Tag Archives: Savage

The Last Savage

I should qualify the title. The pistol of which I write is the last production variation of the Savage Model 1907 pistol in .32 ACP. The Savage 1910 and 1917 were still in production until the middle 1920s or so and Savage continues to build rifles to this day. Savage made the Model 101, a single shot .22 pistol made to look like a single action revolver for about 10 years in the 1960s. They also made a Model 502 Striker pistol, which is a pistol length bolt action single shot in choice of .22 long rifle, .22 WRM or .17 rimfire something. It was a fairly recent arm, but is not on the Savage Arms site, so I presume it is no longer in production. (I don’t follow ‘new’ guns much.)

However, the Savage model 1907. variant 19, modification 2 was the last of the models 1907. According to the serial number, the one here was made in 1919. This seems to be the year more Savage 1907 pistols were made than any other. The 1907 ceased production in 1920. The 1915 and 1917 carried on longer.

Left side - rear - view of the pistol.  Very good condition.

Left side – rear – view of the pistol. Very good condition.

As Savage pistols (of that type and vintage) go, it is pretty much the same as all the other models 1907. It does of course have distinctives which distinguish it from other variations.

Probably the major telling differences between this variant and the earliest variants is the hammer is a spur type with the rear of the spur exposed, vice the burr version; and the small and more dense cocking serrations on the slide, vice the fewer and wider serrations of earlier versions.

This variant has no legend on the side of the frame proudly displaying the Savage name. (That marking seems to be a bit uncertain. Many of the variants did have the name either on the right or left side of the slide, just above the respective grip and many did not.)

Atop the slide is the usual legend of

SAVAGE ARMS CORP. UTICA N.Y. U. S. A. CAL. 32
PATENTED NOVEMBER 21, 1905 — 7.65 MM

This slide top legend also varies from variation to variation, but is consistent in message.

Grips are hard rubber – possibly gutta percha. They are black, tending to a very dark brown probably from ‘fading’; that may not be the correct chemical term, but it suits the common usage.The grips on this example are intact; they are not cracked or chipped and show no wear. Reportedly, the grips can be removed by gently prying each grip to bend the panel (fore and aft) which will release the grip panel from a groove arrangement in the frame. However, the material of the grips does not age well and tend to break when manipulated in such manner. If the grips are in good condition, don’t fool with them.

Finish on this variation is a matte bluing. It is not the bright bluing of the earlier models, nor is it the ‘paint’ finish attempted at one point. On this example, it is rather complete with a few spots of light rust over the pistol. There is some wear on the front muzzle and on exposed edges. The magazine is a double slot (for magazine catch) type and rather worn of bluing. I have a small suspicion the magazine may not be original; however, as the magazines were not serialized to the individual pistol, I cannot tell.

Note the clean and unworn appearance of the engraved markings.

Note the clean and unworn appearance of the engraved markings.

The case hardening on the trigger is visible and not too badly faded.

The sights are the later type.

The rear sight is machined into the top of the slide. The rear sight ‘notch’ is an almost “U” shaped groove. The sides of the groove are slightly slanted outboard; giving the appearance of a compromise between a thin “V” and a “U”. The bottom is rounded.

The front sight is a separate piece, fitted into a mortice milled into the front of the slide, then riveted from the bottom; much like the front sight on a traditional Government Model. It is tapered, wider at the base, and does have a flat top. However, when aimed, the top of the front sight exactly fills the top of the rear sight notch. Consequently, the ‘windage’ is just a bit vague.

To be fair, this pistol was designed as a close use arm. I’d be willing to bet the sights are nearly unused.

The bore is in amazingly fine condition. Many of these pistols have bores ranging from ‘somewhat worn’ to ‘nasty’. No doubt some combination of corrosive primers (primers leaving a salt deposit, attracting moisture; therefore rust) and lack of cleaning (to remove those salts) are to blame for this condition. This example was obviously cleaned. Or perhaps never fired, just carried a bit. The breech face is also rather clean and fresh.

Shooting this pistol was rather ordinary. I chronographed five shots from my secret stash of Privi Partizan brand .32 ACP ammunition – that lot which I use only for velocity comparison between various pistols. Average velocity was 721 feet per second. (Advertised velocity for the .32 ACP is 900 feet per second; no pistol I’ve tested does that.)

I shot five rounds (not the velocity lot) slow fire at 10 yards for accuracy. The group was just under 2.25“ wide by just under 5 “ high. The group was centered to the left (from the shooter’s view) of the aiming point. As the accompanying photo shows, the group was neatly contained in the head of the target. Then ten shots rapid fire into the main area of the target, also from 10 yards, one handed;. I think I missed once – can’t find the tenth hole – but the nine hits measure seven inches wide by eight and one half inches wide, with one flyer another four inches out to the right. All were within the “C” area of the target, albeit centered lower than one would desire.

Five shots @ten yards on head section of combat target.

Five shots @ten yards on head section of combat target.

Ten rounds fired 'rapid fire' at ten yards.  One missing shot.  Circular pattern indicates I was focusing on target more than front sight.

Ten rounds fired ‘rapid fire’ at ten yards. One missing shot. Circular pattern indicates I was focusing on target more than front sight.

Savage used the marketing phrase “Ten shots fast!” in connection with the Savage pistols. It was more or less true. The M1907 (and the following M1910 and M1917) in .32 ACP utilized a ten shot, staggered magazine. (This was some twenty-eight years BEFORE the FN P-35 (High Power) was released with its thirteen shot magazine. It was also eleven years AFTER the Mauser Broomhandle with a staggered magazine, but since the Broomhandle was loaded via stripper clip and the magazine was not removable, I’m not sure it counts.)

Not sure if I’ve mentioned this before, but the Savage M1907 is just a bit small for my hand. I quickly say, my hands are not large by any stretch. Holding the pistol in firing position I find my trigger finger extends through the trigger guard and my trigger finger rests with my first joint (from the tip) rather than the ‘pad’ of my finger on the trigger. Normally the pad of the trigger finger is to be on the trigger. (Of course, with the hideously heavy trigger pull, attempting a ‘target’ trigger pull with the pad of the trigger finger is quite difficult.)

Speaking of trigger pull, this example breaks at twelve pounds or so. Fairly normal for these pistols; they were not made as target guns, but for self defense. One presumes the heavy trigger pull was to discourage premature discharges and may owe some to the somewhat complicated trigger mechanism.

Again, I am amazed at the utility of this design. Okay, the trigger device – that is, the linkage between pulling the trigger and releasing the sear – is probably more complex than needed. (Which never seems to bother advocates of the FN P-35.) The sights, by modern standards, are rather small and not prone to quick acquisition and the caliber is, again by modern standards, pretty anemic. Still, it is very easy to use. The ‘delay’ device is functional and quite positive.

And it is a very good looking bit of ordnance.

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The Savage Firearms Company Model 1917 Pistol, Caliber .32 ACP

1917 First impressions first. All my shooting life I’ve been warned of and suffered from ‘hammer bite’ while shooting a Government Model Colt or any of the copies or clones thereof. I’ve been ‘bitten’ by a Beretta 418 pistol, when the slide rails nicked the web of my shooting hand. I even heard ‘Beretta bite’ mentioned on a television program – the same day, in fact. I’ve never heard of “Savage bite’ – but it occurs as well! Not serious, but enough to get one’s attention, the slide rails again dug into the web of my shooting hand enough to draw blood. Sigh. Photo of wound incurred included.

The Savage autopistol is one of those near genius designs. It is a retarded blowback action, claimed in early advertising to be ‘locked’ at the moment of firing. The short version is, the barrel must be rotated a few degrees in order for the slide to move in recoil. The bullet travelling down the barrel, being spun by the rifling in the barrel is rotating the same direction the barrel must turn, imparting a radial momentum preventing rotational movement of the barrel. So until the bullet leaves the bore, the barrel cannot turn to unlock the slide. Or so the advertising says.

The system worked well enough to allow a pistol chambered in .45 ACP to function properly and pass the first set of trials for the ‘new’ Army pistol – which resulted in the adoption of the M1911, designed by John Browning and built by Colt Firearms (and others). Savage had a chance to be the M1911 pistol, but didn’t want to commit the money and machinery to build more pistols for testing.

The series of pistols known as the Savage autoloading pistols began in 1907, utilizing a patent granted in 1905. It was designed by a gentleman named Elbert Searle, who was not at the time part of the Savage Firearms Company. It’s a somewhat complicated story and not in the scope of this report, so I refer the reader so interested to the book Savage Pistols, by Bailey Brower, Jr.

The first pistol was called the model 1907. There was a design revision which concealed the manually controllable striker called the model 1915 and finally the model 1917, which brought back an exposed ‘hammer’ attached to the striker.

The pistol being the subject of this report is a model 1917. The biggest single identifier of the model 1917 is the near triangular grip profile. I must say the grip is very comfortable. One feels a grip which affords ‘total control’ over the handling and recoil of the pistol. (Just for comparison, my hands are just big enough to fully grip a Colt Government Model pistol. I can shoot a Government Model one-handed and feel in control of the pistol. I feel my grip is rather ‘incomplete’ shooting most double stack magazine pistols. Including Glocks. Don’t ask.)

This particular pistol found its way into my life and collection in a gun show in Orlando, Florida. It was just sitting there on a table with a modest price tag. It is in fairly good shape, not perfect, not in box, but in fair finish, a shootable bore – some dark in the grooves – and complete. The grips are very sharp in the fine detail; one can read the ‘trade mark’ legend in the now politically incorrect American indigenous native logo. Of note, the grips are not broken or cracked. There is some bluing loss and a bit of ‘freckling’ on the top of the slide. Most of the frame is quite well preserved and there are no gross bumps, bruises or dings, save one bit of rub wear on the right side of the slide near the muzzle; not normal holster wear. It came with one magazine which if anything, is a bit more worn than the pistol proper. One never knows, but I conjecture the original was lost and replaced.

With a box of my standard Prvi Partizan ammunition, chronograph and a B27 target, off to the range.
In spite of the over eight pound trigger pull, it shoots fairly well. The trigger pull is about 8.25 pounds, according to my trigger gauge. I noted the trigger travels about 1/8th inch of slack, then about 1/16th inch to release the sear; over travel is minimal. Sadly, the sear is unreliable and will be explained later.
As with all pistols of this era, the sights are rather small and unobtrusive. As is the norm with this class of pistol, the sights are fixed and in the case of the Savage, are milled from the same stock as the slide. One can do some minor adjustments for windage by carefully filing out the rear notch but I’m not going to do that.
The three yard group was fired at the upper “8” in the scoring rings and is encouragingly tight and on target.
The seven yard group was fired at the lower “8” in the scoring rings. This grouping is also encouragingly tight, and just a bit removed to the left; not enough to cause concern.
The fifteen yard group was fired at the “X” and is all within the “10” ring. Sufficient for self-defense use, I should say. This group shows a bit of leftward incline, but is still sufficiently centered.
The five shot group fired from twenty-five yards is nicely contained on the head of the target. Frankly, I was just a bit surprised it grouped as well as it did. To be fair, this was fired (as all other groups) outside in broad daylight. I could find the sights and line them up properly. Of all criticisms of this pistol, accuracy is not a concern.
The ‘point shoulder’ group was fired at ten yards. There were only two shots fired, both off to the left and low – no doubt a result of my clutching the pistol as the shots were delivered. Still on the target.
This brings up a troubling development.
While shooting the previous groups, I noted the pistol would end on occasion with the hammer down on the empty chamber following firing the last round in the magazine. When I charged the chamber for the last string of ‘point shoulder’ shooting, the pistol discharged when I let the slide go forward. For some reason, the sear is not consistently engaging. Upon inspection, I found the hammer to follow when the slide was dropped on an empty chamber. So I’m looking into the matter and not shooting this pistol further. Happily, I had already fired the five shots over the chronograph – without incident, I add.

Chronograph results of five shots gave me an average velocity of 755 feet per second. According to Savage advertising of the era, the ‘locked breech’ action gives all the power available from the cartridge. It is not notably ‘faster’ – more efficient – than other .32 ACP pistols I have examined. So much for advertising claims.

Other than the mechanical deficiency noted regarding the sear, this pistol is a well built and useful pocket pistol. The safety mechanism (thumb operated analogous to the Colt type) is positive and can be easily applied and released. Accuracy is quite good, in spite of small fixed sights and a heavy trigger. Were the sear reliable – I’m sure they normally are – and I had more confidence in the power of the cartridge – which I do not – this would be an excellent carry pistol. It does pretty much what is needed and without extraneous frills and doodads.

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