• Savage Lever-Action Rifles: What's Hot & What's Not

    This article is a basic idea of what to look for when shopping for a Savage lever action rifle. Its going to cover just about everything from when Arthur Savage first started right up till Savage made the biggest mistake in its career and discontinued making the 99.

    First lets start with the number one rule that's been beaten into my head from day one. Condition, condition, condition. Now this covers a lot of the older Savages but weakens as the guns get older. For example, although there are some out there you are not going to find a model 1895 in 100% condition, yet these rifles are worth a lot of money to Savage collectors even in less than perfect condition.

    When buying a vintage Savage rifle there are a few things that you should first look for right off the bat. Make sure the rifle hasn't been after market drilled and tapped for a scope mount. No cracks chips or deep scratches in the wood. With most older levers the serial number should be stamped on the butt plate, butt stock and forearm and match the receivers number. Most sights shouldn't be a major problem as the originals can be found in a lot of places to replace the wrong ones. Gun shows, E-bay and your local gun shops will be a great place to find an original. Bluing is a factor as well, and in most cases but not all a collector grade rifle will have at least 99% blue and the case hardening on the lever should be distinct. Sling swivels are a no-no if they weren't factory installed. These are most of the things to look for and will drop a $1200 collector rifle down to about a $500 rifle if any of these items have been done.

    Now onto the rifles that we hunt for year round. Well start with the oldest and work our way up. The best a collector can hope for depending on the time frame of guns he collects would be the model 1895 which was A.W. Savages first commercial rifle for sale on the market and predecessor of the model 1899. The serial numbers of this gun range from the 3000 area to approximately 8200 but an #8471 has been found. Although these guns have a wider range and number than the Montreal Home Guard (see Montreal Home Guard article) they are, in this collectors eye, a more rare and harder to find model. Factors would include that the owners of these guns know what they've got and aren't selling or that they are so old and lived such a hard life, remember that these weren't always safe queens and that they were used to fill your stomach back in the day. I'm lucky enough to have located and bought three of these old rifles. Two round barrel models made in 1896 and another round and octagon barreled 1895 made in 1897. From what other collectors of this model have said, the round barreled 1895s are the hardest to come across. Easy giveaways of sighting this model will be the low serial number, a cocking indicator that was installed directly inside of the bolt with a hole and the indicator has a C displayed when cocked and an S when uncocked. Also the 1895s cheek pads are more rounded than the model 1899s pointed ends. The forearm also had a more flared look than the graceful Schnoble tip of the 1899. They were offered in a round barrel model, octagon barrel, the and as well as a carbine version with a saddle ring which are by far the rarest model Savage has out there, and a military version 1895.

    A Savage Model 1895

    Now onto the model 1899s, most of these models are quite common but with the 1899s most of the time its the caliber that makes them a collector. When Savage chambered the 1899s with the Winchester calibers in 1903 they weren't as commonly chambered in these rounds as the others (namely the 303 Savage and the 30-30 Winchester). The calibers were 32-40, 25-35 and 38-55. Estimating from my notes the most common of these calibers was the 38-55 followed by the 25-35 and the hardest to find would be the 32-40. Numbers estimated would be around 2500 32-40s, 3500 in the 38-55 and 25-35. Of course these are just guesses from what I and other collectors have noticed. Savage also made a few special order rifles chambered in these calibers as well. The 1899 models however were mostly common models you still see today, except for some models. The model CD was a deluxe rifle offered with a checkered wood set and pistol grip and Ive never personally seen one. The model 1899F Saddle Ring Carbine has a following as well, especially when it comes to the Winchester calibers. These small 20 barreled rifles are a beautiful rifle to own, with its carbine stock and saddle ring on the side of the receiver they make a great show piece. The model H is a common 1899 found these days, mostly in a take down version chambered in 22 H.P. but other calibers are out there. About the most common 1899 seen is the model A, the 26 round barreled lever usually found in 303 Savage, when it comes to this model condition is the key as they are not to hard to find. The A's, B's and C's were all 26 barrels except for some special order rifles which could be ordered with longer barrels. One 1899 model I shouldn't leave out is the model 250-3000 which was a deluxe version and the introduction of the 250-3000 round. With condition these guns sell at a premium. The cross checkered trigger (later on vertical lines were seen), the Savage logo on the toe of the butt plate and the pistol grip butt stock were all implemented into its design as well as it being a T/D model.

    A Savage Model 1899

    The pre one million serial numbered rifles are going to be the longest on what to look for. We can start with the models and move onto the calibers from there. The model 99 models are commonly found everywhere today and right from the start, condition is the main topic. Without condition its just another shooter. Some models to keep your eye open for are, for one, the model T, which had a forearm which was checkered right from the receiver to the front of the forearm. It had special sights installed on it, they were a rear sight with a white vertical line on it and the front sight had a red bead which when put together was very easily sighted when brought up to shooting position. The models 99B, 99C, 99D and early version 99E are all models that are not commonly seen. I found a model 99B not long ago but isn't on my main list of collectibles right now, maybe in the future it will still be there waiting for me. The model 99B was a T/D version as well as the model 99D. The differences in these two models was the barrel length, the 99B had a 26 barrel and the D a 22 except for the 300 Savage caliber which mostly came with a 24 barrel. Also the 99B had a crescent butt plate and stock where the 99D had a more shotgun type butt stock. The 99C and 99E (early version) were solid frame offerings which were also much alike, one with a standard weight barrel and the E with a lightweight barrel. Barrel length options have a lot of variables with these two models depending on the caliber of the rifle. The models F & G 99s are in my eyes not subject to this article as they aren't really rare or collectable unless, again, they have condition. They are just to common a model to be considered something for the safe unless they are in perfect condition so I'm going to pass on these models. The model F's and EG's are also models that aren't uncommon but some are highly collectible. The EG for instance is probably the most common 99 everyone runs across, especially chambered in the 300 Savage round. Now, find yourself an EG in 22 H.P. and you're a rich man. With the EG's, F's, R's and RS's your looking for a model that's in the 900,000 area and in 308, 358, 243 or 284, the 284s and 358s are hard to come by calibers in any model 99. The 308s and 243s on the other hand aren't hard to find calibers in the 99 but hard to find in the pre-mil 99s. Savage had just started to chamber the 99 in these two calibers in 1956 and the model EG's and Rs were discontinued in late 1959 or early 1960. So finding one in 308 for example with a lever safety and damascened bolt would be a nice gun to bring home. From some help from other collectors and my numbers the guess on the 308 numbers would be 85% F's, 10% EG's and 5% Rs and RS's. Which, by my addition goes like this: 57800 99Fs, 6800 EG's and 3400 R and RS 99s from the estimated 68,000 pre-mil 308s made. Of course the 243s, 358s and 284 numbers are going to be a lot lower than these and finding one is a lucky find. Other models that make a collection are the model 99H carbines with the barrel band and also the model K which was a deluxe version with a roll stamp engraving on the side and special checkering on the stock.

    A pre-mil Savage Model 99

    The post mil offerings of the model 99 aren't really hard to get through, they more or less come down to condition and caliber options. Pretty much the only post-mil Savage 99s that aren't considered shooting grade guns are the ones that are still New In Box or they come in these very rare calibers. The 358 Winchester, the 284 Winchester, the 22-250 Remington, the 7mm-08 Remington and the 375 Winchester. If you find any of these guns in these calibers you've found a nice collectible unless (yes it comes down to this again) the condition is bad. Scratched up stocks and bluing wear drops these guns value fairly quickly but fortunately these guns aren't that old and the chances of finding a quality rifle in these calibers is greater than that of the older models.

    I hope this gives anyone looking at collecting some Savage levers a basis on what to start looking for. Id also like to thank Rick, Jed, Dick, Mike, Steve and Ross for years of learning from each other and other collectors out there who unknowingly teach us more and more everyday.

    Submitted by Joe Koprash - aka Mad Dog

    Comments 3 Comments
    1. LaVista Bill's Avatar
      LaVista Bill -
      Very interesting and helpful article.
    1. FirearmsUnlimitedLLC's Avatar
      FirearmsUnlimitedLLC -
      Good afternoon everyone. Does anyone know what the value is on a Model 1899C takedown? Based on serial number and physical characteristics it's a model C form 1908 but I cannot find any additional pricing for takedown. the rifle is chambered in .303 Savage and in roughly 80% condition. Any help or suggestions would be greatly appreciated! I can provide pictures although I'm not sure how to post them here directly from my computer.
    1. mark r's Avatar
      mark r -
      To firearmsunlimited, your looking at $550.00 for vg to $2200.00 in mint condition.

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