A look back at the Stevens 315 side-by-side shotgun
“It’s just an old Stevens, nothing special,” I said, when asked about the gun. I have to admit, the metal two-gun Americase I was traveling with was likely worth more than its contents. But then again, humans have a penchant for assigning value to inanimate objects, not based on outright cash price, but rather based on sentiment, history, or perception. I was at Grouse Camp in Minnesota, with folks who were sporting Parkers, Foxes, AYAs, and I remember defending the gun, while feeling a bit ashamed. It was no fault of theirs by any stretch, and it was certainly not the first time I felt like I needed to defend my little 20-gauge.
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A brief history of the Stevens 315
Stevens Arms was established in the late 1800s in Chicopee, Massachusetts, and by the year 1920 was bought out by Savage Arms Company as we know the brand today. More recent shotguns and commonly known Savage offerings in this line are the Stevens 555 and the Stevens 555E.
The Stevens 315 is a hammerless side-by-side shotgun in a boxlock design. There were two production versions of this shotgun: the original from 1910 to 1939, and then a second higher production model from 1935 to 1959. It was made in .410, 28-, 20-, 16-, and 12-bore. The original price on this shotgun was around $17.
It being the last day of the woodcock season and having what we considered an already lucky day, we opted to try a cover where there would be no other pheasant hunters around. We struck out in the mid morning sun as the day warmed, like only a November Saturday can. Our hunch was spot on, and in less than an hour we were able to bag four additional woodcock, leaving only one more to go to top off our limits for the day. Hitting our limits on an opening day would be an impressive feat in itself, but before the last point of the day, I realized that Dad and I had killed each bird that day with a single shot, no misses. The final shot was mine, and the old Stevens did not let me down. I cannot recall another time in my years of hunting that my father and I and the dogs worked so well together, certainly not one where we had 10 points and 10 birds fell to 10 shots.
Like all good things, my time with the gun would eventually have to come to an end—though I believe it is the best end I could imagine. I now have a livery of double guns and the Stevens needs to go to a new home. And I know just the place. My good friend, currently living in Alaska, has never owned a double gun. I am sending it to him knowing that he will give the gun a good home. Perhaps his newborn son will someday carry it into the wild when he is old enough. And maybe, one day, our two sons will be talking about the dogs, birds, and guns they have known and they can swap stories of their own about the little Stevens 20-gauge side-by-side.
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Chris,I love you like a brother. There is nothing that I can say other than thank you. This trip, the time we had, the adventure—I am not sure that I would have ever seen Alaska, but I certainly would have never been able to experience what we had, if not for you. I am not very good at expressing emotion, a fact that Jazz has made me aware of, and as a result I am working on it. Thank you. Thanks for having me up to Alaska, thanks for sharing your hunt with me, thanks for being you. I was trying to figure out what I could do for you in return. Nothing seemed adequate until I thought of this gun. It was my first side-by-side shotgun. I have carried it for years. I could tell you 100 stories of times I carried it in the woods. Grouse, woodcock, pheasant, quail, chukar, huns and rails that have fallen before it. I want you to give it new life and take it on its next journey. Truth be told, I want Harry to have it some day, and maybe if the stars line up, Harry can tell Jack about it as our boys wander the woods like we did. Maybe we can make a legacy, make our own tradition, wrapped in wood smoke, the smell of burnt powder and good whiskey, good friends and the outdoors. When you said that upland hunting, upland writing, is full of memories and nostalgia, you couldn’t be more spot on. I am just happy that the best of MY memories of the uplands are with you.Joel P.