Monday, February 26, 2018

Featured Gun: Stevens 325-C

First and foremost I want to thank Leeroy for his insightful write up on these guns, his inside information on these guns is indispensable.

The Savage-Stevens model 325 is a box magazine fed, bolt action rifle made during a few short years. It was replaced by improved models that kept the design in production for nearly 40 years.

The story of the Stevens 325C begins with World War II. Any gun collector can tell you that the war changed the way guns were made. The need to produce good quality firearms fast and inexpensively inspired gun makers to experiment. The use of stamped steel parts (and plastic as well) was a result.

One such example is the story of the M1903A3 rifle: Production of the M1903 rifle resumed in 1941 with the contracts being given to both Remington and Smith Corona. Shortcuts were found and improved to the point that the U.S. Military saw fit to give it a new model number: the M1903A3.

Using stamped steel parts was not just faster, but also cheaper. Many gun manufacturers adopted these ideas following the war. 

Savage introduced the Stevens model 325 in 1947, taking advantage of war time innovations and left over parts.

In case you weren't aware Stevens Arms was purchased by Savage in 1920 (April Fools Day, actually). Savage continued to use the Stevens name on their budget or alternative designs.

The model 325 was priced at $38.25 when introduced,  In 1947 that was about the same cost as a new mattress or chest of drawers.
Accounting for 70 years of inflation that would equal approximately $419 today.

The guns were produced in the old Stevens Chicoppe Falls, MA plant. 
The $38.25 price was well below what the Winchester model 94 and Marlin model 336 sold for in 1947.

In those days it was not a requirement to put serial numbers on guns and the 325 didn't get them, so determining the date of manufacture would seem next to impossible. We can, however, get close, at least with this model. The model 325 (A) was introduced in 1947. Each design change got a letter suffix, 325A, 325B and 325C. Production ended in 1949 with the 325C. We could assume that each model number represented a year of production, but I don't think that would be accurate. The models seem to be more prolific as they progressed, thus my rifle was probably made in 1948 or 1949 and that is close enough for me.

The 325 was produced in 30-30 Winchester only, the cartridge is also known as the .30 Winchester Center Fire (.30 WCF). 

The model 325 had a sister rifle, the model 322 that was chambered in .22 Hornet.

One might ask themselves: Why would someone produce a 30-30 in a bolt action, when most 30-30 rifles were lever guns? 
That would be a good question, here are some answers: lever action rifles cannot use spire point bullets (which have a better Ballistic Coefficient) due to the risk of the pointed bullet setting of the primer of the cartridge in front of it in the tubular magazine. This is not an issue with the Model 325  as it uses a box magazine.

There are other things to consider: The possibility that some states/countries have a strict limit on how many rounds can be carried in a rifle while hunting. Also removing a box magazine to unload a gun (so it can be transported in a vehicle) is much easier and safer than chambering, then ejecting shells from a tube magazine in a lever action. Then, of course, there is the price, which as stated above the 325C sold for nearly half of what the Winchester and Marlin lever actions sold for. 

Keen gun people may notice some similarities between the model 325 and the flagship Savage rifle, the model 110. Many features of the 325 found their way onto the model 110 when it was introduced in 1958. 
This is most evident in the barrel attachment system. The use of an outside nut was new to sporting rifles. Some believe this is a carry over from WWII contract machine gun barrels that were used to design and build the model 325.

If you plan on swapping out a barrel on a 325/340/840 rifle, don't bother purchasing a wrench made for the model 110. The nuts are different size and as far as I can tell, no one made a commercial tool for removing the barrels on the 325/340/840 rifle.

The 325 had a stock that was a bit unrefined and bulky by some standards. The stocks were made of birch and given a walnut colored stain. Most of the pictures I have found online show stocks that have been refinished.

The barrelled action was held in the stock with a bolt at the front of the trigger guard (threaded into the recoil lug). The second attachment point was a barrel band near the front of the forearm, a screw held by an escutcheon screwed in from below.

The 325s bolt cocks upon opening and the firing pin housing protrudes from the rear of the bolt alerting the shooter that the gun is cocked.

Removal of the bolt is pretty standard, you simply open the bolt and pull back while holding the trigger down.

The safety can be engaged when the rifle is cocked or uncocked. The safety blocks both the trigger and the bolt from moving. 

The 325 used a unique "butter knife" or "spoon" bolt handle reminiscent of the Steyr Mannlicher model L, also note the safety lever at the rear end of the bolt.

The Steyr Mannlicher model L

The 325C used a simple leaf style rear sight which sat in a dove tail and a ramp front sight with drift adjustable insert featuring a brass bead.

The sheet steel box magazine held 3 rounds and is believed to have been a modified .410 magazine from the Savage model 58. Before long tooling was made specifically for these guns. 
The magazine is removed by pulling back on the release lever at the front of the trigger guard.

If you have a model 325 and need a magazine for it, the model 340 mags will work with a slight modification.

Info from Leeroy: On the top LH front follower retainer dimple, you need to make about 2 passes with a file from the inner top to inward at a 45 degree angle, just breaking the sharp edge.  You will need to press the follower down a bit (or remove it) when doing this.  If you don't file this off, it may be hard to open the bolt after closing and it will swell the front sides of the magazine out a bit.

Here is what the 325C looks like with the stock removed

Note: the following specs match my particular gun, from my research I found that the 325 was supposed to have a 22" barrel, but mine has a 20" barrel with newer 340 front sight. the crown appears to be factory though, so I am not sure if my gun was maybe a late production, put together with parts left over and maybe some from the 340 production line? Perhaps the barrel was replaced at one time?

Length: 39.5"
Weight: Approx. 7 lbs
Barrel Length: 20"
Caliber: 30-30 Winchester (.30 WCF)
Rifling: 1 in 10 twist, 4 groove, .300/.3075
Length of Pull: 13.5"
Stock: Birch,
Magazine: Detachable box, 3 round capacity

The model 325 was replaced by the Savage model 340 (dropping the Stevens moniker) in 1950 and then with the model 840 before being discontinued in 1985.

This is another featured gun article that is acting as the start to project:
Here is my model 325C, I purchased it for just $100, knowing it was in need of much love. While it looks well worn, mechanically it is sound and the bore is pristine.

Stay tuned as I revive this old hunting rifle, we'll call it "Project Deer Stalker".

Leeroy's Ramblings
Shooting Times

Friday, February 23, 2018

Gun Porn for February 2018

It's Friday, time for some gun porn!

The pictures above were found freely on the world wide web and are used for entertainment and educational purposes under the guidelines of Fair Use, per Title 17 of the U.S. Code. Where possible the source has been credited. If you own the copyright to any of these images and wish them to be credited or removed, please contact me immediately.


Monday, February 19, 2018

Firearm Factory of the Month: Harpers Ferry Arsenal

Harpers Ferry sits at the confluence of the Shenandoah and the Potomac rivers where the states of West Virginia, Virginia and Maryland meet. 

The town was founded by Robert Harper after purchasing the ferry service from a squatter and eventually buying the land from Lord Fairfax. George Washington had visited the area in 1785 and in 1794 recommended it as a site for a national armory. The following year the U.S. Government purchased 125 acres from the descendants of Robert Harper. Construction on the arsenal began in 1799. 
The arsenal used the river for power, water wheels would turn shafts which then turned machinery by way of pulleys and leather belts.

Three years later the arsenal was producing small arms for the U.S. Military. The operation was quite small, utilizing a work force of 25 or less and a single factory room.

The rifles produced at Harpers Ferry included:

Model of 1795 Flintlock Musket
Model of 1816 Flintlock Musket
Model of 1819 Hall Breech-Loading Flintlock Musket
Model of 1836 Hall Breech-Loading Percussion Carbine
Model of 1841 "Mississippi Rifle"
Model of 1842 smooth bore Musket
Model of 1855 Rifled Musket

In 1806 an armory building was erected to store the finished weapons

The drawing below, circa 1824, shows the Harpers Ferry Arsenal workshops and associated buildings

In 1845 construction began to enlarge and improve the Armory, several new buildings were erected including a large Smith & Forging Shop. This also required more people to be hired, by 1859 some 400 workers were toiling away at the arsenal. The story of Harpers Ferry would not be complete if we did not include the famous John Brown Raid.

In the early morning hours of October 17th, 1859. Abolitionist John Brown and his followers led a raid on the town of Harpers Ferry. They planned to steal the arms from the armory and distribute them to anti-slavery freedom fighters, hoping to put a permanent end to slavery in America.

They took several hostages and took over the Armory buildings. As the Virginia Militia (Harpers Ferry was in the state of Virginia at the time) descended upon them the raiders took refuge in the Fire Engine House/Guard House near the entrance to the Arsenal.

Eventually a U.S. Marine detachment, led by Robert E. Lee stormed the Fire House and took whomever was still alive into custody.

The prisoners included the organizer John Brown, who was injured but still kicking.

The Fire Engine House/Guard House where Brown and his men fought from was later renamed "John Brown's Fort", the picture below was taken in 1888

John Brown was found guilty of several charges and sentenced to hang. On December 2nd, 1859 John Brown was hanged in Charles Town, Virginia. The painting below depicts his journey to the gallows. Sadly, he never got to witness the end of slavery in America.

On April 17th, 1861 The State of Virginia voted to secede from the Union. The following evening at 10pm the Union Army at Harpers Ferry, having knowledge that the arsenal was a target of the approaching Virginia Militia, set fire to their arsenal. 
The arriving militia and townspeople fought to put out the flames and did manage to save some of the buildings.
The drawing below appeared in the May 11th 1861 issue of Harper's Weekly (no relation to the town).

The Confederacy took the weapons and machinery and relocated them farther south to use for the newly established Confederate Army. 
A few weeks after Virginia seceded from the Union, several counties in NW Virginia mounted a movement to repeal the secession, their efforts led to the formation of the new state of West Virginia, which was admitted to the Union on June 20th, 1863. the new state would include Harpers Ferry, the borders were partially defined by the Shenandoah and Potomac rivers.

Harpers Ferry was an important staging point during the war, the town and what was left of the arsenal changed hands (between the Union and Confederacy) at least 11 times during the war.

The entrance to the armory circa 1862, the Fire House/Guard shack (John Brown's Fort) is on the left.

Another photo from 1862 showing the burned out buildings

By the end of the Civil War, there was not much left of the Arsenal.  The photo below, showing the burned out buildings was taken in 1865. The U.S. Government decided not to rebuild the Arsenal.

This photo taken in 1886 shows the ruins of the Smith & Forging shop, it was one of the buildings erected during the 1845/1846 expansion.

This picture from circa 1889 shows the entrance to the arsenal, about the only building left standing is the old Fire House, aka John Brown's Fort. The Civil War, neglect and several floods destroyed what was left of the arsenal buildings.

In a weird twist of fate the John Brown's Fort was dismantled and reassembled at the Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893. The move cost organizers $60,000 and yet only 11 attendees paid the .50 cents to view the Fort. 
It was subsequently returned to Harpers Ferry, but not to the Arsenal grounds, it was set up on a hill on Murphy Farm, which is also the sight of an attack by the Confederate Army in 1862. The farm became a destination for pilgrimages of former slaves.

The building remained on the farm, about 3 miles outside of town, until 1909, when it was moved once again to the Storer College Campus, on Camp Hill in Harpers Ferry.

On June 30th, 1944 the area that was once the Arsenal was designated the Harpers Ferry National Monument, and on May 29th, 1963 it became a National Park. 

In 1960 the National Park Service took ownership of John Brown's Fort and intended to return it to its original location. That was not possible however, as the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad had taken over the area and had installed a dike to prevent interruptions of rail service during floods. In fact most of what was the arsenal is buried under this dike.

In 1968 the fort was moved to its current location, about 150 feet to the south-east of where it originally sat

John Brown's Fort in 1974,  still undergoing renovations. You can see the raised, railroad embankment to the right.
photo courtesy of The Baltimore Sun

This picture shows the original location and the new location

There stands a marker to identify the original location of John Brown's Fort
photo courtesy of Lost New England 

John Brown's Fort today

This picture shows the location of one of the old armory buildings that stored the weapons, John Brown's Fort is in the background.

If you would like to visit the Harpers Ferry National Historic Park, you can find more info here

Just in case you were not aware, there is a company selling firearms under the "Harpers Ferry Armory" name. 

In the same vein as Springfield Armory Inc and Rock Island Arsenal, they have absolutely nothing to do with the original U.S. Arsenals. The guns bearing their name are not made in Harpers Ferry (their revolvers appear to be relabeled Charter Arms).

United States History LSA
Preservation Alliance of West Virginia
National Park Service 
Son of the South
Lost New England 
The Baltimore Sun Dark Room
Dave Gilbert Graphic Design
Harpers Ferry Armory Guns