Savage’s iconic Model 24 combo gun was available in a range of calibers and gauges since it was first introduced in 1950. I had one when I was a kid. It was your basic .22/.410 setup, and it was touted as a kind of do-it-all survival/utility item. The final iterations of the Model 24 were discontinued sometime in the late 1980s. But, despite the fact that combination guns have never been as widely accepted in the U.S. as they have been in Europe, the M24 was popular over here. It’s not hard to figure out why. The concept makes a lot of sense. So much so that Savage decided to reintroduce a polymer-stocked update of the platform recently.
It’s designated as the Model 42 and is currently available with a 20-inch .22LR (or .22 WMR) barrel topside and a three-inch-chambered .410 tube underneath. With its six-pound weight and 131/2-inch length of pull, it’s a lot more kid-friendly — and thinner and trimmer — than I recall my old M24 being. And, just as important from a confidence-building standpoint, that .410 barrel mikes out at Cylinder bore instead of my old M24’s Full choke I remember dealing with as a novice dove/quail hunter. Although quite adequate for aerial targets (more on that later), as a .410, this one’s obvious niche is rabbit hunting or close-range pest-potting in the backyard or garden for when you don’t want to uncork a .22 bullet.
At first I had mixed feelings about the Model 42. I remembered my old M24 with its hardwood stock, case-hardened receiver, heavier weight and more “substantial” characteristics. Does that mean that the Model 42 is a totally different beast? Well, yes and no.
First off, the Model 42’s barrels run through the enclosing, futuristically sculpted synthetic fore-end. Instead of the old, side-mounted barrel selector button I remember, the selector is on the large-spurred external hammer itself (this feature appeared on later iterations of the M24 as well). There are no ejectors on the Model 42. There is a U-shaped, manually operated device situated between the rifle and shotgun chambers. It consists of two steel extractor blades attached to a synthetic, U-shaped, manually operated, harness-like arrangement. You simply grasp the serrated sides of the “U” and pull back briskly to kick out the empties.
I had no problem with the .22 barrel with the Long Rifle loads, but I did have problems kicking out some Russian-made all-brass .410 shells I brought along. This arrangment was not entirely satisfactory, occasionally requiring two or three tries. The sights, consisting of a large blade front and a fully adjustable, breech-mounted, square notch rear, were significantly superior to the barrel-mounted ramp rear and smaller front-blade arrangement I remember on my old M24. The Model 42 also features a crossbolt safety. This, combined with the barrel-selector switch and external hammer, seems overly redundant, so I pretty much left it off and ignored it when I was using the gun.
The other significant departure is the break-open lever, which is situated just in front of the triggerguard. It’s easier and quicker to access than the old, conventionally located topside thumb lever of the M24.
I first tried the Model 42 in shotgun mode at the local skeet range. Since I’m pretty much of an instinctive “low gun” shooter, the short stock of the gun bothered me less than it would if I were a serious competition-type guy. Using 21/2-inch Winchester AA 71/2s, I actually managed to break 11 or 12 in the round. Not scintillating, but considering the bore size, abbreviated dimensions, rifle sights (I tried to ignore them) and the fact that it was pretty windy, I was rather pleased.
Things got even better when I took the Model 42 to the bench at our rifle range. At 30 yards, using Federal Vital-Shok 21/2-inch, 1/4-ounce (109-grain) rifled slugs, I got a couple of three-shot groups at around two inches that were only slightly higher than my point of aim. The velocity numbers I got averaged out to 1,680 fps, which would definitely expand the utility of the Model 42 as regards things out of the “small game” class. I then tried some of the Winchester three-inch PDX1 .410 BB/Defense Disc loads at 10 yards. Practically everything, with the exception of two lone BBs, stayed well centered in a four- to 41/2-inch pattern. Again, another utility-increasing option for the gun.
The trigger, incidentally, broke at 4.3 pounds — considerably lighter than I remember from my M24 days, but fairly creepy. This, plus the easier-to-acquire sights, may explain the results with the rimfire barrel. Using three .22 Long Rifle loads, five-shot groups ranged from .75 to 21/4 inches, the clear winner being Remington’s economical 36-grain HP Small Game Load. For open sights and old eyes at 30 yards, that struck me as pretty darn good.
In comparison with its predecessor, the Model 42 is pretty New Age. There are a few things about it I’m not crazy about (and a few things about it I am), but it’s tough to argue with the results. It’s light, handy, weather-resistant and shoots better than I can remember my old M24 ever doing. Call it a combination gun, garden gun or whatever — its versatility makes it a one-of-a-kind tool.