The Savage/Fox Model B Side-by-Side Shotguns
By Chuck Hawks
Savage Arms purchased the A.H. Fox Company in November of 1929. They kept the A.H. Fox gun in production until America's entry into the Second World War, 1942 being the last year an A.H. Fox retail catalog appeared. After the end of the war a few A.H. Fox guns were sold from existing warehouse stock, and some were assembled from remaining parts on hand, but the era of the original A.H. Fox gun was basically over.
However, back in the 1940's the Fox name had considerable market recognition, and in 1940 Savage capitalized on that by using the Fox name on a somewhat upscale version of their Stevens Model 311 side-by-side utility shotgun, which had been introduced in 1931. (Savage had purchased Stevens in 1920.)
The resulting gun, named the Fox Model B was introduced at a MSRP of $25.75. It was to be a long lived model, remaining in the Savage line until rising manufacturing costs and the sale and reorganization of Savage Industries, Inc. (which became today's Savage Arms Company) caused it to be discontinued in 1988. By that time the MSRP for the Fox Model B-SE had risen to $525.
The Model B was introduced in 12, 16, 20, and .410 bores. At some point in the early 1970's the 16 gauge was dropped, but the other three bores were available until the end. The usual barrel lengths were 30, 28, and 26 inches in 12 gauge and 28 and 26 inches in 16 and 20 gauge, although some guns with 24 inch barrels were sold. All .410 bore guns came with 26" barrels.
Standard chokes for all but the .410 bore guns were Full and Modified in 28 and 30 inch barrels and Modified/Improved Cylinder in 26 and 24 inch barrels. .410 bore guns were choked Full/Full. Other standard choke combinations were furnished by special order at no extra charge, at least in the early years.
All Fox Model B shotguns are side-by-side box locks of a simplified Anson & Deely type with a single underbolt and a Scott spindle top lever to open the action. Coil springs are used throughout and power the hammers and sears. The result is a somewhat bulky but very durable action that seldom needs repair. The sides and bottom of the frame are decorated by a simple etched "engraving" pattern.
Like most American double guns except the Winchester Model 21 and much later Ruger Gold Label, Model B barrels were built on the through lump system. This is a satisfactory method of joining the barrels, but it produces a gun wider across the breech than the chopper lump, dovetail lump, or mono-block systems.
12, 16, and 20 gauge chambers were initially 2-3/4" in length, but 12 and 20 gauge chambers were later lengthened to 3". All .410 bore guns came with 3" chambers.
All Fox Model B guns came with "select" American black walnut stocks and forends. The wood that I have seen on these guns varied from plain to semi-fancy. A glossy wood finish was standard. These are short tang guns and a through bolt retains the stock. The forend is held in place by a self-adjusting spring tension latch that does not loosen with use.
Stocks are of the pistol grip type with a fluted comb and a corrugated black plastic butt plate. Most guns produced from the mid-1950's on came with a better defined and more graceful pistol grip than the early guns, and were fitted with a black plastic grip cap, although for a while in the 1970's the stock reverted to the earlier form sans grip cap. Forend style was initially a rather large version of the splinter type. This was eventually changed to a full beavertail forend, initially only on the single trigger models, but later the beavertail became standard across the board. Hand cut checkering in a simple pattern was used until sometime in the middle 1960's, when the change was made to impressed checkering in a somewhat fancier pattern.
The most common variations of the basic gun were the Model B (Mfg. 1940-86; black or color case frame, double triggers, extractors, plain rib later changed to vent. rib), Model B-ST (Mfg. 1955-66; case color frame, single non-selective trigger, plain matted rib, beavertail forend), Model B-DL (Mfg. 1962-65; a B-ST with a satin chrome-plated frame, vent. rib), Model B-DE (Mfg. 1965-66; similar to the B-DL with reduced checkering coverage), and B-SE (Mfg. 1966-88; similar to the B-DE with selective ejectors, vent. rib, select walnut and impressed checkering).
Model B frames were initially given a black gun metal finish, but before long were changed to a color case finish that remained standard until the guns were discontinued. Model B-DL guns were supplied only with satin chrome-plated frames. Model B-SE gun frames went from satin chrome to satin black to color case finishes as the years went by and styles changed. White line spacers at pistol grip cap and buttplate came and went. Today a Model B-SE in perfect (100%) condition will sell for around $750, according to the 25th Edition of Fjestad's Blue Book of Gun Values.
For around the first 20 years Model B guns had raised solid ribs. Later production, starting with the single trigger models but eventually also including the double trigger models, switched to a ventilated rib.
Following are some specifications for the Fox Models B and B-SE circa 1975 as provided by the Gun Digest and Shooter's Bible.
The Fox Model B had a long production run and many were produced in numerous variations. They are still in widespread use today and are often seen in gun dealers' used racks. These guns were solid performers in their day and they still are. They seldom malfunction and they are usually easy to repair when they do.
This is not a slim, lightweight double gun built on the British pattern. Rather it is a solid American gun designed to shoot heavy American style shells and it has the weight and heft to do so with relative comfort.
Its primary competition in the market place was the Winchester Model 24 until about 1958 when that gun was discontinued. Although the two were functionally about equal, the Model B was a better looking and better turned-out gun than the Model 24.
After the demise of the Model 24 inexpensive foreign made guns became the Fox Model B's main double gun competition. These were usually more graceful, but seldom as durable as the rugged Savage product.
The number of Savage/Fox doubles still in use is a testament to their solid design and the quality materials used in their construction.
Note: Reviews of a 12 gauge Fox Model B-DL and a 16 gauge Fox Model B can be found on the Product Review Page.
Copyright 2007 by Chuck Hawks. All rights reserved.