Gunsmithing the Stevens
Since these guns have been around for MANY years, abused, broken with possible repair attempts, and now you get one that you want your grandson to have, this article is put together as a possible help. Now to throw a kink into things, you may also run into transition versions between one model and the other as many times it is a running change, not something that happens on one particular day. Also you may find a "Parts Gun", meaning someone has found an action, then picked up a barrel and put the 2 together, then wonders why things don't function.
With very vague or little documented factory information, we have to look at the few books out there, plus many actual guns, then sometimes make educated guesses based on manufacturing procedures then and related newer style parts that alleviate known weaknesses.
|This gun appears to be a model 1889|
Models : The quick way to pretty much identify these are as follows; But the patent date may also be a hint as to the date originated.
The earliest is a 1885 sideplate model, which of course has a screwed on RH sideplate. It had the side style extractor, sometimes called the 7 o'clock type.
Then came the 1889, that usually also has the side style extractor. It also has a sheet steel mainspring that has no screw to held it in place, but simply snaps in front of a cast lug on the lower tang, or the later ones had a screw that replaced this stud, but the mainspring still snapped in front of this screw, not under it. Most of these early guns did not have caliber markings on the barrel with the exception of the 25 & 32 RF.
The 1894 was the most common, with numerous extractors, but all are a center type located in the bottom of the barrel. This model could have many different variations as to barrel, wood, target types, ladies rifles, etc. over it's lifespan.
The 1915 is the easiest to identify in that it always has the model stamped on the top tang. It uses a coil type mainspring and an ejector type extractor unit. I say "unit" as it incorporates a spring loaded plunger that during opening the lever, it snaps over the cross pivot screw, pops the the case out of the chamber.
Extractors : There are many different styles of extractors & most will not interchange with the original unless it is a duplicate. I will not repeat myself much here as there are other articles I have written covering this, which can be accessed by clicking on these boxes Extractors, & General Information. The 1894 can have numerous extractors with the pivot hole diameter being either .190 or .210, the width of the bottom of the extractor being either the same width as the top or thinner. The thickness depends on the breech blocks slot width and the pivot hole size. So the breech block has much to do with governing the extractor used.
Mainsprings : There are 3 different mainsprings for the Favorite series made until about 1935. The 1889 mainspring is flat stamped out steel that has a large bend covering most of it, with the other end bent up to bear against the hammer. The later 1889s have a thick headed screw that acts as a stud for the mainspring to abut against. If it is tight against the inside of the lower tang, the threaded end is even with the bottom (outside) of the tang then the gun uses the 1889 mainspring. As if you try to use the 1894 mainspring with this screw to attach the mainspring, the screw thread length will be to short, and not be even with the outside of the tang. It will not function anyway because the hammers are different and the pressure point won't allow the hammer to cock.
The 1894 uses a thicker tapered mainspring that has a hole in the rear for an attachment screw. The 1915 uses a coil type spring and a straddle unit that straddles the hammer, the rear base is hollow allowing the plunger to go inside it and against the a stud screw in the lower tang.
Barrels : There were many different barrels available for these guns, some were even sub-models within the model, with the only difference was the barrel or sights. Most of these barrels after 100 years have not been well cared for, the chambers are rusted to the point they can not used, or the whole bore is bad. These guns can be a candidate for a reline.
In relining a barrel, the old bad bore is drilled out to about 5/16", a new 5/16" diameter rifled barrel liner is inserted, epoxied in place. It is then rechambered and the extractor slot is cut. If the person doing this stops the drill just short of the muzzle, then shapes the front part of the liner to match the drill's cut angle, when the job is finished, it is about impossible to tell what has been done. This then gives an old worn out barrel new life, is easier and cheaper than making a new barrel, plus it maintains the old charm.
One series of barrels used a knurled internal threaded nut that abuts against the front of the receiver. This apparently was used to take up wear, when adjusted, would tighten the rear of the barrel against the breech bolt face, making the finger lever tighter when closed.
Most barrels were 2/3 round with 1/3 octagon, with the octagon stopping at the forearms front edge. It was not really octagon in that the bottom under the forearm was left rounded, but a larger diameter than the front section. Some barrels were full octagon, while some were round.
There are also different barrel shank dimensions. One uses the same diameter full length of the shank portion, while another has a larger diameter step on the front 1/3rd closest to the front of the receiver.
Calibers : The calibers available were 22 RF, 25 Stevens RF, and 32 RF. The 25 and 32 ammo may still be available from Navy Arms as imported from Italy.
Caliber Conversions : It is possible to convert a 25 or 32 to 22RF by replacing the barrel AND breech block. This action is not strong enough to even convert to the 22WMR, as the whole action strength relies on the pivot screws for the lockup.
Screws : Screws for the different models can be different sizes, then even vary within a model. The early guns used too light (small diameter) a screw as the breech block pivot, it would get bent, so they then upped the diameter to a larger screw.
The receivers were a casting and the recesses in the receiver walls for the screw heads made some very thin under the heads, so they then utilized thinner heads. Later it appears they redid the mould, cast an internal boss under the screw heads, allowing thicker headed screws to be used.
Firing Pins : The firing pins appear to be the same for the 1889 and 1894 guns with a chisel pointed tip, while the 1915 have a rounded tip.
Breech Blocks : Since the 3 different rimfire calibers used different case head dimensions, the breech block had to be drilled so that the firing pin would hit the rim of each caliber. Therefore the 32 caliber breech block will most likely not function if you put a 22 caliber barrel on it. As describe above under extractors, the width of the slot where the extractor rides also governs which extractor is used.
Serial Numbers : There appears to be much confusion here. I have seen s/n in the high 5 digits for 1889 models, then 1894 with a 027 and then a 1915 with a D prefix with 3 digits. It is about anyone's guess, but I suspect they may have numbered in sequence until it reached a certain number, then possibly when Savage took over the Stevens line, that the s/n was changed, possibly then to a preset high number, a prefix added and the numbering started over. So for these models serial numbers do not really do us much good, except for recording numbers for insurance purposes.
Spare Parts : Wisner's Inc makes many parts for these guns, however we do not make barrels, wood or many of the larger receiver parts like the breech block or finger lever. The best place to find this type of parts may be on e-Bay. Go to www.ebay.com & type in "stevens parts". However many of these people who tear down inoperative guns that they pick at garage sales do not really know exactly what they have. They may be very vague in their descriptions and sometimes the pictures are not clear. Some may read a article, or parts of a book and think they then are the expert, but sometimes even Duct Tape can not fix STUPID. Then again, misinformation may be on purpose to sell a part.
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Originated 07-17-2005, Last updated 12-17-2014