After 21 years and $21...


October 14, 2008, 07:17 PM
In 1987 I purchased 42 guns at a local police auction. They were mostly inexpensive shotguns and 22 rifles with a couple of handguns thrown in. Over the years I sold some of these guns, gave away a bunch, and recently I realized that only one remained in my possession. For some unknown reason the one I hung onto was the worst of the lot.

It was a Stevens Model 14 & ½ “Lil’ Scout” rolling block take-down rifle. A truly tiny gun by any standards, it was likely marketed as a kid’s gun in the 1900-1920 period when I think these were manufactured.

The rifle was in sad shape. The general condition was terrible with no bluing left on any metal surface, only patina which is a polite word for rust. Furthermore, someone had apparently used the gun as a hammer as there were dents and dings all over the barrel and action. Seriously, there were dozens of half-moon shaped dents in the metal that looked like someone was driving nails with the rifle.

The wood was a mess, as well. It was painted over oil stains... and the wrist was cracked- probably from the strain of being used as a hammer.

The reason I bought the gun was because it was so cheap. When the auctioneer held it up and asked for a $12.50 starting bid, nobody spoke up. I wondered about this for a few seconds and then raised my hand. The gavel was quickly banged on my offer and I bought it as the only bidder. Apparently I was the only one who hadn’t actually seen it before it was offered which explains why nobody else was interested.

When I paid for the gun I immediately realized that I had bought a hunk of junk. In addition to the items already mentioned, the take-down knob was worn completely smooth and was worthless and it was missing the lever to open the action. The rear sight was also missing, the empty dovetailed slot bearing mute testimony to its absence. The front sight was broken off flush with the barrel, most likely a victim of one of the many hammering episodes the rifle endured. Worst of all, closer examination revealed that someone had evidently turned the rifle into a child’s toy by removing the firing pin, drilling out the firing pin hole and driving a large machine screw into the hole through the breech-block until it was cinched impossibly tight, and then grinding off the protruding screw tip flush with the face of the breech.

The gun was thus rendered totally incapable of being fired.

I knew that finding a replacement was virtually impossible. I checked with all the major gun parts suppliers without luck. I asked around at gun shows without success. Years passed and the little rifle sat idle. I only kept it because I had no idea what to do with it.

Then maybe 10 years after buying it, I spotted a parts dealer at a show. He was one of those guys with boxes and boxes of odd and obsolete parts. He sat in the middle of 10 rented tables, all sagging under the weight of metal ammo cans filled with various and sundry gun parts. With no hope or expectation of a positive response I casually asked if he might have a breech-block for a Stevens Lil’ Scout.
His eyes rolled upwards and his brow wrinkled as he considered my query. Then a wry smile crossed his face and without a word he twisted in his chair as he reached behind him to one of the many boxes setting on the rear tables. His hand dipped into the can, and without looking, he fished around in the jumble of parts for a moment before coming up with the exact part I required. He held it aloft like some grand prize he’d just won, and then he extended his arm and offered me the breech-block. I’m not sure what amazed me more; that he had the part or that he knew exactly which of the many boxes it was in.

To say that I was stunned would be a gross understatement. I asked how much he wanted for the item (actually, I think I mumbled it in my state of shock) and you can imagine my further surprise when he grandly announced “five bucks.”

Now I was in business.

But the new breech-block lacked the firing pin. I took it to my favorite gunsmith and he dug around until he found one that looked similar to what we needed save for being a tad too long. He touched it to the grinding wheel and it popped right into place like it was custom made for that gun. Which I guess it sort of was, actually. He gave me the pin free of charge (he’s like that).

For some reason I put the project aside at this point and the rifle remained forgotten in the safe for another five years. I stumbled across the gun one day while searching for something else and decided to pick up where I had left off.

I still needed the action lever. I rooted around my parts drawers and found nothing workable. Then I checked my vast collection of nuts, bolts, screws and other assorted hardware items and bless me if I didn’t find a little metal knob that screwed into the threaded hole. It required some trimming to fit properly, but that was no trick and although I haven’t a clue as to what the original lever looked like, or what the replacement lever was meant to fit, it looked right at home on the Stevens and worked perfectly.

Now I needed to address the issue of the missing sights. A half-moon of key stock was soldered in place after grinding off the nubbin of the original front sight that remained. I ordered a generic adjustable rear sight from Numrich Arms and this baby set me back $3.50. I spent about an hour with a file opening up the dovetail as the new sight wouldn’t fit in the original slot and when I was finished the rifle was fully equipped with usable sights. I then filed new knurls in the take-down knob (how often do you get to use two words that start with “kn” in one sentence?) so that I could readily dismount the barrel as the designer intended.

The action seemed to function perfectly and the bore was bright and shiny so it was time for some test firing. At the range the rifle worked perfectly. I didn’t do any real testing for accuracy as all I wanted at this juncture was to confirm that the old rifle actually worked. It did.

Once again I was distracted by other matters and the Lil’ Scout was put away. A few days ago something reminded me of the little gun and I dug it out. It was time to wrap up this project.

The stock was stripped and sanded then stained with a medium color that seemed to match the wood (whatever it was). The action and barrel were polished to remove the corrosion and I filed away as much of the dents in the metal that I realistically could. Some were so deep that they will have to remain where they are. After a final polishing and cleaning I used Casey’s paste cold blue to finish the metal surfaces.

I was very pleased with the results. I wouldn’t say the gun looks like new because it certainly does not. But I think it looks pretty darned good considering what I started with and what I spent to complete the restoration. Total expenditure including the original purchase price, the used breech-block and the new rear sight came to $21.

It took 21 years and $21 to get the rifle where it is today. Think it was worth it?

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Howard Roark
October 14, 2008, 07:24 PM
Now that's a good story. Find a kid to shoot it and call it good.

October 14, 2008, 07:28 PM
It looks like a nice little rifle and it definitely has a good story behind it. Nice work!

October 14, 2008, 07:29 PM
I'll gladly give you double your money for it...:) Would be perfect for the 7yr old.

Well done....well done indeed.


October 14, 2008, 08:00 PM
Very nice. My Dad has a Stevens Crack Shot from around the same time.

Dr. Tad Hussein Winslow
October 14, 2008, 08:05 PM
:D :D Oh, wow - I really love that story; thanks! :)

October 14, 2008, 08:46 PM

Great story; and the little Stevens looks great too. Thanks for sharing your story with us.

October 14, 2008, 08:51 PM
For the $21 investment it would put a million dollar grin on a kid :)

October 14, 2008, 09:10 PM
Nice work and good story to go along with it.

October 14, 2008, 09:30 PM
I just realized how guns are like time capsules. How long they can last, etc.

October 14, 2008, 09:49 PM
What a great story and she looks to be a fun shooter. Now thats a good investment of $21.

October 14, 2008, 09:55 PM
i enjoyed your story. you do good work.

October 14, 2008, 10:34 PM
Think it was worth it?


October 14, 2008, 11:53 PM
great rifle, and a nice story to boot, well written.

October 15, 2008, 01:50 PM
I'm thinking there is some kind of VISA commercial here, but nothing is coming but the last line:

"... and the satisfaction? Priceless!"

Great post; thanks!

October 15, 2008, 02:04 PM
Sounds like you got your money's worth just in satisfaction!

October 15, 2008, 02:04 PM
I always thought those are just neat looking little rifles, and I think it would be totally worth it putting some work into one. It might even pay off by putting some rabbit or grouse in a cacciatore.

October 15, 2008, 06:35 PM
For the $21 investment it would put a million dollar grin on a kid

It would!

Great story. Thanks for sharing!

October 15, 2008, 09:10 PM
Great work, but you KNOW you have to give us a range report now....

October 15, 2008, 09:18 PM
Awesome story. I really like how it went from being a piece of crap just about thrown away to finally being restored to a fine working gun.

I don't like seeing any gun being thrown away for whatever reason.

Good jorb!

October 15, 2008, 09:38 PM
$21 to possibly bring another youth into the firearm culture in a safe environment? Heck yes it was worth it.

October 15, 2008, 10:18 PM
I understand what some of you are saying about giving this rifle to a youngster, but maybe 5 kids already got their first guns out of that auction bunch (given to friends to bestow on their children) and I sort of intended to keep this one for myself.

October 16, 2008, 09:50 AM
For the $21 investment it would put a million dollar grin on a kid +1 ON THAT!!! Plus, it has a very cool story behind it. if you decide to give it to some deserving child, make certain that he gets a copy of your story.

October 17, 2008, 05:59 PM
I understand what some of you are saying about giving this rifle to a youngster, but maybe 5 kids already got their first guns out of that auction bunch (given to friends to bestow on their children) and I sort of intended to keep this one for myself.

I understand totally SaxonPig, in fact you ought to build a nice frame for it, looks great. Of course you have to shoot it on occasion though, that is when the satisfaction will really set in.


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