There is a big difference between cheap guns and inexpensive guns. With modern computerized machinery, especially when used in a country with moderate wages like Turkey, it now is possible to produce low-cost shotguns of a quality level impossible just a decade or two ago. The Stevens 555 over/under is a perfect example. It is made by KOFS, Ltd., in Isparta, Turkey, and imported by Savage Arms.
The 555 comes in two grades: the basic grade, which costs $692, and the 555 Enhanced, which is $863. The basic gun has extractors, plain walnut and an unengraved black receiver, while the 555 Enhanced has upgraded wood, an engraved silver receiver and ejectors. The basic gun was introduced in 2014; the 555 Enhanced is new. Our review gun is the Enhanced model, which is mechanically identical to the basic gun except for the extractors/ejectors.
Minimalist by design and in materials, the aluminum receiver weighs about 1 pound less than one built of steel. The hammers hinge on the bottom tang, and the sears hang from the top. Though basic, it functions just fine. Photograph by Bruce Buck
The 555 replaces the weighty Savage 512. Like the previous gun, the 555 comes in 12, 20, 28 and .410. Intended as an upland gun, the 555 avoids the common problem of inexpensive guns being overweight by using an aluminum receiver and forend metal. Our 28″ 12-gauge Enhanced was listed as weighing 6 pounds even but actually weighed a hair more than 6 pounds 5 ounces. Like compulsive dieters, manufacturers almost always fib on weight. For a 12-gauge O/U to carry in the field, that weight is very nice indeed.
The aluminum receiver is the reason for the gun’s light weight. The receiver design is typical of many Italian guns in that it has replaceable steel hinge stubs, like Berettas, and a single, broad sliding lock engaging a slot at the bottom of the monoblock, like Brownings. The monoblock also has two fixed lugs that engage cutouts in the bottom of the receiver, though that is steel against aluminum, so it will wear. As with most other aluminum-receiver shotguns, there is a reinforcing steel strip inletted vertically into the standing breech that encompasses the firing-pin holes. Other than a removable floorplate, the receiver is one solid piece of metal, ensuring that there is no flex between the top and bottom receiver tangs. The entire receiver weighs 1 pound 1 ounce, about a pound less than one made of steel.
The interior of the action is basic but a little different. The hammers hinge on the bottom tang, while the sears hang from the top. The trigger is mechanical, and there is no inertia block. The selective connector between the aluminum trigger blade and the steel sears is held in place by an oddly curved coil spring, but it works and reliably engages the second sear. The barrel selector/safety on the top tang is similar to Browning’s. The selective ejectors on the Enhanced model are standard stuff and cock on closing.
The forend iron isn’t iron. It’s aluminum. That means the wear joint between the receiver and forend is soft metal on soft metal. But the forend cocking stud is steel, as is the forend latch. Also, what really counts is that the monoblock is solid cast steel, as are the receiver hinge stubs that engage it.
The barrels themselves are pretty conventional—which is a good thing—and 28″ is the only length offered in 12 gauge. There are vented side ribs and a vented top rib that is an untapered ¼” wide, flat and unobtrusive, as the rib on a game gun should be. There is a small brass bead up front and nothing cluttering up the middle. The barrel exterior finish is a matte black—again not out of place on a field gun.
The barrels are 4140 chrome-moly steel, and the bores are chrome-lined. The chambers are 3″, to satisfy the masochists out there who want to shoot heavy shells in a lightweight gun. Bore diameters were .723″ on the bottom and .726″ on the top. Yes, it would be nice to have them both the same, but .003″ difference doesn’t matter in the real world.
The gun comes with five 2″, flush-mounted screw chokes. They are in the style of Beretta MobilChokes but are not interchangeable with them. The dimensions on our set of chokes were Cylinder, .722″; Improved Cylinder, .723″; Modified, .714″; Improved Modified, .695″; and Full, .684″. Note that the IC and M are considerably more open than is customary. Choke designations are marked by notches on the front lip, so that you can see what you have installed without removing them. The choke wrench is one of those flat stamped bits that you would expect on a gun of this price.
The walnut is one of the things for which you pay the extra $171. Compared to the plain wood on the standard 555, our Enhanced test gun had wood with interesting figure. I’d give it a three out of five stars. Not bad at all. The finish was low-luster-oil-like and, as with many current European guns, did not fully fill the grain. Still, it looked fine. Checkering was laser-cut in a very-fine-lines-per-inch pattern. Slightly coarser checkering would give a better grip. Stock dimensions on our gun were: 14½” length of pull, 1¼” drop at comb and 21⁄8″ drop at heel with slight right-hand cast and 7° of pitch. This is both a touch higher and a little more pitch than most mass-produced guns. The pistol grip was relatively full, not relaxed. The stock had a ¾”-thick, black rubber recoil pad with snaggy, unrounded edges and one of those pointy toes that pokes into the pectorals of muscular shooters. Wood-to-metal fit was a little too proud, but it was adequate and gap-free.
In addition to the ejectors and prettier wood, the 555 Enhanced comes with a laser-engraved silver receiver instead of a plain blued one. The full-coverage acanthus scroll engraving was OK if you don’t mind the shiny silver receiver in the field, but the simple black receiver of the plain-grade 555 would have achieved a more classic look. The bottom of the receiver was slightly rounded for a comfortable field carry.
The gun comes in a cardboard box complete with the chokes and wrench. That’s about it. The only other accessory is the particularly uninformative manual, which lacks even a parts diagram. The included warranty is for one year.
If I have been a little hard on the gun so far, it’s because I’m comparing it to the much more expensive guns normally reviewed here. I also try to point out where some money has been saved to meet the price. But when it comes to shooting, nothing counts except performance. Not price. Not looks. Not quality.
The Stevens 555 Enhanced is flat out a shooter. I can’t comment on its long-term reliability, because I don’t keep a review gun that long. But while I tested it, it was mechanically correct in all respects. Everything worked. Nothing broke. The chokes stayed snug. Barrel convergence was good. The ejector timing was a touch off at first, but it corrected itself as the gun wore in. The trigger had perfectly nice 5¾-pound pulls on both sears, which is just fine for the field. It did have a good bit of slop and creep. I’d care more about that in a target gun, but in field conditions it wouldn’t be noticeable.
What really stood out when shooting the gun was the balance and handling. Shotguns with alloy receivers and standard steel barrels generally are nose-heavy. With a light gun, a bit of weight up front is a good thing as long as it isn’t too much. The 555’s balance was very nice. The balance point was about ½” in front of the hinge. The more important moment of inertia was delightfully moderate. The barrels were quick to move but had a certain steadiness. While I was able to shoot the gun only at clays, I believe it would be marvelous in the field. It certainly handled well for both near and far shots in sporting clays and FITASC. That said, with that aluminum receiver, it is not primarily a high-volume clay-target gun. It’s a hunter.
The light carry weight would be most welcome toward the end of a long day’s pheasant hunt. Recoil shouldn’t be an issue, if you are sensible in selecting the ammo. The gun will function with heavy 3″ loads, but you might not. A full-tilt 3″ shell will have about three times the recoil of a moderate target load in this gun. Not fun at all. But more realistic upland loads should be no problem. My usual pheasant 12-gauge weighs 7 pounds and is comfortable enough for a day’s hunt with 3¼-dram, 1¼-oz loads of No. 5s. The 555 is 10% lighter and should be just fine.
In all, I was very impressed with the performance of the Stevens 555 Enhanced. The balance was surprisingly good and made the gun easy to shoot well. The light weight was noticeable when carrying but not when shooting. The gun functioned properly in all respects. It’s not at all bad looking with the upgraded wood. And then there is that $863 retail price. Even though it is inexpensive, it is definitely not cheap.
For more information, contact Savage Arms, 413-568-7001.