• Model 99 Design Changes

    Instead of getting into models and variations I thought Id take down a few 99s and have a look at the changes made to them over the years from when John Marlin was putting them out for Savage in 1896 right up till they were discontinued. When a rifle goes through over 750 different procedures before its made into a rifle some things are going to change over such a vast span of age and manufacturing, here are some of mine which are an 1895, an 1899 pre-90,000, a pre-mil 99 308 and an A series 99C 22-250.

    Cocking indicators:
    One of the main things that distinguish the 99 from any other gun is that its action was solely internal and the brilliant addition of the cocking indicator. Back in 1896 when John Marlin was running Savages model 1895 in his plant the cocking indicator was found inside the bolt itself and displayed an S for safe or a C for cocked (pic A). It didnt take an expert to realize if his rifle was cocked or not. A simple lift of the head and a look at the bolt and all was known. After Savage began forging his own barrels and manufacturing his guns at his plant he moved the cocking indicator for the new fangled model 1899 from the hole to a small rectangular indicator that popped up when it was cocked (pic B). This new addition in my eyes was not a big difference but made things more complicated with the smaller parts needed, if theres one thing us collectors know its that our pre-90,000 rifles are sometimes missing the indicator, thats due to a tiny spring underneath it being lost which in time lets the indicator itself fall out. The serial range of this indicator was from 10,000 to 89,999 roughly. There was a big improvement in the Savage line at the 90,000 range, the actions were starting to be heat treated and made stronger and the cocking indicator was moved from the bolt back to behind the bolt on the upper tang of the receiver. It was a small pin that popped up when cocked and was flush to the action when uncocked (pic C). This indicator stuck and went right to the A series rifles and to the end of the 99s existence.


    While there is no great difference in the early years of the 99s safeties there were some changes. The model 1895 safety was simply a lever safety which was a bent piece of metal with a round pin attached and when slid forward would lock the trigger and hold the action from being cycled (pic D). On the model 1899 the round pin was squared and the lever was opened up exposing the area where the safety slid into. (pic E) and pretty much stayed that way except for being shortened somewhat on the later pre-mil 99s (pic F). The dreaded tang safety made its debut at the 1,000,000th 99 manufacture. Personally I love the tang safeties on my hunting 99s but most collectors wince at the sight of a 99 with one due to some guys believing Savage ruined the lines of the 99 by adding it. I find it easier to slide the tang safety forward than fumbling around with the lever safety (pic P).

    Inside the action:
    As you can see from the internal view of the Savage lever action they were a simple, basic action which can easily be accessed by just taking the butt stock off. This rifle has got to be the easiest rifle to clean, you open up all the internals and can clean them more properly and thoroughly by this method. When people ask if they can adjust their 99s trigger the answer is no BUT what you can do is polish up the sear where it meets the hammer. Polishing these two meshing parts will ease up the trigger pull weight without having to do any major work to your gun. As you can see in the next picture, the 1895s (J) sear is a lot bulkier than the 1899 and the 99 sears (K 1899, L 99). You can also see from this angle that the 1895 trigger was rounded off and closed over the sear but the 1899 and 99 were opened up and exposed on the end of the trigger where it met the sear. This shot is also good for pointing out the difference in the upper tangs of the 1895, 1899 and the 99. After the 90,000 serial number again the upper tangs were lengthened. This makes a big difference for those of you who would like to restock that old 1899. If your 1899 is a pre-90,000 serial number you will need to find or order a stock specifically for that rifle. Most stocks you find today are for 90,000 and above due to the sheer numbers of them that were produced. If you were to order a stock from say Boyd's or another replacement stock maker you would want to definitely mention this in your questioning.

    In this next picture you now see the differences between the A series tang safety 99 and the pre-mil Savage 99. Notice how many more internal parts there now are in the new A series rifles (Q). The tang safety itself takes up a lot of room and covers the view of the sear and bolt mechanism. If you notice on the lever of the A series the small nub that sticks up off the side of it, the safety catches this nub and denies the lever from opening. On the pre-mil 99 (R) the tell tale damascened bolt of the 900,000 serial range rifles. These rifles were also allowed to be slip closed which just means you could close the action on this 99 without having to dry fire it at the end of the year when you put it away and taking the tension off the mainspring of the hammer. I assume this is one of the main reasons why the pre-mil rifles were liked so much more than the tang safety models. Another noticeable Savage trademark is the case hardening on the lever. These bright colors tell a lot to a buyer by showing how many times the rifle in question has been racked. If the case color is dull or not even there at all you can safely assume its been hunted hard. Finding one with a lot of color tells that it was used very gently and Ive seen some that showed no color loss at all. Sometimes you wont even need a bore light when looking at a 99, if the case color is bright and shiny you can bet the farm that the bore is going to be just as nice.

    Hopefully this shed some light on any questions you might have had, if you have anymore just get ahold of me here and Ill do my best to help you out. Just let me know what model and serial range were talking about and what the problem is. I never got into the rotor topic, mainly because they confuse me a lot. Rewinding the spring when reinstalling a rotor is a task Ive not yet perfected. Id ask that if its a broken part in your rifle that you get in touch with a qualified gunsmith to do the job. If its just a trigger spring or something easy and you get a little mixed up just drop me a line.

    Submitted by Joe Koprash - aka Mad Dog

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