Copyright 2009 – Stephen Redgwell
The Stevens 200 is no longer in production, but it was simply a non AccuTrigger Model 10. There are lots of Stevens 200 and older non AccuTrigger rifles around. They are perfect for the do it yourselfer!
Why Bother With a Stevens or an Older Savage?
When I was a teenager, it was quite common to see guys fixing up cars. That was when gas was .32 cents a gallon – before the energy crisis of the 1970s sent prices through the roof. No one thought about gas mileage, just horsepower and performance. You would go to the automotive store or the wrecker and pick up parts to make the old beater in your driveway come alive. It was great fun, and if everything went right, you had a cool machine that was inexpensive to build! There was a genuine feeling of satisfaction when you fired up the engine in a car that your dad had written off as a lost cause. Gas prices and government legislation have made that a thing of the past, but you can recapture the “do it yourself” feeling with a Stevens 200.
I wanted a lightweight rifle that was easy to carry in the boreal forests of northern Ontario. The bush is thick up there, with uneven terrain. I did not want to lug something that was too heavy or easily damaged. A 7.5lb rifle with a plastic stock, scoped and loaded, would work fine. A rough and tumble firearm was just the ticket. Whoever said that life was too short to hunt with an ugly gun has never been hunting up there.
The target picture was the best of 8 – 5 shot groups fired while breaking in the rifle. I used Prvi Partizan 180 grain pointed soft point ammunition. The worst group was 1.25 inches. I like these rifles because they’re so much fun to tinker with. I own three – a 223 Rem, 243 Win and a 308 Win.
It’s a Utility Rifle! Think Jeeps…
The Stevens 200 is not an entry level or woman’s rifle – anyone that calls it that just doesn’t get it. The Stevens 200 is a utility rifle. It is the Jeep of the bolt action world. If you want cute, you can buy any number of pretty, shiny or gold plated rifles that will have the urban gun club crowd oohing and ahhing. Those guys sure love pretty guns. Mine was not purchased to put on display, so the argument about it being ugly or made for beginners doesn’t wash – not even a little.
The Stevens 200 is inexpensive because it does not have the bling that you see on many of today’s guns. That’s good because most hunters don’t need it. You’re better off putting the money saved into a great scope or upgrading the trigger. If you remember nothing else, remember that last sentence.
The safety is located on top of the stock, just aft of the bolt. It’s dead easy to operate using your thumb, with or without gloves on. It’s quiet too.
Accuracy was fine. I haven’t hunted with the 308 yet, but I’ve used the 223 and 243 on coyotes, foxes and groundhogs. It shoots the same as the other two, grouping around an inch at 100 yards. It may get tighter with the right reload, but frankly, an inch is all I need. I’ll still tinker with the loads, but it’s really not needed unless you like to experiment.
The trigger pull is adjustable within a limited range. The rifles were ordered over a two year period, and as each arrived, I adjusted the factory triggers to 3 lb. Once the mechanism is cleaned up and broken in, some hunters will be satisfied with the pull. If, after shooting it for a while, you want something a bit lighter, you can order a Timney or Rifle Basix aftermarket trigger. Personally, I didn’t like the gritty feel, so I replaced the one in my 223 Remington with a Timney. I just ordered a Rifle Basix trigger to try in the 243. For $100 Cdn, it’s a worthwhile investment.
The rifle carries and points well. That sounds like a glowing endorsement for a shotgun, doesn’t it? It’s true, for me at least. Proper stock fit is often overlooked by hunters shopping for a new rifle. Like a new suit, it should be sized for you. Factory stocks are an “off the rack” dimension. Recoil and accuracy are affected by how well, or how poorly, your rifle fits when shouldered. If you’re lucky enough to have a gunsmith that can properly adjust things, ask about which changes can be made to the existing stock or which aftermarket rig to buy. I only wish that there were more aftermarket stocks available in Canada. I’d like to build the 223 into a bench rifle. The lack of decent stocks here makes the project tougher to finish.
What I didn’t like was purely fluff and easy to fix. The stock colour is not attractive unless grey is your thing. Many people have painted theirs, but I am too lazy. Frankly, people overreact to the colour. Like my old hot rod, buy some paint and redo it if the appearance is so upsetting, otherwise, get over it.
One of the Internet bugbears is stock flex. The stock is adequate for what it is expected to do. It might be more of a problem if you own the 7mm or 300 magnum. For the smaller cartridges, I don’t see what all the fuss is about. With my rifles, I never noticed the type of twisting that has been repeated on some of the online forums. You have to haul down on the sling or wrench the forend with your hand to bend the stock. I honestly think that many of opinions about this rifle are regurgitated. In other words, someone that has never owned or fired a Stevens 200 read about “limp stocks” somewhere and repeated it, trying to sound like they know what they’re talking about.
Perhaps someone larger or stronger had problems with the stock, but not me. Sure, there are better ones, but listening to the Internet chatter, you’d think that you were holding a chub of baloney. It works. You can buy an aftermarket replacement later if you don’t like the factory one.
The upper stock is older. It uses a staggered column magazine and pillar bedding. You can see the empty space for the staggered column magazine. The mag is attached to the action.
The newer stock (lower) is a single stack magazine. The single stack is part of the stock itself.
My 223 was one of the first off the line at Savage and has a staggered magazine. For a while, it did not properly feed the occasional cartridge. It spit the bullet tip up. I don’t know if it was because it was new, but it hasn’t done this in several hundred shots so I am convinced it was just a part of the break in. My 243 and 308 have the newer, single stack magazines that replaced the staggered column. Feeding repeats with boring regularity.
The older staggered magazine that was part of my 223 Winchester (top) was fixed to the action. The newer single stacks are affixed to the stock.
In the end, your rifle is a tool. It has to fit properly to be accurate and keep felt recoil tolerable. It has to be able to take any abuse that you or the terrain can dish out. It has to be reliable and well built. If you can get all that at a good price, so much the better. I believe that the Stevens 200 does this, out of the box.
Despite all that, there are shooters that just can’t leave things alone. If you’re a hopeless tinkerer, Savage actions are much more user friendly for the do it yourself gunsmith. With a little care, you can change barrels, stocks and even replace the trigger in your home workshop.
Re-building your Hot Rod
Here’s what I did to my 243 to re-build it. The beauty of the Stevens is that you can make improvements as your wallet allows AND have a working rifle throughout. Spend some time learning about these rifles and you’ll be able to do many of the modifications yourself. That means less time in the shop. All prices are in Canadian dollars. If you want to convert the prices to US dollars, reduce the prices by 20%.
My Stevens 200 – 243 Winchester
Stevens 200 rifle – $300
Ken Farrell scope mount* – $75
Burris Signature Vee rings – $50
3-10 Bushnell Elite 3200 scope – $275
Rifle Basix trigger – $100
Total – $800
$800 got me a rifle with an excellent mount, rings and scope. Of course, I could have gone cheaper with the rings and mounts. Weaver bases and rings are only $30-$35. I could have used a Bushnell Legend 3-9 or 4-12 for $150 to $200. That would have brought the build price down to $535. The basic platform is solid but inexpensive however, so spending extra on the glass and mounts is a smart investment.
* Farrell mounts are high quality, steel mounts for Weaver style rings.