The idea of an affordable, versatile long gun that you always keep handy is appealing. Call it a camp gun, truck gun or knock-around gun, if you’d like. It’s not one that you match with a $1,000 scope and keep meticulously tucked away in your gun safe to await that special hunting trip. This is a gun of opportunity for whatever game presents itself. When you need it, it’s always there. You don’t mind if it gets scratched or beat up a bit as it accompanies you through the bumps and bruises of everyday living.
Several years ago, Savage Arms resurrected its concept of a combo gun. The Model 42 featured a rimfire rifle barrel (.22LR or .22WMR) over a smoothbore .410 shotgun barrel.
Now, the company has updated that design by making it as a takedown model. I wanted to find out if this newer version would make a suitable and effective “knock-around” gun for my purposes.
MODEL 24 CAME FIRST
The Model 42, of course, is just a more modern take on an old idea. For years, Savage manufactured its Model 24, a woodenstocked over/under that was offered in many more configurations than the current gun. I owned one with a .30-30 barrel over a 20-gauge shotgun barrel. It was an ideal tool to procure camp meat. I kick myself a lot for trading it away.
For a while, I looked to find another one to replace it, preferring one in .22LR over 20 gauge, which I figured would be an excellent gun for small-game hunting. But the price for those old guns (many of which are in rough shape) is now in the $400 to $500 price range—comparable to the price of a new Model 42.
The Model 42 comes with a black synthetic stock trimmed in red with a rubber recoil pad and sling studs. The 20-inch barrels are matte black. The shotgun barrel is chambered for 3-inch shells. It’s a smooth cylinder-bore barrel with no provision to install choke tubes.
While the gun I tested was a .22 Magnum over .410 shotgun, it is also available in .22LR over .410. It’s a mere 35.75 inches long overall. A compact version that’s an inch shorter is also offered in .22LR over .410. It comes with adjustable open sights for precise shooting with the .22 Magnum barrel. You can remove the rear sight to install an aftermarket scope base, but mounting a scope would seem to hinder the usefulness of using the shotgun barrel on flying or running game.
The Model 42 is a simple break-action design. To load the gun, a generously sized lever under the receiver unlocks the action, which hinges at the bottom. One .22 Magnum and one .410 shotgun shell can then be inserted.
The firing pins are mounted on the frame. There is a flipper on the hammer that is easily operated with your thumb that selects which barrel fires when the hammer falls. The hammer is the rebounding type that comes to rest in the “down” position a safe distance from the primer of any shell in the chamber. A blow to the hammer cannot cause the gun to fire. There is also a cross-bolt safety that seems superfluous if you carry the gun as you should: hammer down.
The single trigger is not the adjustable AccuTrigger found on many Savage firearms, but it was crisp with no takeup. I measured it at about 3 pounds.
There are no automatic ejectors activated when you open the action. Instead, to unload the gun or remove empty shells, there is a manual extractor you grasp along both sides of the breech. Pulling it up partially extracts the shells in both barrels at once, which then allows you to pluck them the rest of the way out with your fingers. It proved to be an effective system, and it was easy to keep the little gun charged with live ammo.
As I mentioned, the thing that sets this new model apart from those in previous years is that it’s a takedown. There’s a button under the forend. While holding that button in, you slide the forend toward the muzzle. Then, when you open the action, the barrel/ forend assembly can be removed from the receiver/stock.
Once it’s taken down, the longer piece is just slightly more than 20 inches long. The two pieces can be stowed away in the included Uncle Mike’s nylon go-bag that’s MOLLE compatible and also features a shoulder strap and an outside ammo/accessory pocket.
HOW IT HANDLES
As much as I liked the utility of the old Model 24, I have to admit that the new Model 42 is lighter, more compact and handier in use.
Many times when small-game hunting, I carry a shotgun and have a .22 pistol on my belt. But there’s no easy way to transition to the handgun if a shot at stationary game presents itself. I prefer a single .22 to the head of a rabbit or squirrel instead of peppering the meat with shot.
With the Model 42, if you do flush some fast-moving game, you can hunt with the shotgun barrel selected. If you need to switch to the .22 barrel, it’s as easy as flipping the lever on the hammer.
AT THE RANGE
Because the Model 42 is not a repeater, there’s that much less that can go wrong. Function was as advertised; there were no problems of any kind. After a few shots to adjust the rear sight, I fired five-shot groups from the bench at 50 yards to get an idea of the accuracy potential with the .22 Magnum barrel.
The point of impact changed slightly, depending on whether I was shooting 30- or 40-grain bullets, but the little Savage seemed to like all the loads I tested without a real preference for one over the other. Groups in the 1- to 1½ -inch range were the norm. Basically, this gun will shoot as well as your eyes can see the target.
With the sights still adjusted for the .22 Magnum barrel, I fired some .410 slugs out of the bottom barrel. They grouped well: about 1¾ inches at 50 yards, although they were slightly high and to the left. The difference in the point of impact was not enough to bother with, and the step up in lethality is substantial should your targets suddenly change from four-legged varmints to two-legged predators.
I fired Federal shotshells with 7½ shot and Remington game loads with 6 shot (both 2½-inch shells) from 10 yards, and most of the shot was concentrated in a 10-inch circle. In the thick areas I hunt, I figured the Savage could do its part if I did mine.
I also fired some Remington slugs, Winchester 000 buckshot (three .35-caliber pellets in each) and some Hornady Critical Defense .410 Triple Defense shells at a silhouette target 10 yards away. That Hornady load, designed for use in the popular handguns that chamber either .45 Colt or .410 shotgun, contains a .41-caliber FTX slug and two .36-caliber round balls. All hit well within center mass.
While this little gun isn’t designed as a defensive arm, if it’s the gun you have with you, it could be pressed into service with the addition of a few of these specialty shells in your pocket or pack.
I’ve always been a bit skeptical of the .410-bore shotgun because of its limited shot payload. A typical 2½-inch shell with a ½-ounce payload would hold about 175 balls of 7½ shot or about 112 balls of 6 shot. Compare that to a 20-gauge, 1-ounce load with double those numbers. It’s simply going to be harder to hit moving game with the smaller gun.
In the thick woods of the Northeast, where skittish grouse often flush before you have time to introduce yourself, the .410 could be a challenge. Out West, where you can practically walk up and shake hands with some birds, you might have better luck with it.
The gun’s small size, low recoil and slower, more methodical loading and unloading procedure could benefit new shooters— although the limited shot of the .410 might be frustrating if hits are too difficult to attain.
The Model 42’s versatility is enhanced by the new ammo choices that are actually intended for handguns but work fine in the Model 42, as well. Together with more-traditional 000 buck and slug loads, the Model 42 can be effective if pressed into a defensive role. Just make that first shot count. Also, it’s a gun that’s more apt to be legal in the more restrictive areas throughout the country.
I see the Model 42 primarily as a contingency gun for backwoods survival, where having such a firearm could save your life. In such situations, small game is often more prevalent than the elusive deer. Yes, you could down a deer with a .410 slug, especially if you kept your shots within typical bowhunting distances. But some states don’t allow use of the .410 on deer. However, in a life-or-death situation, that might not trouble you.
A big benefit is that the .22 and .410 ammo is small and light and could be carried in greater quantity than ammo for other survival gun contenders. That could be important in a wilderness survival situation. And my tests with different types of ammo convinced me that at close range, this little gun can still be deadly but will probably require a higher degree of skill on the shooter’s part.
The gun, itself, is lightweight, and it’s now more compact than ever in its takedown configuration. There’s no excuse to leave it behind.
Accurate and effective for close-range small-game hunting, versatile as a survival tool, capable as a last-ditch defensive weapon, and easily and discreetly carried, it all adds up to a worthwhile gun to own. In short: It’s my new camp gun.
- TYPE: Over/under, break-action combo gun
- CALIBERS: .22 WMR over .410 bore shotgun (also available in .22LR over .410 bore)
- CAPACITY: 1 round, each barrel
- BARREL LENGTH: 20 inches
- OVERALL LENGTH: 35.75 inches
- FINISH: Matte-black carbon steel
- STOCK: Black synthetic
- SIGHTS: Adjustable
- WEIGHT: 6.1 pounds
- OTHER: Includes an Uncle Mike’s zippered nylon carry case
Accuracy testing consisted of five five-shot groups at 50 yards. Velocity was measured with a Magneto Speed chronograph.
|CCI Maxi Mag TNT 30-grain JHP||2243||1.38||1.13|
|Hornady 30-grain V-Max||2358||1.41||1|
|Winchester 40-grain FMJ||1843||1.25||1|
|Armscor 40-grain JHP||1850||1.5||1.25|
Editor’s note: A version of this article first appeared in the February 2017 print issue of Gun World Magazine.