The Springfield 511 — A Gun By Many Names By: Travis Pike


So I got this old gun years ago called the Springfield 511. It’s a boxlock, double barrel shotgun that features nice long barrels and the wooden furniture you’d expect from a classic side-by-side. Little did I know that the Springfield 511 had a rather convoluted past that ties back to both the Stevens and Savage companies. Today we’ll explore the Springfield 511 and, by extension, an entire line of shotguns by Savage. 

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Springfield 511 double barrel
The twice barrel is always terrifying.

My Springfield 511 

There is something so cool about side-by-side shotguns. Years ago, I was a broke Marine, and somehow I stumbled across a spray-painted double barrel shotgun at a flea market in North Carolina. I asked how much, and when I was told 30 dollars, I jumped all over it. I’ve never bought a gun for tens of dollars. 

The gun was spray painted brown and grey, and it looked terrible, but it was only 30 dollars—so why the hell not? After I got it home, I decided to try my hand at restoring it—or at the very least, removing the spray paint.

I spent hours every day with sandpaper and patience scraping off spray paint. Under the grey and brown layer sat a second layer that appeared to be some kind of camo. 

I scrubbed, scraped, and worked until my hands cramped some days, but I got the paint off. Stripped the gun down to steel and wood. The Springfield 511 worked, and I even took it to the trap range with friends a few times. Eventually, I did a cold blue to the gun and carefully applied a dark brown wood finish to the wood. 

It’s far from perfect, but still a project I’m proud of. 

restored Springfield 511 double-barreled shotgun
Who doesn’t love a classic?

What’s The Deal With the Springfield 511? 

So it’s not either of the Springfields, you know. The original Springfield Armory was the Department of Defense’s own weapon development and production facility that was eventually closed. The other Springfield Armory is the modern incarnation that produces a wide variety of guns. The Springfield name was just a generic title given to a specific subset of Stevens-Savage shotguns.

Springfield 511 Savage Arms stamp
Markings tell a story, but Springfield didn’t produce this one. Across the receiver sits a serial number as well as the Springfield 511 designation. Below that, you have Savage Arms and the location of where the gun was produced. 

To really explain this, we have to go back in time. Stevens came to be in 1864 and most famously created the .22 Long Rifle round. They also produced several double-barrel boxlock shotguns. 

In 1920 Savage purchased Stevens and took an interest in their boxlock shotguns. This is where the name of the guns becomes a little interesting, to say the least.

Stevens produced the model 311, a basic, two-trigger shotgun fit with extractors and not ejectors.  Savage took the Model 311 and named it the Fox B— a very finely made double barrel shotgun with all the fancy features you’d ever expect. This includes ejectors, beautiful wood, and generally a nice layout. 

Stevens 511 boxlock double barrel shotgun broken open with two shotshells loaded
There is something great about a double barrel.

So how does the Springfield 511 fit into this whole thing? Well, Savage-Stevens produced these rather generic shotguns for tons of companies. For example, Sears had a model, and so did Montgomery Ward. These guns could wear the Sears or Montgomery Ward logo and model number but still be Stevens 311 shotguns. 

For companies who only made small orders or if the store didn’t have a trade name, the gun was called the Springfield 511. These were the lowest cost, budget-friendly versions of the gun. 

The Basic Rundown 

This was a working man’s shotgun, and it shows. No removable chokes, no ejectors, and the wood is as plain as it gets. There is zero checkering or any kind of scroll work. The Springfield 511 utilizes a simple bead front sight with a non-reflective sight plane. 

Springfield 511 bead front sight
A simple bead is all you need.

With a boxlock shotgun, when you open the gun’s barrels, you are also cocking the firing pins. The gun has a small manual tang safety behind the barrel opening lever. The safety is automatically placed into the On position when you break the gun open. Two triggers allow you to control which barrel fires, and yes, you can fire both barrels at the same time if you so choose. A set of extractors push out the rims of your rounds and makes them easy to remove when it comes time to reload.

From tip to stock, it’s a classic working man’s shotgun capable of killing everything from squirrels to bears. 

Springfield 511 double barreled shotgun
It’s a great gun that still shoots wonderfully.

At the Range 

I don’t shoot this old gun much, but I always smile when I do. Something about an SxS shotgun with long barrels is all kinds of cool and fun. When I do a little casual clay shooting, I almost always bring this gun and do okay with it. The recoil isn’t bad, but the gun doesn’t offer you a lot of surfaces for using the old push/pull technique to control the gun. 

The triggers are stiff, but the pull is very short and breaks very cleanly. A little pressure is all it takes to send a load of shot downrange. The length of the pull is surprisingly short. When measured from the rear of the trigger guard to the end of the stock, it’s only 12.75 inches. That’s short by modern standards. 

When you shove your cheek into the gun, you get a perfect view of that dot. The stock is well designed and crafted for a quick sight picture. The big long barrels make it swing well, and it’s easy to chase those bright orange clays as they criss-cross across the sky. 

Springfield 511 boxlock double barreled shotgun balanced on a tractor tire
This big double barrel cost me 30 bucks. It’s a fun gun, and while it was a budget-minded shotgun in the 1970s, the Springfield 511 holds up. 

All the Double Barrels 

A good side-by-side shotgun could be the only gun you ever need. They aren’t great for defensive use but are still plenty capable. You can hunt for nearly anything with one, and subcaliber devices make it easy to convert the gun to various calibers. On top of that, you can use tons of different-length shells in the gun. The Springfield 511 has a 3-inch chamber, so it can use 3-inch and 2.75-inch shells, but also 2.5, 2, and 1.75-inch shells. 

These are very versatile firearms, and if you ever get a chance to buy one for 30 dollars, I highly suggest you do!