Sunday, October 17, 2021

Sunday, Savage Sunday #3...

Sales of Savage's little Model 1907 pocket pistols had gotten off to a good start. They looked modern, had good advertising, and the ten-shot magazine gave them a leg up in the marketplace versus their competition. Nevertheless, despite a couple years where they actually outsold the Colt Pocket Hammerless, the salad days didn't last.

Sales fell off in 1912 and so management in Utica began groping for something to spice up the lineup relative to the competition from Hartford.

Pistols in this size class were usually carried in a coat pocket or vest pocket, and Colt made a lot of hay over the smooth "hammerless" profile of their 1903 and 1908 pocket models. Now, the Colt pistols actually had hammers, albeit internal ones, and the Savage pistols did not have hammers, but the external cocking lever for the internal striker made it look like they did...

Enter the Savage Model 1915, which was introduced first in .380 caliber in February of 1915, with a .32ACP version (like the one pictured) shipping in April of that same year.

The "hammerless" profile of the Colt was easiest to duplicate. All Savage had to do was remove the spur from the cocking lever on the striker and blank off the now-nonfunctional slot with a strip of sheet metal.

The 1915 sought to emulate some other Colt features, however. Among them was a grip safety, which took a couple tries to adapt to the basic mechanism of the original Savage 1907. The final design was by William Swartz and used pressure on the existing trigger-locking bar to prevent the trigger from moving unless the grip safety was fully depressed by a proper firing grip.

The 1915 retained the spring-steel loaded chamber indicator that had been introduced in 1913. Along with this, it introduced a last shot hold-open feature. A tab was added to the magazine follower that actuated an internal lever when the last round had been fired. An external tab was provided that could be pressed upward by the trigger finger to send the slide back into battery.

Despite all these changes, which added to the cost of the pistol, Savage kept the retail price of the 1915 the same as its 1907 predecessor. The sent profitability through the floor. Further, both the loaded chamber indicator and the last round hold-open feature quickly gained reputations for fragility.

Savage charged $15 for the .32 caliber versions and $16 for the .380s, but after selling a few thousand of each in the first year of production, sales plummeted. Compounding the problem was Savage being subsumed into the Driggs-Seabury Ordnance Company in 1915, and foreign contracts for Lewis guns were a lot more exciting for bean counters than trying to push a new civilian pistol design.

By the beginning of 1917 production of the Savage Model 1915 pistol, a weapon optimized for concealed carry by American citizens, had been entirely displaced at Savage by contracts for pistols and machine guns for European armies.

With roughly 6,500 manufactured in .32ACP and only 3,900 in .380 Auto, the Model 1915 is among the rarer commercial Savage auto pistols.

Savage for Victory!

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