Stevens’ 555 20-Gauge Import Proves
Itself A Sleek, Lightweight Upland O/U.
By Holt Bodinson
To those who can remember when guns were sold largely through hardware stores Sears & Roebuck and Montgomery Ward, the name, “Stevens” has a magic ring to it. Founded in Chicopee Falls, Massachusetts, in 1864 by Joshua Stevens, the Stevens Arms and Tool Company was, by the turn of the century, the largest sporting arms manufacturer in the world. The company had 1,000 employees and a plant occupying 275,000 square feet of shop space.
Famous for their lines of single shot, tip-up pistols and single-shot rifles at every level of quality and price—including the famous Stevens-Pope line of Schuetzen match rifles—the company also invented the .22 Long Rifle cartridge in 1887 (possibly the company’s most enduring achievement).
At the beginning of WWI, the New England Westinghouse Company acquired Stevens, renaming it the “J. Stevens Arms Company,” and used its production capacity to build Mosin-Nagants for the Russians and Browning machine guns for the Americans. At the end of the war, Savage Arms Corporation bought Stevens from Westinghouse and refocused the company’s direction toward the production of shotguns rather than single-shot pistols and rifles, which were no longer in demand.
It is reported that by 1926, the J. Stevens Arms Company was the largest shotgun manufacturer in the world. Among its keynote innovations was the Model 520, America’s first slide-action hammerless shotgun. In 1936 Stevens ceased being a separate company and was absorbed as a division of Savage Arms.
Under Savage, the Stevens name developed an excellent reputation for reasonably priced, well-designed, well-built shotguns.
The slim pistol grip (above) is a real plus for shooters
with small hands. The fine checkering pattern (below)
shows the quality of the Turkish walnut used in the Stevens 555.
I suspect a Stevens single-shot shotgun was the first smoothbore a majority of young hunters coming of age in the 1940’s and 1950’s carried afield. A couple of years later, they may well have graduated to a Stevens bolt-action or pump shotgun. And later as adults they may have ended up with a Fox/Stevens SxS.
While the Harrington & Richardson and New England Firearms brands have pretty well taken over the single-shot shotgun market, Stevens (by Savage) has recently been importing affordable, Turkish-made SxS’s and O/U’s under the Stevens name.
For several years, the lines included the Model 512 Gold Wing O/U and the Model 612 Gold Wing SxS. The new line this year is called the Stevens 555. Initially introduced in 12-gauge, the 555 line now includes a svelte 20 I’ve had the pleasure of working with during the September dove season.
The more Turkish shotguns I see and handle, the more impressed I am with the Turkish gunmaking industry. Turkey is currently the source of every quality-level of shotgun—from the finest-grade trap gun to the least expensive repeater. It’s remarkable really how fast the country has come on-line as a hotbed for innovative shotgun design and modern production practices. The Stevens 555 is a perfect example of this happy state of affairs.
My first impression of the 555 20-gauge was how light it is. In fact, with its 26-inch stackbarrels featuring ventilated top and side ribs, it tips the scales at only 5-1/2 pounds. The weight savings is made possible by scaling the receiver to proper 20-gauge proportions, using trunnions rather than a full-hinge pin as the pivot point, and machining the action from aluminum. The trunnions are steel inserts as is the face plate on the standing breech, and there’s a solid steel underlocking lug. It’s a smart, modern and durable design, precision-machined and well fitted. There’s no slop in the action, but neither is it stiff.
The “true 20” platform results in a shallow frame measuring only 2.3 inches from the bottom of the frame to the top of the standing breech. This, plus the upswept line of the Schnabel fore-end, minimizes the distance from the bore axis to the palm of your leading hand. This all-important, hands-to-barrel relationship is the mark of all fine game guns. We call this quality “pointability.” The Stevens 555 has it, and it also balances well—exactly at the hinge point.
The Stevens name continues to be Savage’s core shotgun brand.
The firing pin section of the standing breech is reinforced with a steel plate.
Both top and side ribs of the barrels are ventilated
to enhance cooling and reduce weight.
Featuring straight-grained, but nicely colored Turkish walnut, the stock is eye pleasing with good lines. Length of pull is 14-3/8 inches. Measured with Brownells LOP and Drop Gauge, the drop-at-the-comb is 1-1/4 inches and 2-3/8 at the heel with zero cast.
The pistol grip feels very slim so I measured it as well. It has a circumference of only 4-1/2 inches and is well swept back and open. Small hands will find it exceedingly comfortable. There are simple—yet ample—checkering patterns on the fore-end and pistol grip. The checkering pitch is very, very fine, which speaks well for the quality of the walnut. The butt is capped off with a solid pad. The oil finish is a low sheen, and during the first day of hunting, the stock emitted the memorable odor of linseed oil.
The Stevens features a single selective mechanical trigger controlled by an easy-to-thumb tang safety. The Model 555 has extractors, not ejectors, which is fine for a field gun since fish and game departments (not to mention landowners) frown on empty hulls being left behind.
The 26-inch barrels are chrome lined and fitted with screw-in choke tubes. A neat little locking choke-tube kit is supplied containing 5 tubes (Cylinder through Full), a wrench and, would you believe, foam ear plugs (I like that touch!)
I ran the Stevens through a point-of-aim test before heading to the dove fields, and it was smack on, indicating excellent barrel regulation. For choked tubes, I selected a 4-notched IC for the lower barrel and a 3-notched M for the upper. My dove load was the inexpensive promotional “Estate” label ammunition, featuring 7/8-ounce of lead 7-1/2’s at 1,210 fps.
The dove season in South Central Arizona was not particularly good this year, primarily because grain crops had been replaced by miles of uniform cotton fields. However, there was enough action to keep the Stevens warm and old Steamer busy shagging downed birds.
The Stevens 555 handled exceedingly well in the field. It was easy to hit with. I found the recoil from this 5-1/2-pound gun to be minimal, indicating good stocking.
With a price of $692, the Stevens 555 is a sound value with performance to spare. It’s nice to see this famous old name continue as the core shotgun brand in the Savage lineup.
The Stevens 555—available in 12-or 20-gauge—is an example of Turkey’s
emergence as a hotbed of modern shotgun production and design.
MAKER: Kofs, Ltd.
Importer: Stevens by Savage
100 Springdale Rd.
Westfield, MA 01085
Action type: O/U, Gauge: 20 (3-inch chambers)
Barrel length: 26 inches (ventilated top and side ribs)
Overall length: 44-7/8 inches
Choke: C, IC, M, IM, F tubes supplied
Weight: 5.5 pounds
Finish: Blued barrels, black anodized action
Sights: Ventilated rib, brass front bead
Stock: Turkish Walnut
Stock dimensions: Length-of-pull: 14-3/8 inches, drop at comb: 1-1/4 inches, drop at heel: 2-3/8 inches