18. June 2021
Savage 1899 Story
As a boy my dad taught me how to shoot. He taught me gun safety and started me off on a lifelong passion for shooting sports and really anything having to do with precision marksmanship, darts, archery, pistol, rifle, shotgun. My dad competed in rifle marksmanship for UC Berkeley in college and later while serving in the Army with a .45 caliber 1911.
I traveled to New Zealand my senior year of high school and lived with an amazing family, John and Stella Woodrow. My host father, John, was a gunsmith. I learned a ton at his side. Mostly, I learned that I was not patient. He taught me that you cannot rush good work. Much of what he taught me did not sink in until years later.
After returning home from New Zealand one of my first tasks was to complete a Colt 1911 .45 that my dad had the parts for. I competed with it in college and afterwards in IPSC handgun tournaments. I shot small bore rifle in college for UC Davis, against UC Berkeley, wearing my dad’s UC Berkeley shooting jacket. I took first in kneeling and prone that day, second overall by 2 points. When I doffed the jacket, the UC Berkeley Range Master had me find my dad’s team on the wall of annual team photos. It wasn’t hard, I just looked for me…looking back at me.
Back in 1994 I started restoring a Savage Model 1899 chambered in 303 Savage that may dad gave me. As I posted earlier, I discovered my father’s initials underneath the butt plate. I don’t know all of the details of how he got the rifle or how the firing pin broke, but as I’ve researched the rifle, I have learned that it was wildly popular for deer hunting and exceptionally accurate. Sadly, the cartridge it no longer made. Back in ’94 it was rusted, so I carded off the rust and coated it in oil to preserve it. I didn’t have the money or the equipment to properly restore the finish at the time, so I disassembled it, soaked it in oil and kept it safe.
One of the things my host father taught me how to condition metal and how to prepare a gun for the bluing process. Technology and chemistry have come a long way. The internet has helped to bring “like minded” folks together that are interested in conserving these beautiful antiques. I found great instruction from Mark Novak and the right chemistry in Rust Blue. The tools and techniques are attainable for mere mortals.
In the process of pulling together the secondhand heater and vaporizer that are necessary to ensure a controlled rusting environment, I found it impossible to purchase a ceramic heater in May in Texas. “You want a HEATER…it’s almost JUNE!” During my quest, I drove past a homeless guy with a sign asking, not for money, but for socks. As I drove to the last stop, I spotted Goodwill and decided that if its May, maybe folks are giving their heaters away. As I walked through the front door, I beheld a HUGE display of socks. I turned my eyes skyward and said, “If I find a heater and a vaporizer here, I am going to buy that guy some socks.” 20 minutes later I returned to the corner and handed him a bag of new socks and headed home with my “new-to-me” ceramic heater and vaporizer.
I spent the three-day weekend degreasing, dressing, warming, steaming, and carding the metal. Lather, rinse, repeat. Until I beheld the beautiful rich blue that can only be realized through patience and care. This is my refinished and restored Savage Model 1899. I dressed it up with some custom leather of my own making. A tribute to both my dad, Richard, and my host father, John.
Happy Father’s Day.
If you are interested in the restoration process I’ll post that soon…