Eight-gauge shotguns like these were popular with well-off waterfowl hunters, especially ones who hunted at the sporting clubs that dotted shorelines of Chesapeake Bay. These sportsman used their 8-gauges to pass-shoot ducks, geese, and swans at long ranges. Judging by the condition of this Greener, it doesn’t look like it was used much for this kind of — or any kind of — shooting.
BTW: 8-gauges like these are not “market guns” or “punt guns”. They cost a lot of money in their day — far more than a market hunter could afford to spend on a firearm.
Charles Sneider is a name few people think of when they think of American shotgun makers. And for good reason.
Even though he was talented and inventive, Sneider’s business was tiny. Over the course of his career, he may have built 500 guns — and that’s probably a big stretch. Compare that to Parker Bros., who built 225,000+ shotguns while they around.
But the guns Sneider did build were highly regarded, especially by waterfowlers on the Chesapeake Bay. Sneider’s business was in Baltimore and he could smell the bay from his shop. Side-by-sides like the 8-gauge you see here didn’t have to go very far from his bench to get into some shooting.
Sneider started in the gun business as a ‘smith and moved on to converting muzzleloaders to breechloaders and then to building hammer guns. He got into hammerless-shotguns around 1879-1880 with his own, patented design. The gun you see here is built on that design. It’s a $300-grade, 8-gauge Sneider — the company’s top-of-the-line shotgun, and it appears to be in solid original condition.
In a time when earning $15 a week was killing it, three-hundred dollars was a lot of money to pay for a shotgun. So this SxS was certainly someone’s prized possession, and it looks like they took care of it.
Sneider’s design for his hammerless gun incorporated several interesting features, including a sliding locking bolt on the face of the action and a safety positioned on the top edge of the toplever. The locking bolt was a clever solution to a common problem. It stopped the barrels from opening too far and wearing on the hinge pin (which causes a gun to go “off the face”).
BTW: SxS 8-gauges like this are sometimes called “market guns”. They aren’t and they never were. Market guns were used by commercial waterfowlers, and guys in that business had better things to spend $300 than a gun.
I’ve always been fascinated by 8 gauges. Back in the 19th and in the early 20th century, high-quality eights like the one you see here were used by sportsman to pass shoot ducks, geese & swans. Parker, L.C. Smith & Lefever all made eights. So did smaller American makers like Sneider.
This 8g Sneider was made in the 1880s. When this SxS was built, it was one of the finest hammerless shotguns being made in America — and one of the most innovative.
Charles Edward Sneider learned his trade in Europe and by 1859 he was in Baltimore working for Thomas Poultney & David B. Trimble. By 1865, Sneider was on his own, working in Baltimore from a shop on 66 S Sharp St. In 1874 his sons — Charles Lewis & Charles William — were working with him. Charles William filed the patent that created this shotgun in 1880.
This patent cocked on the fall of the barrels and the locks used coiled springs, which were thought to be more reliable than leaf springs. Sneider built several grades of shotguns on this patent. The upper grades (like the one shown here), locked up with a sliding bolt which engaged a bite in the rear barrel lump and top extension. They also featured compensating hinge pin which could be adjusted for wear and a unique sliding barrel stop which kept the barrels from wearing on the hinge pin when the gun was opened.
This Sneider is on Gunbroker.com now and the auction ends 6/26/2016 9:00 PM.
Sneider Highgrade 8 GA. SxS: barrel rib marked “Sneider’s Patent Baltimore MD” Sneider was America’s first true sidelock shotgun. 36″ fine damascus barrels. Nice shinny bore with very small area of light pitting. No dings dents or bulges in barrels. Gun locks up tight and solid. Receiver and trigger guard are beautifully engraved. Dog head on trigger guard. Marsh scene with water foul on side plates. Gun is serial numbered 610 on trigger guard and water table. Small chip at toe of butt plate only – not wood. Chip at end of right side of forearm. Weight 13lbs 14.1 oz. LOP 13 5/8″ & 12 5/8″. DAC 2 1/4″. DAH 3 5/8″
Pound for pound, here’s one of the best shotgun deals you’ll find anywhere. This massive 8g Lancaster double barrel weighs an arm-aching 13 lbs. 12 oz. It’s priced at $11,500 — or about $52.27 an ounce. It has 3 1/4″ chambers and it’s nitro-proofed to push a lot of shot: 2 1/4 ounces.
Eight gauges like this weren’t “market guns”. They were far too expensive for most people to afford, and the richy-riches who bought them used to pass shoot ducks, geese, and swans. In the 19th century, they were popular with hunters in the UK up and down the Eastern Seaboard, but in the 20th century the US Federal Government foolishly outlawed their use on all migratory species.
Today, some states allow you to use on turkeys and other game species while others have outlawed them completely for hunting. You may be able to use them on waterfowl in Canada, and in the UK guys still lug them out to the marshes and flyways.
LANCASTER 8 BORE UNDERLEVER HAMMER LONDON NITRO PROVED- 13 Lbs. 12 Oz.- 36″ DAMASCUS NP Bbls.- 1882- TOTALLY ORIGINAL PIECE: #5156, Charles Lancaster, 151 New Bond St., London, Patent Breech Loader, Choke: A Massive Lancaster Jones Back Action Underlever 8 Bore Rebounding Hammer London Nitro Proved Smoothbore Made in 1882 with Barrels that are 3 Feet Long, .843 .043 & .043″ (Imp.Mod. & Imp.Mod.), 3 1/4″ chambers, Wall thickness on the right barrel at .054″ & .053 on the left, 36″ Damascus Steel London Nitro Proved barrels at 2 1/4 ounce, Rebounding Hammers, Hinged front trigger, Long top tang that goes nearly to the point of the comb, Splinter forend with a lever release forend, Straight hand stock at 14 x 1 5/8 x 2 1/4″ over the original 3/4″ Silvers pad, Cast-off for the right hand, True 8 Bore weight at 13 lbs. 12 oz., Very nice wood with very nice color and contrast, 10% of nice border engraving, The original barrel browning remains at 70%, Original case colors at 25%, The original wood finish is still at 80%, The checkering at 85%, The wood remains excellent and super sound in every respect.
The barrels are excellent inside and out without a pit to be had, The barrels ring with a very pronounced chime. It is cased in the original trunk with the original trade label. This is a very nice serious Big Bore piece that has London nitro proof barrels. It will take you shooting well into the 21st century. Here is the embodiment of 1882 Lancaster Quality; excellent bores, strong wood with nice figure, 8 bore weight, nitro proof barrels and it comes to the hand with ease even with this size and weight plus it balances very well. All these city-light gun writers that try to convince the shooting public that we all need shot barrels that are 3 feet long; here is there piece to grind clay targets into dust. We are working on a source for proper 8 bore loads that already have been used in this nitro proved piece that patterns well at 40 yards with either #5 or 6 shot. Fun stuff here. Price:$11,500
There are two types of side-by-side shotguns that always thrill guys: The small ones (28s & .410s) and the big ones–like the eight gauge Parker you see here.
Eight gauges use to be used to pass shoot ducks, geese, and swans, and in the 19th century they were popular with shooters hunting along the big flyways up and down the Eastern Seaboard. In the 20th century, they fell out of favor and were eventually outlawed by the Federal Government for use on all migratory species. Today, some states allow you to use on other game species (like turkeys), while others have completely outlawed their use for hunting. Oh well.
Of all the major American makers, Parker made the most 8s – around 246 in all. According to the book The Parker Story, the first one was #4360, a D-grade underlever made in 1870s, and the last one was #174065, a DH made around 1916 with 36″ barrels. Lefever made some 8s, too, and so did L.C. Smith, but in small numbers – Lefever may have turned out 40 or so (including this nice E grade) and L.C. Smith made around 35 (including this one).
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.
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.
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.
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.
In 1918, the US Federal Government made it illegal for anyone to use an eight gauge shotgun to hunt waterfowl and other federally-listed migratory game birds. Later, many states restricted hunting shotguns to 10 gauge and smaller.
Of course, these laws didn’t apply in Europe, and it’s still legal in many areas there to hunt ducks, geese, and other waterfowl with the really big bores.
This 8-gauge shotgun was made for that kind of shooting. Judging by the looks of it, it looks like wasn’t used much at all. Here are the specs on it:
Caliber: 8 Gauge.
Chambers: Side X Side.
Metal Condition: Strong blue and case color.
Wood Condition: Excellent with crazing and flaking in the finish.
Bore Condition: Bright and shiny.
Barrels: 39+” Blue Acier steel.
Stock: Mid grade walnut with a checkered pistol grip.
Fore End: Semi splinter checkered walnut.
Butt Pad: Red rubber vent butt pad.
Weight: 13 Lbs 12 Oz.