Note: The rifle reviewed was actually sold to me as the Savage F Class. Aficionados of Savage rifles have pointed out that this is actually the Benchrest model (Sku 18613). I have edited the review to reflect this. Embarrassing but this is the internet !
While I have owned a number of Savage rifles – ranging from the Savage MkII BV in .22LR through to the 110BA in .338 Lapua Magnum – they’re not usually my first choice in firearms brands. For some, entirely subjective, reason I find Savages to be ‘clunky’ and somehow lacking the smoothness of other brands. However, and no matter criticisms I may have about Savage, one thing that has to be accepted is that ‘out of the box’ they can most certainly shoot. The other positive that must be said about Savage is that they have really made an effort to go after a smaller market – F-Class and BR – in a way that the other manufacturers have not, and for this they must be commended.
Last year I added to my Savage collection one of their offerings that is designed to cater to this limited market of shooters – the rifle I acquired was the Savage 12 Benchrest chambered in 6.5-284 Norma.
While the the Savage 12 F-Class (Savage SKU # 18155) is purpose built for the F-Open shooter and has features such as a 30″ barrel, dual port (left load and right eject) and the Savage Target Accutrigger. The Savage Benchrest (18613) has a one inch shorter barrel and lacks the flat bottom buttstock that the F-Class has but in other respects they are identical. At an overall length of 49″ and a weight of 12.75 lbs this Benchrest rifle can certainly be used for F-Open as even using the heaviest of scopes, rings and bases, is one that will easily make the F-Open weight limit of 22 lbs.
A couple of the features that people usually say contribute to the accuracy of Savage rifles is the very solid action and – almost by accident – the floating bolt head. Of course, this model has both of these features and it is housed in a stiff wood-laminate stock with a wide forend that is ideal for shooting off bags or (more likely in F-Class) a front rest.
While the 6.5-284 is no longer the dominant chambering it once was in the F-Class game, having been replaced with various offerings in the 7mm category, it remains a superbly accurate cartridge that can certainly be competitive at all levels (other than perhaps the absolute top tier) of competitive shooting and is one for which both very high quality brass (Lapua) and projectiles (139 Lapua Scenars amongst others ) are readily available.
6.5-284 and .308
Loads for what was once a wildcat of the parent .284 Winchester, are often developed using H4350 or H4831SC as well as IMR 4350 and others and so when I got my rifle I sought out the Lapua brass, bullets and 4350 powder and started to get to work making up some loads.
The 6.5-284 isn’t a hard recoiling round to begin with and what recoil there is gets nicely managed by the weight of the Savage F-Class rifle which ensures that this rifle/ammo combo is a pleasure to shoot.
Usually, a good load for the 6.5-284 can be found somewhere between 47-49g of H4350 and this rifle seemed very happy at the lower end (47.2g) with no appreciable improvement at higher charge weights though I suspect a higher node lurks somewhere above the charges I was working with but I don’t want or need a barrel burner.
There are a couple of downsides to this rifle – one is that the wide fore-end makes no allowance for the attachment of a bipod. Users of this rifle have to shoot of bags or a rest and I think that was a mistake; milling in a channel and attaching a short Anschutz rail would have been a good idea in my view. The second downside isn’t really anything to do with Savage but rather a downside of the chambering – you see the big downside of the 6.5-284 cartridge is barrel life. With very moderate loads a 6.5-284 barrel may last a couple of thousand rounds but up the charge weights and barrel life can be as short as 750 before accuracy noticeably falls off.
The negatives aside, this remains a very good rifle to buy to get into Benchrest or F-Open and it is very well put together. Comfortable to shoot and nicely accurate, this Savage can compete at pretty much most levels and could easily be in the winners circle at club matches for sure.
Under an Inch at 200M = 0.420 MOA