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Saturday, March 01, 2008

The 99 Savage 'Magic Gun'

This particular specimen is the 99E-for 'economy'-but I don't care. I've always had an affinity for 99's and it finally caught up with me the other day. They are not exactly 'svelte' but they do a lot of things pretty darn well- and they suit my style of rifle work to a "T".

I love the fact that you squeeze near-06 ballistics into a package that carries about like a 94...speaking of which, I could never quite warm up to that 94AE so it got horse-traded into this one. Where I hunt these days 350 yards is a reality. Last hunting season, I caught myself wishing for something that shot flatter/hit harder than the Winchester, out beyond 200 paces. You can sling a 99 too, without worrying that the lever will flop open. A fine bead, some swivels and a set of mounts will make this one field-ready in short order. I think in reality this is pretty close to what Jeff Cooper envisioned with his Scout Rifle concept.

Me & the Savage 99 have a history togther. I had one in .308 about 23 years ago but the mount holes were drilled just enough out of line that it would kick the scope loose in about 10-12 rounds. I used it with irons anyway and clean-killed a chicken stealing fox with it at a shade over 350 yards- on the run. It just kept making good shots for me so the 99 has held 'magic rifle' status ever since. Suffice it to say that am glad to have one standing in the corner again.

I've had a couple of evenings to fiddle with this thing now...the stock & forend were both loose, so I peeled 'em off and put a little oil where no oil had obviously been for several years. Both the striker & sear had grunge/corrosion on them, so I ran a hard stone across them just enough to clean that up. This alone helped the trigger quite a bit.

The front sight on this 99 was a nasty-looking bronze affair; bead looked like a witch's nose and kind drooped off like it'd been bent. It was also way too tall, per the Marble's chart. I dug around and found a .310 white bead that fit the ramp, but the dovetail was oversize so the needle-punch & Loctite were needed to correct that. The bore & chamber were swabbed & both look good. The gun was reassembled and stood in the corner, muzzle down.

I ran the first five rounds of WW 150 Power-Point down the pipe this AM, just to get the irons halfway zeroed. The range road is too muddy to haul the table & trappings down there, so I was shooting seated on a 5-gallon bucket, using the wobbly 1x3 yardage stakes as a 'sort of' rest. I was using a Champion '100-yard Smallbore' target with an 8" bull, with a little red dot in the middle.

I fired one round off the 25 yard stake, which lit 5" out at 2:00. The rear elevator was all the way down so I yanked it out & tapped the sight a tad to port. I held real careful at 6:00 on the bottom edge of the red dot & fired again. A .30 caliber hole appeared in its exact mathematical center. Yee-haw!

Encouraged, I packed my bucket & trappings back to the 100 yard stake and sat down. That stake is wobbly but I shot twice anyhow. The end product was two holes in the black, 2" above and 2 1/2 " either side of the red dot. I was glad they were bulls- and the way I was wobbling around I can hardly blame the rifle for the spread. Hmm... 2" high at 100 should be about right for 200... believe I'll recut the bottom notch in the sight elevator to allow the rear blade to bottom out, unencumbered.

It was time to see if all this theory would actually translate into 200-yard hits, on three-dimensional objects. My back sidewalk is a shade over 210 yards from the target frame, so I set a blue, 100 oz. laundry jug on the ground directly in front of it. With one round left in the magazine, I trudged up the muddy clearcut toward the house.

I have an old dilapidated folding table out back, whch serves as my 'portable outdoor workbench & game butchering table'. One of Peg's little antique benches got commandeered for a place to sit. I hadn't brought anything out to shoot over, but there was a 1# coffee can of Briggs & Stratton parts nearby and it served as a place to rest my hand & the forend. Only then did I discover that I had placed the jug in such a manner that I could only see the bottom half of it, against the grass. The top disappeared against the assortment of targets & stuff stapled onto my backstop.

At this point laziness saved the day...I wasn't walking 400 yards just to move that blasted jug. So I acquiesced to 'the passing of time' and fetched an old pair of prescription specs. At least I could see enough of the jug to put the bead on it now, which is what I did as I carefully pressed the trigger until the recoil surprised me. The sights looked right, the table didn't collapse and my coffee-can rest didn't fall over. I was at least confident that I had hit the backstop, instead of killing a tree in the scrub timber behind it. I levered the last empty out and left the rifle open on the table.

Scanning the ground for a low or wide impact, I approached my target. Seeing none, I walked up on it and found a neat, 30 caliber hole in the jug, about 2" up from the bottom and 2" right of center. I probably yelled 'YES!!!' but won't admit to that unless someone has video... it ain't every day you swap front sights, and within five shots you are punching head-sized targets at 200 yards.

I told you these 99 Savages were magic guns ;)


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wish I could lay my hands on a '99 at a reasonable price but the collectors are pushing the prices sky-high on any thing but wall- hangers.

My grandfather had a 99 in 300 Savage when he was a missionary in Alaska during the '30s, with which he killed a Kodiak; don't know what happened to that gun. Still in the family is another 99 in 250 Savage he had while a missionary in China. Both 'Killdeer', his 250, and my uncle's 22HP 99 killed numerous tiger which were either terrorizing the Chinese peasants or had become actual man-eaters. My grandfather used to say his 99 converted more people to Christianity than all his preaching.

Friday, January 16, 2009 8:45:00 PM  

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