ON the Savage Arms website the other day, I ran across their Model 42 combo .22/.410 gun. It’s a neat little gun that is the current incarnation of the previous combo guns Savage made for decades.

I’ve always had a lot of affection for these combo guns, which were originally produced by Stevens until 1950. Later versions were produced by Savage as the Model 24.

While I was in college, since I was short of cash for a couple of years, the only long gun I had was a Savage Model 24 in .22LR/20 gauge. I rarely got a chance to hunt with it, but when I did, either a .22 Long Rifle round or a 20-gauge shell usually did the job. A couple of times it took a combo of the two.

I also kept a few rounds of 20-gauge buckshot around, in case I needed to use it for self-defense. The summer after I completed my degree in business, I went to summer school to pick up the hours I needed for a second major in English. A former landlord of mine let me stay in one of his apartment houses for free if I’d ride herd on his rather questionable renters.

24C may be used for hunting squirrels, birds, and other game.
24C broken down for storage in a pack.
USAF M6 Scout is a handy variant of the combo gun, but because of its short barrel length is an NFA weapon for private citizens. Rock Island used to offer a version with longer barrels for the civilian market. Photo: NARA

It was in a seedy neighborhood, and my apartment had recently been occupied by a couple of strippers who had since moved on. One night there was drunken pounding on my door in the wee hours, as an admirer of one of the former occupants was looking for her. When he didn’t seem inclined to go away, I grabbed the Savage with a .22 hollowpoint above and a 20-gauge #3 Buck load below and threw the door open.

My visitor was so drunk he actually fell through the door, then noticed the O/U combo gun as he got up. I’m assuming it was the 20-bore barrel that impressed him, as he blubbered an apology and staggered away. That was the only time I employed the gun in a “tactical” role.

I sold that Model 24 and didn’t have another one for many years, but when the 24C Camper’s Companion with 20-inch barrels in .22/20 gauge was introduced, I bought one. It was a handy little gun that could be broken into two parts and stowed in the case that came with it. It also had a stock designed to hold one spare 20-gauge shell and ten extra .22 LR rounds. I eventually sold it, but started to regret it almost immediately and continued to regret it for the next 15 or 20 years.

Recently a friend called me from a gun show and said a man had just offered him a well-used but serviceable Model 24C. I immediately told him to buy it.

A couple weeks ago, I decided it was time to take it out and see how it shoots. First, I should make it clear that, though I consider the Camper’s Companion a versatile little preparedness gun, in St. Louis where I live, an AR-15 or an 870 is normally in my truck for “preparedness.”

50-yard group with the .22 barrel and 20-gauge barrel using slugs.

Still, I wanted to see where the 24C was shooting in case I ever want to stick it in a pack or in my truck. I took along Winchester M-22 .22 Long Rifle ammo and Federal 20-gauge slugs, as well as some #6 shot loads.

At 50 yards, groups with the .22 barrel weren’t bad, though a little left. Groups with slugs were centered but way low—15 inches at 50 yards. That was fixable because the rear sight is adjustable for elevation. I figured out where it would need to be in order to be close at 50 yards but left elevation set for the .22 Long Rifle barrel. With the slug setting, patterns with Federal #6 shot were close to on as well.

Savage Model 24 combo guns are still readily available on the used market, though the 24C Camper’s Companion is much sought-after and relatively expensive. As a first gun for a young hunter, a Model 24 in .22/.410 is a great companion in the woods and teaches him or her to take their time with their shots.

24C’s stock lets shooter carry one spare 20-gauge round and ten spare .22 Long Rifle rounds.

However, the Model 42, still available from Savage, is reasonably priced with an MSRP of $500 and, like the 24C, is a takedown model. It has better sights than the 24 and a polymer stock for better durability in the outdoors.

I bought my 24C mostly out of nostalgia, and I’m sure some reading this either had one or still have it. I like the versions of the Model 24 with the 20-gauge barrel, as it offers the ability to use 20-gauge slugs or buckshot, but the versions with the .410 barrel still make a good beginner’s combo gun.

To those S.W.A.T. readers who have or plan to pass a Model 24 on to a child or grandchild, consider the Savage Model 42. It would also make a nice gift.

I admit that what I’m writing about here is basically a single-shot rifle stuck atop a single-shot shotgun, but many beginning shooters start with a single-shot .22 rifle and a single-shot shotgun.

Back in my early teens, I would have thought a combo gun such as the 24C was wonderful. When I got a Savage Model 24, I was pleased with its versatility. Now, more than half a century later, I still think the Model 24 is a very clever design.

This time I won’t sell or trade my 24C!

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