303 Savage help needed

Once again I find myself asking for advise from the forum with little to contribute. As a few of you know I collect as well as research older cartridges. I study one cartridge till I have a firm grasp on the round, then move to another. At present I am studying the 303 Savage. Unlike many rounds like the 30-30, the 303 seemed to have few factory loaded options. Seems 190 grain soft points and fmj’s were standard. Remington loaded 180 grain mushroom and round nose cor-lokt’s, and now Hornaday is loading a 150 grain round nose. There are also the minature or sub rounds for small game as well.My question to the forum, does anyone know of different loading? And lastly from my limited research, the only rifle chambering the 303 was the Savage 99, I wonder why Hornaday chose a round nose design.

I can’t add much to what you’ve already said, but I can provide a reason for the round-nose bullet - shorter bullet nose length. The Savage 99 magazine is very sensitive to cartridge overall length, and will jam if the cartridge is even slightly longer than standard . If the cartridge is loaded with heavier spitzer-type bullets, the intersection of the bullet’s ogive and the cylindrical body will be below the case mouth at the maximum cartridge OAL. I have found that about the heaviest spitzer bullet I can use in reloading for the .303 Savage is 130 grains for that reason, and I usually use 125 grain or 110 grain spitzer bullets when I don’t use 150 or 170 grain RN bullets as used in the .30-30. Within the useful hunting range of the .303 Savage, a round-nose bullet is fully adequate. The original .303 Savage load using the 190 grain RN bullet had a well-founded reputation in its day for its penetrating capabilities on large game. Otherwise, it’s the ballistic twin of the .30-30.

I believe that, back in time, there were light jacketed bullet loads manufactured for the purpose of finishing off wounded game with minimum meat damage. I’ve loaded the .30 carbine bullet with light loads of faster-burning pistol powders in the .303 cartridge for that purpose. In fact, those loads give the best groups in my 99.

Remchester-- U.M.C. made the following loads in .303 Savage:

185 gr. Paper Patched Lead

182 gr. Metal Cased

187 gr. metal Cased

195 gr. Soft Point

179 gr. Mushroom

103 gr. Gallery (Grooved Lead)

100 gr. Miniature (Metal Cased)

103 gr. Miniature (Lead)

Hope this helps. Let me know if you want more information on U.M.C. or Remington .303 Savage production, such as primer types, etc.

One other thing just occurred to me. If longer spitzer bullets were desired in the .303 Savage, the case neck length could be shortened somewhat. There is plenty of case neck length available for doing that. That’s exactly what Hornady did with LeveRevolution. But it might not be so good on the forward end of the chamber if a lot of shooting is to be done.

I didn’t know about Hornady making .303 Savage ammunition. I looked it up, and it is not LeveRevolution. I also saw that the brass is from Prvi Partizan (by the way, what does “Prvi Partizan” mean?)

I have always formed my own .303 Savage brass from .220 Swift or .30-30 (yes, it can be done), but I do have some boxes of original post-war Remington ammunition that I won’t be shooting anytime soon.

A distinct quirk of the .303 Savage is the variation in bullet diameters. The original cartridges were loaded with jacketed bullets of .311 diameter–as its nominal caliber suggests–but later loadings were produced with .308 caliber bullets. My impression is that the change from the .311 to .308 bullets occurred about World War One or shortly thereafter. Jack

There was one other rifle chambered in the .303 Savage besides the model 1899 Savage. It was the model 1895 Savage. Less then 8,000 were made and I believe they were all made by Marlin under contract with Savage. The .303 Savage cartridge was the only caliber the model 1895 Savage was chambered in.

I have never seen an authoritative reference giving an exact number of Savage Model 1895s made - citations seem to be in the range of 5000 to 8500. One gives the last serial number as being in the low 6000s. Similarly, I have not seen an exact date when the .303 Savage bore diameter changed from .311 to .308 (some sources say .307), other than it was fairly early in the 1899’s production run. There was relatively little difference in the design of the Model 1895 and the later Model 1899, and in fact the Savage factory would convert the 1895 to the 1899 for a modest sum. I think this involved making changes in the cocking indicator and the bolt locking surfaces. I have no idea how many such conversions were made or when.

The Model 1899 rifle was clearly mechanically superior in every way to its principal competitor, the Winchester 1894. It’s surprising that it did not displace the 1894 in the marketplace.

Approaching the caliber change date from the bullet diameter angle might be interesting - can anyone establish when .303 Savage factory loads having a .307 or .308 bullet first appeared? I would think that there might even have been some indication of a bullet diameter change printed on the box, even though that small change in bullet diameter wouldn’t make a great difference in performance in either rifle bore size. Something else for the .303 Savage collector to look for.

Dennis,from my fast failing memory, I recall reading somewhere, that the Savage rifles were never bored to a .311" diameter. The 303 cartridge was loaded with a .311" bullet, but the bore of the rifle was .308". The reason given was the unsutabile powders of the day would not give sufficent velocities with the 303’s small case capacity. By loading the case to the maximum powder capacity, and the larger bullet, the presssures would increase as well as velocities. As soon as better powders were available the switch was made to the .308" diameter. Dont know if this was true but I clearly remember reading this( whether I really did or not).

Could well be true. All of my 99s date from between the wars, so I’m not in a position to slug the bores to find out. Nonetheless, it would be interesting to determine when the bullet diameter change was made.

A few years ago I wrote an article on the 303 Savage from a marketing point of view, and the story appeared in Gun Digest about 2004.
During the course of my research, I ran into a notice in the period press that the bore diameter was changed from the original 311 to 308 diameter. The notice appeared in 1904. I don’t recall exactly where I saw it, but it was in a conteporary magazine at the time.

I just ran across an article on the web “savage99.com/ammo.htm” in which it details the story I related earlier. But as the old adage states, just because its in print dont make it so.

I checked with J.R. Mattern’s Handloading Ammunition (Samworth, 1926) and he writes on p. 288 “Recent reduction of bullet diameter from .311-inch to .308-inch by some factories at least, helps in relieving pressures. The old .311-inch bullets were undesirable, anyhow, ever since the groove diameter of Savage rifle barrels was dropped from .311 to the 30-30 standard of .308-inch, many years ago.” In a chart in another section of the book the .303 Savage is stated to have barrels of .308 min and .309 max groove diameter. The statement above about early barrels having grooves of .311 appears to tie in well with the 1904 notice. Jack

Eley’s loadings and designations from 1905, 1908-09, 1910-11 and 1912-13 catalogs:

Some early loads by Savage Repeating Arms Co. shown in Recreation magazine October 1897:

I think the foregoing information clarifies things nicely, except for establishing more precisely when the bullet diameter change occurred. I have to wonder why the .303 Savage cartridge was ever loaded with black powder. By 1897, the use of smokeless bottlenecked rifle cartridges was widespread, if not universal. And what could “Black Powder Ranges” mean? Were there ranges at that time specifically limited to use of black powder cartridges? If so, that’s news to me.

What was the difference between the minature round and the small game rounds in various chamberings? The small game round is self explanitory, but what was the intended purpose of the minature rounds?

The 1897 ad posted by Fede is interesting. Are there actual cartridges with all the various headstamps as shown in that ad or is it just artistic license?

Ron, actual headstamp was S.R.A.Co. .303 (made by UMC).

Dennis, when this cartridge was introduced it was listed in both smokeless (30 grs) and blackpowder (40 grs) loads with FMJ 190 grs bullets only. The Savage 1895 catalog also states: “The cartridges are manufactured by UMC for this company, and are loaded with ‘Savage’ brand of smokeless powder, furnlshed by this company”.

I thought the .303 Savage was marketed in the UK as .301 Savage to avoid confusion with the military .303. But that Eley catalogue shows both .301 and .303 Savage. Thats interesting and I wonder if it was intended or a typo.

Any views?