If “simplicity is the ultimate sophistication,” the Stevens 301 single shot is about as sophisticated as it gets. The new offering from Savage Arms revives the classic design in three of the most popular shotgun calibers: 12 gauge, 20 gauge and .410.
Whether you’re a survivalist looking for a trail gun or a parent looking for a first firearm, the 301’s low cost, simple functionality and reliability make it a great addition to any collection.
Bore: 12 gauge (tested); 20 gauge; .410 bore (tested)
Stock Material: Synthetic
Weight: 5.8 lbs. (12 gauge); 4.8 lbs. (.410)
Barrel Material: Carbon Steel
Barrel Finish: Matte
Barrel Color: Black
Barrel Length: 26 in.
Manufacturer: Savage Arms
Stevens Going Savage
Savage bought the Stevens brand in 1920 but stopped manufacturing firearms under that name in 1991. Savage revived the Stevens Series in 1999 and has since been manufacturing reliable, low-cost rifles and shotguns under the Stevens trademark.
Savage offers the Model 301 in both standard and compact sizes. The standard size comes in 12 gauge, 20 gauge and .410 bore. The compact size, intended for younger or smaller shooters, is available in 20 gauge and .410 bore. The standard size features a 26-inch barrel and the compact size features a 22-inch barrel.
Features and Functionality
Youngsters have been learning to shoot with single-shot .410 shotguns for decades, and that trend will no doubt continue with the easy-to-use Stevens 301. A takedown lever located to the right of the hammer allows the shooter to swing the barrel forward and expose the chamber. Shells are loaded one at a time and fired by cocking the hammer and simply squeezing the trigger.
The safety is located on the left side of the firearm. I found it to be a bit loose, and it lacked a firm, tactile click when engaged and disengaged. Still, it functioned as it was supposed to and kept the hammer from striking the firing pin.
The 301’s simple break down is one of my favorite features. A button located on the front of the handguard allows the shooter to remove the guard and lift the barrel out of the stock. The handguard can then be reinstalled to the barrel, so the gun consists of two pieces rather than three.
Survivalists love rifles like the .22-caliber Henry AR-7, and with good reason. But if you need to survive two weeks in the woods, you might also consider the Stevens 301 in .410. The shotgun fits easily into a backpack after removing the barrel, and the ability to shoot both birdshot and slugs allows for the harvesting of a wider variety of game. The simple design makes it nearly fail-proof and the carbon steel barrel makes it extremely rugged. Plus, with an MSRP of $173, you can probably afford to buy a backup 301 for the price of many survival rifles.
I tested the standard size 301 in 12 gauge and .410 over the course of several days and hundreds of rounds. The guns are identical, notwithstanding the barrel diameters. I was especially curious to see the patterning the guns produced, as single-shot shotguns allow for longer barrels with shorter overall lengths compared to other types of actions. Pump, lever, and semi-automatic actions take up space between the barrel and the stock, space that break-action shotguns use to increase barrel length.
Both of these scatterguns featured 26-inch barrels with overall lengths of 41 inches. For comparison, the Stevens 320 I reviewed last month has a barrel length of 28 inches with an overall length of 48 inches. The barrel on the 301 is only 2 inches shorter, but the overall length is 7 inches shorter, as you can see in the picture.
I shot patterns at 15, 25 and 35 yards with both the 12 gauge and .410 bore using a modified choke. In the 12 gauge, I used 1 1/8 ounce Federal Gold Medal Grand target loads and Federal Premium 00 buckshot. In the .410, I used 11/16 oz. Federal High-Brass loads and Federal Premium 000 buckshot.
I was pleased with the patterns both gun produced. The spreads with the target loads were good at 15 and 25 yards. The 12 gauge produced a 14-inch spread at 15 yards and a 23-inch spread at 25 yards. The .410 produced a 12-inch spread at 15 yards and a 26-inch spread at 25 yards. The 12 gauge obviously performed better than the .410 at 35 yards, but my targets were not large enough to get an accurate spread measurement. Still, you can see that both guns spread the shot evenly across the targets, and the diameters appeared to be consistent with what I would expect with a modified choke at 35 yards.
Both guns are fun to shoot, but the 12 gauge delivers a bit more felt recoil than other shotguns I’ve tested. This isn’t surprising, given its 5½-pound weight and compact package. I enjoyed shooting target loads, but buckshot and slugs left my shoulder throbbing. The gun doesn’t include a robust recoil pad, and the break-action design transfers all the energy from the load straight back into the stock.
Also keep in mind that shouldering the 301 might feel strange if you’re used to a pump action or a semi-automatic. Because there’s no need for a receiver, the handguard doesn’t extend as far forward as most pump-action shotguns. This reduces the overall length of the gun, but it takes time to acclimate to the shorter dimensions.
Still, the 12 gauge handled nicely during my clay shooting session, and I always enjoy the tactile, hands-on experience of unloading and loading each individual shell.
The .410 was the real highlight of the day. As these guns are geared towards youngsters, I wanted to get some feedback from someone whose parents might consider purchasing the 301 as their child’s first gun. My sister-in-law’s younger siblings were kind enough to help me with this review, and we spent a fantastic afternoon shooting tin cans, balloons, and once they acclimated to the firearms, clay pigeons.
My niece is 13 years old and my nephew is 11. We began by letting each of them shoot stationary targets with the .410. My niece had recently attended a marksmanship clinic, so she had no trouble with the gun. Both the action and the hammer are fairly stiff, though, so at times, she struggled at times to load the shells. But she always managed to chamber and fire a new round without any help, and the recoil was manageable. She also fired a few slugs and didn’t feel much difference.
The Model 301 gave my 11-year-old nephew a challenge. The recoil affected him much more than his sister. Again, the break-action design transfers quite a bit of energy from the round to the stock to the shooter’s shoulder. He opted for the .22 lever gun my father-in-law had brought to the range after a few rounds.
It’s worth noting that my nephew may have enjoyed the compact 301 more than the standard size. The gun was clearly a bit too big for him, and the shorter barrel would have allowed him to hold the gun more
easily and maintain a more solid shooting base. Once we had destroyed every tin can and balloon in sight, we moved to the back pasture to shoot clays.
Once we had destroyed every tin can and balloon in sight, we moved to the back pasture to shoot clays. I also tried my hand with the 12 gauge, and after some practice I was able to hit with my usual consistency.
For the price, it’s tough to beat the Stevens Model 301 in terms of simplicity, reliability, and function. We experienced no malfunctions during the course of our testing, and both guns performed well.
The 301’s ability to break down quickly and easily makes it ideal for camping and hiking. I think the .410 would perform especially well in a survival situation, given its light weight and the wide variety of loads it can shoot.
The .410 is also a nice option for young shooters. The Stevens 301 provides a fun, simple introduction to the wonderful world of shotguns.
To learn more about the Stevens Model 301, click http://www.savagearms.com/firearms/model/Stevens301.
To purchase a Stevens shotgun on GunsAmerica, click https://www.gunsamerica.com/Search.aspx?Keyword=Stevens.