Savage .45 ACP Pistols – History & Disassembly (Video)

In the US pistol trials of 1907 that eventually led to the adoption of the Colt/Browning Model 1911, the two strongest competitors to the Browning design were the Luger and the Savage. Luger declined the opportunity to participate in extended field trials, and so the two finalists were Browning and Savage.

Savage had their original 1907 pistol, of which approximately 288 were manufactured. Fifteen of these were modified to a 1910 pattern to improve them, and then a further 5 pistols were made new for the final set of trials, to a third pattern (the 1911 model of the Savage).

In this video were are looking at all three varieties, along with information on how the guns were later resold to the public, how to disassemble them, and how the function mechanically.


  1. Thanks for a look at another pistol I’ve read about often but never seen. I have a pdf of the 1907 trials which is great reading. IMHO it’s a shame Springfield Armory didn’t also make the 1911 Savage and the .45 Luger when they first made the Mil-Spec 1911A1.

    • “Springfield Armory didn’t also make the 1911 Savage and the .45 Luger”
      But who would buy it? I think that there was not place for more .45 automatic pistols in 1910s-1920s. I am not expert on post-Korean War United States automatic pistol so I ask: When was first mass-produced .45 automatic pistol not being Colt Government introduced to United States civilian market?

      • Keith may have meant the modern-day Springfield Armory (which only same into being in the 1970′). Some of the companies that make 1911’s have made versions that duplicate as-issued WWI and WWII models for collectors.

        In regards to mass-produced 45’s that were not Colt Government models (which I take to mean 1911 patterns in general), there were some niche guns like the Detonics that Ian reviewed recently, and Browning imported SA/DA Sig’s in 45 for a time (1980’s). As to mass-production by well-established firms based in the US, the second generation S&W semi-autos could also be ordered in 45 (the model 645 / 745) starting in 1985. Ruger’s first generation semi-autos (P90) could be had in 45 starting in 1991.

  2. Of course I don’t “torture test” any firearm I own, but which one is more fun to shoot with the same .45 ACP ammo, the Savage, the Luger, or the Colt?

  3. Considering that rotating barrels in this manner seem to delay rather than lock the action, how does one go about trying to make the whole firing cycle less likely to backfire into one’s face? Wasn’t there also the issue of incomplete propellant combustion in the Savage?

    I’m trying to take this subject seriously. Which is best for active service in your opinion? Please take manufacturing costs, ease of use, and maintenance into account.

    1. Roth-Steyr 1907
    2. Steyr Hahn 1912
    3. Obregon
    4. Savage 1907
    5. MAB PA-15

    You are not required to answer this particular section, so feel free to skip this comment and continue on to other discussions if you wish.

    • “manufacturing costs(…)1. Roth-Steyr 1907”
      Definitely no. When quantity of parts = 28, they have very peculiar shapes and were labour-expensive. IIRC factory lost money or have very low profit from producing this automatic pistol.

      “Steyr Hahn 1912”
      This automatic pistol replaced above mentioned Repetierpistole M.7, it was easier to manufacture (but still remember it is 1910s so it was mainly machined)

      Both 1907 and 1912 don’t have detachable magazine, it has advantages and disadvantages, but notice that eventually detachable magazine automatic pistols become dominant.

      “3. Obregon”
      Cross-breed between Colt 1911 and Steyr-Hahn.

      “5. MAB PA-15”
      Has big advantage in ammo capacity (15 in magazine+1 in barrel). It looks best from all mentioned here, but notice that it is 1970s design when other are early-1930s or earlier design, so there is at least difference of 40 years of development.

        • Browning himself experimented with the rotating barrel concept in several early designs, and it has been seeing some resurgence. Not considering the time factor, there are the Beretta Cougar and PX 4 (both fine shooters), the SIG/Mauser M2 series (also fine pistols but only had a short production run) and in the PDW class, the Steyr TMP/Brugger and Thomet TP9 series. I’ve owned the PX4 in 9mm and Mauser M2 in .40 S&W (sold both but not due to quality issues) and currently have a TP 9 with a Trijicon Reflex mounted on it. I also have considerable range time with the Steyr Hahn, and MAB PA-15, and have run a few rounds through the Roth-Steyr. All have been accurate and reliable, with the MAB having well over 10,000 rounds through it without any issues. The Dutch Air Force recently issued B&T MP 9s (full-auto TPs) to their aircrews serving in the GWOT.
          For a period piece, I’d have to go with the Steyr Hahn. Mine served in two World Wars and is still plugging along.
          For a modern design, although I am partial to the MAB, the nod would have to go to the Beretta PX-4, which is a highly underrated pistol IMHO. It’s even available in .45 ACP.

          • Wow! Nice to know that 100-year-old designs still do good today! Too bad the Steyr Hahn couldn’t be produced with a detachable magazine…

          • “Steyr Hahn couldn’t be produced with a detachable magazine”
            Is there technical reason which prevent existence of Steyr-Hahn with detachable magazine or simply no-one order Steyr-Hahn with that feature?

          • The Px4 is a great pistol – I have one myself and it’s accurate and reliable as a rock after thousands of rounds. Also very light.

            I always get a chuckle when I’m at pistol competitions and the 1911s start malfunctioning around stage 2 or 3 after a little dust and dirt gets into the action. My Beretta will keep on humming along no matter what.

        • ” more competing pistols with rotating barrel actions to the list, then?”
          Following automatic pistols features rotating barrel AND were not mentioned yet:
          Czech vz.24 produced by Ceska Zbrojovka in inter-war period in Czechoslovakia, fire .380 Auto (metric: 9x17mm) cartridge:

          Grand Power K100, 1990s design, produced in Slovakia, initially designed for 9x19mm cartridge
          .45 Boberg Automatic pistol (however this fall into POCKET AUTOMATIC PISTOL category, not SERVICE SIDE-ARM)

  4. I wonder if all the problems of the Savage — the sharper recoil, the broken parts, etc. — would have been solved if Savage had simply designed the gun with more rotation in the barrel, to keep the breech locked longer and allow chamber pressures to drop more before the breech opened and the cartridge ejected. Maybe it would have been necessary to give the grip just a little more rake as well, and the more vertical angle it did have may have something to do with the greater felt recoil, but maybe not. It certainly is a neat looking gun, and seems to have a fairly simple design, without an overabundance of parts.

    • “more vertical angle”
      I am not sure how angle of automatic pistol grips affects (felt) recoil. Do you have any data?
      So far I know to get as low felt recoil as possible in automatic pistol, barrel axis should be as low as possible. If I am not mistaken lowest felt recoil would be when barrel is between fingers (as in Protector Palm Pistol), however “automatic pistol” and “decent powe cartridge” and “barrel between fingers” are mutually exclusive (XOR) so this solution never get popular.

      • to be exact: “as low felt recoil as possible in automatic pistol” at fixed cartridge ballistic (i.e. bullet mass and muzzle velocity)

        See also for modern .38 Special single-shot pistol fired with barrel between fingers, as you can read it was designed for peoples with grip limitations

        • If one looks at revolvers, the Chiappa Rhino has its barrel indexed to the bottom cylinder and a much softer shooting .357 snub than the more conventional S&W and Ruger revolvers in the same size and caliber. Revolver guys in speed shooting competitions also converted a number of S&Ws in a reverse-bore configuration to reduce muzzle rise. With autoloaders, the slide needs to clear the shooters hand, so one can only go so low before there are issues, unless one were to go with a “blow-forward” design like the Krnka-Roth or Hino-Komuru. Such a mechanism could theoretically work in a palm pistol-type of design.

          • “Such a mechanism could theoretically work in a palm pistol-type of design.”
            Independently from principle of operation, any palm automatic pistol would have drawback in magazine – it would hold less cartridges than classical layout automatic pistol in same caliber unless you allow magazine protruding downwards or upwards from palm.

  5. If I can remember correctly the Savage.45 was also prototyped with a squeeze charging lever for use on horseback. I remember seeing it in a book somewhere. Correct me if I am wrong.

  6. I had the privilege of holding one of these one time at a gun show. Then the same collector let me hold an 1898 Schwarzlose. I was on cloud nine.

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