The revolutionary Savage Model 99 was created right before the turn of the 20th century and was one of the most state-of-the-art firearms of the era. The Savage Arms Company began operations over 125 years ago in Utica, New York, and saw modest success at the end of the 1890s. Arthur Savage, the founder of Savage Arms, was easily one of the most interesting gunmakers in American history. It was his ingenuity that led to the Model 99 that helped take the long rifle into the 20th century.

two savage model 99 rifles
Savage Model 99s

Savage 99

Like many other popular rifles at the time, the Savage Model 99 was a lever-action rifle but with a few small but significant alterations. Besides for the fact that the 99 was a hammerless rifle unlike the classic Winchester 1894, the Savage rifle also fed from a rotary magazine. This unique setup helped garner attention across America but the cost of the rifle would eventually be its demise. While Savage clearly knew how to build a top-notch firearm, they struggled to make it suitable for the average American and that’s where Winchester was able to thrive.

Besides for nixing the external hammer and adding a rotary mag, the Savage 99 added a few other small features which made it appeal to a variety of shooters. For instance, the Model 99 had a cocking indicator built-in as well as a spool which acted as a counter for the magazine to show how many shots were left. Additionally, Savage employed a different style of safety mechanism that locks the lever and trigger.

While the Savage Model 99 was a popular hunting rifle, Savage was keen on arming the military with their firearms but failed on several occasions. In addition to losing a major Army contract to Krag-Jorgensen, Savage beat out the Winchester 1895 for a New York National Guard contract but politics caused the contract to be canceled.

Savage 99 lever action
Savage Model 99 Lever Action Rifle

Once World War I came around the Model 99 was already a well-respected rifle and Savage had hopes of supplying troops on the front lines. Although nearly all outfits said no to the 99, Savage did supply a small number of modified Model 99s to the Montreal Home Guard.

These guns aren’t so difficult to find these days and are actually very pleasant to shoot. Keep in mind that just because a firearm was discontinued doesn’t mean it was a total dud.

In terms of the feel of the rifle, it’s got intuitive controls, a smooth action, a comfortable grip, and a nice sight system. It’s a pleasure to shoot in a variety of calibers and would probably make a solid hunting rifle.

Savage 99 Models

The Savage 99 was produced nearly 100 years so it’s only natural that there would be variations made throughout the years. For instance, the 99 was built with open iron sights but later models would be developed with the necessary provisions for mounting a long rifle scope. Likewise, some of the later models also used a detachable box mag instead of the original rotary magazine.

One of the most significant variations of the Model 99 was the introduction of more and more different cartridge options. They started by using .303 Savage but would eventually move on to an even more powerful .300 Savage. Nevertheless, the Model 99 would go on to be outfitted for many more cartridges including .30-30 Winchester, .22 Savage Hi-Power, .308 Winchester, and even .410 bore!

One of the most interesting variants of the original Savage 99 was the Model 99D Musket. The Montreal Home Guard agreed to buy Savage rifles during WWI but requested several modifications. In addition to giving it a more musket feel by adding a military-style stock and bayonet lug, the Model 99D was typically personalized for each solider with special engravings.

Engraved model 99 rifle
Engraved Savage Model 99 – Courtesy of Guns International

Conclusion

Overall, the Savage Model 99 was one of the most revolutionary rifles in its time and should be viewed as a significant piece of firearm history. It’s still remarkably quick-pointing and could still be relevant for today’s hunters. Lever-action rifles are making a big comeback, thanks in part to Henry Arms, and I believe the Savage Model 99 will become a hot item at auction houses. It’s a good looking gun that shoots well and doesn’t disappoint and I think it gets overlooked by Winchesters and Remingtons but it can hold its own against the best in its class.

Sam M

Sam is an avid firearms enthusiast who loves sharing his knowledge and experience with fellow gunivores.

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2 Comments

  1. “Gun Stories” opined that the 99’s greatest legacy was to inform Bill Ruger of the advantages of a rotary magazine design, particularly the 10/22, of which bazillions have been sold.

    What current (popular) cartridge is considered a match for the legendary .300 Savage? .300 WinMag? A belted Magnum?

  2. The .300 Savage was actually a developmental forbear for the .308 Winchester/7.62×51 NATO which are slightly more powerful.

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