When you hunt ruffed grouse, the last thing you want is a gun that doesn’t fit you. When you’re walking all day through thickets and up mountainsides in the hopes of seeing a few explosive flushes from birds genetically designed to out-motor and out-maneuver hawks around tree limbs, gun mount and reaction time is everything. Still, as I hunted ruffs in northern Minnesota earlier this month I was tempted to put down a shotgun that points as an extension of me and to pick up Stevens’ new 555 over/under shotgun.
I was hunting with Tim Brandt, the marketing director for Taurus USA and J.J. Reich, communications manager of the company that owns the Stevens brand. J.J. had brought Stevens’ 555 shotguns to our hunt and just quietly laid one on a wood table outside the camp’s wall tent.
I picked up the over/under 28 gauge. The gun is light and seemed almost too gentlemanly for thick woods and fast-flushing grouse. Still, I wanted to carry the 555 down the bright logging roads and to shoulder and swing it when grouse flushed through the yellow and falling leaves.
When J.J. took out 20- and 12-gauge 555 shotguns and said the Turkish-made over/unders retail for only about $692, I asked if he’d be my gun bearer so I could hunt with them all. But my length-of-pull is a half-inch less than average, and gun makers naturally make guns for the average person. So I tested these at the range, where I could shoulder these shotguns a little higher to compensate for their length of pull. Here’s what I found.
J. Stevens & Co. was founded in Massachusetts in 1864, and Savage Arms bought Stevens almost a century ago in 1920. Like Savage Arms, Stevens has always made economical but quality guns. The new Model 555 over-under is certainly an example of that tradition.
Stevens’ 555s fit a big niche in the shotgun market. I could buy the 28-, 20-, and 12-gauge versions and only pay a little more than I did for my semiautomatic Benelli. They are ideal starter guns for the clays sports and for upland-bird hunting (though I don’t like calling them “starter guns,” as that implies that all of us are supposed to someday transition to $4,000 over/unders). The Stevens’ 555s compete directly with shotguns such as the Stoeger Condor Supreme ($599) and the CZ Upland Sterling ($999), but I think they appeal to any consumer who hunts with an over/under.
The 555 incorporates an extractor that elevates both shells, so you can easily pull them out yourself. They don’t automatically eject, which is an advantage for those who don’t want to leave empties on the range or in the field, and for those who reload.
The 555’s actions are scaled according to their respective gauges. These aren’t all 12-gauge actions with the smaller gauges simply having their respective barrels fit in. The action of the 28 gauge is smaller than the 20 gauge’s, and so on.
The 555s have a lightweight alloy receiver, Turkish walnut stock and forearm, a single selective trigger, extractors, and a manual safety. They come with five interchangeable choke tubes. That’s all standard stuff. You won’t find added details and options you will find on a higher-end over/under. This is like the base model—you can pay more for alloy wheels and heated seats, or you can pay less for one that does everything without the frills.
At the range I found the 555 to be wonderfully lightweight (about 6 pounds for the 12-gauge) and responsive. Anyone who is familiar with Turkish shotguns knows they have come a long way in a short time. Labor cost is low in Turkey, and their gun makers are becoming increasingly skilled.
Field & Stream‘s Shotguns Editor Phil Bourjaily said this about the 555: “Like any alloy-framed o/u, this one feels slightly muzzle-heavy, but in a way that makes it easy to swing through targets. The attractive, straight-grained wood has a tasteful satin finish, and the checkering is neat and sharp. This would make a great grouse gun.” I concur, and add that I found these 555s would make good general-purpose skeet and upland-bird shotguns.
The 555 is a replacement for the Stevens 512, which has a reputation for being a mule of a gun. The 555 is its prettier, slimmer cousin. What makes this shotgun stand out is the price. There is no other industry-smashing breakthrough here. But it did draw interest at the public range I took them to. A few shooters with Brownings and Berettas noticed I was shifting between three over/unders that all looked alike aside from their gauges. They thought me an eccentric or a person who just can’t make up his mind, until they came over to find out. All of them began saying complementary things as open and closed the guns and shouldered them.
One thing we like to address here is a gun’s marketing hype. Some marketers just get a little carried away. I wonder with this introduction if they’re being too humble. The Stevens 555 is an everyman’s over/under. It’ll fit in at both a gun club among higher-priced shotguns and in the field among pump-actions and semiautomatics. At its price, you won’t stress about scratching it as you navigate thickets for pheasant or grouse, and you’ll find it points and functions when birds flush.
Stevens 555 Specifications
List Price: $692
Weight: About 6 pounds (12 gauge), 5.5 pounds (20/28 gauge and .410)
Barrel Length: 28 inches (12 gauge), 26 inches (20/28 gauge and .410)
Total Length: 44 7/8 in. (12 gauge), 42 7/8 in. (20/28 gauge and .410)
Length of Pull (all gauges): 14 1⁄8 inches
Chambering: 12 and 20 gauge guns have 2 ¾- and 3-inch chambers
Extras: Five choke tubes in Cylinder, Improved Cylinder, Modified, Improved Modified, Full