New Savage Model 212 12 Gauge Slug Gun
There has been a renewed interest in slug guns of late; the Savage 220 20 gauge slug gun has been part of the reason for it. Introduced in late 2009, the Savage Model 220F (now apparently called simply the 220) was quite an achievement as far as I'm concerned: http://www.randywakeman.com/Savage220FRifleoftheYear.htm . The new 212, along with the 220, joins the extended Savage Specialty Series of hunting rifles which includes the Bear Hunter, Predator Hunter, the Long Range Hunter, and one rifle in particular I've been trying to get a hold of since the 2011 Shot Show, the Model 11 Lightweight Hunter. For starters, let's list the basic specifications of the 212.
Savage 212, SKU 19042
Gauge: 12 Gauge
Rate of Twist: 1:35
Barrel length: 22 inches
Overall length 43.135 inches
Unloaded weight: 7.45 pounds
Magazine capacity: 2 + 1
The blued, composite stocked version as tested was supplied complete with two-piece Weaver style scope bases installed, the stock featuring the Savage P.A.D. recoil pad. The familiar Savage bolt action has a three position safety and features the very well-known Savage AccuTrigger. Rather than a bolt release on the side of the receiver, the new 212 has the bolt release neatly nested at the front of the trigger guard. The 212 has a smooth, satin finish blued barrel with no iron sights, so this slug gun is intended for scope use only.
You'll want to use a full length scope with approximately a six inch mounting distance with the factory Savage two-piece bases, like the Bushnell Elite 3200 I've installed above, or get an EGW one piece rail. Note that the updated action of the Savage 212 now has the bolt release at the front of the trigger guard as opposed to the side of the action for a cleaner appearance.
The 212 is a long action, so there is a consideration in selecting a scope on it as supplied. I used a Bushnell 3-9 x 40mm Elite 3200 with a ballistic reticle. This Bushnell is a full size scope with a six inch mounting length. Though shorter, stubbier scope are popular, if you choose less than a full-length scope you'll likely want to invest in an EGW one-piece mounting rail for about forty dollars so you can mount most any optic. The Elite 3200 scope fit fine, but there wasn't a huge amount of mounting space to spare as you can see in the picture above. The AccuTrigger broke at a pleasingly crisp 3-1/4 lbs., so even though it is user-adjustable no adjustment was necessary.
The factory test target from Savage showed a sub-MOA three shot group out of this rifle with Remington Accu-Tip ammo, so there was little question that the 212 was going to shoot with the ammo it liked. I have Federal Premium Barnes 3/4 oz. 1900 fps stated velocity slugs on hand, along with Winchester 2000 fps XP3 300 grain, Winchester 1900 fps 7/8 oz. Partition Gold, and Winchester 1800 fps 375 grain Dual Bond loads to test. All of these shells have 2-3/4 inch unfolded length hulls.
My shoulder still sufficiently tenderized from my bout with the harsh-shooting Browning A-Bolt Slug gun, the first ammunition tested was what I had hoped to be a bit more pleasant to shoot, the 3/4 oz. (328 grain) Federal loads. They are significantly softer shooting than the rest of the tested rounds, but the Federal Premium 3/4 oz. Barnes loads shot horribly. The groups sprayed all over the place, most of the rounds going through the target sideways, so for whatever reason this load failed to come remotely close to stabilizing out of the 212.
All three Winchester loads shot far better, all more than sufficient for minute of whitetail, and all of them were harsh kicking. The easy winner, out of this specific rifle, was the 1800 fps Winchester Dual bond 375 grain round, which had no problem touching holes or nearly touching holes shot after shot. Based on published Winchester ballistics which are invariably a bit optimistic, this is a 167 yard six inch kill maximum point blank range load.
The 212 is essentially identical in length and weight to its 20 gauge counterpart, the 220. It is a bit softer shooting than the recently evaluated Browning A-Bolt, attributed to its slightly heavier weight and substantially better recoil pad. Still, it is generally uncomfortable to shoot and is not remotely an enjoyable target gun which can be said about 12 gauge slug guns as a class. Currently, the better 20 gauge slug loads and the better 12 gauge slug guns have essentially identical ballistics. What this means is that today, the 12 gauge platform is inferior to the 20 gauge, regardless of brand. There is no reason to opt for a 12 gauge slug gun compared to the far more pleasant shooting 20 gauge slug offerings, unless you just think you want a 12 gauge. There is no tangible, real world difference in range or effectiveness, except that current 20 gauge offerings like the Savage 220 are a lot more fun to shoot and have slimmer stocks and barrels.
The Savage three-position safety is superior to many two-position tang or thumb safeties, in that the bolt is mechanically locked closed when the safety is in the fully rearward position. This means that thick cover may unlock your action by snagging your bolt in other tang safety treatments. With the Savage three position safety, the bolt is locked down in the usual carry position. Further, the action can be cycled when the safety is still engaged in the middle position. The gun can only be fired with the safety fully forward and the gun has the additional safety advantage inherent in the AccuTrigger on top of that. While all firearms need to be treated with respect and it can only be the user that is responsible for loading any firearm in accordance with manufacturer's specifications, the commonality of one hundred percent proof testing, the three-position tang safety, and the advantages of the AccuTrigger make Savage rifles some of the safest firearms that have ever been produced.
With an affordable price, a smooth action, an outstanding trigger, and satisfying accuracy, you might think that it would be effortless to highly recommend the Savage 212. That would generally be the case, were it not for the Savage 220 that brings along the fundamental features of the 212 at an even more attractive price, equal or better accuracy, and markedly less recoil and greater shootability. If you are looking for a high performance 12 gauge slug gun, this is it, but in a practical sense the 20 gauge as embodied in the Savage 220 slug gun is the better hunting platform. It is nice to have choices, though, and Savage Arms now gives you two extremely competent ones.
Copyright 2011 by Randy Wakeman. All Rights Reserved.