A Savage 99 may be the most thought out gun on the market.
In the pantheon of firearms designers, Arthur Savage probably lived a more adventurous life than any other inventor.
What is even more impressive is that he met with success in almost every endeavor he ever tried his hand at. From cattle ranching in Australia to the tooth and nail world of manufacturing in turn of the century America, Mr. Savage never failed.
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His greatest success in terms of longevity was the founding of the Savage Arms Company. His greatest success in terms of inventive genius was the Savage Model 99 lever action rifle, a gun so well thought out and so popular that Savage arms produced it in one form or another for almost a century.
When the 99 first came on the scene in 1899, it was a revamped design that Arthur had originally meant to be a military arm but was beat out for that position by the Krag rifle.
If Mr. Savage couldn’t sell his guns to the Army, he was going to sell them to every civilian hunter in the market.
Featuring a fully-enclosed breech lock and a rotary magazine, and capable of being chambered for more powerful rounds than other existing lever guns, the 99 was an instant success.
While Arthur Savage was a great designer, he might have been even better in his role as the world’s first real self promoter. Savage flooded trade publications, newspapers and magazines with ads touting his Model 99 rifle and the 303 Savage cartridge it fired.
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Famous and even infamous hunters all over the world were given rifles to “test” free of charge in exchange for testimonials. Along with a fine rifle, Arthur Savage had (in a sense) invented the modern marketing campaign.
As time went by the 99 was chambered for other rounds that became permanently identified with the rifle. The 250 Savage was a favorite among whitetail hunters for decades, and the 300 Savage set a new standard for efficiency.
Later on, when the Model 99C came along – essentially the original 99 with a box magazine instead of a rotary magazine — the 99 was chambered for modern cartridges like the 308 Winchester, 243 Winchester and even the rebated rim, pre-short mag 284 Winchester.
Many of these 284s were converted to big bore wildcat cartridges like the 375-284, making them some to the handiest and most powerful guns around.
With an excellent reputation for reliability and accuracy, the 99 has always been a desirable gun to have in a collection. If you’re looking to get a good deal on one, a 303 in rather rough shape can be had for about $500.
Many of these old rifles aren’t exactly pretty, but they make fine hunting tools.
Naturally, rifles chambered for the 250 Savage or takedown models are the most desirable and have now climbed to the $1,000 range. The 99C can still be found for prices running from $450-$600 due to the fact that many 99 purists dislike the box magazine.
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Personally, I find the rotary magazine to be a truly intriguing bit of engineering, but I can certainly live with a box magazine if it gets me a cool gun at a lower price.
Any Savage 99 makes for a great addition to a rifle collection, so go and snatch one up before they all turn into the collector’s items they are bound to be very soon.
Featured image via GunAuction.com