Sunday, March 10, 2013

Condition Is Everything Part III

A Tale of Two Savage 1907s:

I've always had a little bit of a weak spot for these things for a number of reasons: Their Buck Rogers Art Deco raygun looks, the funky lockwork (that thing that looks like a hammer spur is just a cocking indicator connected to the internal striker), and the double-stack .32ACP magazine. Add an interesting ad campaign that targeted novice shooters and women and the fact that in some alternate Harry Turtledove-esque universe a larger version of this gun in .45ACP became the standard US service sidearm, and you've got a pistol with a lot of neat history behind it.

They'd be a fertile field for collecting on a budget, too. There are three main variants (1907, 1915, and 1917) and, when you count the sub-variants and both .32 and .380 caliber versions, you're looking at something like 26 distinct versions, most of which are extremely reasonably-priced compared to their contemporaries with the prancing ponies on them.

I acquired the bottom Savage first, in January of last year at the Indy 1500, and I paid too much for it by half. It's all there, and mechanically functional, but the exterior is a dull gray patina with evidence of old pitting and the bore matches. The right side grip panel is cracked and epoxied, and the grips are worn like the buffalo nickels their logos recall.

This is what is known in Bailey Brower's book as a "1907-10 Modification No. 2", being the second design change made in 1910, adding the stamped words "SAFE" and "FIRE" on the frame. The most common variant, this example's serial number dates it to 1911, and in the shape it's in, it's worth not too much (if anything) over a hundred bucks. It's what a collector would refer to as a "representative example"; filling a hole in a collection until a better specimen could be acquired.

The top pistol would be that better specimen, purchased about a month later at the show at the Indianapolis National Guard Armory for the same price as the bottom one, except it was a steal this time 'round.

By 1913, the magazine release lever in the frontstrap had been changed so that it was tripped by the pinkie instead of the ring finger, and a loaded chamber indicator had been added. The latter consisted of a flat spring clipped to the barrel visible through the ejection port, which has been beveled at the rear to allow the trigger finger access, allowing one to check loaded status in the dark. The "1907-13 Modification No. 2" added a few internal changes, but was notable externally by the addition of the billboard-sized "SAVAGE" logo on the right side of the frame, above the grip panel.

This pistol is in really quite good shape for a gun that is now 99 years old. The bore and breechface show little evidence of use. The fragile loaded chamber indicator is neither broken nor bent. The grip panels are crisp enough that close examination will reveal the word "TRADE MARK" on the band of the Indian Chief's war bonnet, and the trigger still retains good case coloring. The bluing is worn in spots, but I'd call this an honest 95%+ gun, probably $300 or more, depending on the market.


Joel said...

I believe that's "Turtledovean."

Michael in CT said...

I picked up a 1907 that someone had had nickled,for a really low price. It's a neat looking gun, but I've not found mine to be 100% reliable or especially easy to shoot compared to the Colt 1903 Pocket Hammerless in 32 ACP.

Jason said...

I always thought it was great that these little guns don't have grip panel screws due to the fact that a Mr. Browning had a patent on that!

Tam said...



Neither do the Remington 51s shown in the post below. Those things on the Remington grips are rivets which hold a doohickey that slides up into dovetail cuts in the frame...

Chuck Pergiel said...

A loaded chamber indicator! What a good idea. Ideally you should know whether your gun is loaded or not, but like Dirty Harry it can be easy to lose track. Glad to hear you are on the mend.

Tam said...


Back then, autos were still a pretty new thing, so a lot of early USian self-loaders had LCIs or magazine safeties added within a few years of coming to market.

Unknown said...

I have a question for owners of these. Do you find the slide difficult to operate? Mine runs smoothly without the rebound spring but is very hard to "rack". I often have FTE's. All of which make me wonder if my recoil spring is too tight.

All in all my 1907 is my least reliable .32. I'd like to improve that.

Tam said...


"Do you find the slide difficult to operate? Mine runs smoothly without the rebound spring but is very hard to "rack"."

Running the slide with the gun un-cocked is something of a bear, but with the gun cocked it's pretty easy. Does cocking the little "not-really-a-hammer-spur" first make your slide any easier to work?