Gun Review: Stevens 311A Shotgun

Steve Johnson
by Steve Johnson

[ I am pleased to present this guest post was written by Bill Rushmore. Bill blogs over at The Quarterdeck Log. Bill also wrote the guest blog post The Beretta Folding Shotgun]

Earlier this year I decided I wanted get involved with shooting the shotgun sports. My sportsman’s club had a monthly informal trap shoot which got me hooked. On my last guest post I blogged about the only shotgun I owned at the time. My sportsman’s club shot doubles so a single shot was going to cut it. I really needed something that could at least fire two shots. The problem was I didn’t have the money to spend on a sporting shotgun or really know what kind of shotgun I wanted anyway. As a stop gap I dug out from my Dad’s basement my late grandfather’s double barrel.

That shotgun of my grandfather’s was a Stevens 311A in 16 gauge built in 1951. A true classic American side by side and quite popular, since back then a side by side was the shotgun for the common man. The 311A was just one example of a family of double barrels that Stevens made from 1877 to 1988. It’s what is consider a “utility grade” shotgun. So it is very simple with no checker or engraving and a trigger for each barrel.

This particular shotgun sat for decades right next to my grandparents back door to protect the garden, the chicken coop, or the home from two or four legged thieves. It saw little (if any to be honest) maintenance. So when I rescued it from my dad’s basement I was a little concerned if it would actually work. The finish on the stock was completely shot but the there was only some minor rust on the barrels with only some very minor pitting in one small spot. Some Hoppe’s No. 9 and it was back in business and in good working order. It was quite a surprise really, a testament to Stevens quality from the 1950′s.

To be honest I wasn’t really all that excited about the double barrel at first. It wasn’t because it wasn’t a true trap gun. The trap shots at my sportsman’s club are pretty informal and about 90% of the participants use Remington 11-87′s. But come on, a double is Elmer Fudd’s gun or what farmers shot rock salt at trespassers with right? Plus I was concerned about fumbling with two triggers or dealing with lopsided recoil. But my fears were unfounded. That old shotgun shots real nice. Although selective triggers would be better the double triggers are quite natural when it comes to follow up shots. I am still just a beginner so I doubt it matters if would use a dedicated sporting shotgun or this until I get the hang of shooting clays. I am also now a fan of the 16 gauge. At one point it looked like this guage was on the endanger species list but I think it is here to stay for the time being. I found the recoil not bad yet it still gives a decent punch in a light weight gun.

After a few trap secessions I grew attached to my grandfather’s old double so I figured I would try to bring it back to life. I am certainly no expert gunsmith but I figured it would be hard to make it worse that it was so. So I picked up a blueing and stock finishing from Birchwood Casey at the local sporting good store. The kits come with detailed instructions. Anyone who passed wood and metal shop in school has the prerequisite skills (i.e. its pretty easy.) Since this the first time I did anything like this there are a few details that aren’t perfect but at arms length it looks like a new shotgun. My intent wasn’t to restore it back to its original condition so it could be hung up on the wall as a decoration but it bring it back to life for use in the field. What better way to honor my grandfather’s memory than to enjoy his old shotgun hunting with my dad and my sons like generations have been before us.

Steve Johnson
Steve Johnson

I founded TFB in 2007 and over 10 years worked tirelessly, with the help of my team, to build it up into the largest gun blog online. I retired as Editor in Chief in 2017. During my decade at TFB I was fortunate to work with the most amazing talented writers and genuinely good people!

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  • James paul James paul on Dec 26, 2012

    I failed to check the box below - "notify me of followup comments via email."
    I accidentally submitted my post about 10 minutes ago before I had edited it.
    I would appreciate being notified if anyone responds to my comments about my dad's Stevens double barrel 12 gauge shotgun. It still has sentimental value to me.

  • William M Durham William M Durham on Sep 09, 2014

    I have a pair of these weapons, one 12 and 1 20 ga. Love them both, saving for my grandkids

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