Rifle Review: The Savage Stevens Model 334 Is the Best Beginner’s Rifle of 2023

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When most folks think of a beginner’s rifle, they think of a youth rifle, but not all new hunters are young and small. During COVID, lots of adults became interested in securing their own meat, especially when beef in grocery stores was scarce. Also, there’s a movement to eat protein that’s been raised in the wild as opposed to in a pen. Hunting wild game can be the answer, but outfitting yourself as a new hunter can be expensive. There’s a need for a reliable big game rifle—like the new Stevens Model 334 Walnut—that won’t make your credit card cringe.

Stevens Arms was founded before the end of the Civil War, and at the turn of the century, it was one of the major firearms manufacturers in America. Financial problems led Stevens to sell their company to Savage in 1920, making Savage the country’s largest firearms manufacturer. Today Stevens is best known for their shotguns. The Model 334 is the first rifle from Stevens in a long, long, time. We put it through the wringer in our recent 2023 Rifle Test and found that the Model 334 is both an ideal choice for new shooters and solid option for anyone who is pinching pennies. Here is our in-depth review.

Savage Stevens Model 334 Walnut Specifications

Savage Stevens Model 334

  • Length: 41.25 inches
  • Weight: 7.24 pounds with magazine
  • Barrel: 20 inches
  • Action: Bolt, three-lugs, 60°
  • Trigger: 5.75-pounds (as tested)
  • Finish: Matte blue
  • Stock: Turkish walnut (Synthetic stocked version: $389)
  • Chambering: 243 Winchester, 6.5 Creedmoor, 308 Winchester (tested)
  • Price: $489

The action of the Stevens Model 334 is large and long and features a three-lug bult. The extractor is reminiscent of the Sako/M16 style, and ejection is handled by a spring-loaded plunger. The bolt is fitted with a large cocking piece that has a red protrusion indicting the action is cocked, and the bolt handle is slightly oversized, grooved, and operates with a 60° throw. A 20-inch carbon-steel, button-rifled barrel is standard regardless of chambering, and it’s capped off with an 11° target crown. The barrel is a tad on the heavy side with minimum taper—it measures 1 inch in diameter at the front of the action and 7/10ths of an inch at the muzzle.

The 334’s polymer detachable magazine only holds three rounds, but it functioned flawlessly.
The 334’s polymer detachable magazine only holds three rounds, but it functioned flawlessly. Sabastian “Bat” Mann

The Model 334 feeds from a single stack, polymer, detachable magazine that holds three rounds, but you can load the rifle and top it off for a maximum capacity of 3+1. Just forward of the magazine well and integral to the polymer floor plate is a small lever that serves as a magazine release that also holds the magazine in place. A sliding grooved button located on the right side of the stock just behind the bolt serves as a three-position safety, and it locks the bolt handle down when in the rear “safe” position.

Everything is housed in a straight-grained Turkish walnut stock with clean lines and nice machine checkering. The stock is fitted with a 1-inch recoil pad and has two sling swivel studs in the common locations. There’s a hole in the trigger guard that seems to suggest you can adjust the trigger, but the owner’s manual specifically states, “The trigger screw is fixed and is factory set, do not try to force it.” The receiver is drilled and tapped for scope mounts in the Savage 110 pattern and the rifle comes with a steel, MIL-STD 1913 Picatinny scope rail with 14 slots.

Savage Stevens Model 334 Walnut Test Results

Precision testing from the bench with the Stevens Model 334 Walnut delivered results about like you would expect from a rifle in this price range.
Precision testing from the bench with the Stevens Model 334 Walnut delivered results about like you would expect from a rifle in this price range. Sabastian “Bat” Mann

Pros

  • Attractive stock
  • Smooth action
  • 60° bolt throw

Cons

  • A bit clunky in look and feel
  • Limited capacity
  • Only decent accuracy

During our bench rest testing, the Model 334 Walnut did not wow us with itty-bitty groups. But out of the multiple groups fired with the four tested loads, it did deliver one sub-MOA group, and an overall average of less than two inches. It’s best overall performance was with the Barnes TTSX load at less than 1.5 inches on average, but I expect we might have done a bit better with a trigger that was not so heavy to pull. All of that said, the rifle fed, fired, and ejected every load perfectly. We did not experience a single operational issue with this rifle.

Big Game Hunting Gear photo
Richard Mann

When we stepped away from the bench and began shooting from field positions, one feature we really liked was the location and operation of the safety. It was intuitive to deactivate as you brought the rifle to your shoulder, and it prompts you to keep the thumb of your shooting hand on the right of the stock as opposed to wrapping it around the grip and torquing the rifle as you press the trigger. The comb was a bit low for an optimal cheek weld, but we still performed reasonably well on snap shooting drills. The single column magazine was easy to load, insert, and remove, but we would have preferred a four-round capacity.

In addition to the three-position safety, we liked how smooth it was to operate the bolt and its short 60° throw. This made the rifle action swift and nearly effortless to cycle, and it keeps the bolt handle and your hand out of the way of the scope’s power adjustment throw lever when it’s set at maximum magnification.

Final Thoughts on the Savage Stevens Model 334 Walnut

This rifle’s action is unnecessarily large, but aside from that and the heavy trigger pull, we couldn’t find a lot to complain about. But its heavy two-stage-feeling trigger is also crisp and not as terrible as it may sound, especially with new and unexperienced hunters who might quake with buck fever. With a suggested price of less than $500, and an actual street price a full $100 less, this rifle also qualifies as one of the best budget big-game rifles out there. (You should be able to pick up the synthetic version for less than $340.)

close-up of rifle on sandbag with boxes of ammo in front
The Stevens Model 334 Walnut averaged less than 2 MOA with the four 308 Winchester loads we tested. Sabastian “Bat” Mann

Don’t let the fact that this rifle is manufactured in Turkey turn you off. I’m actually surprised it’s taken so long for us to see a well-made Turkish bolt-action rifle to appear here. It might surprise you to learn that more than one major firearms manufacturer has turned to Turkey for parts or nearly complete firearms—especially handguns—because the less-expensive labor keeps costs low. (Firearms less than 80 percent complete can be imported from overseas and marked as “Made is U.S.A.”)

Read Next: The Best Rifles of 2023

Like our test evaluator and editor-at-large Matthew Every said, “This is an easy-to-understand rifle any new deer hunter could have success with.” If you’re an adult and new to hunting (this is not a youth rifle) and want a reliable rifle with that traditional walnut stock and blued steel look and feel, you can get into this one without spending lot of money, which leaves more money for optics, training, ammunition, and practice. And if you’re on a budget and need a reliable rifle, the Stevens Model 334 Walnut will reliably feel that need too.


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