Savage Arms Model 1915 .380 Auto Pistol

By David Tong

A look at the history and details of the Savage Arms Model 1915 .380 Auto Pistol.

Savage Arms Model 1915
Savage Arms Model 1915 .380 Auto Pistol

AmmoLand Gun News

USA -(Ammoland.com)- What would you say about a slim, striker-fired, single-action pistol for concealed carry that had a double-stack magazine and a loaded chamber indicator in today’s market?

One with both a grip safety as well as a thumb safety that pushes down for fire, the way they should?

One that is snag free from a large pocket or from under just a T-shirt or light sweater?

Savage offered such a pistol, in the Savage Arms Model 1915 .380 Auto Pistol, a startling one-hundred ten years ago!

The company, so well-known for bolt-action sporting rifles today, and lever-action hunting rifles eighty years ago, once was a competitor to Colt for the US Army’s service pistol trials in 1907.

Rare Savage Arms Model 1915 Semi-Automatic Pistol with Pearl Grips
Rare Savage Arms Model 1915 Semi-Automatic Pistol with Pearl Grips **

The subject of this article is the Savage Model 1915 .380 Auto Pistol. Designed by Elbert Searle, the earliest version of the handgun, the Model 1907, was chambered in both .32ACP & .380ACP. The company revised the 1907 by eliminating the hammer-like cocking indicator and made it even more snag-free on the draw. However, the follow-up M1917 reverted to the cocking indicator’s installation.

Savage Arms Model 1915 .380 Auto Pistol Specifications

  • Type: Single-action, semi-automatic medium automatic pistol
  • Construction: Carbon steel, machined from forgings, blue finish. Gutta-percha stocks
  • Method of operation: Mechanically-delayed recoil-operated.
  • Magazine capacity: 9 rounds .380
  • Length: 7.0”
  • Width: 0.825” across grips
  • Height: 4.1”
  • Weight: 21oz.
  • Barrel length: 4.25”

The Savage Arms Model 1915 .380 Auto Pistol retained the general outline and control layout of the Model 1907. The slide’s flat hold-open lever (“slide stop”) is located on the right side of the frame where the tip of your straight index finger can reach it. This is elegant engineering – no protruding “slide stop” to add to the width.

Magnificent Factory Engraved Savage Arms Model 1915 Semi-Automatic Pistol with Original Retailer Labeled Box and Original hanging Tag
Magnificent Factory Engraved Savage Arms Model 1915 Semi-Automatic Pistol with Original Retailer Labeled Box and Original hanging Tag **

Disassembly of the Savage Arms Model 1915 .380 Auto Pistol for Cleaning

Field stripping is “interesting.” After pressing the pinky-operated magazine catch on the lower front strap of the butt, remove the magazine. Clearing the chamber, fully retract the slide and hold it open against the compressed heavy recoil spring. Place the safety on “safe” by rotating upward. Turn the rear of the bolt clockwise ninety degrees and remove straight to the rear. Interrupted lugs retain the piece when assembled.

Push the slide, barrel, and circumferential recoil spring to the front and remove. The pistol is ready for cleaning.

Reassembly is, “in reverse order.” I must say that compressing the very heavy recoil spring and holding the slippery slide / barrel shroud assembly in place, and pushing the safety to safe makes the oft-dreaded 1911 pistol seem like child’s play!

The quality of the machining and smoothness of the internal cuts and polishing harkens back to a day and age where this sort of finish was expected.
How all the parts appear to be interlocked when fully assembled, is actually quite remarkable. The barrel, a removable and rotating part, acts as a fixed item when fired and thus in theory provides decent accuracy.

The very crisp single-action pull weighs approximately six pounds, with approximately 1/16” take up and reset distance with no discernable over-travel.

These are splendid figures even today for a striker-fired pistol. The pull itself is straight-back. This mimics the ideal motion of one’s index finger.

Not so good – the miniscule sighting system. Both sights are machined into the top of the slide, while the front sight is an approximately 3/32” tall inverted V. Needless to say, “aging eyes need not apply.” They might prove accurate if one has all the time in the world to focus and fire at non-moving (usually round bullseye) targets.

The two year production run of the Savage Arms Model 1915 .380 Auto Pistol and the small numbers of the .380 caliber pistols (under 4,000 pieces, according to some) means that it is a desirable item of Americana and an interesting technical development.

** Images: Rock Island Auction Company ( www.rockislandauction.com )

  • 12 thoughts on “Savage Arms Model 1915 .380 Auto Pistol

    1. Greg White, triplek.com makes repros, while originals can be found on auction sites like eBay and gunbroker.

      Clark Kent, I’ve owned and fired both 1911s and a Savage 1915. They are both quality guns, but very different. I’d never give my 100 pound wife a 1911 for self defense, she wouldn’t be able to handle it. But, she’s a decent shot with the 1915. The 1915 is a “pocket pistol”, it’s not made for shooting enemy troops at 50-100 yards.

      Based on the Army trials, I’m sure this would have been excellent in 45 ACP. The Savage actually came in second in the original trial beating Luger, Savage then dropped out allowing Luger back in. Then, Luger dropped out and Savage got back in.

      I’m getting old, and I’m not the shot I was 30 years ago, but at 15 yards with my 1915, I can put 10 rounds onto a dinner plate. I don’t plan on shooting anyone at a distance any further than that. Ten rounds, even of 32 ACP, into someone’s chest is going to put a hurting to them.

      When I was younger, I would have never considered the 1915 for personal protection. But now, a little older, a little wiser, and maybe a little less steady, I find the 1915 (or I assume the 1907) to be perfectly fine for protection. It’s a little tough to carry a 1911 in your pants or jacket pocket.

    2. I have read a lot of negative comments on various gun forums about the sights on these Savage pistols. They were marketed as self protection pocket pistols, and probably don’t even need sights as any use as such is going to be instinctive shooting any how! There is no time to use sights in emergency situations! They are NOT target pistols! Our cops in Australia train at shooting at 4m (yards), 7m and 10m. (They use assault rifles for longer distances) I agree about the mag release being a little awkward, but it’s not the sort of gun where you’d be in a hurry to change it anyhow! I own one of these, and as a collector it’s one of my favourites (of my 200+ pocket pistols); in spite of the fact it’s over-engineered and difficult to machine.

    3. Yep I have a 1907 in .32 apc with factory pearl grips a very rare find. Word do caution never take the old bakealite grips off, from what I’ve read they will break leaving one to find a nearly impossible grip to replace? Also you can find the mags but are very expensive. I have field stripped it and cleaned but I have never fired it. Just a beautiful piece of history.

    4. More than you in all likelihood, I started shooting in 1978. I don’t love Glocks (which I assume is your Koolaid) but I have used Browning HP’s, 1911’s, Sig’s, H&K’s, S&W’s and the list goes on and on. Small frame pistols with moderate capacity tend to be either too large or too small in the grip. As for why they were never reintroduced I suggest you do a little research on manufacturing techniques from the first half of the twentieth century. Milling and hand fitting are expensive and time consuming and did I mention EXPENSIVE? A pistol that cost $20 back in 1920 would cost $200 in 1950 and $2000 today if made in the old way. Go check the Manurhin MR-73 for price and quality of build and they have been made since 1973 and therefore do not need to buy new machining and invest in a staff of people to fit the parts. Check also to see how many new AMERICAN .380’s were built between 1950 and 1999, here’s a tip, it was cheaper to IMPORT such weapons. Today we have CCW’s in most states so small carry weapons are all the rage and many of them are STILL imported rather than domestically produced.

      As for why it failed the trials, it broke more parts than the Colt, guess what else, it was the number 3 winner in 1910 and only made the 1911 trials because the 2nd place finisher withdrew, the .45acp Luger. BTW, did you know that the Navy Department did testing on the Remington R53 pistol in 1918 and found it superior to the 1911?

      Now, why don’t you run along and pet your Tupperware not-so-superman.

    5. This is a pistol somebody should make again. The R53 was a try and a fail, the Colt M1903 pocket hammerless is very good. The Savage 1915 made of modern materials (with a better mag release and sights) would be better than 90% of the stuff out there and you could make one in 9mm Parabellum as well as .380 (or maybe 9×18 Makarov?!? please, please, please)

      1. ‘Better than 90% of the stuff out there?’ What ‘stuff’ are you talking about, canned tuna? Certainly not the vast majority of modern pistols. Have you ever fired a modern handgun? Ever think about why the Savage was never re-introduced? Or why it failed the U.S. Army trials?

    6. I have always liked this gun. Most you find for sale are in .32 ACP, which is not what I would want. Drawbacks,…. Well, the sights are so small as to be useless beyond, say 20 yards. It’s very hard to find still usable spare magazines. With wear and tear over time, getting any example to be 100% reliable would likely take some tweaking, and testing a dozen brands of ammo to find one it likes. You will need to know where to go for spare parts, which could be almost impossible to find. Still, this could be a real winner for Savage Arms. With new manufacturing processes, and materials, The cost of a redesigned gun more tailored to today could be a big winner. This said, one can never count on a Gun Manufacturer doing a smart thing (see what happened to (Marlin Products after the move to the new location). Lastly, remember that Savage produced several test versions of this gun in .45 ACP for the military handgun competition in the early 20th century. They lost to the venerable 1911 which was adopted at the U;S; Service Pistol. But this suggests that this design could possibly be up-sized a bit to perhaps handle say 9mm?

      1. Having one the only fault I find is the mag release on the front of the grip- all things being equal I will take the browning or colt version of the 1903- I have multiple examples of all – a luck man am i

    7. IMHO Savage will never put handguns (or shotguns, for that matter) into production again. They have even ditched most of their former rifle line and have focused on bolt actions. The Model 1915 was marketed to women and required lots of machining which would make them prohibitively expensive today. Besides, the sights stink and field stripping and reassembly is a nightmare.

    8. I want the first one if they ever make then again. Like so many firearms of the past this pistol is just about as perfect as it gets. C’mon Savage tool up and call me!! On second thought, I’ll take two of them or maybe three!

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