Nostalgia for a ‘Favorite’
M ost of us who grew up in the first half of the 20th Century, remember our first gun fondly. For many of us that first gun was a Stevens Favorite. The Favorite was a lever-action, falling-block, single-shot rifle scaled perfectly for a boy in his pre-teen years.
Before I get hammered for being a misogynist, I have little doubt that some young girls, particularly those who grew up on a farm, also got a Stevens Favorite for a first gun. I have always said that the female of the species has better tools to become a skilled shooter, than guys do. A few such ladies come readily to mind, Annie Oakley, Margaret Murdoch, Kim Rhode, et al.
But back to my point, the Stevens Favorite was an ideal first rifle for several reasons. Most important, its simplicity made it just about as safe as possible for an inexperienced shooter.
First, it is a single shot. Second, when the lever opens the action, it exposes the chamber, which either has a cartridge loaded in place—or there is an obvious, empty hole. Third, when the action closes on a live round, the shooter has to consciously cock the hammer to fire the gun.
If a boy (or girl) is given rudimentary gun safety instruction and is mature enough to understand the grave responsibility inherent in handling a gun, it is unlikely that an accident can occur when the youngster handles a Stevens Favorite.
The Favorite was chambered for several different cartridges. There was even a smoothbore version, chambered for .22 RF or 32 RF shotshells. However, most were chambered for .22 Long Rifle, which incidentally, was first developed by Stevens in 1887 and soon became an extremely popular cartridge for a boy’s first rifle (girl’s first rifle, too—see above).
The Stevens Favorite is usually seen in a “plain jane” version with a round barrel and unadorned plain walnut stock. Most often, these are scarred and worn from a young rural lad dragging it with him every time he left the house until he was deemed old enough to graduate to a more sophisticated firearm.
However, a few fancier Favorites were made. These Favorites had a color case-hardened action, blued octagonal barrel and a bit of figure in the walnut stock. They also had a fancy German silver front sight. These little touches made a pretty little rifle, which if it’s in nice condition, enhances its collectability—and price.
Thereby hangs a tale.
Once upon a time, in the early 1980s I attended a gun show in Oklahoma City. A few days earlier, I had happened to read a description of the fancier Stevens Favorite in Frank DeHaas’s book, SINGLESHOT RIFLES AND ACTIONS, which is a terrific illustrated reference book on this subject.
As I browsed through the show, I saw a grimy, neglected Favorite on one of the tables. It was filthy, and it had a galvanized machine screw instead of the lever pivot pin. The screw was bent over to keep it from falling out. The gun couldn’t be more worthless-looking.
Before I looked away, I noticed it had an octagonal barrel. My curiosity piqued, I glanced at the front sight. It was bright, silver-looking…hmm.
I picked it up and looked closely at the action. Under the grime, I could see a hint of color case hardening…hmm. The machine screw fitted fairly well, and the hole did not appear to be damaged. With some difficulty, I opened the action and peered down the bore—nasty.
However, the stock seemed to be relatively unscarred, and the bakelite buttplate was intact. DeHaas had mentioned in his book that the toe of the buttplate was often broken off, which greatly reduced the collectability of the rifle. This one was okay.
Cutting to the chase, I traded a Case Sharktooth folding knife in a velvet presentation case and five bucks for this little diamond in the rough. So, I took it home and proceeded to rehabilitate it.
I gave it a good exterior cleaning, which revealed decent color case-hardening on the receiver and fairly good bluing on the barrel. Giving the bore a thorough scrubbing, I found little pitting, and the rifling was intact. The walnut stock didn’t require much work, and after I rubbed it with a little linseed oil, it looked pretty good.
Now the only problem was that blasted machine screw. Somehow, I managed to straighten it enough to remove it without apparent damage to the receiver.
Once again, I opened DeHaas’s book to the write-up on the Stevens Favorite. The exploded drawing revealed the proper nomenclature (“nomenclature” is a high-falutin’ word that simply means “name.” I picked it up during my military years—sorry about that.) of the pin that holds the lever in place. Oddly enough, it is called a “lever screw.”
Numrich Gun Parts Corporation, bless their hearts, had the part in stock for, as I recall, less than the postage required to send it to me. After I had it in hand, I reinstalled the lever, and the job was done.
Actually, that makes it sound too easy. I seem to remember sweating blood and uttering a few curse words before I got the rascal in place.
The postscript to this story is that I took my rehabilitated fancy Favorite to the next gun show and got $125 in trade for it on a shotgun I wanted at the time. Just for the record, this was the early 1980s, and $125 was not chicken feed.
I no longer have that shotgun. It went away a long time ago, and I barely remember it. However, I remember that fancy Stevens Favorite, and I regret trading it to this day.
On a lighter note, I have another Stevens Favorite now, in .22 Long Rifle. It came as a result of a trade with one of my hunting buddies. This Favorite is one of the newer ones that Savage made from about 2002 to 2005. It has a round barrel and a walnut stock (unusual among most .22s these days). Its rear sight is sturdy and adjustable for elevation with a narrow notch that makes it easy to take a fine bead on the target.
I traded for it more than a year ago, but because of other projects, I haven’t shot it yet. So, I can’t attest to its accuracy. Still, it’s a good little rifle, and I like it.
But I do remember the fancy little Favorite that I traded away so long ago, and in my mind this new one will never quite replace it.
It just ain’t the same.
—BY STAN SKINNER
TACTICAL GEAR REVIEW
When we think defensive tools, many of us think of our handgun, flashlight, and pocketknife. But with the advancement of technology, we also have impressive innovations like the TASER Pulse non-lethal weapon.
Now don’t confuse the brand TASER with the cheap “stun guns” that you find at convenience stores and flea markets. There is no comparison in the end result or technology.
Actually, the cheap little zapper stun guns are nothing more than a portable electric fence such as you would use to deter livestock from escaping a pasture. They are very ineffective weapons against a determined attacker. TASERs on the other hand are advanced tools, which when used in the correct manner are extremely effective and save lives on both ends of a defensive situation.
I was able to participate in the first TASER-sponsored civilian training course by C2 Tactical at a “Bullets and Bibles” training conference in Arizona this year. There I found there is a lot more to the TASER technology than most folks realize.
TASER produces small handheld weapons that utilize electrical current to stop an attacker using neuro-muscular incapacitation. Although the law enforcement models have a range of 21 feet, the civilian versions are limited to 15 feet. Once fired, an electrical pulse activates a nitrogen cartridge that deploys two barb-tipped darts at 100 miles per hour into the attacker.
These darts are attached by strong, thin insulated wires back to the TASER and for the first second of deployment measures the attacker’s body mass by calculating electrical resistance, so it delivers the appropriate charge to disable him. Once the device has that reading, it gives the attacker a programmed 30-second shock allowing the user to escape.
Deploying the TASER is simple. The newer Pulse civilian model uses the same technology as the law enforcement versions. It resembles a compact handgun complete with trigger, safety switch, aiming laser, light, and sights. Once the safety is depressed, the light and aiming laser activates and green status light indicates the batter is ready to rock.
Pulse is aimed at the centerline of an attacker. Upon trigger press, the deployed darts will spread at an eight-degree angle so they get a connection to deliver the charge.
To deter misuse, each dart cartridge has a confetti, called AFID (anti-felon identification). These pieces scatter upon firing, marking the area where it was used. Each AFID is marked with the registered serial number of the purchaser.
As stated before, the Pulse will run for 30 seconds to allow you to reach safety. However if you are trapped and need more time to escape you can cycle another incapacitating shock by cycling the safety and pressing the trigger again. The Pulse’s lithium power pack lasts at least 50 full cycles so you should never run out of juice.
The TASER Pulse is perfect for self-defense situations where lethal force isn’t necessary. Using a firearm is a serious last resort that carries huge consequences. If you are leery about the electrical technology you can find peace that TASERs have been used over five million times without any fatalities.
Three amps of electricity can be fatal, but TASERs use only .00012 amps. It is also a great defensive tool that you can also carry into those illogical “gun free zones”.
The TASER Pulse runs the same price as a budget handgun, retailing for $399.99. And best yet, if you happen to ever need to use it and leave it behind, TASER will replace your product for free when you send in a copy of the police report.
You can find out more at taser.com.
—BY DUSTIN ELLERMANN