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Varmints Beware: Savage’s New Model 25 Is Out There

by Layne Simpson   |  September 23rd, 2010 1

Purpose-built for short, varmint-slaying cartridges and with a price tag almost anyone can afford, the Model 25 LVT has made its debut, and Layne was first to get his hands on one. Here’s his full report.


Savage has long had a reputation for offering affordable centerfire rifles, and the ability to come up with designs that are easy and economical to manufacture is what has allowed the company to do so. One of the first examples was the Model 23, which was introduced in 1919. Eventually offered in .22 Hornet, .25-20, and .32-20, it had a tubular receiver and a single locking lug at the rear of its bolt. A combination of stamped parts and a one-piece receiver/barrel kept production cost quite low.

The single-shot Model 40 in .22 Hornet is a more recent introduction in affordable rifles from Savage. Like the Model 23 of many decades before, the Model 40 has a simple tubular receiver, and lock-up at the rear is accomplished by the root of the bolt handle bearing on the receiver at two points. When I reported on the new Model 40 in the April 2005 issue of Shooting Times, Savage officials told me that it would eventually be offered in .204 Ruger and .223 Remington, but those plans were canceled soon thereafter. Due to the larger diameter of their cases, those cartridges impinge a higher level of backward thrust against the bolt during firing than the .22 Hornet, and while the Model 40 action may be strong enough to handle the additional strain, the margin of strength is not as great as with larger, multiple locking lugs. All of which serves to bring up the latest addition to Savage’s varmint-rifle stable, the Model 25.

The Model 25 also has a tubular receiver, but at 87/8 inches long, it is more than 3 inches shorter than the Model 40 receiver. The machining of abutments inside the receiver ring for the three locking lugs of the bolt also makes it more expensive to produce.

Measuring 1.120 inches in diameter, the receiver has two gas vents located adjacent to the bolt head when it is in its locked position. At the right-hand side is an ejection port measuring 2.540 inches long, and the bottom of the receiver is cut out for a single-column detachable magazine that holds four rounds. Made of a tough synthetic material, the magazine is detached from the rifle by pressing a lever located at the front of the magazine opening in the synthetic trigger-guard assembly.

Screwed into the bottom of the receiver are three action-bolt bushings with the rear two also serving to hold the fire-control assembly and magazine retention spring in place. The roof of the receiver is drilled and tapped for scope mounting, and a Weaver-style, two-piece base is included with the new rifle.

The one-piece bolt is 75/8 inches in length and .630 inch in diameter. It has an engine-turned finish and also wears the ever-familiar Savage logo. It features a 60-degree lift and three massive locking lugs up front. Those three lugs along with the diameter of the bolt lead me to believe that cartridges of even greater diameter than the .204 Ruger and .223 Rem. are in the future of this rifle with the 6.8mm Remington SPC at the very top of my wish list. And since no magazine modification would be required for the .221 Fireball and .17 Fireball, I would not be surprised to see them added to the list of Model 25 options.

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Savage Model 25 LVT

Model: 25 Lightweight Varminter Thumbhole
Purpose: Varminting
Manufacturer: Savage Arms Inc.
118 Mountain Rd.
Suffeild, CT 06078
800-370-0706
savagearms.com
Action Type: Bolt-Action
Operation: Turn-bolt
Receiver Material: steel
Caliber: .204 Ruger (as tested)
.233 Rem.
Magazine type/ capacity: Detachable/ 4 rounds
Barrel length: 24 inches
Rifling: Eight grooves, 1:12 RH twist (.204 Ruger)
Sights: None; scope mounting base included
Metal Finish: Polished and blued
Safety: Two position, RH side of receiver
Trigger: Fully adjustable AccuTrigger
Pull Weight: 36 oz. (as tested)
Stock: Multi-laminated wood
Stock finish: Polyurethane
Drop at heel: 2.0 in
Drop at comb: 1.5 in.
Length of Pull: 13.5 in.
Pistol grip cap: None
Buttpad: 1/2-inch rubber
Sling studs/ swivels: Three: one rear, two front
Weight, empty: 8.25 pounds
Overall Length: 43 5/8 inches
MSRP: $635


The Model 25 is chambered for .204 Ruger or .223, and its magazine holds four rounds.

The ejector is the commonly seen spring-loaded, plunger type, and while the boltface is deeply counterbored, the wall is interrupted by a Sako-style extractor. A cap at the rear of the bolt blocks propellant gas from the shooter’s face in the event of a blown primer. The bolt handle, with its smooth knob, is screwed to the bolt body. Bolt removal is accomplished by placing the safety in its “Off” position and holding back the trigger while retracting the bolt.

Like most centerfire rifles built by Savage, the Model 25 utilizes the extremely successful AccuTrigger. Capable of being adjusted down to 1/2 pound, the trigger on the rifle I shot came from the factory at 36 ounces with a pull-to-pull variation of 4 ounces. As far as my finger could tell, creep was nonexistent, but there was a bit of overtravel.

The safety consists of a two-position lever located just behind the bolt handle cutout at the right side of the receiver. It operates quite smoothly with positive stops at its two positions, and since it does not lock the bolt from rotation, a cartridge can be unloaded from the chamber while the safety is engaged.

I have long been convinced that one of the primary reasons Savage rifles enjoy a reputation for excellent accuracy is the fact that their barrels are made in-house and they are button-rifled with minimal bore and groove diameter dimensional variations from throat to muzzle. The barrels also usually have an extremely smooth bore finish.

Probably best described as medium-heavy in contour, the 24-inch barrel of the Model 25 Lightweight Varminter measures 0.950 inch at the receiver. From there, it straight-tapers to a muzzle diameter of 0.700 inch. The barrel is lightly fluted over about half of its length. A target-style crown at the muzzle protects the rifling from dings in the field.

What you have just read describes the two varminter versions of the Model 25–the Lightweight Varminter (LV) and the Lightweight Varminter Thumbhole (LVT). A third version, the Classic, has a 22-inch barrel of lighter contour, which along with its walnut stock brings it in at a weight of 7.25 pounds, or a pound less than the LVT with its laminated stock. Think of the Classic as just the ticket for traipsing over hill and dale in search of varmints, while the other two are more suited to sitting than walking.

In the mass-production of a rifle, adjusting headspace to the desired dimension is one of the more time-consuming operations required. Through the years, Savage has come up with clever ways of decreasing production time in this area while at the same time assuring that headspace is dead on.

The Model 340 rifle, which was brought out by Savage in 1947, introduced a unique method of accomplishing that, and the design detail was carried over into the Model 110 when it came along in 1958. After the barrel is threaded and finish-chambered, and with the bolt in its locked position, the barrel is manually screwed into the receiver until a headspace gauge in the chamber makes contact with the face of the bolt. Tightening a large locknut encircling the barrel against the face of the receiver secures the barrel in place.

On the new Model 25, headspace is adjusted in nearly the same manner, but its barrel is fixed into its final relationship with the receiver by two steel pins instead of the nut. The pins are installed transversely through the bottom of the receiver ring and the barrel shank.


The Model 25’s receiver is tubular, and the two-position safety does not prevent bolt rotation, so the chamber can be unloaded while the safety is engaged.

The laminated wood stock of the Lightweight Varminter is made by Rutland Plywood, and like all stocks of this type offered by Savage, it is quite nicely done. The Model 25 LV stock is standard in its styling, and the Model 25 LVT is a thumbhole style. Measuring 2 inches wide, the forearm of the latter is perfectly shaped for resting steady atop a sandbag, and three large vents that extend all the way through allow air to circulate around a hot barrel.

My postal scale says the stock weighs 41 ounces, and when combined with the 86 ounces of the barreled action, we arrive a total rifle weight of an ounce under 8 pounds, or about 1/4 pound less than specified in the 2008 Savage catalog. The stock has a flawless satin finish with not a single ripple, bubble, or pimple in sight.

Wood-to-metal fit around the receiver is custom-rifle close, but the inletting on the belly of the stock for the trigger guard/magazine well assembly is considerably oversized with a generous gap all around. The barrel is free-floating over its entire length with generous spaces between its sides and the channel of the stock.

I have never been a big fan of thumbhole-style stocks, but I do have to admit the one on the Model 25 LVT felt quite comfortable in my hands, and comb height proved to be ideal for aligning my eye with a Zeiss Conquest 4.5-14X 44mm
MC scope held in place by rings of medium height. The stock wears a thin rubber buttpad and three posts, two for quick-detachable sling swivels and another for the attachment of a folding bipod.

Shooting The New Model 25
My test session with the Model 25 did not start off as planned. It is not exactly uncommon for me to receive a new rifle that develops a problem, and the first Model 25 LVT I got my hands on did nothing to change my luck. I usually function test a rifle before shooting it for accuracy, and the Savage shed its extractor before I got around to firing the first group. The extractor and its spring simply leaped from the rifle, bounced off the top of the shooting bench, and tried their best to hide on the floor. With a deadline looming just around the corner, I crossed my fingers, called Savage, and was told, “We’ll see what we can do about getting a replacement rifle to you.”

Two days later, I was back in business at the range with another rifle. I also received a call from one of the engineers at Savage who explained that the first rifle I received was pre-production and the problem would be taken care of on production rifles by backing up the extractor with a heavier spring.

After experiencing that problem with the first rifle, I decided to really put the extractor of the second rifle through the test by shooting extremely hot handloads in it. In doing so, I carefully increased the charge weight of Benchmark powder behind the 39-grain Sierra BlitzKing bullet until I began to experience sticky extraction, then I proceeded to fire 40 rounds of that load in the rifle. Several rounds required tapping the bolt handle with a plastic mallet in order to break the fired case loose from the chamber, but the extractor took it all without a single whimper. By the way, those loads are not listed in my accuracy results chart, and this test is something that you should never try yourself.

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Savage Model 25 LVT Accuracy

Bullet Powder
(Type) – – (Grs.)
Velocity
(fps)
100- Yard
Accuracy (in.)
.204 RUGER
Sierra 32-gr. BlitzKing Benchmark 28.0 3974 1.39
Sierra 39-gr. BlitzKing Benchmark 26.0 3710 0.68
Federal 32-gr. Ballistic Tip Factory Load 3662 1.84
Hondady 32-gr. V-Max Factory Load 4082 1.58
Remington 32-gr. V-Max Factory Load 4044 1.27
Hornady 40-gr. V-Max Factory Load 3816 0.79
Notes: Accuracy is the average of five, five-shot groups fired at 100 yards from a sandbag benchrest. Velocity is the average of 25 rounds measured 12 feetfrom the gun’s muzzle. Remington cases and Remington 7 1/2 primers were used for the handloaders. Powder charges are maximum and should be reduced by 10 percent for starting loads.


The test rifle chambered for .204 Ruger definitely preferred heavier bullets.

When checking out the accuracy potential of the Model 25, I fed it two handloads with Benchmark powder and Sierra bullets as well as four factory loads from Remington, Federal, and Hornady. The little rifle showed a distinct preference for the heavier bullets. Average accuracy for five, five-shot groups with various 32-grain bullets ranged from 1.27 to 1.84 inches, whereas the Hornady 40-grain factory load and my handload with the Sierra 39-grain Blitz-King averaged 0.79 and 0.68 inch, respectively.

As I discovered while shooting the rifle, four rounds could be squeezed into the magazine with some effort. But with the bolt closed, it took a good deal of muscle to push the fully loaded magazine into the rifle far enough to engage its latch. And while the top round did not feed very smoothly, the bottom three zipped into the chamber like grease on glass when nudged along by the bolt.

Many of us single-load a rifle when shooting prairie dogs, and some rifles require the nose of the bullet to be started into the chamber before the cartridge will feed. With the Model 25, you can simply throw a cartridge into the ejection port and shove it home with the bolt.

The magazine does extend a bit below the belly of the rifle but not enough to make the rifle uncomfortable to carry with one hand. The magazine latch works fine, but its lever can be accidentally depressed if the rifle is shoved forward on a sandbag. A stronger spring there would be nice. I keep thinking some company will eventually get around t
o designing a latch for a detachable magazine that can be made temporarily inoperable by the owner of the rifle; who knows, Savage might someday be first to grant my wish.

The new Savage Model 25 is specifically built for hunting varmints, and my range session with the LVT version proved it is definitely up to the task. The new rifle is a nice addition to Savage’s line of top-notch bolt guns.

  • david graff

    I purchased a 223 lv in spring, very accurate, smooth action on the bolt, savage has a good rep on this gun, I love this gun ,however a lot of work going into the gun I think they found the magazine in a crackerjack box ,what a piece of junk to attach to this great rifle, hope someone will build a jobber to fit it soon.

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