American Rifleman magazine once put the Savage 99 in its list of “Ten Rifles Everyone Should Own“, and while I disagree somewhat with
lots a couple of their choices, the Savage 99 is a slam-dunk listing — with one reservation, which I’ll get to in a while. But first, let’s look at this rifle and see what all the fuss is about:
I’m going to make my prejudices known up front. I think the “99” is hands down one of the most beautiful rifles ever made, period. That swooping stock as it leaves the receiver, the way the lever snuggles into the underside of the stock… ooooh, mommy. And if you can find one like mine, with the “schnabel” front stock…
…and that’s before we start talking about the brilliant rotary magazine, which, unlike for some lever rifles we could mention (Winchester, Marlin coff coff ), allows one to load this rifle with pointed (and not be limited to flat- or round-nosed-) bullets.
Which brings me to my only quibble with the 99. While it can handle medium cartridges (.308 Win, .300 Savage, .375 Win etc.), I don’t think the recoil is worth it. My .308 Win model is, honestly, painful to shoot. The angle of the thin stock pushes it right into the soft part of the shoulder, and for me anyway, it’s owie after four or five rounds. I think the perfect cartridges for the 99 are either the .250 Savage, or if you want something a little cheaper, .243 Win. Those, I can shoot (and have shot) all day. (I could have put a soft rubber pad on the rifle but I didn’t because wrong.) But the Savage is not an all-day shooter, anyway. That thin, elegant barrel heats up really quickly, and it will start to whip on you after a dozen rounds or so.
What this exquisite gun is, is a hunter. It’s light, accurate, quick to reload (in my case, about half a second or more quicker than my Mauser 98K), and quite honestly, I can’t think what more one could ask for a deep-woods rifle.
What sets Savage 99 owners apart from the rest is the fact that they love their 99. In the Rifleman article linked above, the writer laments:
I once had a lovely mid-50s Model 99 in .308. It was my favorite Texas whitetail rifle and in a weak moment I traded it for some rifle I can’t even remember. Lesson: Never sell or trade a good gun.
I’m one of those losers, and what I should have done was sell my .308 and immediately got a replacement in .243. But I didn’t because I’m an idiot. I should have just gone without electricity for a couple months…
Because of all this, Savage 99 rifles are relatively scarce, and quite expensive. Their owners don’t want to relinquish them, and anyone who’s ever fired one, let alone hunted with it, will know exactly why.
But the rifle isn’t black, there’s no rail and it doesn’t take Glock magazines!
An elegant rifle from another time. You need a Smoky Bear campaign hat, a pair of knee high lace up leather boots, and a black and red check wool hunting coat to complete the package.
“Lesson: Never sell or trade a good gun.”
While a seemingly perfect philosophy, it has a fatal flaw, as most of us can attest.
At the time we don’t realize it is a good gun and let it slip away.
Perhaps the better philosophy is to “Never sell any gun” except one that is permanently damaged in some way. I wish I still had every gun, guitar, and vehicle, I ever owned.
The 99 .308, my first rifle purchased in 1968. Still have it. My brother borrowed it for a time. He really didn’t want to give it back–finally did. So, he went out and bought another one. When he passed away, I could have acquired his. But didn’t. Kick myself.
The timing of your post is absolutely stunning! Yesterday I visited a local, independent, little gun store with the intention merely to browse. My brother was with me and he saw and handled an old 99 in nice shape chambered in .303 Savage. I mentioned to him that I wished it was in .300 Savage, which the proprietor overheard and promptly said he had three 99s in that chambering. The price was too good to pass up, so one is now on layaway. Sure, it’s not pristine: it’s drilled and tapped for a scope, there’s little bluing left on the receiver, and the buttstock has had some kind of partial refinishing done, but the barrel is clean and the rifling sharp. I don’t care about the minor cosmetic issues, at least I’ll have a rifle I’ve wanted since I was 11; I’ll be 60 next month…talk about a great birthday gift. One thing I will do is put on a slip-on recoil pad because I know that steel buttplate is going to be painful otherwise. If the rifle proves to be a decent shooter, I’ll buy a Marble’s tang peep sight for it and pull the ancient Lyman 4x off of it, thus restoring the original beautiful lines of the gun. BTW, the gun was made in 1954 and the shop was asking only $375 for it (it’s on consignment) and it is the 99EG model. Of the other two 99s he had, one was made in the 1930s and in good condition inside and out and priced at $385; I didn’t look at the other one, but it was $600-something. One other thing, it has the gorgeous schnabel front stock.
Agree 100%….The 99 was a object of desire to me around 50+ years ago and still is. Always the “next” gun, it still is on my wish list…
If you have a chance you might give a read to Brian Anse Patricks posts from a few years ago. He was rechambering a 99. He was on a project for an elk gun. Sadly Dr Patrick died way to early shortly after of cancer, his project uncompleted…
I have a newer 99 in .308 with a removable magazine and it recoils like a son of a bitch but it is a clean nice rifle with a decent scope. Wonder if I can get a 30 round magazine for it just to piss off those who would be offended.
You have good taste in firearms Kim. I’m about 7/10ths of the way for the 10 rifles we must own.
May I assume that other brands of equal quality my be substituted. Such as a Swiss K 31, or an Anschutz 1413, or a Winchester 94-22 xtr. Spent two years building my custom rifle.
Keep up the good work.
The thinness of the buttstock is the same problem I found shooting a friend’s Winchester ‘73 in .30-30. Maybe some kind of two part blister stock. . . But not my problem.
As for spitzer points in tubular magazines, are the Leverevolution cartridges with the little rubber points discontinued? I bought a couple of boxes and never got a chance to try them out.
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