A rifle that hit the market the same year the Wright Brothers first took to the air, the Savage Model 1903 had a lot going for it and is highly collectible today. 

Savage – which in the 1900s was best known for its Model 99 lever-action centerfire rifle – also marketed a line of economical rimfire guns such as the single-shot Junior (Model 1904) and Target (Model 1905), little .22 caliber takedown guns that sold for about $6. A more upscale offering to those round-barrel .22s was the Model 1903. 

Rather than a basic bolt-action or a lever gun, the 1903 used a pump-action system, something that was still pretty novel at the time. As such, it was an answer to the Colt Lightning and Winchester Model 1890, pump-action takedown carbines that had been introduced just a decade prior. However, one-upping Colt and Winchester, which both utilized underbarrel tube-style magazines, Savage's new gun had a detachable 7-shot box magazine. 

Savage touted the loading system in a period advertisement as "An exclusive feature," saying several loaded magazines could be carried in a pocket and "instantly" loaded when needed. "This insures rapidity of fire and gives accuracy unattainable with other 22 calibre repeating rifles." Extra magazines could be had at the time for a quarter and today they are still made by Triple K.
 

Able to use either .22 Short, Long, or Long Rifle ammo, the standard Savage Model 1903 had a 24-inch octagon barrel and a "half-pistol" knob grip walnut stock with a crescent-shaped butt. The 11-groove wooden forend is also typical. 
Takedown rimfire rifles and carbines were especially appealing in the 1900s as they made for easy transport on bicycles, which were much more widespread than automobiles, and for easy storage in traveling shooting gallery operations. (Photo: April Robinson/Guns.com)
The vintage 1903 in the Guns.com Vault has a good bit of honest wear but is complete and quickly disassembles into its three basic takedown components. (Photo: April Robinson/Guns.com)
Note the two-position safety at the top rear of the receiver. The magazine release is at the top of the trigger guard, under the takedown screw. 


Savage at the time was based in Utica, New York, and Model 1903s are marked as such. The company also made upgraded versions of the rifle complete with fancy engraving on the receiver with animal scenes, micrometer rear sights, and English walnut furniture. There are also 16-inch carbines and .22S-only guns floating around as well. For gallery guns after 1907, Savage offered a mechanical round counter that could be installed under the pump to keep track of how many times it had been cycled.   

The Savage Model 1903 had a retail price of $12 when introduced – and could be shipped by mail directly to your door at the time – which made it twice as much as the company's other .22 rifles, but it still sold well enough to remain in production for two decades. So popular, in fact, that none other than aviation pioneer Charles Lindbergh owned one, which is preserved today in a Minnesota museum. 

However, you can pick up one for your own in-house museum today, as we have an example up for grabs in the Guns.com Vault.

Love cool old guns like the Savage 1903? Be sure to check out our carefully curated Military Classics and Collector's Corner sections where history is just a click away.

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