To start off this segment of TFB’s “Identify My Guns,” we would like to thank TFB reader Gary for offering up his aged, but loved Riverside Arms Co. 12 Gauge Single-Shot Shotgun (***spoiler alert***). We are slightly kidding about the spoiler alert. Gary is well aware of the manufacturer of his weathered shotgun, but he hoped we could provide more background information for the brand as well as some history. We aim to do just that.
The receiver of the firearm is marked as “Riverside Arms Co” with an origin of “Chicopee Falls, Massachusetts, USA.” Some readers may already know that J. Stevens Arms Company got its start in Chicopee Falls, MA and Riverside Arms Co. is indeed a house brand for them.
The J. Stevens Arms Company got its start dating way back in 1864. Originally, they were referred to as J. Stevens & Co. Then, in 1866 the name changed to J. Stevens Arms and Tool Co. The name changed once again in 1916 when the plant was re-branded as New England Westinghouse. At this time, they were tooled up to produce Mosin-Nagant rifles. A short time thereafter in 1920, Savage Arms Corp. bought the plant and began marking firearms with J. Stevens Arms Co. on the receivers. In the late 1940s, that name too was dropped and the more simple Stevens was used. This name designation went on until 1990. Most recently, Savage Arms, Inc. brought back the Stevens name in 1999 and is still using it for more economy model firearms.
- 1864 – J. Stevens Arms Company (incorporated)
- 1866 – J. Stevens Arms and Tool Co. (name change)
- 1916 – New England Westinghouse (name change)
- 1920 – J. Stevens Arms Co. (name change)
- 1940s – Stevens (name change)
- 1990 – Stevens name goes away
- 1999 – Savage Arms, Inc. brings back Stevens firearm label
For anybody that has bought or seen a “Stevens” in the last 100 years and you were not quite sure what the exact name was, you could see why there is confusion.
house brand – riverside arms co.
Just like Sears, Western Field and many other labels, Riverside Arms Co. was an economy label for original manufacturers. In this firearm’s case, for Stevens. The guns produced under the Riverside Arms Co. name were as functionally sound and capable as their more expensive, name-brand counterparts, but with less desirable wood, metal and finishes. For example, the stocks for most Riverside Arms Co firearms were either a cheap birch or beech nut wood with a simulated walnut finish. The wood-to-metal fit likely was not pristine either, but these were a utility firearm; meant to be used and likely abused.
As far as Gary’s specific shotgun, he has relayed to me that the barrel is now 30″ in length. Originally, his shotgun was likely a J. Stevens Arms Company Model 94 12 Gauge Single-Shot Break-Open copy. This means the barrel more than likely was 32″ long when it left the factory. This model featured an external hammer, weighed approximately 6 1/4 Lbs and had the adoring moniker of the “Goose Gun” because of the really long barrel. The first year of manufacture was 1929 so depending on exactly when this shotgun was made it could have either a 2 9/16″ or a 2 3/4″ chamber.
To more confidently figure out the year of manufacture, anyone who owns a J. Stevens Arms Company firearm could write in to the subject-matter-expert for these who is John Callahan. For a research fee of $25.00, he can dig up any historical information relating to your firearm (if any exists). This could potentially include Riverside Arms Co firearms as well, but do not quote me on that.
His contact information via snail mail is below:
- Mr. John Callahan, P.O. Box 82, Southampton, MA 01073
I would highly suggest reaching out to him to see if he can be of assistance with a Riverside Arms Co firearm before cutting him a check. I am making a fair assumption that he could help out.
In our 1st edition of TFB’s “Identify My Guns” I made the light-hearted joke that any firearm that still goes “BANG!” is worth at least $100 to somebody. I would tend to say that still holds true for Gary’s shotgun if he can get it up and running again. At the moment, he has it under the knife getting a few parts replaced, cleaned and re-worked.
In closing, I would like to say best of luck to Gary with his shotgun getting a few things replaced and functioning again. Also, THANK YOU Gary for offering up your firearm so we could help share some history and knowledge with all of our readers.
If YOU have a cool… weird… unidentified… intriguing… or unique gun you would like us to feature in our next “Identify My Guns” article, feel free to comment below and I will reach out to you. You can also shoot the Editor an e-mail as well.