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>> Savage 24 Over-Under Combination Guns :: By Marshall Stanton on 2000-06-10
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Over the years, many ideas have died while their applications are still valid. The Savage 24, while not vaunted by gun-scribes, remains an unsung song of versatile utility, underscoring the need for this type of gun in the firearms market, refusing to die even though it isn't the latest go-fast, whizbang gizmatche.

A very dear friend introduced me to the virtues of the Savage 24 series of over-under combination guns several years ago. My days afield and time in the woods have never been the same since. I've come to appreciate many virtues of these rugged, utterly practical and reliable guns in the field and the venues of recreation and shooting opportunity they provide.

Perhaps a brief description of the 24 is in order here for those unacquainted with their attributes. The Savage 24 is a standing breech, break open rifle/shotgun combination gun, utilizing a rebounding hammer, barrel selector and offered in several different configurations over the years. Offerings have changed now and then, but basically they are found in the following combinations.

.22LR/.410 .22LR/20 Gauge
.22WMR/20 Gauge .22 Hornet/20 Gauge
.222 Rem/20 Gauge .223 Rem/20 Gauge
.30-30/20 Gauge .357 Mag/20 Gauge
.22 Hornet/12 Gauge .222 Rem/12 Gauge
.223 Rem/12 Gauge .30-30/12 Gauge

There have been several design variations within the combinations listed above, some of which have photographs for illustrations.

I'm not going to pick a favorite among these guns, but I will share some very biased preferences, and attempt to share why they have earned such a prominent place in my gun safe. At the same time, be aware that while they all serve the combination role well, each in my favorites list fills a different niche.

This photo shows the differences between the standard 22LR/20ga. and the trim, shorter camper model- also in .22LR/20ga.

To the left is the 24C Camper Model, broken down with it's factory case and cartridge sling. A very compact, portable, and versatile package.

To begin with, probably the most used of my 24's is the Model 24C, long since discontinued and nearly impossible to find on the used gun market. This slick little number carries an 18" barrel, .22 LR over 20 gauge. It weighs scarcely over six pounds and points like a dream. When set up with the sling pictured and the butt-stock shot-shell carrier, it becomes a self contained walk around the farm or woods piece that prepares you for just about any kind of vermin or small game. The Camper Model has a trap-door in the butt-stock which holds two 20 gauge shotgun shells and ten .22 LR's; add this to the fifty .22's in the sling and five shotgun shells in the elastic butt-stock carrier, and you have a self contained ammo supply to last for quite a long time afield when used judiciously.

The .22 LR barrel will handle not only long rifles, but longs, shorts, and CB's as well -all with good to excellent accuracy. The shotgun barrel on these Camper Models (24C: the "C" stands for Camper), carries a cylinder bore barrel with no choke. Although having no choke limits your useful yardage in terms of pattern density, it shoots slugs like it was made for them, and in my guns to the same point of aim as the .22 barrel! (I use slugs cast from Lyman's mold designed for use in Winchester wads with a standard fold crimp. [pictured right])

Using the Camper you can shoot squirrels, bust a running jack-rabbit, drop the overhead crow, harvest a grouse or pheasant, and, if the opportunity arises, fill your deer tag with a slug in the shotgun barrel. If pursuing small game or pests, you are armed, with one gun, for nearly any situation or shooting opportunity that comes along -walking, crawling or flying! The Camper Model is the perfect companion when ranges are relatively short and the potential game is predominantly small.

Stepping up a notch is the Savage 24V in my battery, with a combination of .223 Remington, Ackley Improved over 20 gauge shotgun. This gun started out it's life as a .222 Rem./20ga. It was picked up at a local gun show in nearly mint condition, had an extremely tight chamber, and seemed an ideal candidate for the .223 Remington Ackley improved conversion (yes, I know that P.O. Ackley detested the .223 and did not design the Improved version, but his name was tagged to it because it employed his design principles). Once re-chambered, a 3x9 variable scope was added in Weaver mounts and rings, a cartridge carrying sling added, and, to finish things off, an elastic shotgun shell carrier on the butt-stock. This setup gives an on-board ammo supply so all you have to do is grab your gun and you're prepared to deal with a multitude of situations.

This gun would probably be my constant companion rather than the Camper Model if I lived anywhere else in the country. The undergrowth here in the Idaho Panhandle is so thick that you rarely get a shot at any varmints over 50 yards, so the Camper is the perfect tool. However, if I lived most anywhere else, the 24V would be my partner.

Savage 24V in .223 Rem. Ackley Imp./20 ga. with 3x9 scope, weaver mounts, and shell holder sling.

The .223 Barrel, when fired for accuracy, regularly delivers sub-MOA groups with a variety of ammo, including some low to mid-velocity cast bullet loads which I use extensively. It also shoots very respectably when used with an adaptor to fire .22LR, and even better with an adaptor to shoot .22 WMR! The .223 barrel shoots the Improved cartridge with a sizzle (55 grain Hornady SPBT @ 3545 fps.) and fine accuracy. It also loves a diet of Beartooth Bullets 60 grain SPGC sized to .225" over 10.5 grains of Unique and a Winchester primer for 2200 fps and sub-MOA groups.

With this kind of accuracy and load versatility, the Savage 24 can handle any varminting task that a turn-bolt .22 center-fire will do -and more! Rock chucks at 250-300 yards are no problem, as are coyotes and jack rabbits. Load a 55 grain Barnes X and you have a load that will reliably harvest a deer or antelope with properly placed shots. Using the cast bullet load, this gun will do just about anything you would do with a .22 Hornet -with less noise and stunning effectiveness on targets to the size of coyotes and feral dogs. Then, to really tone things down further, load the .22 LR adaptor and shoot long rifles in your 24 for quiet, short-range pest work.

The 20 gauge shotgun barrel on these has a full choke, and I do mean FULL choke. Mine patterns 1 1/8 oz. of #5's exceedingly well as it does #7 's. This makes a great grouse, pheasant, crow and magpie stopper, not to mention jump shooting puddle ducks when the scope comes off and still being able to shoot a coyote or feral dog while bird hunting. Also, a 3" magnum load of #4 buckshot patterns very nicely at 40 yards with the full choke!

Finally we come to the Savage 24B, which happens to be a .30-30 Ackley Improved rifle barrel over a 20 gauge shotgun tube. This particular gun lived a hard life before I rescued it from a local pawn shop. The stock was broken (and still is), the bluing worn, the trigger guard broken and replaced with a home-grown creation, and sights missing. I found it had a remarkably good, smooth bore and a tight chamber, so I re-chambered it to an Ackley Improved .30-30 and added a Williams receiver sight from my junk box (I leave the sight insert out, and prefer to use a ghost ring) and slipped on a butt-stock shotgun shell holder. Cosmetically I have left this gun alone, as it is a hard working, rough-and-tumble gun. When hunting season comes to North Idaho, it goes with me when I go to town (we live quite a few miles out in the sticks) so that I don't miss an opportunity to put meat on the table or pop a predator. It's ugly to look at, so no one thinks to steal it!

This neglected and ugly gun performs like a thoroughbred! The rifle barrel delivers sub-MOA groups with its receiver sights, .30-30 Ackley chamber and CAST BULLETS! I load Beartooth Bullets 30 caliber 173 grain LFNGC bullet sized .310" over a healthy charge of H335 and a Winchester primer to get 2465 fps. out of my Savage's 24" barrel! A whole lot of performance from what started as a .30-30! This load, when sighted in as my gun is, 3" high at 100 yards, is nearly dead on at 250 yards making it a very versatile tool indeed.

In addition to my hunting load, I also load a Beartooth Bullets 30 caliber 115 grain FNPB bullet sized to .310 with 7.0 grains of Blue Dot for right at 1200 fps. This makes a superb small game load, which is as quiet as .22 LR ammo and shoots to point of aim in my gun to 45 yards, virtually cutting a ragged hole with five shots. This is a great load when wanting to harvest a forest grouse without spooking everything in the next draw or ravine, as it is so quiet.

The shotgun barrel on the 24B is the same as that on the 24V, being 24 and full choked. Mine patterns 5's and 7 's very, very well with nice dense even patterns to 45 yards. Pheasants or rabbits are in big trouble with a handload of 5's out to 50+ yards with this gun. The receiver sight is perfectly suited to this gun, as it aligns quickly, and allows the shotgun to be shot as a shotgun should be. This ugly stick points intuitively and reflexively. The same attributes of the 24V mentioned above apply here just as well.

Although I have a .22/410 combo gun, and am really enamored by it, it doesn't see much service. It's a slick little piece (just 5 pounds) and just what's called for shooting our forest grouse, but it lacks the versatility of the .22LR/20ga. It just can't handle the bigger wing-shooting jobs and the buckshot and slug options like the 20 gauge does. However, if all one needs is the capabilities of the .410 bore, it's a great combination gun!

Perhaps conspicuous in its absence is reference to the various rifle/12 gauge combinations. This is due to their excessive weight. The 12 gauge Savage 24's are nearly 8 pounds each! They cease to be a joy in the field VERY quickly. The 20 gauge guns are built on smaller frames (the older guns, more on this later), and weigh about 6 pounds average, some lighter. I have not found need for the 12 gauge (although I have owned two of them) in the combination guns. They aren't guns you will typically go waterfowling with (but they are capable, and tools of opportunity are used for many things), so the 20 is plenty in my hands. I prefer to have a light, handy piece that I will take virtually everywhere, rather than another gun that sits in the safe!

Now, a word about the current production models of Savage 24's: I'm not crazy about them. They have, like many other manufacturers of hammer type firearms, implemented a crossbolt safety on the newer models, the perfect solution to a non-existent problem. Not only that, but the newer models -even the 20 gauge combinations -are about 1 1/2 pound heavier than the older, pre-crossbolt safety models. When looking for a 24, I go to the Gun List, local gun shows, and the various online auctions to find older, good condition guns to fill the need. I'm not bashing the new models -they are great guns built in the practical tradition of the earlier combos -but I prefer to lose the safety and about a pound and a half while having the same tool!

No, a Savage 24 isn't the tool I would choose for my next dedicated deer hunt, nor my next elk hunt, but it is up to the task, given some range limitations and shot placement concerns. My 24B goes with me as a pickup gun and grouse gun every year when we go to camp. There's nothing worse than to have seen nothing all day, be headed back to camp, jump some grouse and chase them into the pucker-brush with your scattergun and birdshot, then jump a nice fat buck only to have him bound away while you watch! The 24 stops those kind of moments from happening!

No, I would not choose a 24 for a waterfowling piece, but if out coyote hunting and a flock of geese fly over, its awfully nice to have the option of loading in a 3" magnum steel shot BBB and taking down a honker! That is what the Savage 24 is all about. Flexibility, versatility, rugged reliability and practicality sum up this wonderful tool I've come to appreciate more as I grow older. My annual time afield has dwindled over the years, and the Savage 24 merely makes that time potentially more productive and enjoyable. I no longer miss out on opportunities because I'm carrying the wrong gun! The Savage 24 is simply the ultimate gun of opportunity!

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