A Different .303

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Reese Williams
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A Different .303

Post by Reese Williams » Tue May 31, 2022 7:18 pm

When Canada joined the war in August 1914 there was a movement to raise home guard units from overage or otherwise ineligible men to guard bridges and public buildings and other infrastructure. One such unit was the Montreal Home Guard (MHG). Apparently comprised mostly of members of the Montreal Polo Club the MHG was functional by late fall 1914. There was little enthusiasm or support from the Canadian military for the home guard units. The Ross Rifle Co. was fully engaged in production for the Canadian military so American manufacturers were approached to provide weapons. Because of the low number (originally 2500) of rifles required only Savage made a favorable response. Since his early rifles in 1895 Arthur Savage had sought military contracts for his lever action repeaters. The rotary magazine of the Savage model 1895 and 1899 rifles did away with the under-barrel tubular magazine, the normal reason for the military to reject lever action guns. However, the world was turning to bolt action rifles and Savage was never successful in placing any military contracts. Savage was able to provide the musket configuration of its Model 1899 quickly. Originally the MHG wanted the rifle in .303 British. Talks with Savage soon revealed that the new chambering would delay delivery longer than the MHG was willing to wait so it was agreed that the rifles would be chambered in .303 Savage. Savage designated the rifle as the Model 1899D. The Quebec Savings and Trust bank served as the purchasing agent for MHG and letters of provenance from Savage will show QS&T as the receiver. The first batch of rifles was delivered in early December 1914, a second in late December and a third in January 1915. The MHG supplied Savage with a range of numbers which were stamped on the tang of the butt stock at the factory. It is assumed that the numbers started at 1. The highest observed is 1015, but it is suspected that only about 800 1899Ds were made. Initially the MHG wanted a standardized rifle for the unit but members were allowed to supply their own rifle if they wished. This accounts for the discrepancy between numbers produced and rack numbers observed. Savage also produced a bayonet for the 1899D. The blade resembles the US 1892 Krag bayonet but with an aluminum cross-guard and pommel. The release is in the curve of the bird’s beak of the pommel rather than a push button like most bayonets. The ricasso is stamped with the Savage logo of an Indian holding a rifle. There was also a leather sheath, similar to the Ross bayonet sheath. Extremely rare, the bayonets often fetch 2/3 to 3/4 the price of a complete rifle. Post war many 1899s were sporterized for hunting rifles making unaltered examples uncommon. Probably because the MHG members were from the wealthier citizens of Montreal several unaltered rifles in almost as new shape have turned up. Then there are those that were not as well cared for. The one that has come to me is definitely in the latter category. Originally finished with a medium to light wood stock and a lustrous blue, mine is noticeably darker with most of the blue gone to grey. It does, however, retain its original sling. The bore is dark but still has strong rifling. It is so new to me I haven’t yet started cleaning so I still have hope for improvement in the bore. The .303 Savage is essentially a .30-30 +P. Developed in 1894 as a smokeless cartridge it has slightly better ballistics than the .30-30, pushing a 190 grain round nose bullet at around 2100 fps. It was a popular hunting cartridge for all North American game through the 1930s. The 1899 could certainly have handled the .303 British chambering as it was latter offered in .308 Winchester and .358 Winchester. It’s an interesting topic for a game of what if.
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26” Barrel, 45.5” Overall and right at 9 pounds empty. Very close in all respects to a No.1 MkIII
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Front band with bayonet lug. Barrels were slightly stepped for bayonet muzzle ring.
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Rear sight graduated to 1300 yards
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A protruding pin on the upper rear of receiver serves as a visual and tactile loaded chamber indicator.
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A feature of all Model 1899s and 99s until 1985, numbers 0-5 indicate the number of rounds in the
magazine through a window in the left side of the receiver.
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The safety is a slide that locks both the trigger and the lever.
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The MHG supplied rack number.
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303 Savage and 303 British.
I hope you have enjoyed this look at a different WWI 303.
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Niner
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Re: A Different .303

Post by Niner » Tue May 31, 2022 8:22 pm

Thanks for the post Reese. Interesting and pretty rare weapon. Perhaps with less than a thousand ever made you might not want to ever shoot it. From the rolling your own catalog of obsolete cartridges it would take some skill to make some ammo anyway.....and needing some not, I imagine, particularly abundant shell case .220 Swift.
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Reese Williams
Regular visitor
Posts: 73
Joined: Tue Mar 14, 2006 1:05 pm

Re: A Different .303

Post by Reese Williams » Wed Jun 01, 2022 7:50 am

Actually Prvi Partizan is making 303 Savage brass for about $.90 a piece. I've got brass and dies and another 1899 in 303 Savage. It will get shot, maybe only one range trip and definitely with mild loads and cast bullets. It's a requirement that all the guns in the safe are functional and have been to the range at least once. Some never go again, but that's ok.
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Niner
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Re: A Different .303

Post by Niner » Wed Jun 01, 2022 11:31 am

That's good that there is a source for the makings of ammo. The urge to shoot every firearm in the collection is certainly compelling. The only collectibles I haven't fired are duplicates of ones I already had at the time I got them......and an Arisaka rifle that was so beat up when I got it that I couldn't ever get up the motivation to buy any ammo for it.
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