• Savage Model 12FT-R F-Class Review in .308 Winchester

    It's no secret that Savage has decided to get into the F-Class game. This should prove to be very interesting since F-Class is one of the fastest growing shooting sports in the world at the moment. Savage has entered two models into this sport to become the only major factory to have a dedicated line of rifles for F-Class use.Whether or not they are successful only time will tell.

    NRA F-Class is a division of NRA High Power. It uses the prone slow fire rules so it can be fired at any distance but the most common distances are 600 & 1000 yards. F-Class rules allow for a front rest and rear bag. They also allow for any sights. The front rest cannot contact the rear and can only be attached to the rifle if it is a bipod. Mechanical and return to battery rests are not allowed. Rifles have to meet weight limits as well as caliber restrictions (.223 Rem & .308 Win) in F-Target Rifle (FTR).

    The new Target AccuTrigger is signified by the red blade.The two rifles that Savage has for F-Class is the Model 12 F-Open and the Model 12 FTR. The Model 12 F-Open is chambered in 6.5-284 Norma, the first factory rifle to do so. The Model 12 FTR is chambered in .308 Winchester. Both rifles have a 30 inch long stainless steel barrel that features the Savage barrel nut system. These barrels are button rifled like all Savage barrels. The barrels on these rifles, as with the LRPV, are made with the large diameter barrel shank. They also use the typical Savage recoil lug.

    Savage went with a modified version of the venerable Model 12 action on these rifles to make what is known as a "target action". The actions are single feed with a small port on the right side of the receiver. They also use the large diameter barrel shank. Three action screws are used to hold the rig in the stock with one of the screws being positioned in the middle of the action where the magazine well would normally be. There is also a "target grade" Accutrigger and large bolt handle.

    The stocks on these rifles are laminated wood. The F-Open stock is a well designed prone style stock that was redesigned thanks to input from experienced F-Class shooters. The FTR stock is more like a general purpose stock that features the Choate plastic cheek pieces which are held on with wood screws. Both stocks come from the factory with Anschutz style accessory rails. As with all Savage laminated wood stocks these are pillar bedded.

    Now that we have the product summary out of the way we can move on to the evaluations.

    First I want to say that Savage is to be commended on taking this venture into a sport that is dominated by custom rifles. It took great foresight to see that this a growing sport as most anyone can compete in it without a lot of gear. I have no doubt that if Savage pursues this project with interest they will be able to achieve success in the sport of F-Class.

    Let's take a look at the rifle bit by bit.

    *Barrel- the most obvious part of the Model 12 FTR is the barrel. That 30 inches of stainless pipe really grabs attention. The barrel on this rifle had a nice smooth finish. It also cleaned up very easily each time I cleaned it with Montana Extreme and a nylon brush. It usually took less than 10 passes to get a patch with no blue or black on it. Very pleased with that.

    The new Target action features a small loading/ejection port leaving the top of the action solid for better rigidity.*Action- three action screws, small port and single shot feed will make for a rigid receiver. The side of the receiver has a warning about the trigger which is really tacky looking. The bolt is the typical Model 12 unit which was very clunky feeling. Not what one would expect from a purpose built target rifle. The cycling of the bolt needs to be smooth, especially on a prone rifle, and this one left much to be desired. The larger bolt handle was a nice feature but needs to angled outwards a little more. It has a way of hitting the top knuckle of the trigger finger on recoil.

    *Trigger- the "target AccuTrigger" is set very lightly from the factory. It is so light that the blade will sometimes trip and not allow the trigger to be pulled. If the bolt is operated quickly the blade will also trip. This very annoying when trying shoot under a time limit. There was also a bit of sideways play in the blade that also cause the trigger to trip. After about 40 rounds, the blade tripped constantly and no shots could fired until I tightened up the pull. This is a very lack luster approach to providing a match trigger. They should have supplied it with an aftermarket match trigger or built a proper trigger at the factory.

    *Stock- Savage went with a grey/black laminated wood stock on this rifle. The wood looks really nice and is very smooth and uniform. The Anschutz style accessory rail is a great touch. It also has very good fit and finish. Unfortunately, that is the extent of the good points. The overall design doesn't lend itself to effective prone shooting or bench shooting. The design is much more of a hunting or general purpose style but the rifle weighs too much and is too badly balanced to be used for any other kind of shooting. To add insult to injury, the cheek pieces are the plastic ones made by Choate that are held on with wood screws. You get a high one and a low one. In order to run a cleaning rod through the chamber, the high cheek piece has to be removed. Not sure what Savage was thinking here but it is extremely tacky. As a friend mine put it, "It's like putting a trailer hitch on a Rolls Royce".

    The forend of the stock features three ventilation ports to aid in cooling and improve consistency from shot to shot.*Shooting- developing a good load for this rifle was really time consuming. It only liked a couple bullets. I tried the Sierra MatchKings (155gr & 168gr), Nosler Competition (155gr &168gr), Lapua Scenar (155gr & 167gr) and Berger Match VLD (155gr & 168gr). The Berger 168gr had the best success followed by the Berger 155gr and Lapua 155gr. The others shot decently but nothing impressive. In fact, I have never had this much difficulty in trying to find what a rifle likes. Varget powder and CCI BR2 primers were the best performers in the Lake City 82 Match brass I was using. I had tried Lapua .308 brass but the cases had serious quality issues so they were abandoned. Both of the Berger bullets had no trouble producing sub-MOA groups out to 600 yards and both of the Lapuas did also but not quite as consistently as the Bergers. Proper epoxy bedding could possibly solve this issue but the rifle was not mine so I couldn't do any modifications to it to find out. In fact, if it were in a prone stock with good bedding I would not be surprise if the Berger VLD's turned in a half-MOA group.

    There were no cases that failed to extract but some did fail to eject. A good 30 percent would not eject but rather laid in the port. If it were my rifle to keep, I would have removed the ejector anyway since prone shooters pick out their brass to keep it clean and damage free. This is only issue in that the ejector didn't function all the time.

    A fellow F-Class shooter, Monte Milanuk, who is a member Team Savage (the team who is shooting these in F-Class at various matches) has graciously agreed to share some of his experiences with me. The following is what he sent me:

    I was kind of a 'late addition' to the team due to an earlier member having a change in employment that prevented them from attending the team matches. I got that persons rifle handed to me with about 300-500rds thru it, and about a month to get ready for a big match up in Canada, followed about three weeks later by SOA/FCNC. I had to finish neck-turning 600 pieces of Lapua brass, and weighing charges on an Acculab VIC123 has its benefits, but speed is not one of them. As such, my efforts at load development were rather stunted.

    To my knowledge, three of the rifles have been bedded: the one I received appears to have been bedded with Devcon, and shoots very accurately and reliably. As mentioned, it came to me 'broken in' so I cannot say what it shot like before hand. One of the rifles, the one used by Darrell Buell to take 1st F/TR in the SOA/Fullbore Championships and 3rd F/TR in the FCNC, is unbedded... so I'd say there may not be a lot of disadvantage to leaving the stock alone as it comes from the factory!

    As for loads and components... it's mostly a story of 'half use this, half use that' or 'three do one thing, and the other does something completely different.' Two use Winchester cases, two use Lapua. Three use Varget, one uses N540. One uses Rem 9-1/2 primers, three use Federal 210Ms. Three run at 3100+fps, one runs at more 'normal' velocities @ 2950fps.

    The 'warmer' loads consist of either 48gr Varget in a Winchester case or 46.5gr N540 in a Lapua, ignited by a Fed210M. The 'milder' load is the one I use... 46.5gr of Varget in a Lapua case lit by a Rem 9-1/2. Surprisingly, my load is the only one that is heavily compressed, to the point of being somewhat of a problem. Everyone used Berger 155gr VLDs for the SOA matches and the FCNC.

    Hindsight being 20/20 and all that good stuff... following the SOA/FCNC matches, changes are in the air. Some of the loads may be tuned down a bit, and I know I'm on the lookout for a powder that doesn't end up quite so compressed. Who knows what we'll be using this time next year?

    All in all, the Model 12 FTR can be a good rifle for an F-Class shooter on a budget. With a better stock, trigger adjustment and patience developing a good load it should prove to be a good performer.

    Additional Photos:

    The FT-R's stock features an accessory rail in the forend. Single-shot Target actions all feature three action screws. Savage felt it necessary to etch a warning message into the non-port side of the action regarding the lighter weight Target AccuTrigger.

    Contact Information
    Savage Arms
    100 Springdale Road
    Westfield, MA 01085

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