• Scoping That Old 99

    Back in the day there weren't a lot of high end scopes to choose from when a person wanted to hunt game with their 99s. First off, maybe I should apologize for being young and some people may remember buying one of these scopes brand new. Having a period scope on any 99 isn't a tricky problem, but is, in a way, sometimes hard to come by. Ill start off with the older scope choices and mounts for the old 1899s and then get into the 50s and 60s offerings.

    The 1899 was very seldom scoped in its day due to the exceptional iron sights that all the older Savage rifles were fitted with at the factory. The old #14 rear buckhorns and #22B front blade sights were very accurate for the calibers that were offered back then. Not many were making 200 yd shots with a 303 Savage or 30-30 Winchester. These guns were freezer fillers and that was their only purpose. So shouldering and shooting were your number one priority. With the addition of a Lyman or Marbles tang sight it would make it all the faster, but some people wanted scopes. This is where the Stith Scopes and Mounts came into play. They monopolized on being able to scope your Savage without having to take your rifle to the gunsmith and have him drill and tap the rifle. A person could install their own set right in the comfort of their own home. The mount was simple, the rear mount screwed into the factory drilling on the tang and the front mount fit into Savages 3/8 rear sight dovetail. Then the rings were mounted to the base. The split rings themselves were sheer genius back then because one could mount the scope without having to remove the eye piece or the turrets.

    While Stith did offer their own Bear Cub scopes, most of the rifles that wear them today are accompanied by Weaver 330, 440 or J 2.5s. The Weaver scopes back then were more accurate than the Bear Cubs and the 330s were even being used on Lee Enfield sniper rifles during the war as well. Stith came out with different sizes of these mounts which were , 7/8 and 1. Plainly, you can see that many different scopes could have been put on rifles, but back then there weren't as many to choose from as there are today. A true collector these days hunts for these mounts with a passion. If one of their rifles was drilled and tapped, it would ruin the worth of the gun and would not be factory original anymore. Thus the Stith mount could be fitted and the sights set aside for a day when he/she may want to sell the gun. A set of Savage Stith mounts go for about $100-$120 and if accompanied by a vintage Weaver scope can go over $300. Caution should be taken when buying Stith mounts though, later on in the companies history they came out with what is known as the Stith Master Mount. Basically a different concept, the rear still fit the tang holes but the front mount needed to be drilled and tapped to fit it. The Stith mounts were not only made for Savage but were offered for other makes as well, including Winchesters, Remington's, Marlins, Springfield's, Enfield's and Mauser's.

    Next we come to a neat little scope that isn't seen much and sell for a premium if you can find one. The Boone scope, also known as a Saturn scope to some, was a small scope that was also mounted to the tang holes of the 1899 and 99. It was made by Tinsley Laboratories originally and then sold the rights to another company. The company that was formerly Tinsley Labs is still manufacturing optics to this day, and of interest supplied parts for the Hubble space telescope. The Boone scopes came fully coated and in a factory leather pouch. The neat thing about the Boone's was that they could be taken off their mount and re-installed later without having to zero the scope again. They used mirrors inside the scope and the eyepiece and objective lens were off centered, unlike traditional scopes. The adjustment screws for both the elevation and the windage were found on the front of the small scope. If memory serves me correct, they were offered in 2.25 and 4 power. The 2.25 power scopes are more commonly found, as with mine, and Ive not ever crossed paths with a 4 power version.

    Now on to the Savage brand scopes. First appearing in 1963, they were offered in a number of styles and powers. When they first came out they were available in only the models 0400 and 0433, which were 4 power scopes, and the 2520, a 2.5 power scope. The 2.5 was made for short and medium ranges and would still make a great bear scope on any rifle. There was no objective bell on it with only a 20mm objective. The 4Xs both came with 33mm objectives and were more of a multipurpose scope. They were cheaper than most other scopes of the day but offered the same features as found on the top end scopes. Precision ground, hard coated lenses and permanently centered lenses were built to accordance with factory specifications. In the next year, 1964 saw the birth of the Savage 3833 which Savage called the big bore variable. It was a 3-8X variable power with a 33mm objective. Although Savage usually sold these scopes as an option, in 1967 the model 99ES was offered with a 4X scope and in 1968 the model 0400 best grade Savage scope was discontinued leaving only the 0433 to take its place as the 4 power factory offering. By 1970 all the big bore scopes were listed for the last time and in 72 only the model 3240 4X scope was offered. By 1973 all Savage brand scopes had come to an end. These scopes can still be found today, usually still resting on top of an old model ES but gun shows and local gun shops might have them sitting on the shelf of their used rack. I own a couple of the 4X 0433s and are fitted on period rifles like my 99R in 308 and a nice 99C in 284. The clarity is almost the same as most 4Xs offered by big name scope suppliers today, with parallax free edges and fine crosshairs and post reticles they're hard to beat. I'm sure many a deer has fallen prey to the one shot kills of a scoped Savage 99.

    Most people would say that the Winchester 94 in 30-30 has taken more game than any other rifle, but in this guys opinion its a close tie between the two. If you look back at old pictures of the local game poles you'll always see a Savage rifle in a couple arms. Our fathers and grandfathers have taught us a lot from the old days, who are we to disagree! If you decide on scoping that old 99 and taking it out in the bush, why not consider finding yourself one of these scope options before you run out to your local gun shop to spend your weekly hard earned paycheck on a top of the line scope when one of these options will work just as well.

    Submitted by Joe Koprash - aka Mad Dog

    Comments 1 Comment
    1. Travis98146's Avatar
      Travis98146 -
      This is a well written treatise on the old Savage rifle scopes. I've had to go to a scoped 99 in .308 as my hunting area has become mostly clearcut timberland.