Long Range Hunting Online Magazine

Savage Models 12 and 112 Review

The Savage 110 Series rifles are equipped with a unique method of adjusting and locking in cartridge headspace ó quite clever, to say the least. But I simplified things here in the switch-barrel process to make changing barrels faster and easier with perfect cartridge headspace.

Savage Models 12 and 112 Review
Stamped recoil lug on left, used by Savage on the Models 12 and 112 rifles. The Holland recoil lug shown on right is used as a replacement for the Savage lug. This is a high precision double-disk-ground lug. The receiver face is shown at center with alignment notch used to align the recoil lug.

The Savage barrel lock nut is 0.875" in length with 11 internal threads over the back two thirds of this length. The remaining tapered portion of the lock nut is not threaded and serves to cover the otherwise exposed threads of the installed barrel. The unthreaded front part of the shroud has a 0.02" gap between it and the barrel, per se, which I put to good use and will describe later. But first, on to cartridge headspace using the barrel lock nut.

With the barrel securely held in a padded barrel vise, and a lock-nut wrench all ready to go, screw the barrel lock nut onto the barrel, as far as it will go, with your fingers. The recoil lug is then put in place against the barrel lock nut with the receiver engaging lug or pin toward the receiver. At this time the receiver engages the recoil lug and is turned onto the barrel with the bolt in place and carefully screwed farther onto the barrel until the bolt face makes contact with the barrel. Youíll have to back things up until the bolt can be closed freely. At this time try the headspace gauge and back off the barrel lock nut until bolt can be closed down on the GO headspace gauge with some feel. The lock nut wrench is now tightened to the desired foot pounds of torque and the headspace gauge is again tried. This maneuver is applied until such time the correct cartridge headspace is attained.

At this stage I put witness marks on the barrel lock nut and the barrel to refer back to as I remove the receiver from the barrel with an action wrench inserted into the bolt hole. The receiver should loosen at the juncture of the back part of the recoil lug as you look for movement at the witness marks. This is precisely how the barrel will later be removed from the action as it is bolted into the stock. The barrel lock nut is then bonded in place so headspace is permanently maintained without referring back to the witness marks each time a barrel is installed. The barrel lock nut could be fixed in place with Loc-Tite, a thread locking agent, but I have discovered a better way. I simply slide a thin, metal shim between the non-threaded barrel and barrel lock nut shroud coated on both sides with J-B Cold Weld. This does the trick. As the bonding agent is setting I install the barrel in the action and torque it to about 25-foot pounds with the witness marks in alignment. This assures coaxial alignment at the barrel-to-receiver thread juncture.

Then, should you later want to move the barrel lock nut or further adjust headspace, simply apply heat over the J-B Cold Weld tab and the lock nut can be turned. Re-apply the Cold-Weld tab as needed. Iíve never had a barrel lock nut loosen in changing dozens of barrels with my system of switching barrels on these Savage rifles.

Savage Models 12 and 112 Review
Stamped recoil lug on left, used by Savage on the Models 12 and 112 rifles. The Holland recoil lug shown on right is used as a replacement for the Savage lug. This is a high precision double-disk-ground lug. The receiver face is shown at center with alignment notch used to align the recoil lug.


As I get into fitting custom after-market barrels on the Savage Model 110 series, a conventional barrel-to-receiver shoulder is put to use. There is little point in reducing the larger barrel diameter to the smaller Savage barrel diameter and extending the threads for a barrel lock nut. Savage Model 110 Series barrels have a 1.030" breech diameter over the chamber compared to 1.2" to 1.250" diameter common to most other barrels. In this situation larger barrels would tend to withstand greater chamber pressures as well.

As aforementioned, the Savage Model 112 long action was factory chambered for the .220 Swift in a fluted 26" stainless factory barrel and the short action was chambered for the .223 Remington. As converted to switch-barrel, both rifles maintained and delivered superb performance. Itís really encouraging to see factory barrels producing sub-half-minute accuracy as these two rifles now do, particularly the high intensity .220 Swift cartridge.

My original plan was initially to add a .22 PPC, a 5mm/35 SMc, and a .257 Improved cartridge to the switch-barrel pair of fine shooting Savage rifles. Each of these new-addition cartridges used the larger .308 Winchester-size bolt face, and the short-action Savage Model 12 was chambered for the .223 Remington. This prompted me to go to Savage Arms and get an additional new .308-size bolt assembly for the short-action rifle. Bill Dermot and Effie at Savage Arms were courteous and prompt in arranging to send the new bolt assembly. As it turned out, I used the short-action switch-barrel, along with the new bolt, to chamber for the .22 PPC Shilen barrel, and the Krieger barrel was chambered for the 5mm/35 SMc. The .257 Improved cartridge was chambered to a Douglas premium 1:12" twist barrel for the longer 112 action.

Threading these three barrels for the 20" pitch Savage thread with a full 1.250" shoulder resulted in a most precision barrel-to-action fit. Conventional chamber reaming was quite routine, using a Pacific Tool & Gauge, Inc. reamer for the 5mm/35 SMc cartridge, and a Clymer reamer for the .22 PPC cartridge, and the .257 Improved 40-degree Ackley.

Processing a barrel for the Savage action while not using their customary barrel lock nut is a basic gunsmithing procedure. I did, however, have to lengthen the cross-slide style extractor in the .308-size bolt head to fit the smaller Lapua .22 PPC cases. Another plus with this pair of Savage rifles is the interchangeability of barrels from one rifle to the other. As an example, I can put the Douglas .257 Improved barrel on either the long action Model 112 or the short action Model 12 and cartridge headspacing is right on the money.

Most of my 40-X and 700 series Remingtons enable this barrel exchange to be performed as well. This opens a lot of doors. I designed a tool I call a bolt face comparator, which accurately measures the space between the posterior surface of the locking lugs and the bolt face. The new bolt that I got from Savage for the Model 12 measures out within a thousandth of an inch of the Model 112 bolt. Bolt or action length make no difference.


Having experience with an array of switch barrel rifle types, I fully expected the Savage Model 12 short action single-shot and the long action Model 112 single-shot to be top performers. I did my best to obviate any bugs in the gunsmithing department that can certainly lurk around if strict attention to precision isnít carefully performed.

These two actions have very rigid receivers equal in strength to the much praised Model 40-X Remington or several of the other stiff receiver actions. I had thoroughly gone over the stock bedding on these two rifles, leaving nothing to chance. The heavy, laminated stocks were used, adding additional bedding pillars where I could. This, in itself, got very involved.

In the scope mounting department, I used the Picatinny-style bases with Brownells 8-40 mount screw conversion kit to replace the 6-48 standard mount screws for added strength on both rifles. The Model 12 wore a Ferrel Picatinny-style base, topped with Leupoldís tactical style scope rings. On the long action Model 112 I used one of Brownells Picatinny-style bases, also topped with Leupoldís tactical-style rings. I vacillated between scopes, ending up with a 6.5-20x SII Sightron scope on the long action Model 112. The short action Model 12 now wears one of the older Redfield 8-32x Target scopes.

The entire scope mounting system was thoroughly checked with Brownellís scope alignment rods as a means of identifying any stresses in the scope mounting. These 30mm/1 inch, sleeved alignment rods totally remove all guesswork in co-axial alignment of the scope rings.

Barrels could be removed and re-installed in well under 10 minutes while repeating perfect bullet impact and grouping on target. With proper gunsmithing, the Savage 12 and 112 have the inherent accuracy capable of being wrung out along with the best of them, including the famous Model 40-X Remington. In my experience, that is saying quite a bit for a non-custom, factory action.

At the time of this writing, the two Savage switch-barrel rifles were chambered for the .220 Swift and .223 Remington as factory barrels and .257 Improved 40-degree in a Douglas barrel, .22 PPC in a Shilen barrel, and 5mm/35 SMc in a Krieger barrel. Then, after no small amount of contemplation, I chambered the Model 12 to .308 Winchester. I had in mind here to put together a super-accurate .308. The extra bolt for the Model 12 helped in making this decision. I talked with Tim North, president of Broughton Barrels, and there was a barrel in the works. A 1:12" twist Broughton barrel later was installed.

Manson Precision Reamers made up a special reamer with a 0.342" neck diameter and 0.3085" x 0 x 11/2 degree throat. I would be testing some of the Lapua cases with small-size primer pockets and the Hornady Competition cases as well. I fitted the new barrel to the Savage Model 12 action with an integral shoulder in lieu of the Savage-style lock nut. Actually, the barrel fitted in this way headspaced perfectly in both the Savage Model 12 and Savage Model 112 single-shot rifles. The barrel was stamped accordingly.

With all the work I had done in preparing these rifles, my expectations for accuracy ran pretty high. My first testing involved the two Savage factory barrels in .220 Swift and .223 Remington. With all my rifles I keep very detailed performance records, along with targets representative of the accuracy on each and every rifle and/or barrel. I was not surprised when noticeably improved accuracy emerged from each of these two factory barrels in their much-worked-on actions and stocks. The convincing results were right there before me.

<Previous | Home | Next Page >

Current Poll - 2
Do you plan to buy a new custom rifle in the next 12 months?
YES - Of course - 72.42%
2,347 Votes
NO - wife/girlfriend won't let me. - 27.58%
894 Votes
Total Votes: 3,241
You may not vote on this poll.

All times are GMT -5. The time now is 09:22 PM.

All content ©2010-2015 Long Range Hunting, LLC