Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Featured Gun: J. Stevens-Springfield Model 83


The J. Stevens Arms Company created the .22 Long Rifle cartridge in 1887, by the 1930's they had a catalog full of guns to shoot the little rimfire round (as did most gun makers). The model 83 is a single shot, manually cocked rifle, featuring a 24" barrel with buckhorn rear sight and brass bead front sight.

Around the turn of the century the Crescent Arms company had used the Springfield name on their inexpensive shotguns.
Crescent Arms was purchased by Savage/Stevens and the Springfield name was then used on their .22 bolt action rifles.

The Springfield model 83 was made during a short production run from 1935 to 1939. If you stayed awake during history class you will remember that in 1935 America was in the grips of the Great Depression. Any gun introduced during this time would need to be made as cheap as could be, in order to keep the price where the average American could afford to purchase it.  
See the ad from 1940 below where the gun was selling for $3.92, I can imagine it probably sold for less than that when it was introduced 5 years earlier.

Stevens also brand labeled the gun for Sears & Roebuck as the Ranger Model 101.8, there were probably other brand labeled versions but it is difficult to find any experts on these rifles.

The lack of serial numbers makes it next to impossible to determine the exact date of manufacture. From my investigation I found later production model 83s that had plastic trigger guards and butt plates, which should tell us that the rifles with the steel trigger guards and butt plates were built earlier in the production run.

Here is one with steel parts:




And one with plastic parts:



The ad below was from an N. Shure Company of Chicago circa 1940, which would have been at the end of the production for this gun. You can see from the picture the gun has the plastic parts. The price offered was only $3.92. In 1940 the median wage was around $.46 per hour, which means this rifle cost about a days wages.


Many young Americans, members of the greatest generation, learned to shoot with one of these affordable little guns, some of which went on to fight in World War II (the young Americans, not the rifles). 
 
The soul of these guns live on in new models, made much the same way. Savage (who purchased J. Stevens Arms in 1920) calls their current single shot .22 "The Rascal".




This particular gun is unmolested, unbroken and tight. I checked the rifling as well as the wear at the muzzle. The gun is in remarkable shape for its age.

It also has the steel butt plate & trigger guard, so it was probably made in the first couple years of production.

According to the Gun Digest Modern Book of Gun Values, 16th edition, this gun is worth around $90

I paid $50 for this gun which I thought was a fair price.
Gun Digest also shows the model 83 as having a walnut stock. It is hard to tell if the wood is walnut, I'll have to wait until I strip the old varnish off to be sure.



Here are the pictures of this particular gun:











 I am going to refinish the stock, the metal will be cleaned up and reblued, nothing too fancy, just back to new condition, ready for another 75 years of training young American shooters!




References
The Gun Digest Book of Modern Gun Values, 16th edition