Skip to main content

.250 Savage — Trailblazing Hunting Cartridge

Created in 1915, the .250 Savage was the first commercial hunting cartridge to achieve a muzzle velocity of 3,000 fps.

.250 Savage — Trailblazing Hunting Cartridge
This century-old trailblazer pushed the boundaries of hunting-cartridge velocity.

In 1915 Charles Newton of Newton Rifle Co. fame created a rifle cartridge for Savage Arms to showcase in the excellent Savage 99 lever rifle. The cartridge pushed velocity boundaries and opened doors for future rounds. We know it today as the .250 Savage.

Newton based this cartridge on a shortened .30-06 Springfield case. A 26-degree shoulder gives the case a decidedly modern appearance. Shortening allowed proper function in the Model 99 action while surpassing the existing .25-caliber performance leader (the .25-35 Winchester). Winchester’s 1899 catalog shows the .25-35 driving a 117-grain RN bullet at 2,000 fps; the current standard is 2,200 fps.

The tubular-magazine rifles that represented most .25-35 chamberings required a roundnose or flatnose bullet. The Savage rifle had a rotary magazine under the bolt and could safely handle pointed Spitzer bullets. The Model 99 action, although not as robust as a bolt action, could handle roughly 20 percent higher pressures than more traditional Winchester and Marlin lever guns.

Newton conceived a velocity of 2,700 to 2,800 fps with a 100-grain bullet, a substantial advantage over even current .25-35 loadings. This was impressive enough for 1915, but Savage wanted 3,000 fps. Maintaining safe pressures with existing propellants, Newton found he could meet that velocity if he reduced the bullet weight to 87 grains. Satisfied, Savage dubbed it the “.250-3000 Savage.”


The .250-3000 remained the .25-caliber leader until the wildcat .257 Roberts went commercial in 1934. Although the 87-grain load was loaded with a bullet sturdy enough to establish a good reputation as a deer cartridge, hunters wanted more. Newton’s original 100-grain loading was resurrected about 1932 and is still loaded to a nominal velocity of 2,820 fps. If you want the 87-grain version today, you’ll need to handload.


In 1986 I got the fever for a .25-caliber rifle and found a couple of newly made bolt guns chambered for .250 Savage. Unfortunately, one had an anorexic 20-inch barrel, and the other had a barrel band. I was hoping for a barrel that was longer and unfettered. Then I happened upon the Remington Model 700 Classic for 1984. It was chambered for .250 Savage and had a 24-inch barrel, so I bought it. It became one of my favorite rifles.

My first accuracy tests at 100 yards with two brands of factory-loaded 100-grain SP ammo were underwhelming. Groups were just under 3 inches. The handloads were better. I had some 87- and 100-grain Speer Hot-Cor SP and Nosler 100-grain Solid Base bullets. They were all loaded slightly longer than the factory loads, yet none touched the Remington’s rifling. Groups ran from 1 inch down to 0.6 inch. Not too bad for a sporter-weight barrel.

My rifle had just enough throat to let me seat bullets out for better accuracy. Other rifles may not allow that because the standard chamber drawing shows no freebore. Typical of 1915 designs, the rifling leade starts at the end of the chamber. You’ll want to establish proper cartridge overall length for your handloads yourself.

Let’s talk rifling twist. Some say the .250 Savage will not stabilize bullets heavier than 100 grains. The SAAMI chamber drawing confirms the standard twist rate is one turn in 14 inches. Original Savage rifles would struggle with long bullets, but a factory tag tied to the trigger guard of my Remington Model 700 said one in 10 inches, which I confirmed by direct measurement.


What settled the long-bullet question with my rifle was competition testing by a friend’s wife. She used a .250 Savage Remington Model 700 Classic for metallic silhouette competition and needed more than 100-grain bullets to “clean the rail” at long range. They tested the Speer 120-grain BTSP, and it shot well. His wife was both hitting and toppling the 500-meter steel rams.

If you have an original Savage rifle, stick with 87- to 100-grain bullets for best groups. If you have the Remington Model 700 Classic, the faster twist will prove to be no handicap with varmint-weight bullets. I have been very satisfied with the accuracy of 87-grain hollowpoints on ground squirrels to 250 yards and beyond.

The .250 Savage has a maximum pressure assignment of 45,000 CUP, 10 percent less than the .30-06. Don’t use outdated data—the cases likely have changed. Speer data prior to Speer Reloading Manual #12 used older Winchester cases for .250 Savage data. In the late 1980s, Winchester improved sidewall thickness in many cases, and that reduced capacity a bit. The new lot we bought for Manual #12 in about 1990 was the thicker-walled version. Loads from the previous data developed in thinner-wall cases shot over the 45,000 CUP SAAMI-recommended pressure when loaded in the new case lots, and we adjusted the load data for Manual #12 to reflect that. The lesson? Keep your data current with your components. Things change.


Given the case size, your first choice of fuel might be a mid-rate propellant. However, that could leave some performance on the table. Compact slow-burners like H414 and 760 gave top-tier velocities with bullets from 87 grains to 120 grains. The “mids” are fine with varmint bullets. For varmint hunting I use 37.0 grains of Reloder 15 under the Speer 87-grain TNT-HP for 2,980 fps, but I move to H414 with 100-grain bullets. A lab-tested load of 38.0 grains of H414 (compressed) stays within SAAMI guidelines and pushes a Speer 100-grain Hot-Cor to 2,740 fps from my rifle.

The .243 Winchester and the 6mm Remington quickly passed the .250 Savage as cross-over cartridges, but legacy is important. The .250 Savage opened the door to higher velocity, and it also spawned one of our finest varmint cartridges: the .22-250 Remington.

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Recommended Articles

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

Pinging Steel At Over A Mile Away

Pinging Steel At Over A Mile Away

Big bore semiauto or a lever gun? We look at the futuristic .450 Bushmaster and how it compares to the tried and true .45-70. ISS Prop House gives us the rundown on the guns used in Enemy at the Gate. We ping steel with a .300 WinMag at over a mile.

Hornady 6MM Creedmoor

Hornady 6MM Creedmoor

Tom Beckstrand and Neal Emery of Hornady highlight the 6MM Creedmoor ammo.

All About .300 Blackout

All About .300 Blackout

The .300 Blackout is here to stay, and we take some time to look at new technology surrounding this cartridge. Next, we pit subsonic rivals against each other before stretching the legs of this CQB round out to 600 yards from a short 9-inch barrel.

Black Hills Evolution of Rifle Cartridge: .308 Win. 175 Gr. Match

Black Hills Evolution of Rifle Cartridge: .308 Win. 175 Gr. Match

David Fortier talks with Jeff Hoffman of Black Hills Ammunition about the evolution of the .308 Win. 175 Gr. Match bullet.

See More Popular Videos

Trending Articles

The .30-06 Hawkeye Hunter features a 22-inch stainless-steel barrel and a satin-finished walnut stock. Magazine capacity is four rounds. It is well made, accurate, and attractive. This is a fine rifle that is light enough to tote over hill and dale but heavy enough to hold steady for precise shooting in the field.Ruger Hawkeye Hunter .30-06 Review Rifles

Ruger Hawkeye Hunter .30-06 Review

Steve Gash - August 17, 2020

The .30-06 Hawkeye Hunter features a 22-inch stainless-steel barrel and a satin-finished...

There are plenty of good .22 rimfire rifles under $300 on the market. Here's a quick look at some of the most interesting models.Best .22 Rimfire Rifles Under $300 Rifles

Best .22 Rimfire Rifles Under $300

Payton Miller - January 11, 2021

There are plenty of good .22 rimfire rifles under $300 on the market. Here's a quick look at...

This somewhat-odd loading had an interesting history, and much of its reputation was based on assumption.The .38 Special 200-Grain 'Police Load' Ammo

The .38 Special 200-Grain 'Police Load'

Allan Jones - January 20, 2021

This somewhat-odd loading had an interesting history, and much of its reputation was based on...

A great pump-action shotgun design has several characteristics: reliable, smooth and easy to function, easy to shoot well, adaptable to vastly different configurations and uses, and it's classy.6 Best Classic Pump-Action Shotguns Ever Made Shotguns

6 Best Classic Pump-Action Shotguns Ever Made

Joseph von Benedikt - January 21, 2021

A great pump-action shotgun design has several characteristics: reliable, smooth and easy to...

See More Trending Articles

More Ammo

This somewhat-odd loading had an interesting history, and much of its reputation was based on assumption.The .38 Special 200-Grain 'Police Load' Ammo

The .38 Special 200-Grain 'Police Load'

Allan Jones - January 20, 2021

This somewhat-odd loading had an interesting history, and much of its reputation was based on...

Would you take the extra power and pop of the .22 Magnum over the more price-effective .22 LR? Here's one man's opinion.Best Rimfire Cartridges — .22 Magnum vs .22 Long Rifle Ammo

Best Rimfire Cartridges — .22 Magnum vs .22 Long Rifle

Payton Miller - December 21, 2020

Would you take the extra power and pop of the .22 Magnum over the more price-effective .22 LR?...

The new Winchester Active Duty 9mm ammo is loaded to the same military ballistics specifications as for the MHS program and has a rated muzzle velocity of 1,320 fps and a muzzle energy of 445 ft-lbs.Winchester Active Duty 9mm Ammo Review Ammo

Winchester Active Duty 9mm Ammo Review

Jake Edmondson - July 17, 2020

The new Winchester Active Duty 9mm ammo is loaded to the same military ballistics...

While the 6mm-caliber cartridges that can be considered “great” are few in number, some have long and storied histories.12 Great 6mm Cartridges Ammo

12 Great 6mm Cartridges

Steve Gash - August 20, 2020

While the 6mm-caliber cartridges that can be considered “great” are few in number, some have...

See More Ammo

Magazine Cover

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Digital Now Included!

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE Arrow

Buy Digital Single Issues

Don't miss an issue.
Buy single digital issue for your phone or tablet.

Buy Single Digital Issue on the Shooting Times App

Other Magazines

Special Interest Magazines

See All Special Interest Magazines

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Phone Icon

Get Digital Access.

All Shooting Times subscribers now have digital access to their magazine content. This means you have the option to read your magazine on most popular phones and tablets.

To get started, click the link below to visit mymagnow.com and learn how to access your digital magazine.

Get Digital Access

Not a Subscriber?
Subscribe Now