Savage Pistol History

Savage Pistols History

The Savage Arms Company’s automatic pistol design concept came from the Philadelphia drawing board of Elbert Hamilton Searle who had been working for several years to develop a self-loading handgun in the early years of the twentieth century. At the start of the twentieth century Colt was the only U.S. manufacturer working with semiautomatic designs.

Colt Army revolvers remained the standard military sidearm, though the .38 caliber version then in vogue was deemed to have inadequate stopping power—a lesson learned the hard way during violent conflict with Filipino guerrillas. The military wanted a new .45 caliber sidearm.

Searle and William Condit starting working to satisfy this need in 1903. Savage embraced a Searle pistol design with Searle’s first patent application made in late 1903. On October 1, 1904, he filed an application for a pistol that was dramatically different than any other being manufactured at that time, pistol design No. 804,985. Externally, this gun exhibited some of what became recognizable characteristics of Savage pistols, but it wasn’t that much different from contemporary semi-automatic designs. The most significant feature was a rotating barrel—part of what Searle described somewhat inaccurately as a locked-breech system.

In February 1906, the U.S. Army sent out notice that it wanted .45 caliber automatic pistols for a test. An eight-shot prototype pistol, which featured several improvements over Searle’s original design was completed in time for the January 1907 trials. This design, without a lanyard ring, is what became commercially identified as the Savage Model 1907 pocket pistol when it was manufactured in .32 caliber.

The pistol from the this upstart arms manufacturer was facing some heady competition from Colt and others. The Army decided that only the Colt and the Savage entries warranted further testing. Despite a glowing report, the Army wanted some changes made to the pistol before testing it again, including eliminating the metal grips in favor of wood, moving the front sight back, relocating the cartridge ejector port, and adding a grip safety. The biggest problem was that the Savage Automatic Pistol experienced too much recoil, a fact that ultimately tipped the scales in favor of Colt.