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The son of the British Commissioner to the West Indies, Arthur William Savage was born on the island of Jamaica in 1857. Savage was educated in both Britain and the US and developed an inquisitive and inventive nature. In his early twenties Savage traveled to Australia to explore the outback. There he met his wife, Annie Bryant whom he married in 1878, together they had eight children. During his eleven years in Australia Savage experienced life at its extremes. Abducted and held captive for nearly a year by Aborigines, Savage was able to escape and later became the owner of the largest station on the Australian continent. The Savage family eventually moved back to Jamaica where they purchased a coffee plantation, it was here that Savage and his son Arthur John began to pursue their inventive interests.
Among the Savage’s earliest successes, was the co design of the Savage Halpine Torpedo, adopted by the Brazilian Navy. The Savage’s were also involved in the design of the world’s first recoil-less rifle. However; it was not until the Savages moved to Utica New York that Arthur senior became convinced that there was room for improvement in the American firearm designs of the day. Having developed several prototype rifles from 1887 onwards and with the assistance of financial backers, Arthur W Savage formed the Savage Repeating Arms company in 1894.
In 1895, the Savage Repeating Arms company released a radical new rifle design. The model 1895 Savage lever action rifle featured a hammerless action and rotary magazine. Equally innovative was Savage’s cartridge for the Model 95 rifle, created out of a determination to use the new smokeless powder technology. The .303 Savage fired a 190 gr .311” bullet at 1900fps, having a similar case capacity and competing directly against Winchester’s .30 WCF (160 gr bullet at 1960fps) released only months earlier. With its heavy bullet the .303 Savage gained a reputation for being a reliable killer of many species of North American game. Further modifications to the Savage rifle resulted in the model 1899. This rifle was soon re-branded as simply the model 99 and the design gained an immense following.
Although .303 Savage ammunition was originally loaded with .311” bullets (groove .311”/ land .303”), bore diameters of the original model 95 and 99 rifles were typically .308”. Some rifle historians state that it was Savage’s intention to use an oversized projectile to generate pressure and velocity. Other sources state that bores of the first model 95’s were .311” in diameter but with the popularity of the .30 caliber growing, both bore and ammunition dimensions were changed to .308. Whatever the case, .303 Savage ammunition was later changed to the more common .308” bullet diameter with powder charges increased accordingly. Ammunition for the .303 Savage was made by Dominion, Peters and Remington UMC.
The .303 Savage remained popular until the Second World War and for a time ammunition was available in several different weights. After the war, popularity of the .303 gradually declined, eventually resulting in the discontinuation of .303 Savage ammunition. Today, apart from custom made components, factory ammunition for the .303 is obsolete making this cartridge purely a hand loading (and custom case forming) proposition. Cases can be formed using .220 Swift or 30/40 Krag brass, the Krag having a more suitable rim. It is also possible to use .307 Winchester brass, the two cases being very similar in rim diameter, head diameter and length. Powder charges can be developed from .30-30 load data.
In 1905 Savage offered the model 99 rifle in Winchesters .25-35, .30-30, .32-40 and .38-55 calibers. In 1912, Savage adopted the Charles Newton designed .22 Hi power, a cartridge which utilized high velocity as a means to increase killing power. Contracted to design another cartridge for Savage, Newton’s next design was the .250-3000 Savage, introduced in 1915. The last of the Savage cartridges owes its creation to Savage himself. By this time the First World War was over and American hunters had become well aware (and fond of) the effectiveness of the .30-06. To this end, Savage set about designing a compact .30 caliber cartridge for the model 99 rifle that would give .30-06 like performance. The .300 Savage was released in 1920, firing a 150 gr bullet at 2630fps, 70fps shy of the then current .30-06 150 gr loading at 2700fps, an incredible achievement.
The .300 Savage gained immense popularity throughout the U.S as well as receiving an excellent reputation in Canada, Australia and New Zealand. The Savage 99 rifle and .300 Savage cartridge were perfectly matched, making for a powerful yet portable combination. The M99 was highly prized as a scabbard gun, its profile being slim enough to be strapped under a saddle fender, neither tying up the horse or destroying rider leg contact while the cartridge had the power and reach to tackle large bodied medium game out to generous ranges.
The two common factory loads for the .300 savage featured either a 150 grain bullet at 2630fps, or a 180 grain bullet at 2350fps. These velocities were (and still are) obtained from 24” test barrels. 22” barreled sporters produced around 2600fps with the 150 grain bullet and 2300fps with the 180 grain bullet. Companies such as Western (later becoming Winchester) offered several options which later included the PowerPoint type expanding projectile as well as the highly frangible SilverTip. The various 180 grain ammunition was, as can be expected, popular with Elk hunters.
Although the early M99 rifles did not feature scope mount fittings, the solid receiver and side ejection allowed early rifles to be drilled and tapped for scope use. The M99 was eventually manufactured ready for scope use which increased the usable range of the M99 exponentially. Scoped rifles could also occasionally be found in the scabbards of horseback hunters/ranchers. That said, many farmers/ranchers never gained a great deal of faith in scopes, having had breakages and wandering zero’s as a result of the rigors of horseback work which did not suit the delicate nature of early optics.
In 1944 the US military used the .300 Savage as a base for assault cartridge research and design, eventually resulting in the T-65 cartridge which we know today as the .308 Winchester (1952) and the 7.62 NATO (1954). Major differences between the .300 Savage and .308Win are the shorter neck and overall length of the .300 Savage which was designed for the 99’s limited magazine length. SAAMI maximum average pressure rating for the .308 Winchester are 62,000psi as opposed to 47,000psi for the Savage due to considerations of earlier M99 action metallurgy.
As always, adoption and standardization of a military cartridge ensures the availability of inexpensive surplus ammunition to prospective consumers. Increased sales of .308 Winchester caliber rifles halted the growth and continued popularity of the .300 Savage cartridge. Savage was forced to adopt the .308 Winchester as a chambering for the M99 in 1955. Savage also adopted the .243 Winchester and these cartridges ultimately superseded Savage’s own .300 and .250 Savage loadings.
Presently, the Model 99 rifle is no longer in production. Many thousands of Savage M99 rifles are still in circulation, enjoyed by collectors and hunters alike. Factory .300 Savage ammunition is still available however it is becoming rare. Just a few years ago, Olin, Federal and Remington each offered loads however now (2010), only Remington produce factory ammunition for the .300. Considering the classic appeal of the M99, this will hopefully continue.
The .300 Savage is a mild yet effective medium game hunting cartridge. Muzzle velocities are not high enough to cause hydrostatic shock however disproportionate to caliber wounding is ensured.
Loaded with a 150 grain bullet, the .300 is capable of producing clean killing on light to medium weight game out to 300 yards. Bullet choice has a noticeable effect on terminal performance and generally speaking, soft jacketed bullets produce the fastest kills on light or lean bodied game.
Case capacity of the Savage is only three grains less than the .308 Winchester however the short magazine of the M99 dictates that long or heavy bullets must be seated deeply thereby cramping powder capacity. The 165-168 grain bullet weight designed for the .308 Winchester offers a compromise between velocity, ballistic co-efficient and sectional density. Driven at 2400-2500fps, performance is again, in direct relationship to bullet construction.
Loaded with 180 grain bullets driven at 2300-2400fps, the Savage produces adequate penetration on large bodied medium game but cannot be expected to produce widely diffused wounding in comparison to modern .30 caliber cartridge designs if a stout bullet is used. Historically, ammunition manufacturers must have understood this as there many examples of highly frangible heavy bullet designs which utilized mechanical, rather than disproportionate to caliber (high velocity) wounding.
Again, construction of 180 grain bullets has an immense effect on performance. When a heavy but frangible projectile is driven slowly, in many instances, there is little detrimental effect on penetration. With stout 180 grain projectiles, the .300 Savage produces best performance at close bush/woods type ranges, losing the ability to render fast killing wounds well within 150 yards. With soft, frangible 180 grain bullets, this range can be extended to 300 yards, an immense difference.
Remington ammunition features the 150gr PSP Core-Lokt bullet at the traditional velocity of 2630fps and the 180gr round nose Core-Lokt at 2350fps. Older 22” barreled sporting rifles with worn throats and or bores, tend to produce velocities of around 140fps slower than advertised for 2490 and 2210fps respectively. On lighter bodied game the 150gr Core-Lokt produces adequate wounding but is not an immensely fast killer, especially at ranges past 50 yards. Nevertheless, this bullet weight does produce faster killing than its heavier 180gr counterpart when used on light bodied game due to greater target resistance, unfortunately the low BC of this projectile (.314) causes a rapid loss in velocity and combined with the Core-Lokt construction, is generally a clean but slow killer out at 200 yards where velocity is down to around 1970fps.
The 180 grain Core-Lokt is a good projectile but understandably, its performance is limited at low velocities and due to its round nose design limiting BC to .248. End to end penetration can be expected on lighter bodied medium game while on large bodied game, penetration to vitals can be expected at all angles bar tail on. The 180gr bullet is able to produce exit wounding on most medium game, creating adequate blood trails for tracking. Like the 150 grain bullet, this load produces fastest killing inside 50 yards, but can be used out to 200 yards, producing clean but normally delayed killing at this range due to the very low velocity of 1600fps.
When hand loaded with powders such as IMR4064, ADI2208/Varget, the .300 Savage is capable of producing velocities of 2850 to 2900fps with 130 grain bullets, 2650 – 2700fps with 150gr bullets, 2550fps with 165 grain bullets and up to 2400fps with 180gr bullets. Faster powders such as H4895 are less bulky, enabling the hand loader to achieve high velocities with heavy bullets however, faster powders can generate higher pressures for the same given velocities as their slower burning counterparts. Safe experimentation is the key.
Rather than re-hash bullet brands which are covered in depth throughout the .308 Winchester text, the ahead paragraphs will explore a selection of projectiles relevant to the .300 Savage, discussed by weight rather than brand.
In recent years, it has become popular for hand loaders to use lighter 125 to 130 grain projectiles in the Savage as a means to increase killing power and effective range.
Hornady’s 130 grain bullet is best suited to game weighing no more than 60kg (130lb) and utilizes gradual bullet disintegration as the method of wounding. This bullet is best suited to open country hunting which affords better shot placement than fleeting bush/woods type shooting. Penetration is adequate on light bodied game, kills are fast and clean but in no way dramatic or emphatic.
The 125 grain Nosler Ballistic Tip is slightly stouter than the Hornady. Again, best suited to open country hunting of game weighing up to 60kg (130lb), the Ballistic Tip is capable of handling game up to 80kg under ideal conditions. The Sierra 125 grain Prohunter is the stoutest lightweight conventional bullet currently available in 30 caliber and is an excellent starting point for those wishing to develop an economical load suitable for game up to 60kg and slightly heavier, up to 80kg (176lb) under ideal conditions. Sierra also produce a 135 grain single shot pistol projectile. The SSP is extremely soft yet somewhat more emphatic in killing than the soft Hornady 130 grain bullet. This is an excellent performer on light or lean animals out to 250 yards and performs well at mild rifle velocities when used appropriately.
The Speer 130 grain Hollow Point is, like the Hornady, a frangible projectile, designed to maximize potential wounding relative to this bullet weight and its inherent limitations with cross body shoulder shots, the HP will reach vitals on game weighing around 60kg (130lb) but will often become lodged in offside ribs. This bullet is a clean killer of light bodied game but as can be expected, is not suited for (nor designed for) larger bodied game.
The Barnes 130 grain TSX produces fast, clean kills on light bodied game but has the construction to easily handle game up to 120kg. This is an extremely effective projectile in the .308Win but its long shank inhibits some .300 rifles from achieving much more than 2800fps due to a loss of powder space. The TSX struggles to produce hydrostatic shock at impact velocities below 2600fps however wounding and exit wound bleeding produce sufficiently fast killing down to impact velocities of 2400fps on lean game and 2200fps on heavier bodied animals.
The 150 grain bullet weight offers a balance of fast killing versus adequate penetration on light through to medium weight game (up to 80kg/180lb)
The softest of the 150 grain bullets is Speer’s highly frangible 150 grain BTSP which produces adequately wide wounding down to velocities as low as 1800fps. This greatly increases the ‘fast killing’ range of the .300 to ranges of around 400 yards. Kills can be delayed at this range but wounding and bleeding are fierce. Low muzzle velocities work in favor of the Speer BTSP. Impact velocities above 2600fps merely put excessive strain on the BTSP, limiting penetration.
Hornady’s 150 grain flat base spire point and BTSP projectiles were for a long time, considered to be fairly standard fodder for the mild .30’s. These are generally good performers however, from time to time, a batch of bullets may have too much swaging lubricant between the lead core and jacket. When this occurs, due to a low SD, the jacket and core will often separate during penetration. On lighter bodied game, jacket core separation is perfectly acceptable. A greater problem, is that following a long period of generally good penetration on medium weight game, the hunter develops an expectation of controlled expansion and adequate penetration from varying angles, only to have a batch of projectiles produce inconsistent results. The Hornady 150 grain Interlock projectiles were at one time, very effective, very versatile projectiles however in recent years, these have perhaps taken second place in manufacturing practices (assumption) to Hornady’s SST and InterBond designs.
Hornady’s 150 grain SST and InterBond are both suitable for the .300 Savage. The plastic Tips of these projectiles can also be easily removed to increase powder space and minimize bullet jump for a minor loss in BC (around .05). The SST is a very good projectile, creating wide wounding and relatively deep penetration on light to mid weight game. The SST does its best work on game weighing less than 80kg (180lb) but is an adequate performer on deer species weighing up to 150kg (330lb). This bullet can suffer jacket core separation however this usually occurs at the later stages of penetration. Wounding with the SST is violent down to impact velocities of 2400fps, vivid down to 2200fps, steadily decreasing in disproportionate to caliber wounding thereafter. The InterBond is a little less forgiving, often producing delayed but clean killing at impact velocities between 2600 and 2400fps. Wounding begins to taper off at impact velocities of 2400fps and at 2200fps, wounds tend to be much narrower than the SST or conventional designs. Nevertheless, where deep, reliable penetration on mid weight game is required, the InterBond is emphatic and the more resistance it meets, the better it performs. The InterBond is particularly well suited to game weighing between 80kg (180lb) and 150kg (330lb) and perhaps heavier, when used in the Savage.
Sierra’s 150 grain GameKing BTSP is much stouter than the Speer BTSP and Hornady Interlocks but is a brittle projectile which at close ranges, separates into smaller fragments, creating wide wounding and fast killing. This is bullet is best used as its makers intended, for open country hunting of lighter bodied medium game, suitable for cross body and lightly quartering shots. The Sierra BTSP has a low SD (sectional Density) working in its favor so that as velocity decreases, performance stays much the same. At ranges of around 275 yards (2100fps), kills may be slightly delayed however wide wounding ensures clean killing. The 150 grain Nosler Ballistic Tip is identical in performance to the GameKing however, it is a longer projectile than the GK, effecting COAL’s in the .300 Savage, much like the SST.
The 150 grain Sierra Prohunter, Speer Hotcor and Remington Core-Lokt are very good light to mid weight game bullets. These projectiles have reasonably stout jackets and achieve a good balance of wounding versus penetration. All conventional bullets of this weight are limited by SD therefore, exceptionally deep penetration cannot be expected. The three bullet designs are generally reliable, hassle free, economical, light to mid weight game bullets. The Core-Lokt produces the widest wounding of the three however it has a very low BC, displaying superior performance only at very close ranges. In the Savage, these projectiles do their best work inside a range of around 200 yards (2100fps).
Nosler’s 150gr Partition is an outstanding performer in the Savage, having a short overall length, capable of both explosive wounding deep penetration. The Partition is best suited to game weighing up to 150kg (330lb). On larger, heavier animals, this Partition simply does not have enough SD to produce reliable performance if it encounters round ball joints. Heavy bone such as this can sometimes turn the low SD Partition over, exposing the rear core, ultimately destroying the projectile and ruining penetration. The Partition produces excellent performance down to impact velocities of 2000fps (300 yards).
The 165 grain Hornady Interlock, Speer Hotcor and Sierra GameKing (SP & HP) projectiles tend to be a little too stout for general, all-round use in both the Savage and .308 Winchester. Best suited to game weighing between 80kg and 150kg, these projectiles need a certain level of resistance to promote wide wounding. If used on lean animals, due to the low muzzle velocity of the Savage, kills can be very slow, especially at ranges beyond 200 yards. On suitable game, wounding is broad out to a range of around 225 yards (2100fps). The 165 grain Hornady SST is a very violent bullet but again, on lean animals, kills can be quite delayed at ranges beyond 200 yards. The SST is a top contender for hunting mid weight game and again, the plastic tip can easily be cut away if need be. Both the 165 grain Interlock and SST fill a niche (similar to their 180 grain counterparts), being well suited to game weighing between 80kg (180lb) and 150kg (330lb) but with a tendency to be faster killing than the Sierra GameKing and Speer Hotcor at lower impact velocities and on leaner bodied animals.
As a general rule of thumb, when using heavy projectiles in mild cartridges, the hunter can in many instances utilize a soft, fast expanding projectile and still obtain deep, broad wounding - within reason. The 168 grain Hornady A-Max, with its plastic Tip removed is a good all-round bullet. This projectile will tackle game as heavy as 150kg (330lb) but is better suited to lighter animals. With the Tip removed, BC is much the same as the 165 grain BTSP Interlock (.435) but rather than being most effective to around 225 yards, the A-Max continues to produce violent wounding down to velocities of 1600fps or 525 yards! (the accuracy level of the Savage and steeply curved trajectory do limit practical shooting to a distance of around 300 yards). The 165 grain Speer BTSP is another excellent, moderately heavy frangible projectile. Wounding is excellent down to 1800fps (475 yards), and exit wounding can be expected on most medium game.
Where a heavy but highly frangible bullet is required, the 180 grain Speer BTSP is simply outstanding. From muzzle velocities of 2350fps, this bullet expands and disintegrates very gradually, resulting in good penetration on game weighing around 150kg (330lb) but is also adequate on larger game under ideal conditions. The Speer BTSP is generally fast killing on light bodied game, making this projectile very versatile. Wounding is violent at close ranges and vivid down to impact velocities of 1800fps (380 yards), a very good bullet which is often overlooked.
For large, tough bodied medium game, the Savage can be loaded with 180 grain conventional projectiles without any great need to adopt a premium projectile. The muzzle velocity of 2400fps is extremely favorable to conventional projectile design, minimizing bullet stress and enabling deep penetration. Bullet manufacturers including Sierra, Speer and Hornady each offer 180 grain bullets in a choice of pointed or round nosed configurations. In the .30 calibers, the increased frontal area of a round nose bullet does not directly translate into stopping power. Such factors do not really come into play with the small bores with more dramatic results occurring in the .358 calibers and above. Nevertheless, a 30 caliber round nose bullet does meet more resistance on impact than a pointed .30 caliber bullet, resulting in faster expansion. To this end, the user has a simple means of controlling the rate of expansion, a round nosed bullet for rapid expansion, a pointed projectile for deeper wounding, however this general rule only applies at close ranges (hunting out to 50 - 75 yards). As ranges increase, round nose bullets lose a great deal of velocity, limiting wounding potential.
Both Speer and Sierra produce very tough round nose and pointed 180 grain bullets which expand readily and reliably. The round nose bullets work much better on lean game that their pointed counterparts. The one limitation, is that the round nose bullet designs lose velocity quickly and cannot be expected to create wide wounding on large bodied game at ranges much beyond 100 yards. The pointed Sierra Prohunter and Speer Hotcor are both deep penetrating projectiles when used at mild velocities. Again, these are simple, no fuss, economical options for the .300 Savage, adequate for use on game weighing up to 320kg (700lb), bearing in mind that power of the Savage does have limitations (width of wounding) on large bodied game.
Hornady’s 180 grain conventional bullets are not the best performers on heavy animals in comparison to other brands. The round nose 180 grain Interlock tends to suffer either excessive weight loss or over expansion at lower velocities. The 180 grain PSP Interlock (double cannelure) is an adequate larger medium game bullet but is not nearly as tough as the Hotcor or Prohunter. The Hornady 180 grain bullets are often useful for woods/bush hunting light bodied game and for general use on game weighing up to 150kg (330lb). In this regard the Interlock fills a niche, producing faster kills than other brands under certain conditions due to rapid, rather than slightly delayed expansion.
For more information on .30 caliber hand loading projectiles, a full study can be found in the .308 Winchester text.
The mild muzzle velocities of the .300 Savage do not generally induce severe stress to the rifle as an accuracy platform, enabling the two piece stock designed M99 to achieve in most instances very good accuracy. The Savage M99 rifles are a unique design amongst the classics, visually appealing, functionally effective and efficient.
The .300 Savage gives similar performance to the .307 Winchester but has the advantage of being able to be loaded with pointed bullets, greatly increasing its range and usefulness. This cartridge may not be as powerful as the .308 Winchester or modern loads for the .30-06 but for those who appreciate mild, low recoiling cartridges, the Savage was and is a wonderful cartridge.
*Tip removed to shorten COAL
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