The Rimfire Report: Single Shot "Revolver" – The Savage 101 Story

by Sam.S

Hello and welcome to another edition of TFB’s Rimfire Report! This ongoing series is about the rimfire firearm world and its many types of firearms, shooting sports, ammunition, and history! I am back at the helm filling in for Luke C for this week. Last week Doug E had the Rimfire Report reins and dissected the Strange Beretta U22 NEOS Pistol. Today I thought it would be fun to talk about a firearm that’s been on my list for a long while. I of course am referring to the Savage 101 revolver…I mean pistol. Let’s dive right in!

Rimfire Report @ TFB:

A Missed Opportunity: The Savage 101 Story

A Bellemore-Johnson Tool Company employee by the name of Robert Hillberg had an inclination that all of the popular Western movies and TV shows of the late 1950s would have an effect on the firearm desires of the public at large. He thought particularly of how it suddenly seemed like every little boy wanted to grow up and be a cowboy. His solution was to draw up some retro-looking .22LR firearms designed with youth in mind.

The Bellemore-Johnson Tool Company helped bring Robert Hillberg’s idea to life in the form of two prototypes. One was a Colt Single Action Army revolver lookalike that was actually just a single-shot pistol and the other was a Winchester 94 lookalike with the same concept in mind – one shot.

Both were brought to Savage and allegedly the Vice President of Savage at the time was absolutely smitten with the little revolver/pistol. The higher-ups at Savage felt that the rifle did not have much potential and that it would not be worth the hassle of tooling up for two guns that may not take off. They went with the revolver lookalike and the rest was history.

The Winchester 94 lookalike would be sold to Ithaca who loved the idea and dubbed it the Ithaca 49 Saddlegun. The Model 49 Saddlegun would sell into the hundreds of thousands. The Savage 101? It only made it to 54816 units produced.

Lot 942: Two Lever Action Rifles - B) Ithaca M-49 Single Shot Rifle. (n.d.-b). Rock Island Auction Company. photograph. Retrieved March 31, 2024, from

“Safe Fun for Father & Son” – The Savage 101

The handgun that would become the Savage 101 was a pretty large departure from what Savage was churning out at the time. This meant that it was not only a risky move on Savage’s part to take on the project but also a huge undertaking when it came to the tool up and know-how needed to make this new pistol work and sell. For starters, a handful of very slight changes were made for quality of life and manufacturing reasons. Then of course it needed a name.

Naming the gun was a whole thing. Savage thankfully was a bit ahead of the time in their naming scheme and dismissed all of the stereotypical “Apache”, “Mustang”, and “Westerner” sort of names that would plague other lookalike 22 firearms down the road. Savage would eventually settle on the Savage Model 101.

The Savage 101 would be released to the world in 1960 and would initially retail for around $19.50 (other sources say it sold for $19.95 but most ads mention $19.50). It was marketed toward kids basically. Advertisements had fathers showing sons how to shoot and taglines like “Safe Fun for Father & Son”. Blanket statements like “handy for fishermen, hikers, and campers” would also be found alongside language that emphasized the safe nature of the pistol. Oh, and also loads of “family fun” remarks.

A quick note on appearance before diving into function. Through all of my research, I have found zero evidence that these Savage pistols were ever anything besides all blued metal and fake wood grips. My example is a fairly early gun and the finish is basically gone on the frame. The grips on my example are curious because there is no mention of these ever having the silver medallion on them. Could this be a special edition? A one-off? A DIY? Keep me posted if you folks have extra info on the grips.

How The Savage 101 Works

The Savage 101 has a very simple manual of arms. First of all, it is a single-action single-shot pistol. You only have one shot and you need to cock the gun before being able to fire it.

Loading is super easy. Grasping the barrel you simply rotate the barrel/”cylinder” assembly to the right and insert a single 22LR shell in the chamber.

That’s right the cylinder is not even a cylinder. Savage went as far as making fake bullet tips in the fake cylinder.

Finishing up the loading process all you have to do is rotate the barrel back to the proper orientation. After that cocking the hammer will be readying the gun to fire.

After firing the barrel is rotated to the side and the ejector is spring-loaded and easy to pull towards you and kick out the casing. It is very reminiscent of a SAA but works totally differently at the same time.

Final Thoughts: Savage 101

This is a gun I plan on diving deeper into this year. I am talking more in-depth info on the history, dating, variations, parts, etc. Sooner than later we will even get some TFB Armorer’s Bench action on it as well because when this landed in my lap it was broken! Beyond that, there is no resource for disassembly or reassembly out there so it feels like a duty to make that available at some point. I had to figure it out for myself. Thanks for tagging along on the storytime! See you all down the road.

Hopefully, this was not too much of a departure, or at the very least it was a welcome temporary one from your usual program. See you folks again eventually! As always, thank you for stopping by to read The Rimfire Report and we’ll see you all next week!


Writer | TheFirearmBlogWriter | AllOutdoor.comInstagram | sfsgunsmithOld soul, certified gunsmith, published author, avid firearm history learner, and appreciator of old and unique guns.

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2 of 11 comments
  • IKocher Outdoors IKocher Outdoors on Apr 04, 2024

    That Savage is pretty great. My BIL has one of the Ithaca rifles that we like to have out to the farm to plink with for the kids. The made a magazine version called the 47 I think it was.

  • Bigbigpoopi Bigbigpoopi on Apr 06, 2024

    If there's no gap in the cylinbarrel thing, THREAD IT!