By Trampas Swanson

When one looks at today’s shooting sports, the advancements in technology are absolutely amazing. We live in a time where you can now find a scope to not only range the distance to your target but make the needed adjustments as well. Lights, lasers, red dots and everything in between slowly drift toward removing the human skill factor out of simple marksmanship. In the days of history’s most notable shooters such as Davy Crockett, Vasily Zaytsev, and Carlos Hathcock or even as recent as Chris Kyle, there is nobody who discredits these men’s accomplishments due to the technology of the day. The mastery of basic marksmanship fundamentals in the performance of their duties is what rightly earned these sharpshooters their way into history.

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As a retired Deputy Sheriff having served as a SWAT sniper unit for most of my career, you would be hard pressed to find more serious student of the great shooters of our time than I. Starting at the age of 6 years old, I followed the rite of passage of most boys in the southern United States by having my father teach me how to shoot. Coming from a line of accomplished riflemen in both my father and grandfather, I spent hours talking about windage, hold over, adjustments and trigger control. By the time I was old enough to join the Sheriff’s office after college, law enforcement firearms training was a cake walk.

Through the early 2000’s, I was fortunate enough to be privy to some pretty cool toys in my career such as high end scopes, night vision and advanced target systems for training. After shooting the first perfect sniper course score in seven years at the North Carolina SWAT Competition back in 2006, I had a lot of guys wanting to know what equipment I regularly used and the secrets to how I sharpened my skills on a regular basis given the high cost of shooting .308 match grade ammunition. The answer then, is the same as it has ever been and ever will be. Simply by using a basic .22 bolt action rifle, I have always been able to keep in tune with sight picture, sight alignment, ranging to target, trigger control and breathing.

While I have had several good .22 rifles come and go in my collection, I now have one that has really captured my heart. My favorite rifle for training, plinking and even hunting for the past year has been the Savage Arms Mark II FV-SR. This rifle offers all the same basic fundamentals of larger rifles but on a smaller and more affordable platform. Years ago, I lived in the country side and could shoot freely on a daily basis. These days living in the suburbs of Jacksonville, Florida, the woods behind my backyard fence in my well-manicured neighborhood is as much country side as I get to see if I am not out and about hunting or camping. As with most suburbanites, the bane of our quiet living has been opossums and raccoons. The Savage Mark II FV-SR has become my defense against all furry things that go bump in the night.

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Specs

Like its .17 and .22 Mag counterparts in the Savage 93, the Mark II is a basic bolt action rifle fed by 5 or 10 round magazines. The Mark II is not a new design, having been offered for years in a wood stock as well as the synthetic stock the FV-SR model comes standard with. The newer FV-SR model of the Mark II design sets itself apart with several more desirable features for those looking for a great target or mini-tactical rifle.

The most noticeable feature of the FV-SR is its 16.5 inch black carbon steel bull barrel with a 1/16 twist that is great for stabilizing 40 grain ammunition. This solid constructed barrel offers very comfortable vibration-free off hand shooting and the weight reducing flutes running down the barrel help keep the rifle’s weight closer to the body, while theoretically aiding in cooling. At the end of the barrel, there is a knurled barrel nut which is easily unscrewed with two fingers to reveal a ½ x 28 pitch threaded barrel crown. This feature is instrumental in my return to being able to shoot daily while living in the suburbs via the use of a suppressor.

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Savage’s patented AccuTrigger design which can be fully adjusted from 1.5lbs to 6lbs. straight out of the box. The trigger weight on my FV-SR was a very comfortable and crisp 3.4lbs. I should note, the stated pull weight is almost half that of most .22 rifles currently on the market, aside from a few great CZ models.

As with any bolt action, the range of bolt throw and smoothness of movement are critical in accurate, well placed follow up shots. This is nowhere more critical than when you have multiple squirrels in need of being dispatched and time is of the essence after the first shot is broke. The FV-SR’s bolt takes a cue from high end target and tactical rifles in the use of an oversized bolt knob. The large knob is easy to quickly engage and manipulate to chamber another round with lightning speed, often very little movement or change in shooting position. The bolt moves smoothly and locks into battery as tight as a bank vault with a very positive motion.

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Unlike most .22 rifles, the Mark II FV-SR does not come with iron sights. This rifle was designed from the ground up to be used with optics. Spanning over its action, the FV-SR has a well-built Picatinny rail for mounting optics. I chose a 6-18×40 “Sweet 22” series scope by BSA.

Aside from the scope, the only change I have had to make to the rifle is the addition of an adjustable 6”-9” bipod from Caldwell. I can make much more stable bench and prone shots than I ever could freehand without adding much weight to the overall package. With a stripped weight of 5.6lbs., the rifle with rings, scope, and bipod are still well under 8lbs., and it is comfortable to carry in the field all day.

Range Time

When I started field testing the Savage MKII, fellow Swanson Media Group writer Craig Reinolds joined me our testing ground known as the “The Swamp.” On my trip, I took along the Savage Mark II FV-SR to enjoy plinking in this area. Despite a bit of the traditional mid-day Florida summer rain storms, we were able to enjoy a couple of hours taking turns fine tuning the rifle.

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With the assistance of an Outback II suppressor from Gemtech and CCI 45 grain Suppressor 22 LR subsonic Hollow Point ammunition, hearing protection was far from being needed. The rifle produced a small “pop” approximately half that of an airsoft rifle as it was fired. Despite the quiet report, the ammunition is far from harmless. The 45 grain projectile leaving the barrel at around 970 FPS is more than capable of putting down any small game from squirrels to trash raiding raccoons.

As we took aim at targets ranging from 25 to 50 yards, Craig and I managed to accomplish some very impressive groupings through the falling rain using a simple “Y” shaped branch as a makeshift shooting stick to support our hold. It was not uncommon for both of us to have 10 shot groups well within a dime at 25 yards and inside a nickel out to 50 yards, with most using the same jagged hole. There was no noticeable impact shift with or without the suppressor. The only substantial shift came as the barrel fouled after 30 or 40 shots. With the use of a Bore Snake by Hoppe’s, the barrel was back in action. At a cost of approximately $15 each, a good Bore Snake is worth purchasing to keep with every firearm you own in various calibers.

Next, we tested a new load from CCI called the .22 Quiet. The newest member of the Swanson Media Group, Clint Steele, joined me. For a baseline, we used 40 grain CCI Mini-Mag Hollow Point supersonic loads pushing around 1250 ft/s. These loads were dead on and HOT as they darted downrange onto the swinging steel targets. As you’ll be able to tell on accompanying video, there is a noticeable “crank” as the round breaks the sound barrier. Groups at 50 yards were still very tight and rocking steel solidly without noticeable ricochets.

Moving to the newest ammo acquisition, the 40 grain CCI Quiet Segmented Hollow Point, the sound virtually disappeared. Aside from the lack of noise, these rounds flew between 700 and 720 ft/s and produced a noticeable ricochet off the steel plates. Upon further research, these segmented rounds were shattering into 2 and 3 main parts and leaving the plate surface at a slightly left of shooter angle downwards. The maximum distance of any evidence of ricochet strikes were only a few feet away from the target but still a concern. Paper and soft bodied animals such as raccoons and squirrels would make for a better target for this purpose-built ammunition.

If longer ranges with the .22 LR platform is more your style, the performance of the Savage Mark II holds a true 1 MOA or less matched with CCI’s 40 grain Mini-Mag ammunition at distances out to 75 yards. Pushing around 1235 ft/s, this load still provides a decent report and deadly accurate results! Even through the summer rain and winter winds, a five shot group at 100 yards measured less than 1.5 inches each time. One key note to take into account is the slight shift in impact due to the faster round. The left and right are perfectly intact, but the standard velocity load tends to hit just less than an inch higher than its suppressor ready counterpart.

Overall, for use with a suppressor, I would recommend the 45 grain Suppressor .22 LR Hollow Points. This load proved to be great for sound suppression in the Savage MKII, offer better distance and accuracy than the slower Quiet-22 loads while still delivering more ft/lbs of energy onto small game. Through all the various loads tested during the year, the three chosen for this article were picked to best display the differences in available ammunition as well as what performed the best for the rifle being tested.

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Final Thoughts

When you look at the .22 market, traditionally there were few that offer a suppressor ready option without having to buy an aftermarket Green Mountain or Volquartsen barrel. This may not be so much the case in the recent couple of years, but the Savage MKII not only provided a new option for the long-established Mark II platform, but in my opinion, upgraded the .22 LR game completely with its smooth bolt action, highly accurate and compact barrel combined by one of the best .22 rifle triggers on the market.

In the grand scheme of things, the Savage Mark II FV-SR .22 rifle is not the ultimate tactical or sporting rifle, but it is one of the most fun firearms you could ever own. This rifle could be deployed successfully as a valuable tactical tool for eliminating security lights and guard dogs before a law enforcement or military operation. Outside of tactical application, the main goal of the FV-SR is to provide a highly accurate and fun “do all” rifle to civilian shooters. Like any .22 rifle, it’s a great way to exercise your core firearm fundamentals and not get caught up in just pulling the trigger to hear it go bang.

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With a MSRP of $289 US, this rifle is around 30% more expensive than your basic generic .22 rifle, but much cheaper than building a custom rifle that offers just much and performs as well as the Savage .22 straight from the factory. I consider the Mark II from Savage as one the top 10 “must own” rifles to have in your gun safe.