Savage 6BR build and performance at local 300 yd benchrest matches

jcerne

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Nov 20, 2020
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Hi All,

I’ve enjoyed reading lots of great posts in this forum and have finally decided to post something for the first time. It’s a pretty long story of how my new Savage target rifle did at my gun club’s (Niagara Sportsmen’s Association) 300 yard benchrest matches. I've always been interested in seeing more detailed reports on how target rifles perform, not just a few cherry-picked groups, so I'm sharing all my targets for the four matches in which I participated. I hope that you find the story interesting and would greatly appreciate your help on some questions that I list at the end of the post.

At 300 yards it was nearly impossible to see the bullet holes in the black bulls (it helped if the bullet cut a ring), so you couldn't really make scope adjustments during the match. We shot 10 shots each into two bulls (one bull per relay, so you could make a scope adjustment after the first 10 shots). We used 300 yd F-Class (MR-63F) targets.

This was only my second year competing in local benchrest matches, so I still have a lot to learn. In the first year I used a Model 1896 Swedish Mauser in 6.5x55 with a Douglas barrel (DIY installed) and a homemade stock. I got third place, which isn’t bad for an action that was made in 1923, but that’s a whole other story. In the second year, which I’m reporting here, I used a Savage 12, which is actually the only powder burner in my safe that was made in this century!

Figure 1 shows profiles of the rifle. It’s a Savage 12 Target Action with a Criterion 26” barrel in 6BR Norma with a 1 in 8” twist. The stock is homemade from a Richards Microfit laminated blank. The scope is a Sightron SIII 10-50x60 Field Target on Warne QD mounts. I use this scope on two centerfire rifles, a spring piston air rifle and a Kimber 82G rimfire rifle, so I get a lot of bang for the buck from this scope. I think it's a lot better to have one really good scope that is swapped onto four rifles than four mediocre scopes that are dedicated to these rifles. POI changes less than 0.5 MOA when switched from one rifle to the next.

fig_1.jpg


Figure 2 shows the accessory rail (Rockler Universal T-Track) that I inletted into the bottom of the forend. The 3” wide wooden support block was made to better fit the wide owl ear sandbag on the front rest.

fig_2.jpg


Figure 3 shows the DIY aluminum bedding block that was glued into the stock. The receiver was then skim-coat bedded into the aluminum block with Acraglas Gel and the barrel and receiver tang were free-floated. I like the fact that three screws (all in front of the trigger) hold the receiver into the bedding block.

fig_3.jpg


Figure 4 shows the stock adjustment hardware that I made to allow the cheekpiece and buttpad to be moved.

fig_4.jpg


Figure 5 shows the two bulls from my first match. The 10 ring has a diameter is 2.85” and all but one shot were 10s. The 9 was on the second (right) bull at around 11 o’clock. It didn’t miss by much and I probably would have gotten a 10 if I were shooting a 6.5mm instead of 6mm bullet! I should have adjusted my scope down and right after the first bull, but was worried about the scope not settling in for the second bull. After this I always made adjustments after the first bull. I was lucky to keep a shot inside the 10 ring at 12 o’clock on the first bull, when my neighbor fired his 30-06 just a moment before I pulled the trigger and my POA jumped up. Still, I was happy with my 199-13x score, which was a personal best.

fig_5.jpg


Figure 6 shows the targets from my second match. I switched to IMR 4064 by accident (it was all that my local gun shop had in stock and I had read that it should work with 6BR). 27.0 grains of IMR 4064 powder produced slightly lower muzzle velocities around 2620 fps compared to 2700 fps for the same charge of H4895, but tightened groups up quite a bit. I wish that I had discovered this powder before the first match! These are pretty mild loads, but I found that accuracy was better with the 107 grain Sierra Matchkings going around 2700 fps or less. After months of searching, I was able to find some Varget, which allowed me to push the muzzle velocity to 2820 fps, but accuracy was not as good. I’ve read that more muzzle velocity is better in benchrest shooting, but in N.G. Papagalos (pp. 53-56, Precision Shooting, March 2005) also found the best accuracy for 107 grain Sierra Matchkings in the 2600-2700 fps range with the 6BR (and he was trying to increase MV to knock over a 50 pound ram silhouette at 500 meters). Has anyone else seen this in their 6BR rifles?

fig_6.jpg


Figure 7 shows the targets from my third match. I reduced the powder charge of IMR 4064 to 26.8 grains. I was a bit lucky to keep a shot at 3 o’clock in the 10-ring on the second bull! I had one wind flag and didn’t notice any wind change for this shot, so I’m not sure what caused this.

fig_7.jpg


Figure 8 shows the targets from my fourth and final match. I included the sighters in the top left corner to show a surprising result. The group in my second sighter target was a little to the right, so I clicked the scope 1 click (1/8 MOA) to the left. It looks like the group on the first bull moved a lot more than 3/8” to the left after that adjustment! This is why I’m a bit paranoid about making scope adjustments during a match. After the first bull, I clicked to the right and got a better centered group on the second bull. The group sizes look pretty good, each with a 10-shot center-to-center distance of around 1.4”. If they were better centered, I would have gotten a lot more Xs!

fig_8.jpg


I’m very happy with the second place season finish (I tied for first in average score but lost on average X-count). The first place finisher also shot a Savage 12 Target Action with a Sightron 10-50x60 scope, but used a Shilen select match barrel in 6.5mm Creedmoor. I’ve read a lot of complaints about Savage rifles, but the some of the biggest complaints don’t apply for this particular situation. Since I’m using a single shot action, there were no failure to feed or magazine issues. I even removed the ejector to help protect the spent brass, so ejection also wasn’t any issue. Since I’m firing slowly, I wasn’t bothered too much if the sear accidentally tripped and got hung up on the AccuRelease safety lever. This never happened during a match, but happened rarely if I didn’t pull the trigger straight back. If I remember correctly, this happened only a few of times when I was first getting used to the trigger in January 2021 and was wearing gloves due to the cold weather. I really appreciated having a trigger pull of around 6 ounces, which allowed me to fire the rifle under free recoil with almost no body contact with the rifle. This is a great trigger for a factory action, as long as you can shoot slowly! Now if I was shooting in a PRS Match, these are important issues, but for this kind of benchrest match, the Savage worked really well.


I’m wondering if/how I can improve things. If you get the chance, please take a look at the following items and let me know what sort of changes make the most sense:

1. Cases: I’m using Lapua cases. Should I weigh them? Does it help to neck-turn them? I don’t have a tight match chamber that requires neck-turning, but have read neck turning could help with accuracy and reduce muzzle velocity spread. I’m neck-sizing and bumping the shoulders back about 0.002” with a Redding type S bushing die.

2. Bullets: Should I be using flat base bullets for this relatively short range, since they stabilize faster than boattails? I’ve only tried boattails (~100 gr Sierra, Berger, Barnes and Hornady) so far. I also had trouble getting Berger 105 gr hybrids to work as well as the 107 gr MKs. At some point I’d like to try shooting at 600 and maybe even 1000 yards, where boattails are best, but maybe a different bullet and load would be better for 300 yards?

3. New barrel: I have around 1200 rounds through this barrel, so eventually I’ll need to replace it. I’m thinking of getting a Shilen select match, but am bit overwhelmed by all the options: a) 1-7 Special for VLD bullets over 100 gr; b) 1-7.5 Ratchet rifled 4 groove; c) 1-8 Special for VLD bullets over 100 gr; d) 1-8 Ratchet rifled 4 groove. It looks like all of these can be made with tight necks (.272", 0 Freebore) that may require neck turning the brass. Please let me know what barrel you would recommend.

Thanks in advance for reading this post and helping with my questions!

I’ve seen much more impressive groups online, but I hope that you found the story and the results interesting!
 

shoots100

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What X power do you usually set the scope on when shooting a match ?
You have it dialed in, but maybe would do a little better having a dedicated scope with better glass + reticle and an aftermarket trigger.
 

jcerne

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Nov 20, 2020
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Amherst, NY
Thanks for the helpful reply. I usually shoot at the max magnification, 50x. I put a a vinyl blind over the barrel to minimize any mirage due to a warm barrel and the sight picture is pretty good. I sight in the rifle a day before the match and don't remove the scope for the next day's match, so I think the mounting is ok. I get POI changes from day to day not matter what I do. The Sightron is known to have some temperature-dependent shifts, but it's mostly in focusing and not so much in POI. I have an aquarium thermometer strip taped on the scope to help me keep track of scope temperature.

Please let me know what scope and reticle you'd recommend. My Sightron is over 4 times more expensive than my next most expensive scope, so that's pretty good glass for me! A lot of folks at our matches used Nightforce 12-42x benchrest scopes; are the NF's much better than Sightrons? I like the side-focus on the Sightron and the fact that it can focus down to 10 yards so that I can use it for air rifle field target matches.

I have looked at aftermarket triggers and it looks like the Basix Universal goes down to about 4 oz, which is better than the 6 oz I have now, but I'm not sure whether I'd notice the difference. However, it's probably like scopes, once you've tried the best trigger/scope, it's hard to go back to what you had! Please let me know which trigger and what pull weight you'd recommend. Do you need a 2 oz (or less?) trigger to be competitive in F-class type matches?

Thanks,
John
 

Chickentoast

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I have a Rifle Basix Sav-2 for my Savage, set around 6 oz. I don't know how you get a decent pull with the acculever in the way. I previously put a piece of a paper clip through the acculever, to keep it tucked back, and put some silicon on it to keep it there. That worked great, but I was limited to around 12 oz pull with the regular accutrigger. I suggest trying this free mod to see if you would benefit from the Sav-2 - or you may like it and just leave it that way. I have a TT diamond on a 700, and I can't use it turned all the way down - it seems my trigger finger needs 6oz in oder to be able to control it - yours may be more sensitive.
 

jcerne

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Nov 20, 2020
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Amherst, NY
I have a Rifle Basix Sav-2 for my Savage, set around 6 oz. I don't know how you get a decent pull with the acculever in the way. I previously put a piece of a paper clip through the acculever, to keep it tucked back, and put some silicon on it to keep it there. That worked great, but I was limited to around 12 oz pull with the regular accutrigger. I suggest trying this free mod to see if you would benefit from the Sav-2 - or you may like it and just leave it that way. I have a TT diamond on a 700, and I can't use it turned all the way down - it seems my trigger finger needs 6oz in oder to be able to control it - yours may be more sensitive.

I agree that 12 oz would make things a lot harder for benchrest. I have the match version of the Accutrigger, which is supposed to go down to 6oz, but maybe that's not always the case for other rifles? I put some shim washers on each side of the trigger to reduce side-play and lightly polished the sear/trigger engagement surfaces (but that didn't change the pull much if at all). The trigger pull does vary a bit, going from 6 to 8 oz, but since the rifle isn't moving much on the rest, these differences don't seem to matter as much. If I were shooting prone/sitting/kneeling/standing, then having a supper consistent trigger would probbaly be more important.
 

Chickentoast

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^I'm talking about getting the red thing out of the way. It takes non-zero effort to pull, and can bind slightly if not perfectly square. Pull it back flush, stick a paper clip through one of the holes to keep it there, snip the paper clip, and put a bead of silicon on it to keep it there. If you find that to be better for you, consider the Sav2. Hope that makes it more clear.
 

jcerne

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^I'm talking about getting the red thing out of the way. It takes non-zero effort to pull, and can bind slightly if not perfectly square. Pull it back flush, stick a paper clip through one of the holes to keep it there, snip the paper clip, and put a bead of silicon on it to keep it there. If you find that to be better for you, consider the Sav2. Hope that makes it more clear.
You were very clear about the mod. Thanks. The resistance of the red AccuRelease lever in my rifle is only a few ounces so it doesn't bother me much and I like the safety feature. However, I can see how it could bind and cause problems. It works well for me since I can go very slowly at the bench and pull very carefully. If I wasn't shooting the rifle slowly off the bench, I don't think the AccuTrigger would work as well and I'm sure the AccuRelease lever would drive me crazy, which of course , could be fixed by your mod! I also wish that Savage had made it possible to adjust the trigger pull without having to take the stock off.
 
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Chickentoast

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OK, everyone is different - wish I could shoot the same without the expensive triggers. That effort to pull the acculever back, and not really being able to feel where it ended, impacted my shooting. 1's and 2's now vs 3's and 4's before with the same barrel and load.
 

jcerne

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Amherst, NY
OK, everyone is different - wish I could shoot the same without the expensive triggers. That effort to pull the acculever back, and not really being able to feel where it ended, impacted my shooting. 1's and 2's now vs 3's and 4's before with the same barrel and load.
Wow, that's a big difference! Maybe I should try a new trigger?! Thanks
 
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moosemeat

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I shoot f t/r, so similar but not the same. So take my advice for with a grain of salt.
When you get a new barrel see if you can get it with a neck that would need about .002 clean up. Neck turn your brass to 90% clean up minimum. Anneal after every firing.
I also shoot a Sightron, although a 8-32×56. Is the nightforce better? Absolutely yes. How much? A small percentage. However, if you dont have faith in being able to adjust your scope in a match a scope upgrade maybe needed. My Sightron has been 100%.
A note on the barrel, get the best you can afford and have it fit by the best you can find. It looks like your still running the barrel nut, so not sure if Bartlien or Kreiger make em like that, if so that's what I would get.
Keep up the good work and keep this going. Interested to see what comes of it.
 
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NewsShooter

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I actually like the match accutrigger on my savage, I've got it down to about 8 ounces. I just treat it like a two stage, take up the blade travel and then you're ready. It will enforce good mechanics as if you push on it sideways at all it will trigger and you'll have to cycle the bolt again. I've got it on a .223 with a 30 inch F class barrel. Got it from an F class shooter that took it off after about 50 rounds to put on a custom barrel. Said he should have kept the Savage barrel as it shot as good as his custom. It hangs with the 6.5 CM out to 600, actually shoots tighter at 300.
 

shoots100

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Please let me know what scope and reticle you'd recommend. My Sightron is over 4 times more expensive than my next most expensive scope, so that's pretty good glass for me! A lot of folks at our matches used Nightforce 12-42x benchrest scopes; are the NF's much better than Sightrons? I like the side-focus on the Sightron and the fact that it can focus down to 10 yards so that I can use it for air rifle field target matches.

I have looked at aftermarket triggers and it looks like the Basix Universal goes down to about 4 oz, which is better than the 6 oz I have now, but I'm not sure whether I'd notice the difference. However, it's probably like scopes, once you've tried the best trigger/scope, it's hard to go back to what you had! Please let me know which trigger and what pull weight you'd recommend. Do you need a 2 oz (or less?) trigger to be competitive in F-class type matches?

Thanks,
John
I used March and fixed power Leupold scopes with target dots, but their a bit more expensive than a sightron.
Because of mirage, I don't remember dialing over 40X for 300 yard matches.
What reticle do you have on your SIII ?
I think having a dedicated scope is a must for a target rifle.
QD Screws and clamps will start to weaken and loose precise fitment after repeated removal and mounting.
Not what you want for tight groups at longer ranges.
You've taken the time to do every other aspect of getting your rifle dialed in, yet you neglect the one part that needs to be just as, or more precise as all of the others.
I think all of your wandering issues will end after you get a set of heavy duty rings and dedicate that SIII to the rifle.
I prefer a Jard trigger and have heard good things about the ELF trigger, but the ELF won't go down to the pull weight you like using.
I removed the safety blade from all of my accutriggers after the first click without a bang, then I ended up removing all of my accutriggers.
I haven't shot F class or bench rest in awhile, but when I did, I preferred a 7oz pull.
I ended up converting all of my savage target rifles into varmint rifles and set the triggers at 1lb.
 

jcerne

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I used March and fixed power Leupold scopes with target dots, but their a bit more expensive than a sightron.
Because of mirage, I don't remember dialing over 40X for 300 yard matches.
What reticle do you have on your SIII ?
I think having a dedicated scope is a must for a target rifle.
QD Screws and clamps will start to weaken and loose precise fitment after repeated removal and mounting.
Not what you want for tight groups at longer ranges.
You've taken the time to do every other aspect of getting your rifle dialed in, yet you neglect the one part that needs to be just as, or more precise as all of the others.
I think all of your wandering issues will end after you get a set of heavy duty rings and dedicate that SIII to the rifle.
I prefer a Jard trigger and have heard good things about the ELF trigger, but the ELF won't go down to the pull weight you like using.
I removed the safety blade from all of my accutriggers after the first click without a bang, then I ended up removing all of my accutriggers.
I haven't shot F class or bench rest in awhile, but when I did, I preferred a 7oz pull.
I ended up converting all of my savage target rifles into varmint rifles and set the triggers at 1lb.
March scopes are really impressive (I got the chance to look through one at a field target match) and I almost decided to get a Delta Stryker HD 5-50x56 last year. Maybe some day! I'll start looking at used scope ads again.

At my club the mirage in the morning isn't too bad, but on a summer afternoon, it's quite bad and 50x won't work at 300 yards. Now I know why we shoot the matches in the morning! The reticle on my SIII is an illuminated MOA-H. The central dot fits pretty well into the x-ring. The illuminated reticle helps when aiming on a black bull.

I agree that having the scope permanently mounted to the rifle is the way to go. The weight of the rifle/scope and the mildness of 6BR make recoil very low, but the scope could be moving with each shot and the scope tube could be flexing differently each time the QD mounts are re-attached. A weaker mounting system may also be more susceptible to aiming drift due to temperature changes.

Thanks for your helpful advice!
 
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Wannashootit

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I just built a .300 WSM for LR target (shouldered Shilen) and when it came to the trigger I decided to try an Elf.
I have a Rifle Basix on another rifle, but gotta say I like the Elf better.
 

jcerne

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Nov 20, 2020
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Amherst, NY
Hi All,

After close to 1600 rounds, the 26" Criterion barrel is still going strong, but the throat fire cracking is getting worse and with barrel delivery times on the order of months or longer, I'm thinking about ordering a replacement barrel. I just want to be ready with the replacement barrel when this one goes.

Please let me know what you think about the following options and questions:

1. Savage Shilen Select Match: these are similar in price to Criterion, but now there are even more options to complicate things!

a) 1-8" Special for VLD bullets over 100 gr.
b) 1-8" Ratchet rifled 4 groove


2. Krieger? These cost about 50% ($200) more than Criterion and Shilen barrels. Maybe the cut rifling is better stress relieved to make the POI less sensitive to barrel temperature?


3. Is there any accuracy advantage to shouldered barrels for the Savage Target Action? This might be an option with Krieger, but it probably would add to the cost.

Most of my shooting will be 300 yard F-class, but someday I'd like to try longer ranges, so I'm mostly looking at shooting heavier boat-tail bullets (over 100 gr) in a 1-8" twist barrel. My understanding is that although boat-tails have a bigger BC than flat-base bullets, boat-tails take a longer distance to stabilize and therefore may be more susceptible to wind (lower BC until they stabilize?) at shorter ranges than flat-base bullets. It's hard to find 6mm flat-based bullets over 100 gr, so it sounds like lighter flat-base bullets with slower twist barrels may be better for 300 yards and closer? I'm pretty confused by all this?!

I think Criterion barrels are great, but part of the fun of this hobby is trying new things and learning new lessons (hopefully good ones!), so I'm leaning towards trying something different.

I appreciate your patience and help. I'm not always a big fan of "tell me what to buy" posts, but hope that the discussion will be interesting and informative for readers besides myself.

Thanks for your help!
John
 

jcerne

Private
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Nov 20, 2020
8
5
Amherst, NY
Hi All,

After close to 1600 rounds, the 26" Criterion barrel is still going strong, but the throat fire cracking is getting worse and with barrel delivery times on the order of months or longer, I'm thinking about ordering a replacement barrel. I just want to be ready with the replacement barrel when this one goes.

Please let me know what you think about the following options and questions:

1. Savage Shilen Select Match: these are similar in price to Criterion, but now there are even more options to complicate things!

a) 1-8" Special for VLD bullets over 100 gr.
b) 1-8" Ratchet rifled 4 groove


2. Krieger? These cost about 50% ($200) more than Criterion and Shilen barrels. Maybe the cut rifling is better stress relieved to make the POI less sensitive to barrel temperature?


3. Is there any accuracy advantage to shouldered barrels for the Savage Target Action? This might be an option with Krieger, but it probably would add to the cost.

Most of my shooting will be 300 yard F-class, but someday I'd like to try longer ranges, so I'm mostly looking at shooting heavier boat-tail bullets (over 100 gr) in a 1-8" twist barrel. My understanding is that although boat-tails have a bigger BC than flat-base bullets, boat-tails take a longer distance to stabilize and therefore may be more susceptible to wind (lower BC until they stabilize?) at shorter ranges than flat-base bullets. It's hard to find 6mm flat-based bullets over 100 gr, so it sounds like lighter flat-base bullets with slower twist barrels may be better for 300 yards and closer? I'm pretty confused by all this?!

I think Criterion barrels are great, but part of the fun of this hobby is trying new things and learning new lessons (hopefully good ones!), so I'm leaning towards trying something different.

I appreciate your patience and help. I'm not always a big fan of "tell me what to buy" posts, but hope that the discussion will be interesting and informative for readers besides myself.

Thanks for your help!
John
PS I put a Rifle Basix SAV-2 trigger on the rifle and am glad I did. It's great!
 

Chickentoast

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^Ha! Awesome.

I have a Shilen Select Match Ratchet groove 223 vld chamber and it shoots 80 eldm's into 1 hole @ 200. Also cleans up very easily. Was surprised how easy it was to find loads as well. Nothing bad to say about the barrel.

I have a Krieger in 300 RUM and it's fast as well as accurate. Doesn't clean as easily, but could have something to do with 95 grains of powpow...

Don't think you can go wrong with either, but suggest trying the Shilen with all the bells and whistles.