Stevens Arms: Legendary Firearms Company

By CTD Suzanne published on in Firearms, History, Manufacturers, Shotguns

In 2014, legendary firearms company, J. Stevens and Company will celebrate 150 years of making high-quality firearms. Now, a subsidiary company of Savage Arms, the company still brands shotguns and rifles under the Stevens name.

Together with investors, W.B. Fay and James Taylor, toolmaker Joshua Stevens founded the J. Stevens and Company in 1864 in Chicopee Falls, Massachusetts. The company’s first gun was a tip-up, single-shot pistol designed by Stevens. Though Stevens was a toolmaker by trade, he worked with gun makers C.B. Allen, Eli Whitney, Samuel colt, and Edwin Wesson. In fact, Stevens helped Samuel Colt make Colt’s very first revolver in Colt’s small Hartford, Connecticut shop. Stevens went on to invent the most popular cartridge in the entire world—the .22 Long Rifle. At first, most of the company’s income came from making and selling tools, but J. Stevens and Company was quickly built into one of the largest manufacturers of firearms in the country.

In the Beginning

J. Stevens and Company began building falling block rifles in 1880. Attention to detail in the quality of a J. Stevens and Company rifle at a price lower than Winchester made the gun very popular. In 12 years, J. Stevens and Company sold over 3.5 million of the falling block long guns.

Picture is of a drawing of Arthur Savage and Joshua Stevens.

Savage and Stevens merged in 1920, becoming the largest manufacturer of firearms at the time.

Stevens developed the .22 Long Rifle cartridge in 1887, chambering the #1, #2, #9, #10, New Model Pocket, and Bicycle rifles for the round. The .22 Long Rifle remains the most popular cartridge in the world with yearly production varying between 2.3 and 2.5 billion rounds. Savage Arms remains one of the top manufacturers in the world for reliable, dependable and honest craftsmanship of rimfire rifles today.

Company bookkeeper, I.H. Page, along with his partners, purchased the company in 1896. Stevens retired that same year to Meriden, Connecticut. However, he still travelled back to Chicopee Falls to offer advice and watch over the manufacturer of firearms.

J. Stevens and Savage Merge

By 1902, J. Stevens and Company was one of the top firearms manufacturers in the world. With the merger of Savage Arms and J. Stevens and Company in 1920, the company, of course, grew to become the largest manufacturer of firearms at the time. By 1915, the company opened offices in New York, London, Australia, the Caribbean, and Latin America.

The War Years

During World War I, Westinghouse took over Savage and the company made Mosin Nagant rifles for Russia. The company also produced the Lee Enfield rifle, Thompson sub machine gun, Browning BAR, and Lewis machine gun.

Savage… a Car Maker?

Picture shows a drawing of a 1902 model Stevens-Duryea Runabout motorcar.

A 1902 model Stevens-Duryea Runabout motorcar.

Savage dabbled in other areas, too. In 1901, the company partnered with Frank Duryea, who designed the first motor car in the United States, to make a 2 cylinder, 5 hp Runabout car. Fifty cars were produced out of the Savage factory in 1902. The contract ended in 1904.

Hard Times Turned Around

Savage fell on hard times during the 1980s and in 1988 filed for bankruptcy protection. However, in the mid 90s, Ronald Coburn bought the company and completely turned it around. Now Savage is back on top of one the biggest firearms manufacturers in the United States, producing more firearms a year than Beretta and Taurus.

Stevens Model 320 Security Pump-Action Shotgun

People tend to overlook Savage as a major contender when shopping for guns. Maybe it is because Savage does not jump on trendy bandwagons or try to make guns that are not its specialty. However, Savage has been making dependable high-quality firearms for the serious shooter for nearly 150 years. In 2003, the Shooting Industry Academy of Excellence awarded the company manufacturer of the year. Savage produces long-range and precision rifles and shotguns that are unprecedented in accuracy and capabilities for the price.

Picture shows a black pump-action shotgun with synthetic pistol grip stock made by Stevens.

The Stevens 320 12-gauge, pump-action workhorse is inspired by the extremely reliable Winchester 1300 action.

Savage is still branding Stevens guns today. In 2012, the company debuted the model 320 shotgun in two different models, the Security and the Field, in seven different configurations. This 12-gauge, pump-action workhorse is inspired by the extremely reliable Winchester 1300 action. When you pull the trigger, the rotary bolt moves away from the barrel extension. The recoil from firing the shotgun helps moves the slide backward, aiding in pumping the shotgun for the next round. It is a solid and strong action. Winchester used to call it the “speed pump” because the action allows the shooter to quickly fire follow up shots. The dual slide bars connecting the forearm to the breech bolt on the 320 Security help this action.

Much like Mossberg does with its line of Maverick guns, Savage imports the model 350 Security under the more affordable subsidiary brand Stevens. Stevens’ rifles and shotguns pass Savage quality control, but are less expensive than Savage-branded guns.

Picture shows a close-up of a shotgun forearm.

The longer forearm makes the Stevens 320 comfortable to shoot.

With the shorter, 18.5-inch carbon steel barrel, the 320 Security is optimal for home defense, but just as versatile as any other 12-gauge pump-action shotgun. The 3-inch chamber also accommodates 2-3/4 inch shells and the tube fits five rounds. You load from the bottom and the gun ejects from the side. Dimensions on the 320 Security are standard with a 13-3/4 length of pull, 1-3/4 inch drop at comb and 2-1/2 inch drop at the heel. The pistol grip stock is matte black heavy-duty synthetic. The steel barrel offsets the lightweight of the stock, making the 320 a well-balanced shotgun. Overall, the shotgun weighs nearly seven pounds. The trigger pull is slightly heavier than six pounds.

You will notice the longer than normal forearm (the pump mechanism) on the model 320. Combined with the pistol grip stock, women and shorter shooters (shorter than 5’ 5”) find the Stevens model 320 Security more comfortable to shoot than a standard shotgun without the added grip.

Picture shows a close-up of the buttstock of a Stevens 320 shotgun.

With a natural pointability, the solidly built 320 shoulders well for shooters of all sizes

With a natural pointability, the solidly built 320 shoulders well for shooters of all sizes. It comes with a bead sight that is easy to aim. Recoil is a bit rough, but a nice cushy recoil pad will fix that.

As one of Cheaper Than Dirt!’s most affordable pump-action shotguns, the Stevens model 320 Security shotgun makes a perfect trunk gun. If you need a gun you know will get abused and possibly even neglected, but need it to go bang! every time, the Stevens 320 Security is the perfect shotgun for you.

Do you own a Savage or Stevens firearm? Tell us about it in the comment section.

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