Our local coyote population has been reaching the saturation point for years now. It isn’t unusual for them to stand across the road from my house and challenge me when I take my dogs out at night. It has finally reached the point that they are now so brazen they often wander around fields during daylight hours. This would be ideal if it wasn’t for the fact we also have more than our fair share of road-“hunters” who have trained the coyotes that they should stay back from the roads by at least 300 yards. Since the fields around my house are flat and bare (400 yards to my south and nearly 1,000 yards to my north with virtually no cover of any nature), the only reasonable chance at them is with an exceptionally accurate and flat shooting long-range rifle. My .22-250 is accurate enough, but its 1 in 14” twist rate won’t stabilize bullets heavy enough to manage wind drift (averaging 10-20 mph around here more times than not) at extended range very well. Anything I have heavier (.280 Remington, .30-06 and such) runs the risk of ricochet and other hazards. The only solution…another rifle (as if I really needed and excuse).
Looking at the list of “long-range” calibers, several 6mm offerings looked promising. Since the most accurate cartridge I ever worked with in the past was the .243 Winchester in a now-discontinued Ruger V/T (that once produced a 300 yard 5 shot group that measured just under .5”) that I should have never traded off, I had a direction to go. After reviewing offerings from Remington, Ruger and Savage, the Savage Model 12 VLP won and my local FFL dealer made the order.
Enough is available on the internet that an in depth description would be a waste of space. Basically, the Model 12 VLP is the time-proven Model 10/110 action mated to a 26” heavy, fluted stainless steel barrel nestled in a laminated wood stock. The barrel is free-floated, 1-9.25” twist and the action is completed by Savage’s famous Accu-Trigger. Over all, mine weighs just over 11 pounds with scope and bipod. Not a “packin’ rifle”, but about ideal for a bench or sitting rifle for distance.
Once I got it home it didn’t take long to give the bore a thorough cleaning, mount a Weaver Kaspa 6-18 44mm scope that I had on hand and adjust the trigger (which arrived at 3.5 pounds) to 1.5 pounds that breaks like glass with no creep. Clamping on a bipod, I was ready to go. I had loaded a quantity of Nosler brass with a moderate load and some 87-grain Hornadys I had in a “junk” drawer for barrel break in and another batch with test loads of AA 2700 and 75-grain Vmax bullets in .5 grain increments from 3 grains below and working up to maximum. I was ready for when the weather cooperated.
Today I finally gave up on waiting for perfect conditions and figured I could at least go through my shoot-clean-shoot-clean sequence for breaking in the barrel. Amazingly, the first shot was exactly on line vertically and only 2” right on the horizontal. Better yet, the cleaning processes produced only very small amounts of copper over the first 5 shots and then faded away to nothing during the rest of the sequence. When the process was over, I sat back, looked at the wind (15-20 mph variable with gusts to 25 according to the local weather station) and thought “What the heck.”
Switching to the Vmax loads and trying to pick as much of a lull in the wind as possible for each shot, I worked my way up the loads. All shot well, given conditions, but tended to tighten as the loads got hotter. The last three loads were statistically identical, but the hottest gave flattened primers and reluctant bolt movement. Fine with me, since the load one full grain less showed normal primers and easy bolt movement – along with this type of accuracy even in today’s conditions...that 3 shot cluster is .285" on centers. Velocity for this load, adjusted for my 26” barrel, should be close to 3,400 fps.
All loads tried placed three out of five shots into less than .5 inches with “flyers” opening the other two shots to around an inch. Obviously the wind (and probably the shooter) was to blame. Playing with seating depths, chronographing and etc. will take place under a whole lot better conditions, but I think groundhogs are in trouble this year and, switching to 87-grain Vmax bullets for additional wind-drift resistance, coyotes are in for a run as well. I see no reason that I can’t find the right combo for sub- ½ MOA groups for 5 shots (not just 3). We’ll see!