A few years ago a Savage Model 12 LRPV chambered in 22-250 Remington was purchased primarily to compete in the Factory Class at the World Groundhog Championship in Pennsylvania. This Savage model has a left port/right bolt target action, 26-inch heavy stainless barrel, synthetic stock with aluminum bedding, a target trigger that breaks at six ounces and the rifle weighs a hefty eleven pounds. The 1:9-inch twist barrel can handle the 69-grain Sierra and 68-grain Hornady match bullets, reaping the benefit of their better ballistic coefficients for long distance shooting. For matches that include constant switching between 100, 300 and 500-yard targets a reliable scope was a necessity so a Nightforce NXS 8-32X BR was attached to the rifle with a 20-MOA Nightforce base and Nightforce rings.
At the Groundhog World Championship with the factory-class Savage LRPV
Once the Savage was in hand there was only a short period of time to prepare for the upcoming match. In fact the opportunity for range practice only came up five times, but this was sufficient to develop loads that would shoot near half-inch groups at 100 yards and just under two inches at 300 yards. When the time came for the match an adequate number of rounds was loaded for the trip to Pennsylvania. The match was limited to 165 shooters and most, if not all the bench positions were taken. Savage rifles won the first two places in the Factory Class, and were responsible for six of the first ten places. Somehow I was lucky enough to get 12th place in the Factory Class, and that tickled me pretty good.
Following the Pennsylvania match the Savage was used very little because of other gun projects. It rested in the back of the gun safe and was almost forgotten. Then, when making plans for the New Year, a resolution was made to enter another major groundhog match, one that included a factory class. With that decision it was time to retrieve the Savage from the gun safe to see if anything could be done to improve the accuracy of the rifle. The goal was set to improve the rifle’s present group average of 1.89-inch at 300 yards to 1.75-inch. With the limited modifications allowed on a factory rifle the primary area for improvement would be the ammunition.
The original plan was to experiment with two very accurate bullets: the Sierra 69 grain match and the Hornady 68 grain match, both rated for barrel twists between 1:7-inch and 1:10-inch, and both offering excellent ballistic coefficients. As it turned out there would be no competition between the two bullets as production of the Hornady bullet had been temporarily discontinued, and none could be located anywhere. But prior experience had shown the two projectiles were both very accurate… so developing a load using only the Sierras would actually simplify matters.
Improving the accuracy of a factory rifle like the Savage LRPV using only reloading techniques could be a difficult task. The rifle’s accuracy was already very good, and it may be that the rifle could not shoot any better… but the challenge would be a lot of fun, and something might even be learned in the process. As in the past Hodgden H-4350 powder and Federal primers would provide the push for the bullets. Any improvements in accuracy would come from one or more of the following: using precisely prepared Lapua match brass, finding the seating depth the Sierra bullet liked best and more attention to detail in loading. I was anxious to get started.
The first step was to insure the bore was in pristine condition. Four hundred plus rounds had been through the barrel and factory rifles are noted for gathering more copper fouling than custom barrels… and copper is not a friend of accuracy. At the recommendation of several shooters I had recently switched to Patch-Out (a bore cleaner offered by SharpShoot-R Precision Products) and had noted a considerable difference in how much cleaner it would leave a barrel. Although the rifle had been cleaned, a wet patch of Patch-Out was pushed through the bore and left overnight. The next morning a dry patch was run through the bore and it came out black with a tinge of blue... indicating both powder and copper fouling. This was not really a surprise as this experience had happened with a couple of other rifles. After cleaning the bore with Patch-Out several times the patches came out white and the bore was shiny and clean.