The Savage 99 Rifle in 303 Caliber

Obsolete Arms and Ammo
By Bob Shell

Savage 99 Rifle in 303 Caliber
Savage Model 99 Rifle in 303 Caliber
AmmoLand Gun News
AmmoLand Gun News

Apache Junction, AZ –-( The 303 Savage 99: 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 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 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 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:

  • 39 thoughts on “The Savage 99 Rifle in 303 Caliber

    1. I just bought a Savage 1899a .303 with a 22” barrel. Serial no. 90.173 made in 1908. All original in 95-96% condition. A box of 190 grain round nose silver tips came with it. Just bought a box of 150 grain round nose through Cabela’s. Plan to take a round apart and match with a few reloads as a place to start as I’ll be reloading for this gun. Really don’t want to shoot anything heavier than 150 as I like the ballistics at 150 yards which takes care of 90% of the whitetail hunting in Maine. Anyone have a pet load for a gun like this that they would care to share? Thanks for any suggestions you may have.

    2. I have a Savage 1899 that was my grandfather’s then passed on to my father and now to me. The caliber stamp on the barrel reads very clearly 30-R. Can you tell me which caliber this is chambered in? My uncle says it’s a .30 Cal similar to the 30-30 but the case doesn’t flare out at the base around the primer. I’m wanting to try to acquire ammo or reloadable brass but don’t know where to start. Thanks.

      1. I did a quick internet search regarding that caliber and it is pretty well documented from several websites. It was not around too long, probably for good reasons. The 30-30 overshadowed most everything else even close to it in range and power. Enjoy your search!

    3. I inherited a Savage 1899 from my grandmother who passed away and I’ve been trying to determine what rounds it uses. The Barrell is marked 30-R. My uncle said it is a .30 caliber almost identical tical to the 30-30 but not quite the same. Any help would be appreciated.

    4. If you are looking for fresh ammo in 303 Savage, it is readily available from Cabela’s. I just bought four boxes on-line and it came to about $35/box with shipping. The ammo is marketed under Graf and Sons which I believe is actually manufactured by Hornady. Wow! both Hornady and Cabela’s were established in Nebraska. Where would the rest of the world be without us? I was blessed to get a Savage 1899 (as the barrel is stamped) in really good, usable condition. Hope to take a deer with it this winter. It probably hadn’t been fired in decades, but cleaned up real well. Hit the 50 yd. gong on the first shot; the 100 yd. gong rang after two shots. Still learning a lot about them, but am very pleased with the unexpected addition to my collection.

      1. If you haven’t been able to get an answer to you question yet, it means that your rifle is chambered for the 303 Savage cartridge. See my post following yours if you are looking for a source for the ammo.

    5. I am looking for at least one 50 count box of Savage 303. Would be nice if i could find a box of western super silvertip @ 190 grain bullet. I have a “99” 303 Savage. It is in great shape but i am having trouble finding ammo. Can you help?

    6. I have a 1900 or 1901 Savage Model 99, Serial # 17998, in extremely good condition. I was told it was a “303”, But on the barrel, it is clearly stamped “Sav. 30” , and I don’ believe any numbers are worn off. It’s just too clean. I can find no other markings on this rifle at all anywhere. You mentioned above that you had a friend who was a collector of Savage Model 99’s and had an example with “30 Savage” stamped on the barrel. You thought it was a “303” but it turned out to be a “30-30”. I am wondering if mine might be a “30-30″ as well. A ‘”303” seems a little loose in the chamber, and doesn’t fit as snugly in the end of the barrel as a “30-06” fits into my “700 BDL”. I just don’t want to be shooting “303’s” if my rifle is chambered for “30-30’s”. Can someone please help me? Thanks MAGNUMS, Bill

      1. Bill Warren here again. I am now satisfied that my Savage “99” IS a 303. Now I need a source for ammo. HELP!!!!
        Thanks, Bill

          1. I would like to buy 303 savage ammo. Do you still have some? I am CO MDST 303-775-0052 please call me. Thanks Arnold

    7. The 303 Savage was designed earlier for military trails of a Savage lever rifle that later became the commercial 1895 Savage chambered among others in 303 Savage, the 30-30 was developed in 1896 for the 1894 rifle. So it would seem, Winchester saw a good thing and developed the 30-30.

    8. Has anyone ever heard of a .303 Savage 99 saddle ring carbine? I think I have one. It was part of the family estate. I’d like to know more about it.

        1. Hello Chuck. I am Curtis. I think I have a saddle ring carbine. I don’t know how this “chat stuff’ works but if you would like to compare I would really like to know more’ [email protected] I haven’t checked this site for awhile so I hope you might still be active.

    9. Reeds ammo will make it for you and they have some instock as i write this.35.00 and 37.00 a box before shipping.He does special ammo for hard to find stuff.Great ammo check it out

    10. 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

    11. 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

      1. Do you still have ammo or the 303 savage? I need some, and I’d be willing to pay you $35.00 per box. If interested, please let me know.

    12. 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

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