Springfield Model 951 Shotgun by Savage

I purchased a used Springfield Model 951 shotgun in December of 2011 in order to experiment with making and loading 410 brass shotshells. Long out of production, the 951 is what some might call a utility gun. Made for the lowest end of the market, this single-shot bolt action shotgun is chambered for 2 1/2 and 3 inch 410 gauge shells.

Manufactured by the Savage Arms Corporation from the early 1960's until perhaps 1971, it is essentially the same shotgun as the Stevens model 51 except that it has a hard plastic butt plate instead of the ventilated rubber butt pad found on the Stevens Model 51.

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Springfield Model 951 Bolt Action Shotgun

Springfield 951
Overall Length (inches) 43.5
Weight (lbs) 5.1
Action Type Bolt Action Turn Bolt
Length of Pull(inches) 14.5
Barrel Length (inches) 24.0
Cartridge 410 gauge, 2 1/2 and 3 inch shells
Magazine Capacity Single shot

All Springfield Model 951 and Stevens Model 51's came with a fixed full choke. There is a simple automatic safety which engages when the bolt is opened. After a cartridge is chambered, the safety tab above the bolt handle must be pushed down to fire the gun.
To remove the bolt, the receiver/barrel assembly must be dismounted from the stock and the bolt stop screw removed from the bottom of the receiver.

About this Gun

The gun was in sound shape but it required a few simple repairs.

  1. I dismounted the barrel receiver assembly from the stock and removed the bolt
  2. Using a cleaning rod, I alternated between patches soaked in powder solvent and a worn out 38 cal bore brush wrapped in 0000 steel wool to clean the bore thoroughly of lead deposits and rust. I then ran several dry patches through.
  3. The bolt stop screw was missing. I made a replacement out of a machine screw taken from one of my parts jars. While the screw had the correct diameter and thread pitch, it would not fit within the recess in the stock as is. I cut the screw to length, removed the head and used a dremel tool to cut a slot at one end.
  4. The takedown screw must also have been lost since it had been replaced with a screw which required the use of a hex wrench remove it. I replaced it with a slotted head machine screw of the right length and thread pitch.
  5. The action of this shotgun is held in the stock by a single takedown screw which screws into a cylindrical post1 at the base of the receiver. This post fits into a round hole drilled into the wooden stock and acts as a recoil lug. As a result of repeated use and disassembly, the hole for the receiver post had became so enlarged that the action rattled within the stock. To fix this problem, I used a epoxy resin product called "Mighty Putty".
    1. First, I cleaned out the hole in the stock for the receiver post with 220 grit sand paper so that the epoxy would adhere to the wood.
    2. Next a light coating of heavy gun grease was applied to the metal post and the metal around it to keep the epoxy from sticking to the steel.
    3. I cut off about an inch from the cylider of epoxy and kneaded it for quite a while until it was well mixed and started to get warm.
    4. Molding it into the shape of a rope about a quarter of an inch thick, I wrapped the putty around the base of the receiver post and pressed it gently together.
    5. The receiver post, wrapped in epoxy putty was pressed straight down into the stock until it was fully seated. I then inserted the takedown screw and tightened it.
    6. The epoxy was allowed to harden overnight
    In the morning with some gentle prying, I was able to remove the receiver and see that a perfectly formed cavity had been created in the epoxy within the gun stock.

When Was This Springfield Shotgun Manufactured?

A common question asked by many people who have purchased a used firearm is;
"When was it made?"
It is a simple question that often is not easily answered.

A case in point is the Springfield 951 shotgun that I had bought. While it is nothing of any great value or historical interest, still I was curious to know how old it was.

Examining the gun, I could find no serial number. This is generally a good indication that it was manufactured before 1968 when the NFA (National Firearms Act) required that all firearms being manufactured or imported into the United States have a serial number stamped permanently on the receiver of the gun. Before 1968 many firearm makers would only put serial numbers on their higher end models.

The only markings that I could find on the shotgun were the following, which were stamped on the barrel.

SPRINGFIELD SAVAGE ARMS CORPORATION
WESTFIELD MASS U.S.A.
410 BORE PROOF TESTED
MODEL 951 3 INCH CHAMBER

There were two addition stamps on the barrel near where it meets the receiver, the first was an oval containing the number 27 followed by the letter S. Below that was another oval which appeared to contain the letters "SP"

My Invalid Conclusions

Going to the internet, I found a number of entries in some web forums which stated that Savage Arms Corporation marketed a less expensive line of shotguns and rifles under Springfield brand name starting around 1936 and that Savage stopped using the Springfield brand in 1948. I could not find any information on the years that the model 951 or 51 were in production.

Looking through a few gun pricing catalogs, I could find no information on the production years for the model 951 shotgun that I have or even a specific entry for the Stevens Model 51.

Page 421 of the 16th edition of "The Gun Digest Book of Modern Gun Values" did confirm the information that I had gleaned from the web forums that Savage stopped using the Springfield brand name in 1948.

Flipping through the 29th edition of the Blue Book of Gun Values I did find a listing which included the model 51 and 951 as well as a number of other model numbers for bolt action repeating shotguns made by Savage with the general statement that they were "valued only as shooters" and were worth 150 dollars or less. Listed within the book, however were the production years of the Savage Stevens Model 37 single shot 410 shotgun which were 1936-1942.

Based on the assumption that this edition of the "Blue Book of Gun Values<" listed the correct manufacture dates for the Model 37, I reasoned that Savage would not market two different designs of a singleshot 410 bolt action shotgun at the same time, I concluded that my shotgun must have been manufactured between 1942 when production of the model 37 ceased and 1948 when Savage stopped using the Springfield brand. Satisfied that I had narrowed it down as far as I could I turned my attention to other research.

While doing some non-firearm related historical research on Google News, I came across some scanned copies of old newspapers from the 1960's. There it was on page 31 of the Tuscaloosa News from December 13, 1962, an advertisment for a store called McCrory Village which was selling "Springfield" single shot 410 shotguns for $ 23.50. A further search on Google News revealed a number of other 1960's era ads for Springfield shotguns by Savage including the following Good Year Advertisement on page 2 of the Nov. 4, 1960 edition of the Spartanburg Herald.

Springfield Shotgun from Savage Arms
.410-Gauge Bolt Action Shotgun
24 inch Full Choke barrel Corrugated butt plate
$ 19.97

Another advertisment can be found on page 3 of the Youngstown Vidicator from December 7, 1966.

In hindsight, if I had done a web search using the search terms "Savage" and "Westfield", I would have realized that in 1960, Savage consolidated its plants and moved it operations to Westfield, Massachusetts, which means that the Model 951 that I have which is marked "Westfields" was made after 1960 and not before.

So When Was This Shotgun Made?

It is well documented that Savage Arms stamped many if not all of its guns from 1949 through 1970 with a circle or oval containing 1 or 2 digit number followed by a single letter. The letter identifies the year of manufacture, the number is a bit of a question mark.

Savage Manufacture Year Letter Codes*
1949 A 1953 E 1957 I 1961 M 1965 S 1969 W
1950 B 1954 F 1958 J 1962 N 1966 T 1970 X
1951 C 1955 G 1959 K 1963 P 1967 U
1952 D 1956 H 1960 L 1964 R 1968 V

*The letters O and Q were never used as they could potentially be mistaken for each other.

Going back to the two oval stamps on the barrel near the receiver, the first is the number 37 followed by the letter S.

There are some online sources which suggest that the digit(s) are an inspectors number but that doesn't make much sense to me. It seems far more likely that the one or two digit number would represent the week of the year that the firearm passed inspection. After all in the absence of a serial number wouldn't Savage want to be able to identify a specific lot or series of guns manufactured during a specific week in the event that a manufacturing defect cropped up rather than in a whole years production.

If I am correct, then the first stamp with "27S" would correspond to week 27 and the letter S represents the year, 1965. This would date this shotgun to the second week of July 1965.

Of course this assumption could be proven wrong if someone comes up with a Savage firearm from this time period with a date code marking with a number greated than 52 since there are only 52 weeks in a year. It seems likely that the two letter stamp "SP" below the date stamp identifies the inspector at the factory either by code or initials.

As I side note I came across some past issues of Boys' Life on Google Books. The April 1962 issue has a Savage Arms advertisment in comic book form on page 64, which touts the merits of the "NEW STEVENS 51" 410 shotgun.

Also while flipping through a copy of the 1961 edition of the Stoeger Gun Digest at a local gun store, I came across a listing for the Springfield Model 37 as current production as of 1961, if that was the case then the Blue Book of Gun Values may want to make a correction in their next edition. Last but not least, the 22nd edition of Stoegers Gun Traders Guide lists production years for the Stevens Model 51, 410 gauge shotgun as being from 1962 to 1971(Wahl, 552)


1. This design was not uncommon with 22 rimfire rifles but for this particular application was perhaps a bit of a design defect. Even with the modest recoil of a 410, the rounded face of the lug focuses the force of the recoil in a small area of the recess, which tends to peen and enlarge the hole in the stock over time. The later model 951 series E and F used a flat recoil lug which distributed the recoil more evenly.

Blue Book of Gun Values website "SAVAGE ARMS, INC."   <https://store.bluebookinc.com/InstantAccess/Category.aspx?product=5&id=871 > Accessed (Jan. 6, 2012)

Wahl, Paul "Gun Traders Guide 22nd Ed." Stoeger 1999 p. 552

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