Flat Shooter: Savage Arms Model 12 Long Range Precision Review
February 10, 2013
I have long been a fan of cartridges topped with .26-inch bullets. Military classics such as the 6.5 Arisaka, 6.5 Carcano and 6.5x55 Swede all pique my interest. I love the 6.5x38mm Grendel mated to an AR-15. Plus I have a great deal of respect for the .260 Rem.
So it was no surprise that when the 6.5mm Creedmoor was introduced I took note. It seemed like an interesting cartridge with great potential if it was mated to a quality rifle. So I was excited when Savage Arms selected it as one of three cartridges offered in the Model 12 Long Range Precision rifle. This rifle/cartridge combination appeared capable of providing impressive performance at a reasonable price.
Let's begin by taking a look at the origins of this flat-shooting cartridge. The 6.5mm Creedmoor actually began with a conversation between Hornady Senior Ballistician Dave Emary and National High Power Champion Dennis DeMille at the National Matches. They were simply bench-racing about the ideal match cartridge.
DeMille's requirements consisted of match-grade accuracy, a high ballistic coefficient projectile, long barrel and brass life, moderate chamber pressure, low recoil, ability to feed from a short action and to be readily available and affordable.
Emary took these requirements and used them to develop a new cartridge. The end goal was to provide the accuracy and exterior ballistics to be competitive at the top level of High Power Long Range competition using factory ammunition or easily produced handloads.
Emary selected a 6.5mm diameter due to the wide selection of .264-inch diameter match projectiles with high ballistic coefficients. These are not only very efficient, but provide light recoil.
The end result from Emary's work was a new 6.5mm cartridge called the Creedmoor that Hornady introduced in 2007. The basis for the Creedmoor is Hornady's earlier .30 TC cartridge developed for Thompson/Center. It has a base diameter of .470 inches, a case length of 1.920 inches and an overall length of 2.820 inches.
This allows it to fit into a short action rifle as well as an AR-10 type semi-auto. Hornady initially introduced two loads in this caliber: 120-grain A-MAX at 2,910 fps and a heavier 140-grain A-MAX at 2710 fps from a 24-inch barrel. The 120-grain A-MAX has an advertised ballistic coefficient of .465, while the longer 140 comes in at a much more impressive .585. Since its introduction Hornady has introduced two new hunting loads: 129-grain SST Superformance at 2,950 fps and a 120-grain GMX Superformance at a blistering 3,010 fps.
Savage Arms took this long reaching cartridge and built an impressive heavy barrel multipurpose rifle around it, the Model 12 Long Range Precision. This model is interesting, as it would be equally at home competing in an F-Class match, zapping varmints or flattening LaRues in a tactical match.
Built on Savage's enclosed tubular action, it's currently offered in three calibers: .243 Win, .260 Rem. and 6.5mm Creedmoor. The enclosed action is stiffer than Savage's traditional open sporting receiver and has an ejection port on the right-hand side.
It starts life as a piece of steel round stock. This is then cut to length, bored and shaped in a number of steps before the various slots and holes are cut, drilled and tapped. After it's fully machined, the front and rear of the receiver are induction heat treated.
Riding inside the action is a beefy bolt with dual opposed locking lugs. Bolt lift is 90 degrees and an oversize bolt handle is fitted. This is easier to grasp, especially with gloves, and provides additional leverage.
A large bolt release, in the form of a spring-loaded lever, is mounted on the right side of the action. The three-position tang mounted safety allows the rifle to be unloaded with the safety engaged. Feed is from a squat detachable steel central-feed box magazine. Capacity is four rounds plus one in the chamber.
Fitted to the bottom of the action is Savage's Red Target AccuTrigger. Unlike the standard AccuTrigger, the Red Target model can be adjusted all the way down to 6 ounces. Best of all, this trigger design provides a crisp release with no creep along the way. Bolted to the top of the receiver is a beefy Farrell scope base. Measuring 6 inches long, this one-piece steel base features Mil Std 1913 cross slots.
Mated to the front of the receiver is a 26-inch long heavy chrome moly match barrel. Savage bolt action rifles have a reputation for being accurate, and it's largely due to the barrel quality. Made in-house at Savage Arms' Westfield, Mass., plant, each barrel starts its life as a piece of 20-foot stock.
Barrels are then cut to length, bores are drilled and then finished to their final dimensions in a three-step process. Once this is done, they are button rifled, forming the rifling in one quick pass. After this, the heavy barrel blank is turned down to its final dimensions, crowned, and checked for straightness.
The chamber is then cut in a five-step process by automated equipment. After the exterior is polished and the finish applied it's ready to be fitted. Savage's LRP comes with a deeply recessed target crown and a 1:8 twist to handle a wide range of bullet weights. Barrel diameter tapered from approximately 1.25 inch at the chamber to 1 inch at the muzzle. To drop some weight, five 15.5-inch long flutes are cut into it.
One unique feature of Savage rifles is the distinctive barrel nut. While some may find it homely, it does make replacing barrels on Savage rifles a fairly simple task. I learned how to properly mount and headspace a barrel onto one of their rifles while visiting the Savage plant.
It's quick and simple; you start by locking the barrel into a vise. Next, the barrel nut is threaded on, followed by the recoil lug and then the receiver.
After this, the bolt is inserted into the action, a Go gauge is chambered, and the receiver firmly tightened down. Then the barrel locking nut is tightened down with a special wrench and torqued to spec.
The bolt is operated on the Go gauge and then a No Go gauge is inserted and checked to verify proper headspace. Lastly, the barrel is checked to see if it is mounted in the action straight. Due to the ease in which barrels may be changed, I know some people who have multiple barrels for one action.
SGN online columnist Gus Norcross recently built a Savage in .300 Win. Mag. with a spare barrel chambered for 7.62x54R. This allows him to easily switch back and forth between calibers. Slick.
The barreled action is dropped into a conventional HS Precision fiberglass stock. While nothing fancy, this basic stock contour has been utilized on competition and sniper rifles for decades. It is constructed of a proprietary dense polyurethane based foam material that is reinforced by Kevlar and fiberglass.
It also incorporates an aluminum bedding block CNC machined to fit the action. Length of pull is 13.25 inches and the fore-end is approximately 2 inches wide. A sling stud is mounted on the butt and fore-end and the stock sports a thick rubber recoil pad.
The bare rifle weighs 11 pounds and is 46.25 inches long. Finish on all metal parts is a matte black. My initial impressions were quite favorable. The action was smooth, the safety was easy to manipulate and the trigger was simply excellent. The magazine inserted easily and ejected cleanly. Handling-wise it is of course, fairly muzzle heavy. That said, I found the fore-end comfortable but the comb a bit low.
To test Savage Arms' new Model 12 Long Range Precision rifle I topped it with a NightForce 5.5-22x56mm scope. NightForce has earned a very devoted following due to both their optical performance and reliable mechanics. This model has a fairly wide magnification range and a large 56mm objective. The heart of the scope is a 30mm tube and it features target turrets with distinct audible and tactile quarter-minute adjustments. Total adjustment range is 100 moa. Eye relief is 3.9 inches and field of view is 17.5â€“4.7 feet at 100 yards. Overall length is 15.2 inches and it weighs 32 ounces.
I then gathered a quantity of Hornady's factory loads and headed out to my range. Here I zeroed and fired four five-shot groups from a rest at 100 yards. I quickly noticed loading magazines to capacity required a bit of effort, especially with cold fingers. Once loaded though, rounds fed smoothly into the chamber.
Bolt operation was smooth and easy, considering there is 90 degrees of rotation. The trigger was very light, broke crisply and recoil proved extremely mild. All in all, it is a very comfortable rifle to shoot. Accuracy ranged from fantastic to acceptable depending upon the load. Best accuracy was obtained using Hornady's 140-grain A-MAX load, which averaged .4 inches. The lighter 120-grain A-MAX came in at .5 inches, while the 129 SST opened up to 1 inch.
Moving from the bench, I affixed a Harris bipod and went to work firing prone at a dozen steel targets. These ranged from 6-inch plates to reduced and full-size silhouettes placed randomly from 350 to 550 yards.
Here I did a few rapid fire drills, but quickly grew bored. At these distances, it was all too simple to flatten even a reduced-size target. I never touched the turrets but simply held off for elevation/windage corrections using the NightForce's excellent reticle. This provided rapid and consistent hits.
Needing more of a challenge, I climbed my shooting tower to try my luck at 800 yards. One lone full-size Action Target silhouette sat staring back at me while I loaded the magazine in a cold rain. Settling in behind the Savage, I checked the conditions and launched a 140-grain A-MAX to test the waters. Getting back behind the NightForce I spotted an impact kicking up dirt short and a bit to the right. Using the NightForce's reticle, I quickly measured how far short I was, compensated and fired again. This time I was rewarded with a hit. I followed it up with four more rounds. All five rounds went into just three inches.
Next, I fired a 10-shot group. Hopping in my old CUCV, I drove out and found them all nestled into a 6-inch group. So even at 800 yards, Savage's LRP, straight out of the box, is capable of excellent accuracy with factory ammunition. I spent the rest of the day shooting at this distance and the Savage proved extremely consistent.
Thoughts on Savage's new LRP? I'll share my negative thoughts first. Chiefly, I wish the stock comb was a bit higher. Plus, the barrel profile may be just a bit too much of a good thing and another sling stud in the fore-end would be nice. Function-wise, I did experience four of five failures to feed during testing. However, this only happened when loaded to capacity.
Positives? It's a simple, robust and reliable rifle capable of excellent accuracy straight out of the box. I like the beefy receiver, oversized bolt handle, deeply recessed target crown and excellent trigger. The three-position safety is also a plus. The stock, while very basic, is rugged and functional. The NightForce scope also performed flawlessly during testing while providing an impressive image even in low light.
Do you need a 6.5mm Creedmoor? Maybe, maybe not. Perhaps you'd rather have a .260 Rem. to make use of all those .308 Win. cases you have stashed away. Either way, Savage Arms has you covered with the new Model 12 LRP. With a list price of $1,170, this new Savage is not cheap, but it is well within reach of most. It certainly is one to consider, especially if you are interested in those wonderfully efficient 6.5mm projectiles.