Stevens Favorite Rifles
and closely associated versions
This type of rifle action is known as a pivoting block type, or swinging block, since the breech block is pivoted on a pivot screw in the mid section of the receiver. Upon activating the lever, the breech block pivots, or swings down to expose the chamber.
These firearms evolved basically with many internal running changes happening over the time span that the guns were in production. This article is not meant to be the BIBLE, in that many times if something is printed, there may later be some gun show up to prove us wrong. So, you will see words like appears, may, could, possibly, assumed, etc. used frequently in this article.
There appear to be basically 4 main different versions of the Favorite, the 1889, 1894, 1915, & the 418 with other sub variations made at the productions start & then again at the end. These older Favorite series had a total of 4 different versions of extractors. Most guns were made in either 22RF, while 25RF or 32RF calibers were offered.
There is no real way to tell anything by a number or combination of numbers & a letter that appears to possibly be a serial number. It is suspected that the factory used a series of letters & numbers to some preset upper number like say 1,000 or 10,000 or even 100,000 & assigned a letter to that block of numbers, like A, F, or W. When that upper number was reached for that letter, they picked another letter & started over. Now this is not to say that these letters were in alphabetical order either. Some manufacturers would assign higher numbers at the start of a model to fool the competition into thinking they were making a lot of guns. What I am saying is that no one really knows how many of these guns were made or even a numbering sequence.
We won’t cover barrel configuration in detail here at this time, as we are more interested here in identifying the actions & the internal parts used in them. However they could have been had in round, round/part octagon, or octagon in different lengths. The early guns that had a part octagon barrel only had it on the top of the barrel, stopping at the front of the forearm, while the barrel under the forearm wood was round. The later guns bore different model designation, as say (17, 20, 27). The barrel & or sights were what determined the different models. This model designation was never stamped on the gun however & was only mentioned in the sales catalog.
Standard sights on the 1889 & 1894 were fixed with the rear being just a triangular metal section & not adjustable for elevation.
All versions utilized a wood screw on each of the top & bottom of each tang to secure the buttstock in place. These wood screws are 1.050″ in length with a body dia. of .214 and a head size smaller in relationship to the body of .270 dia.
Buttplates appear to have been made of black hard rubber.
1889 Sideplate version–
In Frank de Haas’s book, Single Shot Rifles & Actions in chapter 17, he covers a 1889 Sideplate version. Since there are so few of them out there, I had about given up hope of ever seeing one. However recently a customer sent an action in for us to examine. The following are my observations.
The sideplate is on the RH side of receiver, held on by 5 screws, 3 of which are the trigger, hammer & finger lever pivot screws. The lower part of the frame under the barrel extends forward enough in front of barrel shank abutment to accommodate the barrel takedown screw. The breechblock is longer than any of the subsequent models.
The mainspring appears to be the same as the 1889 & has the cast in lug on the bottom tang as a rear abutment for the spring.
The extractor is a 7 o’clock style different than any others. It has a recessed screw head that acts as a pivot point. The extractor hook is at a 35 degree angle. Apparently it is screwed into the inside LH side of the receiver & activated by the breechbolt’s link pin that is slightly extended
The sideplate style would make sense from the manufacturing standpoint, in that when getting a new model into production, it would have been easier to make it this way to get a prototype up & going faster.
The mainspring for this version is a thin lazy “S” shaped spring that the rear just snaps in front of a abutment lug on the lower tang. Some abutments were cast into the inside of the lower tang, (presumably the earlier versions) while others used a thick headed screw. The mainspring goes in backwards from what you may imagine, in that the flat end goes forward. This flat is what is needed to clear the rear of the hammer when cocked. On the later type, many times the rear of the mainspring may have a slight convex radius where it abuts the abutment screw to keep it from sliding off sideways.
Stevens Favorite 1889 Hammer & Mainspring, drawn to size
The version which used the screw as a stud could be later versions, as it appears that the 1894’s utilized this same hole & spacing for attaching it’s mainspring. You can tell if the screw is just an abutment type screw if when the screw is tightened all the way in against the lower tang with no mainspring under it, the radiused threaded end will be just even with the bottom of the tang.
If you install the 1894 mainspring on this version, the hammer will not cock as the hammer is totally different. The screw in this instance was not designed to hold the mainspring by going in the mainspring hole & being tightened down. On this version, the 1894 mainspring could possibly be used if BOTH 1894 hammer & mainspring were used.
You can also help identify this type, if the buttstock is original, in that this thin mainspring is arched enough that it many times will touch the underside of the top tang. To accommodate this, the wood has to be relieved back about 1 1/2″ from where it abuts the rear of the receiver.
The barrel-takedown screw had a bow loop into the head of the screw. The trigger & spring appears to be the same on all models.
1889 & early 1984 with side style extractor — had a 2 dia. stepped barrel shank (.630 & .695) with 1.526″ overall shank length. These used the side style extractor, sometimes called the 7 o’clock style. The center of the breechblock under the barrel’s rear had a small screw with the head bearing against the bottom of the barrel. This could be adjusted against the bottom of the barrel to allow take up for worn linkage that allowed the lever to droop.
Forearms for both the 1889 & the early 1894’s had a slight schnabbel on the front. Forearm length varied with the version & the barrel configuration.
The 1894’s were probably the most proliferate as to the many varied different type of parts improvements in relationship to barrels, extractors, breechblocks, forends & stocks. You could see many different internal configurations on this variation. This was also in an era that the factories would offer special options when ordering firearms. By the time the 1915 came out the options had dwindled.
Stevens Favorite 1894 Hammer & Mainspring, drawn to size
The early 1894’s had the same side style extractor as the 1889 guns. The top side rear of the receiver at the top flat at the rear of the barrel (at the hammer area) had a more square corner on the early guns. The next version in succession had a short threaded section on the barrel in front of the receiver & utilized a thin knurled ring that threaded onto the barrel at the juncture against the receiver front. This ring could be adjusted to position the barrel rearward enough to put more pressure against the breechblock, putting enough tension to keep the lever from drooping if the linkage became worn. Later guns used a spring loaded plunger inside the lever that put tension on the link. Then still later the whole adjustment system was dropped.
One observation is that the 1894 center style extractors had the .240 wide top at the case rim, & a .200 wide bottom & .193 dia hole for the pivot screw. This wide tops appear to be the early center type. It would seem that in the initial engineering, thoughts would be the wider extractor would give better support. However, if you examine these chambers at the rear where the extractor fits, this wide top version has to be fit quite precisely, as it extends upward around & nearing the center of the case with a thin sharp top section. Whereas if you look at the narrower extractor, the fit can be not as critical, as it only fits the lower part of the chamber, thereby making a stronger juncture on the corners at the rear of the chamber & at the same time final fitting less costly. The thought here is, that the narrower extractor followed the wide top version.
This then substantiates that the later guns had the .200 wide extractor full length & the same .193 dia hole. This .193 dia hole was somewhat sloppy fit over the 3/16″ (.187) dia screw.
I have seen the mid version center style extractor stamped “25” so it may be assumed that any caliber other than 22 could have the actual caliber stamped on the side of it. Apparently late 1894 guns (possibly a few years prior to the 1915) came with what is now commonly considered the 1915 type extractor/ejector described below. The breech block for this late version would have had a wider slot in the front to accept this wider (1/4″) extractor.
The section of the lever that exerts pressure on the extractor on the final extraction has been changed. As the levers of the first center type extractors did not have enough metal at the contact point to stand up for extended usage, & it’s contact with the extractor would not give as full a extraction movement as designed. It was not possible to allow them to machine the proper recess for the bottom part of the extractor below the pivot screw hole. Later they simply milled the left side hole of the lever out enough to accept the extractor better & them pressed a bushing in the hole to reduce it down to the screw dia.
The barrel-takedown screw on the bottom front of the receiver had a bow loop into the head of the screw. All the receiver screws were made to the dimensions of the width of the receiver.
The barrels had “pat. APR.17.94″ stamped on them. The assumedly later center style extractor versions used a single dia barrel shank (.665 dia) & 1.500″ overall shank length.
The receiver was .870″ thick. There appear to be 2 different screw head thicknesses. It appears the early guns receiver casting wall thickness at the screw holes varied & the counterbored hole in the receiver for the screw heads could have left a very thin section when using the regular headed screws. It has been observed that other receivers have a shallower counterbore, utilizing a same overall length but a thinner headed screw. This thinner headed screw is thought to be a later version than the thicker headed ones.
The takedown screw head recesses into receiver & has a wire loop in the head of the screw. The forward lower section of the receiver from the lever pivot screw to the front where it mates to the forearm was a short radius.
Breechblock & lever screw are the same size, (.187″) dia. The breechblock & lever are both 1/2″ wide. The link connecting the breech block to lever is .150 dia.
It appears that the early firing pin tip was chisel point. It also appears that the late firing pins had a radiused tip. And they could, in all probability be used interchangeably. Firing pin length is 1.035”. The flat arched mainspring (.094 thick) is held in with a screw in the lower tang from the inside. The center of this screw hole is 1.960″ from the rear of receiver on lower tang. The mainspring has a turned UP front with a small ball pivot end that bears on the hammer. Some have been observed without the ball, but still slightly turned upward.
The hammer is completely different from the other versions, in that the sear notches are closer to the pivot point, the mainspring pressure point is smaller & in a different location, (lower). It is not interchangeable with the 1889 or the 1915.
Lower tang length on early guns (with side style extractor is 2.860″). Later guns with center extractor has a lower tang length of 2.200″+- (same as 1915’s). These later tangs are the same, & use the same buttstock as the Visible Loaders.
All of the receivers for all variations were drilled & tapped for a tang peep sight, using small screws.
The top of the breechblock was radiused lower at the rear.
A “Ladies Gun” in my possession has a pistol grip, 1/2 octagon barrel, checkered fancy wood, & evidence of a once there being a metal target type buttplate.
The 1915 version, introduced in that year, was made until 1935. No patent date has been observed on the 1915 barrels. The receiver is .950″ thick, had 2 tang peep holes drilled & tapped on the upper tang, along with “model 1915” stamped on this top tang. The top of the receiver had “TRADE MARK” on the top line, with “FAVORITE” on the center line, & “REG US PAT OFF & FRN” on the bottom line, all stamped on the top receiver flat. The forward lower section of the receiver from the lever pivot screw to the front where it mates to the forearm was a larger sloping radius.
Stevens Favorite 1915 Hammer & Mainspring unit, drawn to size
The extractor was changed to the same “ejector type” used on the late 1894s which employed a captivated spring loaded plunger that snapped over the breechblock screw. This captivated plunger utilized a radiused end that protruded forward & when the lever moved the extractor in the appropriate location on extraction, this plunger snapped over center of the screw, causing rapid movement, ejecting the fired case.
The problem encountered with the 1894 thin counterbored screw holes was eliminated on the 1915 as the receiver was made wider & a internal boss was cast at the screw holes allowing the standard thickness headed screw to be used.
The takedown screw head was not recessed into the receiver, & head of the screw is knurled & with a coin slot. The barrel shank dimensions were the same as the 1894. The breechblock pivot screw was .216″ dia. Lever pivot screw was .187″ dia. Breechblock & lever .550″ wide. The link connecting the breechblock to lever is .250″ thick. All these screws are longer than the 1894 to accommodate the wider receiver.
The firing pin tip is radiused, but not a true ball nose. This could be so that the tip of the firing pin will slide off the extractor when the breech block is rotated downward when the lever is activated. If the tip was a sharp chisel point it could bind against the rear edge of the extractor, since these models do not utilize firing pin return springs.
A mainspring assembly unit used a plunger system straddling the hammer & coil type mainspring was over a rod that had a tubular .312 dia. hollow base that had a bevel on one side of the rear, that abutted into the notch of a double headed type screw in the inside of lower tang. The center of this screw hole is 1.960″ (same as the 1894) from the rear of receiver on lower tang. The threads appear to be the same, and it may be possible to use a 1894 mainspring IF you also use a 1894 hammer. The plunger crossbar was about .110 in dia that put pressure into a mating section that was above center of the hammer’s pivot point.
Breechblock & lever are both .540″ wide. The slot between the side of the front of the breechblock where the extractor goes in between is wider to accept the wider extractor/ejector. The breechblock’s top section was straight from the front to the rear.
All of the receivers had the 2 small peep mounting holes on the upper tang.
Calibers appear to be 22RF & a few 25RF & 32RF.
The 1915 used the standard dovetailed with the notched adjustment elevator rear sight.
418 / 418 1/2 —
This gun was one of the “Walnut Hill Models” & was made from 1932 to 1940. It appears to be a sporter target version of the 1915 in 22 Short or 22LR only. The gun had a pistol grip receiver that was cast that way as you can see the machining marks on the lower tang. This version used a heavier barrel.
The early, or Old Style versions used the same hammer, MS plunger & link as the 1915, which used a plunger system straddling the hammer & coil type mainspring was over a rod that had a tubular .312 dia. hollow base.
The later or New Style used a slightly different hammer that utilized a 1/2 cock pad & a different link to pull the hammer to 1/2 cock when the lever was moved forward to open the action. The mainspring plunger was longer & coil mainspring was longer about .200″ than the 1915. The hollow tubular base tube was longer & did not have a bevel like the 1915, that abutted into the notch of a double headed type screw in the inside of lower tang.
The link for this version is critical, in that the tab that protrudes, is what moves the hammer to 1/2 cock on opening. It is critical in that if it is not fit right, the firearm will not cock or be able to fire.
The firing pin was set at an angle inside the breech block & was offset to the LH side of the breech block.
The tip dia. was smaller ____.
From examining the above information, most of the internal parts can not be interchanged between the various Favorite models. To confuse the issue, Stevens parts lists from year to year may have different part numbers for the same part. As the 1915 extractor/ejector in one catalog is part #3, while in another it is #6-9. The 6-9 are indicative of each of the individual components & when combined in an assembly, & it becomes 6-9. To order parts back then, many catalogs simply say send the old part in, plus this would give positive identification of the version of the firearm.
There apparently has not been any factory records available for these old guns. It appears that serial numbers may not mean that much. One thought was that the serial numbers would run to a certain number & then start over with a suffix letter. This may be so in this case, but one would have to be able to examine a multitude of firearms that it could take a lifetime just to accomplish this seemingly simple feat. In examining many of these models, & applying machine shop manufacturing knowledge as to why a change is made in comparison to the next version, it becomes apparent as to the possibly where in the version the change was made & to the transgression of which variation succeeded the other.
model 44 & 45 —
This gun seems to be basically a larger version of the Favorite. Calibers it was chambered in appear to have been 44-40, 38-55, 32-40, 32-20, 25-20 Single Shot, 25 RF & 22 LR. There is some mention of a 44 Shot caliber, this would have been a smoothbore 44-40. The rifles tended to shoot loose in the larger calibers if used in “hunting” load pressures, but survived in reduced target load loadings. Therefore it appears that the larger calibers were discontinued early on.
Stevens model 44
The extractors & other improvements followed basically the same pattern as the Favorites, only larger to accommodate the larger frame gun. They are illustrated below.
To identify this frame, the factory usually stamped the number 44 on the front of the frame, but covered up by the forearm. There was also a 0 usually stamped here, but apart from the 44 stamping number. The take down screw on the front lower section of the receiver is a screw that does not protrude much below the receiver itself. The barrel is threaded into the receiver as compared to the Favorite sliding in.
The model 45 was essentially the a deluxe model 44, & could have had PG. set triggers, special levers, stocks etc.
The main cross screws used a slotted head pin that had a smaller tapped hole on the off side that a smaller screw was threaded into. The thing to identify it is, does the cross screws have slots on both sides of the receiver.
The mainspring on the early guns used the 1889 “no hole” mainspring at least to #32,28X , while the later guns (example at #70,5XX) used the 1894 “with hole” version. So somewhere in between these numbers the change was made. However it has been observed that a early side style extractor, pistol grip, double set trigger version at #3,97X, has the “with hole” version. As with most manufacturers, the pistol grip versions use different mainsprings than the same corresponding straight grip version & this probably follows along that line also. It also could have been that they ran a separate serial number lot for the PG versions. It has been noted by a well-known writer/gunsmith that this model’s late version also used a coil type mainspring similar to the 1915 favorite.
If the caliber is engraved 25-20 on the barrel, it would have been the 25-20 SINGLE SHOT, not 25-20 WCF.
Some original part numbers for these extractors are hazy, as it appears there were never any real numbers assigned to the early guns. So we have taken what part numbers we can find & add suffixes to them to identify our parts. We have found the part number for the earlier plain extractors was #12. For this early side extractor #12, we have added -1-S. This indicates the type 1, side style. The next is the 12-2-CW. This refers to part #12, type 2, center / wide style. The type 3 also follows this pattern. The late extractor assembly uses the original part number.
This gun was the last version made on the 44 frame & was one of the 2 versions known as “Walnut Hill Model”, it was made from 1932 to 1947. It was made in 22 Short, 22 LR or 22 Hornet. It was more of a target rifle with a heavy barrel with full pistol grip, & a beavertail forearm. This version used a totally different hammer & mainspring plunger unit. The front of the plunger went inside a slot in the rear of the hammer & the plunger’s rounded front end bore against a round hole that was drilled crosswise, very similar to the Ruger single action revolvers.
417 1/2 —
This gun was basically the same as the 417 except it was chambered for the 25 RF.
71, 72 & 74 —
Late Savage/Stevens “Favorite’s” made in the 1971 to 1989 carried a model of 71, 72 or 74 depending on the barrel. These were a “look alike” only, with no parts interchanging with the earlier guns.
The latest “Favorite” brought out in 1999 is named the 30G. It again appears to be a Favorite again only in visual appearances. This gun is made in Canada for Savage.
The above are actual close observations of existing guns over MANY years & cross-references to actual Stevens parts catalogs. The above CAD drawings are actual size & off our computer that we use to make many of these parts on CNC machinery.
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Last Updated 01/23//2007
LeeRoy & Jim Wisner