The 1890’s was an exciting period for rifle development as smokeless powder was being perfected and it was being taken advantage by the civilian market. The very first few years since being introduced in 1886 by France, the military was the primary benefactor of the new propellant. It produced higher velocities which enabled the users to make smaller rounds with more range. That would enable a soldier to carry more ammo. As a note the 303 Savage is frequently confused with the larger 303 British. I have seen it on several occasions. While the Savage round will fit the larger 303 British gun it isn’t a good idea to shoot it that way.
One of the earlier rounds was the 303 Savage which was considered for the military but not adopted by them as they chose the 30-40 Krag. Anyway the Savage Arms Company saw that Winchester was making and selling 30-30 rifles like hotcakes. They knew a good thing when they saw it so they came out with the model 99 lever action rifles and one of the more popular chamberings was the 303. The model 99 rifle is a very well made and strong rifle that was somewhat ahead of it’s time. It has some advantages over the model 94 Winchester including the ability to use spitzer bullets. Competition, then, as now was stiff among the various gun makers and the Savage offering was definitely as good as anything out there. There have been several million 99’s made, in many calibers, so they must have done something right. The 303 Savage is a great deer and black bear round for hunting in the woods. It has been used for several generations as a moderate range hunting rifle.
The round resembles the 30-30 but is shorter and a bit larger in diameter. In power it is a virtual twin to the more successful Winchester offering though it was popular for awhile. It was produced from 1895 through the start of WWII. After the war ended Savage no longer chambered rifles for it and no other maker ever made a rifle in the 303 chambering. Another cartridge that suffered the same fate was the 30 Remington, another good hunting round, but that’s another story.
The model 99 is still available in many calibers, some quite modern, and if you look around a bit the 303 can still be found. If you have one then you will either have to hand-load your ammo or have someone do it as factory ammo is no longer made. Occasionally you might find a factory box of ammo but don’t count on it. The major problem with ammo is the cases. Norma sometimes has them but most of the time they have to be formed from another cases. The only two that make sense is the 30-40 Krag or the 303 British. Once cases are obtained then ammo can be made without a problem. You can use 30-30 bullets and loading data with good results. If you want to hunt with this relic it is good for deer hunting at moderate ranges.