Fox Model B-DL 12 Gauge Side-by-Side Shotgun
By Chuck Hawks and the Guns and Shooting Online Staff
Savage Arms purchased the J. Stevens Arms Company in 1920 and the A.H. Fox Company in November of 1929. They kept the A.H. Fox side-by-side shotgun in production until after America's entry into the Second World War, although the gun did not lend itself to economical mass production.
Back in the 1930's and 1940's the Fox name had considerable market recognition and in 1940 Savage capitalized on that by using the Fox name on an upgraded version of their Stevens Model 311 side-by-side utility shotgun. This gun had been introduced in 1931 and was designed for economical production, given the technology and labor prices of the time.
The resulting gun was named the Fox Model B. It was to remain in the Savage catalog in one form or another until rising manufacturing costs and the sale and reorganization of Savage Industries, Inc. (which became today's Savage Arms Company) caused the last version, the Fox Model B-SE, to be discontinued in 1988.
The gun reviewed here is a Fox Model B-DL, a deluxe version offered from 1962 to 1965. It was the top of the Fox Model B line during that time. Our test gun is a 12 gauge with 28 inch barrels belonging to Guns and Shooting Online Technical Advisor Bob Fleck.
Fox Model B-DL guns are side-by-side box locks of a simplified Anson & Deely type with a single underbolt that leaves a clean breech face 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 with a simple stamped "engraving" pattern.
The Model B-DL was distinguished from previous models by a ventilated barrel rib and a satin chrome-plated finish on its frame. It also featured a gold-plated safety slide and single non-selective trigger. The succeeding version, the Model B-SE (1966-1988), added selective ejectors and represented the final development of the Fox Model B gun.
Model B-DL barrels were struck full length and built on the through lump system. This was a satisfactory method of joining the barrels, but it produced a gun wider across the breech than the chopper lump, dovetail lump, or mono-block systems. 12 gauge chambers were 2-3/4 inches in length. The standard chokes for 12 gauge guns with 28 inch barrels were Full/Modified and that is how our test gun is bored.
All Fox Model B-DL guns came with select American black walnut stocks and forends. The stock is of the pistol grip type with a black plastic cap and a fluted comb. The butt plate is made of corrugated black plastic. This is a short tang gun, so a through bolt is used to retain the stock. The forend is a tapered, full beavertail type. It is held in place simply by spring tension, but time has shown that it will not loosen with use. The pistol grip and forend are adorned by hand cut checkering in a simple pattern. The wood finish is high gloss lacquer.
Following are some specifications provided by the Gun Digest and Shooter's Bible circa 1965 and taken from our Fox Model B-DL test gun.
Today a used Model B-DL in 100% condition will sell for around $600, according to the 25th Edition of Fjestad's Blue Book of Gun Values. Samples in 90% condition should be available for around $350 on the used market.
We did our shooting with the Savage/Fox B-DL at the Cottage Grove - Eugene Sportsman's Club, our local trap range. This facility offers American and International trap, skeet, 5-stand sporting clays, and a patterning range. Unfortunately, the latter was not in operation during our time with the Model B-DL.
Five Guns and Shooting Online staff members participated in shooting the Fox. These included owner Bob Fleck, Jim Fleck, Rocky Hays, Gordon Landers and yours truly. We did our shooting on an American style trap range from the 16 yard line and used the Modified barrel. It broke the targets just fine, assuming that we did our part.
After a couple of hours of shooting we took a coffee break and discussed the gun. One point of consensus was that the beavertail forend is too wide. (All of us prefer a splinter forend, so that conclusion is no surprise.)
Another point of agreement was that the gun is relatively heavy and also feels a little muzzle heavy. That is not an altogether bad thing when shooting clay targets, as it helps to keep the gun swinging and reduces the effect of recoil. Compared to some of the other guns that we had brought with us (Grulla, Charles Daly, Hatfield and Ruger Gold Label) the Fox B-DL was heavy, but not compared to a Winchester Model 24--a gun of similar type and price--that we also had along. Nor was it as heavy as Rocky's fine E Grade Lefever, although the Lefever's slender semi-pistol grip and splinter forend felt more delicate and its superior balance made it faster to get on target.
No one liked the automatic safety on the Fox B-DL, or on any of the other guns so equipped (most are). It is, however, something that I know from experience an owner can get used to. Automatic safeties are very common on field guns and really do no harm when hunting.
I found the double beads on the rib handy, as when shooting trap I check that they visually form a "figure 8" before focusing my attention down range and calling for the target. No one else paid any attention to the double beads.
Our last, and most important, point of agreement was that the Savage/Fox Model B-DL worked well. This particular gun has been working fine for about 40 years now, and shows no signs of giving out any time soon. That is the real beauty of the Fox Model B, they are the Eveready bunny of double guns: they just keep going and going.
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