Old Farm Gun II:
"The Old Potlatch Gun--the Stevens 94C"
photography courtesy of Miles Fortis and Chris Dunn
Supposedly the Indians of the Pacific Northwest occasionally displayed their wealth by giving it all away. The prestige they enjoyed after giving the goods away was greater than it was to keep the wealth, and eventually the stuff was given away again. They called these giving-away ceremonies "Potlatch".
Recently authors Church and John "Lone Gunman" Dunn worked together on another article regarding a similar gun, the Savage 24. You can review it here if you like. However Lone was recently given another 20 gauge gun, this one a Stevens 94C, by a friend, and will describe it to you here. You will recall AK Church's friend Jack was given a 1940's version of this same gun for his homestead. Lone was given a 1960's version of the gun for his pickup. In such a role, his more prized Savage 24 (which filled the position of "truck gun" beforehand) could then be ensconced more securely in his gun safe.
Let me note a couple of things about this old piece. It works, it was priced right (free), and it is really impressively ratty. Below is a view of the butt stock. You can tell it has zero finish and at some point stubbed it's toe.
The battered buttstock
Sighting is done with the simple bead sight which seems to drop on target with adequate speed for John and his long arms. Here's a close-up photo of it.
The front sight is merely your basic metal bead.
The original finish has pretty well evaporated from the receiver and trigger guard as well. The inside of the aluminum trigger guard is bedecked with corrosion. The barrel retains most of the blue, but spots of red scaly rust show up over and over. The wood is cracked at the pistol grip in the usual fashion. It carries a recoil pad installation so rude it smites you. The original machine crafted faux engraving still shines through the ugliness.
Close-up of the engraving
When we removed the butt stock an impressive assortment of fuzz, carbon dust and dead insects (no joke: dead insects) poured out of the rear of the action. I'd guess the previous owner wasn't big on flossing. But there's more...
I think the bottom screw came out of great-grandpa's rocking chair
The dead bugs weren't the biggest surprise. As mentioned above somewhere in the gun's lifetime some poor soul has tried to apply an...ahem..."custom job" recoil pad. Mercy but it's ugly...and it appears to be held on with furniture screws! Grit your teeth and be sure you're sitting down...then click on the above close-up of it. We have one more photo below showing the cracked grip. A similar fissure adorns the other side of the grip.
I HAVE A GUN, HE SAID
The test piece herein weighs in at about 6 pounds and is stocked in birch. Barrel length is 28 inches and length overall is 44". Taken down, it's 28 inches. Since the era of the Jolly Jack gun the Stevens 94 has acquired a 3" chamber and the Tenite has, sadly, gone away. Below is a photo of it taken down. For what it's worth, it looks like the spring-work inside the forearm is tight and well preserved. As mentioned already the worst cracks are on the left side of the pistol grip.
Markings on the left side of the receiver:
Markings, right side:
Markings on barrel:
And again, serial numbers are not bothered with, nor are choke markings, unless "57" is somehow the serial number (doubtful). This is one old gun.
Trigger pull is reasonably light, and, despite it's age and prior neglect, has a nice crisp let-off. No complaints in that department! Of further delight was the extraordinarily positive ejection of spent shells. After shooting my Savage and my new Norinco 12 gauge side-by-side "coach gun" (article on this to eventually follow) and dealing with the ho-hum extractors equipped thereon, watching an empty 20 gauge hull go flying over my shoulder to land in the gravel 6-8 feet away with an audible "ping" from the action was satisfying in and of itself.
A close-up shot of the opened action.
SHOOTING OF EL FENCE POST DEL NORTE
John and his pal Sean repaired themselves forth a couple weekends ago to a NW Arkansas public range with this corroded canoe paddle only to find to their grief that it had been inexplicably closed. A 4 hour round-trip drive had been wasted. Well...not entirely wasted; any visit with Sean to lounge in his beautiful Arkansas home, sip cold drinks and talk guns is a weekend well spent...but test firing the beast would have to wait. This served to only heighten the anticipation, of course. Later that week it was carried to another local range, this one closer to home, where Big John did the first shooting to get it on paper.
We had for testing purposes an assortment of 20 gauge ammo. We ran a variety of discount house 2 3/4" birdshot stuff through it, and a small amount of 25 yard sighting off the bead work was done with various loads including Remington slugs. It's not a slug gun, insofar as accuracy and performance are concerned, but in a rural or farm setting, many the latch top smoothbore has ended up being so used.
Patterning with 2 3/4" Federal Wal-Mart #7 1/2 was the best, showing a good working spread at 25 yards. John notes how very pleased he was with the way the gun handled this load. Realizing of course that anyone can withstand the recoil of ordinary bird shot target loads, shooting with the Federal anti-clay shells was notably mild and pleasant! We think you could shoot it all day with such ammo with nary a bruise nor twinge.
Barrel appears to be cylinder-choke. For a comparison we shot two identical Federal #7 1/2 loads from the bench at 25 yards, one using the Stevens 94 and one using John's trusty Savage 24 with the over/under .22LR/20g arrangement. Not that it would make much functional difference at that range I suppose, but the Savage 24 barrel is 4" shorter. Note the two different patterns:
This pattern came from the 28" barrel of the Stevens...
...and this one from the Savage.
Pattern distribution from the longer barrel of the Stevens was more or less adequate. When fired from the 20x24 barrel of the Savage it seemed to pattern more densely to the right but seemed to hold a tighter pattern despite the shorter barrel (there are more pinholes in the center bullseye but this could be random chance as much as anything else).
Slug grouping at 25 yards was...ok I guess. The accuracy certainly isn't impressive, but it should be capable of killing Wiley Whitetail to inside 50 yards at best in the hands of a sturdier shooter. Recoil in this gun with this slug load was of the impressive-to-experience variety.
An unimpressive display. I was aiming for the center bulls-eye and wound up in the bottom left corner....
After playing with the lightweight stuff John let loose a Remington HP deer slug on a new target, again from the bench at 25 yards. It wholloped him so hard it took all the nerve he could muster to fire it twice more just to get a "group" on paper. The first shot got somewhere in the neighborhood of the bulls eye, but the two that followed are way off because John cringed so bad, dreading each follow up shot so much, he barely held the sight on the paper. (It'll be a while before I try that again.)
I'm afraid this wasn't a very useful test, but it does give a little insight about how it handles slugs for me, so at least I learned something.
One more "pattern test" cried out to be done, this time using buckshot. The test ammo was Remington 2 3/4" 20-pellet 3-buck. Test shots were done at two different ranges to determine rate of spread. The first shot, from the bench at 25 yards, put only eight pellets on the paper. They are so widely distributed however that I could at most get three of them at once on the bed of the scanner. Most of them punched holes around the very edges of the paper.
The shot went all over the place. I could only get three of them at once on the scanner face.
As you can see, this load spreads out a bit at such a range. Of the eight pellets that struck the paper, only one made it near the center (though it was in the 10-ring, though this may be due to random chance as much as anything) and the rest orbit it around the edges of the target paper.
So we tried it again, much closer this time: a mere 10 yards. This time we saw a much better group shown in the image below. All 20 pellets struck the paper more or less evenly. Two of 'em made it to the 10-ring.
This time, all 20 pellets hit on or within the outer ring.
This gives us at least an approximation of what works best at varying distances.
IN THE ROLE OF A CLAY-BUSTER...SORT OF
For what it's worth, just for the heck of it John shot it again a week and a half later with some more pals also in NW Arkansas (the Lone Gunman is a Harrison, AR native but lives in southwest Missouri where his family is from), on some private land with the permission of a fellow shooter who's parents own the property. John tried his hand at shooting the thing at flying clays and did rather poorly, hitting about one pigeon in six. He blames both his poor aim and the lack of a follow-up shot. This, of course, is not the gun's intended purpose anyway, so no blame should fall on the shotgun itself. After this abysmal failure John went back to using the 12 gauge on the flying clays. It was just as well, because we needed to stop for the day a few minutes later. One of the shooters he was with has a blood sugar condition that normally leaves him alone but caught up with him that day...
Foolishness on my part, I had neglected to think of bringing an ice chest with sodas or sandwiches to maintain us. Troy, one of my Arkansas pals and as good a lad as ever was, caught his finger in the slide of his pump shotgun, lost a few drops of blood and slumped to the ground. Care was administered and the guns and clays were packed up. We had no qualms whatsoever about ending our shoot early; one's good health is worth any trip to the range and I'm glad to say he recovered perfectly. For the record he hit more clays than the rest of us did combined.
EL HADJ AL CUMPSTONI
Texican gun scribe and curmudgeonly genius Mike Cumpston sent author Church an early 20th Century canvas and leather takedown gun case. It is really well designed and still shows it's nice original craftsmanship despite its age. You can see Amish men making this, even though they didn't. It's that well made. We intend to eventually get it to our local leather smith and see if he can dupe it in cowhide. Anyway it fits the Potlatch Gun as if made for it, so it now lives with Lone.
Photos of Mike's takedown case
What more can I say? It works, it was free, it shoots pretty well, it lives in my truck and I trust it.
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