• Vintage Savage Iron and Peep Sights

    To begin let me start by saying that this is only the tip of the iceberg, I could write a 2nd article just on the iron sights themselves and the different ones for different models. What Ill try to do with this short article is give you an idea of what you have for the first time Savage owner. I wont be covering any of Savages newer offerings but rather the old pre-1960s rifles.

    L-R  Parker Hale, Watson, Marbles S1, Lyman 3rd variation, Lyman #18 and a Lyman #19

    I'll start off with the tang sights and the receiver sights. As there are only a handful of tang sights that you may encounter on your old Savage guns. When Savage first started selling his own guns his only offering was the Savage model 1895, the first of the levers offered to the American public. These guns if wearing a factory added tang sight will have a Lyman tang sight but they weren't stamped Lyman on them. They're what Savage called the #18 (flip down peep) and the #19 (screw in aperture eye piece). Also available was the #17 which was more of a vernier style and you could make adjustments much more accurately unlike the #18 and #19 which were not windage adjustable and had to be adjusted by moving the front sight.

    As time went on Savage started to just purchase the sights off Lyman instead of having them manufactured specifically for them. These sights were simply stamped "Lyman" and depending on the variation had different patent dates. The first variation was the same as the #18 and #19 only they were marked with the Lyman patent. All the Lyman tang sights were marked with an SA underneath the base to show that it was to be used for the Savage 1895, 1899 and most earlier 99s. The second variation had a round spring on the right side of the elevation stem. This spring stopped and held in place the stem when it was in the upright position and also held it down when the gun was not being used. The final Lyman #1 and #2 variation was a locking devise that the owner could lock the sight at any chosen position. Also found on the Savage levers were the Lyman #29 and #30 which was basically the same as the #1 and #2 only they were bulkier with a windage adjustable elevation stem.

    Moving onto other tang sights of the time were the Marbles S1 tangs. The Marbles tang sights had basically the same design as the Lyman only the base was thinner and the locking devise was a small spring loaded lever that was found underneath the elevation stem at the rear of the base. Another point of the Marbles was that there was no fold down peep. All the Marbles tang sights that were made for Savage levers had a removable aperture which you could replace with whatever size aperture you preferred.

    Another tang sight found on the 99s were the King sight, though uncommon they were made by the King Gunsight Co. for quite some time in the early 1900s. The #200 and #201 tang sights had the same locking feature as the Lyman 2nd variation in that it would lock in the up and the down position and the only difference in the two were that the #200 came with 2 small apertures and the #201 came with the same tow plus a target aperture. This King tang sight is the only tang sight to elude me right now in my collection so if anyone runs across one grab it up for me.

    I've also ran across some really strange tang sights in my travels. The first are the Parker Hale tang sights made in the 1930s for this rifle. They are heavy like the Lyman #30 but the way that Parker Hale rounded the backs of them out make them easier on the eyes while sitting on the old levers. They are also Windage adjustable and can be fit with any Parker Hale aperture that were offered. These are very uncommon tang sights and are rarely seen. Another rarely seen tang sight for the Savage 1899s are the Watson tang sights. The Watson sights were made in Canada by the Watson sight co. and as of this article I only know of three of them including mine. They are threaded for an aperture as well although mine never wore one. I do know a man that owns the aperture but not the sight so its going to be a battle of wills on who gives up there part first. It is a 1 target aperture that is stamped Watson on it with a very small peep hole on it.

    Moving onto another well thought out sight is the #21B and the #21S Savage sights. These sights were stamped with Savage Patd. May 16, 05 No 21 on them although one of my Bs is stamped No 21 Savage patent - still not sure of why this is. These sights were commonly found on Savage lever actions model 1899F saddle ring carbines as well as the standard sight for the Savage model 1905 rimfires. They a sight of their own design and were made for target shooting. They wore a small elevation screw on the front of them that was rotated by the shooters finger to bring the sight window either up or down and also had a windage adjustment on the right hand sides of them. The #21B had a thumbscrew windage adjustment that only took seconds to change and the #21S was the same as the B only the windage adjustment was a set screw that needed a small screwdriver to be adjusted. These sights were also the choice Savage made to put on the Perris Special, a basic model 1899H that Perris had Savage make for him but only about 20 of them are known. Shown here are a 21B with the thumbscrew and the 21S with the setscrew.

    Getting on with the iron sights part is a tricky section, although I did use some books to help me write this article I've noticed that many of the books are incorrect on the sights basically used than what I have come to disagree with on some models. I'm thinking that the people that wrote these books didn't really dig into the Savage sights very hard because they were merely using the old catalogs as a guide to writing their books on sights. Sure the catalogs lead you in the right direction but they are definitely not correct for some of the sights these guns really actually wore. The model 1895s which had serial numbers under the 10,000 mark and were made by Marlin had very long rear sights on them called the Rocky Mountain #14. These sights were a lot longer than the ones found on their brothers the 1899s with them measuring well over 3 closer to 4. Also found on these guns and most of the 1899s as well were the Rocky Mountain knife edge front sights and the Sheard copper bead front sight. These sights were commonly found on Model 1895s and 1899 As, Bs, and Cs as well as the 1899A Short Rifles. I have found on a number of guns, both mine and other collectors an assortment of other types of buckhorn sights ranging from flat tops, to semi buckhorns with both the elevation adjustable slide and the standard rear to the full buckhorns. I firmly believe that most of these sights were factory installed by the company and ranged on the rifles as to what was available at the time of production. I'm sure some of the sight companies had overstock at points in the manufacturing of the Savage rifles to and bulk lots of sight were bought up at a better price than usual.

    Moving on well have a quick look at the rimfire sights of the old Savage offerings, I say quick because Ive only been studying the rimfires for a short time and have not yet built up much of a library on them. To start Ill be referring to the Savage models 1903, 1909, model 25s and 29s (all pump actions) as well as the model 1911 (bolt) and 1912 (semi auto). Most of these guns all used the same sights. Savage was smart when making these guns wear the same sights as it cut down costs on making different sights for different models. The pump action rimfire tang sights all had a 1 1/8 center to center hole spacing meaning the sights could be switched from one pump action to another, the 1912 also fell into this category. Although not windage adjustable the sights were in my eyes a lot more accurate than using the Savage factory sights it came with. As I mentioned already the model 1905 single shot rimfire came factory with Savage #21 sights as did some of the Savage model 1903 pump action rifles. The models 1903 and 1909 pump actions came mostly with a factory No 25B rear leaf sight that had small set screws for windage adjustments and it could also be slid forward or back for eye relief as well. When Savage moved onto the newer pump action models of theirs it was the model 25 and 29 that took their place. My model 25 pump wears the same front sight as the Savage 1899, a Rocky Mountain knife edge which was the factory standard on this gun. Both the 25 and the 29 wore No 20 flat top rear sights although I have seen different styles on some others but Im not sure if they had been swapped or not. The model 1912 was Savages first semi automatic rimfire and had a very small rear sight on it as well as the 1911 bolt action repeater that shot 22 shorts only. This small sight had only patent Feb 27, 1912 stamped on it. It was held onto the barrel by one small screw located at the rear of the base and then another small set screw in front of it allowed adjustment of the elevation. Both my 1912 and 1911 wear the same sights but have different front sights and Im not dumb enough to make the call on which is correct and have somebody down the road quote me on a mistake I made but I gather the 1911 is correct just by an educated guess. Heres a look at an old Marbles Simplex S2 tang sight that my 1912 is wearing.

    I think another sight I should mention is the Savage rear peep sights on the models 1919 and the model 19-33, although they are both N.R.A. rifles they had different rear peep sights on them. I find the newer peep of the 19-33 is a far more accurate sight than the 1919 but to each his own. I get a lot of questions regarding the sights on both these models so to simplify things Ill show a pic of both of them and you can see the differences in the manufacturing of both. The 1919 has the rounded front end and does not accept apertures whereas the 19-33 model had a flat top front end and it could be fitted with both Lyman and Redfield apertures. Although the models came with factory fitted front sights I find that a lot of rimfire target shooters end up taking these of and fitting their gun with a Lyman #17 AUG peep front sight that comes with 7 different eye pieces. I have sighted my N.R.A.s in with both and although the iron front sight does give me one hole groups I find them tighter with the #17.

    I hope I've covered enough to answer most of your questions although I know I could go on for at least another 10 pages as Ive only scratched the surface of Savage sights. Please contact me at the forum if you have any other questions on something youd like to know. I dont testify to know it all but I do like the challenge of figuring this stuff out.

    Submitted by Joe Koprash