The .300 Savage

By Chuck Hawks

If you are a fan of short action, big game rifle cartridges, this is where it all began. The .300 Savage was introduced in 1921 and it quickly became one of the classic deer rifle cartridges. It was designed to out perform the .30-30 Winchester and approximate .30-06 ballistics (of the time) in a cartridge short enough to operate in the Savage Model 99 lever action rifle. Because the Savage 99 rifle used a spool magazine, the .300 could be loaded with pointed bullets, a considerable advantage compared to the .30-30, which has to be loaded with flat-nose bullets because of the tubular magazines used in Winchester and Marlin lever action rifles.

Factory loads for the .300 Savage used to give a 150 grain spitzer bullet a muzzle velocity (MV) of 2,670 fps, not very far from the 2,700 fps of the original 150 grain military load which made the .30-06 famous. The .300 Savage became an immediate success and many rifles have been chambered for it, including bolt action models from Winchester and Remington. The 2003 version of Remington's Model 700 Classic is chambered for the .300 Savage.

The .300 Savage is built on a short bottleneck case with a standard .473" rim diameter, a sharp 30 degree shoulder, minimal body taper, and a 1.871" length. The overall cartridge is 2.6" in maximum length. It takes standard .308" diameter bullets.

In the early 1950's the .300 Savage became the starting point for the development of the T65 experimental cartridge, which resulted in the .308 Winchester/7.62mm NATO service cartridge. That same .308 is the sporting cartridge which has largely killed off the .300 Savage in new rifles, since any rifle that can be chambered for the .300 Savage could also be chambered for the .308 Winchester, which is available world-wide and offers slightly better performance. Nevertheless, the .300 Savage is still a fine cartridge for game up to about 500 pounds live weight and there are a great many rifles in the caliber still floating around.

The SAAMI maximum average pressure for the .300 Savage is 46,000 cup. The fact that the .308 is allowed to operate at 52,000 cup helps to explain its superiority. Load a .308 to 46,000 cup and its ballistics drop to .300 Savage levels.

The .300 Savage is probably at its best with bullets of 150, 165, and 180 grains weight. Actually, the 150 grain spitzer bullet is still probably the best choice for deer and general purpose hunting with a .300 Savage rifle. Save the 165 and 180 grain bullets for heavier game like caribou and elk.

Factory loads are offered in 150 and 180 grain bullet weights. As currently factory loaded the 150 grain spitzer bullet starts at 2,630 fps with 2,303 ft. lbs. of energy. At 200 yards the velocity is 2,095 fps and the energy is 1,462 ft. lbs.

The 180 grain spitzer bullet starts at 2,350 fps with 2,205 ft. lbs. of energy. At 200 yards the velocity is 1,940 fps and the energy is 1,495 ft. lbs.

The 150 grain load will jolt you with about 14.8 ft. lbs. of recoil energy in a 7.5 pound rifle. In the same weight rifle the 180 grain load delivers about 15.2 ft. lbs. of recoil energy. This is enough to be noticeable, but most shooters will not find it as punishing as cartridges in the .270/.30-06 class.

Zero the 150 grain bullet to strike 2.8 inches high at 100 yards and it will be about 3 inches high at 125 yards, 1.2 inches high at 200 yards, and 3" inches low at 259 yards. This makes the .300 Savage a 260+ yard deer cartridge. With the 180 grain bullet zeroed at 200 yards the .300 Savage is a satisfactory elk cartridge, and the bullet rise at 100 yards is about 3.2 inches.

Reloads can equal, but not significantly surpass, the factory offerings if they are kept within the SAAMI limit. The reloader has many more bullets to choose from, however, from approximately 100 grains to 200 grains.

The 26th edition of the Hodgdon Data Manual shows that with a 150 grain bullet 36.0 grains of H335 powder will give a MV of 2303 fps, and 39.0 grains of H335 will give a MV of 2545 fps. Behind a 180 grain bullet 34.0 grains of H4895 will give a MV of 2081 fps, and 37.0 grains of H4895 will give a MV of 2130 fps.

These ballistics add up to a terrific hunting cartridge. The .300 Savage is also covered in my articles Ideal Deer Cartridges and All-Around Rifle Cartridges.

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Copyright 2001, 2016 by Chuck Hawks. All rights reserved.