• The Montreal Home Guard

    This is by far the hardest subject that anybody has ever tried to write an article on. The Montreal Home Guard issue Savage 1899 military musket was a special order rifle lot for a group of Canadian citizens. That's right, citizens. The group of men were all officers of the Quebec Savings and Trust Co. located in Montreal P.Q. Later on it became the Canada Permanent Trust Co. and was affiliated with the Montreal Polo Club in some way.The group made an order to Savage for a special run of 1899D's because they thought the German army was going to invade Canada soon. When you joined the MHG you had two choices, one was to bring your own rifle, which was mostly Winchester carbines and such, or two, buy one of these new issue rifles from Savage. Some went the extra mile and had their names engraved in the receivers of the rifles by a jeweler in Montreal. Not a lot of info is known on these rifles and there is no known list of the people or the numbers that the guns were assigned to. Collectors like myself have been trying different avenues for a long time to track down some kind of list but meet a dead end most times. I myself have contacted the Canadian military but since the company was civilians they have no records of the rifles either.

    On Dec 14, 1914 a large order of the rifles left the Savage factory for Montreal and arrived the next day. From the info gathered from different collectors a final number of 827 rifles total was made for the company, although some will disagree. A number was given to each rifle when it left the factory, called the customer or rack number and was stamped on the top of the butt plate. I have a list of rack numbers and my MHG is listed on it as leaving the factory on Dec 30. The rack numbers ran into the 900s but some numbers were skipped as only 827 were delivered. My rack number is only a two digit of 90. All the barrels were 26 and had a forearm that stretched almost to the end of the barrel with a top section of forearm running along from the receiver past the rear sight. The front sight was a typical Rocky Mountain blade which Savage used as a factory sight on most of their rifles of the same era. The rear sight however was a flip up military ladder style sight with increments starting at 1 at the bottom and finishing at 13 at the top. The stock itself had 2 barrel bands holding the top and bottom sections of the forearm tight against the barrel. The butt stock was the same carbine type butt that the Savage 1899F also used with a butt plate that folded over the top of the butt stock. All of the Montreal Home Guard rifles were chambered in .303 Savage.

    If the men that had bought these back then would have known what they would have been worth these days Im sure the worst would not have happened. After the war had ended most of the guns were sold or turned into sporter versions and taken hunting. More than half of these rifles had their forearms dismantled, the top sections thrown away and the bottoms shortened to sporter model size. These rifles also had matching bayonets that accompanied them from the factory. These were all stamped with the same serial number as the gun it was mated with. Most of these were ground down and made into hunting knives and only 300 have been found that are still original.

    Ive found a lot of these rifles up here in Canada, sadly, all but two were sporterized. Surprisingly, the one I own was found in British Columbia. How these rifles ever made it across Canada is a mystery in itself. The original 1899D was introduced in 1899 and ended in 1905. The differences between the two were not all that major but are definitely different from each other. While the MHG had a hand guard that ran across the top of the rifle, the original did not have this feature. As well, the rear sight of the original was a military type folding leaf. The Montreal Home Guards came with a sword type bayonet and the original the same or had a angular or spike type bayonet option. The bolt cocking indicator on the two changed from the original tab on the bolt to the pin on the upper tang which we still see on the 99s to this day. Also the older 1899Ds had a 28 barrel yet the Montreal Home Guards came with a 26.

    Finding these rifles isn't as hard as some may think, especially if you live in Canada. I found mine just by having a little knowledge under my sleeve and a keen eye. I noticed a Savage 1899 for sale with no picture but the serial number caught my eye. I recognized right away that it was in the same lot of numbers as all the Montreal Home Guards came in, so I took a chance and asked for pictures. As soon as they arrived I knew I had one, the butt stock gave it away at first glance. Although most of the Montreal Home guards were sporterized some are not and can run up to $3000 plus, if it has condition. The sporterized ones are picked up as well but only for historical value, as the price drops like a stone when Bubba has been to work on one of these guns. I find it sad when I think of these beautiful rifles being cut up with such a small number of them ever being made. I guess once the war was over the Montreal Home Guard had no real use for the rifles and had them sporterized and sold. I was fortunate to find a couple of the originals in untouched condition, a couple of them have gone states side to a good friend who only collects these and Savage 1895s. The other was one another friend had pointed out to me and could not be purchased as the widow who owned it had it permanently plugged and put into a museum to be viewed by me, and other Savage collectors long after I'm gone.

    Rear sight on the Montreal Home Guard rifles.

    For now I'll just keep on the hunt and try to find the holy grail which would be a little piece of paper with a list of brave men who defended their country by staying home during the war and watched our own borders. Its a piece by piece search which means even if you could find an original Montreal Home Guard insignia or a numbered bayonet you would be a rich man. Ill also keep buying up even the sporterized versions just for historical value but the cream of the crop will be a totally original with the name of the owner engraved on the side of his rifle.

    Submitted by Joe Koprash

    Comments 5 Comments
    1. Howdahguy's Avatar
      Howdahguy -
      I have Savage 1899D in MHG configuration with rack # 924. Do you have a list of other known rack numbers?
    1. scope eye's Avatar
      scope eye -
      No I can't, It is asking me to log in, and won't take my password.
    1. Gunbear50's Avatar
      Gunbear50 -
      Thanks for the history lesson on these historic rifles. I’ll start keeping my eyes open.
    1. StanS's Avatar
      StanS -
      Quote Originally Posted by Gunbear50 View Post
      Thanks for the history lesson on these historic rifles. Iíll start keeping my eyes open.
      I have one of the rare 1899 bayonets. I have had it for years and today for the first time I decided to research what it was. I would love to find a good home for it.
    1. Augustusone's Avatar
      Augustusone -
      I have Rack #330, S/N 165373 in original condition - missing ladder sight cross-bar. Looking for the matching bayonet (or a good example).