Arms Company, Fulton, New York
The Hunter Arms Company continued the use of the term "Quality" as the prefix to describe the various grades of shotguns until about 1896. At that time, the grades became a number (such as No. 2), letter and number combination (such as A-2), or a name (such as Pigeon). The number is marked on the water table of the receiver and on the barrel flats. The mechanical construction of all hammerless L.C. Smith receivers was the same, but the engraving was different between grades. Frames and lock plates were case hardened on all of the grades.
The following information was taken from the 1900 L.C. Smith catalog. Descriptions combine information from the catalog and from William Brophy (L.C. Smith Shotguns, 1977), John Houchins (L.C. Smith: The Legend Lives, 2006), and James Stubbendieck (L.C. Smith Production Records, 2013). Appreciation is expressed to Len Applegate for providing a digital copy of his 1900 L.C. Smith Catalog. Photographs are courtesy of the late Russ Ruppel. The grades are listed in the approximate order of ascending initial cost.
The No. 00 was the lowest grade of pre-1913 L.C. Smith shotguns. The catalog (1900) said: "A thoroughly reliable gun at a price within the reach of all. The new Armour Steel barrels are plain, but will stand the severest strain of nitro powder. English walnut stock; half pistol grip; checkered and well finished . . ." From 1898 to 1914, 57,096 were manufactured. This number nearly equals the total number of all of the other grades produced during this period. The No. 00 was available with Armour (catalog spelling) Steel barrels only. The lock plates were not engraved but were stamped "L.C. Smith". The top of the right barrel was marked: HUNTER ARMS CO.-MAKERS-FULTON, N.Y. Initially, it was available in 10 and 12 gauges, but the 16 gauge was added in 1906 and followed by the 20 gauge in 1908. Production data for the No. 00 are 611 10 gauge, 48,376 12 gauge, 4,726 16 gauge, 3,382 20 gauge, and 1 28 gauge. It could be ordered with the extra cost options of automatic ejectors (placed in 6,308 shotguns) and the Hunter One-Trigger. Like all Smiths, it had a checkered grip and forend. The standard gun was priced at $37 in 1898 and $32 in 1912. Automatic ejectors added about $13 to the price.
Production of the No. 0 shotgun began in 1894, and it was the lowest grade available until the introduction of the No. 00 in 1898. The catalog (1900) copy said: "A well-made gun, with all improvements to meet the demands of sportsmen for a reliable gun at a low price. Damascus barrels, choke-bored; English walnut stock; half pistol grip; checkered and well finished . . ." "L.C. Smith" was stamped on the lock plates and a border was engraved around the perimeter of the lock plates. Twist Steel barrels were available when it was first offered, but they were changed to Damascus Steel in 1899. Starting in 1907, new London Steel barrels were an option. Initially available in 10, 12, and 16 gauges, the 20 gauge was added later. Lightweight guns were available after 1907. Automatic ejectors (placed in 6,525 shotguns) were an option starting in 1898. A total of 29,061 were manufactured, and the retail price was $47 in 1898 and $48 in 1912. Production data are 1,795 10 gauge, 22,342 12 gauge, 1 14 gauge, 3,617 16 gauge, and 1,306 gauge guns.
No. 1 (1890-1914)
The 1900 catalog described the No. 1 as: "A thoroughly well-made gun with all the latest improvements, having Damascus barrels, choke-bored; line engravings; English walnut stock; half pistol grip; checkered and finished in the best style . . ." "L.C. Smith" was engraved, rather than stamped, on the locks, as was a tasteful but minimal line and scroll pattern. Additional engraving was placed on the frame, trigger guard, and the forend hardware. A more ornate engraving pattern was used late in its production period. Damascus barrels replaced laminated steel barrels in 1898. No. 1 Special Steel barrels were available in 1907. The rib extension was stamped HUNTER ARMS CO Grade on one line and FULTON, NEW YORK. on the second line. This grade was initially available in 10, 12, and 16 gauges with 20 gauge guns being added later. By 1907, options included a full pistol grip, lightweight model, automatic ejectors (placed in 1,552 guns), and the Hunter One-Trigger. A total of 9,211 were manufactured with 2 8 gauge, 743 10 gauge, 17,868 12 gauge, 488 16 gauge, and 110 20 gauge guns. The No. 1 was priced at $75 in 1898 and $60 in 1912.
The No. 2 grade was nicely finished and engraved. This is interesting because it was advertised as a "knockabout" grade and was said to be "just the kind for rough usage." It usually had ducks engraved in a circle on the right lock plate and a quail in a circle on the left. Some variations have been noted. On at least two 8 gauge guns, a woodcock was engraved in place of the ducks. It is unlikely that many hunters sought either woodcock or quail with an 8 gauge. Records indicate that 38 8 gauge, 444 10 gauge, 10,815 12 gauge, 793 16 gauge, and 393 20 gauge guns were built. Barrels were available in Chain Damascus (8, 10, 12, and 16 gauges) and later in Crown Steel (12, 16, and 20 gauges). Twenty gauge guns could be purchased after 1907. Advertised barrel lengths were 32, 30, and 28 inches. The barrel extension was stamped HUNTER ARMS CO., MAKERS, FULTON N.Y. in a single line. The stock could be ordered with a straight, full pistol grip, or half pistol grip and regular or Monte Carlo. A lightweight was available late in the production of No. 2 shotguns. These guns sold for $80 in 1892 and $70 in 1912. A total of 12,483 were made, and 5,541 of that total were fitted with automatic ejectors.
The 1900 catalog reported that the No. 3 grade with: "Nitro Steel barrels is considered by many to be the finest medium-grade on the market. This grade always pleases as in it we give so much of value." Usually, this grade had ducks (right lock plate) and quail (left lock plate) engraved in ovals, rather than in circles, as found on the No. 2 shotguns. No extra handwork was done on the inside of the locks. Barrels were either a "fine quality" of Chain Damascus (8, 10, 12, and 16 gauges) or Nitro Steel (12, 16, and 20 gauges). As with many of the other grades, production of 20 gauge shotguns began in 1907. Records indicate that three 8 gauge, 51 10 gauge, 2,592 12 gauge, 253 16 gauge, and 143 20 gauge guns were made. Barrel lengths were advertised to be 32, 30, and 28 inches. The barrel extension was stamped HUNTER ARMS CO. FULTON, N.Y. Stocks were made from English walnut in straight or pistol grip. The 1900 L.C. Smith catalog notes: "Purchasing gun stocks in very large quantities as we do makes it possible for us to give something choice even in the No. 3 grade. We are always careful to give as choice a color and figure as possible." Lightweights were available with the 12 gauge weighing 6 pounds and 12 ounces and the 16 gauge weighing 6 pounds and 8 ounces. A total of 3,042 No. 3 guns were made, and 2,432 had automatic ejectors. It was priced at $100 in 1892 and $90 in 1912.
Only 1,397 Pigeon Guns were produced from 1893 through 1913 including four 10 gauge, 1,350 12 gauge, 23 16 gauge, and 20 20 gauge guns. Automatic ejectors were fitted to 883 guns. The catalog (1900) stated: "Our Pigeon Gun is an innovation. Appreciating that there is a demand for a very quick shooting gun, we deliver this grade. The straight grip admits the most rapid work possible and supplies a want long felt by many sportsmen. They are specially adapted to stand the tremendous strain of many heavy loads of nitro powder." The stock was said to be: "A choice piece of French walnut, beautifully figured. The richness of the color in these finer stocks is superb. They are all finished in oil equal to the best pianos and consequently please the most exacting . . ." All stocks were not straight. They could be ordered with a pistol grip and a Monte Carlo. Pigeon Nitro Steel barrels were available in 12 and 16 gauges, and Chainette Damascus barrels were available in 10, 12, and 16 gauges. Twenty gauge guns were available starting in 1907. The 20 gauge guns were only made with Pigeon Nitro Steel barrels. The catalog said: "The engraving is handsome and very appropriate for a gun of this character. On one lock plate is engraved with a pigeon in full flight, on the other is a blue rock, and on the extension rib a pigeon in his native home. You will always find an artistic and appropriate finish on Smith Guns . . ." A precious metal bar was inlaid across the rib near the engraved pigeon. Engraved forward of the bar is HUNTER ARMS CO., MAKERS FULTON N.Y. Lightweight guns were available in 12, 16, and 20 gauges, and the Hunter One-Trigger was an option for about $25. The price increased from $125 at the start of production to $150 in 1898, but it dropped to $110 by 1912.
L. C. Smith considered the No. 4 to be a "medium high-priced" gun. It sold for $150 when it was introduced in 1892, and the price had declined to $127 when it was discontinued in 1912. There were at least two styles of engraving. Early guns had a dog in an oval near the rear of the lock plate with scroll work in front of the oval. Some thought that this looked off-balance. The later, more common No. 4 guns had the dog scenes in an oval that was centered on the lock plate. The accompanying illustration shows the early design. The later design was more similar to the illustration of the No. 5 grade. The stock could be ordered in French or English walnut, regular or Monte Carlo, and with a straight or pistol grip. Copy in the 1900 catalog stated that the stocks had a fine figure and were superbly finished. Furthermore: "Only by great care and the experience of one 'learned in the art' are we able to secure for our patrons stocks fully up to the standard. The checkering is delicate; just enough and not a line too much." Barrels were Nitro Steel with a "fine grade" of Damascus as an option (all 10 gauge No. 4 shotguns are thought to have Damascus barrels). Barrel lengths offered were 32, 30, 28, and 26 inches. HUNTER ARMS CO. FULTON, N.Y. was engraved on the top of the rib extension. Two 8 gauge and 8 10 gauge No. 4 guns were built. Twelve gauge guns were the most common (438 guns). Only 30 16 gauge and 17 20 gauge guns were made. Twenty gauge guns were marketed starting in 1907. Lightweights were available in 12, 16, and 20 gauges. A total of only 495 No. 4 grades were manufactured, and 399 of them had automatic ejectors.
Only 752 A-1 guns (often referred to as A-1 Automatic Ejector in the catalogs) were made, and they were available only from 1891 to 1901. It does not appear in the 1900 catalog being used as a source of information for this presentation, and the accompanying illustration is a photograph instead of a drawing. The A-1 had chain pattern Damascus barrels in 32-, 30-, or 28-inch lengths. The lock plates were engraved with dog scenes and scroll. It was available in 10, 12, and 16 gauges. The stocks were made from English walnut with "fine checkering" and a full, three-quarter, or half pistol grip. Originally, it was the least expensive ($175 in 1898) L. C. Smith with automatic ejectors. This lower grade (compared to the A-2 and A-3) was dropped and not replaced by another grade when automatic ejectors were made an option on less expensive shotguns. Production data are 29 10 gauge, 713 12 gauge, and 10 16 gauge for a total of 752 guns.
"Our No. 5 Smith Gun meets the views of the patron who is in need of a gun handsomely finished and elaborately engraved. We embody in this gun much of beauty. This grade has always stood well ahead" (1900 catalog). Engraving on this grade was elaborate. Many variations are found, because engraving was done to meet the customer's specifications. Most had dogs in ovals on the lock plates (the inside of the lock plate was damascened and all parts were polished) with flowers and scroll designs on the frame and trigger guard. Most had engraving on the barrels near the frame and/or muzzles. Barrels were Nitro Steel or a "very fine" Damascus. Guns with Damascus barrels were available in 8, 10, 12, and 16 gauges and with Nitro Steel in 12, 16 and 20 gauges. Twenty gauge guns were available in 1907. Barrel lengths offered were 32, 30, and 28 inches. The top rib was engraved MADE TO ORDER BY THE HUNTER ARMS CO. FULTON, N.Y. Lightweights were available in 12, 16, and 20 gauges. Stocks were French or English walnut, straight or pistol grip, and regular or Monte Carlo. A total of 523 No. 5 guns were built and 451automatic ejectors. Price in 1892 was $200 and $168 in 1912. Production data are 1 8-gauge, 8 10-gauge, 457 12-gauge, 36 16-gauge, and 21 20-gauge guns.
The Monogram was the one exception when the names of grades of L.C. Smith shotguns were changed in 1912-1913. Its name and style did not change. Only 306 Monogram Grade guns were made between 1892 and 1945. The price with two triggers and ejectors was $281. A Hunter One-Trigger added $25 to the cost. The price had increased to $591 by 1941. This was a made to order gun, but most of the lock plates had scroll work and birds with scroll work and flowers covering most of the frame and trigger guard. The barrels were made of Sir Joseph Whitworth Fluid Compressed Steel and were available in 26-, 28-, 30-, and 32-inch lengths. The muzzle and breech ends of the barrels were engraved. Production data show that five 10 gauge, 227 12 gauge, 23 16 gauge, and 51 20 gauge Monograms Grades were made. Automatic ejectors were placed on 296 Monogram Grades. The stocks were highly figured, imported walnut. The top of the right barrel was hand engraved SIR JOSEPH WHITWORTH FLUID COMPRESSED STEEL and the top of the left was engraved MADE TO ORDER BY THE HUNTER ARMS CO. FULTON, N.Y. The rib extension was engraved L.C. SMITH MONOGRAM GRADE.
The A-2 (often referred to as the A-2 Automatic Ejector in catalogs) was the highest grade of L.C. Smith available from 1891 until the A-3 was introduced in 1894. It was made to order, and the price at first was " furnished upon application." In 1898 it sold for $390, and it was priced at $325 in 1912. Only 213 were made (6 in 10 gauge, 192 in 12 gauge, 9 in 16 gauge, and 6 in 20 gauge). Only one was made without automatic ejectors. The inside of the locks were damascened, and all of the parts were polished. The engraving, according to the 1900 catalog, was: "Elaborate and principally in the softest of scroll, taking away in this manner objectionable stiffness. We offer a goodly variety of patterns in the A2, such as a hunting scene or a scene where birds predominate or a dog in bas-relief, etc., but regularly we prefer the scroll as embodying the highest perfection of the art." Therefore, a number of engraving patterns were executed. Today, collectors refer to the common engraving patterns as Variations One through Four. Barrels were either Damascus or Sir Joseph Whitworth Fluid Compressed Steel in 32-, 30-, 28-, and 26-inch lengths. The top of the right barrel was engraved MADE TO ORDER BY THE HUNTER ARMS CO., FULTON, N.Y., and the left was engraved SIR JOSEPH WHITWORTH FLUID COMPRESSED STEEL. The rib was engraved HUNTER ARMS CO. FULTON, N.Y. A lightweight was available with Krupp Steel barrels. The stock was made from French, English, or Circassian walnut. The 1900 catalog pointed out that the wood was carefully selected and: "We like our patrons to express their preference as to grain and color, and then we cannot fail to merit their approval."
The A-3, or A-3 Automatic Ejector, was introduced in 1894 as the highest grade of L. C. Smith shotgun. When introduced, its price was available "upon application." In 1898, the price was listed at $740. Only 19 A-3 guns were crafted. While it was offered in 10, 12, 16, and 20 gauges (20 added in 1907), only two were made in 20 gauge, and 17 were made in 12 gauge. Barrel lengths offered were from 32 to 26 inches. All of the 12 gauges had 30 inch barrels, except one with that had 28 inch barrels. One of the 20 gauges had 28 inch barrels while the second had 26 inch barrels. Barrels were Sir Joseph Whitworth Fluid Compressed Steel. The top of the right barrel was engraved MADE TO ORDER BY THE HUNTER ARMS CO., FULTON, N.Y., and the left was engraved SIR JOSEPH WHITWORTH FLUID COMPRESSED STEEL. Streaks of lightning are inlaid in gold on the sides of the barrels, and the barrels have additional scroll engraving. Only one type of engraving has been noted on this grade, and it was described in the 1900 catalog: "Regularly the A-3 Automatic Ejector is engraved with a setter dog in the left lock plate and a pointer in the right, in relief. Words cannot describe this work - it is the finest engraving yet produced; the top of the frame is elaborately ornamented with oak leaf bas-relief work and the lightning is inlaid in gold in the sides of the barrels; in fact, the gun is perfection." The serial number was hand-engraved on the water table of the frame and barrels, the trigger guard, and the forend hardware. The locks were "elegantly damaskeened [sic] and, in the words of a patron, 'the locks are as beautiful as a Swiss watch.'" The stock was Circassian walnut especially selected from thousands of blanks from the roots of the oldest trees. Any stock configuration could be ordered. When introduced, the A-3 Automatic Ejector was listed as: "The finest gun in the world for the price."