It goes without saying that if a shooter is into shotguns at all, a nice double-barrel is on his list of must-buy items — eventually.

But the problem always seems to be that double-barrels come in two extremes. Many beautiful over-and-unders or side-by-sides come with steep price tags that most shooters just can’t afford. Sure they’re pretty on the shelf, but pouring thousands of dollars into a shotgun tends to relegate them to a long life in a glass case.

On the other extreme, there are a host of double-barrels that are very inexpensive, but are nevertheless poorly made, have cheap wood stocks and tend to be stiff and heavy. Take them to the field once or twice, and you’re buffing off rust or pondering over loose joints.

Fortunately, Savage Arms now offers a great option for hunters that actually want to use their quality double-barrel in the field without having to hide the purchase from their significant other. Introduced at this year’s NRA show under Savage’s Stevens brand, the 555 over-and-under shotgun blends a utilitarian firearm with refinements that will be at home at any pheasant club or duck blind.

Available in both 12-gauge and 20-gauge, the Stevens 555 features a lightweight aluminum receiver with a special steel insert that reinforces its breech for added rigidity. The 12-gauge is fitted with 28-inch barrels and has a length of pull just over 14 inches, while the 20-gauge model has 26-inch barrels with the same length of pull.

Both guns come with Turkish walnut stocks that complement the lines well, and while not ostentatious, they don’t look as cheap as many competitors at this price range. The 555 has chrome-lined barrels, a tang-mounted safety and a single selective mechanical trigger. It also comes with five interchangeable choke tubes to match any kind of target — whether it’s clays or birds.

And the best part is that the Stevens 555 carries an MSRP of just $692.

So how does it shoot?

Well, before we get to that, the first thing you’ll notice about the Stevens 555 is its lightness. At only 6 pounds for the 12-gauge and 5.5 pounds for the 12-gauge, spread out over a 26- or 28-inch barrel, the shotgun feels remarkably balanced and swings onto target effortlessly. Shooting Sports Retailer tested the 12-gauge model during an early-season dove shoot this year, and one of the things we noticed was how well the shotgun mounted to the shoulder and tracked with the fast flyers.

The trigger was crisp and the manual tang safety wasn’t a hindrance. Selecting either the top or bottom barrel with the safety worked as advertised, and as with any double-barrel, the shotgun had no problem with a variety of loads from 2¾ to 3-inch shells. There’s nothing special about the brass bead sight, and the vent rib put it in perfect plane for an accurate shot.

The 2 1/8-inch drop at the comb of the 12-gauge strikes a good balance between shooting comfort and target acquisition, and the Schnabel forend with a slightly downturned lip really helps with proper hand positioning and aim. And from our test hunt, the shotgun patterns nicely, at least with target loads and an improved cylinder choke.

While it’s tough to find anything wrong with the Stevens 555, there are some critiques that might have a few customers digging a bit deeper in their pockets for a few more features.

Though the 555 is a distinctly plebeian shotgun, it could use just a little refinement on the aesthetics. Double-barrel shotguns are the epitome of shooting simplicity, but they carry with them a gentile aura. I found myself looking over the 555 during lulls in the doves and wishing I could lose myself in a narrative engraving or high-end wood swirl on the stock. The 555 gets the job done for sure, but it’s not the gun you’re going to show off to your friends.

Also, the 555 comes standard with shell extractors. That’s a less expensive option for sure, but when the doves were coming in hard and heavy, fumbling around trying to pull out empties and quickly reload resulted in more than a few missed birds. Call me “new school,” but ejectors make it a lot easier to fill your limit when the feathers are flying — or maybe that’s just me.

Nevertheless, Stevens did a darn good job blending form, function and price for a nicely appointed double-barrel shotgun that’s made for the “everyman” shooter or the beginner who wants something simple for the clay or dove field. The 555 might also find a nice home in the duck blind, since its under-$700 price and muted aesthetics lend itself to the extreme conditions of waterfowling.

So if your shop caters to shotgunners who want to enter the over-and-under market without having to get a second mortgage on their house, the Stevens 555 might just be just the ticket for your wing-shooting or clay -busting customers.

Features

 Lightweight aluminum receiver scaled to gauge

 Single selective mechanical trigger

 Turkish walnut stock and forend

 Chrome-lined barrels

 Tang-mounted safety

 12-gauge specifications: 28-inch barrels, 14 3/8-inch length of pull, 44 7/8-inch overall length, 2 1/8-inch drop at comb, 6 pounds

 20-gauge specifications: 26-inch barrels, 14 3/8-inch length of pull, 42 7/8-inch overall length, 2 1/4-inch drop at comb, 5 1/2 pounds