Today is Thursday, October 23, 2014rss RSS feed

Obsolete Arms and Ammo
By Bob Shell

Savage Model 99 Rifle in 303 Caliber

Savage Model 99 Rifle in 303 Caliber

AmmoLand Gun News

AmmoLand Gun News

Apache Junction, AZ --(Ammoland.com)- The 303 Savage: By the early 1890’s smokeless powder was becoming better known to the public as well as the gun makers.

The militaries of the world were all using the stuff for their small arms as well as their machine guns. Of course the public wanted hunting arms chambered for the new powder as it gives higher velocities and longer ranges.

At first higher velocities brought out problems with bullet designs but that’s another story.

Anyway, in 1895 Winchester brought out the 94 in 30-30 and the race was on. The 30-30 is considered one of the first civilian small bore smokeless cartridges and is still going strong today.

When Winchester brought out the model 94 in 30-30 in 1895 Savage among others saw a good thing and wanted to get in on it.

The Savage model 99 was introduced in 1895 in a variety of calibers including the 303. When first brought out it was developed as a potential military cartridge but that never came about. An earlier version was placed in the military trials against about 50 other designs but the Krag won out.

Savage Rifles Advertisement

Early Savage Rifles Advertisement: – “High Velocity and tremendous killing power are particularly Savage features.”

Also for a while it used .311 diameter bullets but at some point changed to 308. Some factory loads can be found in the 311 diameter and I have miked them as such. However a vast majority of Savages use a 308 diameter bullet. Also the factory offered a 190 grain bullet which was liked by some hunters for its potential penetration. Most manufacturing activity for Savage ammo ceased after WW ll though an occasional lot was produced from time to time.

While ballistically similar to the 30-30 they would not interchange. The Savage case is shorter and fatter then the more successful 30-30. Unlike the 30-30 the Savage round was never necked up or down commercially.

Close up of Savage Model 99 Rifle Action.

Close up of Savage Model 99 Rifle Action.

Some people have asked me if it’s ok to fire a 30-30 in a 303. In a word NO!

The 30-30 base is .020 smaller then the 303 so there would likely be a case rupture which could be disastrous. While the 99 is a fine action capable of handling some high intensity calibers such as the 308 Winchester you still need to make sure you are firing the correct cartridge. I have seen a few people get the 303 British and Savage rounds mixed up. They are not the same.

30-40 Krag brass case

The 30-40 Krag brass case can be used to make 303 Savage rounds.

Happily the 99 is still around and should be for a long time. I have several model 99 Savage rifles and they function as they should. The magazine feeds in a flawless manner as long as the ammo isn’t too long and the safety locks the lever in place and prevents the gun from firing accidentally.

For a hunting gun the trigger is pretty decent breaking around 5 lbs or so depending on which rifle I use. I have a friend who collects model 99 Savages and has an example that has 30 Savage stamped on the barrel. Initially we thought that it was a 303 Savage but it turned out to be a 30-30 Winchester.

Back in those days there was some hard feelings between Savage and Winchester and apparently even though Savage chambered for the 30-30 they wouldn’t acknowledge it in writing.

While the 30-30 still flourishes the 303 and the other competitor the 30 Remington fell by the wayside years back. Ammo for both is hard to find and cases for reloading, especially for the 303 have pretty well dried up. Sometimes factory ammo can be found at a gun show but don’t count on it.

Making brass for the 303 is very difficult unless you have special equipment.The 30-40 Krag and 303 British cases can be swaged down and used if you have the tooling to do it. The rim on both has to be cut down also in order to chamber in the 303. I buy my brass from Buffalo Arms www.buffaloarms.com and it works very well as does all their products. Norma recently introduced brass for the 303 and Huntington Die sells it. Graff and Jamison both list 303 Savage brass but as of this writing it’s not available on a general scale.

Loading data can be found in some of the older manuals and Cartridges of the World. Also 30-30 loading data can be used if you are careful. Barnes makes a 150 grain copper bullet for those who are interested. For info on the Barnes bullets go to www.barnesbullets.com The 180 grain in the tables was made by the author which should give good penetration.  Loaded ammo can be bought in the 303 as well as other obsolete calibers.

303 Savage, 30 Remington and 30-30 R

The 303 Savage had to compete with the 30 Remington L. and 30-30 R.

Success of a cartridge is usually measured by its sales. No matter what its ballistic attributes are if it doesn’t sell then it’s considered a failure at least commercially. The 303 Savage was popular for a number of years but eventfully fell by the wayside. Mild recoil, decent accuracy and quality rifles weren’t enough to keep it alive.

If you have a 99 in 303 Savage it will make a good woods gun for deer out to about 150 yards depending on how well you shoot. The only downside is ammo isn’t widely available.

The model 99 is a strong rifle as evidenced by some of its chamberings in calibers such as the 308 Winchester.

Having said that it doesn’t mean that you should try and make a 308 out of the 303 Savage round. There are many factors involved in reloading ammo and using common sense and safety techniques is always a must. Always wear hearing and eye protection when shooting.

Load Bullet Velocity Comment

Load                                   Bullet                                      Velocity                 Comment

  • 8 X Trail Boss                     110 grain round nose             1154                       high es
  • 8 X Unique                          110 grain round nose             1275                       high es
  • 35 X Data 4197                   110 grain round nose              2705                      varmint
  • 30 X 4197                            150 grain spitzer                    2209                       deer
  • 34 X 2520                           150 grain                                2253                      ok
  • 36 X AA 2460                     150 grain spitzer                   2297                       consistent
  • 8 X Trail Boss                      165 grain cast                       1165                      consistent
  • 10 X Unique                         165 grain cast                       1521                      consistent
  • 10 X Trail Boss                    165 grain cast                        1307                     consistent
  • 34 X AA 2460                     170 grain                               2209                      ok
  • 35 X 748                              170 grain                               2127                      consistent
  • 32 X 2520                            180 grain                               2113                     consistent
  • 34 X IMR 4895                    180 grain                               2151                     decent
  • 33 X 2460                             180 grain                              2150                     good load

 

The Savage rifle that I shot gave good groups at 50 and 100 yards with open sights. I was able to keep them in a 2” or less group which is good for me. Since the gun is older and original I won’t drill or tap it for a scope despite the fact that it would be more accurate. Feeding and function was flawless.

The Savage has the ability to take pointed bullets because it’s a rotary magazine as opposed to the model 94 Winchester or Marlin 336 tubular magazines. That would give it a slightly flatter trajectory as compared to the flat nose bullets. How much of an advantage that is open to conjecture.

Bob Shell

Bob Shell

As a note Hornady recently introduced pointed LEVERevolution bullets that are safe in tubular magazines for the 30-30 as well as other chamberings. Without a doubt they will work in the 303 as well though the 160 grain bullets would be a handloading proposition. I have loaded some of the 160 grain Hornady’s in the 303 Savage and they are a perfect fit. For more info go to www.hornadybullets.com. I use the same bullets as I use in the 30 Remington and the 30-30. I do make the 180 grain flat nose to try and duplicate the old factory load and it shoots well. It should be adequate for a black bear and wild boar at woods ranges.

There are a lot of 303 Savages still around as I get a lot of correspondence about them. Let’s hope that they are with us as long as there is hunting.

About Bob Shell
A Custom Reloader of Obsolete and Antique Ammo, Bob Shell, writes about the subject of Guns, Ammo, Shooting and Related Subjects. Visit: www.bobshellsblog.blogspot.com

  • 11 User comments to “The Savage Model 99 Rifle in 303 Caliber”

    1. Spencer, CD on November 19, 2012 at 12:48 PM said:

      I own a 303 savage rifle. Would like to get hold of correcr amo. Hope you can help: Thanks
      1

    2. im looking for parts for my 1899 303 savage

    3. id love to get my hands on some ammo for a 303 surpluse that is

    4. I have been looking for 303 Savage ammo and have other people looking too. Have not found any. Where can I find ammo?

    5. I make my own.

    6. harold goodwin on July 3, 2014 at 3:34 PM said:

      my wife just found her grand farthers gun 303 savage in the back corner of the colset with no ammo for it stil looking at grammas

    7. Graf and Sons list ammo. Only place I have seen.

    8. Ricky Anderson on August 10, 2014 at 4:24 PM said:

      Hi, I read your post of needing 303 savage ammo. I have 4/20 round boxes of ventage 303 ammo. 2 boxes are Remington KleanBore and 1 box of Western Super X silvertip and Winchester super X let me know if you or any others are interested. shoot me an offer cell #717-885-3732

    9. pete gumina on September 8, 2014 at 12:05 AM said:

      I have 2 full boxes of savage 303 cal. ( not reloads) I would like to sell, make offer..
      1 is western super silvertip @ 190 grain expanding bullet
      2 is Remington kleanbore 303 savage express @ 180 grain

    10. verne berens on September 15, 2014 at 7:55 PM said:

      wondering if you still have the 303 bullets.what would you consider a fair offer?thank you for your time

    11. i have a savage mod. 99 303 for sale good .I wanted 1100 .00 $$$

    Leave a Comment

    • Sign up Ammoland for your Inbox

      Daily Digest

      Monthly Newsletter

    • Recent Comments

      • Phil: I live in North Ohio, 20 miles from Cleveland and never heard of any of these people and they are not on my...
      • Peacekeeper: Norway has already implemented this rule a long time ago. When you apply for a license you agree upon...
      • Deanna: Great article!
      • J Smith: I really do wish Colt would begin making double action revolvers again. I lost interest in S&W’s...
      • James C Barcliff Sr & Family: hsus has developed into nothing more than a money collecting business with little...
    • Social Activity

    • Most Popular Posts

      • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.
    Copyright 2014 AmmoLand.com Shooting Sports News | Sitemap | Μολὼν λαβέ

    Win a Russian Sniper Rifle From AimSurplus.com

    Subscribe and receive our emails , the drawing will be November 20 , 2014 maybe you will be the lucky shooter receiving a Russian 1891/30 PU 7.62x54R Mosin Nagant Sniper Rifle and a can of Ammunition. For more information visit the AimSurplus Sniper Rifle Promotion Page.
    Monthly email subscription from Ammoland
    14452824
    15053232