American Rifleman - July 2011 - 58

the .250 & .300 savage cartridges

Newton designed the cartridge
for a 100-gr. bullet with a muzzle
velocity around 2800 f.p.s. But
when Savage gained the rights to
the cartridge, the company saw a
marketing opportunity. Given the
limitations of the available propellants, Savage dropped the bullet
weight to 87 grs. to achieve its goal
of 3000 f.p.s. at the muzzle. Savage
named the cartridge the .250-3000
and marketed its "unprecedented"
muzzle velocity.
In an era when the .30-30 Win.,
at around 1,600 f.p.s., was considered to be "high-velocity," the
.250-3000 caused quite a stir. Even
the name was a departure from the
expected. Cartridges were traditionally named for the diameter
of the bullet, which the ".250" part
followed. The second designation
indicated the powder charge or, in
the example of the .30-'06 Sprg.,
the year of introduction. Putting the
muzzle velocity in the name was
unheard of. But so was 3000-f.p.s.
velocity. The marketing proved to
be effective, and the cartridge was
a huge success.
Back then, the high-velocity,
small-caliber concept was cuttingedge and a major change in
cartridge design thinking. The
.250-3000 was the tip of the spear
in future cartridge design, since
rimless, bottle-necked, sharpshoulder, high-velocity rifle cartridges have dominated ever since.
As Whelen wrote in that 1915
article, "The bullet is the most
modern that has ever been manufactured in the United States," adding, "It's the prettiest looking little
gold bullet you ever saw." He also
noted, "The shell is primed with a
No. 8 primer made by the United
States Cartridge Co. This is a
nonmercurial primer, and does not
contain glass." (Two concerns that
are not usually noted with today's
primers.)
After praising the primer
extensively he noted, "The powder charge is 32 grains of DuPont
Military Rifle Powder No. 21. This
is a nitro-cellulose powder, simply

56 J

uly

2011

www.americanrifleman.org

a finer cut of the well-known 1909
Military powder which has been
used for so many years with excellent success in the Springfield."
Whelen further reported that the
chamber pressure was 50,000 p.s.i.
He tested the cartridge in a
Model 99 rifle with a Lyman peep
sight, firing 10 groups of 10 shots
each at 100 yds. The smallest was
1.40" and the largest 4.12". The
average was 2.96". As Whelen
noted, "There are very few other
rifles on the market which will
equal the accuracy shown by this
little Savage." His results are outstanding even by today's standards.
Whelen was the dean of gun
writers in that era, but he was
hardly alone in his praise of this
cutting-edge new cartridge. The
sporting literature for decades
was filled with articles about the
.250-3000 cartridge. Most writers,
however, thought that the 87-gr.
bullet was fragile when used on
big game. Perhaps the greatest
proponent of light bullets and high
velocity, Jack O'Connor, had this
to say: "The original 87-gr. bullet
was a soft-point spitzer with a thin
jacket. It killed coyotes and small
deer like dynamite, but when big
bones were struck on large animals, even mule deer, it often blew
up and did not penetrate."

John Taylor in African Rifles and
Cartridges mentions a group of
African hunters who used smallerbore rifles. "These men had principally used rifles in the .240-bore
and one of them had a .250 Savage.
He did not seem quite as satisfied as the others, and I gather he
would have preferred a heavier
bullet than the 87-gr. slug he had
been using."
The marketing strategy was
brilliant, but the light bullet was
not making a lot of friends. This,
of course, was what Newton had
been saying all along. He was
never happy with the lighter bullets and insisted that a 100-gr. bullet would make the .250 Savage a
much better big-game cartridge.
Newton said, "I designed the
.250 with a 100-grain bullet. Over
my hearty objections they cut this
bullet down to 87 grains. They
achieved the 3,000 f.p.s. velocity
figure by doing this but they greatly
handicapped the possibilities of
this excellent little cartridge."
Newton lobbied hard for a
100-gr. load, but never lived to
see it. Just a few months after his
death on March 9, 1932, the Peters
Cartridge Co. announced a 100-gr.
load with a muzzle velocity of 2850
f.p.s. Today only two companies
continue to load ammunition for

There are four .300 Savage factory loads today,
but performance can be upgraded by handloaders with the use of modern propellants
and bullets, such as the Barnes TTSX (r.).


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American Rifleman - July 2011

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of American Rifleman - July 2011

American Rifleman - July 2011 - 1
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