Product Tests & Reviews
.300 Savage Ackley Improved Bellm Contender Barrel

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.300 Savage Ackley Improved Bellm Contender Barrel

300 Savage 6

I have been talking with Mike Bellm for several years about the possibility of chambering the Thompson Center Contender for a cartridge that would allow the non hand loader to enjoy similar performance to such “hand loader only” cartridge choices as the .308 Bellm or .309 JDJ.

Mike told me that the 300 Savage had been used in the past as a option for re-chambering the T/C .30 caliber short chambered Contender barrels like 30 Herrett and .30 Carbine, but that due to the sticky extraction he often experienced, combined with the 47,000 psi SAAMI pressures of the 300 Savage, he no longer offered the chambering in the Contender. This has all recently changed with Mike Bellm’s introduction of the .300 Savage Ackley Improved chambering for the
Thompson Center
Contender. First, a bit about the .300 Savage:

The .300 Savage was introduced in 1921 for the Savage Model 99 lever-action rifle and has since been chambered in many other rifles: bolt actions, pumps and semi-autos from Remington and
, and bolt actions from Savage. There are thousands of .300 Savage rifles still being used today.

The .300 Savage is loaded by our three major ammo companies. Federal and Remington offer both 150Gr. and 180Gr. bullet weights, and
catalogs a 150Gr. loading.

The .300 Savage case holds approximately 53 grains of water, which is almost three grains less than the .308
. Capacities of the two cases are nearly the same, yet the .308 produces higher velocities due primarily to its much higher operating pressure. The SAAMI maximum average pressure for the .308 Win. is listed at 62,000 psi while the .300 Savage is listed at 47,000 psi.

300 Savage 9

Side by Side Left to Right:
.308Win, .300 Savage, 30 Herrett

The .300 Savage overall cartridge length is 2.6 inches compared to the .308's 2.8 inches, in part because the .300's overall cartridge length was originally dictated by the length of the Savage Model 99's magazine.

For the hand loader, excellent powders for the .300 Savage for bullet weights from 150 through 180 grains are VN-140, H-4895, IMR-3031, IMR-4064, and IMR-4895.

The .300 Savage Ackley Improved is for the guy who wants .309 JDJ/.308 Bellm performance in the Thompson Center Contender or G2, but who does not reload. Just go buy a box of .300 Savage factory ammo and get the same results as those paying for high dollar custom dies and barrels and having to reload all their ammunition, which while highly commendable and many times even desirable, is not for everyone.

300 Savage 4

Mike did the first of this chamber earlier this year, and as he had hoped, it DOES solve the pressure and extraction problems that always plagued the standard .300 Savage chambering in Contender barrels. Extraction was simply flawless. Upon firing, the increased volume of the improved case chamber using the standard factory loaded .300 Savage ammo does appear to drop the pressure just enough to put it into the safe range the Contender likes. And the straighter case and chamber wall also helps extraction tremendously. All fired cases extracted with ease.

300 Savage 9 3
Loaded .300 Savage round next to case fired in the .300 Savage Ackley Improved Contender Barrel.

I should add that if you opt for .300 Savage Ackley Improved, do not hand load, and want a different or better bullet than is available in normal factory offerings, you can have CNC Cartridge Co. custom load whatever you want. So long as you specify to them that they observe loading data that produces no more than the standard 2600 fps in rifle length barrels, you will be fine shooting custom commercially loaded ammo in the .300 Savage Imp. chamber.
For cuastom loaded ammunition for this and many other cartridges, contact Danny Campbell at CNC Cartridge.


Danny Campbell, CNC Cartridge, Macedonia, IL.  Phone:  (618) 435-2855 or (618) 439-9053

This particular barrel is matte blue, 14" in length, and is serial numbered #001 on the lug as the first one Mike produced. The barrel has a gradual taper rather than full bull profile, starting out at .810 at the rear and tapering down to .739 at the muzzle. There are 4 lands and grooves, and the twist rate is 1-10”. It came drilled and tapped with a 6-hole scope base screw pattern, and I mounted a 6 screw Virgin Valley Custom Guns [now known as Stratton Custom] scope base. It also has a rim counter-bore cut into it to provide the handloader the option of making cases from .307 Win or .444 Marlin brass in the event one opts to use one of these rimmed cases in lieu of the rimless .300 Savage cases.


With the .300 Savage Ackley Improved with a rim counter-bore, we have three additional ways to go for choice of brass with this chambering. Modified .308 Win Improved dies for forming/reloading cases for .300 Savage Imp. would work great using .307 and .444 rimmed brass, and would work great for .308 Win. brass also. Along with the .300 Savage brass, that makes at least 4 options for brass in this chambering.

Case capacity of the .300 Savage is actually optimum for a Contender round, in spite of the current trend to stuff a great deal of powder into cartridges based upon full length .444 cases like the .309 JDJ, etc.


300 Savage 1

300 Savage 5
.300 Savage Ackley Imrproved 14" Bellm made Contender barrel, with 3-12x32 Burris IER, G2 Contender frame, Virgin Valley Custom Guns 6-hole scope mount, 3 Burris Signature Zee rings, and Denzel Roberts Camo Laminate grip and forend.

Groups were fired at 100 yards from a padded adjustable bench rest. Temperature was 81 degrees, no wind, and the day was mostly sunny. The chronograph revealed 2420 fps for the 150Gr. Remington loaded ammunition. Group size was right under an inch for all groups fired, from .75" to .9". Accuracy was exceptional considering a factory loaded supply of ammunition was used in an improved chamber! I attribute this to Mike Bellm's exacting attention to detail in centering the chamber & crown to the axis of the bore and carefully throating his chambers as a separate operation.

300 Savage 8
This barrel was made by Mike Bellm, custom gunsmith & chambering specialist. Mike is a consummate craftsman and knowledgeable in all areas of firearms customization! Contact him through the link below: 

Mike Bellm

Contact us through our e-mail address at:

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