.300 Savage Cartridge and Savage 99 Rifle — The Forgotten .30

Posted by on July 30, 2018 4:01 pm
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Categories: Column 3

Among my favorite cartridges is a hard hitting, accurate, and soft-kicking number known as the .300 Savage. The .300 Savage has been chambered in the Savage 99 lever action rifle most famously, but also a number of bolt action rifles. Among these is an early Savage rifle that is the model for the modern Kimber bolt action.

Savage 99 rifle with wood stock right profile

The Savage 99 is a classic rifle.

The .300 Savage enjoys a storied history. The cartridge was developed shortly after World War I. Americans were happy with lever action rifles but wanted something more powerful than the .30-30 or the .303 Savage. They wanted something comparable to the Springfield .30-06 cartridge.

The Savage 99 lever action had reached the limit of leverage for smooth operation in a lever action rifle. A longer cartridge would not have worked as well and demanded considerable redesign. Savage instead designed a cartridge with the same case head as the .30-06—this would be very important after World War II—but with an overall length of 2.6 inches compared to the .30-06’s 3.34 inches. The result was a cartridge nearly as powerful as the .30-06. The .300 Savage is distinctly superior to the .30-30 WCF, more so because the rotary magazine of the .300 Savage rifle allowed the use of spritzer-type cartridges.

.308 Winchester, left and .300 Savage cartridge, right

The .308 Winchester, left, features a longer neck and greater powder capacity than the .300 Savage, right.

After World War II, the U.S. Army wanted a shorter cartridge than the .30-06, but one with plenty of .30 caliber power. It took a hard look at the .300 Savage, and with a judicious redesign, it had the .308 Winchester cartridge chambered in the then-new M14 rifle.

The .308 Winchester has a longer neck and is more powerful than the .300 Savage. While .300 Savage brass is much more difficult to come by, all of the components used in the .308 Winchester may be used in the .300 Savage. So, handloading is the way to go.

I have used IMR 4895 powder for many years but recent experience with the new Varget powder has also been positive. Now, if you really need to, you may resize and trim .308 Winchester brass into the .300 Savage. At present, the ammunition shortage has abated, and we can order all the .300 Savage we desire.

I full length resize the brass and crimp the bullets in place just as I would with a load intended for use in a semi-auto. I have found that proper feed and function in this high power lever action demands this extra care compared to a bolt-action rifle. These are the loads I have settled on.

Performance

Hornady 150-grain SST 41.0 Varget 2,730 fps
40.0 IMR 4895 2,580 fps
Hornady 155-grain HST 40.1 IMR 4896 2,616 fps
Hornady 180-grain Interlock 43.0 W 760 2,220 fps
44.0 W 760 2,390 fps

With the 150-grain bullets, the Savage 99 rifle is very accurate—delivering 2 moa or less with these combinations. I do not like the 180-grain loads as much, although if hunting heavy-body moose or bear at moderate range, I would choose these loads. The case capacity compared to the .30-06 limits the use of heavy bullets. However, the .300 Savage has over 200 fps advantage over the .30-30 Winchester, when the .30-30 is loaded with 17- grain bullets. This is useful performance.

I enjoy this cartridge very much. The recoil is no more than the .30-30 and subjectively less than the .308. The rifle is plenty accurate to 200 yards for use against thin-skinned game. The .300 Savage is a classic cartridge I simply would hate to be without.

Is there a classic cartridge, such as the .300 Savage, you would hate to be without? Share your answer in the comment section.


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