Last spring, Mr. Chuck “Dogfather” Cornett invited me to attend his celebrated Prairie Dog Conference. Cornett has been organizing and hosting these conferences for several years, and each year his coveted invitation list combines representatives from the firearms industry, a few outdoor writers and up to 65 “civilian” shooters from all over the country. The 2002 version was headquartered in Havre, Montana, with the shooting on the Fort Belknap Indian reservation. Among the several industry members present were Al Kasper and Brian Herrick, president and COO and VP of Marketing, respectively, of Savage Arms. They provided the rifles for the writers to use during the two-day shoot. (I believe Savage had the right idea in having the president and a vice president in the field with us. It seems to me that the industry would be far better served with fewer “bean counters” and more executives who spent time with their customers in the field.)
Also among the industry members at the Prairie Dog Conference was John B. Williams, Sr., president of U.S. Optics Technologies. His company specializes in scopes for law enforcement and military applications. They are totally U.S. made and are superb optical instruments.
In a future article I will be reviewing a long-range tactical rifle chambered for the .338 Lapua cartridge and mounted with a U.S. Optics scope. U.S. Optics has the capability and the expertise to develop and produce a marvelous hunting scope as well. At the moment, I don’t know if Williams has any plans to do so, but I wish that he would. It would give the European optics companies pause for serious thought.
Although I have used numerous Savage rifles over the years, I had not used one in the field in quite a while. I was most impressed with the Model 12VSS-S Varmint rifle. The rifle I used was a .22-250 with a Sharp Shooter aftermarket trigger and a heavy, stainless steel fluted barrel. The barreled action was mated to a Choate adjustable synthetic stock with a rail-mount Harris bipod. It was an impressive outfit.
Everything I had heard about Savage rifles of late indicated that they were superbly accurate but with an abysmal trigger. As such, I was anxious to see how they would do in the field.
The Sharp Shooter trigger is an aftermarket, drop-in trigger that has been available for Savage rifles for several years. Savage also brought along a few that were equipped with a newly developed system called AccuTrigger. It is a very interesting design that I will describe in a moment. The AccuTrigger is a noticeable improvement over the factory Savage trigger, but I found little to complain about with the Sharp Shooter. The ones I used broke cleanly and had no noticeable creep or mush.
Most factory triggers on the market today come out of the box with heavy pulls. Due to the litigious nature of our society, product liability concerns outweigh the desire for light trigger pulls. Fortunately, most triggers can be adjusted. Some have screw adjustments, and others require a bit of stoning and buffing. However, adjustments to a factory trigger will usually void the warranty and release the factory from liability.
Savage, while still mindful of product liability concerns, wanted not only a safe trigger but a light, crisp trigger pull as well. The challenge to its design engineers was a formidable task. The new trigger had to meet the following considerations: It had to be adjustable, have a pull weight range between 1 1/2 and six pounds, be capable of adjustment by the owner, be completely safe with zero danger of accidental discharge even at the lightest setting and feature a crisp release with no creep.
It took the design engineers several years to come up with the AccuTrigger, but it meets every objective. The secret to the trigger is a device called the AccuRelease, a feature that renders the trigger completely safe; it cannot be accidentally discharged from being jarred or dropped when it is adjusted as intended.
It looks somewhat peculiar, but it sure works. There is a small “flap” of metal attached to the trigger itself, and this flap must be fully depressed or the rifle cannot fire as the sear is blocked. Depressing the flap unblocks the sear, and the rifle can then be fired. It sounds complicated, but in practice it takes all of two or three seconds to get the hang of it. The resulting pull is light and crisp with no creep. The trigger is, in a word, outstanding.
The AccuTrigger is only available on new rifles and cannot be retrofitted to older ones. I know this will be a disappointment to Savage owners, but the action made to accept the new trigger is different from the older actions. At least initially, the new trigger will be available only on the varmint and law enforcement models. I suspect that eventually, all models will be so equipped.
After the Prairie Dog Conference I contacted Brian Herrick at Savage and arranged the loan of a Model 12VSS-S rifle equipped with the new trigger. I wanted to give the AccuTrigger some further testing at my favorite shooting range.
The rifle I received was chambered for the .22-250 cartridge and was mounted with a Simmons 4-12X variable scope. It is a single-shot, and the trigger bow is a component part of the synthetic Choate-manufactured stock.
This Savage rifle is a tack-driving fool. It shoots any factory ammo I have fed it well under the magical MOA. My largest five-shot group to date measured just a shade over .75 inch, and the smallest was just under .5. The new trigger breaks lightly, cleanly and crisply. At an MSRP of $934 for the rifle, sans scope and mounts, it has to be a steal.
To my taste, it is not the most aesthetically pleasing rifle in my battery, but it is as effective as any for its designed purpose–whacking varmints at a distance. I plan to replace the synthetic stock with a laminate, perhaps from Boyds, to improve its appearance.
If a shooter wants a very efficient varmint rifle at an exceptional price, I clearly recommend the Savage Model 12VSS-S. It will do the job very nicely.