While it may not be the most beautiful of guns, the combination .22/.410 over-and-under from Savage certainly has its uses, says Jason Harris
Combination guns are not that common in the UK, probably because of the type of shooting we do, our terrain and our licensing laws. They are common in Germany and Austria, however, sometimes with three or even four barrels. There are many calibre combinations with any mixture of shotgun and rifle barrels. The terrain can be more extreme in these countries and the quarry species may include boar and mountain dwelling deer, so rifle calibres tend to be bigger. The shooting is more walked-up and hunted game, and there is less driven shooting than we have, so switching between shotgun and rifle calibres makes sense.
Hunting is similar in the US — more walkedup — although they tend to hunt with either a rifle or a shotgun. Single-barrel shotguns have always been popular there – this gun draws inspiration from that, in a way.
In the late 1930s, Stevens Arms, part of the Savage Arms Co group, came up with the model 24 over-and-under combination gun of a .22 rifle barrel on top, coupled with a .410 shotgun underneath. It ceased production of the gun in the 1950s and it became the Savage 24. Around 15,000 were made for the US air force for crew shot down over enemy territory.
UK licensing laws are a snag
In the UK, a combination gun may be more use in theory – probably for a gamekeeper or pest controller. The rifle barrel has open sights and no provision for a scope, so it’s only useful at relatively short ranges, but the .410 barrel becomes almost obsolete if you have scope on top anyway. For quick-sighting daytime shooting at shorter ranges a .22 rifle barrel is useful. The sights are plastic with the rear sight being adjustable for height, but it doesn’t appear to be for windage. The .410 barrel is useful but won’t give you much distance, however it can be used as a quick “cripple stopper” after the .22.
The snag in the UK is our licensing laws. The .410 barrel is less than 24in, putting it firmly in firearms licensing territory. So the Savage 42 will have limited appeal in the UK, but those who love it will really love it.
A tool for a job
The gun is practical, with synthetic stock and fore-end – a tool for a job, not a thing of beauty. The top barrel is .22WMR, the longer Magnum version of the more familiar .22LR. Although it’s more powerful than the .22LR, the WMR isn’t all that popular in the UK. The .410 barrel is chambered for 3in or 76mm cartridges. In the US, they use buck shot and slugs, making the gun more useful — these cartridges are not so widely available here.
There doesn’t appear to be any choke in the .410 barrel, which is 20in long, reinforcing it’s use at close ranges. If you are trying for a more distant target, a larger, pelleted cartridge will work best. The gun is break open like a conventional shotgun. The opening lever is underneath, in front of the trigger-guard, so the gun works well for left and right-handers.
Savage .22/.410 combination on test
It is fired as a conventional hammergun — there is one hammer to fire either barrel and you select which barrel you want to shoot first by moving a toggle inset into the hammer, lining it up with the corresponding firing pin. You have to fiddle between shots if you want to use both barrels, but with time and experience, you’ll soon get pretty quick at that.
While it is a hammergun, there is a safety catch, a button that moves across the centre of the action and blocks the fall of the hammer in the safe position. The extractor works manually, so must be lifted when the gun is open. The stock and fore-end are synthetic with red-line highlighting on the butt plate and grip cap. The pistol grip is swept back and comfortable in the hand. The stock is relatively short, keeping it in proportion with the gun — it doesn’t feel short and shoulders quickly, although it isn’t the best-handling gun. But it’s really a case of horses for courses.
The Savage 42 is imported and distributed through www.edgarbrothers.com
Certainly fit for purpose and at a reasonable price