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Thread: Stevens 1894 Project Help Needed

  1. #1
    Boolit Bub
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    Stevens 1894 Project Help Needed

    I have a Stevens Favorite rifle that was built in 1894 and is chambered for the 38-55, it's in really good shape but the bore and chamber are very rusted so I'd like to have it re-bored and chambered for something I can load and shoot. Any suggestions on a cartridge that will work within the pressure limits of the rifle? Any suggestion on who may be able to re-bore it and possibly chamber it? Thanks

  2. #2
    Boolit Master uscra112's Avatar
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    Well, it isn't a Favorite if it's chambered .38-55. Has to be a Model 44 or one of its' derivatives.

    Take off the forearm wood and read the numbers stamped on the face of the receiver. Tell us what you find. There were very few chambered for .38-55, and those few were more likely to be the higher-grade guns based on the 44 action. Then we need to appraise the overall condition of the action, and get a couple more details that I'll leave for later.

    The 44 family is pretty limited in strength. Stevens quickly realized that the .38-55 was too much for it, even in the 1890s black powder loadings. Ditto the .32-40, which was more common than the .38-55, but is still rare today. The vast majority were made for .22, .25, and .32 rimfires, and the .25-20 Stevens and .32-20 small game cartridges.

    Pending a determination of exactly what model it is, the option you should be thinking about is to put a liner in it for one of the small game cartridges that don't exceed 15,000 - 18,000 psi. It's not uncommon for a .32 rimfire to be converted to .32 S&W Long. The .38 special is a possibility if you stay away from +P loads. Definitely not .357 Magnum. Brass for the .25-20 Stevens is becoming unobtainium again , but the .25-20 WCF is a good substitute so long as you stick to mild cast bullet loadings. (Some factory ammo using jacketed bullets runs to 30,000 psi.)

    The action isn't going to blow up on you immediately if it's used at higher pressures, but owing to the peculiar design it will "shoot loose" in a hurry.

    Gunsmiths who can liner a barrel don't grow on trees anymore. John Taylor in Puyallup, WA. makes a specialty of it, but he's usually pretty busy.
    Last edited by uscra112; 11-08-2019 at 06:50 AM.
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  3. #3
    Boolit Bub
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    Good info, thanks! I'll dig into it a little further and report back. What little I could find indicates it was made in 1894, the only year with the half round half octagonal barrel and one piece receiver.

  4. #4
    Boolit Master

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    The 44 Stevens in 32-40 and 38-55 have an extra block on the hammer to help hold the breach closed. I have had several come through the shop and most were shot loose. As near as I can find they were designed for target loads, not full hunting loads. Might be able to re-bore to 44-40 which is loaded to around 13,000 PSI. Relines to 25-20 or 32-20 are popular.

  5. #5
    Boolit Master Drm50's Avatar
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    I've seen a couple of 44s in 32/40 never seen a 38/55. I have seen several Ballards in 38/55.

  6. #6
    Boolit Master uscra112's Avatar
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    That's an idea, John. By some accounts there were some made in .44-40. I've never seen one.

    The barrel marking from 1896 onward always includes an 1894 patent date.

    Virtually all 44s had half-octagon barrels up until sometime after WW1, excepting for special orders.

    From 1920 on, Savage owned the company, and while I find a lot of post-war 44s still have the half-octagon, more start to show up with all-round barrels as time progressed through the 1920s. The 44 always has a one piece receiver, unless it is one of the few fitted with a double set trigger. Those have a separate lower tang. In the late 1880s and possibly as late as 1892 there was a predecessor that had a removable sideplate. Rare and sought-after today.
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  7. #7
    Boolit Master uscra112's Avatar
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    In the survey spreadsheet I've been keeping, out of some 235 specimens for which I have filed data, I can find twenty .32-40s, but only seven in .38-55. The .38-55s are crowded toward the early serial numbers, too. Five are below s/n 4800, and of the seven, four are premium models built for Schuetzen competition. Which is why I'm so interested in what is to be found on the face of the receiver.

    Both chamberings disappear entirely in 1903, when Stevens introduced the 44 1/2 model.
    flectere si nequeo superos, acheronta movebo

  8. #8
    Boolit Buddy
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    I think I'd look for something that was better suited to range duty and hang that 44 on a wall someplace. I have a 44 in 38-55 that's in really good shape (I didn't have to put any money into it) but don't really shoot it at all anymore. I also have a 52 (just a fancy schutzen version of the 44 and slightly better locking mechanism) in 38-55 too. I do shoot the 52 from time to time but there are just so many really nice rifles out there that won't cost much more than it's going to cost to get that 44 working. Even after a reline job, you still have a 44 action that will eventually shoot loose even with .22LR (I also have one in .22LR that has been relined).

    In USCRA's post above, I suspect my two in 38-55 are the two out of seven with the later SN. Both the 44 and 52 have the strengthened hammer block. All are also half round half octagon barrels. SN of my 44 is 24935, the 52 SN is 46107 and the 44 in 22LR is 31233..
    Last edited by arlon; 11-08-2019 at 12:22 PM.

  9. #9
    Boolit Master marlinman93's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by uscra112 View Post
    That's an idea, John. By some accounts there were some made in .44-40. I've never seen one.

    The barrel marking from 1896 onward always includes an 1894 patent date.

    Virtually all 44s had half-octagon barrels up until sometime after WW1, excepting for special orders.

    From 1920 on, Savage owned the company, and while I find a lot of post-war 44s still have the half-octagon, more start to show up with all-round barrels as time progressed through the 1920s. The 44 always has a one piece receiver, unless it is one of the few fitted with a double set trigger. Those have a separate lower tang. In the late 1880s and possibly as late as 1892 there was a predecessor that had a removable sideplate. Rare and sought-after today.
    I also owned a 44 in .44-40 that was original. It was in very good condition, and very tight. Surprising to me back then since I'd heard all the stories of them shooting loose. Had one in .38-55 and .32-40 also, and bought them as a pair. Both were extremely nice condition guns that appeared to have seen little use.

  10. #10
    Boolit Master marlinman93's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Drm50 View Post
    I've seen a couple of 44s in 32/40 never seen a 38/55. I have seen several Ballards in 38/55.
    No shortage of .38-55 Ballard rifles in various models. It was a very popular cartridge when Marlin came out with the caliber.

  11. #11
    Boolit Bub
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    Finally got to it....the markings on the front of the receiver under the forearm are 44 1/2 and a 0. No idea what that means.

  12. #12
    Boolit Master uscra112's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by kend View Post
    Finally got to it....the markings on the front of the receiver under the forearm are 44 1/2 and a 0. No idea what that means.
    Oh HO! Not a 44 at all! Lucky guy! The 44 1/2 is a successor design introduced in 1903, which is a true falling-block, far stronger than the old 44. Your options are far greater.

    As far as we know, the 0 signified that the rifle was built with standard barrel and sight options.

    OK for any rimmed high-pressure cartridge you can name having a base diameter of the case smaller than the .470" of the .30-06/.308/8mm family. That's only because the barrel shank is a bit too small for those. Perfectly safe for any sane smokeless load in the .38-55, .32-40, or anything else based on that case. Many were converted to high pressure .22s, like the Hornet and 2R Lovell. (I have one of each, they are both good shooters.) A .25-20 WCF would be fine. I've often dreamed of making a barrel for the rimmed .222 Remington.

    Hopefully John will chime in again with better ideas that he has experience with. The .44-40 he suggested is still a good option. Despite having a .470 base, it's a low pressure number.
    Last edited by uscra112; 11-09-2019 at 10:05 PM.
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  13. #13
    Boolit Master uscra112's Avatar
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    Pictures would be nice. We all love to drool over pictures.
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  14. #14
    Boolit Master

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    If it was mine, Id reline it back to .38-55. Use a modern liner of 0.375 groove diameter and chamber for the shorter modern shells (2.080 rather than 2.125 IIRC).

    The same basic caliber and extractor, with the original outside barrel markings, contour and fit, but much easier to get shells, moulds, dies and bullets. You can make them from blown-out .30-30s, or trim back the occasional old one you find. Starline sells the longer shells, if you gotta be ruthlessly traditional and have the money to spend.

    Original chamberings beyond .38-55 were limited to .44-40. Not a popular chambering back then.

  15. #15
    Boolit Bub
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    I got it in a trade so it has no sentimental value to me, I just wanted to make it a shooter using a cartridge that was fairly cheap and common like a 38 Special or 357 Magnum. I plan to give it to my grandson when he gets a little older if he's interested in this stuff.

  16. #16
    Boolit Master marlinman93's Avatar
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    .38-55 is a cartridge that's fairly inexpensive, and common. And it will keep the value of a 44 1/2 up much higher than something like .38 Special or .357 magnum. Would be a shame to see a fine old 44 1/2 converted to either of those calibers.

  17. #17
    Boolit Master uscra112's Avatar
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    I suppose "inexpensive" is true for us reloaders.

    But is that going to be true of the O.P. and/or his grandson? Not wishing the O.P. to defile an original .38-55 barrel either, but the cheapest loaded .38-55 I see online is $1.00 a round, which doesn't compare too well with .38 Spl. at under $0.25 a round. (Using Ammoseek.com)

    What would it cost him to buy and have installed a new barrel?

    Could we find him a more prosaic barrel to reline - say, a .25-20?
    flectere si nequeo superos, acheronta movebo

  18. #18
    Boolit Bub
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    I'm all for keeping it original but the chamber and bore are way too rusted to try to shoot that's why I was looking to re-bore it if possible. I can live with a 38-55, 250 pcs of brass from Starline and a cheap mold will keep this thing running forever as far as I'm concerned. Any suggestions as to who can re-barrel it? Or should I look at re-lining it back to 38-55?

  19. #19
    Boolit Master
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    If you could get someone to help you take pictures it would be much easier to advise you or sate an opinion. The "O" on the front of the receiver meant the action was usually used on lady's rifles or .22s. I have one in.22LR. As I understand it, it is somewhat thinner than the regular 44 1/2. The 44 1/2 is the only one of the older single shot rifles designed for the new smokeless powder. I am not saying it is stronger than some of them but the others were designed in the black powder era. I think the High Wall and the Borchardt are as strong if not stronger. If I were you, I would just sell the rifle, and you would have no trouble doing that. You could get a very good price for it. That is my opinion.
    A GUN THAT'S COCKED AND UNLOADED AIN'T GOOD FOR NUTHIN'........... ROOSTER COGBURN

  20. #20
    Boolit Master marlinman93's Avatar
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    A lined barrel put back to .38-55 would be the cheapest option. A new barrel will run you $300 or more, and then fitting to your action another $150. Then there's cutting dovetails, bluing, and maybe rollstamps if that mattered. You'd be pretty deep into it.
    A new liner installed and rechambered to .39-55 will run $400-$450 I'd estimate, and keep your gun's value much higher.
    The cheapest might be to try to find a takeoff barrel from a 44 1/2 and hope for a good caliber, and excellent bore. Maybe do a WTB ad at the ASSRA forum for a barrel?

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