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Home1877 to 1888 Qualities

GRADES OF L.C. SMITH SHOTGUNS
Called Qualities From 1877 to 1888

L.C. Smith, Maker, Syracuse, New York


  
1877 to 1888 Qualities


During the period of 1877 to 1888, L.C. Smith made the Baker Three-Barrel Gun and the Baker Double-Barrel Gun. L.C. Smith joined with his brother Leroy and W.H. Baker to form W.H. Baker and Co. located at 20 Walton Street, Syracuse, N.Y. In 1880 Baker and Leroy left the business to form the Ithaca Gun Co. By 1880 Baker was no longer listed in the Syracuse city directory. Advertisements made at that time said "L.C. Smith maker of Baker Guns, Syracuse, N.Y". This was also on the top rib of the guns. Manufacture of the new L.C. Smith hammer shotguns began in 1884.


 

     Baker Three-Barrel Gun

The purpose of the Baker Three-Barrel Gun was stated in the 1884 catalog copy: “It is a fact too well known to need mention, that in going out for the purpose of killing small game with a shot gun, one is constantly having unexpected chances to shoot at larger game that a shot gun will either not reach at all, or fail to kill; and to those who are in the habit of hunting in localities where there are animals that are dangerous, and which are liable to be encountered at any moment without warning, this gun gives the possessor feelings of confidence and safety that are invaluable, to say nothing of the extra amount and actual value of the game that can be obtained by its use . . .”


“In regard to the sights, after much experimenting, we have adopted the hinge sight on the stock, which turns down entirely out of the way while shooting the shot barrels, and when turned up has a slide with a common notch in the top for open or quick shooting, and when raised has a fine hole or peep sight for close or target shooting. A buckhorn sight can be placed on the rib when desired, but in most cases is unadvisable, as the rear sight answers all practical purposes.”


The Baker Three-Barrel Gun was available in either 10 or 12 gauge. The third barrel was chambered for the .44-40 cartridge, or as the catalog said: “The Rifles are chambered to use the Winchester 44-calibre cartridge, Model ’73.’ Experience has shown us that the 44-calibre cartridge is the best adapted to the purpose that this gun is used for.” Even though the catalog states this, research has shown they were made in 38-50 Ballard, 38-55, 45-70, and 45 Ballard and probably other calibers. (The second number denotes the number of grains of black powder used in the cartridge.)


The rib was marked “L.C. Smith Maker of Baker Guns, Syracuse N.Y“. The front trigger was pushed forward to unlock and open the breech. The hammer for the rifle barrel was located under the receiver and within the trigger guard. It was fired by pulling the rear trigger. It has been estimated that about 1,186 Three-Barrel Guns were manufactured by L.C. Smith. This estimate is questionable as the serial numbers for the three barrel started at 300 and went to 1600.



The following are the catalog descriptions of the Qualities offered:





Quality No. 1 – Black walnut stock, checkered, English stub twist shot barrels, $75.
Pistol grip, black walnut stock, checkered English stub twist shot barrels, $80.

Quality No. 2 – Damascus or laminated steel shot barrels, English walnut stock, checkered, pistol grip, finer engraved, $100.

Quality No. 3 – Damascus or laminated steel shot barrels, English walnut stock, checkered, pistol grip, checkered, finer engraved, $125.

Quality No. 4 – Very fine Damascus or laminated steel shot barrels, fine English walnut stock, full pistol grip, checkered, finer finish and engraved, $150.

Quality No. 5 – The finest Damascus or laminated steel barrels, the finest English walnut stock, elegantly engraved and finished, $200.


   Baker Double-Barrel Gun


Style of the Baker Double-Barrel Gun was similar to that of the Three-Barrel Gun. The rib was marked “L.C. Smith Maker of Baker Guns, Syracuse, N.Y.” The front trigger was pushed forward to unlock and open the breech. It was available in 10 and 12 gauges. It has been estimated that 8,305 Baker Double-Barrel Guns were made by L.C. Smith. This estimate is again questionable because the serial numbers started at 1651 and went to 9999 in 1883.


The following are the catalog descriptions of the qualities offered:

• Quality A – English twist shot barrels, black walnut stock, plain finish, $40.

• Quality B – Damascus or laminated steel barrels, black walnut stock, pistol grip, checkered, border engraved, $55.

• Quality C – Damascus or laminated steel barrels, English or very fine American walnut stock, pistol grip, checked, finely engraved, $80.

• Quality D – Damascus or laminated steel barrels, fine English walnut stock, full or half pistol grip, checked, much better finish and engraved, $100.

• Quality E – Very fine Damascus or laminated steel barrels, very fine English walnut stock, full or half pistol grip, checked, finely engraved, $150.

• Qualify F – The finest Damascus or laminated steel barrels, best English walnut stock, full pistol grip, elegantly engraved, $200.

 

     L.C. Smith Hammer Gun

L.C. Smith introduced his new hammer gun in the following manner: “In presenting to the American Sportsman this my Illustrated Catalogue of July 1, 1884, I beg to call your attention to our new Top-Lever, Double Cross-Bolted, Breech-Loading Gun. It has been my determination to defer the manufacture of a top-lever gun until such a time as I could offer to my customers a gun which should enter the field as the peer of any arm which the world has ever produced. We have intended to avoid the common difficulties with which other manufactures have been met (and a score of purchasers know to their expense how well they have succeeded) in producing a gun which would withstand the force of the explosion in the continued firing of heavy charges without the face of the standing breech or frame springing away from the barrels, the gun becoming shaky, andtherefore worthless. This fault has been mainly due to the fact that the metal of the frame has been so cut away to receive the locks and bolting mechanism that the remaining metal through the angle of the breech or frame is not adequate to the strain to which it is subjected, to obviate this difficulty we use a powerful extension of the top rib, brazed (not soldered as is usually the case) between the barrels, which exceeds backward into the standing breech and is locked by our patent double cross-locking rotary bolt.”

 

  “Another source of wear and strain which has been foremost in hindering successful working of the breech-loader had been the hinge joint, in consequence of the dropping down or tilting of the barrels for loading. Many manufactured have attempted to remedy this difficulty, but all of them within our knowledge have either cut away the metal of the frame or more especially of the lug, thereby rendering the gun less durable then if made without them. This objection we effectually overcome by the use of our patent eccentric joint check working in connection with the patent automatic self-compensating forend.

L.C. SMITH
SYRACUSE, N.Y.”



The bar action lock (full side lock) was the invention of Alexander T. Brown. November 27, 1813 and from research it was not applied until 1884. Patent #289062


Serial numbers started at 10,000 in 1884 and ended at 14,999 in 1885. Serial numbers for hammer guns in 1886 started at 15,000, 17,000, 21,000, 25,000, and 26,000 range. (The missing ranges were used for hammerless guns, except for the 24,000 series range which was not used at this time.) Many of these hammer guns in the 26,600+ serial number range have rounded corners on the lug, no maker's name, fine checkering, and a vase shaped ebony tipped forend. Serial number 26,397 has a squared lug, "L.C. Smith Maker, N.Y." on the barrel, fine checkering, and a vase shaped ebony tipped forend.

 
The Smith hammer gun was available in either 10 or 12 gauge.


The following were the Qualities offered in the 1884 catalog:

• Quality F – Best English stub twist barrels, American walnut stock, pistol grip, checkered and engraved, $55.

• Quality E – Good Damascus steel barrels, good American walnut stock, checkered and engraved, pistol grip, $70.

• Quality D – Fine Damascus steel barrels, good imported English walnut stock, nicely checkered and engraved, pistol grip, $95.

• Quality C – Fine Damascus steel barrels, fine imported English walnut stock, fine checkering and engraving, pistol grip, $125.

• Quality B – Extra fine Damascus steel barrels, finer imported English walnut stock, fine checkering and engraving, pistol grip, $150.

• Quality A – Very fine Damascus steel barrels, extra fine imported English walnut stock, extra fine checkering and engraving, pistol grip, $200.



• Quality AA – Finest Damascus steel barrels made, finest imported English walnut stock obtainable, finest checkering and engraving, complete in workmanship, pistol grip, $300.

 

    

          L.C. Smith Hammerless Gun


The L.C. Smith Hammerless Gun was made during the period of 1886 through 1888 and offered in Qualities 2 through 7. It is the same gun as that produced by the Hunter Arms Company prior to 1913, and more complete descriptions may be found under the pre-1913 grades.


The transitional look from Syracuse to Fulton is shown in early Fulton guns from 1890-1891 in the 30,000 to 34,000 serial number range. These Hunter Arms Company guns still had the square lug, round breech balls, fine checkering, scroll engraving, and vase shaped ebony tipped forends. Some guns in the 30,000 and higher range serial numbers do not have a maker's name on the barrels and would be true transition guns.


Hammerless guns from L.C. Smith Gun Company started in August 1886 at serial number 16,000, 18,000, 19,000, 20,000, 22,000, and ended around 23,553 in 1888. This is the last serial number that David Williamson has with "L.C. Smith Maker Syracuse, N.Y." on the barrel. There were no more hammerless guns made until the 30,000 serial number range made in 1890 at Fulton, N.Y.


The following photographs of Qualities 3 through 7 are compliments of Russ Ruppel, St. Louis.

Syracuse Quality 2

Syracuse Quality 3

Syracuse Quality 4

Syracuse Quality 5

The Quality 4 and 5 shotguns in these photographs have sculptured breech balls and gold dogs on the trigger guards.

Syracuse Quality 6

         

Syracuse Quality 6

Some of the Quality 6 featured gold inlays while others did not have gold. They all had sculptured breech balls.

Syracuse Quality 7

Syracuse Quality 7

Most Quality 7 guns had rebated lockplates. No two were totally alike. Most, but not all, had gold inlays on the lockplates.