Video: Savage 1907, America’s Runner-Up .45 ACP

Video: Savage 1907, America’s Runner-Up .45 ACP
Savage Model 1907 Field Test Pistol. (Photo courtesy Rock Island Auction Company).

Savage 1907
Savage Model 1907 Field Test Pistol. (Photo courtesy Rock Island Auction Company).

Taking a gander at the Savage Model 1907 it's difficult not to ponder what if…

The delayed blowback single-action semi-automatic pistol is obscure as spats nowadays. But the handgun – in it's .45 ACP iteration – stood at the precipice of greatness. The Savage 1907 was, after all, the handgun that went toe-to-toe with the Model 1911.

The pistol was Savage's first and only attempt at procuring a military contract for a sidearm and Elbert H. Searle's design did surprisingly well. The 1907 – along with what became the Colt 1911 – was one of the last two guns standing in the military field trials.

Of course, firearms enthusiasts all know how the story ends – the laurels and glory went to the 1911 and John Browning. The video below, details what happened in this epic battle of designs and what did in the 1907.

Despite the failure as a .45 ACP, the 1907 did go on to find success as a pocket pistol chambered in .32 and .380 ACP. And it went on to influence the designs of the Savage 1915 and 1917.

While it didn't cut muster as a military weapon, Searle's design is interesting. As the National Firearms Museum points out, the pistol is elegantly simple:

This arm contained only 34 parts and contained no screws or flat springs. A distinctive feature of the original design was the inclusion of checkered sheet metal stocks that were held in place by simple friction. The gun incorporated a hammer/cocking piece that was directly connected to the firing pin. This assembly was in turn housed within a modular breechblock that also contained the mainspring and a top-mounted notched extractor that doubled as a rear sight.

Arguably, the 1911 winning the military contract was a factor in its un-paralleled influence on the firearms world. There are few guns on the market that don’t take something from the 1911, whether in action or aesthetics. Which kind of make one scratch their head about what if the Savage 1907 would have won the contract. Would modern pistols designs have favored the svelte barrel lines of the 1907? Would designers have preferred variations on the blowback action? Answers to these and other questions, obviously, will forever linger in the realm of conjecture.

Only 200 or so 1907s chambered in .45 ACP were produced, all for military trials. In turn, the pistol is rare and desirable; The Standard Catalog of Firearms lists a .45 1907 in excellent condition at $13,500. In the end, it appears Savage's loss has turned out to be collectors' gain.

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Elwood Shelton is the Digital Editor for Gun Digest. He lives in Colorado and has provided coverage on a vast spectrum of topics for GD for more than a decade. Before that, he was an award-winning sports and outdoors reporter for a number of newspapers across the Rocky Mountains. His experience has consisted of covering the spread of chronic wasting disease into the Western Slope of Colorado to the state’s ranching for wildlife programs. His passion for shooting began at a young age, fostered on pheasant hunts with his father. Since then, he has become an accomplished handloader, long-range shooter and avid hunter—particularly mule deer and any low-down, dirty varmint that comes into his crosshairs. He is a regular contributor to Gun Digest Magazine and has contributed to various books on guns and shooting, most recently Lever-Actions: A Tribute to the All-American Rifle.


  1. My recollection was that in this contest, it was the Remington 53 that featured the delayed blowback action designed by John Pedersen. No?

    • Hey JS,
      The Remington 53 featured a delayed blowback action designed by John Pedersen, but the 53 did not come out until 1917. Remington submitted the pistol to the military for field trials that year in an attempt to unseat the 1911, which had been in service for six years at that point. But the Remington 53 was not part of the 1907 field trials that resulted in the 1911 being adopted.
      Thanks for writing,

  2. One wonders why some enterprising young entrepreneur would not market a replica handgun made exactly the same way with quality materials as it was in 1907. Naa, the greed factor of 1,000 per cent profit with plasticky handguns is just to much temptation for todays junk handgun manufacturers.

  3. Hi Elwood,
    Please don’t forget about Remington’s late WWI model 53, that won a Navy contract; but was cancelled because of the wars end.
    Just saying,

    • Hi Larry,
      Wasn’t trying to leave out the M53, just was focusing on the handguns from the 1907 round of field trials of which led to the 1911’s adoption by the Army. Regarding the 53, it would have been interesting if John Pedersen would have come up with his design eight years earlier, good chance Remington could have given Savage and Colt a run for their money.
      Thanks for writing,


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