Savage .25ACP Automatic Pistol

Savage made more than a quarter-million pocket pistols in .32 and .380 caliber, but never commercially marketed a .25ACP design. They did design such a “baby” pistol, though, beginning in about 1912. Despite a significant tooling investment, only 40 were ever made (perhaps because they could not be made cost-competitive with other competing guns). The 40 that were made were in two distinct groups. The first 20 (which all have “M” suffix serial numbers starting at 1000) has wide slide serrations typical of standard early Savages. The second 20 have the narrow serration that were used on late Savages (and these second 20 also lack any slide legend markings).

32 Comments

  1. Thanks Ian.
    Good presentation.
    Perhaps it is obvious but why was this pistol developed; who was the target market?
    In other words who was buying and using it?
    Was this a law enforcement concealed carry, a ladies purse pistol, and military (WWI) concealed carry?
    Thanks again for a great informational presentation.
    Pat

    • “Perhaps it is obvious but why was this pistol developed; who was the target market?
      In other words who was buying and using it?”
      In Europe before WW1 and during interbellum huge uncountable plethora of .25 Auto (or 6,35mm Browning as it was known in metric), to give one example: first automatic pistol of now well-known (at least in Germany) firm WALTHER was .25 automatic pistol: WALTHER MODELL 1
      H&R also tried to introduce .25 automatic pistol (Webley & Scott license) to US market, but it also failed to get popularity
      http://cosmolineandrust.blogspot.com/2015/01/harrington-richardson-25-self-loading.html
      My hypothesis are:
      1) consumers in US market in 1910s prefer revolvers over automatic pistols in VEST POCKET category
      2) as Colt Model 1908 Vest Pocket was introduced earlier, whoever want vest pocket automatic pocket might just bought it or in other words – Savage .25 was handicapped by fact it was introduced later

  2. Savage made a good design. I don’t see why they didn’t try to market it in this caliber. Think it would have sold well.

  3. I suspect that the main reason they didn’t go to market with it was the Colt .25 ACP pistol, and the FN Browning “Baby” which the Colt was essentially a “clone” of. Between them, the Colt and FN .25s pretty much dominated the American market for deep-concealment and “ladies’ pistols”.

    At the time, the .25 auto was considered an ideal weapon for women because it could be easily used by people with smaller hands, and didn’t kick like the heavier calibers.

    (My mother, born 1913, was never too impressed with the theory; she preferred a .38 or 9mm automatic or a .45 revolver, and defined anything below .380 as “iffy” in the stopping department. Her all-time favorites were the Walther P.38 9mm and Glock 20 10mm.)

    As such, the .25s were mainly aimed at women buyers here, as opposed to Europe where they were sold mainly as defensive arms for the middle-class “man of business”. A market that was dominated here by Colt and S&W .38 “snubnose” revolvers, and Colt .380 and .32 autos, plus Iver Johnson and H&R top-break .38s and .32s.

    Savage had trouble selling their bigger .32 and .380 autos due to Colt and S&W’s dominance of the personal-protection handgun market domestically. So they probably concluded that they couldn’t make enough of the .25s, or make them cheaply enough to sell for a competitive price, to compete with the already-entrenched Colt and FN .25 models. Besides, by that time they had pretty much decided to concentrate on their rifle and shotgun lines, so even the .32 and .380 autos were seen as a sort of sideline, rather like Remington with the Model 51.

    In short, the .25 just didn’t fit their “target market”.

    It’s sort of a shame really, as it is quite a nice-looking piece of engineering. As for its caliber, I’ve never carried a .25, period, but then I’ve never seen anybody volunteer to be shot with one, either. Least of all myself.

    cheers

    eon

    • Even tiny .25 ACP pistols can deal some nasty damage at the intended range, which is where the user likely screams “GET YOUR MITTS OFF ME” while shoving the gun into the target’s midsection and pulls the trigger. I don’t suppose anybody is dumb enough to let this happen, but at least .25 ACP is better than 2mm Kolibri.

      Given a choice, how do you react to a sudden stick up while armed solely with a “suitcase” full of compact handguns? Would you open the case and get one sample to use or just smash the muggers with the case?

      1. Beretta Jaguar
      2. NKVD Korovin pistol
      3. Baikal Margo or IJ-77 tear-gas pistol
      4. Type 94 Nambu (you may throw this at the muggers if you prefer)
      5. Stechkin OTs-38
      6. Langenhan Model 3
      7. DoubleTap clip-loaded derringer
      8. Screw this! Get out a tanto or balisong!

      Well, I’m out of ideas, but of course this is totally voluntary… Try not to use foul language in criticizing this post.

      Thank you,

      Cherndog

      • At sweat-and-bad-breath range, the last thing I’d reach for would be a gun.A wrestling match over a loaded and cocked firearm is emphatically not funny.

        Back in the day, my “backups” for such a scrum were;

        1. A “spring cosh” aka “blackjack”, inherited from my father;

        2. A Ka-Bar brand lockback “folding hunter” with a 4″ blade, and an action slick enough that I could open it one-handed by hooking my thumbnail in the nail nick, shoving it about a fourth of the way up, and then just snapping my wrist;

        3. And a Sykes-Fairbairn fighting knife, original British army issue, cast-brass hilt, blued-steel blade, made by Wilkinson at Sheffield in ’42, complete to the faint remains of the effaced broad-arrow mark on the pommel cap. (I bought it at a surplus store for $4.50 when I was in high school.)

        The cosh was in my jacket pocket, the folder in my opposite-side front pocket, and the Sykes was usually down my boot, or on the back of my belt horizontally in hot weather. It hid neatly under a light windbreaker, or my T-shirt tail.

        Generally, a hardcase who will try to take a gun away from you by bulldogging you will think twice facing seven inches of cold steel. And a knife-packing punk who thinks he’s cool when he outs with a cheap switchblade suddenly isn’t sneering when you come up with a blade of your own.

        I never had to use any of them (well, I did snip a tripwire on a boobytrap with the Sykes thrown from 20 feet once), but they were a comforting trio of implements “just in case”.

        It’s called “graduated crisis management”. And the main reason I carried those was that there was really no practical way to carry a full-grown Bowie. Which is superior to all of the above as a pure CQB weapon. The only thing better being an actual sword.

        Yes, I still have all three. And a couple of Bowies, too.

        I’m still looking for a good sword.

        cheers

        eon

        • A heavy cavalry saber would seem clumsy but it would easily decapitate or gut a would be hero on the other team in close quarters, matched in toughness by a cutlass. For keeping foes at bay, use a long sword, not a dueling small sword. The gentleman’s small sword is easily snapped over a knee… Or am I wrong?

          • No, you’re not. A smallsword is for dueling with someone else with a smallsword, by the rules, not for actual combat. Ditto epee’, foil, and etc.

            Probably the best all-around swords were the Byzantine spatha (basically a longer version of the Roman legionary’s gladius with a point more like the Greek hoplite sword), or the later “hand-and-a-half” or “bastard” longsword (about the same length as the true two-handed broadsword but lighter, and more capable of being used one-handed if needed).

            Sabers, katanas, and other single-edged swords need a sharpened false edge like a Bowie knife for about the first eight to ten inches aft of the tip to be really effective. In most sword-fighting, it’s the foible (that’s the fourth of the sword nearest the point) that does most of the work in slashing and thrusting, and a foible that’s only sharp on one side robs you of half of your effective cuts.

            (“There are sixteen cuts permissible to the true samurai…”- extra credit if you know the source of that quote, which is in fact historically correct, and accurately reflects some of the tactical shortcomings of the katana, which is the reason there are two swords in the daisho, the katana and wakizashi.)

            Today, people often get confused about “rapiers”. They think of a dueling sword similar to an epee’. In fact, the traditional rapier is a double-edged, straight-bladed thrusting sword about the size of the longsword but with a slimmer, very stiff blade. Its job was to thrust a man wearing half-armor in the face or throat. It was largely responsible for the evolution of the plate gorget attached to the back-and-breast cuirass.

            It was the French who created the “jeune ecole” rapier, ancestor of the foil, with a highly flexible, springy blade that was practically useless for anything except their highly-stylized version of dueling and fencing from the 1500s on. (Just one more example of the silliness that enveloped European nobility, resulting in a lot of grief for everybody.)

            Sabers were an 18th century development, mainly for cavalry. The German heavy schlager and the later Scot “claymore” are basically heavy sabers. The original claymore was a true two-handed “great sword”; the legendary claymore charge by the Highlanders at Killecrankie was done with the later saber type, not the big ones.

            The saber, like horse cavalry itself, abruptly became a museum piece when the breechloading rifle and machine gun arrived. (Although spherical case had a lot to do with it, too- see Balaclava.) After Stonewall Jackson was killed (by one of his own pickets, by accident), it was found that he had never bothered to draw his saber even once, in any engagement; it was literally rusted tight in its scabbard.

            A good, practical sword for serious use should be about forty to forty-four inches overall, about thirty-two to thirty-six inches “in the blade”, straight-bladed with a slight taper along its length, double-edged, with a not-too-slender point (to avoid breakage), diamond cross-section for the length of the foible and with shallow fullers the rest of the way (adding strength without adding weight), full crossguard and a hilt at least eight inches long aft of the guard, including pommel (to allow a “hand-and-a-half” grip). It should weigh no more than three pounds, total. (A broadsword generally went five to six, a “great sword” up to ten. They were more sharpened crowbars, really.)

            That’s what a serious fighting sword looks like. And no, it probably wouldn’t be allowed in modern fencing. With good reason; it’s just a bit too lethal.

            cheers

            eon

          • The Spatha was not Byzantine. It was originally the Roman cavalry sword used by cavalry from the first century onward and developed from a Celtic cavalry sword the Romans were first introduced to during Caesar’s conquest of Gaul (or rather the northern parts of it). Starting from the late second century it started to replace the Gladius as a standard infantry sword as well and by the rule of Diocletian (284 to 305 AD) the gladius was practically no longer in use as a military sword.

            It is often speculated that the Medieval knightly arming sword was developed from the Spatha. The Carolingians (Charlemagne etc.) probably still used something very similar to the late Roman spatha, although evidence from that period is scarce. In any case the arming sword was the standard weapon on Medieval knights from about 1000 to 1300 AD, after which it was replaced by the “hand-and-a-half” long sword.

            Rapier, or “espada ropera” in Spanish, was originally developed as a civilian sword (the name means “dress sword”), first in Spain and later in France. The early ones were able to make fairly effective cuts, but later ones were basically pure thrusting swords. The cutting ability become mostly redundant when it was fully realized that a skilled user could use the rapid point to thrust effectively in practically all combat situations. This required great skill, but was not yet “stylized” purely for dueling. The rapier throughout its life cycle from the late 15th century to the mid-17th remained an effective civilian weapon for all kinds of unarmored combat, but it was then replaced by the more handy and lighter small sword. The small sword was in any case still was a much more practical, less “springy” and somewhat heavier weapon than the late 19th century sporting foils, although sport fencing was partially developed from the small sword dueling styles. There was, however, a clear gap between, so in many ways sport fencing is an invented sport, which doesn’t closely replicate any historical dueling style, let alone the much more practical combat techniques used during the rapier era.

      • If all the pistols in the case were .25 caliber then I would just bash the muggers with the case or use Eon’s knife idea. Ideally, these muggers would be just the suckers to sell all that junk to, If I could just get their attention fast enough on to the idea that I would be up for a decent offer. After all, if the thuggish muggers are going to be armed, lets make sure that they are the least powerful and worst quality that we can get them. If we are lucky, the guns will blow up in their hands

        • Stechkin revolver is chambered for captive-bolt 7.62 silent cartridge and intended for “covert” operations… Korovin was given overcharged version of .25 ACP. Nambu right in the face would be quite lethal at range of less than 30 feet…

          • “Korovin was given overcharged version of .25 ACP.”
            I have to clear something:
            http://historypistols.ru/blog/pistolety-pod-unitarnyj-patron-avtomaticheskie/raznovidnosti-pistoleta-korovina-tk-635-mm/
            the overcharged version of .25 Auto is intended for LATE production pistol (serial № 400 000 or bigger), in above linked article you can see 3 different variants of Korovin automatic pistol:
            Korovin, 1st model: grip panel attached by screw, biggest known serial №: 209 610
            Korovin, 2nd model: grip panel attached TT-33 style, serial (estimated): №210 000 – №380 000
            Korovin, 3rd model: heavier slide for more powerful cartridge, serial numbers over 400 000, see slide comparison photo in link – darker is from 2nd model, enlightening cavities (I hope I use proper term here – see top of slide) were omitted, gripping area has diagonal instead of perpendicular cuts (see photo)

      • If I had to choose from those, I would probably take the Nambu 94, especially if it was manufactured prior to 1943. Six shots of .380 ACP equivalent from a perfectly serviceable handgun would not be that bad.

      • “8. Screw this! Get out a tanto or balisong!”
        My choice: Frommer Baby in 9x17mm Frommer:
        http://hungariae.com/FromBaby.htm
        thanks to usage of long-recoil operation (very rare in VEST POCKET automatic pistol) it can harass hot-loaded .380 Auto in compact package (length overall: 123mm)

  4. The answer for why they didn’t go into full production may be that line on the top of the slide:

    “PAT’S APP’D FOR.” meaning “Patents Applied For”

    I’m going to assume this is another of the Elbert Searle designs, and I don’t see a patent that covers the features on this pistol. If anyone can find one, please post a link!

    If the features of this gun couldn’t be patented then anyone could make a cheap knock-off and it wouldn’t have made economic sense for Savage to produce the firearm in quantity.

    As to takedown, guessing probably isn’t too wise with a firearm this valuable. But, this may have a feature from one of the Elbert Searle patents:

    http://www.google.com.ar/patents/US804984

    I noticed that the front of the trigger extends quite a ways forward of what I assume is the trigger pivot pin. If you were to hold the slide back you might be able to press the front of the trigger towards the top of the pistol and that may release a slide lock and allow the slide to be drawn off the front of the pistol. Be sure to release the striker from the sear, (dry fire the gun), before attempting this.

    This does not account for that mysterious lever on the right hand side of the pistol. Not sure what that does. It may hold the striker assembly in the gun, and that may need to be removed before or after the slide is removed. Again, not sure I’d mess around with a firearm this rare. ^__^;;;

  5. I have owned many firearms over the years, but I have never owned a .25 pistol and never will for any reason. Simply looking at the ballistics data on the round shows that the standard load has less penetrating ability than a .22 short and barely enough energy to penetrate human skin layers, let a lone bone and heavy muscle tissues. Perhaps at point blank range, it might be effective for placing a few rounds in the perps guts, but I have read far too many instances where someone emptied a .25 into someone who proceeded to beat them to death for their trouble and the aggravation that they caused. If I absolutely had to use a pistol smaller than a .380 acp, then I would go with a .32 or .22 long rifle cartridge for the penetration, not something that can be stopped by a very heavy coat.

    • “Simply looking at the ballistics data on the round shows that the standard load has less penetrating ability than a .22 short”
      STOP
      You overlooked one important thing, .22 Short default bullet is LRN when .25 Auto is FMJ which can NOT be ignored when considering penetration.
      .25 Auto penetration data (from Korovin TK automatic pistol instruction):
      I)
      DISTANCE: 25 meters
      TARGET: pine planks, 2,5cm (1″) thick each, 7,5cm (3″) spaces between them
      RESULT: 2 pierced, bullet clogged in 3rd plank
      II)
      DISTANCE: 14 meters
      TARGET: pine planks, 17mm thick each, 7mm spaces between them
      RESULT: 4 pierced, bullet clogged in 5th plank

      • Not to mention the fact that from pocket pistol length barrel (3″ or less) modern .25 Auto has more energy and higher sectional density than even the hottest .22 Short. So, just looking at the ballistic data, .25 Auto is clearly superior to .22 Short as a pocket pistol cartridge. Just look at these results, for example:

        http://www.ballisticsbytheinch.com/calibers.html

        .22 Short results are under .22.

  6. Regarding 25 ACP vs 22LR, if I’m not mistaken people used to compare the two with 25ACP coming out of s short barrel and 22LR coming out of a rifle-length barrel. When barrel lengths were the same the 25 had a slight edge, if I remember correctly. I’d rather not depend on a 22 or a 25 for self defense, but 22LR used to be used by professional hit men.

    • Yes, but they tended to shoot from ambush, and generally used .22 sport-type autos, often with sound suppressors. Not the same thing as a reactive-fire defensive engagement, really.

      The .25’s main advantage over the .22 in an auto is feed reliability. Reportedly, John Browning developed it because he wasn’t satisfied with .22 feeding in anything but a revolver. Power-wise, as you say, there isn’t much to choose between the two.

      Ultra-compact, .25-sized .32 autos have largely rendered the .25s obsolete anyway. Granted, the .32 ACP is no Magnum, but it still has about twice the muzzle-energy of even the hottest .25 ACP loads.

      cheers

      eon

      • Having owned both,a Beretta 950 jet fire in .25auto and a model 21 bobcat in .22lr. I can say from my experience shooting them that the .25auto penetrated hard targets better than the .22lr. Once I was shooting at an old 50’s/60’s era steel refrigerator pan with a 22 rifle. It would only go through one side of the pan and just dent the other side. I repositioned the pan and then shot it with the jet fire. It went through one side of the pan and two 1/4 inch oak boards of the pallet I was using to prop the pan on. I was quite surprised of the results. Another time I shot at a 55gal steel drum with a 22 rifle at about 25 yards. The rifle had no problems punching holes in the barrel. The model 21 in .22lr would only leave dents when fired at the same range. I believe that the jacketed bullets made the difference in penetrating the hard targets. I know that the complaint about the .25auto is that it’s too slow for proper expansion, but it’s also a problem with the .22lr in a short barrel too. Between the two cost of ammunition made the difference for me.

        • With .25 Auto it’s best to stick to FMJ bullets. Even if you get expansion with your fancy expanding bullet, the penetration will be too limited; typically less than 8″ of 10% ballistic gel even without clothing. 50 grain FMJ will happily penetrate more than 10″.

      • “.22 sport-type autos, often with sound suppressors”
        OSS during WW2 also used such guns – namely High-Standard HDM
        http://world.guns.ru/handguns/hg/usa/hi-standard-hdm-silenced-e.html

        “The .25’s main advantage over the .22 in an auto is feed reliability. Reportedly, John Browning developed it because he wasn’t satisfied with .22 feeding in anything but a revolver. Power-wise, as you say, there isn’t much to choose between the two.”
        Also .22 LR is, unsurprisingly, rifle cartridge i.e. with powder charge suitable for long barrel, .25 Auto has more swift powder type, to burn out better in (very) short.
        Also notice that in 1900s there were still many black-powder .22 Long Rifle, firstly black powder can clog automatic pistol with residue, secondly it has other burning characteristic (pressure in barrel vs time chart) than smokeless. Note: .22 rifle self-loading rifles introduced in early 20th century:
        Winchester Model 1903 (.22 Winchester Automatic)
        Remington Model 16 (.22 Remington Automatic)
        fire its own unique cartridges, not .22 LR, probably to prevent user from loading black-powder cartridges.

  7. Jacob:
    Yes, the two are near identical out of a pistol length barrel. The idea behind the .25acp was better feeding and more reliable ignition than the rimfire was known for. Another plus was the stack height was less for the .25, since the brass had virtually no rim to cause tilt in the mag like the .22rf did. This could allow an extra cartridge to fit in comparable sized guns, in some cases.

  8. Since “One piece slide and breecholt” feature had been protected by Browning patent rights, this
    pistol should have had a separate breechblock like its elder brother Model 1906. Its habitat also
    closely follows M06 lines. This might lead another fact that, this pistol would also follow its takedown process, that would be; dismounting the separate breechblock first. Should this being true, the latch at the right side, ought to be the retaining pin for a housing holding the sear and separate breechblock inside and closing its way out to the back. Therefore, should its hollow pointed tip at left side on path of safety lever to be pushed in and withdrawn outside by pulling its latch at right, the housing holding the sear and separate breechblock would be free to go backward by
    pulling the slide to a distance and movable downard out of the slide by giving a push through its square shaped section looking at rear top of the slide. Once the separate breechblock with its carrier housing being taken out, the slide would be dismounted out through the frame over the stationary barrel and should the barrel being not made integral with the frame, it would also be taken out as pulling to the sides or top off the frame as completing the takedown process. Seems sensing.

  9. May be apocryphal but I recall an article in 1960s gun magazine about someone getting mugged & beaten unconscious who awoke with a splitting headache.
    Supposedly when taken to the hospital he was found to have 5 .25 slugs imbedded in his head which failed to penetrate the skull.

    • Unless those were somehow faulty cartridges, I wouldn’t pay much attention to such stories. .25 Auto 50 grain FMJ bullet will penetrate 9-10 inches of ballistic gel after four layers of denim, so it will definitely and consistently penetrate adult human skull at close ranges. So unless the perp shot those at 100 yards, I am not buying that story. Here are some test result of currently available factory loads:

      http://mousegunaddict.blogspot.fi/2015/02/25-auto-jhp-vs-fmj-comparison-testing.html

    • Jeff Cooper reported a suicide attempt with a .25. Due to the angle the pistol was held at, the bullet entered above the right ear, traveled halfway around the skull without penetrating the bone, and exited near the crown of the fellow’s head.

      Th fellow concluded that there wasn’t much point in repeating the experiment. He decided to continue with life, in spite of adversity.

      Julian Hatcher reported a case Calvin Goddard had, in which a rather large woman was shot five times center chest with a .25 by her common-law husband. She lived for about two more days, until one slug’s damage to her heart wall finally resulted in a rupture.

      All the time she was demanding that her hubby be brought in- so she could strangle him or beat him to death with her bare hands, which the doctors judged was entirely feasible for her.

      I honestly believe a .22 Short single-action revolver would be a better bet tactically than a .25 auto.

      cheers

      eon

      • If it was one of those 9 or 10 shot revolvers with a decent barrel length, I would tend to agree, since most .25 Auto pistols have only 7 round capacity. Ballistically modern high velocity .22 Short fired from a 4″-6″ barrel and .25 ACP from a 2.5″ barrel are very similar. The .25 Auto bullet (assuming 50 grain FMJ) would still have a somewhat higher sectional density and would therefore penetrate better, and the higher momentum would mean that it would be less likely to be deflected by muscle or bone tissue. So, if you meant a standard 6 shots revolver, the .25 Auto wins hands down.

  10. Davis made a cheap zinc framed striker fired .22 cal pistol in the 1970’s. The back end looks similar to your Savage. To disassemble, remove the mag of course, push in the shroud surrounding the striker to unhook the slide from the frame. You might have to pull the slide back slightly. Lift the back of the slide and remove forward off the fixed barrel. I bought one for $49.00 new. They weren’t durable at all and quickly became unreliable and even dangerous. Mine acquired a nick on the face of the zinc slide and would fire upon chambering a live round…

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