Accuracy and handling give Browning the nod over the Savage Model 112FV and Winchester’s Model 70 HV.
The .22-250 remains one of the sweetest-shooting rounds for varmint hunting, and in some locales, young hunters who are recoil averse also use the former wildcat cartridge to take small-bodied deer. We have seen tabletop shooters whack ground squirrels with the .22-250 out past 300 yards, though its little bullets are susceptible to wind, and we have also witnessed a 13-year-old first-time hunter fill a doe tag with the round, crumpling an 80-pound whitetail at 100 yards with a single, well-placed rifle shot.
The reason for the cartridge’s continuing popularity is its excellent accuracy and flat trajectory out at most hunting ranges, which in most situations will top out at 250 yards. Since 1965, the year Remington legitimized the round by making it a factory offering, hunters have enjoyed the .22-250 Remington’s speedy performance. The typical factory round in this caliber has a muzzle velocity of 3,730 feet per second and a muzzle energy of 1,700 foot-pounds, dwarfing the ballistics of the .222 and .223 Remington. Also, the round isn’t nearly as erosive to the barrel and bore as the 4,000-fps .220 Swift, operating at lower pressures while providing comparable accuracy.
All this velocity does the hunter no good unless he’s shooting it in a decent rifle. With this in mind, we recently tested a Winchester Model 70 Heavy Varmint, a Savage Model 112FV, and a Browning A-Bolt II Varmint model. All three of these hefty .22-250 bolt-actions are intended for varmint hunting. Here’s how they performed:
Winchester Model 70 HV
Winchester’s Model 70 Heavy Varmint is an impressive-looking rifle. It features a blued, post-’64 action with a heavy, 7/8-inch-diameter stainless-steel barrel, which is attached to a machined, aluminum bedding block that is molded into the stock. The stock is made of a Kevlar/fiberglass/graphite composite and has a beavertail forend. This model is available in five calibers from .220 Swift to .308 Winchester.
Our .22-250 Heavy Varmint had a frosted silver-white barrel, while the remainder of the gun was a low glare, blue/black. The black, synthetic stock had a flawless, textured finish. Its solid, quarter-inch-thick rubber recoil pad and rear swivel stud were well-installed, but the front swivel stud shot loose after about 60 rounds. The forend’s oversized barrel channel allowed the barrel to float freely.
In our opinion, few varmint hunters would have been happy with the level of accuracy this bolt action produced with the ammunition we used. Our smallest three-shot average groups, 1.30 inches at 100 yards, were achieved using Federal’s Premium 40-grain hollow point Varmint load. Remington and Winchester 55-grain pointed soft points managed 1.50 and 1.85 inches, respectively. To be competitive as a varmint rifle, these groups sizes would need to be cut in half.
Due to this Winchester’s extremely heavy weight (103/4 pounds), forward balance, and 2.46-inch-wide forend, it sat as solidly as a rock on a rest—which it was designed to do. However, these same attributes made firing this rifle unsupported, not to mention carrying it around for any length of time, a real chore. Of course, we recognize most shooters would shoot the gun off a table, and wouldn’t carry it very far anyway.
Other facets of the gun’s performance we didn’t like included the following points:
• The shape of this Model 70’s buttpad and 1.5-inch-wide pistol grip were less comfortable than those of its competitors, in our view.
• The wing-type three-position manual safety, located behind the bolt handle on the right side of the receiver, operated stiffly.
• We felt that the trigger, which had a grooved 3/8-inch-wide face, was too heavy for this rifle’s intended use. The pull had no unnecessary movement and a crisp release, but the trigger let-off at 5 pounds.
The Heavy Varmint didn’t come with scope-mounting hardware. So, we equipped it with a Leupold 3.5-10x Vari-X III scope using a two-piece base and rings that were purchased for $40.
On the plus side, we noted the following positives in the Winchester’s performance:
• The Model 70’s straight comb afforded a stockweld with good cheek and jaw contact while looking through the scope, though.
• Recoil was mild.
• The Winchester had the smoothest and easiest bolt movement among our test guns.
• Ignition and feeding were absolutely reliable with all of the ammunition we tried, as was extraction and ejection.
• The average velocities of all three brands of ammunition we tried were satisfactory.
Savage Model 112FV
Savage makes three varmint rifles; the 112BVSS and 112FVSS have fluted barrels. For this test, we used a Model 112FV, which doesn’t feature that barrel treatment. This relatively inexpensive bolt-action rifle features a heavy, 3/4-inch-diameter barrel with a recessed crown and a graphite/fiberglass-filled composite stock that houses a fixed box magazine.
Most of our test gun’s metal parts had a low-glare blued finish with no imperfections. The bolt locked up tightly, but other moving parts had a small amount of play. The black synthetic stock didn’t have enough material removed from the barrel channel to allow the barrel to float freely along its entire length. Only the first 2 inches of the forend were relieved enough to allow the barrel to float, but that didn’t seem to hurt its accuracy too much.
The Model 112FV was more accurate than the Winchester Heavy Varmint with heavier bullets, due to the Savage’s slower rifling twist, but yielded larger groups with lighter bullets. Remington 55-grain PSPs averaged 1.15 inches at 100 yards, while Federal’s 40-grain HP Varmint load could be counted on for 1.45-inch groups. Winchester 55-grain PSPs managed only 1.55 inches.
Balancing about 1.5 inches in front of the receiver, we found the Model 112FV to be very muzzle heavy. However, its 9-pound weight wasn’t as unwieldy as the Winchester Heavy Varmint, we thought. Stabilizing the muzzle on a rest wasn’t difficult, but the relatively thin 1.6-inch-wide forend didn’t lay on a sandbag as well as the other guns. For its intended use, we think this is a design flaw.
During our testing and evaluation, we found other areas that needed work, in our estimation:
• This Savage recoiled a little more than the Winchester, we thought. That could be entirely due to the gun’s lighter weight.
• Though the safety never failed, its movement was stiff and gritty.
• Inserting cartridges into the Model 112FV’s fixed magazine through the ejection port was uneventful, but the only way to unload the magazine was to cycle the rounds through the action.
• The bolt unlocked hard, regardless of whether there was a round in the chamber or not, and dragged noticeably on the back end of the magazine’s plastic follower.
• We didn’t care for the ungrooved, 3/8-inch-wide trigger’s squared edges, and its movement was only average. The pull had about 1/16-inch of creep and a mushy release. According to our recording trigger gauge, it broke at 41/2 pounds.
• Like the Winchester, this Savage Varmint rifle didn’t come with a scope base and rings.
During our testing, we also noted the Savage had a number of positive attributes:
• The gun reliably fed, fired, extracted, and ejected every brand of ammunition we loaded into it.
• Of the rifles covered here, this .22-250 produced the fastest average muzzle velocities with all three loads, as the accompanying table shows.
• Our shooters found that the straight comb provided a stockweld with good jaw contact.
Browning A-Bolt Varmint
Browning’s bolt-action rifles have always had a distinctive appearance, and its A-Bolt II Varmint model is no exception. Standard features of this rifle include a heavy, standard-length barrel with a BOSS (Ballistic Optimizing Shooting System) tuner and a two-tone laminated wood stock with a beavertail forend. Right- and left-handed versions have a palm swell on the appropriate side of the pistol grip.
Except for its white bolt, our test gun’s barreled action had nonreflective blue/black colors. Both finishes were evenly applied. Fitting of metal parts was, for the most part, first rate. However, the detachable magazine, which had a steel body and an alloy follower, needed some work to feed rounds properly. The black-and gray-laminated hardwood stock had a satin finish with a few minor blemishes.
Though fine-tuning the A-Bolt II Varmint’s BOSS required about a half-hour of experimenting and a box of ammunition for each load, this rifle was more accurate than its competitors. We obtained the tightest three-shot average groups, 0.85 inches at 100 yards, using Federal’s 40-grain HP Varmint load. Remington and Winchester 55-grain PSPs averaged 1.05 and 1.30 inches, respectively. Some of this accuracy and consistency is due, we think, to the BOSS. We also found that the stock’s uniformly-shaped barrel channel allowed the heavy barrel to float freely, which we think is a benefit.
Other positives and negatives we noted about the gun included these points:
• Since this .22-250’s barrel was 2 inches shorter than those of the other guns included here, it yielded the lowest average velocities with all three loads: 162 to 237 fps slower than those of the Savage 112FV.
• Its cut checkering wasn’t up to Browning’s usual high standards.
• The magazine was troublesome, we thought. When attempting to chamber the first round in the magazine, the nose of the round hit the bottom of the barrel opening instead of going into the chamber about half the time. Furthermore, we weren’t able to seat a round in the magazine correctly when it was still in the gun, which is something we had been able to do with other A-Bolts.
• This Browning didn’t come with scope mounting hardware.
• We felt this A-Bolt II’s trigger was the best of the test items. The trigger itself was gold-colored and had a grooved, 3/8-inch-wide face with nicely rounded edges. Its pull didn’t have any slack or creep and consistently let-off at 4 pounds.
• The blued-steel swivel studs and the solid, black-rubber recoil pad were expertly installed.
• This A-Bolt II balanced about a half-inch in front of the receiver, making it only slightly muzzle heavy. Consequently, the Browning could be shouldered and brought on target faster and much easier than either of the other varmint rifles in this test, in our opinion. Furthermore, the A-Bolt II had the most comfortably-shaped recoil pad and comb. Most of our shooters liked the stock’s quarter-inch longer length of pull, too.
• Right-handed shooters found that this rifle’s 1.6-inch-wide pistol grip, which had a palm swell on the right side only, was exceptionally comfortable and afforded a solid grasp. On a rest or in the hand, the 2.3-inch-wide forend made stabilizing the gun easy.
• Due to the gas ports of its BOSS, this A-Bolt II .22-250’s kick at the shoulder was reduced by at least 50 percent. Muzzle blast was much stiffer than normal, however.
• All of the Varmint model’s controls were conveniently placed and operated smoothly.
• Pressing on the floorplate-release button at the front of the Browning’s trigger guard unlatched the hinged floorplate, providing clear access to the detachable magazine.
• Our test gun’s ignition, extraction, and ejection operations were flawless.
Field Tests Recommends
If it were our money, here’s how we would spend it on these varmint .22-250 bolt actions:
Winchester’s Model 70 Heavy Varmint had all the features needed to be a tackdriver, but it wasn’t very accurate with the ammunition we tried. We recognize that another load may have performed better, but we base our judgments on what we see, not what might have been. Also, it needed a trigger job, which would likely run $50 to $100, and we had to buy mounting hardware separately. On this rifle, we think the company should provide mounts and rings. Overall, it is our opinion that the other guns are better buys.
The Savage Model 112FV’s workmanship could have been better, but we felt that it performed decently for a rifle that retails for around $400. Still, it would be our second pick.
We felt the Browning A-Bolt II Varmint model’s handling and accuracy were superior to those of the other guns in this test. Although some may not care for its lower velocities, this rifle would be our first choice. We considered this gun’s bad magazine to be an unfortunate fluke.