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303 Savage

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Developed by Savage in 1894, the 303 Savage was introduced in the Savage 1895 after the combination unsuccessfully competed in Military trials as an option for adoption by the U. S. Military as a new universal battle-rifle.

It is no accident it is named the 303. Contrary to what many have claimed, it is indeed a true 303; it uses bullets of about 0.312-inch diameter. (I have pulled many bullets from early ammunition and measured those, rather than just repeating the nonsense I read on the subject; without exception those are 0.311- to 0.312-inch in diameter.)

The original load launched a 200-grain round-nose bullet at 2000 fps, putting it very close to the performance of the, circa 1895,303 British Military-load — 215-grain round nose bullet at about 2100 fps. To achieve such performance from the smaller case than was used for the 303 British, Savage used a long barrel and loaded the ammunition to relatively high pressure.

While those testing the Model 1895 Savage liked it, they perceived issues with the stocking system and potential durability of the more complicated action design.

Applied to the civilian hunting-rifle market, the 303, first in the M-1895 Savage and then in the M-99 (an improved version of the 1895), offered vastly more performance than the 30-30. Compared to the original 30-30 load, the 303 Savage launched a bullet that was 35-grains heavier more than 300-fps faster, and thereby generated 25% more energy.

Savage shot itself in both feet when it failed to update loads for the 303 by offering a high-velocity 150-grain load. Even in that era of limited propellant performance, it could easily have standardized a 150-grain Spitzer at 2400 fps. Such a load would have put Savage’s 303 in an entirely different performance class.

Handloaders today can easily resolve this issue. It is no trick to launch 150-grain Spitzer bullets from a 22-inch barrel at 2400 fps and stay within the ridiculously low SAAMI pressure specification for the 303 Savage.

For generations, moose hunters all over Canada routinely loaded the 303 Savage with 150-grain Spitzer bullets at 2500 fps, placed the shot well, and collected their moose. They did this without ever hurting a single M-99.

The text associated with the cartridge description reflects opinions and conclusions of the author, M.L. (Mic) McPherson. Lee Precision and its employees do not necessarily either agree or disagree with any of his comments. We present these with due deference to his recognized expertise in the firearms field. His acumen extends to handloading and all aspects of ballistics - internal, external, and terminal.
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