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Stevens "ARMORY", "BISLEY", & "IDEAL" Models

single-shot target rifles in British use

including the rare "Walnut Hill"


"ARMORY" MODEL .........."BISLEY" MODEL .........."IDEAL" MODEL .........."WALNUT HILL" MODEL ..........AN UNUSUAL CONVERSION


See also: the Stevens Model 76A semi-auto military issue"


MORE CONTENT TO FOLLOW SOON

The Stevens "ARMORY"* model

(*this is not a mis-spelling - the word is spelled 'Armoury' this side of the pond).

 

This is maybe not the finest example, but it is a rifle that has enjoyed significant use

in British hands over many years as a club rifle, and it is perfectly illustrative of the type.

 

 

 

Further information will be added shortly.

 

Below: the RHS of the familiar action body, viewed from behind and ahead.

.................

The side-mounted adjustable rear-sight is not the cleanest piece of design, but is thoroughly practical and robust.

The hammer is shown both closed, and in the cocked position for loading, with the under-lever down.

................

 

Below: the simple brass blade foresight in a lateral dovetailed block


The STEVENS "BISLEY"

One of the rarest and most important Stevens rifle with a true British connection, was the Bisley Model.

This "de-luxe" rifle was built on the large-frame Martini action as originally utilised for the Martini-Henry rifle in .577/.450 calibre Many of these actions saw life in any number of configurations. In service rifles were converted to, Martini-Metford and Martini-Enfield rifles in .303-inch calibre, the arrival of the Long model of Lee rifle in the late 1890s, and the following Short Lee-Enfield rifle in 1903, saw large numbers of the obsolescent Martinis sold out of service. These were then sleeved to lesser calibres or even rebarrelled anew.

 

 

The significant outshooting of British Forces by South Africans in the two Boer Wars at the turn of the Nineteenth Century, with their Mauser-armed sharpshooters in clothing more suited to guerilla type warfare, led to Lord Roberts and other leaders initiating the Nationwide setting up of rifle clubs to encourage "everyman" to learn to shoot with the rifle. (See: the Society of Miniature Rifle Clubs). This was achieved rather less forcefully than had been the case with the Mediaeval method of requiring every male subject to be a capable archer.

Rifles for civilian use had always been relatively expensive, as was full-bore ammunition. Advantage was taken of the availability of huge numbers of obsolete Martini service rifles, and gunmakers such as WW. Greener and C.G. Bonehill converted thousands of them for small-bore target use; by dint intially of sleeving the full-bore barrels or, later in some cases, using newly manufactured solid .22 rimfire barrels.

Indeed, post the Great War (WWI 1914-18), right through to after the Second World War (1939-45), such rifles were still being converted for small-bore target use by the likes of the A.J. & A.G. Parker companies, their CMT rifles for example; this even whilst various models of obsolescent Lee-Enfield rifles were already being so converted for military training and civilian target use.

All this was quite apart from the many newly made small-frame Martini rifles, in a plethora of miniature calibres, that were being manufactured and sold worldwide, often by the same companies, but particularly the Birmingham Small Arms Company, starting with their Martini Cadet rifles - the Model no.4.

In February 1969, the American "Guns" magazine carried this diminutive quarter-page article, almost in the form of an advertising feature, written by Kingsley P. Karnoff.

He quite reasonably entitled the piece "The Rarest Stevens?"

The text read:

"Only ten of these rifles were made, according to O.M. "Jack" Knode,vice-president at Savage-Stevens-Fox. Thirty years ago (1939) when he first came to Stevens, the old timers told him that these ten rifles were outlawed on the famous Bisley range in England because they were "too accurate". Jack says to take this one with several grains of salt, but nevertheless that was the story the way he heard it.

A typical turn-of-the-century half-octagon Stevens barrel, in .22 r.f. caliber [U.S. spelling. Ed.] is mounted on a typical heavy British Martini action. The usual Stevens markings are on the barrel. The frame is engraved "Stevens Bisley Model"

 

The comment attributed to the Stevens' old-timers should certainly be treated with caution. Bisley rules have always been quite strict regarding the sights, configuration, dimensions and trigger weight of rifles used in particular classes, and it is more than possible that some aspect of the rifle, or even ammunition, as presented on the ranges, failed to meet the rules of the class in which it had been entered.

That any British shooting organisation would be prepared to ban a rifle for being "too accurate" is patently nonsense. Indeed, even nowadays, there would usually be a rush by competitors to purchase such a model.

The collection at the Stevens factory does hold one of these rifles, but they cannot find any information on the model's history.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The rifle was described, in a 1910-11 J. Stevens Arms & Tool Company catalogue advertisement destined for British consumption, as "The Stevens Model #600 - The Modele DeLuxe miniature target rifle."

It is almost certain that there was British involvement in the rifle's production, and it is known that the company had been advised that there was a market here for a high quality full-frame Martini small-bore target rifle; and, of course, one that would meet then current competition rules.

Indeed, the text said that:

" This model, specially made for the the English market, has been brought out at the express wish of our many friends in the United Kingdom. It has the well-known Martini action, which is so easy to manipulate, especially when rapid firing. It is eligible for use in all competitions for Military Miniature Rifles".

 

Weight: with a 27" barrel was specified as 9½ lbs. The barrel being a half-octagon Stevens Match Quality product. The rifle was specifically chambered for the British "Kings Norton H.P.S." ammunition. [Highest Possible Score: Ed]. The action, probably U.K. sourced, was case-hardened with a special finish.

The stock and for-end were in "specially selected oiled walnut, well figured, neatly chequered, with horn cap to fore-end, with an engine-turned butt-plate".

The specification included a "B.S.A. aperture rear sight with adjustable eye cup, and micrometer Wind Gauage with vertical adjustment." The fore-sight was a combination ring and bead, with options of Bead and Barleycorn, or a simple knife-edge unit.

The quoted price in 1910 was five pounds and five shillings; or five guineas in contemporary parlance.

It should be mentioned that a number of these features are not evident on the example kindly loaned to us for illustration on this page, particularly in respect of the lack of chequering, and the heavily fluted fore-end.

But the rear-sight is certainly the windage and elevation adjustable Model No.8 manufactured and marketed by B.S.A., and the fore-sight is their No.19 tunnelled flip-over model. See: BSA Sights & accessories.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Below: the barrel markings familiar to all Stevens rifle pundits and owners.

 

 

James Grant, in his book "More Single-shot Rifles" ( pages 12 to 14), writes that all the old Stevens factory records were destroyed shortly after World War One when Congress threatened to investigate the company's alleged illegal profiteering on WWI contracts - so there is sadly never likely to be any confirmed detail of production dates and quantities.

The known serial numbers of extant rifles suggest that the originally reported figure of ten was considerably exceeded; but no more than the very low hundreds are likely to have been produced, and possibly as few as forty.

Interestingly, Grant writes that, when he later met Kingsley Karnoff - the author of the 1969 'Guns' magazine article - Karnoff told him that he was not even certain that the rifle discussed was an authentic example. Who knows what to think of it all?

 

 


 

The STEVENS "IDEAL" MODEL

Another Stevens Model occasionally found in the U.K. was the "Ideal".

The claims in the last paragraph of the advertisement below are a touch immodest.

That the rifle 'has never been equalled', and 'cannot be beaten'.

The first claim may (questionably) have been true at the time,but the latter one was highly optimistic.

 

The next advertisement is dated 1913, and includes the ubiquitous "Favourite" model,

then at $16.50, then approximately the equivalent of about GBP 6.00,

and the "Marksman Rifle" at half that price, equating to as little as £3.00;

although importation costs to the U.K. would have made

all these rifle considerably more expensive.

 

 


The STEVENS "WALNUT HILL"

Here is rifle from the U.S.A. that is rarely seen in Britain,

and which has been carefully looked after by one who must,

in its day, have been a relatively wealthy owner.

 

The Stevens fine "Walnut Hill" model.

Photo by the late John Hopes

The Model 49 Walnut Hill was built on the Model 44½ action.

These rifles were usually only built to order, and can therefore differ considerably in minor detail.

 

In 1935, the associated gunsmith and barrel maker Harry Pope was photographed at Walnut Hill.

He engineered his own very successful rifling systems.

 


A rare STEVENS "SHORT RIFLE"

This Stevens rifle conversion may well be unique.

Originally a Stevens Model 16 Crack-shot with the side-lever action

manufactured between 1900 and 1913.

 

....

 

It was adapted as a pistol by a member of the WWII Home Guard

 

Early in the Second World War, after the Dunkirk evacuation in 1940, Britain was being threatened with invasion from France and Belgium by Hitler's German forces. The populace was being asked to assist in home front defence, starting with the formation of the LVD - the Local Volunteer Defence Force.

Just short of thirty years later, the well know television series "Dad's Army" brought to our television screens the humorous side of the life and problems of that initially formed home defence force as it morphed into the Home Guard. With much British armament, particularly small-arms, left on the beaches of France during the Dunkirk evacuation, there were insufficient rifles and pistols for the regular forces, let alone for those civilians being asked to help hold back a potential invading army that would certainly include large numbers of paratroops.

The Home Guard units really did train with broomsticks for rifles, and pitchforks as weaponry. Necessity being the mother of invention, their members soon made up their own dummy rifles to add to the realism, while impatiently waiting to be armed with the real thing. In the meantime, every available sporting gun or target rifle was brought into service by the patrolmen. Such .22 calibre rimfire rifles as were often used by farmers for vermin control, or those in the hands of civilian target shooters, were regularly requisitioned for the purpose.

A typical adaptation, developed out of necessity, was the conversion of what may have been a tired or otherwise worn or damaged rifle. This Stevens Model 16 Crack-shot rifle was then already at least twenty-seven years old; its repurposing being a reflection of the dire needs of those days. It is a significant reminder of the pressure under which Britain lay at that time.

The Home Guard units were eventually mainly issued with the First World War Pattern '14 Enfield Rifle No.3 that had been made in North America to supplement British rifle production that could not then keep up with demand. These rifles were brought out of long-term storage, refurbished and distributed as quickly as could possible.

A separatethen secret force was brought into being within the Home Guard; the Auxiliary Units.

Intended as a "stay behind" group in the event that individual counties were overun by a German invasion, its members were specifically trained in subversion and guerilla tactics to harass the enemy. Observation points, bunkers and hides were built to accommodate them for only the few short weeks it was anticipated they would be able to survive. They were armed with explosives, grenades, a number of light machine guns, and moderated .22 rifles for the silent dispatch of German administrators and collaborators.

A number of the small-bore weapons used, including several U.S. models specially imported at the time,as well as in the Great War, are described on the page for Winchester Auto and Winder rifles.

There were also a number of American weapons used by the Royal Flying Corps during the First World War, including the Winchester models 1903 and 1907 semi-auto rifles. A small number of U.S. military training rifles are also covered on site, as are a few relevant rifles of Savage production - the Models 19 and 1931 - the unusual employment of the Model 6A - and an obscure British link to the Model 1908; these along with detail of the full-bore 30.06 calibre U.S. version of the aforementioned Pattern '14 Enfield rifle, the Pattern '17 model.

 

 

 

Zooming in the above image shows the original markings just remaining in the rather corroded barrel.

Below: the action of an unadulterated rifle.

 

 

The later rolling-block Stevens Model 26 Crack-shot is shown below,

with its under-lever action, manufactured between 1912 and the start of WWII in 1939.

 

 

The associated CRACK-SHOT MODEL

 

This rifle had a straighter profile to the action body than the Model 16's markedly cranked design.

Both the 16 and 26 models were produced with round barrels of either 18 or 20 inches, with similar open sights.

 

 


Here is a model we have not yet spotted this side of the "pond",

 

 

but this 1885 advertisement for the "new" Model No.5 rifle is worthy of mention.

See also: the Winchester 1885 Browning design

 

Below: The Stevens factory in 1927

at Chicopee Falls, Massachusetts, U.S.A.

 

Stevens rifles have enjoyed a long and valued reputation in Great Britain,

as is well illustrated by the image below.

It is taken from the January 1914 issue of the Journal of the National Rifle Association (G.B.)

 

Ernest Robinson was a highly successful shot, and co-author, with Lt. H. Ommundsen,

of the renowned reference tome "Rifles and Ammunition".

Robinson survived the then approaching Great War,

but Ommundsen was sadly killed in action early in the conflict.

 

In 1923, Robinson won the King's Prize at the famed Bisley Imperial Meeting.


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