What do the following events have in common:
Babe Ruth hits three home runs in a single World Series game. Robert Goddard launches the first liquid-fueled rocket. Queen Elizabeth II and Mel Brooks are both born.
The answer? All of those events occurred in 1926. Coincidentally, 1926 was the last year Savage manufactured a pistol specifically marketed for personal defense to the private citizen—until now.
That pistol way back then was a Model 1917, the final iteration of an Elbert Searle-designed compact semi-automatic that Savage had initially started selling as the Model 1907, way back before the first War to End All Wars.
With a lineup ranging from pocket pistols for self-defense, centerfire rifles like the famous lever-action Model 99, shotguns and rimfire rifles sold under the Stevens name (a company absorbed by Savage in 1920) and even Lewis light machine guns for the World War I war effort, Savage was truly a full-spectrum small-arms manufacturer.
By the late 1980s, though, most of these were long discontinued and forgotten, and Savage was primarily a manufacturer of bolt-action rifles and odd-duck combination guns. To use a lesson learned by a manufacturer in a different industry, Porsche, making too narrow a range of products can leave one vulnerable to fickle vagaries of the market.
Just like the German automaker stayed alive by branching out into SUVs and sports sedans while retaining its brand identity, Savage had been filling out its model lineup, most recently with the MSR line of AR-pattern rifles and carbines and also with the Renegauge line of semi-automatic shotguns.
Now, in 2022, Savage Arms is back in the handgun biz—and the concealed-carry, personal-protection handgun biz, at that—with the new Savage Stance.
In a twist of historical irony, the Stance has a surprising number of similarities with that original Savage 1907 .32 ACP semi-auto, despite being completely different firearms.
They’re both striker-fired, fed from staggered-box magazines and sport ambidextrous magazine releases. Size-wise, they’re within a fraction of an inch of each other in every dimension. Empty, the Stance is less than 3 ounces heavier than the 1907.
That’s where the similarities end, though, because the Stance is a thoroughly modern 21st century concealed-carry pistol.
It operates on the tilting-barrel, short-recoil principle, using the SIG-style, modified-Browning lockup, whereby the shoulder above the chamber locks into the front edge of the ejection port. Thanks to the ability of compact, locked-breech pistols to handle higher cartridge pressures, the Stance’s magazine sports a capacity of seven rounds of 9 mm, as opposed to the 10 rounds of .32 ACP in the 1907. The stance also ships with an eight-round magazine with an extension to support the firer’s pinky finger.
The frame of the Stance is modern, lightweight polymer, and is available in black, gray or the Flat Dark Earth color of our test example. There are molded-in textured areas that wrap around the grip frame and extend forward above the trigger guard on both sides. The backstrap is interchangeable by driving out a roll pin and sliding the insert down and off the frame, and two backstraps are included with the pistol; one flat and one arched.
Just aft of the trigger guard is the magazine release, which is teardrop-shaped, finely checkered for texture and fully ambidextrous. While it’s easily activated by either the thumb or trigger finger of the firing hand for righties or southpaws, it’s low-profile enough to avoid being inadvertently activated under recoil while shooting or being carried in a holster.
The trigger is smooth, with a curved face. Trigger pull on the test gun had a short, weightless takeup before hitting a wall that broke abruptly (and consistently) at a bit more than 6 pounds. There’s also a non-adjustable overtravel stop aft of the trigger; it’s just a big bump molded into the plastic of the frame, so there’s nothing to break, misadjust or fall off the gun.
The slide stop is ambidextrous and extremely low-profile. If you’re used to using your thumb to drop the slide after a reload, you will be in for a rude awakening with the Stance, because it ain’t happening here. Between the almost-recessed, rounded shape of the stop and how positively it engages the slide, it’s just not going to get activated by the thumb of a normal human. This pistol’s designers obviously believe that a robust, over-the-top-of-the-slide, whole-hand-power stroke is the tactically sound way to reload, and the company has mechanically enforced that method for its intended customers.
On the other hand, you can easily push up on the slide stop while the magazine is out of the gun and the slide held to the rear, and it will lock the slide open for administrative handling and field stripping. The latter is accomplished by clearing the pistol and locking the slide to the rear as mentioned above, and then rotating the serrated takedown lever, which is large and located above the trigger guard on the left-hand side, down through 90 degrees. Pivoting the takedown lever deactivates the sear, and you can now release the slide to pull it forward off the frame, being careful to make sure to keep the recoil-spring assembly from going flying.
This last bit is important, because unlike the majority of firearms of its type, the Stance does not use a captive recoil-spring assembly; you’ll want to use caution when pulling it out of the slide for disassembly, and especially when putting the top end of the pistol back together for reassembly. If these verbal directions aren’t clear, fear not, for the Stance is shipped with a lavishly illustrated, full-color instruction manual.
When you’ve got the thing put back together, it’s time to take it to the range.
Manipulation of the slide is made easy by two sets of grasping grooves, one at the rear and the other up front. The six angled grooves at the rear of the slide offer good purchase for the shooter’s support hand to run the slide. The five angled grooves up front probably do, too, but your humble correspondent is a little leery of sticking her digits that close to the loud end of a stubby 3.2-inch barrel. Forward cocking serrations seem a bit much on a tiny subcompact, but at least on the Stance they extend upward to form five gill-like “speed holes” that contrast the stainless barrel nicely against the black-nitride finish of the slide. It’s very sporty looking.
The nose of the slide is nicely beveled for easier holstering and the whole thing has a sort of stepped, beveled look to it, reminiscent of classic SIG Sauer slide contours, with a little angled upkick at the rear. Someone got paid to make the gun look sharp. How well they succeeded is in the eye of the beholder, of course. Some people get fretted over the cuts in the slide, but this is a CCW gun, not a service pistol; unless you have to wade through a swamp up to your neck on your way to your job on a lint ranch in the middle of a dust bowl, you’re gonna be OK.
The top of the slide features a set of TruGlo night sights, at least on the test gun. These are an option that bumps the MSRP from the $479 of the base version to $549. In exchange for the extra dough, you get three tritium vials, the front one surrounded by a fatter green ring than the aft ones for faster acquisition. If you don’t like the factory sights, they look to be replaceable by any set intended for the Glock G43. (Please, pistol manufacturers, keep up this trend. The faster you guys settle on two or three basic sight cuts, the better it will be for your consumers.)
The space between the front and rear sight is flat and untextured, unbroken save for the witness hole at the rear of the chamber hood serving as a convenient loaded-chamber indicator.
At the range, there were no surprises, which is kind of what one hopes for with this sort of pistol. Reliability and practical accuracy are boring, and boring is good. The Stance is, in size and general design, in the same class as the Smith & Wesson Shield, Glock G43 and FN 503, and the shooting experience is much the same: Pleasant enough to shoot with 115-grain FMJ range fodder, the experience can be a little spicy for more recoil-sensitive shooters if one steps up to hotter loads. The short sight radius means a little more care must be taken when shooting smaller targets or at longer distances, but ringing the 8-inch plates at my home range from the 20-yard line was easy enough as long as I didn’t try to go too fast.
It wasn’t that long ago that I’d want to hold off on forming an opinion on a pistol until I’d put a few cases of ammo through it, but this is 2022 and so a 600-round test will have to do. Truthfully, a mere 600 rounds—provided one tries a variety of ammunition, shooting under a variety of circumstances—will probably tell you everything you need to know about a blaster outside of how well the given gun will hold up under longer-term usage.
In the case of the Stance, the only malfunction suffered was a failure to fire on a round of TulAmmo steel-case, 115-grain FMJ. At first, I thought it might have been because the pistol had been riding around all day locked in the trunk of the car on a 15-degree Fahrenheit day before being taken to the firing line and maybe some congealed lube had found its way into the striker channel, but since it took three licks at that primer before it went off and the problem never reappeared, we can probably chalk that one up to the Russian primer.
The gun ran fine and it felt familiar. I asked my contact with Savage about the pistol’s similarity to the now-defunct Honor Guard 9, which I reviewed in these pages some years back. Savage played coy and would only reply that they had (and I quote) “been talking publicly for more than a year that about how the company will grow organically and/or by acquisition. This is true in all categories. Savage is excited to officially be back in the handgun space.”
You may take the disappearance of the HG9 from the market, shortly followed by the appearance of this new pistol as you wish.
Honestly, buying an existing design rather than trying to reinvent the wheel from scratch is just good sense. It looks like the Stance has Savage started off on the right foot for getting back into the handgun market.