Merkel 203E 20Ga. O/U German: ***NO RESERVE ***This model has true Holland & Holland style side lock with cocking indicators. These sideplates are removable with cranked screw. 20ga. 2 3/4″ chambers, Ejectors, articulated trigger, Silver grayed receiver with English style larg scroll engraving, 98% original finish, Perfect mechanics, Been fitted with Briley thin tube choke tubes. Has 26 3/4″ barrels, 14 3/4″ LOP, 2 1/2″ DAH, 1 3/4″ DAC, Right hand cast.Gun weighs 6 lbs. 12 oz. A very nice shot gun in high condition.
There were lots of nice American shotguns there, too, and I spent a while looking over the 20 gauge Parker and the 12 gauge Lefever shown below. Both guns impressed me with their crisp, original condition. Wanting to know about them, I looked them up in the auction catalog and I was shocked to see how thin the barrel walls were on both side-by-sides.
Afterwards, I went back to both guns and took a long look at the barrels. After a lot of close looking, I couldn’t find any signs of repairs to the barrels. They had to be original. That means the barrels left the factory with those thin spots.
Most of the vintage .401s side-by-sides I see on the used market are small guns with tiny proportions – short stocks, stubby barrels, etc.
This Francotte caught my eye because it looks like it was made with full-grown person in mind. With 28″ bbls and a 14 3/4″ stock, it’s a pint sized double barrel that would fit most of us. The price looks pretty fair, too (and check out the wood).
Sixteen gauge A.H. Fox Sterlingworth double barrel shotguns are not hard to find — unless you’re looking for one with 30″ barrels AND ejectors. I’m not sure how many Fox made in this configuration, but the number has to be darn small. That makes this one coming up to auction at the end of June is a pretty rare side by side.
Even though the buttstock looks messed up, the rest of the gun appears original and sound. If you’re looking to restock a Fox to fit you, or for a platform to build a totally custom gun, this one could be a great starting point. According to the auctioneer, the gun is tight and the action, blueing, and metal work is all original. They also told me that there are no dents, dings, or bulges in the barrels (just some corrosion that should clean up).
Fox Sterlingworths have been the “gateway” double barrels for a lot of guys, including me. My first side-by-side was a 12 gauge Sterlingworth and many wild South Dakota pheasants fell to that shotgun.
If you’re looking for something more of an entry-level grouse gun, this 20 gauge Sterlingworth looks like it may go for a decent price.
It looks be in very nice, original condition. Of all the Sterlingworth, A.H. Fox made the fewest in 20 gauge and the ones with the long tubes are even rarer. So this one’s 28″ barrels make it an even better find.
Hurry, though. This NO RESERVE auction end on June 17, 2012 12:00:00 PT.
It’s a 16g gauge with double triggers and ejectors. It looks like it was made on the proven Anson & Deeley patent action. I would guess that this gun was made in Belgium for Guyot, and if I had to bet I would say that Francotte was behind it (check out this Francotte Knock About to see what I mean).
Finish wise, it looks nearly new and all original. If it is all that, $1995 is a reasonable price. Where else can you buy that much quality, and that much condition, for that kind of money?
Parkers double barrel shotguns are probably the most popular, and most collectible, of the vintage America side by sides. Here’s a good look at one of the earliest Parker designs – the Under Lifter hammergun. I handled a number of under-lifter Parkers. They’re surprisingly easy to open/close.
Otto Bock was some kind of sporting-good supplier based in Berlin during the late 19th & early 20th century. This double-barrel shotgun for sale on Gunsinternationl.com bears his name, even though I’m pretty sure he didn’t actually make it himself. Whatever the gun’s story is, it’s a hell of a nice side by side in awesome original condition.
A lot of the gun looks British. To see what I mean, compare the action, lockplates and fences to this and this pic of an A.A. Brown. It does have some stout Teutonic overtones like the horn inlaid drop points, the broad trigger blades, and the muscular bead work and scultping ahead of the squat toplever.
Here a few good looking guns that have caught my eye lately:
Ithaca/SKB 280E, 12g, 28″ – this is a nice looking, well made boxlock with ejectors and shootable dimensions. These guns are solid, reliable, and the single trigger always makes the gun go bang. Perfect for ducks or pheasants.
12g Purdey – Even though Purdey has made 30,000+ guns, finding a good one at a fair price can be tough. This Purdey looks like it may fit the bill, though. If the new barrels were really added by Purdey (I would drop them an email and check with them), the price is in the ballpark. The wood looks freshened, but not messed up. Nice looking leather pad , too.
The 2 7/8″ 10 gauge is a load lost to time. Back in the late 19th century, it was the most popular load in this country and lots of American double barrel shotguns were made to shoot it. But as powders improved and shooting styles changes, more and more hunters swapped their 10s for 12s.
By the beginning of the 20th century, the 10g was pretty much obsolete. While a few were still made, it was a vanishing species. It would be revived a bit when 8 gauge shotguns were banned by the Feds and Ithaca introduced its 3 1/2″, 10g to fill the gap, but it would never reign supreme again.
Here’s a 10g L.C. Smith made towards the end of this gauge’s popularity. It’s a beautiful gun, and rare in a Gr. 3. The Gr. 3s were medium quality Smiths and the company made just 3,790 of them.
Post-1913 L.C. Smiths Field grades are the Rodney Dangerfields of the double barrel shotgun world. They get no respect. The disdain many people have for these guns isn’t fair, though. Many of them are nice hunting guns, and even though some of them have problems with cracking behind the lockplates, many of them are fine. If you’re looking for a quality side-by-side to take out hunting, they can be a great choice.
Case in point: This 16g L.C. Smith Field. It’s a Featherweight model with 28″ barrels and 2 5/8″ of drop at the heel. Coming it as just over 6 1/2 lbs., it’s a fantastic grouse gun.
Work! It really gets in the way. If I didn’t need the money, I wouldn’t go. It’s been a busy couple of weeks at the office, so I’ve had little time for being here (or in the field). BUT tomorrow is October 1 — the best time of the year –and I’ll be out bright and early, gun in hand, head full of hopes.
The weather is supposed to be wet, so it looks like ducks in the AM and maybe some grouse later on. I’ll be carrying a 12g Fox HE for the ducks and I’m anxious to see how I do. I’ve never hunted waterfowland I’m psyched to see it happen. My girl HATES rain, so we’ll see how things go on grouse.
There are two big auctions coming up. James Julia and Poulin’s Antiques, right to each other in Fairfield, ME, are having their annual fall firearms auctions. Poulin’s is on Saturday and Julia’s starts on Monday. Here are some highlights:
A W.W. Greener with a straight grip and a top safety is one of the double-barrel shotguns on my current want list. Nice Greeners are pretty easy to find. Greener made tons of guns, and many of them were imported into the US. Right now, there are at least a half dozen nice ones on the market, including these this one and this one.
But almost all of Greener’s guns have side safeties. I HATE side safeties. They’re ugly and difficult to use, and I think they were more gimmick than innovation. Fortunately, down through the years many people have agreed with me. They ordered Greeners with top safeties and a few of these double-barrel shotguns hit the market each year.
W. W. GREENER: A 12-BORE ‘GRADE FH50’ FACILE PRINCEPS EJECTOR. 28in. nitro barrels, rib engraved ‘W. W. GREENER. MAKER. 40 PALL MALL. LONDON. S.W. WORKS. ST. MARY’S SQUARE. BIRMINGHAM’, 2 1/2in. chambers, bored approx. 1/4 and 3/4 choke, treble-grip action with slim side bolsters, top tang automatic safety with gold-inlaid ‘SAFE’ detail, fine acanthus scroll engraving, retaining some original colour-hardening and finish, 14 3/4in. well-figured stock including 1 1/8in. rubber recoil pad, weight 6lb. 7oz., in its lightweight green velvet-lined leather case with gold-tooled label and with large Greener oil bottle. Estimate £2,500-3,500
So far, so good. From what I could see, the gun looked nice: Twenty-eight inch barrels, nice long stock, decent weight, nitro proofed and in proof, in its original case. As I read all this, I was pretty sure my want list was going to get shorter. But buying out of the UK is a pain in the ass, especially at an auction, and I wanted to 175% sure that this Greener was worth the extra $$ and effort it would take to get it.
So I sent off these questions to the auctioneer:
-How original is this gun?
-What are the bore measurements?
-Are the barrels their original length?
-What are the barrel wall measurements?
-Are there any dents, ding, or bulges in the barrels?
-Is there any pitting in the barrels?
-Any rivelling in the bbls or other problems?
-Are there any repairs to the barrels?
-Are the barrels tight and on the face?
-Have the bbls been reblacked?
-Has anything on the gun been refinished, reblacked, recolored or reblued?
-Are there any cracks, splits, or repairs in the wood?
-Do all the serial #s match – action, triggerguard, forend, bbls?
-Does everything work properly – triggers, ejectors, top lever, safety, forend release, hammers, cocking, etc?
-Does it have a long triggerguard (like a straight-gripped gun should)?
I know it’s a lot, but I’ve learned to ask too many questions. This helps prevent surprises and expensive mistakes. Here are the answers I received back (I bolded the problem areas):
-The gun all appears to be original, possible later recoil pad
-The bore measurements are .735+ .735+ 23 21+
-The barrels appear to be the original length
-Some minor scratches to the bores, slight signs of minor rivelling
-The gun does not appear to have been refinished
-No visible cracks to the woodwork
-All matching serial numbers
-All mechanisms appear to function correctly with the use of snap-caps
-The triggerguard is long, as it should be.
It’s interesting to see what the auctioneer did and didn’t say. I’m not sure what to make of discrepancies like his failure to mention if there are any dents, dings, or bulges in the barrels, or to tell me if the gun is tight and on the face.
I do know that this dream gun turns out to have mediocre barrels. Judging by so-so walls. enlarged bores and rivelling, I would say someone honed the tubes a bit. That’s sucks, and it makes the gun a pass for me.
Here’s something you don’t see every day: Two W. & C. Scott Premier shotguns, both circa 1891. Premiers were Scott’s standard top of the line shotgun and in their day they were as expensive as a Purdey or Boss.
What makes these two even more interesting is their prices: the more original one is barely more expensive than the messed with one. I think both prices are too high, one by $5000, the other by $8000. Take a look and decide for yourself.
Belgium used to be the world’s gunmaker. Up until World War II, tens of housands of people worked around Liege turned out everything from military rifles and cheap pistols to the very finest sporting arms.
One “gunmaker” doing this type of work was H. Mahillon. I say “gunmaker” because I’m not sure how much making they really did. Like a lot of shops in Belgium, I bet they just put their name on most of the guns they sold. After all, buying ready-made shotguns from the trade and then finishing them off was lot cheaper than employing a full-time team of craftsman.
But hat doesn’t mean that the guns produced by this system weren’t nice. Many of the ones I’ve seen have been very well made and some of them have been finished to a very fine standard. This 20 gauge, sideplated boxlock, is a good example of what I mean.
BTW: who says you have to spend a fortune to own a real nice double? Side-by-sides like this one are incredibly under valued. This one sold for $2750 – less than a decent A.H. Fox 20g A grade. And it’s a hell of a lot more gun, with dimensions that would actually fit you.
The Model 103A is a traditional game gun with Purdey style Rose & Scroll engraving that is completely done by hand. The action also has the traditional shaping improvements of a higher quality gun with beaded fences and sculpturing. The 103A also has an improved quality of wood and checkering.. New, these gun are about $18,000 a piece. Of course, I get they give Juan Carlos a deal.
When it comes to collecting vintage shotgun, there are three things I focus on: condition, condition, & condition. Take a look at the hammer prices in an auction catalog and you’ll see why: original condition holds its value and sells, and I want to buy side-by-side shotguns that are going to be worth more in the future, not less.
With this in mind, here are a couple guns that really caught my eye last weekend at the Southern Side by Side. Both of these double barrel shotguns– a Charles Lancaster and a Stephen Grant–are awfully original (the buttstock on the Lancaster had been cut and the bbls on the Grant were rebrowned). But considering that both gun were made in the 1870s and the amount of original color, blueing, and wood finish they had, I still wanted both guns.
The Charles Lancaster is a very odd gun: a 16g with a sidelever. Charles Lancaster was actually Charles William Lancaster. His father had the same name and both of them were barrel men and gunmakers of the first order. Charles Lancaster, Sr., founded this firm of gun makers in 1826. He was located at 151 New Bond Street, London. His eldest son, Charles William Lancaster, joined him in about 1845. Both of them were well known for turning out fantastic guns and they were famous throughout England as barrel makers of the first order.
If there was one gun at the Southern that just stunk of class, the Stephen Grant was it. It is a quintessential British hammergun. This gun was made in 1877 and it has all the classic Grant features: including a sidelever and the Grant & Hodge’s Patent action. The gun also had toe and heel plates. It was fantastic.
I just got back from the 2011 Southern Side by Side spring gathering. This event takes place outside of Sanford, NC, and it was a great time–good people, great weather, and lots of fantastic guns. Below is my grand photo gallery from the event. Sit back and enjoy.
Of all the guns A.H. Fox made the Sterlingworth Skeet and Upland Game is one of the hardest to find. For collectors, finding a Skeet & Upland Game double barrel shotgun is quite a discovery.
Well, one in 20 gauge is coming up to auction tomorrow, 4/2, at Wright’s Auction in Newport, VT. I don’t know much about the gun, but it looks solid and clean. All the pics I have of the gun are below. I’m not sure how original the gun is, though. It’s hard to tell from the pics, but the blueing looks too good and the wood awfully clean. The same auction also has a 20 gauge RBL and some Winchesters.
Introduced in 1935, the Skeet & Upland Game was basically a lightweight, straight-gripped version of the regular Sterlingworth. It was offered in 12g, 16g, and 20, and all gauges had open choked, 26″ barrels. The guns also had pretty high stock dimensions, which makes them especially nice for shooters (unlike most Sterlingworths).
If you like Winchsester M21, be sure to check out the upcoming sale at South Bay Auction in East Moriches, L.I., NY. They have Winchester M21 Skeet gun in20 gauge coming up on Saturday, April 9th. There are also some nice decoys there, all well as some nice antiques and sporting art.
More pics of the A.H. Fox Sterlingworth Skeet & Upland Game:
–Alderfer Auctions in Hatfield, PA, has some good double barrels in it’s March 22nd sale. There are handful of American side-by-sides, including some Parkers, some Foxes, some Bakers, and a few more. Here’s a searchable catalog where you can see everything and even bid.
–Amoskeag Auction Company in Manchester, New Hampshire, has ton of Lefevers in their March 26 sales. By ton I mean more than 40. There’s a little bit of everything, from hammerless stuff to real rare, real earlier guns like Barber-Lefevers and percussion conversions. The guns are all on line at Amoskeag’s site. Unfortunately, the site is a bit of a pain in the A to use and you can’t bring up all the Lefevers at once. So to save the hassle of having to click and scroll through all 26 pages, I’ve pulled out all the Lefevers for you. Is that nice, or what?
Hang around gunshops and auctions for a while and there’s a word you’re bound to here: Investment, as in this gun is a great investment. Whenever you hear it, be wary. A 12 gauge Krider double barrel percussion shotgun that has been a market recently is a good example of why.
John Krider was an American sporting goods maker with a shop in Philadelphia. He turned out everything from fly rods and fishing reels to top-quality shotguns and rifles. This 12 gauge Krider came on the market in March of 2008 at James Julia Auctions. As you can see, cased and in fantastic original condition, it’s almost brand new — pretty impressive for a gun that was probably made in the the 1850s. Julia’s estimate on it was $8,000-$12,000. When the hammer dropped and all the bills were paid, it cost the buyer $18,400.
Jump forward two years, head over to Amoskeag Auctions, and here is the same gun shows up again, back on the market.Check out the description — “Investment Quality.” This time, the estimate is $10,000 – $15,000 and the gun sells for $12, 075. So the seller lost $6,025 — 34% — in 2 years.