September 15, 2023
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These days, Savage is more well-known for making bolt-action rifles than pistols. Affordable, accurate rifles, with great triggers. In fact, Savage’s Accu-Trigger, which provided a match-grade pull at a factory price, caused a sea change in the factory rifle industry. The new Savage Stance is not Savage’s first pistol, but it’s been almost exactly a century since they produced one—they sold the Models 1907, 1915, and 1917, pocket pistols chambered in .32 and .380 ACP, up until 1920. So, it makes sense that the Stance is a continuation of that breed. The most popular carry pistol these days is the striker-fired, polymer-framed subcompact 9mm, and that’s what you get with the Savage Stance.
There is only one model of the Stance, but it is available in several different flavors, if you will—black, gray, or FDE frame, standard or night sights (or standard sights with a factory-mounted laser), and with or without a manual safety. I secured a sample of the black model with night sights and no manual safety. The Stance has a 3.2-inch stainless steel barrel, is solely chambered in 9mm, and is supplied with two magazines—one flush seven-rounder, and one extended eight-round magazine. Overall, it is 6.2-inches long, 4.6-inches tall, and weighs 22.2 ounces with an empty flush magazine in place. The Stance is somewhat thin for its size, and at its thickest point is only 0.96-inches thick. Aesthetically, visually, the Stance has a modern vibe to it, with some retro hints. In size and rough shape, it is reminiscent of the Smith & Wesson Shield, but no one will confuse the two.
As I’ve mentioned in these pages before, there is no technical definition for compact or subcompact [EDITOR’S NOTE: Some of us have a different opinion on this…], much less the newer term “micro-compact,” which Savage uses for the Stance. Magnum Research can call the .50 AE Desert Eagle a “micro-compact” and not be in violation of any laws, regulations, treaties, or ordinances. But in trying to bring some reason and rationality to this naming game, I’ve proposed this—compact guns should be easily concealable, sub-compact guns should fit in a pocket, and micro-compact guns should fit in your palm. Based on that admittedly very loose measurement, the Stance is a sub-compact with the flush magazine in place, but just barely, and not just because of size, but its weight, which is two ounces heavier than the original S&W Shield.
I hope the folks at Savage forgive me, but the comparisons to the S&W Shield are justified, and I’ll do one more before I dive into the meat of the gun—the magazines. The Stance is fed by the same type of “stack-and-a-half” magazines that I first saw with the Shield. They aren’t single stack magazines but aren’t true double-stack either. In fact, the Stance’s magazines bodies are the exact same as the Shield, but with a different magazine cutout. But that slight staggering of the cartridges inside allows you to get a seven-plus-one capacity in a very compact gun. Both the flush seven-round and the extended eight-rounder have stainless steel bodies with numbered index holes on both sides. The eight-round magazine has a grip extender, and ironically this is where I have my biggest complaint with the gun, that darn grip extension. It doesn’t match the grip frame, in looks or texture. Savage, please take notes from Springfield Armory in this aspect, the grip extensions for their XD magazines match. And while the dimensions of the magazine bodies are the same, and the Stance and the Shield have similar profiles, none of the parts interchange, they are completely different guns. Okay, I’ve detoured long enough, how about I get back to the actual review?
I wrote that the Stance’s 3.2-inch barrel was stainless steel. The front half inch or so of barrel is slightly enlarged, to better mate with the slide. The slide is stainless steel as well, treated to a black nitride coating. This is exactly what you want on a small carry gun that is likely to get sweaty if you actually, you know, carry it. But that’s the great thing about small guns like the Stance, you’re more likely to carry them as they’re comfortable and convenient. Any gun is better than no gun. Not that stainless steel can’t rust, but you really have to try hard, and basically abuse and neglect the gun for months if not years, to make it happen. There is a cutout at the rear of the barrel hood which serves as a loaded chamber indicator, and the caliber is marked on the right side of the barrel, visible when the slide is forward. Also visible is most of the rest of the barrel, through five angled slots on each side of the slide. The silver, natural stainless barrel visible inside the black slide looks great.
Ported slides are currently very popular. It is mostly done these days for looks, but they do have a functional advantage. Lowering the weight of your reciprocating parts (such as the slide) reduces felt recoil and muzzle rise, which is why you see it quite frequently on competition pistols. There’s not enough weight taken off of the Stance’s slide for this to be a noticeable factor, but it does look quite classy. And those ports are part of the forward cocking serrations, helping you get a firmer grip on the gun. However, some people will say that putting holes where they don’t need to be is a great way to introduce dirt into your gun and get it to jam. Those people aren’t wrong, but their argument, in this case, I feel is irrelevant. The Stance isn’t a military sidearm, or a full-size police duty gun; it is a subcompact, concealed carry pistol. You won’t be crawling through the dirt of Kandahar with it. Concealed carry pistols do tend to attract lint, though, and these slide cutouts look to be great lint-catchers, so use them as your timing guide—whenever you see them starting to attract lint, understand it’s time to clean your gun. Or at least take it apart to blow out the lint.
The slide serrations, front and rear, are flat-bottomed and provide a good gripping surface. In-between them, on the left side of the slide you’ll see “SAVAGE” (and the Savage logo) laser-etched, and on the right, “stance.” Even though it is not capitalized, the Stance name is much bolder than the Savage logo. Which I find interesting, stylistically. You’ll see markings on the frame as well—on the right side is SAVAGE, and the logo, above the trigger guard. On the left side, forward of the takedown lever, is SAVAGE ARMS, and in much smaller letters below that the place of manufacture, Westfield, MA USA.
Which brings me to the name. If they’d followed their own naming conventions for pistols, Savage would have named the Stance the 2021 after the year it was introduced. Which maybe wouldn’t have been so ideal, but “Stance” sounds like the people at Savage were trading phone calls with the folks at Springfield Armory (Saint, Garrison, Hellion…). With a pistol in hand, you can take a stand, so at least this name I understand, unlike the (admittedly hugely successful) Saint.
The base model sights are excellent. The front sight has a big orange dot, and the rear sight has two white dots to either side of a U-shaped notch. But they are steel, not polymer unlike some competing designs. And the no-snag rear sight is actually designed the right way. Wayne Novak’s iconic angled rear sight is famous, but when it comes to reducing the chances of snagging your rear sight on clothing, the Novak’s angle is completely backwards. What is most likely to catch on your clothing during the draw? The back of the rear sight. On the Stance, the rear of the rear sight is protected by curving wings, which come backward, making it as snag-free as possible. Think of it as a reverse Novak. What impresses me is that attention to detail on a small carry gun.
My sample was equipped with the factory night sights, which come from TruGlo. Both the front and rear sights have tritium inserts that are surrounded by rings. The rear sight has white rings around the tritium, and the front sight has a pale green ring around the green tritium insert. The end result are large dots that are easy to see day or night. The Stance is advertised as having fully ambidextrous controls. Which is wrong, technically it has fully bilateral controls, but you don’t care about my pet peeves as a writer. That’s a me problem, not a you problem, right? Either way, it means that on either side of the pistol you’ll see both a slide release and a magazine release. The slide release is small and barely protrudes past the frame/slide, so you might be better served just working the slide itself to chamber a round off a fresh magazine. The magazine release is steel and teardrop-shaped, with fine checkering.
With the manual safety models, the manual safety is at the rear of the frame, on either side, a lever similar to the slide release but even smaller. It protrudes further from the frame than the slide release, but it’s still darn small. But if you don’t feel safe unless your pistol has a manual safety that you can engage, Savage gives you that option. The safety goes up for Safe, and down for Fire, and the slide can be worked with the safety engaged. A bit unusual for a pistol this size, the Stance has interchangeable backstraps. You get two with the gun, an arched and a flat one, with the arched installed at the factory. There is a distinct difference in feel, and if you’ve got small hands the flat backstrap may be for you. They are held in place by a simple roll pin.
Both the backstraps and the frame of the gun are textured very aggressively. It is the result of modern injection molding, which has really improved in the last few years. Ten years ago, the only way to get texturing this aggressive on plastic was hand stippling. As my fiancée said upon seeing the Stance’s grip for the first time, “Ooh, that looks really grippy. It looks like it hurts.” No, it doesn’t hurt. Against the bare skin of your belly or love handles this texturing might be a little rough, but in the hand it’s perfect, and will do the work keeping the pistol from moving in your hand while shooting. Subcompact 9mms jump.
On the right side of the frame, above the trigger guard, you will see a textured rectangle. This is ostensibly for the thumb of your support hand while shooting—if you’re a lefty. If you’re right-handed, however, check out the takedown lever. It is on the left side of the frame, right where your support-hand thumb should rest when using a proper two-hand hold. And the engineers at Savage both serrated and angled it out at the bottom, to provide traction to your thumb. This is excellent attention to detail. The trigger itself is blackened aluminum, which is unusual—most triggers these days, on pistols like this, are polymer. It has a smooth, slightly rounded face and a curved body. The trigger is noticeably wide and feels good under the finger. There is a polymer overtravel stop built into the frame behind it.
For a small, defensive pistol meant to be used at conversational distances, the trigger pull on the Stance is serviceable, but nothing special. My contact at Savage told me that the average trigger pull on the Stance is seven pounds, and that’s exactly what my sample measured, with the typical crunchy/crisp break found in most striker-fired trigger systems. If you look close, you’ll see the serial number etched onto metal just behind the slide release on the left side. When you disassemble the pistol, you’ll see that metal is part of a somewhat beefy internal stainless steel chassis. The chassis is not designed to be user removable. In their owner’s manual Savage makes a point of telling owners that they don’t have to pull the trigger to disassemble the Stance—just lock the slide back on an unloaded gun with no magazine, rotate the takedown lever down, release the slide stop, and the slide assembly glides off the front of the gun. Assembly is in reverse and just as easy.
Inside, you’ll see there is a dual recoil spring assembly. Small 9mms have lots of advantages, but there’s no such thing as a free lunch. Being somewhat small and light, while being chambered in a full-power cartridge, they have a lot of recoil. Small 9mms like this often have strong recoil springs to counteract the power of the 9mm cartridge, and that’s exactly what you get with the Stance. If you’ve got weak hands or compromised grip strength, this probably isn’t the pistol for you.
As for the size of the grip, with the extended magazine in place, unless you’ve got giant paws you should be able to get all your fingers on the gun. I wear size medium gloves usually, and have slender fingers, so with the flush magazine in place I could get all my fingers on the gun…although half my pinkie was hanging off the bottom of the gun. Small guns are always exercises in compromise—guns that are easy to carry concealed are often hard to shoot, and vice versa. Which is why the aggressive texturing, and a longer magazine with a grip extension, are great features, they help you shoot this subcompact like a bigger pistol.
And on that note, right as I was finishing up this article, Savage announced they would be introducing extended 10-round magazines for the Stance. While maybe you wouldn’t carry the gun with such a long magazine in place, it would work great for a reload. And you should always carry a spare magazine on you. I mentioned a laser model. That version comes from the factory equipped with a Viridian E-Series red laser installed, with the standard iron sights atop the slide. This laser unit encloses the front of the trigger guard. Viridian’s E-Series are compact lasers meant for everyday carry guns. There is an on/off button on either side of the unit, easily worked with the tip of your trigger finger or the thumb of your support hand. It features six hours of battery life, as well as (importantly) an auto shut-off feature.
At the range, the Stance was a bit snappy, as all subcompact pistols are. But it was easy to put acceptable groups on target, due to the prominent sights. I did speed drills out to fifteen yards, but truthfully, due to the short sight radius and the heavier than average trigger pull (mostly the trigger pull), my groups started to grow past ten yards. Still, the Stance was more than capable of running a plate rack at ten yards at a brisk pace and chewing the center out of an IDPA silhouette. According to FBI stats, the “rough average” of defensive shooting situations is the Rule of 3—three shots, in three seconds, at three yards. Just about any pistol can handle that, but can you handle it with your pistol, while (hopefully) moving and getting shot at? Prominent sights (as seen on the Stance) and enough on-board capacity to solve the problem (because misses happen, and sometimes there’s more than one bad guy) increase your odds.
And that’s actually a good drill for new shooters. Starting from the low ready (and then from the holster when you’re ready for it), practice firing three rounds at a target three yards away in three seconds. Once you can put them into a group the size of your fist, add moving while shooting. This is known as “getting off the X.” Practice moving left, right, and backwards, although lateral movement (to the side) is always best. But make sure you practice at distance, too. With a subcompact pistol, regularly out to 15 yards, but you should also shoot out to 25 yards.
Dave Spaulding, award-winning tactical trainer from Handgun Combatives, has a simple criterion for evaluating the utility a carry gun. Not only is it simple, but it’s also realistic, personalized to you, and in the form of a question: “If you’re at the movies, and the guy at the end of the row stands up and starts shooting, can you handle that problem with the gun you’re carrying?” This is genius, because not only does it address the capabilities of your carry gun (accuracy, power, capacity), but your ability with it. For most people, if they were armed with the Stance, their answer would be a resounding “Yes.” Savage hasn’t been in the handgun market for a long time, but they are a recognized name in the industry, having been around for 125 years, and are what I would consider a “Tier 1” firearms manufacturer. Their recent products, like the Stance, have shown surprising refinement.
The Savage Stance is priced competitively. The models with standard sights, no matter the frame color, are $479. If you want night sights, no matter the color the pistol has an MSRP of $548. If you want the version equipped with the Viridian red laser, that’ll be $560, and you can get it in any color you want as long as it’s black. Honestly, at that price, and those sights, I think the base model might be the best deal. The pistol also comes with a very nice lockable hard case. I like the performance of the Stance, but I also like the fact that it gives consumers one more quality choice in what I feel is the golden age of carry guns. Check it out.
Savage Stance Specs
- Type: Striker-fired, semi-automatic
- Caliber: 9mm
- Capacity: 11+1, 13+1 rds.
- Barrel: 3.2 in., stainless steel
- Overall Length: 6.2 in.
- Overall Height: 4.6 in.
- Width: .96 in.
- Frame: Black polymer
- Slide: Stainless Steel
- Finish: Black Nitride
- Safeties: Trigger, internal drop, manual (optional)
- Sights: TruGlo day/night sights (tested)
- Trigger Pull: 7 lbs. (Tested)
- Weight: 22.2 oz.
- MSRP: $548 (base model $749)
- Contact: Savage Arms
About the Author
James Tarr is a longtime contributor to Firearms News and other firearms publications. A former police officer he is a USPSA Production Division Grand Master. He is also the author of several books, including CARNIVORE, which was featured on The O’Reilly Factor. His current best-selling novel, Dogsoldiers, is available now through Amazon.
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