Here’s a hard-to-find vintage American double in fantastic original condition. It’s a 20 gauge L.C. Smith Trap Grade, and it’s up for auction now at Gunrunnerauctions.com. If you collect Elsies, bid now. I doubt you’ll see a better one of these any time soon.
According to the L.C. Smith website, Hunter Arms Co. made 3346 Trap-grade sxs shotguns. Of those, 348 were 20 gauges. The site also says:
“Production of the Trap Grade began in 1912 and ran to 1940. The 1913 catalog stated “In the production of this grade particular attention has been paid to meet the requirements of sportsmen who are desirous of a gun for trap shooting, as well as for field, with all of the latest attachments – Hunter One-Trigger and Automatic Ejector especially – and at a very low price. Each lock-plate is engraved with a trap shooting scene consisting of a trap house and a squad of five shooters at the score. We can confidently recommend this grade as entirely satisfactory, especially for the purpose the name implies. With our special system of boring, no better guns are made for trap than the L.C. Smith Double Gun with Hunter One-Trigger.” The price with two triggers in 1913 was $55, and a Hunter One-Trigger brought the price up to $75. Ejectors added $11 to the price, and $86 would buy the gun with both ejectors and the Hunter One-Trigger. The base price of this grade increased to $77 by the time that it was discontinued in 1940. ”
L.C. Smith Trap Grade, 20 ga. side by side shotgun 26″ & 28″ bbls: Serial #8013, mfg. 1916 by Hunter Arms Co., Fulton, NY. Excellent condition. The rare “Trap Grade” in 20 ga. AND two-barrel set – all matching serial numbers on all iron. Grade E with scroll engraved receiver – left panel has a trapshooting squad of five men and a trap; right panel has a lone hunter shooting at a flushing bird. Case color is mostly gone on the receiver, but about 15% is in protected areas. Good tight action. Two barrels included: One 26″ barrel with solid rib, two ivory beads, bright bore, beavertail forearm; and one 28″solid rib barrel with two ivory beads, bright bores, splinter forearm. The 26″ barrel has 98% bright blue and the 28″ barrel has 90% blue with some wear near the muzzles. Wood is fancy with excellent dark burl and sharp checkering – appears to be have been refinished when the red Jostam recoil pad was fitted. Hunter One single trigger works well. Ejectors are strong and throw hulls across the room. LOP is 14″ over pad. Both barrels are marked “L.C. Smith Trap Grade” – 28″ barrel is also marked “Hunter Arms Co. Inc., Fulton, NY, USA” on top. Includes Cody factory letter stating the Grade E and Trap model and noting the 26″ barrel. The shotgun was finished on June 30, 1916. The second barrel was made in the factory, but it is correct to not see that noted in a factory letter.
Every gun nut has THE shotgun they’re trying to find. For a friend of mine, it’s 2o gauge Lindner-made Charles Daly with damascus barrels. Another guy I know is searching everywhere for an all original, color-case hardened Belgian-made 20g sidelock with 28″+ tubes.
My holy-grail used to be a 16 gauge L.C. Smith No.2 with a straight grip and double triggers. I spent years trying to track one down. When you look at the gunmaker’s production numbers, it’s easy to see why.
According to the L.C. Smith Collector’s Association, the folks in Fulton made just seven-hundred and ninety-three 16-gauge No. 2s. I bet at least 90% of these had pistol grips, and that’s why one with this configuration are easy hard to find (I’ve owned at least 3).
But swap in a straight grip, ask for double triggers, and now you’ve got a tough gun to track down. L.C. Smith probably set up fewer than thirty 16g No. 2s like this, and I’ve spent a decade looking for one.
In the past few month — bang! — two of them have popped up on the market. When I found the first one, I shocked by the condition – 90%+ all original – and stunned by the price – $8,0000. This one has less of that condition, but the price is still steep. Of course, it may be the last one you every see:
16 gauge L.C. Smith 2E with an original straight grip and double triggers: Nice, original condition LC Smith 16 GA, grade 2E. 28″ barrels choked .021 modified right and .032 left. Both bores are .661. Barrels retain 75-80% original blue. Engraving is sharp and clear, original case color remains at 50% or so. Straight hand stock with splinter fore-end. Checkering is sharp and un-damaged. Butt stock has an extension added that is so good that is hard to see.(see photos). LOP is 14 7/8″ to a 1/2″ pad. DAC 1 5/8, DAH 2 3/4, Cast is neutral. Mechanically perfect, this one is ready for some action in the field or on the range. Price: $5,495.00
L.C. Smith shotguns get bad raps. Cracked stocks – that’s the most common criticism you’ll here about them. Finicky single triggers – that’s the other complaint people bring up all the time. While there’s some truth to these charges, the really only apply the post-1913 LCs.
In the 1900 Hunter Arms / L.C. Smith catalog, the makers claimed that the No. 3 Grade’s “…Nitro Steel barrels is considered by many to be the finest medium-grade on the market,” and that “This grade always pleases as in it we give so much of value.” I don’t know about the Nitro Steel, but their statement about value is right on. Here’s the rest of the story on the one you see here:
LC SMITH GRADE 3 12 GAUGE EJECTOR GUN: FINE ORIGINAL CONDITION. 30″ FLUID STEEL BARRELS ARE CHOKED IMP MOD AND IMP MOD. 2 3/4″ CHAMBERS WITH EXCELLENT BRIGHT BORES. AUTOMATIC EJECTORS. SINGLE SELECTIVE TRIGGER. PISTOL GRIP STOCK. 14 1/8″ LENGTH OF PULL. WEIGHS 7 3/4POUNDS. SERIAL #208XXX. VERY NICE HIGH GRADE SMITH. INCLUDED IS ORIGINAL LEG O MUTTON CASE IN GOOD CONDITION. SHIP TO FFL OR C&R. Price: $2,295.00
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.