As I got into testing the other barrels, it was evident these two Savage rifles were delivering accuracy every bit as good as I had come to expect from my best target and varmint rifles, including the more than a dozen Model 40-X Remington rifles. Each of these Model 40-X rifles have been converted to switch-barrel use with more than a score of premium barrels in a good variety of cartridges, so I had many rifles to compare the two Savage rifles to in my evaluation.
The Savage rifle pictured here is a perfect example of efficient switch-barrel design as the barrel is removed beneath the mounted scope with action remaining in the stock. The rifle shown here is a Savage Model 12 with 50mm Bausch & Lomb scope and Picatinny mounts. Shown here is a pre-headspaced Savage barrel with barrel lock nut in fixed position.
While I have other Savage single-shot actions in use, it was the Model 12 in caliber .223 that I used at the 2003 writers’ conference that inspired me to pursue the Savage rifles as switch-barrel candidates. As mentioned earlier, the Savage barrel lock nut system really didn’t fit into my scheme of switch barreling until I locked the barrel nut into position at proper headspace. This was a necessary move. It would be hard for the average rifleman/hunter to imagine two rifles, each with three barrels, delivering the level of accuracy I would later get from these two Savage rifles.
What I had in mind for these two switch-barrel rifles was delivery of both target and varmint shooting performance. I knew the inherent accuracy was within these rifles — all they needed was a little coaxing. With all the fine components we have today for reloading, it was easy to find loads for these rifles to fit both needs. It would be impossible here to include all the fine loads. I did, however, photograph targets from each of the six carefully fitted barrels. One of the series of targets includes the initial group shot with the .223 Remington Model 12 from the factory. This shows a near half-inch group using 69-grain Federal Gold Medal ammo. My starting groups with this barrel, before the total accurizing process, were pretty much like this factory target. But things really changed. One photograph shows typical examples of pure accuracy from a factory rifle with a factory barrel. Four groups using 52-grain Berger bullets measure 0.175", 0.125", 0.195", and 0.240" for a 0.184" average.
In my long search for a super-grouper .308 Winchester rifle, I came upon a few that hovered around 0.5" to 0.6", give or take a few tenths. Then, as I worked with the Model 12 Savage with the smaller .223 Remington bolt face, I decided to add a .308 Winchester-size bolt. What a good move this was! I contacted Tim North and he made me a 1:12" twist barrel for the .308 Winchester. Dave Manson put the finishing touches on a reamer, and following about eight hours of careful gunsmithing, the barrel was ready for testing. I also had some special Lapua Palma cases with small rifle primer pockets and smaller flash holes to use along with the Hornady match cases. I always thought there was a “quarter minute” .308 Winchester rifle out there for me, but I didn’t think it would end up being a Savage rifle.
Shown here is the basic premise combining two different types of pre-headspaced barrels used in switch-barrel application. Here the Savage barrel, with fixed lock nut, is shown along with the use of a conventional barrel shoulder as changed by author. The Holland recoil lug is shown here on a Savage M112 action with Picatinny scope base. Barrel fitting doesn't get more solid and precise than this.
From the onset, the .308 Winchester rifle handled most any of the loads I offered it with a good share of high twos and threes in the mix. Then I struck on a load that set ’em all back. This was the 168-grain Berger with the Lapua small-rifle-primer cases using 41 grains of Reloder 15 powder and CCI 200 small rifle primers. One target showed a 0.231 minute of angle 300-yard group and two five-shot 100-yard groups measuring 0.195" and one 0.009" (and yes, the decimal points are in the correct place).
These three groups translate to 0.145" minute of angle average.
The Savage stock barrel in .220 Swift shot four groups using Hornady 52-grain bullets into 0.473", 0.435", 0.279", and 0.233" for a respectable 0.355" average.
One of my favorite .25 caliber wildcats, the .257 Ackley Improved, fared well with six straight five-shot groups with none outside of 0.650". Here I used Sierra’s 100-grain bullets and IMR 4350 powder.
In my planning, I chose to chamber a Krieger 1:12" twist barrel to the 112 action for the 5mm/35 SMc. The more I use this cartridge the better I like it. It is a worthy addition to the .20 caliber family. Six groups using a few of the bullets stayed well under 0.400" average at 100 yards. At 300 yards it also grouped very well.
Last, I’ll reflect on the .22 PPC as used in the Savage Model 12 short action with a Shilen 1:14" twist barrel. Though this entry may be thought of as a bench rest cartridge, along with its rather pricey cases, it also is a very capable varmint cartridge. I shot seven groups shortly after barrel break-in using the 52-grain Sierra bullet along with 26 grains of N133 powder. These seven groups averaged a ho-hum 0.160". I then switched to the 300-yard range and shot three five-shot groups which measured 0.795", 0.850", and 0.940", which translates to 0.862" MOA average in a mild crosswind. Whenever my varmint rifles group inside two inches at 300 yards, I don’t complain, but inside an inch at this range is above and beyond!
To summarize, the many hours devoted to planning and building switch-barrel rifles has been worth every minute of it. Had I known how effective the Savage rifles would be, I would not have waited so long to work with them.
(Savage 12 & 112 Switch-Barrels)
Savage Arms, Inc.
118 Mountain Road
Suffield, CT 06078
Holland’s Shooters Supply Inc.
P.O. Box 69
Powers, OR 97466
200 South Front Street
Montezuma, IA 50171
123 Winchester Drive
Sedalia, MO 65301
P.O. Box 1677
Camrose, Alberta T4V1X6 Canada
Douglas Barrels Inc.
5504 Big Tyler Road
Charleston, WV 25313
Shilen Rifles, Inc.
205 Metro Park Blvd.
Ennis, TX 75120
Krieger Barrels, Inc.
2024 Mayfield Road
Richfield, WI 53076
The VARMINT HUNTER Magazine, a 208-page publication put together for shooters by shooters. The Varmint Hunters Association, Inc. hosts several 600-yard IBS matches, a coyote calling contest, and an annual Jamboree in Fort Pierre, SD. The Jamboree is a week-long shooting event known as "a summer camp for shooters".
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