Savage is now in the business of bringing new life to previously forgotten platforms. First, it was the recent revamp of the Model 220 which resurrected the bolt action shotgun, and now, one of the most sought-after items is also one of the smallest and more inexpensive in the company’s lineup, the Stevens-by-Savage Model 301 single shot .410 bore.
There’s nothing generally romantic or terribly interesting about a single shot shotgun. They’re quite basic. They’re inexpensive. They are not usually overly attractive. So how can a company bring that back and have it achieve stunning success? All those things—save price—change with the introduction of the Model 301, a purpose-driven turkey hunting shotgun dressed for success and built to excel with the partner company Federal Premium’s ammunition.
Meet the 301
Heavyweight TSS turkey loads, with dense tungsten alloy #9 shot, have transformed the previously inept .410 into a serious gobbler gun. Partner that capable ammunition with the most tightly-choked specialty gun hell-bent on putting out deadly patterns with minimal recoil, all in one of the most inexpensive platforms on the market and we have the Model 301. There’s not much to say about the gun design-wise. It’s a single shot, break action which is a simple design with few moving parts that has a track record of reliability. For looks and field stealth, Savage spruces up the Model 301 with molded details in the durable synthetic stocks, all finished in either Mossy Oak Bottomland or Obsession camouflage.
The three-inch chambered .410 wears a 26-inch carbon steel barrel that is topped with an extended, extra-full turkey choke, all optimized for the TSS payloads. A removable one-piece rail makes it easy to mount an optic, a current booming trend amongst turkey hunters. Metalwork is finished in matte blue for an unassuming look in the field. MSRP is a surprisingly low $199, with real-world prices already coming in around the $150 mark.
Length of pull on the 301 is a reasonable 13.75-inches which fits me very well but may be slightly long for youth or small-frame shooters. The rubber butt pad is a clean addition, though really, recoil is non-existent. Though the gun ships with only the one extra-full turkey choke, the company makes use of the Win Choke thread pattern, so additional tubes will be available. Swivel studs come standard and are a welcome addition for turkey hunters often carrying decoys and other gear. A manual hammer-block safety, while not entirely expected, is a nice addition.
One of our favorite features on the gun are the sighting options. The 301 has a brass front bead as well as a removable optics rail. So, right off the bat, it is suitable for either iron-sighters or red-dot, scoped shooters. Taking that one step further, the bead sight has been designed to be compatible with Tru-Glo fiber optic systems, meaning the front can be easily transformed without a gunsmith.
The most immediately noticeable thing about the gun is the weight, or lack thereof. Tipping the scales just a few ounces over five pounds, the 301 is incredibly light while also remaining well-balanced. This may just be the most pleasurable gun to carry afield that yet has next to no recoil. At 41.5-inches overall, it’s also a maneuverable gun that conjures feelings of youth, while at once packing the potency of a bonafide turkey killer. Either of the two Mossy Oak camo patterns are ideal for turkey hunters, with Bottomland perfect for thick timber or darker field terrain, while Obsession disappears in the greenery.
On the Patterning Board
Naturally, the bulk of our patterning was done with Federal Premium TSS loads. At 25-yards, that #9 shot on the turkey target appears to have nearly decapitated the bird, which represents a stunning increase in the lethality of the baby bore. In fact, the shot on target at 25 yards with the .410 would easily rival the pellets in the kill zone put out by a 12-gauge a dozen years ago using larger lead shot. From 25, we walked that back to 30, 35, and even 40 yards with slowly expanding, but still incredibly tight groups in the vital zone. While I will never advocate for taking long shots on turkeys when I find the greatest joy in getting them in close, a .410 has never shot like this. Clearly, the extra-full choke works wonders with TSS.
We sent nearly 50 rounds through the 301, and the gun performs admirably, as we expected. Though patterns were not nearly as impressive with either Federal Game Loads or Winchester Super-X, both functioned just fine. Operations on the 301 are smooth, from the hammer and safety to the trigger. The ejector, meanwhile, sends empties flying with authority.
The Case for Single Shot World Domination
Normally, I’d say I have little interest in talking to you about a single shot shotgun. But we’re both still here, and there’s a reason for that. First, the Model 301 is the most reasonable entry point into the specialized sub-gauge turkey hunting market. With Federal Premium’s TSS .410 turkey loads putting devastating patterns on target with #9 shot from the small bore, the 301 has been optimized from the choke down to excel with that load.
Second, not only does that combination make for an interesting and more challenging hunt for experienced hunters, but also, with the increased potency from the rounds, the .410 now becomes a viable youth and beginners gobbler-getter. The reduced recoil of the smaller bore, which heretofore had a severely limited range, has been rejuvenated with TSS and made accessible with the Model 301. The other smooth benefit to the platform is the ambidextrous nature of the single shot. Even for those not completely sold on the .410 bore, but still appreciating the affordable platform, the company offers the 301 Turkey in 20-gauge as well.
While Naysayers Nay, the 301 Bags Birds
There will always be hunters who proclaim the .410 as “not enough gun” to cleanly harvest turkeys, but those willing to buy the correct ammunition and put in some time at the patterning board quickly find that not only can a .410 do more now than ever before but is also both an incredibly pleasurable gun to take afield and a potent one as well.
There’s no one single gun or chambering that is “the” turkey gun. We hunters can all agree, though, that respecting the quarry means making a clean kill. And I have no doubt that with TSS loaded in the Model 301 Turkey, I can cleanly harvest a trophy gobbler inside of 40 yards with a single shot. Whether you’re new to the baby bore gobbler craze, have a new shooter in need of a gun, or just want a different challenge in the turkey woods, the Model 301 deserves a long look. There’s a reason that demand still outweighs supply, but trust me, this little baby is worth the wait.