When you hunt ruffed grouse the last thing you want is a gun that doesn’t fit. To hunt birds genetically designed to out-motor and outmaneuver hawks, gun mount and reaction time is everything. Still, I was tempted to put down a shotgun that points for me and to pick up the new Stevens 555 over/under shotgun when J.J. Reich, a communications manager for Savage Arms, quietly laid one on a wood table at camp. His marketing pitch was simply the gun.
The over/under was a 28-gauge. I grew up hunting grouse with a 20-gauge side-by-side. To me, those yellow-hulled 20-gauge shells in 71/2-size shot nostalgically whisper “ruffed grouse.” The 28-gauge has a similar savoir-faire. The gun is light and almost too gentlemanly for thick woods and fast-flushing grouse.
When J.J. took out 20- and 12-gauge 555s and said these Turkish-made guns retail for only $692, I asked if he’d be my gun bearer so I could hunt with them all. But my length of pull is a half-inch less than average and gunmakers naturally make guns for the average person. So I tested them at the range instead.
I found them to be ideal starter guns for clay sports and for upland hunting, though I don’t like calling them “starter guns,” as that implies all of us are supposed to someday transition to $4,000 over/unders.
Stevens 555s aren’t 12-gauge actions with smaller-gauge barrels fitted to them; they are all scaled accordingly. In 12-, 20- and 28-gauge, each gun sports a lightweight alloy receiver, Turkish walnut stock and forearm, a single selective trigger, extractors, a manual safety and five interchangeable choke tubes (C, IC, M, IM, F).
At the range I found the 555 to be wonderfully lightweight (about 6 pounds for the 12-gauge) and responsive. At the price, this is a market leader.