• Savage Model 1920 Hi-Power Bolt Action

    The Model 1920 Savage Hi-Power rifle was the first attempt of the Savage Arms Company to turn out a bolt-action high-power rifle. As in most high-power bolt actions it was a solid-frame job and was excellent in its design. It had a very short life, which is to be regretted as it had many features the later types of Savage rifles do not include.

    The Model 20 had a light-weight tapered barrel with a lug integral with the barrel on which was mounted a white metal bead front sight. Rear sight was of the typical open adjustable sporting type with adjustments for elevation only. It was of flat-top rather than buckhorn variety and the stock was of walnut given a varnish finish. It had a very neat-shaped pistol grip, rather slender and weak through the grip, corrugated trigger and corrugated steel shotgun butt-plate. A certain amount of checkering covered the grip and parts of the very slender knob-tip forearm. Weight of this rifle was only 5 pounds, 14 ounces. It was available when first brought out in .250/3000 caliber with a 22-inch barrel and .300 Savage caliber with a 24-inch barrel. A few in .30-06 caliber were made with 24-inch barrels and proved satisfactory in service.

    This Model 20 represented the latest and highest development of the American hunting rifle at the time of its introduction. It was the first of a long line of Savage improvements in modernizing their line.

    When this rifle made its appearance it was considered the acme of perfection. Today with our standards of thicker and heavier stocks and larger forearm it would not be considered a satisfactory number. The rifle as a whole shows extreme attention to detail in turning out a master sporting rifle. In this particular model the barrel and receiver were separate units, the barrel fitting into the receiver in the conventional fashion. The top of the receiver ring and receiver bridge were carefully matted to prevent the reflection of light while sighting. A large locking lug at the forward end of the bolt insured extreme strength of the action and this rifle was capable of standing the maximum pressures in use during its era.

    In accordance with the improved designs of rifles of military types the action was cocked by a camming operation on the opening of the bolt handle. This camming operation not only cocked the firing pin but at the same time exerted tremendous primary extraction power, starting even the tightest shells. The firing pin and the knob on the cocking piece were built as one unit and the rifle could readily be cocked by hand if it was not desired to carry it in that condition.

    An additional safety feature was the locking of the root or base of the bolt handle in a special slot at the rear of the receiver. This gave an additional safety-lug feature although all of the strain was taken by the two locking lugs in the receiver ring.

    The magazine was of the non-detachable type loaded through the opening in the top of the receiver when the bolt was withdrawn in conventional Springfield style. It had a capacity of five cartridges staggered in two columns. With this magazine filled and one in the chamber a six-shot rifle was had. High-pressure steel was used in the rifle barrel and simple sights as described. Special rear peep sights could also be supplied by the factory or tapped in styles manufactured by rear sight builders.

    It is interesting to note that this receiver was designed for clip loading if desired although neither of the two special cartridges - the .250/3000 or the .300 Savage - were ever supplied by a factory packed in clips. The conventional method is to single-load these in the magazine by dropping one into the receiver opening and pressing it down until it catches and then feeding in another in the same manner.

    A very interesting feature on this rifle - and to this author's way of thinking an improvement - was the shotgun-type safety located on the upper tang of the receiver. The safety locked the sear against disengagement with the cocking piece and also locked the bolt against opening. The shotgun-type safety is the quickest of all safeties to handle and, due to the design of this particular type, locking the sear rather than blocking the trigger insured the piece against accidental discharge. This feature is today being used on some of the high-priced imported Mauser bolt-action rifles as an extra feature for which a very substantial charge is made.

    The butt-plate on the Model 20 is of corrugated steel to insure against slipping on the shoulder. As in other rifles of that particular period, the bolt could be withdrawn by holding back the trigger, allowing easy access to the barrel from the breech end for cleaning. This method of withdrawing the bolt is extremely simple but creates the problem of using the sear as a bolt stop. Continued rough use is inclined to change the trigger pull somewhat.

    Around 1925 Savage released the job they called the improved Model 20. This was essentially the same rifle with a slightly different type of stock having minor improvements in dimensions, and different style of checkering and sling eyes located in the butt, permitting the use of quick detachable swivels and of sling straps. The forearm was increased somewhat in size although it was still slender as compared with the modern specifications for bolt-action arms. The open barrel sight was omitted and in accordance with this barrel was not slotted. A Lyman 54 receiver peep sight was located just in back of the bolt handle where it gave greatly improved performance over the older type of crude open sights. A white metal bead front sight mounted on a base made integral with the barrel was retained. The re-designed barrel was also increased somewhat in weight thus providing a more rigid barrel capable of higher accuracy and velocity.

    It will be recalled that the original .300 Savage had a bullet weight of 150 grains at the muzzle velocity of 2700 f.s. About this time ammunition companies introduced a 180-grain .300 Savage bullet at a muzzle velocity of 2400 f.s. This heavier bullet did not perform well in the light-weight barrel and may have in some way prompted the decision of Savage to increase the weight of the gun. Whereas the early weight was only 5 pounds, 14 ounces, the 1925 version tipped the scales at 6 3/4 pounds, some 14 ounces extra weight, about half of which was in the stock and the remainder in the barrel. No other major changers were made in this rifle until its discontinuance. It was a beautifully shaped little arm with a well-curved bolt handle sloping gracefully to the rear where the large operating knob was just slightly in front of the trigger showing ease of operation. In the minds of many rifle owners this discontinued model was the most graceful arm that Savage ever made.

    The Savage Model 1920 Hi-Power Bolt Action rifle was introduced in 1920 and remained in production until it was discontinued in 1928.

    Additional Photos:

    Content sourced from Philip B. Sharpe's book
    The Rifle In America

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