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Ask Ian: Analyzing the Savage Rotating Barrel (at 7500 frames/sec)

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A question I have been asked by several different people in several Q&A threads is:

“Does the Savage rotating-barrel system actually do anything?”

In his 1905 patent, Elbert Searle specifically claims that his design creates a positively locked breech. He did this, in theory, by having a system where the barrel must rotate before the slide can move rearward (which opens the breech), and where the bullet engaging the rifling created an opposite rotation which would hold the breech closed until the bullet left the barrel.

In reality, Searle’s system does not do that. The breech begins to open while the bullet is still traveling down the barrel, as the rearward pressure on the breech substantially overmatches the rotations force created by the bullet on the rifling. However, this system does still provide some delay, and allows the moving parts of the Savage system to be about 20% lighter in mass than those of the Browning model 1900. The Savage may not have a positively locked breech, but it is a safe and reliable design.

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