Wild Times: Still going strong after 100 years
A few months back, I was in attendance at a gun auction. It was quite an auction that featured a collection put together by one man over a lifetime. There were some incredible firearms being offered that day. I was standing beside a fellow hunter and gun lover who I have known for years.
We were both interested in a couple of firearms that were listed on the sale bill. We had our reasons for desiring the particular guns that we were going to bid on. One of the guns that walked out with us that day was a Savage Model 99 lever action rifle. Some time before that auction, I had read an article about the Savage Model 99. I had never owned one or even held one in my hands. After reading that article, my interest in putting my hands on one had grown exponentially. After seeing the Savage at the auction, I had to reevaluate my opinion of Savage firearms.
For some reason, I had developed an opinion that a firearm made by Savage was of an inferior quality. I had grown up with Winchester and Ruger firearms on my wish list and in my ignorance I turned my nose up at other makes of firearms. Why I thought Savage made a cheap firearm is beyond me. Boy, was I wrong! A quick look at their storied history will dispel any thoughts of a Savage firearm as being inferior.
In 1857, Arthur Savage was born in Kingston, Jamaica, and by 1893, he found himself in America and heavily involved in the development and manufacturing of firearms. He worked as an apprentice, and in 1894, he founded Savage Arms in Utica, N. Y.
What Arthur Savage developed right off the bat was nothing short of amazing. He developed the very first hammerless lever action rifle, the Model 1895. Winchester had owned the lever action market for years, but the development of the Model 1895 changed the playing field.
It was not long before the Model 1895 gave way to the Model 1899, which was nothing but an improved version of the 1895. The hammerless lever action rifle had a rotary magazine and side ejection. The Model 1899 soon became known simply as the Model 99. Of all of the firearms that would be manufactured over the next one hundred years by this company, the Model 99 might just be the namesake of the company.
An interesting piece of history concerning the face of the company unfolded in 1919. Chief Lame Deer – of a tribe in New York – approached Arthur Savage about allowing his image to be used on the Savage company logo in exchange for discounted rifles and an annual payment. The famous Indian head logo defined the fine Savage firearms for many years.
In 1920, the Savage Arms Company bought out the Stevens Arms Company and then in 1929 the company bought out the A.H. Fox Gun Company of Philadelphia and moved the production to Utica. By 1939, Savage was producing affordable double barrel shotguns and was also producing rifles and shotguns for name brand retail stores across the country. During World War II, the Savage Arms Company produced most of the Thompson submachine guns needed for the war effort. They also produced the famous Lee-Enfield bolt action rifles that were used by the British.
Over the years, there have been numerous owners of the Savage brand, and in 1988 the company filed for bankruptcy. They worked themselves out of their financial difficulties, and in 2002 developed a product which had a great impact on the fate of the company. Savage developed what is known as the AccuTrigger, a safe user-adjustable trigger for centerfire rifles. It has turned out to be such a safe and effective trigger that many other companies have copied it for their firearms.
Savage still manufactures the Model 110 bolt action centerfire rifle, and with the closing of the Winchester plant in New Haven, Conn., in 2007 and the production of the Model 70 Winchester, the Model 110 is the longest continual manufactured bolt action rifle in America. Even after 100 years in the firearm manufacturing business, the Savage name still represents a reliable product. From the initial beginning with the Model 1899 to the present-day Model 110, the Savage logo still resonates with gun lovers across the nation.