From looking at its sleek lines you might find it hard to believe that the Savage Model 99 is a 120-year-old design, but it is. Introduced in 1899 in the midst of tremendous innovation in the market for lever-action rifles, the Savage 99 became one of the first lever-action rifles to be able to make use of pointed spitzer bullets.
Traditional lever-action rifles such as the Winchester Model 1892 and Model 1894 require the use of round-nose or flat-nosed bullets due to the fact that they have tubular magazines. The use of pointed bullets in those rifles could cause the bullet points of cartridges in the magazine to detonate the primers of the cartridges in front of them during recoil, resulting in a damaging and potentially fatal explosion within the magazine tube.
By being able to use pointed bullets, the Savage Model 99 was able to take advantage of newer pointed bullets and more efficient powders, allowing the rifle to be chambered eventually for potent newer (at the time) cartridges such as .300 Savage and .250 Savage. The Model 99 was eventually chambered for potent hunting cartridges such as .243 Winchester, .308 Winchester, and .358 Winchester.
The first Model 99s (actually Model 1899, as it was known until the 1920s) featured a rotary magazine loosely similar to the magazine of the Mannlicher-Schoenauer rifles. Later rifles often featured a detachable box magazine, with the rotary magazine eventually being phased out in the 1980s. Savage eventually ended production of the Model 99 in 1998.
Advantages of the Model 99
1. Ability to Use Spitzer Bullets
By being able to use spitzer bullets the Savage Model 99 was able to be chambered in more effective cartridges that could use those bullets. That allowed owners of the Model 99 to reach out further than hunters using round-nosed cartridges such as the .30-30 Winchester.
2. Easy Scope Mounting
Because the bolt remained in the receiver when cycling and cases were ejected to the side the Model 99, unlike the Winchester 1892 and 1894, was able to easily mount a scope directly over the rifle bore without interfering with ejection. That further allowed shooters to reach out to longer distances than with just iron sights.
3. Relatively Low Cost
Model 99s can still be found, used, for under $500. The .300 Savage may not be the most popular cartridge nowadays, but in performance it’s very similar to the .308 Winchester. Given the Model 99s build quality, buying an older Model 99 could be a bargain.
Disadvantages of the Model 99
1. Parts Availability
With the last Model 99s produced over 20 years ago, spare parts will become less and less available as time goes on. Barrels in particular will be difficult to find.
2. Wide Variety of Models
As befits a rifle of which hundreds of thousands of examples were produced, there were numerous variations and subvariations. If you don’t know what you’re doing you may end up paying more than you intended.