My small town has had gun shows twice this year, and boy, oh boy, am I a fan. Most of the bigger city gun shows only attract gun stores who add on the gun show “special” price of 20% more and call it a day.
I go to gun shows to find and purchase (or just ogle) old guns. I don’t care about a table full of GLOCKs, but I love a table full of milsurp guns or antiques and my local gun show is all about that. Once more, I scored a great deal on a Stevens Model 235.
At the last gun show, I purchased my Astra 9mm, and I browsed around the show. I ran into the same gentleman recently who sold me the Astra. This time he had a number of shotguns on his table at a variety of prices. I spotted a ‘rabbit ear’ shotgun with nice long barrels along and good wood furniture. I was hooked. I took a look and saw the price tag of $200 and knew I had to have it.
I handled it. The stock was a little loose, but everything seemed to be in good measure. The firing pins weren’t stuck and the hammers cocked back easily. The action opened and closed without issue. I put $200 dollars in the man’s hand and he put the Model 235 in mine.
Plenty of double barrels are made these days, but the SxS field is a little sparse. If you want a coach gun, you have options, but to find a side-by-side shotgun with rabbit ears and longer barrels can be tough to find. I’ve always liked the look of these guns and was happy to finally have one without breaking the bank.
A Little History
We don’t talk much about Stevens these days. They were bought and sold by New England Westinghouse in 1915 and again by Savage in 1920. While owned by Westinghouse, they were tasked with building Mosin-Nagants for Czar Nicolas, although the Russians never paid Westinghouse.
Since 1920 they’ve been part of the Savage brand and these days the name Stevens is assigned to budget, imported shotguns. In reality, they have a fairly rich history.
J. Stevens and Co. invented the .22LR round we all know and love. They produced a number of top single-shot pistols and gained fame for their shotguns. They were affordable guns that worked and worked well. In 1902 they declared themselves “the largest producers of sporting arms in the world.”
They continued to produce primarily sporting arms, but would occasionally produce guns for the military as well. That included a lesser-known World War 1 trench gun knowns as the M520-30 and M620.
Somewhere in that history sits the simplicity and robust Model 235. Stevens produced the gun in 1909 when it made its first appearance in their catalogs. Production ended in 1931 and there were an estimated 62,000 produced.
Mine is marked J. Stevens Arms Co., which signifies it was made after 1916. Models made between 1909 and 1915 were marked J. Stevens Arms & Tool. They were produced with 26, 28, 30, and 32-inch barrels and in both 16 and 12 gauge. Early guns used a 2 9/16th shell, but mine is one of the old 2¾” chambered models.
The gun itself is in surprisingly nice condition seeing how it’s a century old (or close to it).
At the Range
One important thing to remember is that these were produced for black powder and early smokeless powder, so I would never try to shoot anything other than a mild load through it. In fact, due to its age and slightly loose stock, I put some rather weak sub-1000 FPS trap/skeet loads through it first.
The Model 235 fired both blasts with ease. The light rounds resulted in very light recoil. The gun has a 14-inch LOP which is typical of sporting guns of the era. The stock is nice and comfy, and shoulders well. Finding the bead is easy, and the noise of the hammers cocking elicits a tactile satisfaction I can’t quite describe.
The Model 235 feels old and well made. I won’t shoot this gun much, but I’ll enjoy every round it fires. My son was also very curious. He’s a recently qualified Pro-Marksman with the NRA’s Marksmanship Qualification Program and has taken a relatively recent shine to firearms.
He enjoyed the gun, although it’s a bit large for him right now. He had some issues keeping the gun shouldered and cocking the hammers, but handled the recoil just fine. The gun opened smoothly and pushed the shells up with its extractor reliably.
I wasn’t doing double taps or running drills with the Model 235. In fact, I was shooting clay pigeons laid on a berm, and it was a ton of fun. These old guns are often an experience unto themselves, and the Model 235 will be well cared for in my hands.
Oftentimes I disagree when people say they don’t make ’em like they used to, but they might be right in regards to the Model 235.