As concealed carry gained popularity over the last decade or so, all the legacy pistol makers immediately jumped on board with a small, easily concealed model or two to address this fast-growing market. It made total sense. Eventually, a few traditional long gun makers entered the fray, too, starting with Mossberg and their MC2 lineup. Now, a new rifle manufacturer has hopped into the concealed carry market with their offering. Long known for outstanding hunting and precision long guns, Savage is once again in the handgun business.
The new Savage entry is called the Stance. This is not Savage’s first official foray into the handgun business, so they are not technically new to the market. However, until the Stance came out, they hadn’t made a pistol since the early 1900s, when they produced a small line of .32, .380, and .45 caliber semiautos, including one that almost beat out Colt’s 1911 for the US Army contract. (Imagine how different the handgun world would look today if the 1911 had lost. But I digress…)
To get an idea of Savage’s new offering, let’s start with Stance’s tech specs and work our way into the goods and bads of the gun.
Overall, the Stance is a solid gun. While it likely won’t win any design awards, it is solidly functional, which is really what you need in a self-defense firearm. At just under a pound and a half, it’s the right weight for concealed carry. Overall size puts it squarely in the middle of the concealed carry market. Now that we have the base information established, how well does it shoot? After all, that’s what matters. I put a couple hundred rounds through it just to be sure I got a fair taste of how it handles. During the session, I had one light strike, but that’s not always the gun’s fault; often it’s the ammo.
Goldilocks would be proud. The grip texture felt good – not too much, not too little. Texturing is aggressive without being painful, ideal for sweaty palms, which you will likely experience in a high-stakes self-defense encounter. So, it’s good that Savage paid attention to this.
In a classic case of how initial impressions can be misleading, I was less than impressed with the trigger when I dryfired the gun right out of the box. The action felt squishy, with a longer-than-expected reset for this handgun class. However, when I took it to the range and put rounds through it, the trigger felt better, crisper, with a more reasonable and consistent reset point. In addition, follow-up shots were quicker than expected. It’s certainly not a match grade trigger, but you’re also not paying match grade price for the gun.
Savage also paid attention to sights, offering three target acquisition options: three-dot standard, night sights, and a conformal laser that tucks against the trigger guard. All three are non-snagging, so drawing from concealment won’t be hampered. Savage sent me the night sights version, which uses TG-H3 sights front and rear, an excellent setup that has been around the industry for a long time. As a nice tough, the rear sight is squared off on front to allow belt or boot slide racking.
Regardless of your dominant hand, it’s nice to have ambidextrous controls, especially as a backup if your dominant hand is wounded. The Stance features both ambidextrous slide stop and magazine release, eliminating the need to choose one and flip the controls before using. The mag release button is easy to reach and worked flawlessly during quick reloads. My son, who is a lefty but has taught himself to shoot righty out of necessity, enjoyed a fully left-handed shooting session with the Savage.
Maintenance and cleaning on the Savage are super simple, with a typical takedown system found on many other semiautos. The takedown lever is large and in charge on the left side, with a ribbed texture and slight ramp that sticks out a bit, making for easier grip and twist. The barrel and recoil spring pop out quickly. But therein does lie a small, annoying issue: the spring is free-floating, not contained at the end of the rod, so be careful taking it apart, as it can easily fly off. It’s also a bit of a challenge to reassemble.
While most guns add extra color options later down the line, long after the initial roll out, Savage brought out the Stance in black, grey, and FDE, all with the same black slide and all at the same price point. In addition to the monochrome offering, you can liven things up a bit with a grey or FDE frame, both paired with the black slide.
As nice as all the items mentioned above are, this wouldn’t be an honest review if I didn’t point out a few flaws in the gun. Despite Savage’s well-earned reputation as a fantastic gunmaker, the Stance has a few noticeable hiccups the need to address in future versions.
With so many subcompacts on the market today with 11 to 13 rounds standard, it’s puzzling why Savage only put 8 rounds in the larger standard magazine and only 7 in the backup, the same as the original Smith & Wesson Shield from 10 years ago. I bring up the Shield in particular because the Savage’s magazines are virtually identical to it. I don’t know who makes the Stance mags, but they look like they came right out of the Shield inventory. This seems like a big miss. One thought is that maybe Savage positioned the Stance to compete with the Shield; however, even the S&W moved away from the lower capacity single-stack market when they introduced the Shield+ last year with its higher capacity magazines as standard. It would be good to see Savage develop their own version of larger capacity magazines. As it stands today, you have to special order the 10-round magazine, and because it’s single stack, the baseplate sticks out farther, making it more difficult to conceal.
While we often use two hands to snap the slide forward on a reload, it’s nice to have the one-handed release as an option. However, Stance’s slide stop lever is tiny, even for my average size hands. With his smaller hands, my son could click it home, but I could not very easily. Many other guns in this same class have bigger slide stop levers and don’t run into any printing issue. While this is not a deal killer as to whether I would recommend the Stance, a bigger one on the next version would be nice.
Cool only goes so far. Savage tried to add a bit cool to the Stance with slide cuts near the muzzle, exposing the shiny stainless barrel inside. Aesthetically, these are a plus. But I’m not sure it was smart to reduce the slide weight on a gun that, because it’s small, tends to be snappy and could use as much weight as practical on the nose to reduce recoil. This might not have been the best place to pretty up the gun.
With so many pistols now including optic cutouts on the slide, I’m surprised the Savage does not have one, another miss. And it might be a deal killer for some customers, especially with so many other optic ready options in the same price range. Perhaps they’ll do like Taurus did on their GX4 and add it to the next version a few months from now.
Even though $479 is a nice price for this size of gun, there are many other similar or slightly better firearms that are comparably priced or just a bit higher for a lot more bells and whistles. Savage’s biggest competition is not today’s popular higher capacity subcompacts, such as the P365, Hellcat, GX4, or Shield+, but the older versions of the Shield and other single-stack offerings, similarly priced.
As much as I tried to hate the Stance, I couldn’t. While it likely won’t make my top ten list of favorite guns, the more I shot it and the deeper I dug into its designed, the more impressed I was with its performance. Do I recommend racing right now and buying one before they fly off the shelves? No. I don’t see it being that successful. My theory is Savage wants to reenter the pistol market and started small to test the waters. Given Savage’s reputation for great firearms, don’t be surprised if they not only improve the Stance in future models but also expand their line of pistols. ~ David
David is an avid gun guy and a contributing writer to several major gun publications. In addition to being an NRA Certified Pistol Instructor and RSO, David trains new shooters on basic handgun skills and CCW requirements and is a strong advocate for training as much as you possibly can. "Real life shootouts don't happen at a box range."