Savage Arms 125th Celebration

Storied American Gun Company Hits Benchmark

From this 1894. Savage Repeating Arms Co. arose from humble beginnings in Utica, New York in 1894.

The year was 1894. Grover Cleveland was president, Coca-Cola was first offered for sale in bottles and 12,000 tailors in New York City struck against sweatshop conditions. Notable births that year include Jack Benny, John Ford and Norman Rockwell.

For shooters, two things stand out about 1894. Winchester introduced the Model 1894 lever-action rifle and Arthur Savage founded the Savage Repeating Arms Company.

The Winchester 94, of course, came from the genius of John Browning. However, when it came to lever actions, Savage didn’t take a backseat to anyone. He was born in Jamaica in 1857, the son of a British government official. Savage was educated in Britain and in the United States as a Christian missionary and an artist. He started working on his first lever-action rifle to provide the British government with a repeater based on the single-shot Martini.

In 1886 he moved to New York and went to work for a publishing company. His inventive genius started to appear and in 1887 he not only patented the repeating Martini rifle but also the Savage-Halpine naval torpedo. He then moved to Utica and took over managing a belt-line railroad.

To this 1960: The "New" 1960 Savage Arms plant in Westfield, Massachusetts. They still operate from here in 2019.

Birth Of The 99

Now it was time to turn his genius towards real lever action rifles. In 1893 his prototype levergun was chambered in .32-20 and would become the basis for his 1895 production rifle. This rifle featured no external hammer and a rotary magazine with a 5-round capacity, chambered in .303 Savage — slightly more powerful than the .30-30, which arrived the same year.

The 1895 was financially successful to the point where Savage could open a new factory in Utica, New York, and his 1895 became the Model 1899 with the first chambering available being the .303 Savage. In 1900 Savage added the .30-30 Winchester in the 1899, however it was marked as “Caliber 30” so as not to use the Winchester name. In 1903 three more Winchester chamberings were added — .25-35, .32-40 and .38-55.

Savage’s 125th Anniversary Model 10 is a traditional upscale blued steel/walnut sporter.

A return to boyhood: John’s stainless steel Savage Model 93 .22 Magnum is a hoot for him to shoot — and it groups very well!

.22 Hi Power, .250-3000, .300 Savage

Often the cartridge which first comes to mind in the Savage 1899 is the .300 Savage, however this would take some time before arriving. Charles Newton designed two cartridges for the Savage 99. Necking down the .25-35 Winchester in 1912 resulted in the .22 Savage Hi Power, then in 1914 he used a shortened .30-06 to produce the .250 Savage. Newton intended this latter cartridge to utilize a 100-gr. bullet at 2,800 fps but Savage Arms decided to capitalize on the quest for a high velocity at the time so the bullet weight was reduced to 87 grains, making it possible to increase the muzzle velocity to 3,000 fps. Since the now-classic cartridge was the first to attain such a velocity, it became known as the .250-3000.

The fabled .300 Savage did not arrive until 1920. Now shooters had a lever-action rifle that would handle spire pointed bullets in its rotary magazine resulting in performance significantly better ballistically than the .30-30 in the Model 94 Winchester — and very close to the .308 which arrived 30 years later. Savage’s lever action was definitely ahead of its time.

You might not own a collectible firearm, but have you thought about a Savage lawn mower.

Wish you could still pick up a Model 99 for under a C-note? Yeah, us too!

The Literary Connection

I grew up in a non-shooting family, but I had two outlets as far as shooting was concerned. First there was my uncle who owned a farm and I spent a lot of time there shooting, hunting or fishing. The second outlet was reading about guns and shooting. We were blessed to have a school librarian who stocked all three of the major outdoor magazines available at the time as well as a large supply of adventure, hunting and exploring books. One of the heroes I found in those books was Roy Chapman Andrews who explored exotic regions such as the Gobi Desert for the American Museum of Natural History. I bring him up for the simple reason he used a Savage Model 99 as well as a bolt-action Savage Model 1920 on his explorations. Both were chambered in .250-3000.

The Savage Model 1907 pistol was chambered in .380 and .32 ACP.
It was well-regarded as a “pocket gun” in its day.

Early Savage production line — prior to the invention of liability lawsuits!

Stevens And Fox

Two other names associated with Savage are Stevens and Fox. In 1920 Savage purchased Stevens Arms and in 1930 added A.H. Fox Gun Company. I’ve spent a lot of time over the past half-century plus shooting Savage Stevens 311 double-barreled shotguns (mine’s a 12 gauge and Diamond Dot’s is a 20). Fox doubles are still offered by Savage in a high-grade $5,000 offering.

At one time Savage also offered semi-automatic pistols chambered in .32 and .380, even the famous former lawman Bat Masterson recommended Savage pistols for self-defense. When the military called for trials for a new pistol, Savage entered their .45 semi-automatic pistol.

Other Savage firearms of note (at least from my perspective) were the Model 340 — a no-frills, relatively inexpensive, accurate bolt action chambered in .222 Remington, .22 Hornet and .30-30. Then there’s the Model 24 over/under .22/.410. It was born the same year as I was, 1939, and over 1 million have been sold. The versatility of the Savage company can be seen by the fact they also made lawnmowers and they were always ready to help the war efforts. During World War I they produced Lewis machine guns and in World War II manufactured British No. 4 Enfield rifles that were sent to Britain under Lend-Lease. It’s also worth noting most of the Thompson SMGs used in World War II were produced by Savage.

The Model 110

Another significant moment in history was 1957/1958. I met Diamond Dot and we were married less than four months later. Of greater importance to the shooting world was Savage’s introduction of the Model 110 bolt-action rifle.

This year marks the 125th Anniversary of Savage Arms and to celebrate, a special edition Model 110 will be offered with only 1,894 being built. All will feature a high gloss Monte Carlo walnut stock and special engraving on the receiver, grip and detachable box magazine. They’ll feature a button-rifled barrel, drilled and tapped receiver and the trendsetting AccuTrigger. Chamberings available will, of course, be the classic .250 and .300 Savage as well as .243 and .308 Winchester. A fifth chambering will be the most popular current cartridge — the 6.5 Creedmoor. MSRP will be $1,499.

In John’s humble opinion, Savage’s AccuTrigger is one of the greatest achievements of the Coburn-era company.

Coburn “AccuTriggers” A Turnaround

A most important year for Savage was 1988. Savage Arms was going through tough times and on the verge of bankruptcy. Ron Coburn was named CEO and he began the long path back for Savage — saving the company required drastic measures. The work force was cut and after nearly 90 years, the very expensive-to-produce Model 99 was dropped from production. Improvement efforts were concentrated on the bolt action Model 110 with Coburn giving Savage engineers the assignment to come up with a great trigger — a mandate resulting in the AccuTrigger.

This revolutionary design gives new meaning to having a fine trigger on a rifle and it is interesting to note other rifle manufacturers are now putting better triggers on their production rifles as well. Today the Savage Model 110 is recognized as one of America’s finest production rifles and Savage offers several other bolt-action models in sporter, varminter, target and tactical versions; all featuring the AccuTrigger.

The AccuTrigger is easy to recognize with an integral AccuRelease in the face of the trigger. Savage says “The AccuTrigger gives the shooter flexibility to set the trigger pull to individual preference without having to pay a gunsmith to adjust it. Even when adjusted to its lowest setting, the AccuTrigger is completely safe and cannot accidentally discharge during normal use from being jarred or dropped when used properly and maintained and adjusted as intended. The AccuTrigger is designed with an integrated AccuRelease that must be completely depressed or the rifle cannot fire. When pulling the trigger, the AccuRelease is intentionally depressed, which unblocks the sear and allows the rifle to discharge.”

Adjustment of the AccuTrigger requires removal of the stock and the rotating of a return spring using the special tool provided. Adjustments from approximately 2-1/2 to 6 lbs. are possible.

A little over 10 years ago Savage offered a special custom deal consisting of their Model 14 Classic chambered in any cartridge they had reamers for, as well as your choice of stock finish. I wanted something accurate and easy on the shoulder and a little out of the ordinary, so I decided on a non-cataloged .250-3000 chambered in a Savage Model 14 Classic. It was my first encounter with an AccuTrigger and the first time I actually fired the rifle. I wished every rifle I owned had one!

The Model 14 went on a special hunt along with my friends Rick Vonderheide and Roger Bissell. We all used the rifle to take Catalina goat, Mouflon and Corsican ram. It was a very special hunt for several reasons, not the least was it proved to be Roger’s last hunt. He passed on just after Christmas and it fell to me to walk his daughter down the aisle when she married the following spring. You can bet this special Savage will never be sold.

I’ve found as I’ve gotten older .22s are just as much fun now (maybe more so) than they were when I was young. One of the most accurate .22s I own is Savage’s Model 93 in .22 Magnum. It’s a bolt action with a thumbhole laminated stock and — just like the centerfire Savage rifles — it has the wonderful AccuTrigger. Someday this rifle will be passed down to one of the great-grandkids.

Happy anniversary Savage!

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