Savage 12 .223 ammo question?


January 12, 2013, 04:56 PM
I just got my new Model 12 BTCSS to the range today and I have some observations and a question (I'm new to bolt action rifles, not new to guns).

Sighting in was a breeze, took 3 rounds. Fired a group, set gun on vise, lined up POA and moved the reticle to POI. 4th shot was perfect.

Now, on the the ammo observations. I was using PMC 55gr Bronze and getting about 1 MOA. Not bad but I was hoping for better out of this gun. I purchased some ammo from DeadZero Ammunition so it was time to try that. It's reload using once fired brass, Hornady 55gr V-Max with 24.5gr of TAC powder. They have new brass but this was $8 cheaper per 50. The results, CLOVERLEAFS! .325 MOA. I then tried some new Hornady 55gr JHP "Superformance" rounds. That was a mistake. The best I could muster was 2 MOA. It was horrible. Obviously the light bullet, hot load and the 1 in 9 twist in a 26" barrel are not a good combination. (Btw, I was using the shoot, clean, shoot, clean break in routine, well actually shoot 3, clean, shoot 3, clean......)

Here's the question, when I close the bolt on the PMC and Hornady ammo it's easy, smooth as can be. When I close the bolt on the DeadZero ammo it takes some effort. I immediately thought headspace but didn't have anything to use to measure. When I got home I measured the rounds and the only difference is the total length. The PMC is 2.224", the DeadZero is 2.264". The V-Max bullet also stays cylindrical for about .15" before it tapers, the PMC and JHP Hornaday start to taper almost immediately. Is what I'm feeling the bullet engaging the lands? Should I be concerned?

I sent a note off to the guys at DeadZero to get their opinion. I'm hoping its nothing serious because my gun REALLY likes their ammo and I really like the gun.

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January 12, 2013, 05:00 PM
Take a black magic-marker and color the case shoulder, neck, and bullet.

Then chamber it.

Where the black ink rubs off is what is tight.

I would suspect Dead Zero reloads didn't get the shoulders pushed back far enough during the resizing process.


January 12, 2013, 05:11 PM
I'll do that, thanks. I also neglected to save any brass (I don't reload) so I may need to go back tomorrow and send a few more down range to get some samples for comparison. :cool:

January 12, 2013, 05:14 PM
Now you know why that ammo was accurate. A tight fit helps. If it has the 1:9 twist it will amaze you with 69 gr ammo. I had the 10fp and couldn't believe how well it shot.

January 12, 2013, 05:15 PM
NO, not a fired case.

A new loaded round that is difficult to chamber.

A fired case will not tell you anything.


January 12, 2013, 05:16 PM
>223 brass is at a premium right now, save it you might make a good friend or two if they need brass.

January 12, 2013, 07:31 PM
, not a fired case.

I know, I just want to look at the fired cases to see if there are any differences between the 2 cases.

I'll check out the fit with the unfired rounds later tonight.

January 12, 2013, 11:25 PM
Your at a disadvantage in not reloading for accuracy, find some commerical 223 with 52gr sierra match if you can I use that bullet for reloading and it has always given me best accuracy in my 223's, my Savage 12 will shoot .500 and under with 52gr sierra.

January 13, 2013, 10:53 AM
So, I checked using the sharpie method and the only significant markings I saw we're on the bullet witH the V-Max rounds. The FMJ PMC and JHP Hornady do not shoe any marking on the bullet. None of the 3 show any significant marking on the case. I'll post a picture of the rounds later.

I need to get a box of the new brass version to see if there's any difference.

January 13, 2013, 11:22 AM
Here's a picture of the bullets. there is a bit of marking at the tip of the case but the telling mark is the horizontal stripe on the bullet.


Cee Zee
January 14, 2013, 11:06 PM
I have a 12 LRPV single shot, 26" barrel, 1:9 twist and the target action. From the beginning of owning this rifle it has liked heavier bullets. 69 gr. and above were best. BUT I recently had it in my head to shoot up some of the stuff I bought to try to figure out just what the rifle likes. I had a box of 52 gr. Black Hills reloaded ammo. It shot like a laser beam at 500 yards and it put most of the rounds into a 1" group. I couldn't believe it. That was the best shooting ammo I had ever put through the rifle. Then I noticed I had another box of the same ammo. It grouped like a 12 ga.. It was from a different lot. I wish I had known about that lot of good stuff because I bought it about 2 years ago and I'm sure there's no way to ever find any now. Plus the heavy stuff pretty much always shoots well but not as well as that 52 gr. stuff did.

The point being of course that even the slightest variations can change everything about your accuracy. Rolling your own is no doubt the best way to go but I really don't shoot enough to make it worthwhile. I don't have any place close to shoot. I don't have time to shoot either much less reload.

So if you can find something that works buy a bunch of it, as much as you can afford. It will keep you happy a long time.

BTW I think that whole break in two step they put you through is a waste of time. The only break in a rifle needs it to knock down the rough spots wherever they can be knocked down. My 12 got more accurate for the first 6 months I owned it. I bought it used but it hadn't been shot more than 10 times. I'm sure of that because there was no residue in any of the places that can't be cleaned short of rebuilding the rifle.

I don't know about yours but mine makes me look like Daniel Boone or somebody who can actually shoot well. It's just so easy to get it right it's amazing. It makes me into a far better shooter just by being such a good rifle.

January 15, 2013, 12:55 PM
Cee Zee,

Yes, I was amazed at the difference between the 3 rounds I tried. After sighting with the 55gr PMC and working on 1" groups I was mildly disappointed. Then I went with the custom loads and saw it drop to under 1/2" and was feeling a lot better. On one group I fired the 2nd shot and didn't see it in the scope. I figured I flinched and it hit outside my field of view. When I pulled the target I saw the 2nd round had gone in the same hole as the first with the 3rd round touching these 2. I'm a decent shot but even that was more than I could have hoped for. What really threw me was how bad the Hornady 55gr Super rounds were. I'll run those through my AR, they are worthless in the Savage.

I had a long email thread with Peter @ Dead Zero. He explained how they load, their philosophy and that they try to accomplish. They load to very precise SAAMI specs and primarily test with custom Thompson encore rifles. After trying a few things with OAL such as backing out the bullet and letting the gun press it back to it's optimum OAL I determined their OAL spacing is pretty much perfect for my chamber. The tension I am feeling is not the bullet hitting the lands but the case being tight in the chamber due to their die settings. I sacrificed one of their rounds to check an unfired case and it feels the same as a loaded round. Their new brass rounds will probably not have this level of tightness, I just hope it retain the accuracy (it should).

Since I'm not likely to begin reloading in the near future I was very pleased to find they dedicate a lot of their business to developing custom rounds for customers and producing those as need at a very reasonable price. Here's an exerpt of our conversation:
We also make custom packs of ammo usually 40 rounds and we do it in 10 round increments so same bullet same primers and cases but what happens is we load the powder in slightly increasing usually 1.5 grain differences depending on the caliber so in other words we load the first 10 with say 40 grains the next 10 with 41.5 grains the next 10 with 43 grains the next 10 with 44.5 grains other than that all the bullets will be ceded to the same overall length and what it does is it gives you the ability to cast 10 rounds of each bearing powder charge in the gun see which one performs the best. Most guns prefer upper-level charges and hence we load most of our ammunition on the hot side usually pretty close to maximum because most guns prefer that. But, once you get the information from testing the 40 rounds then you call us and say, "Peter this is what I want" so every time I call you can we just look these up. And we can make up these packs for any caliber handgun rifle it doesn't matter bullet types primer types powder types whatever you want to change or try.

So we load any calibers if it's a custom round that is a unique caliber something that we normally wouldn't sell, if it's a custom rifle if it's the new just off-the-wall caliber typically what we do is the customer pays for the die set (as it's not something that would commercially sell) and we will bring in the brass and the components stuff we do ask that we get paid for the components up front this way we have the materials on hand when you: in order it can be produced and shipped as quickly as possible. Most customer wildcat rounds are not easy to get components for so hence there's usually a week that's why we keep an inventory of what our clients are using for that reason.

Anyway, the net result is I have no issue, the custom rounds work very well and I think I stumbled on a company I can work with to develop exactly what works best for me.

January 15, 2013, 04:55 PM
how much is the DeadZero ammo?

Cee Zee
January 15, 2013, 07:18 PM
I would certainly give the Black Hills ammo a try at some point. A lot of people have good luck with it in their Savage .223's. Of course every rifle is different and you just don't know until you try it.

January 16, 2013, 08:21 AM
Right now their price has gone up due to their cost of materials skyrocketing. It's $42 / 50 rounds of regular V-Max and $30 / 20 of their match grade version. I've been using their regular production reloads which aren't currently available and got those for $28 / 50.

I will try some Black Hills when it becomes available again. I haven't been able to find any in stock due to the panic. I really want to see how some heavier bullets work in this rifle considering its a 1 in 9 twist and a 26" barrel. 69gr is Savage's reference ammo.

January 18, 2013, 01:51 AM
I have a 1 in 9 twist, I tried factory loads,Rem, and Fed, they shot 3 in. groups at 50 yards,,Ithought well its a brand new rifle, and it needs to break in. So I did the shoot clean shoot clean, thing...and still the same,, I tried the factory ammo in my other 2 rifles in 223, and still the same results,They sit on my self, and I reloaded from 40 to 62 gr, And I shoot less then 1/4 groups. You may find your self reloading for the best results..It took about 200 rounds before the rifle realy shoot the tiny groups,

January 18, 2013, 08:08 AM
I've toyed with idea of reloading for a couple years but shooting is only one of many things I do outside of work and finding the time to shoot is difficult enough.

I suppose I may reconsider if pricing doesn't stabilize in the next 6 months or so because from a financial point of view I've been able to purchase in bulk at prices close to what it would cost to reload. I may get a small setup just to reload the rifle caliber's I shoot for precision, who knows.

Finding this company that's willing to reload to your specs seems like a find and a happy middle ground for now.

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