February 26, 2015
Stevens firearms have been going strong for 150 years. Joshua Stevens and two backers, James Taylor and W.B. Fay, founded J. Stevens & Co. in the "gun valley" near Chicopee Falls, Massachusetts, in 1864. The firm's first product was a single-shot pistol with a tip-up action. The company ultimately produced a variety of iconic firearms, such as a line of falling-block rifles marketed under such colorful names as "Crack Shot," "Favorite," and "Little Scout." Also produced was an eclectic array of oddball cartridges, including the .25 Stevens, .25 Stevens Short, .25-21, .21-21, and .25-25.
Savage Arms purchased the firm in 1920, and the Stevens brand has flourished for decades under the Savage banner. Stevens always had a reputation for producing economical but well-built arms, and that tradition continues today. The new Model 555 over-under shotgun is true to that tradition.
Model 555 Features
The Model 555 is made in Turkey. Many firearms "manufacturers" in Turkey are really just assemblers, but the company building the Model 555 manufactures the components for its guns, so it has complete control over things from start to finish. As we well know, the quality of Turkish guns ranges from delightful to deplorable. I am happy to report that the new Model 555 is delightful.
The Model 555 is offered in 12 and 20 gauges. The gun has a lightweight aluminum-alloy receiver with a unique steel insert centered right over the firing pin holes that reinforces the standing breech. The result is a delightfully lightweight and handy shotgun that will handle any load.
Shooting Times received one of each gauge for review. The 12-gauge Model 555 weighed only 6.5 pounds, and the 20 gauge was an even lighter 5.5 pounds. The action depth is shallow, as the barrels hinge on steel trunnions instead of a full-length hinge pin. The safety is manual (which I like) and incorporates the barrel selector. The trigger is mechanical, so if barrel one doesn't go off, just squeeze the trigger again for barrel two.
Speaking of the trigger, the ones on the Model 555s I test-fired for this report are about as good as I've ever encountered. They are nice and crisp and have just the right pull weights for field shooting. The 20 gauge's trigger broke at a bit over 5 pounds, and the 12 gauge's measured about 6.5 pounds.
The Model 555 has a sturdy extractor that elevates both shells, either loaded or empty, high enough for easy removal and allows handloaders to easily salvage every empty. Significantly, the actions are sized for their respective gauges; there's no "one size fits all" philosophy here.
The finish on the alloy receiver is a lustrous matte black that is very uniform and meshes well with the matte bluing on the steel barrels. All in all, it makes for a very attractive finish.
The barrel lengths are 26 inches for the 20 and a nominal 28 inches for the 12 (the 12-gauge barrels actually measured 27.875 inches). They are topped off with a raised 0.275-inch ventilated rib and have a brass bead front sight. Ventilated side ribs add a touch of class and functional barrel cooling. The 3-inch chambers and bores are chrome lined, and a set of five screw-in choke tubes (C, IC, M, IM, F) is included.
Whenever I touch the metal part of a gun, I am reminded of what my old friend Myron Feemster used to say: "Ya know why they put wood on a gun? For a handle!" Well, the "handles" on the Model 555s are pretty nice (with one exception, which I'll get to shortly). Crafted of Turkish walnut, they sport fine checkering that is 18 lines per inch, and there is adequate coverage on the fore-end and pistol grip for a good handhold when shooting. The stocks on ST's sample guns show a modicum of figure and have a nice semigloss oil finish.
I think the stock dimensions will be just about right for a lot of shooters. When I first shouldered the 20 gauge, I was sure the drop was too great. As it turned out, both guns hit right where I was looking.
Range & Field Performance
For testing, I rounded up a passel of factory loads and a few of my favorite handloads and headed to my shooting range. I also shot a few representative loads on my steel pattern plate. The patterns from both the 20- and 12-gauge versions were very evenly distributed, and the points of impact were pretty much dead center, so these 50-50 patterns make them eminently suitable for their intended role as field guns.
As expected, all loads functioned perfectly, and there were no malfunctions of any kind. Also as expected, the heavier loads kicked like an irate wildebeest in the lightweight guns. (Note to Self: Avoid 3-inch loads whenever possible!)
The dove and teal seasons were open during my tests, so I hunted local feed fields for doves and my pond for teal. While I'd like to report that I slew a slew of doves and brought down a bunch of the tasty little webfoots, alas, I cannot. Only a brace of doves was taken, and the shifty little ducks simply refused to participate in my "field tests." I can truthfully state, however, that I never missed a shot at a teal!
While the two Model 555 O-Us were plenty serviceable field guns, they were not without their foibles. Straight from the box, the 20 gauge had a substantial accumulation of scaly, orange rust on the breech, extractor, and inside the rear of the chambers. Some 0000 steel wool, Hoppe's No. 9, and plenty of elbow grease removed it, but a slight stain remained on those metal parts.
On the 12 gauge, the stock finish on the top left edge of the fore-end was subpar. The wood pores were not well filled; consequently, the stock finish was uneven, and the unfilled pores looked like little black specks on the surface of the finish. These things are purely aesthetic and do not affect functioning.
More significantly, the fore-end latch on the 12-gauge model sometimes failed to engage and properly secure the fore-end; it looked latched, but wasn't. If it didn't latch, when the action was opened, the barrels would fall off the receiver. A couple of deft stokes with a flat needle file would easily fix this, but all such issues should have been caught at the final inspection.
While there are a couple of rough spots here and there, the Model 555 is just right for scattergunners looking for an economical yet quality fowling piece to ply the uplands. Lightweight, well balanced, and 100 percent reliable, the new Model 555 is just the ticket for outings with your favorite bird dog. And with an MSRP of only $692, it represents an excellent value at a very reasonable cost.
The featherweight Stevens Model 555
is made in Turkey in either 12 or 20 gauge. The 12-gauge gun comes with 28-inch barrels, whereas the 20-gauge version comes with 26-inch barrels.
The aluminum-alloy receiver is finished in matte black, the single trigger is mechanical, and the safety is not automatic.
The Turkish walnut buttstock comes with a 0.25-inch recoil pad and 18-lpi checkering on the grip.
The author found the Stevens Model 555 in both 12 and 20 gauge to be a delight to use in the field. It produced excellent patterns at the patterning board and didn't miss a lick when afield, regardless of the ammo used.
The Model 555 handled all loads, from the light 3/4-ounce 'Trainer ' to the heaviest 3-inch magnum steel shot loads.