Stevens Favorite Model 30R17 Rifle
By Chuck Hawks and the Guns and Shooting Online Staff
The Stevens "Favorite" was indeed a favorite of both young and old rimfire shooters back around the turn of the 20th Century. In those days, falling block and rolling block single shot rimfire rifles were both common and economical, widely used as training and hunting rifles. My Dad, for example, learned to shoot with a .22 LR Remington No. 6 rolling block rifle, a model conceptually similar to the Stevens Model 30 rifle that is the subject of this review.
Today's Stevens Model 30 line, manufactured by Savage Arms, includes both takedown and standard models in .22 LR, .22 WMR, and .17 HMR. It is the latter caliber that concerns us here, chambered in the standard (non-takedown) version of the Favorite known as the Model 30R17.
The Favorite rifles coming out of the Savage plant today look much like the original versions. They are supplied with a blued barreled action and a walnut finished hardwood buttstock and forearm. The latter is of the Schnable shape. The wood is given what appears to be a very light oil finish. The pores of the wood are not properly filled and the finish is dull and lifeless. A few hand-rubbed coats of Outers Stock Oil would help the appearance of this rifle immensely.
The metal parts could have used considerably more polishing before being blued. Coupled with the poor wood finish, the overall impression is of a rifle built to the lowest possible price point. I am sure that is not far from the truth. Of course, so was the original Stevens Favorite. It's just that the industry standards of appearance were generally higher in those days.
Still, it is a cute little rifle. An under lever, semi-falling block rifle with an external hammer and an octagon barrel is intrinsically appealing, at least to me. I guess I am just a sucker for trim single shot rifles. Open rear and post front iron sights are provided and the receiver and barrel are drilled and tapped for scope mounts. Savage sent the test rifle with a Weaver scope base already in place, as I had requested. Iron sights may be traditional, but if I want to hit something I need a scope.
Beyond the rifle's appearance, the next things that get the new user's attention are the very stiff under lever and the incredibly heavy trigger pull. Opening the action of this rifle requires serious force. The lever and the breech block both look like cast parts and they operate like cast parts on which no one bothered to polish the engagement surfaces. I mean, this action is STIFF.
Once the hammer is cocked (and that, too, requires excessive force), it takes more serious effort to pull the trigger, which measured about 7 pounds on my RCBS Premium gauge. The trigger does have some creep, but it is so hard to pull it's difficult to tell.
This whole rifle needs serious attention. If this were my rifle, instead of a consignment item that needs to be returned, I would first finish the stock, as mentioned above. Then I would disassemble the action, which looks pretty simple, and hand polish all the engagement surfaces that the folks in the Savage/Stevens plant ignored. I would polish every single place that metal rubbed on metal to reduce the operating friction to tolerable levels.
When the action was reassembled I would then see what a Stevens Favorite COULD and SHOULD be like. If I liked the result, I might even have my gunsmith friend (and G&S Online staffer) Rocky Hays polish and re-blue the external surfaces of the barreled action to, say, Savage Model 14 standards. When I got finished I would have the rifle that Savage/Stevens should have built in the first place.
Here are the basic specifications of the Stevens Model 30R17 rifle:
Neither the catalog specifications nor my critique of this little rifle make it sound like anything special, but it is. It is a piece of American history. If any rifle can be called "cute," this is it. It is also the lightest, safest, adult hunting and training rifle that I know of. It is so compact that most youthful shooters will be able to manage it, if they are strong enough to operate the action and pull the trigger.
Operation of a Stevens Favorite is simplicity itself. To open that action, swing the under lever forward, which lowers the breech block. Load by manually inserting a cartridge into the chamber. Close the action by returning the under lever to its fully rearward position. To fire the rifle, first cock the external hammer. Then squeeze the trigger. BANG! Repeat sequence as desired. Opening the action extracts, but does not eject, the fired case.
The hammer has a half-cock position, which is intended to prevent inadvertant discharge should the hammer slip from under the thumb while it is being cocked. Otherwise the half cock notch is not used--it is not a "safety" position on the new Model 30. The rifle is completely safe with the hammer lowered on a loaded chamber and that is the proper way to carry the new Model 30 when loaded.
I mounted a Leupold VX-II 3-9x33mm EFR rimfire scope in medium height Weaver rings on the Favorite for testing. This is an excellent scope that is well suited to any .17 HMR hunting rifle.
The testing was done at the Izaak Walton outdoor rifle range south of Eugene, Oregon. This facility offers covered shooting positions and solid bench rests. As an aid to accuracy, a Caldwell Lead Sled rifle rest weighted with two 25 pound bags of lead shot was used throughout.
The summer weather was sunny with a high of about 80 degrees and a variable, gusty wind. The latter required that we try to shoot between gusts, as the .17 HMR cartridge is notoriously wind sensitive.
Guns and Shooting Online staffers Bob Fleck, Nathan Rauzon and I did the shooting. Four different brands of .17 HMR varmint ammunition were used, all with 17 grain bullets. These included Hornady (V-MAX), CCI (TNT), Remington (AccuTip-V) and Federal (TNT) loads.
After centering the point of impact at 25 yards, we moved back to 100 yards for final zeroing and to see what the little Stevens rifle could do. Each shooter fired 5-shot groups with all four brands of ammunition.
For the record we used Outers Score Keeper Targets at 100 yards. This time out Nathan shot the best group (3/4") using Hornady ammunition. Here are the complete shooting results:
AVERAGE GROUP SIZE, ALL BRANDS OF AMMUNITION = 1.46"
These results speak for themselves. Beyond a seeming dislike of the CCI load, the Stevens Favorite proved that while it may be small and crudely finished, it can shoot! The average group size for the other three brands of ammunition averaged a little over 1 1/4", a good performance under difficult (windy) conditions.
The Stevens Favorite is included in the article ".17 HMR Rifle Accuracy Test Results," which can be found in the "Rifle Information" section of the Rimfire Guns and Ammo Page. There you can compare its range results with other .17 HMR rifles tested by Guns and Shooting Online.
All of us were unhappy with the stiffness of the Stevens action. Another shooter who happened to be at the range while we were shooting the Stevens, an old-timer in his 80's, watched me shoot groups with the little rifle, struggling with the stiff action. After a bit he told me that as a boy he had learned to shoot with a Stevens Favorite, the original model. "They were smooth back then," he commented.
The Favorite is so short and light that it is hard to imagine a less burdensome rifle to carry in the field. It would be ideal for a person of limited physical strength. If you are looking for an inexpensive, traditional, first .17 HMR rifle that will continue to charm for a lifetime, and you are willing to do some home gunsmithing and refinishing, the Stevens Favorite Model 30R17 is worth considering.
RIFLE REVIEW SUMMARY
Copyright 2005, 2007 by Chuck Hawks. All rights reserved.
SPECIALIST IN ENGRAVING AND RESTORATION