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Crap Shoot: Savage Model 69RXL Shotgun

Savage Model 69RXL Shotgun: It's Biden Approved

Photos by Kenda Lenseigne

Continuing our look at firearms found languishing in the used section of your typical local gun store, our gaze turns to that stalwart of the home-defense arsenal, the pump shotgun. Picked up for the not-so-princely sum of $120 out the door, this nearly pristine Savage model 69RXL was once highly regarded as a buckshot dispenser. Has it held up since the early ’80s when its ilk could be found in police cruisers across the country? We’ll find out.

Our Savage’s 18-inch barreled riot gun has a full-length magazine tube and corncob forend attached to a single-action bar. This is a quintessential post-World War I design feature found in many of its contemporaries, such as the Ithaca M37 and Winchester Model 12. It wasn’t until the 1950s with the introduction of the ubiquitous Remington 870 that dual-action bars gained widespread acceptance.

Despite the perceived shortcoming of having one rather than two action bars, the 69’s direct predecessor was nonetheless the most widely used combat shotgun of the Vietnam War. Savage delivered over 60,000 of its M77E model to the U.S. military during the 1960s, most of which found their way to Southeast Asia, where they were found in the hands of both U.S. and South Vietnamese personnel. In the early ’70s, Savage adapted the M77E to the needs of police agencies by extending the magazine tube and chambering it for both 2¾- and 3-inch shells, and lo, the 69RXL was born.

Our example features a blued finish to all its metalwork, while its beech stock and forend have a matte varnish. Unlike say, a Mossberg 500, the action locks up by means of a tilting bolt, which engages a shelf in the steel receiver — simple and effective. Below the ejection port sits a loading gate, which is tiny in comparison to more modern guns — our Benelli SuperNova, for example, has about three times the amount of room to accommodate reloads and is like throwing a hotdog down a hallway in comparison. The 69RXL also has an awkward method of retaining a live round from the magazine tube, relying on a tab protruding from the bolt’s underside to keep it in place until it can be fed onto the lifter. When in battery, the next shell sits partway out of the tube, which means that topping off is more of a chore than it should be. In order to slide a shell into a partially loaded tube, you first have to catch the rim of the shell sitting on the lifter with the crimp of the one you’re trying to insert and push them both into the mag tube. If that sounds like a pain in the ass, you’re correct.

Unloading is done via means of the bolt-release catch located at the trigger guard’s rear edge. There’s no way to push in the shell retaining latch, such as on an 870 or M500, so you’re forced to cycle each live round out of the gun the same way as if you’d fired them. The safety’s located at the top rear of the action (Mossberg-ish), and the trigger pull isn’t bad for shotgun. As far as takedown is concerned, you’re going to need a screwdriver. The barrel is secured to the magazine tube by means of a slot-head screw, which has a tendency to back out if it’s not Loctited.

The Good
+ 6+1 rounds of 12-gauge maelstrom
+ Decent trigger
+ Ergonomic controls

The Bad
+ Reloading is finicky, particularly under stress
+ Lack of aftermarket support means there’s no means to add capacity to the tube

The Ugly
Defensive long-guns should have a light and a sling. There’s no means to add the former without resorting to cheesy barrel clamps. Due to the reloading arrangement, you’d better plan on only ever facing a couple of adversaries in a life-or-death struggle. Yeah, right.

While it wouldn’t be our first choice as a defensive shotgun, the Savage 69R is still a somewhat viable tool when it comes to keeping ne’er-do-wells off your lawn. For the price we paid, it’d work as a loaner, truck gun, or jack handle in the event you need to change a tire.

Savage 69RXL
Purchased from: Sierra Auction in Phoenix
Caliber: 12-gauge
Weight unloaded: 7 pounds
Capacity: 6+1
Length: 38 inches
Barrel: 18 inches
Price paid: $120

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2 responses to “Crap Shoot: Savage Model 69RXL Shotgun”

  1. mike leduc says:

    these gun are collector items. old combat shot gun.

  2. Paul Hillar says:

    Well written article! I am repairing one now that has a couple parts missing and needs some refreshing on the bluing. Should be good to go shortly. Thanks!

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  • Well written article! I am repairing one now that has a couple parts missing and needs some refreshing on the bluing. Should be good to go shortly. Thanks!

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