I recently visited with Jay Shachter, owner/operator of Vintage Firearms, Inc. to see his extensive collection of shotguns, which included a number of classic American doubles. I was originally in the market for an American-made 20 gauge side-by-side to be used for hunting upland game (versus sitting in a closet or hanging on a wall.) When I first met Jay at last February’s “Antique Arms” show, he suggested I consider a 16 gauge. While some may believe the days of the 16 are long past, it is considered by many to possess superior ballistics compared to other gauges. This is because 16s produce a “pure” or shorter shot string. For example, a 1 ounce load in a 16 has the same pellet density as a 1-1/4 ounce load in a 12 gauge. Additionally, 16s are generally lighter than 12s, are more readily available, and reflect a competitive price in the marketplace. I was intrigued. But what about ammunition? A little research revealed a number of shell manufacturers including Bismuth, Estate, Fiocchi, Winchester and Remington all provide a variety of 16 gauge cartridges including non-toxic options. Plus, online vendors make ordering simple. So the logistics angle was covered.
I shouldered gun after gun. Parkers, Foxs, L.C. Smiths, Ithicas. This was shotgun nirvana. I found myself gravitating towards the A.H. Fox/Fox-Sterlingworths. More shouldering and many questions later I settled on a 1936 Fox Sterlingworth Deluxe. (The Deluxe included twin ivory beads.) The fit of this gun was perfect…with each mount I saw a figure eight with a “snowman” hovering in the center. For me, this shotgun shouldered as well as guns triple the cost. The search was finally over, and I had myself a damn fine upland gun.
Generally speaking, collectors tend to place value on as-is condition, while shooters may be more apt to restore an antique gun to out-of-the-box condition. I fall into the latter category. While I appreciate it’s value and history, this gun will get use in the field and at the sporting clays range. Taking this into consideration, along with the existing condition of the gun and overall budget for the project, I decided to have restoration work done. Over the course of the next five weeks the barrels will be blued, the receiver will have case color hardening applied, and the wood will be refinished.
Here are a few shots of the existing condition. It will interesting to re-post some images when the restoration is complete.
Purchasing an antique shotgun brought about a number of questions and concerns. Jay’s extensive knowledge of double guns was matched by his patience and willingness to help. If you’ve ever considered a classic double I strongly recommend contacting Jay, or visit him at any number of gun shows he attends.
Vintage Firearms, Inc. / Jay Shachter (FFL Dealer) / shachterj (at) aol.com