An rare 8 gauge by Alexander McComas…

Alexander McComas, Gunmaker, Case Label
Alexander McComas, Gunmaker, Case Label

The Chesapeake Bay used to be one of the greatest places in the world to hunt waterfowl. Massive flocks of ducks, geese, and swans used to settle on its waters every fall, and as the birds passed through, hunters were waiting. These hunters used all sorts of firearms, and the more prosperous ones used fancy 8 gauges like the toplever, breechloading Alexander McComas you see here.

8 gauge Alexander McComas Toplever Double Barrel Shotgun
8 gauge Alexander McComas Toplever Double Barrel Shotgun

Alexander McComas was born on February 27, 1821 and he opened a shop on July 1843, at 51 South Calvert Street, Baltimore, MD. His first firearms were percussion guns, especially big bores for the local waterfowlers. By the time the breechloading era took over in the 1860s, McComas was well known  up and down the eastern seaboard for his high quality firearms.

8 gauge Alexander McComas Toplever Double Barrel Shotgun
8 gauge Alexander McComas Toplever Double Barrel Shotgun

He was especially famous for his duck guns, and on these shotguns McComas preferred to use Jones-patent underlever actions. But as toplever actions started to appear in the 1870s, some shooters wanted them on their new duck guns. To meet this new market, McComas did what every smart business person does: He made what his customers wanted.

The toplever 8 gauge that you see here was probably “made” by Alexander McComas in the 1880s. I say “made” because I’m not sure how much of this shotgun was actually made in America. To my eye, a lot of this side-by-side looks German. I wonder if McComas ordered it complete from Europe, or sourced the barrels and action from the continent and then finished the shotgun in Maryland.

8 gauge Alexander McComas Toplever Double Barrel Shotgun
8 gauge Alexander McComas Toplever Double Barrel Shotgun

This kind of outsourcing was very popular in America at the time and a lot of the early side-by-side shotguns being “made” over here were actually built in England and throughout Europe.

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14 thoughts on “An rare 8 gauge by Alexander McComas…

  1. Hi Gregg; Seems like you forwarded some of the photos of my Alexander McComas…I recognized the backgtound and how NICE overall the shotgun is. I am not upset about the posting but I think it would have been nice to mention where the photos originated. Actually, I believe THIS specimen was made in USA as I have yet to find ANY European/British proofing marks. Also it does NOT have any serial number…absolutely NO OTHER markings other than what is visible on the sidelocks. I have been offered some serious money for this old timer…I believe its true value is around 7K +. I am undecided on its future. Cordially, Guy R. Mundale

  2. My great granddad carried an 8 gauge Greener in Texas during the early to late Civil War period as a defense weapon against the Indians he came in contact with. I have not been able to verify any information as to when this type of weapon was originally made and if it were a muzzle loader or breech loader. Do you know have any information on the subject?

  3. In response to Mr. Resley’s query, I am fond of researching. I have no concrete proof that Winchester/Colt etc.”won the West”..but my findings support the theory that shotguns absolutely were the most feared weapon no matter the geographic area one lives/lived in. They were the most reliable weapon for nourishment/home guard/offensive use…period. Any 8ga. is a most deadly feared weapon…but shotguns in general can be devastating…whether muzzle or breech loading. The shotgun has a history much longer than any rifled weapon. I do not have the diefinitve dates on them.G.R.M.

  4. George – thanks for the comment.

    An 8g Greener would be a formidable weapon, capable of killing a number of adversaries per shot.

    If I had to guess, I would guess he was using a muzzle-loading percussion shotgun. The breechloading, centerfire era begins around 1865 or so – right at the end of the American Civil War.

    It would surprise me if someone in Texas at that time would have trusted his life would a new technology, especially in a place where shells and reloading components would have been hard to find.

    A muzzleloading percussion shotgun was a simpler, more reliable device.

    If you were facing Comanches, that’s what you want.


  5. Dean…..Thanks for sending the article/comment & JeramiahJohnson info. I am amazed at the quality of the weapons featured. I just am curious as to the asking prices on thes 8ga/& larger punt & double barreled guns…I have no idea as to my Alex. McComas gun that is shown..?? I find it somewhat unusual as when I check the gun for ANY markings I find NONE…NO proofing/foreign markings…just the name as viewed on the sidelocks(plates). I view this as US manufacture. I welcome your opinion(s) and help in evaluating my Alexander McComas. I truly enjoy Dogs&Doubles. My Kindest Regards & Success….Guy R. Mundale

  6. Guy- Thanks very much, I really enjoy the history of these big bore shotguns. Are there ANY proof marks on the gun? Under the barrels? Usually a gun like this would have been made here in the US, but utilizing an imported English barrel and/or action. Still considered an “American” shotgun though. As for value, my big bores go everywhere from affordable to very expensive. It comes down to size, quality, and condition. Would like to see more pictures of yours to get a better idea. Is it cased?

  7. Dean….please note my new email address. I wll attempt to get you betterphotos of my McComas double. It is definitely a damascus gun.It is unrestored. I have shot it and it performs magnificently. Sofar the only markings I can locate is the McComas name as shown on the sideplates.Others have also viewed the gun with forearm/barrels/frame separated from one another……absolutely no markings..but fading casecolors. Later, Guy

  8. We are in a hotbed of McComas interest here in Maryland. I have a McComas eight gauge breechloader in high original condition. I have no idea what they sell for, but an eight like mine some a few years ago in the eights in Howard County at auction. A muzzleloader sole in Frederick County at auction for an unknown price. I left a low bid and did not get it. Your percussion gun looks to be in high condition.

  9. I have an 8 gauge made by Alexander McComas.It is in very good condition and is engraved Made for Jo Wilkins. I would like to find his family. Does anybody know if McComas record exist?

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