Savage 12FLV Bolt-Action Rifle: Range Report #1
This is intended to be an ongoing history of using my Savage 12 at the range. I will track the number of shots, jams/failures, goal while at the range, general comments on ergonomics and performance, and cleanings ... over the life of the rifle, from new. Today's installment is about the first range day since opening the box. Future posts will cover subsequent sessions, comments as to performance, what I'm trying to achieve at the range sessions, how the gun's parts are holding up, how recent gunsmithing changes are working, and so on.
Hopefully, someone will find this useful.
Gun: Savage 12FLV bolt-action rifle. Chambered in .223, this rifle has a 26" heavy, free-floated barrel in 1:9" twist, bedded synthetic stock, Accu-Trigger, 4rd internal magazine, ~9 lbs. $500 street price, though you might find it for less if you hunt around. Being left-handed, the 12 FLV nicely fits the bill with its lefty bolt and eject.
Purpose: Range monkey.
Carry Mode: Uh ... no. It's over 10 lbs with the scope and bipod. While it can be carried with a sling, I clearly see why H.K. and others try so hard to make lightweight battle rifles for soldiers in the field: 'cause nobody would want to carry something so heavy all day long, up and down hills. If I were hunting with this, I'd want it to be sub-6lb for sure. Which likely explains my love for carbines, guide guns, etc. In the field, give me my Marlin 1894P .44mag lever-action guide gun, every time.
June 17, 2007 -- First range session, after purchase.
- Goal -- Start the break-in period of the gun, loosen up the action. Get comfortable with the Accu-Trigger feel.
- Initial Field Strip and Cleaning -- Bolt removal requires simultaneously pressing a lever on the right side of the receiver and pulling the trigger, which causes the bolt to slide right out. Removed the stock (via three bolts). Sent a dozen patches through the barrel with Militec-1, until clean, then one more patch to remove the excess. Cleaned the chamber and bolt. Greased the contact surfaces of the bolt and receiver's rails with Militec grease. Wiped down the exterior with a good gun cloth.
- Scope -- Pending arrival of a new Nikon Monarch 6-24x40 scope, I have an inexpensive Barska 10-40x50 scope on the rifle right now, mounted via Talley two-piece rings. The Barska scope is rather low quality, with marginal optical clarity and spotty performance of the lighted mildot reticle. It has the troubling characteristic of slowly jumping out of adjustment, every 5rds or so, nicely moving the POI to the left by fractions of an inch. The scope's adjustments won't allow zero to the point of impact; instead, impact is about 2" to the left of POA. The new Nikon unit that I've got on order is being released in July. Can't wait for the new scope to arrive. If Nikon's other products are any indication, this one should be a winner.
- Bipod -- Harris HBLS, 9-13" rise. With the swivel feature, it's easy to adjust the rifle to vertical, on uneven ground. Of course, as the rifle's only going to be used only on the range, the movement's a pain. Might need to swap for an HBLM model or another unit, for a more-stable platform. So far, I'm resisting using a rifle rest. We'll see.
- Feel -- Heavy, but then it's a range monkey and not intended to be used without a bipod or rifle rest. The bolt's a bit stiff right now, feeling nothing like an old, well-used, large-cal Mauser. The bolt's action is relatively smooth, once it gets going, though it's stiff at the close. The fit of the bolt into the receiver is a bit loose, but that's the feel of the Savage 12's in the lower calibers. It locks up very tightly, otherwise. The synthetic stock is extremely light. Combined with the 26" heavy barrel, the point of balance is somewhere near the forward end of the stock.
- Grip -- The synthetic stock's got a good fit to the barreled action, but it doesn't quite "fit" my hand. There's something about the position of the hand in relation to the barrel axis, the drop and comb height that's not quite perfect. Likely, I'll be looking for an after-market stock. Something a more appropriate for a range unit. Something with a wider, stable front end, perhaps with a thumbhole; with a drop and length of pull that matches my use; with a comb height that works for the range. Something with a bit of decent checkering to keep the hand in place. To my way of thinking, the factory stock isn't a good match for the range.
- Magazine -- The 12FLV has a 4rd internal magazine. I tend to prefer external mags, but then I'm a rebel that way. Give me a detachable magazine every time, if there's a choice. Still, this loads easily and well. Sharp edges on the mag "lips", but then they all have that.
- Ergonomics – With the right stock that fits me, it will be very good. Right now, the length of pull's a bit long, the comb is far too low, and the hand isn't in the proper place (for me). Otherwise, things are in the right position for a lefty. The Savage safety is located on the receiver at the rear of the bolt. Pull all the way back for "safe"; mid-way to allow bolt cycling while on "safe"; and all the way forward for "fire". Ambidextrous and simple to use. Bolt removal is a bit tricky the first time, given the need to both press a lever and pull the trigger, but it's better to have it be relatively tough to remove the bolt than to have it pop out when you're cycling the action.
- Shots -- Barrel break-in done the old-fashioned way: just shoot it. 60 rds of 62gr Lake City SS109 "green tip" .223. Not the most accurate of stuff, but sufficient to allow nearly 1" groupings @ 100yds, even with the scope's problems.
- Sight-in -- Sight-in took ~10rds to dial everything in.
- Aim -- (I shoot left handed.) See photos below. Being blind as a bat beyond 50yds or so, scoped rifles are my bag, baby! With the 40x Barska, frankly there's no need for a spotting scope (gotta love it). At 100yds, the field of view is about 2 nanometers. On each of the photos shown below, first shots were aimed at center, with subsequent shots aimed to strike the first hole (of course).
- Accuracy -- The comfort level of the whole package right now is a bit rough. The swiveled bipod needs to be swapped for a more-stable unit; the basic stock needs replacement for better fit and usefulness on a range; soon, it will have a Nikon Monarch 6-24x40 scope. The current groupings of ~1.5" @ 100yds should quickly come down once I get things dialed in. Might even get really motivated, with custom reloads of Lapua brass and Sierra boattail bullets.
- Ejection -- Since the bolt's still a bit stiff, cycling took a bit more effort than expected. Only one round (in 60) stuck in the action. Otherwise, everything ejected crisply and properly. Over the next ~500rds or so, things should loosen up very nicely.
- Jams/failures -- One, only. It's the first and only "double feed" on a bolt-action rifle I've ever seen. Very similar to any double feed on a pistol that you're familiar with. For whatever reason, cycling the bolt pulled in the first round but also grabbed a second one, which lodged itself tightly underneath the first. The first bullet didn't fully seat into the chamber. I simply slide the bolt rearward, pushed down the following rounds 3-4, removed the offending bullet #2, then continued. Didn't have any further issues. Strange.
- Cleaning at Range -- None. The barrel got fairly hot, which should be enough for the Militec-1 to do its job inside the barrel and action.
- Cleaning -- After the session, field stripped and cleaned all surfaces with Hoppe's #9; then cleaned & oiled with Break Free CLP; lightly greased the contact surfaces of the bolt/rails; then wiped down with gun cloth. It's now back in the safe. You know what rifles "dream" about, in the safe? Well, this Savage 12FLV's got one thought on its mind, and that's how to get dime-sized groupings at 300yds.
Overall, it's a good, basic range rifle. Very accurate. Each of the controls are easily manipulated and reached. The 3-position safety is, effectively, ambidextrous, being located on the receiver at the rear of the bolt. Being a lefty, the left-handed bolt and action is a pleasure.
See below, for a few pics of today's targets. Accuracy will skyrocket with the new Nikon scope and once the barrel completely breaks in. Accuracy had better go up, else I'm gonna have to find some new hobby for the weekends ... perhaps crochet or knitting. That simply wouldn't do.