By Jon R. Sundra
The Long Range Precision Varminter isn’t like any other hunting gun on the market.
It isn’t often we see a new production-grade rifle that by its features reflects a lot of thought went into its design. Such is the new Savage Model 12 Long Range Precision Varminter, a rifle that is the obvious product of input by a lot of knowledgeable shooters.
I’ve been in this gun-writing business for nearly four decades, and I can tell you that manufacturers are constantly asking for advice regarding new products and how to improve existing ones. They listen, all right, but rarely does anything come of it. I think it’s because they get too much input from too many sources, and the result is dilution of concept and/or paralysis by analysis. Either that or it’s what prompted the joke about a camel being the result of a committee trying to design a horse.
In the case of the LRPV, it’s obvious the Savage folks not only listened, but responded. This rifle is not your typical “variation-on-an-existing-theme” that is the usual basis for most of the new guns we see each year.
The two most distinguishing features that set this rifle apart from other varmint rifles are 1) its ejection port is on the left side of the receiver, and 2) its bolt handle is on the right. Not only that, the ejection port is about half the size of that of other 110-series rifles. The small ejection port, of course, means that the receiver is weakened to a much lesser extent. Contributing even more to making this action as rigid as possible is the absence of the huge hole in the floor of the receiver needed to accommodate a magazine. This is strictly a single-shot rifle.
Obviously, maintaining as much mass in the receiver to stiffen it is an accuracy-enhancing measure. The more rigid and monolithic the receiver, the less it will flex and vibrate during the ignition and barrel-time episodes.
Yet another feature meant to extract all the accuracy potential possible from this rifle is its full bull barrel. In other words, instead of having a slight taper to it, as do all other production varmint-rifle barrels, this one is a full 1-inch diameter its entire length. Again, the stiffer the barrel, the less severe the amplitude of the vibration nodes as the bullet accelerates down the bore.
The LRPV’s bull barrel measures
a full 1 inch its entire length.
Contributing somewhat less to the accuracy picture but contributing nonetheless is the AccuTrigger, that excellent fire-control system that Savage came up with a few years ago and is now standard on all the company’s 110-series centerfires, and the H-S Precision stock chosen as the support platform for this innovative new rifle. On this and other Savage varmint models, the AccuTrigger is safely user-adjustable from a maximum of 6 pounds to a minimum of 1 1/2; on sporter models the range is from 2 1/2 to 6 pounds.
As for the stock, the Savage folks couldn’t have made a better choice. The hand-laid, graphite-reinforced carbon-fiber stock with integral bedding block of hardened aluminum is the hallmark feature of H-S stocks. Three rather than two action screws mate the barreled action to the bedding block, which is the only contact between the two; the barrel floats its entire length.
While all the aforementioned features are accuracy-oriented, the positioning of the ejection port on the left side of the receiver is strictly an ergonomic one. For a right-handed shooter seated at a bench, be it on the range or at the edge of a prairie rat town, it is so much easier, more convenient and, yes, even safer to have the loading port on the same side you’re on! Rather than having to roll the rifle on its side or peer through the gap between the scope and the left receiver wall to see what you’re doing each time you place a round on the loading ramp, the ramp and the chamber itself are in full view.
Another ergonomic touch is the extra-long bolt handle with larger grasping ball that is now standard on all Savage varmint rifles. It truly does make lifting, i.e., cocking the action and manipulating the bolt a lot easier.
The gun sent to us for testing was chambered in .223 Rem, one of three calibers offered. The others are .204 Ruger and .22-250. At 11 1/4 pounds as it comes from the box, the LRPV is one of the heavier production varminters around. But then that’s to be expected when you consider the massive receiver and bull barrel. With the typical kind of scope that’s going to be mounted on a rifle of this nature, you’re looking at close to 13 pounds, field-ready. If anything, that’s an advantage with a varmint rig, especially when there’s a wind blowing, and I don’t care how steady a bench you’re shooting from and how good a rest you have.
The scope we mounted for testing was a NikkoStirling 4-16x44 Nighteater, one of the upper-shelf offerings among a comprehensive line of NS scopes imported by Legacy Sports. Using Weaver-type bases and medium-height rings enabled the objective bell to barely clear the barrel; it was a perfect match. Ready to go, the rig weighed just under 13 pounds.
Rummaging through our ammo stores, we came up with eight different brands/loads of .223 Rem ammo: Hornady’s 40- and 55-grain V-Max; Federal’s 50-grain Speer TNT and 55-grain Nosler Ballistic Tip; Remington’s 50-grain V-Max and 55-grain AccuTip; and Winchester’s Supreme 40- and 50-grain Ballistic Silvertips.
Conditions on the range that day were fairly benign, but there was a 6 to 8 mph wind blowing directly in our face which could have affected our groups. All shooting consisted of three five-shot groups fired from atop a concrete bench at 100 yards. Each string of five shots was fired as fast as possible, because a rifle of this type is expected to shoot well and to the same POI as it heats up. We would then let the barrel cool 3 to 4 minutes between strings, but that thick pipe never got too hot to touch.
As it turned out, three out of the eight loads tried averaged under an inch for 15 shots, the best performance being turned in by Winchester’s Supreme 50-grain Ballistic Silvertip load, with the Hornady 40-grain V-Max coming in a close second, and Federal’s 50-grain Speer TNT load third. What with all the things this gun’s got going for it, I was hoping for a little tighter groups and at least one or two more loads averaging under an inch - but I’m thinking the gusting headwinds had to affect groups to some extent.
All in all, this LRPV is one great varmint rifle. Carrying an MSRP of $967, it’s relatively pricey for a Savage, but we believe its overall performance and well-though-out features make it worth the asking price.
Reprinted from the October 2006 issue of Buckmasters GunHunter Magazine