Great Scopes for the Post-War Savage 99s.
The optics and mounts that graced the pre-war Savage model 99s are definitely beautiful in their own vintage right, but functionally crude in comparison to those that came after the war.
Prior to the war, 99s were either left iron sighted, or drilled and tapped for crude side mounts to hold 3/4” or 7/8” scopes. Some incorporated mounts that took care of the windage and elevation outside of the scope. A few 99s were lucky enough to be paired with no-drill Stith Mounts, which were probably the most ingenious of the pre-war ideas.
But when the W.R. Weaver Company opened its doors back up to the general public after closing to dedicate 100% of its resources to the protecting the free world, all heck broke loose. The improvements in optics through the war effort created a night and day difference for sportsman. 1” tubes, much larger objective and ocular openings, and greatly improved mounting systems paved the way for well established rifles like the Model 99 to really take off in the sporting field. Hunters bought them in earnest and mounted these new, affordable, magical telescopic sights to them by the hundreds of thousands in the decades following.
There is no one best scope for a 99. The best scope to put on a model 99 depends on the hunter, his eyesight, shooting distance limitations and where and how he prefers to hunt. But that’s one of the beautiful things about a 99. It can be a brush gun, it can be an open country gun, and it can be anywhere in between. It’s versatile. For me, its only limitation in the field is at long distances. Of course that varies by the rifle, and whether the hunter is willing to take the time to roll what the rifle likes.
That said, I get the privilege of hearing from a lot of hunters and how they use their 99s, so here are some of the combos that we’ve done for folks and where they shine.
The first post-war 99 scope adopters largely went with either a Weaver K2.5 or K4. Hunters of the day had become used to iron sights. They knew how to use them and they trusted them. It took some time for scopes to be trusted, especially given that so much hunting happened in the brush, and never in a box blind! The K2.5 was an easy sell for a 99 due to its field of view and ease of locating game while on a deer drive or still hunt. The K4 was considered a high power hunting scope and would have been used in more open country, especially out west. Often the first scopes were mounted with pivot rings, so the scope could be swung out of the way in case it fogged, had snow or rain on the lens, or the light was low. Later, they were mounted with the timeless detachable top mount rings which literally allowed the hunter to put on or take off the scope based on the day and type of hunting he/she would be doing. Shown above is a 1950’s Savage model 99 featherweight in .300 Savage with Weaver detachable top mount rings and a straight Weaver K4 non-centered reticle scope.
Weaver V4.5 and V7:
The advent of the variable scope complimented the versatility of the 99. And with Leupold inventing nitrogen purging technology scopes became more weatherproof and trusted after 1960. A couple of early winners were the V4.5 and V7 by Weaver. The V4.5 at 1.5-4.5 variable would have replaced the K2.5 hunter’s scope, giving him the flexibility to go from almost zero to 5 power, eliminating the need for see through or pivot mounting systems. The V7 would have conceivably replaced the K4 hunter’s scope giving him a reasonable close quarters rifle, but really allowing him to extend his shooting tremendously in open country.
As you can see, I like the Weaver line on 99s. A meat and potatoes rifle and meat and potatoes scopes. The blued steel tubes match the 99 perfectly as opposed to the gloss black of other vintage brands, and there were no doubt more Weavers mounted on 99s than any other brand, perhaps all other brands combined.
That said, done right I’ve seen Leupold, Redfield and B&L’s on 99s that looked just fine, so I guess the 99s versatility is proven once again.