• Savage Model 12 Varmint Low Profile Review in .204 Ruger

    In the last few years, Savage Arms Inc. has introduced a number of revolutionary designs to the shooting industry, such as the Model 10ML-II muzzleloader and the award winning AccuTrigger. Not being one to sit back and ride on previous success, Savage came to the game in 2004 with their new 12-Series Varmint Low-Profile rifles, and in my opinion, has hit yet another home run.

    The Model 12VLP rifles are available in both single-shot, solid bottom receiver models and internal box magazine-style repeaters. The Varmint Low-Profile, like all Savage centerfire bolt-action rifles, with the exception of the new Model 40, is based on the proven 110 action design that has been in use for nearly 50 years. The rifle I received for this review is a single-shot model (12VLP-S), and chambered for the new .204 Ruger.

    Out of the Box:
    At first glance, the Model 12 Varmint Low Profile has a very appealing appearance. The brown laminated stock features a curved pistol grip, wide beavertail forend and fluted comb resulting in a package that shoulders extremely well. Additionally, the stock is fitted with detachable sling swivels, and has dual pillar bedding to provide a rigid mounting area for the action. The stainless steel finish provides a nice contrast to the laminated stock, and the fluted heavy contour barrel reduces overall weight. Other features include a three-position tang mounted safety, an extra large bolt knob, a free-floated barrel, and of course the revolutionary AccuTrigger which is adjustable from 1.5 6lbs. (mine was set to 1.5lbs from the factory).

    Included with the rifle are the usual accompaniments, such as the owners manual, warranty card, AccuTrigger adjustment tool, and a cable-style lock for safe storage. A Firearm Checklist sheet with a target displaying a 3-shot test group was also included in the packaging. This document provides a safety check, function fire check, measured trigger pull, and test firing information. In my opinion, this is an excellent touch on Savages part, and should be included with every firearm they ship. (Note: This rifle was hand inspected by the Custom Shop.)

    For this review, I chose to mount a Mueller Eraticator 8.5-25x50mm scope using Weaver #46 bases and Burris Signature Zee Series medium height rings. This setup placed the scope extremely close to the barrel, so close in fact that I was unable to use the lens covers included with the scope. With a Ken Farrell base, the medium height rings will allow plenty of clearance, but I would recommend using high rings for anyone choosing to go with the Weaver bases.

    At the Range:
    This being my first experience with an AccuTrigger equipped rifle, I needed to acclimate myself to its very unique feel. The AccuRelease lever takes getting used to, but once familiarized with its feel you hardly notice it is there.

    With the introductions out of the way, I sat down to shot my first serious groups and was rewarded with typical out-of-the-box Savage accuracy. Using Hornady 32gr V-Max factory ammunition, my first 5-shot group at 100yds measured out to 0.446 center-to-center, followed by a second group of 0.392. Moving out to 200yds, the 12 Varmint Low-Profile continued to shine by turning in groups measuring 1.017 and 0.754. For a factory rifle shooting factory-loaded
    ammunition, I was extremely impressed!

    Stepping up to Hornadys 40gr V-Max ammunition showed no noticeable gains at 100yds, but did prove to be slightly beneficial at 200yds with its higher ballistic coefficient. Handloading using both Varget and H4198 powders with the 40-grain V-Max bullets, I was unable to match the velocity of the factory loads, but experienced some gain in accuracy. I attribute most of this gain to seating the 40-grain bullet closer to the lands, as the factory loads were seated deep. The factory ammunition also suffers from a noticeable concentricity problem, but being such a short bullet did not seem to have much affect on the overall accuracy.

    One note on the .204 Ruger I would like to point out is that it is prone to cracking case necks. During the 3 months I spent with this rifle, about 1 in 10 cases on average experienced this problem. Other .204 Ruger owners I have spoken with have reported similar experiences, so expect case life to be marginal at best.

    In the Field:
    While most reviews you read are based solely on results gathered at the shooting range, I think it is equally important to put the gun through its paces in the field. The reason behind this is two-fold in that A) most shooters are also hunters and will be using the firearm in both disciplines, and B) it gives me a better basis for rating the handling and reliability of the rifle.

    During my time spent with the Model 12 Varmint Low-Profile, I employed its use both locally for groundhogs and on a Nebraska prairie dog trip. Being a rifle primarily designed around bench shooting and stationary varmint hunting, the 12VLP's weight does not lend itself to being carried for any extended length of time. The weight is also a major issue for off-hand shooting, even though the balance of the rifle is excellent. Those seeking a rifle for use in either of these types of hunting should turn their attention to models fitted with sporter weight barrels.

    Hunting from a stand or portable shooting bench is where the Varmint Low-Profile really shines. The stock rides the bags extremely well, although the difference in taper angles between the forend and butt stock do create an elevation change. The Model 12VLP stock also shoulders comfortably from both the seated and prone firing positions.

    In regards to ammunition, I was rather disappointed in the performance of the 32 grain Hornady V-Max bullets. While extremely effective out to 200 yards, I had several instances where solidly hit groundhogs at further distances got up and ran back to their burrows. This is definitely not the bullet of choice for those who want to take their game in the most ethical and humane manner possible at longer distances.

    The 40 grain Hornady V-Max bullets on the other hand proved extremely effective on both groundhogs and prairie dogs out to and beyond 500 yards. The 40-grain bullet is also much flatter shooting and does a better job of bucking the wind, making it the ideal choice for long-range shots.

    I found the Model 12 Varmint Low-Profile to be an exceptional rifle in both quality and accuracy. The new laminated stock design offers a much more comfortable feel compared to the rather bulky BVSS stock, and the satin finish blends very well with that of the stainless steel components. The user adjustable AccuTrigger trigger system provides a crisp, creep-free brake, and rightfully deserves all the acclaim it has received.

    Functionally, the 12VLP-S performed extremely well with flawless feeding, extraction, and ejection during the extent of my testing. The bolt timing seems to be slightly off as indicated by the heavy bolt lift, but I am used to the silky smooth operation of my other Savage which was timed by Sharp Shooter Supply.

    Overall, the Model 12 Varmint Low-Profile is an excellent rifle; ideally suited for both target shooting and varmint hunting. Very few production rifles can match its out-of-the-box accuracy, and those that can will typically cost you twice as much or better. If you are in the market for a top quality, super accurate and reliable varmint rifle, you would be hard pressed to top the Savage Model 12 Varmint Low-Profile!

    Additional Photos:

    100 yard target shot with factory Hornady load with 32gr V-Max bullet. 100 yard target shot with factory Hornady load with 40gr V-Max bullet.
    100 yard target shot with factory Hornady load with 40gr V-Max bullet. 100 yard target shot with factory Hornady load with 32gr V-Max bullet.

    Savage Arms, Inc.
    100 Springdale Road
    Westfield, MA 01085
    Phone: (413) 568-8386

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