Hunter Arms Company, Fulton, NY
1917-1950 Single Barrel Trap Grades
The Hunter Arms Company introduced the single barrel trap gun in 1917 and manufactured it until 1945; it continued in production to 1950 by the L.C. Smith Gun Company (owned by Marlin Firearms Company). The following description is abstracted from the 1917 catalog in which it first appeared:
“L. C. SMITH NEW SINGLE BARREL TRAP GUN-SPECIALTY
"For a number of years we have been working on a single barrel gun designed especially for trap shooting…..It is equipped with the famous Smith Bolt that never shoot loose, the Smith cocking mechanism, the Smith Automatic Ejector and a quick action hammer that hits the firing pin dead on…..The Compensating Ventilated Top Rib is an exclusive feature.….Its linked construction automatically adjusts itself to the difference in temperature between the barrel and the rib in continuous shooting, and in that way maintains what all designers of single barrel guns have for years sought-the true alignment of the barrel under all degrees of temperature.
- The sides of the rib are made parallel, in order to assure quick andaccurate sighting.
- The barrel is made from our famous Nitro Steel, strong and durable, especially made with a view to the heavy strain of incessant shooting.
- The stock is of fine quality walnut.
- The engraving and finish are of the usual high order found on all Smith models.
Specialty Grade with Automatic Ejector……………………………..$100.00
Our linked compensating rib assures a straight barrel under all conditions, and it does not rattle.
THE SINGLE BARREL TRAP IN OUR HIGHER GRADES
We manufacture this gun in our specialty (sic) and higher grades, the detail thereof as to finish and ornamentation being in accord with the description of these grades in double guns herein.
The prices on these grades for the Single are:
EAGLE with Automatic Ejector………….…………………………$135.00
CROWN with Automatic Ejector………………….….………………185.00
MONOGRAM with Automatic Ejector….…………….……………….310.00”
The compensating rib, with round rib posts, was discontinued near the end of 1919 in favor of a solid, non-compensating rib with rectangular rib posts. All frames in all grades were case hardened revealing the colors for which L.C. Smiths are famous. One piece barrel and breech assemblies were rust blued and fitted with two ivory bead sights. Barrels were usually choked full, typically 40 thousandths constriction, unless ordered differently where allowed on higher grade guns. In contrast to the side lock double barrel guns all single barrel guns are box lock where the trigger, sear and associated springs are fastened to the trigger plate. The hammer, associated cocking mechanism and springs are contained within the case hardened frame. Forearm irons were fitted with automatic ejectors and usually case hardened. No guns have been documented in any gauge other than 12.
A 1918 catalogue lists, without prices, an “L.C. Smith One Barrel Trap Gun” made in the following grades: Specialty, Eagle, Crown, Monogram, Premier and De Luxe. Both Brophy (William Brophy L.C. Smith Shotguns, 1977) and Houchins (John Houchins, L.C. Smith: The Legend Lives, 2006) state that the Premier and De Luxe were introduced in 1930 although they were catalogued as early as 1918. Actual L.C. Smith records indicate that the first Premier SBT was shipped in 1920 followed by the first De Luxe in 1923. The earliest available pricing is for 1930 in which the Premier listed at $690 and De Luxe at $1,035. The “One Barrel” gun is the same gun as the Single Barrel; the name was changed back to the latter in 1926.
Research of the L. C. Smith records indicate that a total of 2,280 SBT guns were produced, 2,140 by the Hunter Arms company from 1917 to 1945 and 140 by the L.C. Smith Gun Company from 1945 to 1950. Quantities of the several grades appearing herein are the result of a recent record review and are considered the most reliable numbers. An article appearing in the Summer 2010 Volume 21, Issue 2 of The Double Gun and Single Shot Journal contains additional details of the single barrel trap gun including annual production of all grades.
The following information is a combination of material from L. C. Smith catalogs ranging from 1917 to 1927, Brophy and Houchins, cited above, the L.C. Smith factory records and the ongoing results of a collaborative effort by the LCSCA to more fully document the guns.
In late 2018 the L. C. Smith Collectors Association was able to authenticate a Whippet Grade shotgun for the first time. Through prior years the Whippet represented a mystery as research had been unable to provide an example. The only description existed in sparse factory records that reported twelve 32 inch barreled guns produced in 1927 followed by shipment in the same and following year. The documented shotgun exhibits 32 inch Nitro Steel barrels with two ivory sights, ventilated rib, full pistol grip, beavertail forearm, ejector and recoil pad with an overall appearance closely resembling an Olympic Grade. The left side of the barrel is marked “L.C. Smith Olympic Trap”. Features that distinguish the Whippet from the Olympic are slightly more engraving and the letter “w” after the serial number. There is no double barrel grade equivalent of the single barrel Whippet. As the Olympic Grade was introduced with a price of $100 a year later in 1928, it can be easily assumed that the price of the Whippet was the same or slightly more. More detail with photographs of the Whippet can be found in Volume 17, Issue 1 of the Spring 2019 LCSCA Journal.
The Olympic Grade was formally introduced in 1928 at $100.00 and was advertised as especially designed to fill an increasing demand for an inexpensive, durable and plainly finished single barrel trap gun. The frame is neatly engraved with a scroll pattern. Although the records reveal that two were built with 34 inch barrels, all Olympic Grade SBT guns were advertised with the same set of specifications: 12 Gauge, 32 inch barrel, full pistol grip, ventilated rib, beavertail forearm, ejector, recoil pad, front and rear Lyman ivory sights. Second in number to the Specialty Grade, a total of 596 were built spanning the years from 1927 (10) to 1950 (75). Rib inlays are rare or none existent on the Olympic Grade. (See the rib inlay description for the Specialty Grade.)
The Ideal Grade is the third rarest Smith SBT (behind the Premier and De Luxe) as only 5 were produced by the Hunter Arms Company. None have come to the attention of the L.C. Smith Collectors Association; therefore, its appearance can only be the subject of speculation. As Hunter Arms stated in their catalogs the grades of SBT guns followed the fit and finish of their double gun counterparts; consequently, we conclude that the Ideal Grade SBT has the “simple oak leaf” design on both sides of the frame. Records indicate that all five featured 32 inch barrels, probably in Nitro Steel although London or Crown Steel may be possible variations. The 1927 price for an Ideal double barrel with beavertail forearm, single trigger and ejectors was $124. There is no price data available for the Ideal Grade SBT, but $100 may be a close approximation for the same year. The first manufactured SBT gun is listed as an Ideal “Model 500” with serial number 500.
More SBT guns (1,470) were built in Specialty Grade than any other; one gun in this grade was finished by the L.C. Smith Gun Company in 1948 after Hunter Arms production stopped at 1,469 in 1940. The Specialty was a mid-grade gun selling for $133 in 1927 allowing many options from which to choose: different stock dimensions of full, half or straight grip and 30, 32 and 34 inch barrels of Nitro Steel. Standard features include two Lyman ivory sights, ejector, ventilated rib, beavertail forearm and recoil pad. Engraving patterns usually consist of a sitting dog on the left of the frame and a sitting bird on the right, both surrounded by foliage and moderate scroll. Some early guns such as shown here have a standing dog on each side. Most Specialtys have a silver inlay at the junction of the ventilated and solid portion of the rib near the breech end but specimens have been noted with gold and no inlays. The rib inlays only appear on Specialty’s and higher grades and are mostly found in gold on the higher grades. Barrels are usually roll stamped “L.C. SMITH SPECIALTY TRAP” on the left side.
The Eagle Grade was among the original group of four grades announced in 1917; a total of 90 were manufactured by Hunter Arms Company until production ceased in 1932. Introduced at $135, it had risen to $182 ten years later in 1927. Considered a high/middle grade gun, it was available with the usual options of 30, 32 and 34 inch Nitro Steel barrels as well as full, half and straight grip stocks of carefully selected walnut. Standard features included two Lyman bead sights, ventilated rib, ejector, beavertail forearm and a recoil pad. The Eagle distinguishes itself with a different engraving technique employing stippling around a flying pheasant on the left side of the frame and a duck in full flight on the right side. In keeping with its name an engraved eagle with partially extended wings appears on the top lever. Of the few fully documented Eagles, all feature gold inlays on the rib. Barrels are usually roll stamped “L.C. SMITH EAGLE TRAP” on the left side.
Crown Grade guns represent the fourth tier from the top of the L.C. Smith high grade gun lineup. Beginning at $185 in 1917 it had risen in price to $250 in 1927. A high grade gun with the usual options of a 30, 32, or 34 inch Nitro Steel barrel and full, half and straight grips in Circassian or English walnut, the factory would also allow some deviations in the engraving patterns. For this reason no two are exactly alike but usually consist of two dogs surrounded by foliage within an oval on the left side of the frame and the same basic design on the right. The barrel is usually engraved “L.C. SMITH CROWN TRAP” on the right side and “MADE TO ORDER BY THE HUNTER ARMS CO., INC. FULTON, N.Y. ” on the left. The Crown Grade is easily distinguishable from other grades with the appearance of a gold inlayed crown on the top of the opening lever. Standard features include two Lyman ivory sights, ventilated rib with gold inlay, ejector, beavertail forearm, and recoil pad. The last Crown SBT was shipped in 1940 completing a 23-year production run (1918-1940) of only 86 guns.
The first Monogram was shipped in 1920. The high price of this grade (1917: $369) contributed to its rarity as the last was shipped in 1940 (1939: $448.90) topping the total number of Monograms at 15. The Monogram was fitted with a carefully selected Circassian walnut stock and forearm with ribbon laced checkering patterns in a custom shape and a 30, 32, or 34 inch Monogram Steel barrel. The engraving patterns usually consist of extensive English scroll and two birds in flight on each side of the frame with rose and scroll covering most of the remaining portion of the frame and trigger guard. Barrel engravings include “MONOGRAM STEEL ” on the right “L.C. SMITH MONOGRAM TRAP ” or “L.C. SMITH MONOGRAM GRADE ” on the rib near the breech along with scroll and “MADE TO ORDER BY THE HUNTER ARMS CO., INC. FULTON N.Y. ” on the left. Third from the top of the line, the Monogram also included standard features of front and rear Lyman ivory bead sights, ventilated rib with gold inlay, ejector, beavertail forearm and recoil pad.
The rarest of the L.C. Smith single barrel trap guns is the Premier as only two were completed; one in 1920 and the second in 1936. Although the Premier was initially offered in 1918 the earliest published price occurred in 1930 at $690 rising to $748.20 by 1939. LCSCA records indicate that both were shipped with a 32 inch barrel. Barrel markings include “PREMIER STEEL” engraved on the right side of the barrel and “MADE TO ORDER BY THE HUNTER ARMS CO. INC. FULTON N.Y.” engraved on the left. The rib is engraved “L.C. SMITH PREMIER TRAP ”. The gun was fitted with ornately checkered stock and forearm in custom dimensions employing either of full, half or straight grip stock of Circassian walnut. Recognizing this as the second highest grade gun, it could appear with custom embellishments; the ‘standard’ engraving included a setter dog on the left side of the frame, a pointer dog on the right, and a dog on the trigger plate, each surrounded by an oval and scroll. One specimen has been observed with gold lightning bolts inlayed on each side of the barrel near the breech. Additional standard offerings were two Lyman ivory bead sights, ventilated rib with gold inlay, ejector, beavertail forearm and recoil pad.
Rounding out the top 20 SBT guns (Monogram: 15, Premier: 2, De Luxe: 3) is the finest offering of the Hunter Arms Company, the De Luxe Grade. One De Luxe was delivered in each of the years 1925, 1929 and 1937 making them the second rarest of the SBT guns. The original catalog offering was in 1918 but the earliest published price of $1035 was in 1930. Engraving can only be described as lavish with gold inlays consisting of two sitting birds on the left side of the frame and three sitting birds on the right side surrounded by scroll and gold wire inlays on the frame, top lever and barrel as shown nearby. “L. C. SMITH DE LUXE TRAP” was also engraved in gold on the rib near the breech. Unlike the Monogram and Premier that have engraved barrel steel consistent with their grade, e.g., Monogram Steel and Premier Steel, the (1937) De Luxe lacks external engraved barrel designation. Records indicate that all three were shipped with 32 inch barrels although they were offered with 30 or 34 inch barrels as well. It is noted that the Monogram, Premier and De Luxe double barrel guns were usually shipped with Sir Joseph Whitworth Compressed Steel barrels as late as 1926, well beyond the introduction of the SBT, but no Whitworth or Damascus barrels have been observed on any SBTs. Additional features consist of two Lyman bead sights, ventilated rib, ejector, recoil pad and beavertail forearm and stock ornately fashioned with ribboned checkering in Circassian walnut.