideal varmint rifle. There is a review of this rifle in the "Rifle Reviews and Articles" section of the Rifle Information Page, and information on how to order a G&S Online Model 12 for yourself is included.

Savage G&S Online Model 12
The Savage Custom G&S Online Model 12. Photo by Chuck Hawks.

One thing that you will certainly notice the first time you use a single shot version of a 12 Series rifle, which we highly recommend, is how smooth and easy it is to load. Just open the bolt, drop a cartridge into the receiver, and slide the bolt closed. There is almost no resistance when the bolt chambers the cartridge. The smoothness of this operation feels very different from chambering a round from a typical magazine fed bolt action rifle.

Of course, the defining characteristic of any specialized varmint rifle is accuracy. And the Savage 12 Series Varmint rifles deliver accuracy in spades. In our three 12 Series rifle comparison article (see the Product Review Page), all three 12 Series models delivered a best 3-shot, 100 yard group measuring only 1/4". We consider that to be pretty phenomenal!

You can read the details of the shooting results in the various reviews of 12 Series Varmint rifles that appear on the Product Review Page. But we can summarize by saying that the Savage 12 Series rifles are, across the board, the most accurate rifles ever tested by Guns and Shooting Online.

Note: Complete reviews of the Savage 12 Series Varminter Thumbhole, Varminter Low Profile, Long Range Precision Varminter and 12 BVSS rifles can be found on the Product Reviews page.

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