“Ten shots quick!” was the advertising ploy of Savage Arms of Utica, N.Y., when it rolled out its new .32 ACP semi-automatic pistol in April of 1908. Actually, if you carried a round in the chamber, as recommended back in the day, you had a 10+1 capacity, which was two cartridges more than any other handgun at the time. The staggered or double-column magazine was also a unique feature back then.
During that era, the Savage Model 1907 was considered a pocket pistol and intended for use in self-defense or law enforcement. The little pistol was an offshoot of the larger Savage Model 1907 in .45 ACP (later called the Model 1911), which was designed to compete in the military trials for a new .45-caliber, semi-automatic service sidearm. The Savage pistol ended up being the only competition to the Colt Model 1911, but ultimately, it could not beat the Colt during a shooting endurance test in March of 1911. Savage named its .32 ACP autopistol the Model 1907 in reference to the patent date of the gun’s design: April 25, 1907.
The Savage 1907 was an interesting pistol, and the owner of the company, Arthur W. Savage, was also quite interesting. A Briton born in Jamaica in 1857, he had a religious upbringing, but longing for adventure, he moved to Australia in the mid-1870s, where he lived with the natives for about two years, became a sheep-shearer and even worked as a hotel bouncer in Brisbane. In 1879, as a cattle station manager, Savage married and, with one child in tow, moved to England for a year in 1884 before returning to Jamaica, where he managed a banana plantation. In 1886, he and his family moved to New York City, where he worked for a publisher of scientific materials, a position that seemed to stimulate his inventiveness.
With countries such as Great Britain and the United States moving away from single-shot military rifles, Savage labored on a design for a repeating rifle. By the early 1890s, the Savage family had relocated to Utica, New York, where Arthur became manager of the Belt Line Railroad. In his free time, he continued working on his rifle and came up with a lever-action concept that included a rotary magazine that allowed the safe use of pointed spitzer-type cartridges. The design evolved into the well-known Savage Model 99, an earlier version of which had competed against (and lost to) the Krag-Jørgensen in an attempt to become the U.S. service rifle in 1892.
Pocket pistols were becoming more popular in the early 20th century, so in 1906, Savage obtained the rights to a design patented in 1905 that led to military (and later commercial) versions of the Model 1907. About that time, Savage sold some of his Savage Arms shares, resigned as general manager and moved to California to pursue an orange-growing venture. The next year, he started a tire company. His first wife died in 1919. He remarried, but his second wife died in 1922.
Meanwhile, Savage continued to dabble in firearms. He had a short-lived .22 rifle and also took a contract during World War I to produce slides for Colt 1911 pistols. Savage and his four sons tried their hands at various other enterprises, such as oil wells, gold mines and brick, pipe and tile manufacturing. The family also ran a municipal water company for a time.
Finally, after developing a painful, incurable cancer, Arthur W. Savage, the adventurer, entrepreneur, inventor and arms-maker—a man who had always controlled his own destiny—took his own life in September of 1938.
Arthur Savage likely had little to do with the Model 1907 pistol. The plan for the handgun was based on E.H. Searle’s November 1905 patent (and a later April 1907 patent) that covered the pistol’s design, operation and staggered magazine.
Although production was slow at first, the Model 1907 pocket pistol looked to have the qualities of a successful product. Like the larger military version, the smaller pistol had only 34 parts and no screws to hold it together, and it was easy to disassemble without tools. It used the same twisting-barrel/delayed-blowback mechanism as the .45 pistol. It was chambered for the .32 ACP cartridge, which was popular at the time and considered a fairly potent round. With its 71-grain FMJ bullet moving at about 900 fps, it would penetrate 5 inches when fired into stacked 0.875-inch soft-pine boards from 15 feet, a standard test at the time.
That was good performance compared to the .32 S&W and .38 S&W cartridges, which were also used in small-framed pocket revolvers of the period. The .32 S&W launched an 85-grain lead bullet at about 705 fps to penetrate 3 inches of pine boards. The .38 S&W propelled a 146-grain lead bullet at 685 fps and would penetrate 4 inches of pine boards. Further, the Savage Model 1907 allowed 11 shots compared to the typical five offered by many revolvers of the time.
The Savage 1907 also had something that the mostly square-sided autoloaders like the Colt didn’t have: an Art Deco look. The front portion of the slide was round, encircling the barrel and recoil spring, which were fluted back to the rear portion of the ejection port, where the widely spaced and well-defined slide serrations began. The rear end—the breech plug—was pinched and enclosed the lower part of the cocking lever (the part that looks like a hammer). The grip frame flowed gracefully down through the well-rounded front- and backstraps, which held checkered, hard-rubber grips in dovetailed slots. The unique magazine catch was on a lower, rounded part of the frontstrap, where it could be activated by the little finger or ring finger. It had the only exposed pin on the pistol.
The sights were low in profile but not too bad for a gun from that time. The only other control was the small combination safety/slide stop on the left side of the frame, below the rear sight. The fit and finish were first rate, and overall, the Savage Model 1907 had an unusual yet pleasing appearance.
My Savage Model 1907 was made in 1914. It’s in very good condition, with 95 percent of its polished blued finish and the mottled colors on the casehardened trigger readily visible. The gun has experienced little wear and tear. The grips are in great shape, with the Savage emblem at the center. A legend has arisen regarding the Native American profile in full headdress used as the company logo. It’s said to be that of an Indian chief who obtained several Savage rifles for his tribe and was so impressed that he offered his likeness to be used as an endorsement. One of the grip panels on my gun is slightly brown, which is common on these pistols because of oxidation or ultraviolet exposure.
The variation tables in Bailey Browner’s book Savage Pistols identify my pistol as a Model 1907 Modification No. 2. One of the features on that variation is the large, stylized Savage logo on the frame above the left grip panel. “SAFE” is stamped on the upper frame, above a half-moon slot, and “FIRE” appears lower on the grip frame. The ejection port was also cut to allow a view of the barrel breech, letting the shooter verify if there was a round in the chamber. The extractor, which runs along the barrel from the front to the rear of the port, also protrudes slightly when a cartridge is chambered, providing a visual and tactile indicator.
This particular variation is also marked on the top of the slide with “Cal. 32” and “7.65 .M-M.” The 10-round box magazine has four rounded, rectangular witness holes and two magazine catch slots in the front.
At first, the Savage ads for the new pistol stressed the “10 shots quick!” and “Aims as easy as pointing your finger” slogans. However, accolades soon flowed into the company from notable users such as William F. Cody, firearms expert E.C. Crossman, former outlaw Al Jennings, William Pinkerton of the Pinkerton National Detective Agency, W.J. Burns of the Burns International Detective Agency, lawman-turned-sportswriter W.B. “Bat” Masterson, and Major Richard Sylvester, president of the International Association of Chiefs of Police.
In one of the Savage ads, Masterson said, “A tenderfoot with a Savage Automatic and the nerve to stand his ground could have run the worst six-shooter man the West ever knew right off the range.” By writing to Savage, you could obtain for free a short booklet authored by Masterson, The Tenderfoot’s Turn, a tome about Old West gunslingers. Also available for the asking was another booklet titled It Banishes Fear, which was a combination promotional brochure, catalog, technical manual and user’s guide written in the vernacular of the period. It’s worth reading. Savage ads appeared in such popular periodicals as Life, Cosmopolitan, Harper’s Weekly, Field & Stream and The Saturday Evening Post, among others. The times certainly have changed, haven’t they?
Breaking It Down
As mentioned, taking the Savage Model 1907 down for cleaning is uncomplicated. Unload the gun and double-check it for safety. Then, retract the slide fully and put the safety lever on “safe” to lock the slide in position. Turn the breechblock containing the cocking lever (hammer) clockwise about 45 degrees, and then, squeezing backward on the cocking lever, fully rotate the breechblock 90 degrees, which lets you pull it straight back and remove it from the slide. With a firm grip on the slide, move the safety to “fire” and pull the trigger. The slide can be moved forward off the frame. The barrel can then be removed. Reassembly is in the reverse order, but you must squeeze the cocking lever hard as you reinsert the breechblock, and make sure you put it in the same way it came out. Reversing the direction will get it stuck.
Here’s another situation to be aware of. Because the gun lacks pins and screws, most internal parts in the frame are held in place by gravity and fiction. A tip I saw was to use a wooden clothespin to hold the parts in place while you clean the pistol, clamping the pin over the dust cover of the frame through the triggerguard. I found this out the hard way when I first took the gun apart.
Another item of interest is the website rediscovered-shooting-treasures.com, where you can obtain replicas of the Model 1907’s factory box, owner’s manual and other items. I ordered a cardboard box that came with a textured black exterior and a plain white interior. There’s an orange label on the right end of the box top and a caution label on the lid. Inside the lid is another period label, and you get a gummed label you can apply inside the box with information on your pistol. I also got the Savage owner’s manual. It’s made to look aged, and it even helped me with reassembling the pistol. You can also get a reprint of Masterson’s The Tenderfoot’s Turn, and of course, I had to have that.
A while ago, I won a box of Remington .32 ACP 71-grain FMJ cartridges in a raffle. But having nothing to shoot them in, I kept them in my ammo locker just in case. But I finally got the chance. I took the Model 1907 to my favorite outdoor range and, loading the magazine to capacity, set up some bullseye targets at the 10-yardline.
Shooting with a sandbag rest from the bench, even with the miniscule sights and my 59-year-old eyes, I shot a few decent five-shot groups with the Remington ammo. The best measured 1.64 inches, and the average was 1.98 inches—not too bad for a gun over 100 years old.
I also did some plinking at a couple of hanging bowling pins. The impacts of the little .32 ACP slugs made them twitch and turn. I used all but 11 rounds from the box of Remington ammunition and did not have any malfunctions. The recoil was negligible and rapid firing was easy.
The old pistol was a pleasure to shoot, and I’m now among folks such as Buffalo Bill and Bat Masterson who were ardent admirers. The old Savage ads—“10 shots quick! As easy as pointing your finger!”—weren’t that far off!
Savage 1907 Specs
|Caliber: .32 ACP
|Barrel: 3.75 inches
|OA Length: 6.5 inches
|Weight: 19 ounces (empty)
|Grip: Checkered rubber
|Sights: Blade front, integral rear