Throughout the period of the modern sporting age, the recognition of "Best Quality" in shotguns has been very much an acquired
taste, much like fine wine. There are those whose opinions of quality are based upon staunch and recognized authority, such as the Bordeaux Classification of 1855, and then there are those who let their palates do the tasting and the talking. The best quality hallmark in modern sporting arms has been a mantle traditionally carried by a select few London gun makers since the peak of the trade in the mid-1800s.
As accelerated emigration pushed European skilled craftsmen to the new world in ever increasing numbers, gun making, and the demand for luxury grade products to satisfy the newly created industrial aristocracy reached a crescendo early in the 20th century. Seemingly limitless resources and burgeoning demand spawned opportunity for American gun makers to upgrade their shotgun lines to directly compete with English firms for affluent consumer dollars. In America, the "Famous Five" included the likes of A.H. Fox, Ithaca, Lefever, Parker Bros, and L.C. Smith who dominated the shotgun market in the early 1900s. Of these, the L.C. Smith shotgun, fondly nicknamed "Elsie" by her elite admirers and serious utilitarians, stood alone at the top when it came offering
Cost was not a consideration. Even the inside of the forend was embellished to the highest standard on the A-3 grade.
the complete line from full blown luxury to "plain Jane" trim packages.
Desiring to meet every legitimate demand of the sportsman of the day, Hunter Arms marketed more "Grades" of L.C. Smith guns than any manufacturer in America at the turn of the century, twelve in all. These levels of adornment used the term "Quality" as the prefix to describe the hierarchy of shotguns until about 1898. At that time, the grades became a number (such as No. 2), letter and number combination (such as A-3), 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 actions was identical, but the engraving, wood quality, finishing and checkering was markedly different between grades. Frames and lock plates were case hardened on all of the grades. Barrels could be damascus or fluid steel construction. Automatic ejectors could be had for less than twenty dollars.
At the turn of the 20th century, the Elsie "A-3" was the highest priced gun made in the U.S. or abroad priced at a staggering $740. The only thing that came near it was the Parker Bros "A1 Special" at $525, and a Purdey "Quality A" gun came in at $400. The A-3 was the epitome of shotgun luxury and perfection in its day. Given that a laborer's early age at the time was about $500, it's no wonder that there were only 18 of the A-3 guns made from 1895-1915. In stark contrast, the base model "OO or Field" grade selling for a modest $37, was a bargain. For any sportsman on any
This stunning L.C. Smith A-3 sold
in the March 2013 sale for $132,250
budget, LC Smith gave the most bang for the buck. In recent years, Julia's has emerged as the world leader in the auction sale of high grade, high condition and investment quality American sporting guns... a place where the best buyers seek out the best guns and establish their pecking order in the center of the auction arena. L.C. Smith shotguns have proven to be extremely popular and have graced our catalogs in all grade and all price ranges. Each auction cycle reveals new treasures and new opportunities for buyers and sellers alike. The upcoming October firearms sale is no exception and will feature another spectacular offering of American Sporting classics.
Visit our website at www.jamesdjulia.com