Even before Arthur William Savage founded Savage Arms—125 years ago—the 36 year-old led an adventurous life. He traveled across Australia by covered wagon to establish a homestead, then built it into what was the largest cattle operation on the continent at the time. He operated a coffee plantation in Jamaica and after finally moving to the United States went to work for a railroad and small gun company in Utica, NY.
Here his inventive genius blossomed. In 1891, he received a patent for a repeating lever-action rifle with a single-column magazine. Two years later, another patent was granted for a hammerless design with a striker-fired mechanism.
Savage Arms was officially opened in 1894 in a rented Utica, NY, shop. After the world’s first hammerless lever action—the Model 1895—rolled out its doors, orders came in so fast that Marlin Firearms was contracted to handle some of the production.
In 1897, Savage Arms become a corporation with eight key stockholders. The same year, coincidentally, Arthur Savage filed another patent for a lever-action rifle similar to the 1895, but this one had a removable box magazine. It was officially introduced in 1899, and that Savage Model 99 remained in production for 100 years.
Arthur Savage moved to California in 1901, where he founded a tire company that also wore his family name. Some claim his invention of the radial tire there is his crowning achievement.
Despite the company namesake moving across the country, the firearm firm continued to thrive. In 1908, it invented the removable-box magazine and launched on a historic handgun project. Its submission to the government for testing may have been runner up to none other than the Colt 1911, but the company offered three different pistols to the public based on the government-rejected design.
Driggs-Seabury Ordnance purchased Savage Arms in 1915, and the company played a critical role in manufacturing during World War I. It later acquired A.H. Fox Gun Company, and was called upon again during World War II to produce Lee-Enfield No. 1 Mk4 rifles for the lend-lease program as well as machine guns and other ordnance for U.S. troops.
The legacy of Arthur William Savage lives on in company products like the MSR-15 Recon LRP, Model 110 Stealth Evolution and nearly all of the firearms it introduces. The company hasn’t announced complete plans yet for its 125th anniversary. Savage anticipates launching a line of firearms built to commemorate the occasion.