Q: I have inherited a Savage Model 99 lever-action rifle in excellent condition throughout; the bore is pristine. It is chambered in .250 Savage and having procured 100 Winchester unprimed casers, I am ready start reloading. However, I’ve been told that chamber pressures for this old gun should be no higher than 45,000psi. Is this true? If so, can you recommend some safe loads for it with 87 and 100gn bullets?
A: The .250 Savage was first introduced in 1915 and was the first rifle chambered for it was the Savage Model 1899. It was found that an 87gn bullet was the heaviest that could be loaded with existing powders to achieve a muzzle velocity of 3000fps. It wasn’t until 1932 that Peters offered the first 100gn load at 2800fps. The average working pressure of the .250 Savage was initially established at 45,000psi and this pressure level has been retained right up to the present dayfor ammo to be safe in all the old Model 99 rifles still in use.
It is an extremely flexible cartridge to reload, but Model 99 barrels have a twist rate of 1:14 which will not stabilize some of the very pointed 100gn spitzer bullets and are not suitable for any bullet over 100gn.
A couple of years ago I worked up some loads for an FN bolt-action rifle and measured the chamber pressures with my PMAX pressure gauge. Thus I can give you some loads that don’t exceeed45,000psi. They are:
- 75gn Hornady HP and 36gn of AR2208 for 3075fps at 41,750psi
- 87gn Speer SP 35gn of AR2208 for 2976fps at 44,290psi
- 100gn Sierra spitzer and 34gn of AR2208 for 2800fps at 44,170psi.
Bear in mind that a change in make or shape of bullet can boost pressures to the point where extraction will be difficult. This effect is due to a number of possible variables including length of bearing surface, thickness and hardness of bullet jacket, relative core hardness, and seating depth, affecting both loading density and amount of free bullet travel in the chamber throat.