The Majestic Savage 99
The Savage 99 model would be what I consider one of the top lever action rifles ever made in my humble opinion. They were a unique design and were way ahead of their time when it was developed in the late 1890s.
They would have a very distinct design with classic looks and would be very different from all other classic firearms of that time. Just a pleasant firearm to not only hold and handle but to look at and admire.
Savage Arms would develop two cartridges for the Savage 99 model that were distinctly their own. One being the 303 Savage cartridge and the other being the 300 Savage cartridge. They would prove to be very popular for Whitetail hunting, much like the 30-30 Winchester of that time.
They were used for bear and moose but probably would be on the light side for moose hunting. In the early years of the model 1899 and model 99, Savage did chamber their rifles in the 30-30, 38-55, and 32-40 among other cartridges. They of course have become quite desirable and are very collectible. Finding any of these early model 99’s can be a great addition to your gun collection. They still have to be in decent condition and not be drilled and tapped.
But the main point of writing this article is about what I consider, the golden age of classic firearms. The classic firearms of the 50’s and 60’s. For my definition of what a classic firearm is, see my WOOD AND BLUED page.
In the 1950s SAVAGE FIREARMS would manufacture a very high quality rifle and this would carry-on into the 1960s. These would be some of the best firearms that the Savage gun company would ever make. (IMHO)
While working on the 99 Savage as a gunsmith I would encounter a few problems with the model 99 and probably like a lot of firearms, a good deal of the issues would arise from poor maintenance and neglect.
One issue was with the rotary cartridge feed system. It would sometimes start to bind and the spring tension would start to decrease and this would not allow the cartridge to feed up correctly. This usually could be remedied by disassembling the firing mechanism and feeding mechanism and giving the gun a good thorough cleaning. I would reassemble and tighten the spring adjustment. That would allow the cartridge to feed into the chamber much better.
Another issue was that the safety button could get loose or bind up over time. I did like the safety by the lever but it did have its issues. The safety was by the lever and when in safe position would lock the lever in the closed position. It had a small flat spring that would help keep the safety from moving to easily. The area where the spring sat would become clogged with dirt and grim. A good cleaning would usually fix the issue. At times the spring would become weak and need to be replaced.
Interesting to note that in the 1961 advertisements for the Savage model 99, they would show the DL and F models with tang safeties. The E and R models would still have the lever safeties.
I would also over the years drill and tap a number of Savage 99’s. As I look back some of the old ones made back in the 30s or earlier that I did drill and tap, I kind of wish now I had never done. But also looking at it I probably did something that would have been done anyway.
The Savage 99 that was factory drilled and tapped for a scope, the front two holes on the top of the receiver near the barrel would not be drilled into the Savage letters. When Savage Arms company started drilling and tapping the model 99 at the factory the letters that were on top of the receiver near the barrel were moved to the side of the receiver so that you could see it if a scope mount was installed. I believe they started drilling and tapping the Savage 99 for scope mounts in the early 1950s.
I remember having an older gentleman bring in a Savage 1899 in a 32-40 cartridge. It had a half round and half octagon barrel with a 9xx serial number. What a great gun. Just a joy to hold and admire. The problem was that he wanted to remove the the octagon part of the barrel and add new wood. He called a few weeks later to see how I was doing on the rifle. I had by then decided I could not do that to that classic firearm. He was not happy about it and ended up taking it back. Often wonder if he ever had it done. I still hope that he did not have it altered.
In the 1950s the number one selling Savage 99 would probably be in the 300 Savage cartridge.
I did fire a number of these guns including my father’s 300 Savage rifle that he still owns. It was one very sweet gun to shoot.
There was not much recoil and the Savage 99 did not have many issues with feeding or extracting. I consider it one of my all-time favorite rifles not only from the 1950s but for any rifle made during the 1900s.
Savage firearms in the 1950’s would also chamber the Savage 99 in the 250-3000 cartridge. This I believe is also one of the best cartridges that the Savage Gun Company would produce. This was not only a fine deer cartridge but could also make a great varmint round. It would also be a pleasure to shoot on the bench. The light recoil was a nice addition to this great firearm and cartridge.
By the beginning of the 1960’s Savage Arms Company would be chambering the model 99 in the 243 Winchester, 308 Winchester, and the 358 Winchester cartridges. These would be added to the 250-3000 and 300 Savage cartridges for the 1961 year in their advertisements. I always liked the 358 cartridge as an eastern U.S. whitetail deer cartridge. Just a great combination.
If you are looking to buy one of these for hunting or just general shooting because you like it, then the condition will not be that big of an issue. If it was not factory drilled and tapped for a scope it would not be a big issue either as it makes a much better shooter. The Savage rifles do make wonderful hunting rifles no matter what. I will talk about restorations and alterations in separate articles.
But if you are going to buy it for collecting then watch out for rebluing and refinished stocks and of course the non-factory drilling and tapping. They would all have to be in great shape for a good collectible 99. I would give the Savage 99 in excellent rating and consider it a great gun to have in your collection.
Notes on Savage Model 99 rifles:
• Many made (good numbers available)
• Look for lever safeties (WWII thru-1950s)
• 250 Savage and 300 Savage Calibers (Early models)
• 243 Win, 284 Win, and 358 Win Calibers (Latter models)
• Watch for early guns drilled and tapped (Reblued)
• Great Value ( I believe a great investment )