L.C. Smith Gun Company, Fulton, New York
to 1950 Grades
Hunter Arms Company was acquired by the Marlin Firearms Company of North Haven, Connecticut in 1945. They formed The L.C. Smith Gun Company to continue manufacturing shotguns. Although the numbers of options and grades were reduced, a total of 57,926 shotguns were produced between 1945 and 1950. On January 16, 1949 a section of the first floor of the four-floor factory in Fulton, New York collapsed causing major damage to the building and equipment. The decision was made to complete as many of the guns as possible without rebuilding the factory. The final gun was finished in 1950. In addition to the production figures listed with each grade, one Skeet Special was produced for a special order during this period. When the L.C. Smith Gun Company was formed, some guns were in the manufacturing process. These shotguns retained the already assigned Hunter Arms Company serial numbers. The rest were assigned the new serial number prefix FWS, and the series went from FWS1 to FWS56796. Production totals are included with the data from the 1913 to 1945 production period.
Information provided here was taken from L.C. Smith Shotguns by William Brophy (1977), L.C. Smith: The Legend Lives by John Houchins (2006), and from the 1948 L.C. Smith catalog. Frank Finch and Len Applegate are acknowledged for providing catalogs. Reflecting a decrease in the number of grades offered, the 1948 catalog is much shorter than earlier catalogs. The illustrations were not specially prepared for this catalog, but were taken from previous catalogs resulting in the presentation of different illustration styles. Reduced printing quality lessened the detail of the illustrations.
The Field Grade had been introduced in 1939. The 1948 catalog said "L.C. Smith has combined in its famous Field Grade Shotgun the major advantages of all types - Auto, Over and Under, Double, etc., plus exclusive L.C. Smith features which have made L.C. Smith guns renowned the world over. One of the most important improvements in gun making is now standard equipment for the Improved Field Grade, at no additional cost . . . the Single Sighting Plane. Improved Cocking Mechanism for smoother, easier opening action. Extra strength in stock through use of well seasoned walnut." Optional features were a selective single trigger, recoil pad, automatic ejectors, and ivory sights. It was available in 12, 16, and 20 gauge with 2 ¾-inch chambers and .410 "caliber" with 3-inch chambers. Barrel lengths were 26, 28, and 30 inches, and the 30-inch length was available only in 12 gauge. Chokes in the 28 and 30 inch barrels were modified (right) and full (left). Chokes in the 26 inch barrels were improved cylinder (right) and modified (left). Usually, the top of the right barrel was roll-stamped "L C SMITH - Field - FULTON NY USA" Sometimes, the address was not given. In some cases, especially for gauges other than 12, the gauge was listed before the name of the grade. There was no engraving on the gun. The lock plates were stamped "L.C. SMITH". The L.C. Smith Gun Company produced 53,155 Field Grade shotguns.
The catalog copy for the Ideal Grade said "Sportsmen who want a real custom-built gun without the additional expense that is usually involved will find the Ideal Grade just the gun they have been looking for. Now equipped with a new Semi-Beavertail Forend as standard equipment at No Extra Charge. Expertly engraved with an oak leaf design, fitted with London Steel Barrels for accurate shooting and endurance. Selected first-class walnut stock and forend. Hand-checkered. Single Sighting Plane Rib . . . centered between barrels provides clean sighting plane from breech to muzzle. Improved Cocking Mechanism . . . insures smoother, easier opening action. Rotary Bolt . . . famous L.C. Smith rotary bolt prevents gun from shooting loose." The semi-beavertail was not an option early in production. The extra features (automatic ejectors, selective trigger, semi-beavertail forend, recoil pad, and ivory sights) were standard equipment on the Ideal Grade guns in 1948. Usually, the top of the right barrel was roll-stamped "L.C. SMITH Ideal GRADE". Rarely was the address listed. Nothing was stamped on the left barrel. The lock plates were roll-stamped "L.C. SMITH". A total of 4,013 Ideal Grade shotguns were made between 1945 and 1950.
Brophy (1977) said that the Premier Skeet was introduced in 1949, but it appeared in the 1948 catalog. It was similar to the Hunter Arms Company Skeet Special that was discontinued in 1942. The engraving pattern on the Premier Skeet and Skeet Special were slightly different. The catalog said "Skeet shooting demands a combination of quick thinking, fast action and a light, true-shooting, perfectly balanced Gun. The L.C. Smith Premier Skeet is the kind of a gun skeet shooters can fire with assurance and pride. It is a specialized gun that will meet the most exacting requirements. Bored Skeet No. 1 and No. 2, it guarantees an ideal skeet pattern. Equipped with Selective Single Trigger, Straight Grip, Automatic Ejectors, Streamline Beavertail Forend, Checkered Butt, and Ivory Sights. Richly hand-checkered and engraved. Engraving on one side shows a clay-bird, the other a quail in flight." It was available in 12 and 20 gauge. The catalog said that the barrel length for the 20 gauge was 26 inches and the length for the 12 gauge was 26 and 28 inches. Brophy said that it could be ordered with 27 inch barrels. The top of the right barrel was engraved "L. C. SMITH Premier Skeet Grade". A total of 515 Premier Skeet guns were built (438 12-gauge and 77 20-gauge).
The Specialty Grade was advertised in the 1948 catalog, but the page was printed with the notice "NOT AVAILABLE UNTIL FURTHER NOTICE". They were made on special order. Only 109 were completed by The L.C. Smith Gun Company, and it is likely that these were made early in the life of the company. "Superior in every way to the ordinary firearm, the L.C. Smith Specialty Grade will meet the most exacting demands of the man who wants the very best in shotgun performance. The beautiful oil-finish of the carefully selected walnut stock and hand-checkered forend and the fine engraving of the lock-plates, stamp the Specialty Grade as the choice of experts. Built to last a life-time, the Specialty will stand up under hard usage and give its owner accurate, dependable service." It was available in 12, 16, and 20 gauge and 410 bore. The barrels were Nitro Steel and available in 26, 28 and 30 inches. The 30-inch barrels were available only in 12 gauge. The top of the right barrel was engraved "L.C. SMITH Specialty GRADE". The stock dimensions advertised were 13 ½ to 15 ½ inches in length and drop at heel from 2 to 3 ½ inches. Extra features were automatic ejectors, selective single trigger, beavertail forend, and recoil pad. The L.C. Smith Gun Company made 148 Specialty Grades.
The Olympic Grade was advertised in the catalog, but the notice "NOT AVAILABLE UNTIL FURTHER NOTICE" was printed below the illustration. There is no record of the manufacture of any shotguns in this grade by The L.C. Smith Gun Company.
The Crown Grade was the highest grade produced by The L. C. Smith Gun Company, and 48 Crown Grade guns were crafted between 1945 and 1950. The catalog said "The L.C. Smith Royal Family of Custom-built shotguns is perfectly represented by the Crown Grade. The small gold crown on the top-lever is symbolic of its beauty and quality. Selected walnut stock, rich in finish, figure, and color; fine, neat hand-checkering; strong Nitro Steel barrels carefully chosen for the most grueling use. For artistic appointments this gun is unsurpassed. The delicate engraving of the hunting dogs on the lock-plates has endeared it to the hearts of true sportsmen everywhere. Its mechanical perfection harmonizes with its beautiful appearance. The L.C. Smith Crown Grade is the preference of the man of unusual discrimination. (Made on Special Order Only)." The Crown Grade was available in 12, 16, and 20 gauge and 410 bore. Barrel length were 26, 28, and 30 inches, with the 30-inch barrels being available only in 12 gauge. Stock dimensions were 13 ½ to 15 ½ inches in length, drop in heel from 2 to 3 ½ inches and 1 5/8 drop of comb. Automatic ejectors, selective single trigger, beavertail forend, and recoil pad were listed as extra features. The L.C. Smith Gun Company made 59 Crown Grades.