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Monday, May 4, 2015

Springfield 87M rifle


My dad was born in 1929 and grew up in Michigan.  As a teen in early the 1940’s he bought a Springfield 87M .22 rifle from his youth pastor.  When I was a young boy in the late 60’s I remember seeing the rifle in our attic.  When I was a bit older I took it shooting at the range.  My dad ended up giving me the rifle when I was a teen.  After moving to CT, I joined my High School rifle team and practiced with it.  (That’s right ... my CT High School had a rifle team).  It’s in original condition and has been in the family over 70 years.  

I recently started shooting the rifle at my club and several people asked me about it.  It inspired me to do some research to see what 87M information I could uncover.

What I found seems pretty reliable but I’m not real sure how to verify.  I have the Springfield 87M with a Garand stock and a low mount Weaver scope.  Below is what I found.

J. Stevens Arms Company was founded in 1864 at Chicopee Falls, MA as J. Stevens & Co.  In 1886 the company name was changed to J. Stevens Arms and Tool Co.  It operated under this name until 1920 when it was acquired by the Savage Arms Co., who manufactured firearms marked "J. Stevens Arms Co.".  Savage dropped the "J. Stevens Arms Co." designation in the late 1940s, and used only the name "Stevens" up to 1990.  In 1990, Savage discontinued manufacture of all firearms bearing the Stevens trademark.  

The Springfield 87M was produced by J. Stevens Arms Co as a variation of the Stevens 87a action which was very common. The Springfield associated with Military use was Springfield Armory, a US Government owned arms manufacturer and has nothing to do with Savage-Springfield.  The company used the Springfield name to cash in on the popularity of the Springfield Armory military 1903/ 1903A bolt action rifle as well as the newly adopted M1 Garand rifle.  


Rumor had it that the rifle was produced as a possible military Garand like training rifle however the rifle was never accepted by the Government.

Research said approximately 300 87M rifles were produced around 1940 and ended up being sold to commercial accounts. The rifle was very expensive back then and did not sell well. The Springfield name was discontinued around 1946-48.  


None of the 300 rifles had serial numbers however a number can be found on the underside of the military metal butt plate on the end of the stock. My rifle has the number 77 stamped on the underside of the metal butt plate and on the end of the stock.  

The hand guard resembled the Garand's wood; tubular magazine feed from the front; its utility was questionable and its production run was short.  Three versions of the 87M were produced. One has open sights. It said the other two features a Weaver 330 scope similar to the one produced for the military. The scopes are on two distinct mounts- one sits high and the rifle had the front sight intact. The other is on a low mount and the front sight is removed. All three rifles feature a military leather sling.  My gun has a low mount Weaver 29s scope and no sling.

Research said the 87M is seldom encountered today in original configuration and is appreciating rapidly and examples in good condition are very hard to find. The 87M has taken on the mystique of the "rifle that should have been a Garand trainer or were the 300 prototypes that the gov’t decided not to buy".  After the war the 87M resurfaced in the Sears Roebuck catalog as the Ranger Model 101.22. 

Some have also called the 87M a " T1" trainer, however the T1 was a Pederson prototype 7mm rifle that was in competition with the Garand " T3" prototype as a replacement for the military 1903/1903A Springfield Armory bolt action rifle. General McArthur demanded that the caliber be changed to 30-06 and the Garand was the winner of the competition/ placed into mass production 1940.


The action of the 87M is nicknamed "Gill Gun" due to the vents on the left side of the receiver. The 87M action is also called "Clickity Clack" referring to the sound of the semi-auto action when fired.

Research said no production records exist as a factory fire destroyed all records. Internet web sites list perhaps two dozen or less rifles based on the production number on the underside of the stock butt plate.  

Members on one blog said they have never seen a number higher that 265 on the butt plate with claims there were no duplicates implying no production runs.  Later on that blog it was determined that 3 people had duplicate numbered butt plates.  Hmm. My thought is if these were true prototype guns with no serial numbers I wouldn’t think they would care much if they had a duplicate number on more than one butt plate.  

The scope on my gun is a W. R. Weaver Model 29S made in El Paso, TEX USA.  I contacted Weaver.  They said the 29S was manufactured by the original W.R Weaver Company of El Paso, TX.  They said it’s a 3x power scope produced from 1937 to 1947 when it was replaced by the K4 model.  In 1937 it sold for $11.70 including the T-side mount. (The scope side mount on my gun says T 1).  Its .75 inches in diameter and 10.5 inches long.  My gun has always had this low mount scope with no front or rear sights.

My son said he wanted to replace the scope with something modern saying it would be more fun to shoot with something like a 3x9 scope but the old scope stays put.  


After sighting it in I am able to shoot dime size patterns on quarter size targets at 25 yards.  I haven’t brought it to the 50 yard range yet. Not to throw down the “I’M OLD” card but how well could I see quarter size targets at 50 yards with that scope???  At some point I will find out.  It is accurate and a fun gun to shoot.  The tube magazine holds 15 .22LR rounds.  You can push in the button on the bolt to shoot single shots and manually feed the next round or you can shoot in semi-automatic mode if using .22LR rounds.

On the barrel my gun says SPRINGFIELD  J. Stevens Arms Company Chicopee Falls, MA USA  87M          

On the underside of my metal butt plate and on the butt of the stock is the number 77. 

The forward part of my Garand stock has number 123 stamped.  The stock cover over the top of the barrel also has number 123 stamped.
There is a shield stamp on the underside of my trigger guard that looks like it says AMP CO.  

There are 2 Patent numbers on the barrel of my 87M.  2094577 and 2223093.

2223093 ... Patented November 6, 1940 http://pdfpiw.uspto.gov/.piw?PageNum=0&docid=02223093&IDKey=ADE7E5CB7274%0D%0A&HomeUrl=http%3A%2F%2Fpatft.uspto.gov%2Fnetacgi%2Fnph-Parser%3FSect2%3DPTO1%2526Sect2%3DHITOFF%2526p%3D1%2526u%3D%25252Fnetahtml%25252FPTO%25252Fsearch-bool.html%2526r%3D1%2526f%3DG%2526l%3D50%2526d%3DPALL%2526S1%3D2223093.PN.%2526OS%3DPN%2F2223093%2526RS%3DPN%2F2223093


In semi-automatic mode you squeeze the trigger, a round fires, the bolt opens and ejects that round, but the bolt stays open until you release the trigger.  As you release the trigger the bolt moves forward and another round is fed into the chamber.   In other words, the bolt opens and closes as fast or slow as you squeeze and release the trigger.  This action causes the "Clickity Clack" sound referenced above.  With the bolt open you can push the button on the bolt to lock it in the open position.

In reading its description, this patent 2223093 found on my 87M relates to “… a mechanism for automatically holding the action open until the shooter’s finger is released from the trigger and also pertains to the trigger or release mechanism broadly considered of a firearm of a semiautomatic or self-loading type.  One purpose for this invention is to provide a new and better release or trigger mechanism for semiautomatic or self-loading firearms."

It further states this design counters the potential issues with the rapid return of the breach bolt.  …“Such rapid return does have some disadvantage such as in some cases not allowing sufficient time for the proper operation of the cartridge feed mechanism causing a mistimed engagement between the breech bolt and the cartridge, resulting in either deformation of the cartridge case or of the bullet carried thereby, producing bad jams and in some cases interfering with the ejection of the cartridge case from the gun.”  “To provide a mechanism that will overcome or avoid the objections just named is the main purpose of this invention.” 

I did reach out to Savage Arms to find more answers.  They put me in touch with the Savage Arms Historian. 

I sent him a letter requesting information on my Springfield 87M.  He does research on Savage, Stevens, and A.H Fox firearms. 

On April 20, 2015, I received a response on Savage Arms Corporation letterhead with a Savage Arms raised Notary Seal in the lower left so is official.  I have scanned and attached the document with blotted names and addresses.  I have copied word for word what the historian said in case you can't read the jpg.


Dear Mr.
Thank you for writing and your interest concerning your older Stevens rifle.
Your Stevens/Springfield Model 87-M was built with a distinctly military look.  According to notes from Roe Clark, former historian, it was built especially for the Sears Roebuck Co. after World War II.  It’s appearance closely resembles an M-1 Garand rifle and Sears Roebuck no doubt wanted to capitalize on the 87-M’s look, the Springfield name, and the fine reputation the Garand earned in that conflict.  Some apparently were purchased by the military but no records show that is was directly from the company.
To accommodate Sears Roebuck, the Steven’s Co. adapted their reliable Model 87 semi-automatic rifle by building and fitting a full length military style stock complete with a hand guard over the barrel.  Appropriate military looking sights and barrel bands were also furnished.
Other characteristics were a 24” round tapered barrel, tubular magazine, with a capacity for 15, .22 LR, 17 long and 21 short cartridges.  The semi-automatic action had an independent safety and was constructed with Chrome Molybdenum steel used in the high shock parts.  In addition to functioning as a semi-automatic the cross bolt could be pressed to the left to lock the action for use as a manual repeater or single shot.  The action on this rifle can be easily dis-assembled for cleaning without the use of tools.
The model 87 action itself was dependable and reliable with over 1.8 million made in several variations from it’s introduction in 1939 until discontinued in the early 1980’s.  The 87-M in particular has become a quiet collector favorite.
I trust that this information will help you.
Sincerely,

I have another update 5/7/2015.

I was doing more research and came across an excellent web site called Cornell Publications LLC, http://www.cornellpubs.com/old-guns/item_desc.php?item_id=2 , which said they are the “World's Largest Old Gun Catalog & Manual Reprinter”.

I noticed a “Contents – Index” for each catalog.  I started looking at the different catalogs to try to figure out when the Springfield 87 appeared for sale.  That would help determine when the 87 was put into production.  Figuring you can’t sell something that doesn’t exist the appearance would determine or help validate when the 87 was first manufactured.  Below is what I found.

"Stevens 1938 Springfield and Crescent/Davis Distributors Catalog" listed the Springfield Model 87.
“Stevens 1938-Springfield and Crescent/Davis Catalog” listed the Springfield 87 Bolt Action.
“Springfield 1939 and Crescent-Davis Distributors Price Catalog” listed the Springfield No. 87.
“JL Galef 1939 World's Fair Issue Gun, Fishing & Sports Catalog (NY)” listed the Springfield Model 87.
“Stevens 1940 Export Catalog” listed the Springfield 87.
“Stevens 1940 Rifle & Shotgun Gun Catalog” listed the Springfield 87 as a Springfield Automatic Rifle No. 87.
“Stevens c1940 Rifle Shotgun Pistol Component Part Catalog” listed the Stevens Model 87A.
“Stevens 1942 Component Parts Catalog” listed Parts Model 87A.
“Stoeger 1944 - The Shooter's Bible #35 Gun Catalog”.  In the table of contents it listed the Springfield 87.
“Stevens 1946 Component Parts Catalog” listed the Stevens Model 87A.
“Stevens 1946 Rifle & Shotgun Gun #43 Catalog” listed the Springfield 87.
“Stevens 1947-49 Component Parts Catalog” listed the Stevens 87A.
“Savage 1947, Stevens, Fox Catalog of Firearms” under Springfield Rifles listed the 87.
“Philip Jay Medicus 1949-50 Catalog” listed the Stevens Model 87.
“Stevens 1950 Component Parts Price List Catalog” under New Style listed the 87A.
“Savage 1951-2 Stevens Fox Component Parts” lists the Stevens or Springfield Models 87s.
“Savage 1952 - Stevens - Fox Shotguns and Rifles” listed the Stevens Automatic Repeating Rifles, Model 87.
“Savage 1955 Stevens Fox Component Parts Catalog” under “Auto Repeating Action Models” listed the 87A, 87AB, 87AT, B, C, Stevens or Springfield.
“Savage c1980 Component Parts Catalog” listed the following under “Automatic Tubular Feed”: 87A, 87AB, 87AT, 87B, 87C, 87D, 87K, 87E, 87KE, 87H, 87KH, 87J, 87M, 87N.

I looked at how my patent research above lined up with the catalogs above.

The first patient number on my 87M is 2094577 and was patented October 5, 1937.  Many of the components shown are the same on my 87M but it is showing a bolt action.  The “Stevens 1938-Springfield and Crescent/Davis Catalog” listed the 87 as a Springfield 87 bolt action.  This would indicate the bolt action version of the 87 went into production sometime after October 5, 1937 in to 1938 as it is listed in a 1938 catalog.

The second patient number on my 87M is 2223093 and was patented November 6, 1940.  This patent includes the semi-automatic action.  In the “Stevens 1940 Rifle & Shotgun Gun Catalog” the 87 is listed as a “Springfield Automatic Rifle No. 87”.  That would indicate the first production runs of the 87 with the semi-automatic action came out in late 1940 as it is listed in a 1940 catalog.

Some good information on the Stevens/Springfield/Savage Model 87.  I only found one reference to the 87M in the “Savage c1980 Component Parts Catalog”. 

From several sources it appears the 87M (M stands for Musket) or the 87 Musket was also produced by Stevens for Sears and was the Model 101.22.  The 87 was produced by Savage for Sears and was the Model 101.16.

From my research it seems that the 87 action (bolt or automatic) is the same in all 87 models.  The 87M and the Model 101.22 were manufactured with the Garand stock.
 

This leads me to 2 questions: Was the 87M and 101.22 sold with anything other than the Garand stock?  Were there other 87's or 101's sold with a Garand stock?  I am thinking the answer to both questions is "No".  


Since the Garand stock is vary rare, I wonder if the numbers on the forward stock and cover would indicate the number of Garand stocks manufactured?  My stock and cover are stamped 123.

On a side note someone asked about 87 gun parts.  One place I would suggest is Numrich Gun Parts.  https://www.gunpartscorp.com/

I enjoy shooting my 87M at the range.  I don't normally push products but did buy a Spee-D-15 loader that works real well.  http://www.spee-d-loader.net/spee-d-loader/  I bought mine on line.  It saves time loading at the range ... on the other hand I noticed I'm shooting more ammo now.  Oh for another brick of .22's ...

2 comments:

  1. The information and research you've provided was very helpful. I have a J Stevens Springfield model 87 M. with the # 117 stamped on the buttstock and buttplate. Thanks!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Great read with some very helpful information...Just awaiting delivery of a 87M with the number 99 on the buttplate...

    ReplyDelete

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