July 9, 2012

Inexpensive Fixes For Savage/Stevens 311s

These side-by-sides are long out of production, but learning how to work them can prepare you for other double-barrel duties.

The traditional wingshooting scenario brings to mind a pointing dog with a gentleman holding a svelte side-by-side shotgun at ready, anticipating a flushing game bird.

Just about anyone who has ever ventured afield for grouse, woodcock or pheasant has thought of some day owning a high-grade shotgun with side locks and little gold critters tattooed onto the receiver. These shotguns usually come with a price tag equal to that of a newly-built two-car garage. Budget restrictions usually prevail when the shotgun purchase becomes reality and “Plan B” is normally employed.

Over the years, Savage/Stevens manufactured a whole bunch of reasonably priced side-by-side double barreled shotguns, establishing a niche in the hunting gun market. Though inexpensive, these shotguns have proven over the years to be quite durable and there are enough out there to make it likely that one will find its way into your shop for a fix-up or rejuvenation.

The internal workings on the Savage/Stevens Models 5100, 530, 530A, 311, A,C,D,E, Series F and H and the Fox model B are all similar. There are outside cosmetic differences such as color case hardening on the Fox model B, the type of wood used for stocks and forearms and the metal polish prior to blueing.

Pushing the lever (top snap) at the top of the receiver to the right will unlock the action and allow the barrels to tilt forward so you can check to be sure the shotgun is empty and the barrels are clear. Close the action and pull down on the front of the forearm to remove it. Two screws secure the forearm iron to the wood. One screw goes down through the top of the forearm iron and threads into a thin steel plate that slips into an undercut in the rear of the forearm. The other goes up through the forearm wood and threads into the forearm iron itself.

The forearm spring is bent from flat spring stock and engages an underlug silver soldered onto the bottom of the barrels. This spring will often be broken, usually right where the ends of the flat spring stock meet. Also check the forearm spring return spring for abnormalities.

The lug on the bottom rear of the set of barrels contains the extractor and the cocking plunger and cocking plunger spring. Two screws with piloted ends retain these parts in place, so removal of each screw will allow disassembly of these parts. Apparently, the extractors were cut to final rim size while in place because you will often see “roll over” burrs on them. A needle file will remove the burrs, because the extractor is not all that hard. The hole cut for the cocking plunger is one of those places where crud and unburned powder will accumulate, so it should be cleaned out with a cotton swab and some good solvent.

Check the cocking piece plunger spring for rust and any pitting that may weaken its action. On the back of the barrels is the cutout for the top snap lever. Check this out for burrs and any deformation. These barrels have been hard-soldered together so there is no worry about them separating in a hot blue bath. Before attempting to take the stock off, you’ll need to remove the wood screw that secures the back of the trigger guard. On most of the early models of this shotgun, the trigger guard was cast from some form of pot metal and painted black. If the trigger guard breaks, it will invariably be right at the front where the cast 1/4-20 threaded stud meets the front of the trigger guard bow.

Two Phillips-head screws hold the plastic butt plate on and must be backed out to permit access to the stock bolt. Place the receiver in your vise with protected jaws and tighten the receiver in place.

The number 6 Forester screw driver is both long enough and beefy enough to remove the stock bolt in case it has been rusted in place. The stock will then slide backward and off the receiver.

On earlier models of these shotguns, the stocks and forearms are usually American walnut but many late models, especially those made for the chain store market, will be of stained birch. It’s an exercise in futility trying to spot finish one of these birch stocks—matching the stain is a nightmare unto itself.

If you are planning to refinish one of these stocks, the best bet is to completely strip the wood of finish and stain and then re-do the wood. Once the old finish and stain have been removed, give the stock a light sanding with 220-grit sand paper. Those green rectangular rubber pencil erasers make nice little sanding blocks that help keep the wood flat as you sand. Before applying the stain, the stock should be “whiskered.” Wipe the stock or forearm all over with a damp cloth, then dry it with a hand-held hair dryer. Rub your hand over the stock and you will feel the little whiskers of the wood grain that have been raised. Lightly sand the wood with the 220-grit paper a second time, dampening and drying it again. Dampen the stock once more and blow dry it again, which will clear all the sawdust from the pores of the wood and allow the stain and finish to get into the pores.

American Gunsmith, Book of the Shotgun. Chapter 14

Courtesy, American Gunsmith

The internal workings of the Savage/Stevens Model 311 are easily accessed when the stock is removed. If you spot unusual wear on any part, check the area where it fits inside the sand-cast receiver for mold flashings and burrs.

Some folks advocate using steel wool to rub down the wood when whiskering but I am not among them. I don’t care for that method because the lifted wood fibers often will grab and hang onto a strand of the steel wool. If it isn’t seen until after the finish is applied, you’ll have a noticeable sliver of steel wool under the finish. The reason for whiskering the wood before staining and then finishing is to prevent the stain or the finish from lifting some of the wood fibers when they are applied. Dampening and then drying beforehand will minimize any fiber lifting when finishing.

All the internal parts in the receiver should be accessible at this point so let’s begin disassembly. The thumb safety button, safety lever spring and plunger will all come out once the safety lever pin has been drifted out. This pin is located on the web between the top tang and lower tang at the rear of the receiver. The right and left trigger return springs also are held in place with this pin. Inspect the safety lever for any burrs, especially at the top where it rides in the safety button. Stone or file off any burrs and polish the top radius of the safety lever to give smoother operation. The next pin forward is the one that will allow removal of the right and left triggers. Drift this pin out with a 1/32-inch punch from either the right or the left. Check both triggers for burrs or areas that have become misshapen.

There are two 5/32-inch pins going through the receiver that must be driven from the left to the right of the receiver to remove them. Both have straight knurled serrations on their right ends. When these pins were installed at the factory, the serrations made an impression in the right side holes of the receiver. They sort of broached themselves into place, so removal will be much easier going from left to right. The farthest pin to the front of the receiver holds both the right and left hammers with the cocking lever in between. Both hammers are under heavy tension created by their mainsprings and plungers. Once the pin is driven out, prepare for these parts to go to the rear with some force. Check the hammers for any cracks or other abnormalities. The cocking lever should also be examined. The hair spring that helps activate the cocking lever should almost straighten out once the pin that holds it in place is removed.

The next pin to the rear contains both the left and the right sears and sear springs. This pin should also be driven from the left to the right. You will find that these sears often have lots of sharp edges but they are made of mild enough material to permit them to be smoothed up with a fine cut file. The front edges of both sears have most likely worn themselves in by now so you shouldn’t need to remove any more material from the mating edges. Check the rear legs of each sear spring to see that they are able to go up and over the rear top of each sear. It’s important that they do or the sears will not be able to hold the hammers at full cock. A screw accessible from inside the receiver secures the top snap. A 3/8-inch allen wrench, with the short end ground to the shape of a screwdriver blade, will help you reach up inside the receiver to remove this screw. The top snap plunger slides through a “U” shaped notch that is cast into the top of the upper tang. Once the top snap is removed, the plunger and spring will come out along with the top snap trip and spring. The top snap trip should be checked for irregularities and cleaned up as necessary.

American Gunsmith, Book of the Shotgun. Chapter 14

Courtesy, American Gunsmith

An easily made alignment/slave pin (arrow) can be of great help in reassembling hammers under pressure from main springs.

The right and left firing pins and their respective springs are held in place with large, flat headed, machine screws which also act as stops for the hammers. There is no barrel selection device on these shotguns beyond the individual triggers so the tendency for a right hand shooter is to fire the right barrel first. If the target is hit with the first shot the action is usually broken open and that chamber charged with another round. Because of this, you will usually find the right screw flattened or a little more beaten up than the left screw head. Occasionally the screw head will break completely off. It wouldn’t hurt to inventory a couple of these firing pin screws along with a firing pin spring and a firing pin.

The receiver should be completely disassembled after removal of the firing pins, springs and screws. The receiver is sand cast and you will usually find a lot of mold flashings and burrs inside. These are harmless as long as they don’t interfere with the free movement of any of the internal parts. If any of the workings show evidence of excessive rubbing in one area, look to the place where they fit to see what is causing this wear. A tapered carbide burr bit run at slow speed in your moto-tool will remove the culprit burrs easily enough. Clean out the two sockets that house the firing pins as well as you can. A long stemmed cotton swab saturated with Break-Free CLP will usually reach in and do the job. If there seems to be a lot of crud in these areas, wrapping the end of the swab with number 0 steel wool will help remove the gunk. Once you are convinced these areas are clean, leave a residual amount of the Break-Free CLP in the pockets for protection against rusting.

Inspect the firing pins for straightness and the nose ends of the pins to make sure the radius has not been flattened, and possibly shortened. Look for mushrooming of the rear of the pin head that may impede forward travel of the firing pin or cause it to jam forward and not retract. The threads of the firing pin retaining screws can be cleaned up with a stiff steel bristled brush. A dab of grease on each of the screw threads will help prevent the screws’ rusting in place after reassembly. The two tapped holes for the firing pin retaining screws, threaded 8-36, are small and may require your running a tap into them to remove any rust or crud accumulation.

Without some help, the next step in reassembly can be a real nightmare. The right and left mainsprings and mainspring plungers will need to go in next, along with both the right and left hammers with the cocking lever in between them. The rear of each mainspring plunger has a notch in it to receive the front of each hammer. All these parts need to go back in place on the front pin going through the receiver while fighting the tension of the mainsprings. To assist with assembly make up a slave pin out of steel rod, at least 3 inches long. On one end, file, grind or lathe turn a taper at least 3/8 inch long so that the end comes almost to a point. Polish this alignment pin and coat it with gun grease to help prevent galling or tearing of the pins outside diameter.

Place the right hammer in the receiver so that the nose of the hammer engages its mainspring plunger notch. Insert the tapered end of the slave pin through the front hole in the receiver and into the hammer pin hole. Install the cocking lever and push or tap the slave pin through the hole in the hammer and the hole in the cocking lever. Install the left hammer, making sure the nose is in the mainspring notch, and tap or push the slave pin through the left hammer pin hole and out the left side of the receiver. Tap the slave pin with a non-marring hammer until it is flush with the right side of the receiver. Tap the right end of the slave pin with the original pin acting as a drift and it will push out the slave pin and replace it in the receiver. Make sure the serrations on the original sear pin are on the right end. ★