While competing in F-Class Open Rifle (F-O) and F-Class Target (F-T/R) is enjoyable, to be truly competitive in these disciplines requires custom-built rifles. At least that's what participants thought before Savage Arms introduced its Model 12 F Class and Model 12 F/TR rifles. Team Savage, armed with the latter, began amassing an enviable shooting record in F-T/R competition. For this article, I evaluated the Model 12 F Class that, with the exception of a few specialized aspects catering to the F-O rules, closely resembles the Model 12 F/TR.
The F Class utilizes Savage's short-action Model 12 receiver—the same as found on the company's acclaimed Varminter series—with the ejection port minimized for greater rigidity. The F Class is a single-shot rifle; its stainless steel receiver is absent the magazine cutout, which not only further strengthens the receiver, but also allows for a third screw for securing the barreled action to the stock. Instead of a conventional feed ramp, the receiver floor is cut at an angle to direct the cartridge into the chamber. The receiver is drilled and tapped for scope mounts.
The rifle's push-feed bolt follows both the familiar Savage Model 10 and Model 12, pattern. It has two locking lugs on a pivoting head, a recessed bolt face, plunger-style ejector and spring-loaded sliding-plate extractor. A non-rotating baffle behind the dual lugs prevents escaping gas from traveling along the bolt raceways. The bolt is alloy steel left in the white, and it has a smooth, oversized grasping knob providing extra leverage when operating.
Its free-floated, 30-inch stainless steel barrel measures 1.10 inches in diameter at the receiver and .98 inch at the muzzle, where it ends with a recessed, target muzzle crown. Both of the rifle's chamberings—6.5x284 Norma and 6 mm Norma BR—have 1:8-twist rifling to stabilize long, heavy, target-specific bullets standard in long-range shooting. The barrel is threaded into the receiver where, once headspaced, it's held in place by a locking nut. Sandwiched between the nut and receiver is the thick, precision-machined recoil lug.
As any manually operated trigger is allowed by F-Class regulations, for its Model 12 F Class Savage naturally selected its Target AccuTrigger—distinguished by its color and warning scribed on the left side of the receiver—that is user-adjustable from 6 ounces to 21⁄2 pounds. A tool accompanies the rifle for making adjustments. The test rifle's trigger broke cleanly at 8 ounces, so adjustment wasn't necessary. A one-piece trigger guard provides protection for the sensitive control.
For the Savage aficionado, the rifle's controls will be familiar. The three-position safety resides on the tang and the bolt-release lever, works in conjunction with the trigger, and is located behind the loading port. Pushing the safety fully rearward blocks the trigger, while the middle position allows the bolt to be opened while "safe." Fully forward allows firearm discharge.
The barreled action is triple pillar-bedded to a straight-comb, gray laminate stock with straight target pad under the butt. The flat fore-end, which is limited by F-Class regulations to 76 mm (approximately 3 inches) wide, falls just shy of the measurement, making it legal. There are vents—three per side and six on the bottom—in the fore-end to facilitate faster barrel cooling. Capping the buttstock is a 1⁄2-inch-thick, pliable rubber buttpad, set apart from the wood by means of a black, plastic spacer. The stock contains no sling swivel studs. Altogether, the Savage F Class weighs 13.30 pounds, which leaves ample room for attachments such as rings, bases, scope, bipods, etc. without surpassing 10-kilogram (approximately 22-pound) maximum allowed weight. The gun's overall length is 50 inches.
To accuracy test the F Class rifle chambered in 6.5x284Norma, I topped it with a NightForce 3.5-15x50 mm scope and spent some quality time at the handloading bench. As F-Class competitors will probably handload, I decided to do the same. Of the five loads tested, the most accurate consisted of a Hornady 140-grain A-Max bullet in front of 44.0 grains of H4831, and a Federal GM210M primer contained within Hornady brass. The average for five, five-shot groups from a sandbag rest at 100 yards was .55 inch—impressive. The only factory 6.5x284 Norma load I had on hand was Nosler Custom's 120-grain Nosler Ballistic Tip, and it averaged .96 inch. During testing, there were no failures to feed, fire, extract or eject.
Can you really compete with the factory Model 12 F Class? The level of accuracy I attained, coupled with Team Savage's 11 national records and the variety of award-winning accomplishments from the Model 12 F/TR, more than prove the rifle's capability. Like Team Savage's initial appearance, you might draw some laughs, but when all is said and done any snickering will subside when you take the podium.
So, how much do you think this type of performance would cost? Amazingly, the F Class has a suggested retail price of $1,265, and for what you get it's a great deal. For the shooter looking to compete in F-Class competition without draining his or her account on a custom rifle, there's only one choice in a production rifle, and that's the Savage Model 12 F Class. With its competition-proven performance, you'd be wise to consider it.