Gun Review: Savage Model 12 LRP in .243 WIN

At some point, you just get lucky. My future father in law letting me borrow his Savage Model 12 LRP in .243 WIN is one of those points. He bought the gun last year for long range target shooting with some varmint hunting mixed in for good measure. Unfortunately, his work schedule has been pretty insane for the last few months and he actually hasn’t had a chance to do much more than warm up the barrel and get it roughly sighted in. Listening to him recount the sad story of his ownership a few weeks ago, I (jokingly) offered to take it off his hands for a few weeks. To my surprise he replied, “Really? You’d do that for me? I just want to know what factory ammo works well with it, and make sure it’s properly sighted in.” Then he handed me about a hundred rounds of 58 gr. and 80 gr. Hornady V-Max and sent me on my way. Maybe I should buy a lottery ticket . . .

Not only is this one of Savage’s premium rifles, my FIL has also topped it with a Leupold Mark 4 ER/T 8.5–25 x 50 mm scope. I briefly considered reviewing the scope too, but realized that I probably shouldn’t push my luck by moving it over to my AR for testing. Not to mention the fact that putting $1900 scopes through their paces is Nick Leghorn’s specialty. Suffice it to say that having a first focal plane scope with some of the clearest glass I’ve ever seen is a mighty nice perk. Oh, did I also mention that it’s chambered in my absolute favorite cartridge, .243 WIN? Right. Luck, stars aligning, etc.

On the surface, this is your typical long distance varmint rig. She comes equipped with a heavy barrel, all black everything, comfortable stock, and of course, the Savage AccuTrigger. This is my first time spending any significant time behind an AccuTrigger and I was definitely pleased. When it works, it works great. More on that “when” thing later, though.

First, let’s talk comfort. The HS Precision stock she wears is mega comfortable. It’s nicely textured with all the right places to put your hands and sandbags. As I’ve mentioned in countless reviews, my hands are small so what most shooters consider average size controls run a little large when I’m using a gun.

But I didn’t have that problem with the Savage whatsoever. In fact, I spent about two and a half hours during this test behind the controls with no issues. When you are stalking a field of groundhogs or calling coyotes, you need to be able to sit with your rig for extended periods. The Savage fits the bill nicely.

That said, here’s my one gripe about the stock. As I have found with just about every single modern rifle, the stock comb is cut too low for use with a 50 mm objective riflescope. Note to manufacturers: when you ship a gun without iron sights, it’s probably going to get a scope, OK? For a company that prides itself on accuracy, you’d think gunmakers would pay attention to proper cheek weld. Luckily my FIL feels the same and has an aftermarket Blackhawk cheek riser attached. Problem solved.

One last note about comfort. As tested, this gun tops the scales at about 14 pounds. That type of weight does wonders for soaking up the recoil of the very zippy .243 WIN rounds. Whereas I can do about forty rounds with my little Ruger Mark II before I throw in the towel, I had no problem slinging hundreds of rounds downrange with the Savage. Bigger really is sometimes better.

Accuracy is, in a word, superb. Since my FIL wanted me to report back on what the Savage ate best, I took the opportunity to test out a bunch of different ammp. I tested six types from different manufacturers, price ranges, and bullet weights. I use the average group radius method for measuring consistency with all my tests. For those wanting to know more on the method, I may make a request to our resident math nerd. All tests were done with a clean, room temperature barrel at 100 yards at my local indoor range.

               Type                                                                             Average 5 shot radius

None of these are slouches, but the V-Max Moly and Black Hills really floored me. Take a look at the targets to see why. Keep in mind that I was using paper with quarter inch grids.

The real joy however, was seeing how it shot hot. And I mean really hot. I’m used to getting three shots down the barrel of my Ruger before I have to let it completely cool. Otherwise, I’ll start throwing shots all over the paper. The Savage on the other hand doesn’t seem to care one bit.

As a test of this, I fouled the barrel with five rounds and then put ten rounds of the copper jacketed 58 gr. V-Max down range. That big fluted bull barrel was too hot to touch with bare hands when I was done. My average group radius for those ten shots measured .540 inches. Reference my table above and you’ll see the exact same measurement for the cold bore test.

Next I left the barrel fouled (and very hot) then put five rounds of 58 gr. Hornady V-Max Moly downrange. My average group radius for that test was .399 inches vs. .406 inches for the cold bore test. The numbers don’t lie. That big nasty barrel makes all the difference when it comes to repeatable shots downrange.

As equipped, this Savage has a factory trigger measured in ounces. As all AccuTriggers are, this one is adjustable for pull weight. My RCBS scale only goes down to 8 oz, so the lower threshold is a best guess, but I would peg it at somewhere in the neighborhood of 5 oz with an upper limit of 10 oz. The break is oh-so-very crisp with no overtravel. Funny thing is, with a trigger that light, the little AccuTrigger safety acts almost like a two stage trigger. In fact, the first few rounds flew wild as I mashed my way through the safety zone and kept right on chugging.

Time for the bad news folks – this particular AccuTrigger was a dud. As I mentioned earlier, this is not my first time behind the AccuTrigger. My good friend Jon has a .270 that I’ve run on past occasions with no issue. Savage has a fine product on their hands, but this particular trigger just is not one of them.

When it works, this is the finest damn stock trigger I’ve ever used. The issue is that the “times it works” are fewer than “times it doesn’t.” Unfortunately I am not a gunsmith, so I can’t diagnose the cause of the issue. But I can tell you about the effect. At the lightest setting, the trigger will function properly every other time while cold. While hot, that number goes to one in four.

This presents two problems. The first is that the AccuTrigger safety bar will not disengage. As you start squeezing, you’ll find the whole unit is locked down. The second is that the safety bar will work, but before you get to the trigger there will be a loud click and the trigger can’t be depressed. At first, I thought that I had a dud round only to find that some piece of the mechanism had tripped.

With the trigger set to the heaviest pull weight (10 oz), the second problem goes away, but the first persists. However, it only does it with 100% repeatability when you vigorously cycle the bolt. When the bolt is slowly cycled, the problems disappears. As nothing more than a gun enthusiast, my guess is at best uneducated, but YouTube user cmac860 has a perfect video showing the same problem I ran up against.

If this gun belonged to me, it would be in a box headed back to Savage for some fixing. End of story.

Specifications: Savage Model 12 LRP

  • SKU: 19136
  • Caliber: .243 WIN
  • Rate of Twist: 1:9.25”
  • Weight: 11 lbs.
  • Overall Length: 46.25”
  • Barrel Length: 26”
  • Ammo Capacity: 4 + 1
  • MSRP: $1124 with Guns America showing it for $1081

Ratings (out of five stars)

Accuracy: * * * * *
I was astounded with how accurate the LRP was with factory ammo. I consider the Black Hills ammo to be as close to handloads as factory can get and they made a ragged hole save for that one flier. I have no doubts that a handloader could have this rifle drilling ragged holes at 100 yards and beyond.

Ergonomics * * *
I’m grading harshly here because of the stock comb issue. Savage has plenty of rifles with stocks cut for optics use. This one shouldn’t be any different. That aside, the LRP is a joy to shoot for extended periods of time with an aftermarket cheek riser. Eleven pounds of gun and 3 pounds of scope do wonders for taming recoil.

Reliability * *
I should not have to downgrade a bolt action rifle on reliability, but here we are. This gun needs to go back to Savage for some AccuTrigger TLC. Until then, two stars for the LRP, and that is only because I did not experience a FTF or FTE.

Overall Rating * *1/2 (as tested) * * * * (with a trigger fix)
If the trigger worked, the LRP would onlt lose a star for the stock. As it sits now, I can’t give out more than a 2.5. Fix the trigger and you have one hell of a varmint rifle.

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About Tyler Kee

Tyler Kee is a small town kid trying to make it in the big city of Austin, TX. A salesman by day, he is an avid motorcyclist and aspiring chef out of the office.

23 Responses to Gun Review: Savage Model 12 LRP in .243 WIN

  1. avatarMoonshine7102 says:

    Wow. Any rifle that costs less than $2k and shoots 1/2 MOA is a damn fine weapon. And I share the author’s suspicion; 1/4 MOA is probably not out of reach for the handloader. Shame about the trigger, though. Nice review, Tyler.

  2. avatarMatt in FL says:

    Very nice review. I hope that Savage comes up with a fix for that issue, rather than blaming the operator and saying “just close the bolt more gently.”

    • avatarI_Like_Pie says:

      But that is the problem….it can not be avoided other than closing the bolt more gently.

  3. avatarMike says:

    Savages are great. I have four custom guns built on Savage actions, they are accurate, and they are reasonably priced. I built three for F-class and they hold their own against the customs using high end custom actions.

    My most recent one is a hunting gun I put together, built around a $180 Stevens 200 that I bought from Academy for the action only. I used an retired .260 Rem. barrel that I had used for F-class with 2000 rounds down the tube. After having it chopped and re-crowned, it still holds 3/8-1/2 moa with 5-10 shot groups.

    None of them have an Accutrigger, which I’ve never been a fan of. Three have the Sharpshooter Supply (SSS) Competition trigger, which you can get from Brownells and goes down to 8oz, and one has the Evolution trigger, which requires a trip back to SSS but goes down reliably to 2oz like a Jewell benchrest trigger. All were worthwhile upgrades, as are a new recoil lug and a time&true from SSS (if you can stand the very long wait times).

  4. avatarChris Dumm says:

    Nice writeup! Savage doesn’t have a poor rep for reliability, so it’s a real head-scratcher that this rifle has a Russian Roulette trigger.

    It’s also a head-scratcher that H-S Precision is still in business, after hiring former FBI agent Lon Horiuchi as a celebrity spokesman. H-S pretty much prevented me from ever owning one of their products when they did that; it’s kind of like hiring a defrocked Catholic priest to help promote your boys youth sports league.

    Here’s an H-S Precision catalog, with Horiuchi’s endorsement on the back cover: “I’m FBI sniper Lon Horiuchi, and I wish I’d been using an H-S Precision stock when I shot and killed an unarmed woman!”

    http://i30.photobucket.com/albums/c340/davemarkowitz/2008HSPrecisionCatalogBackCover.jpg

  5. avatarbontai Joe says:

    Nice rig, and I’m glad to see that your father-in-law went with high quality optics instead of a Walmart $88 scope. I hope the trigger problem is easily fixed with minimal hassle.

  6. avatarMr_Joshua says:

    How common are 100-yard indoor ranges? The only ones in my area are 25 yards.

    • avatarTyler Kee says:

      Austin, TX has two of them. Your mileage might vary…

    • avatarMatt in FL says:

      Not as common as I’m sure we’d all like them to be. I’m in Orlando, and there’s well over a dozen places to shoot around town, but none of the indoor ranges exceed 25 yards. The nearest indoor 100 yard range I’m aware of is in Tampa, an hour and a half away. The only places I know of locally to shoot 1-2-300 yards are outdoors, and are private membership clubs, one of whom holds a “public day” the first Sunday of the month from 8-1. I’ve been there every month since I learned of it.

  7. avatarI_Like_Pie says:

    This is actually a common problem with the target triggers….The warning on the barrel is to be taken seriously not for accidental fires, but for the timing of the trigger to work properly.

    You have to close that bolt like it was made out of eggshells to avoid trigger parts skipping over each other and causing the problem you mentioned. EVERY model 12 will do this.

  8. avatarTindjin says:

    I have the Savage 12lrp in 6.5 Creedmor with a NF scope on it for long range shooting. Love the accuracy and reliability of the rifle, HATED the trigger. It is a worthless piece of junk (sorry Savage it is). Replaced it with a Rifle Basix SAV-2 set to 10-11 oz and its been perfect ever since. With Hornady match ammo it is shooting just over .6 MOA consistently and I’m going to start hand loading for it. Can’t wait to see what it can do with tailored ammo.

    Ps With the new trigger you don’t have to worry about closing the bolt, touching the side of the trigger or any of the things that caused the accu-trigger to cause problems.

  9. avatarRyan Finn says:

    Nice review Tyler. Too bad about that trigger, hope your FIL heeds your advice to send it back.

  10. avatarGS650G says:

    On my Savage HMR .17 I replaced the terrible trigger (not an accutrigger) with a machined spring loaded block type that is adjustable from 10 oz to 1.5 lbs or so. No complicated gates or other devices. Works great.
    I carry the gun with the bolt up because it has an aftermarket trigger. I take this extra safety step since I myself have modified the gun with a match trigger and it’s very light compared to stock. Therefore I use not only the gun safety but a safer carrying method as well.
    Savage is to be commended for designing a better trigger but they need to perfect it. Failure to do so will result in a trigger scandal similar to Remington’s Walker trigger situation, deservedly or not. It appears from the video to be a real issue on a clean new gun.

  11. avatarTyRight says:

    Good pick-up on the trigger problem, this makes the savage at least$100 more than I thought, as you still need a replacement trigger.
    Also am totally shocked that Lon Horiuchi is touted as a HS Precision Spokesman, it means unfortunately, no HS precision purchases by me…

    But there is a serious error which misleads in this review. Groups are measured by extreme spread, not by radius, so every group quoted means that we have to convert that to twice the size… not so impressive at all.

    You might well use the “string method” of late 19th early 20th century, and make some sense, but radius???? Sorry, but no serious measurement is done by radius.
    Anywhere.

  12. avatarDyspeptic Gunsmith says:

    Sigh. There’s no free lunch, folks. To get a pull down into the “ounces” of trigger pull with a single stage trigger, you need to reduce the sear engagement down to a mere few thousandths of an inch. The steel in the trigger must be stoned and polished to a very fine finish, the angles must be oh-so-correct and the engagement surfaces must be perfectly parallel. In short, with modern manufacturing tolerances… this probably isn’t reliably accomplished most of the time. If you really want a “target trigger” down in the single-digit ounces of pull (and most shooters have NO idea how light this is, nor how to manage their trigger finger to not jump the shot), quit trying to accomplish this on the cheap. Pony up for a trigger designed to do this, not a single stage trigger that has been adjusted and hacked into doing it. Want to see a trigger that was designed, from the start, to be adjusted reliably down into the eight ounce range? Go look at the Anschuetz 5018 trigger group, or a Jewell, etc. You’ll notice that they’re two-stage triggers, they’re reliable and… they cost $300 and up.

    • avatarMike says:

      Jewells are not two stage triggers. I think it’s a 3 lever design but it’s still a single stage. Plus for benchrest or F-class, where many if not most shooters shoot with a light hold or free recoil, you do want a single stage that goes down into the single digit ounces (like a Jewell). But yeah for my tactical/hunting style guns I like my triggers right around 2.0-2.5lbs, any less I don’t feel comfortable with.

      • avatarDyspeptic Gunsmith says:

        You’re right – I worded that badly. The Anschuetz 5018 is a two-stage. The Jewell BR and HVR triggers are one-stage, but are designed to be adjusted down to ounces (unlike most all factory triggers shipped with rifles). I wouldn’t adjust any factory-supplied trigger to less than 3.0 pounds. The problems just become too large below that weight. Jewell does ship a two-stage trigger for AR’s, but they wouldn’t adapt to this application.

  13. avatarJim says:

    Can’t understand why Savage put a 9.25 twist on a “long range” rifle. Why not a 8 twist so you can shoot the heavy bullet that are needed for long range shooting.

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  15. avatarDrew says:

    am i the only one that isnt very impressed by the groups shown? am i also the only one that thinks the average radius method is a bit of a BS way to measure groups? i mean half inch measuring extreme spread is a good group. half inch in the radius method is not. not for what the lrp is trying to be. not to mention ive seen other reviews where this gun performs much better than it did here

  16. I have 3 rifles savage,and all the 3 shoot half inch and less at 100 yards,i,m very happy.Ihave a savage 10m-ii smokless to it,s a very diamond for me,any way,the savage arms is the very,very best firearms in the world,and i dont want an other make,its accurate,nice,and a very good price.THANKS TO ALL THE GOOD MEN AND WOMEN WORKS IN FORR INDUSTRY.YOU HAVE A GREAT PRODUCTS.Have a nice day and a good nice year.I live to Quebec,Canada.I dont speack english very well,i,m happy to your service.Bye Donald.

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