Hunter Arms & U.S. Makers Barrel Sources
When the L.C. Smith Top-Action Double Cross-Bolted Breech-Loading Double Barrel “Bar Action” Hammer Gun was introduced by L.C. Smith Maker, Syracuse in 1884, and the “New L.C. Smith Hammerless Gun” using Alexander Brown's rotary locking bolt and lock in 1886, Lyman Cornelius had little choice but to use foreign Pattern Welded (Twist, Crolle Damascus, and Laminated Steel) barrels. Since about 1880, none had been produced in the U.S., and no U.S. makers offered fluid steel barrels at that time.
The vast majority of barrels imported for the domestic makers were from Belgium, as were most of barrels fitted to guns manufactured in England. John Henry Walsh “Stonehenge” reported in The Shot-gun and Sporting Rifle in 1859 that “quite three-fourths of the tubes used in Birmingham are Belgian make, and nearly all the London trade use them…”
The McKinley Tariff of 1890 set the average ad valorem tariff rate for imports into the United States at 48.4%. “Sporting, breech-loading double-barrel shotguns” had a 35% ad valorem PLUS an import duty of $1.50 if priced less than $6; $4 if $6-$12; and $6 if priced greater than $12. “Single-barrel breech-loading shot-guns” had the same 35% ad valorem PLUS an import duty of $1. “Forged rough shotgun barrels” i.e. non-joined tubes, however, were exempt from the tariff which allowed the US makers to continue to import Damascus tubes from (mostly) Belgium to fit and finish here.
Nov. 30, 1895 Sporting Life
How Shot Guns Are Made and the Process Through Which They Pass Fully Explained
The beginning of the manufacture of a gun is the barrels, and it is generally known that no barrels are made in this country except the rolled steel, which is used on the Winchester gun. All gun barrels are now imported, although an attempt was made a few years ago to produce them in this country, but with only partial success. England, Germany and Belgium supply most of the barrels, the latter country doubtless producing the larger quantity. All gun barrels, whether imported direct from the makers in Belgium, or through an importer in this country to the gun manufacturer, are received in rough tubes, which very much resemble a couple of gas pipes, but being somewhat larger at one end than at the other. These barrels or “tubes” as they are called, are merely tied together in pairs, with small wire and 40 to 50 pairs are packed in a box.
The Belgian gun making industry was centered in Liege, with 189 gun makers in 1891. Barrel factories were primarily in Chaudfontaine, Forêt, Fraipont, and especially Nessonvaux in the Vesdre valley. In 1896 an estimated 700 workers produced 300,000 pairs of pattern welded barrels.
In 1899, the U.S. firms of Hartley & Graham and Simmons Hardware bought 90,000 guns (not all shotguns) from Liege gun makers.
Parliamentary Papers, Volume 122 Great Britain Parliament House of Commons 1905
stated that Liege produced 850 tons of Damascus barrels; 100 tons for export, and 156,000 double barrel shotguns.
Machine-made (steel) barrels were either sold in their rough state or after being finished off. The annual production in Belgian factories was about 1,500,000 barrels, of which a large part is exported to America.
Ernest Heuse-Lemoine (1834-1926) from Nessonvaux was a major barrel maker and intermediary for smaller firms in the Vesdre Valley, maintaining agents in London, Birmingham, and New York. He supplied damascus barrels for at least 50 years to U.S. makers, and is reported to have named the “Boston” and “Washington” patterns especially for the American market.
Belgian maker’s marks that have been identified on barrels:
L.C. Smith: Bauduin Doyen, Heuse-Riga Fils, Henri Heuse-Riga, George Laloux & Ernest Heuse-Lemoine
Baker: Charles Spirlet, Joseph Joris & Arthur-Delvaux-Heuse
Lefever: Arthur-Delvaux-Heuse & George Laloux
Ithaca: Heuse-Riga Fils
Colt Patent Firearms Mfg. Co.: Plunger-Riga & Heuse-Riga Fils
Sears/A.J. Aubrey/Meriden: Lucient Clement, Heuse-Riga Fils, and Henri Pieper
Remington: Henri Pieper, Simonis-Janssen & others as yet unconfirmed including J. Pire & Cie, another of the Janssen families, Dumoulin, Heuse-Lemoine, or Eugene Joris of Fraipont
Syracuse Arms: Arthur-Delvaux-Heuse
Torkelson: Janssen Fils & Cie
1905 A1 Chain Damascus with ‘C’, ‘H’, ‘E’ & an unknown ?importers mark.
‘C’ = Crucible?
‘W& ‘ and ‘BD’ Possibly Bauduin Doyen of Nessonvaux
1898 No. 0 with “Good Two Rod Damascus”
1902 0 grade with both ‘BD’ and ‘EH’; possibly Ernest Heuse-Lemoine, but the trademark used by Heuse-Lemoine & Cie was a Crowned ‘HL’
H.R.F. Heuse-Riga Fils c. 1910 16g Grade F hammer gun
‘HHR’ of Henri Heuse-Riga has also been identified on No. 0 hammerless
‘HRF’ also found on Ithaca Flues and Meriden Fire Arms Co./Sears
Hunter Arms used Laminated Steel on Quality No. 1 guns 1892-1898. Two Iron “Good Damascus” was used until 1907, when “Special Steel” by Halcomb Steel Co. was introduced.
SN 23404 with Laminated Steel stamped with the Provisional Birmingham Proof as applied to the rough tube.
A c. 1892 A1 with 3 Iron ‘Turkish’ crolle and Birmingham Proof also exists.
FLUID STEEL MAKERS
It was not until the turn-of-the-century that American makers, and sportsmen, began to turn away from Damascus to fluid steel barrels. Sir Joseph Whitworth's adaptation of Bessemer's principle of hydraulic pressure casting was patented in 1874. The first Purdey Pair Nos. 10614 & 10615 were delivered January 1, 1880 with the “New Whitworth Fluid Pressed Steel.”
Lefever Arms Co. was the first U.S. maker to supply Whitworth steel for their Optimus in 1887. Parker used Whitworth for the first AAH Pigeon Gun in 1894 SN 79964 delivered to Capt. Du Bray. In 1895, Parker completed a run of 14 DH and 1 BH with Vulcan steel barrels. Hunter Arms first offered Whitworth on the Monogram, A2, and A3 in 1895.
Along with Sir Joseph, other makers were rapidly developing fluid steel barrel methodology and barrels entered in the Birmingham Proof House Trial Report of 1891 included “English fluid compressed steel, Whitworth process”, English and Foreign steel “Siemens-Martin process”, “English carburised steel, Darby’s method”, English “Superior Barrel Steel”, and “English steel, hematite process, from pig and scrap.” Whitworth barrels were three times the expense of “English machine forged 3 Rod Best Damascus” and “Foreign 3 Rod Crolle”, while the other fluid steel barrels were comparable in cost.
In 1900, Jean Lejeune of Nessonvaux could supply a pair of “Boston” tubes for 10 francs; or about 2 dollars.
The 1902 Sears, Roebuck & Co. catalog listed non-ejector Damascus barrel hammerless guns as follows: L.C. Smith No. 2 - $54, Remington 1894 A grade with “Two Stripe Damascus” - $35, 1894 B grade - $45, Ithaca No. 2 - $37.50, Baker A grade - $37.50, and Parker GH - $58.20.
The 1903 H.H. Kiffe Co., New York catalog shows the Smith No. 0 Damascus non-ejector at $35.25, with “Discount allowed for Cash with order.”
It would have been very difficult to justify sourcing fluid steel barrels from a foreign or domestic maker unless the tubes could be purchased at a similar favorable cost.
Hunter Arms was one of the earliest American maker to offer fluid steel on other than the highest grade guns. Crown steel first appeared with the Pigeon Grade in 1893, No. A 1 (SN 1130) in 1894, was also used for the No. 3 about 1895, and in 1898 for the No. 2. The Hunter Bicycles 1897 Catalog listed “Hunter Crown Steel Tubing”.
c. 1895 L.C. Smith Pigeon Grade courtesy of Mike Yonker
c. 1901 - 1903 Ithaca Gun Co. No. 3 and above models have been identified with “Crown Steel” marked on the top of the barrels
Hunter Arms Nitro steel was introduced in 1898 for the No. 3 and Pigeon and later the No. 4 and No. 5. Armor steel appeared in 1898 with the 00, and Royal steel for the F grade hammer gun in 1898. London steel was used for the No. 0 and Special steel for the No. 1 in 1907.
Fulton tradename barrels were marked “Royal Steel”, “Special Smokeless Steel”, “London Fluid Steel”, “Peerless Steel”, “Fluid Blued Steel”, “Projectile Steel”, “Silver Steel”, “Blue Diamond Steel”, and “Missabe Fluid Steel” on “Comstock Arms Co. Duluth” guns. The Mesabi Iron Ore Range is the largest iron deposit in NE Minn.
Parker Titanic steel barrels were offered for Grades 3 - 6 from 1897 until the introduction of Acme steel for Grades 4 - 6 around 1910. The Grade 0 VH was introduced in 1899 with Vulcan steel, Parker Special Steel barrels appeared on the Grade 2 GH in 1908, and the Grade 1 PH & NH received Parker Steel in 1917.
Feb. 26, 1898 Sporting Life
Parker Bros., makers of hammer and hammerless shotguns have issued the following special notice:
We can now supply you with a plain black barrel that we do not, hesitate to recommend as a hard, tough and thoroughly reliable barrel, and in consequence is suitable for shooting nitro powders.
We unhesitatingly recommend them for trap and pigeon guns when a party desires a barrel similar to the Whitworth Fluid Pressed Steel.
We have decided to name them “Titanic Steel”, by which name they will be known, and stamped on the top rib. They will be made in the $100, $150 and $200 list, and will be kept up to the high standard that has characterized our guns of these grades.
PARKER BROS., Meriden, Conn.
The first Lefever with Krupp steel barrels was in 1894. The 1913 Lefever catalog listed the DS with Dura-Nitro Steel, the G with Royal Nitro Steel, and the F with Premier Nitro Steel.
The J. Stevens Arms & Tool Co. Model 270 was listed with Nitro steel, after 1904 the lower grade Tobin doubles were fitted with DeMoya Fluid Steel and Trojan Nitro Steel barrels, and the 1920s Folsom/Crescent American Gun Co. “Midget Field Model” was listed with Nitro steel barrels, though most were Armory Steel, as were the A.J. Aubrey/Meriden Fire Arms. The 1907 Union Fire Arms catalog listed the Model 22 double with “Imported Nitro-steel Barrels”
Steel barrels were introduced on Remington 1894 Hammerless Double in the Remington Arms Co. April 1897 catalogue (courtesy of Dave Noreen.)
Remington Steel sold for the same price as the ordinary Damascus barrels on A-grade guns was described in the catalogue as “manufactured in our own works…”
“Ordnance Steel is of the highest grade, and is especially recommended for heavy charges of nitro powder. The tensile strength of this steel is 110,000 lbs., and elastic limit 60,000 lbs., this being greatly in excess of any strain to which shotgun barrels are subjected with reasonable loads of nitro powders.”
“Ordnance Steel” barrels were offered at the same price as the fancier Damascus barrels on grades C and above, but cost a $10 premium on A- and B-Grades when introduced in 1897, and climbed to $15 by the 1899 catalogue and remained so through the 1909 catalogue.
In 1897, Baker Gun & Forging introduced the $100 Pigeon Gun with Whitworth steel barrels. About 1906 the Batavia Special with Homo-tensile steel, S with Flui-Tempered steel, the L grade Trap with Holland Special Steel, and R (replacing the A grade) with Krupp steel were available.
From the November, 1904 The Baker Gun Quarterly:
“All our barrels are specially made for us by the best European barrel makers.”
Hunter Arms catalogs and advertisements from the late 1890s into the 1930s frequently carried the statement that “These barrels are made especially for us and are used exclusively by us.”
That is not to say, however, that the tubes were made in the U.S.
June 22, 1895 Sporting Life
How the L. C. Smith Gun Game to be the Staple Article It Now Is In Sportsmen's Circles - History of Its Rise and Progress.
Another grade of gun which the Hunter Arms Company placed on the market, through the effort and study of Harvey McMurchy, is the L. C. Smith “Pigeon Gun.” Ever ready to recognize the wants of the trap-shooter they brought out this last year a new grade of this celebrated gun. This grade, like the others of this company, combines the strength and durability features that made their first hammerless gun so popular. The barrels on this new gun are the new Crown steel barrels, which are made expressly to their order and are harder than Damascus; also stronger, which makes them very popular among sportsmen. The metal is extra thick at the breech and of good strength at the muzzle, being especially adapted to stand the tremendous strain of many excessive loads of Nitro powder which has proven so disastrous to guns of other makes. This pigeon gun is strictly a high grade, made at a very reasonable price. The grip is made straight regularly, but can be made half, three quarters, or full pistol grip, if so ordered. The engraving is appropriate to a gun of this character and is of neat design and finish. The price of this pigeon gun is listed at $125, and with ejector principle $150.
Hunter Arms shipping records show the first run of 10 Pigeon Grade guns (SNs 37209 to 37218) was started in May 1893
Hunter Arms ads in Sporting Life for 1896 & 1897 list Crown but not Nitro steel barrels
Sporting Life Feb. 26, 1898
The Hunter Arms Company, of Fulton, N. Y., makers of the L. C. Smith gun, have made a somewhat radical change in their guns recently. The following was received, which is being sent out to the trade:
Fulton, N. Y., Feb. 10. Our motto, “We lead, others follow,” is again to be brought prominently before the public. After seriously considering the demands of the shooters we have concluded to make the following changes in the L.C. Smith guns for 1898.
Our famous Crown Steel barrels will now be put on our No. 2, $80 list gun regularly, with an option on the Damascus if preferred. After years of use on our No. 3 guns, we can cheerfully say that our Crown Steel barrels are a decided success in every way. In addition to this very important change we now offer you an entirely new design in engraving on this grade. It is neat and in keeping with a gun of this description. Our policy is always to improve our product whenever and wherever we can, hence instead of reducing our price on the No. 2 gun we have greatly improved its quality, and offer our patrons a vastly superior gun at former price. In regard to our No. 3 gun, $100 list, we come to you with something entirely new in gun barrels called Nitro steel. For months and months we have been testing these barrels to fully demonstrate to ourselves their qualities, and the result is most satisfactory. This Nitro steel comes the nearest to the Whitworth fluid steel of any gun barrel ever offered to the trade. This statement expresses fully the status of our nitro steel, and in offering these new barrels you may rest assured we do so only after being fully convinced as to their superior quality.
Both Crown and Nitro steel barrels will have our trademark stamped on them. In this mark you have our guarantee that they are genuine, and just what we represent them to be.
Hoping that we may have the pleasure of your favors with orders for samples of these new guns and assuring same our best attentions always, we remain, yours very truly, HUNTER ARMS CO.
1901 Logan-Gregg Hardware, Pittsburgh
“New Crown & Nitro Steel barrels to order”
John Houchins cites an interview with John J. Goss, foreman of the Hunter Arms barrel brazing department published in Shooting Times by Wallace Labisky in 1961. Mr Goss stated that at least from 1900 until the 1940s all of the barrels came from a steel works in Syracuse, except for Whitworth barrels.
From an early 1900s article in Col. William Brophy’s L.C. Smith Shotguns regarding a visit to the Hunter Arms Co. factory by a Mr Millman, who has been shooting a Smith gun for “about twenty years…”
“This, I told him, as I opened the door, is our barrel department. Here the barrels are reamed and polished. We import our Damascus barrels, which are rough bored. Our fluid steel barrels are made especially for us over in Syracuse.”
The presence of Belgian maker’s marks on Royal, Armor, London, Crown, and Nitro steel barrels, and the testimony of Thomas Hunter clearly contradicts that statement.
Machinery, February 1907, W.L. McLaren, “The Manufacture of Shot-guns at the Ithaca Gun Company’s Works”
“The barrels (Krupp-Essen, Cockerill, Twist & Damascus) are all imported; they come in boxes containing 50 pairs each, rough-turned and rough-bored…”
Hunter, Trader, Trapper, August, 1908
The Ithaca Field Gun “...fitted with imported smokeless powder steel barrels…”
Hearings, Vol. 14, United States 60th Congress 2nd Session
We further request that shotguns barrels in single tubes forged rough bored…be continued on the free list as at present, because their manufacture or production can not be economically undertaken in this country.
Hunters Arms co., Fulton, N.Y., Ithaca Gun Co., Ithaca N.Y., Parker Bros., Meriden, Conn., Lefever Arms Co., Syracuse, N.Y., J. Stevens Arms & Tool Co., Chicopee Falls, Mass., N.R. Davis & Son, Assonet, Mass., Baker Gun & Forging Co., Batavia, N.Y.
Field & Stream, May, 1909 “The Parker Gun” by Harry Palmer
In the first place, the material that goes into the Parker is the best that the market supplies, the steel that is used in the frame and forend being a special stock made to conform to a physical test, which every bar received from the steel mill must stand, or be rejected. The gun is made entirely in the well-equipped factory, with the exception of the rubber butt-plates, and the tubes for the barrels, which are imported.
Report on Duties on Metals and Manufactures of Metals
By United States Congress. Senate. Committee on Finance, 1912
Testimony regarding the Payne-Aldrich and Dingley Tariff Bills
STATEMENT OF MR. THOMAS HUNTER, OF FULTON, N. Y., REPRESENTING THE HUNTER ARMS CO. AND OTHERS
The Chairman: Will you state the companies you represent, Mr. Hunter?
Mr. Hunter. The Hunter Arms Co., the Baker Gun & Forging Co., Parker Bros. Gun Co., Hopkins & Allen Arms Co., A. H. Fox Gun Co., Lefever Arms Co., H. & D. Folsom Arms Co., Ithaca Gun Co., N. R. Davis & Sons, and Harrington & Richardson Arms Co.
Senator McCumber: Does the American manufacturer use the unfinished importation?
Mr. Hunter: He uses what are designated in the present bill as “gun barrels rough-bored.” That is what we import.
Senator McCumber: To what extent do you use those?
Mr. Hunter: Entirely.
Senator McCumber: You do not manufacture any of them?
Mr. Hunter: No, sir. We have no facilities for making shotgun barrels.
Senator McCumber: Does any other company make them?
Mr. Hunter: There are a few that make them for themselves only. None are made to be sold. We never have been able to buy any in this country.
THE TESTIMONY OF W.A. KING REPRESENTING PARKER GUN CO.
Mr. King: I can speak only for our own company in so far as wages go. For instance, on the question of barrels, Mr. Hunter informed your committee that some years ago some of the manufacturers of this country attempted to make barrels. We made some barrels: we built an addition to the factory, put in some up-to-date machinery, and brought some men from Belgium to show our blacksmiths how to do it. We had to pay our blacksmiths not less than 32 cents an hour, up to 40 cents, and we gave it up, because the highest wages paid the Belgian blacksmiths for exactly the same grade of barrel are 11 cents per hour. That is what is paid to the highest-priced man employed.
Senator Smoot: In Belgium?
Mr. King: In Belgium: yes, sir. That is where all of our barrels are imported from, with the exception of our very high-grade Whipple (probably a typo for Whitworth) steel barrels.
Brief submitted by J.G. Riga, Feb. 15, 1913 to the Tariff schedule hearings before the Committee on Ways and Means, House of Representatives
“Shotgun barrels are not made in this country and they can not be bought, and all the small gun manufacturers are obliged to buy all their barrels abroad and this duty would really work a great hardship to all the double-barrel gun manufacturers, such as the Hunter Arms Co., Fulton, N. Y.; Ithaca Gun Co., Ithaca, N. Y.; Baker Gun & Forging Co., Batavia, N. Y.; Lefever Arms Co., Syracuse, N. Y.; the Crescent Fire Arms Co., and the Hopkins & Allen Arms Co., of Norwich, Conn.; A. H. Fox Gun Co., Philadelphia, Pa.; N. R. Davis & Sons, Assonet, Mass., etc. All the above manufacture double-barrel guns, which is a real sportsman's gun.”
The Riga family were Damascus barrel makers in Liege, and J.G. Riga imported barrels into the U.S. starting about 1886; supplying Forehand & Wadsworth, Colt, Bacon Arms, and C.S. Shattuck. Barrels were purchased from many small makers and shipped from Antwerp.
By 1912 Damascus or Twist barrels were used on a very small percentage of U.S. maker's shotguns. c. 1909, even A.J. Aubrey/Meriden Fire Arms and Folsom/Crescent were using “Armory Steel”, but the source is unknown.
“Our Home Industries – The Hunter Arms Co.” by John Hunter, Sr.
The Sandy Creek News, April 13, 1916
Gun barrels, previous to the war, were practically all manufactured in Birmingham, England and Liege, Belgium. Perhaps you may remember that during the early days of the war the Germans drove the men out of a large factory just on the outskirts of Liege. That factory was where practically all the American barrels were manufactured.
(In the Boring Dept.) you see the barrels in very large quantities coming into this department in hard wooden boxes which are characteristic of the foreign shipments.
Tariff Information Survey, 1921
“Practically all the raw materials are obtained from domestic sources, with the exception of a portion of the barrels for shotguns, which are imported by the smaller makers, as a rough bored forging. The production of this component of the gun requires an investment in equipment too large to allow of profitable manufacture on a small scale. All but one of the firms which imported barrels before the war reported (1920) that they intended to again import as soon as possible, although one of them took up their manufacture during the war, and statistics of importations in 1920 indicate that this practice has been largely resumed. The most of the larger companies make their own barrels. These rough forgings have been obtained chiefly from Belgium, a few of the highest grade coming from England.”
The Tariff Review October 15, 1897
We suppose that the gentleman making the statement that no gun barrels are made in this country referred to barrels made of iron and steel, such as twist, laminated and Damascus. If so, he was correct, for no barrels of that nature are made at the present time in this country.
Gun barrels, however, are made very extensively here, but they are made from plain Bessemer metal, the same as is used in rifle barrels, and are used in the manufacture of single guns and the cheaper grade of double guns.
Sanderson, Crucible & Halcomb
Sanderson Steel was started in Sheffield, England in 1776 and Sanderson Bros. & Newbould Ltd. purchased Sweet Iron Works in Syracuse in 1876. Sanderson may have supplied Crown fluid steel barrels (or more likely imported “rough forged tubes”) to Hunter Arms starting in 1893 with the introduction of the Pigeon grade gun, Nitro steel in 1895, Armor in 1898, and Royal in 1901.
Several Sanderson Brothers and Newbould Ltd. trade catalogs are in the collection of the Smithsonian American National Museum of American History. The Sanderson Bros. Steel Co., Syracuse, 1895 catalog (courtesy of the Smithsonian) can be viewed here:
There is no mention of “gun barrel steel”, nor serving as an import agent for foreign steel makers.
The S.B. & Co. mark is found on L.C. Smith and Ithaca Flues & NID shotguns.
The first electric arc furnace was developed by Paul Héroult, of France, in 1900. Héroult came to the U.S. in 1905 and Halcomb Steel Co. installed the first electric arc furnace in the U.S. in 1906. Sanderson Brothers Steel Co. installed an arc furnace in 1907, and the furnace is on display at Station Square, Pittsburgh.
“Crown”, however, was the brand name of the Crown and Cumberland Steel Co., Allegany County, Maryland which was established in 1872. Related to the Panic of 1893, Crown and Cumberland Steel was sold at a trustee sale in 1894, and then reorganized as Cumberland Steel and Tinplate Co. In 1900, the company became part of Crucible Steel.
There was also a division of Cassidy & Co., Crown Steel Works, in Allegheny Co., PA. https://archive.org/stream/directoryironan00instgoog#page/n8/mode/2up
Sanderson used the brand name “Sanderson Bros. & Co.” and was one of 13 companies that formed Crucible Steel Co. of America July 21, 1900, with headquarters in Pittsburgh. Sanderson then became Sanderson Brothers Steel Works. http://www.crucibleservice.com/history.aspx
Crucible Steel Co. of America was a consolidation of the following companies
Aliquippa Steel Co.
Anderson, Du Puy & Co.
Benj. Atha & Illingworth Co.
Beaver Falls Steel Works
Canton Steel Works
Cayuga Tool Steel Works
Consumers’ Heating Co.
Crescent Steel Works
Cumberland Steel & Tin Plate Co.
Howe, Brown & Co.
La Belle Steel Works
Park Steel Works
Sanderson Bros. Steel
Singer, Nimick & Co.
Spaulding & Jennings Co.
Norwalk Steel Co. was incorporated in 1910
In 1911, Midland Steel Co. was purchased and became Pittsburgh Crucible
In addition to Sanderson Bros. Steel Works in Syracuse, New York, Crucible operated the following steel works in 1902.
Aluquippa Steel Works
Beaver Falls Steel Works
Black Diamond Steel Works
Crescent Steel Works
Howe, Brown & Co. Works
La Belle Steel Works
Pittsburgh Steel Works
Singer, Nimick & Co. Works
Atha Steel Co.
West Bergen Steel Works
C.H. Halcomb, former president of Crucible, formed Halcomb Steel Company in Syracuse in 1902, with L.C. Smith as Chairman of the Board of Directors.
Crucible bought Halcomb in 1911, but the company continued to market many tradename steels and steel alloys including ‘Dreadnought High Speed Steel’, ‘Ketos Oil Hardening Steel’, and ‘Halectralloy Brand’ Chrome Vanadium and Chrome Nickel steels. In 1917, Halcomb was merged with Syracuse Crucible Steel Co.
John Houchins states that Halcomb supplied London steel for 0 grades and Royal steel for the hammer guns starting in 1907, and in his L.C. Smith “The Legend Lives” p. 385 has a copy of the 1907 Halcomb catalog with a listing for “Machine Gun And Smokeless Rifle Barrel, Revolver Cylinder Steel, and Shot Gun Barrel...furnished in both Carbon and Alloy grades.”
The 1913 edition of “Halcomb Steel Co. Catalogue and Hints on Steel” however contains no mention of steel for gun barrels, nor Royal or London steel.
In 1882, Gautier Steel was a division of Cambria Iron Co., Allegheny Co., PA.
Dudley G. Gautier was president of the Philadelphia Steel & Forging Co. and D.G. Gautier & Co. was listed as an agent for both Sanderson Brothers & Co. and Tacony Iron Works (1881-1910) of Philadelphia.
Ithaca Flues with ‘SB & Co G’ – Gautier?
1906 12g 00 Armor barrels with ‘S.B. & Co P’ - Sanderson‘s Pittsburgh Works?
1910 F grade hammer gun with Royal Steel stamped over ‘SB & Co C’ - Sanderson‘s Cumberland Works?
‘SB & Co F’ 1925 Long Range Field Grade
Were the 'rough bored tubes' imported by Sanderson / Crucible, for Hunter Arms and the U.S. doublegun makers?
Until correspondence, purchase orders, billing or shipping records are located, that question is unlikely to be answered.
Samuel Buckley & Co.
Confusion exists related to another ‘SB & Co’ mark.
N.R. Davis hammergun with Twist barrels
1920 Ithaca Flues Field with a different style ‘SB & Co’ stamped over ‘LLH’
Similar mark on a Fluid Steel Lefever. The mark is also present on a Chain damascus FE barrel SN 38,025
Samuel Buckley served on the Birmingham Proof House Committee and in 1863 was one of the officers in the British Small Arms Co. He later establish a branch office in Detroit. Guns produced by William Powell in the 1860s exist marked Samuel Buckley & Co. Hammer guns and Anson & Deeley patent BLNEs were imported into the US by J. Palmer O'Neal of Pittsburgh, PA in the 1880's.
See The Double Gun Journal Vol. 22 Issue 3, 2011
The American Exporter’s Export Trade Directory of 1915 listed Samuel Buckley & Co. as “chiefly importers” with offices at 16 East 33rd St., New York, 2 Soho Square, London and Liege, Belgium.
Samuel Buckley & Co., Manhattan incorporated in July 1921.
Walt Snyder provided this quotation from Harry Howland regarding c. 1920 Ithaca Gun Co. barrels - “We were getting all our barrels forged, rough drilled and rough turned from Belgium. We were purchasing them from either Samuel Buckley & Co. or from J. Riga & Co. and it was not until two or three years later that we began purchasing those barrels from the Flannery Bolt Co.”
Other Reported Makers
The Iron Age Directory, David Williams Co., 1911
Listed the following companies under “Steel, Gun Barrel”
Edgar Allen & Co. Chicago, Ill.
Bethlehem Steel Co., South Bethlehem, Pa.
Carnegie Steel Co., Pittsburgh, Pa.
Colonial Steel Co., Pittsburgh, Pa.
Crucible Steel Co. of America, Pittsburgh, Pa
Farist Steel Co., Bridgeport, Ct
Wm. Jessop & Sons, Inc, 91 John St. New York
C. Pardee Works, Perth Amboy, NJ
Thomas Prosser & Son, 26 Platt St. NY
Vanadium Alloys Steel Co., Latrobe, Pa
West Leechburg Steel Co., Pittsburgh, Pa
In American Rifleman Nov. 1937, A.P Curtis stated in “Making Double Shotgun Barrels” that the American Gun Barrel Company of New Haven, Conn. made barrels for the U.S. market 1914-1921, but it could not compete with the duty free importation of tubes after Belgium recovered from WWI.
The ‘LLH’ of Laurent Lochet-Habran has been found on Fox, Baker, Lefever, Crescent, Ithaca (Lewis & Flues with ‘Smokeless Powder Steel’), NID, Lefever Nitro Special, Lefever M-2 single barrel, and Westernfield Deluxe/Western Arms Long Range, Smith Royal, Armor, London, Crown and Nitro barrels and Hunter Arms Fulton and “Ranger” for Sears. Baker guns may be marked “Nitro Rolled Steel” and Folsom Crescent guns “Fluid Temper Steel”.
LLH barrels have been found on Smith guns manufactured from 1910 to 1948.
A 20g Monogram completed March 16, 1912 surfaced in 2015 with 32” barrels stamped “Sir Joseph Whitworth Fluid Compressed Steel/Made to Order” bearing the Whitworth trademark AND a second barrel with ‘2’ on the forend lug, the same SN on the flats, the Hunter Arms “Crown” stamp, clearly showing a ‘LLH’ on the left barrel; but which are marked “Sir Joseph Whitworth Fluid Compressed Steel”! (See The Journal of the L.C. Smith Collectors Association, Spring 2016)
Composition analysis by Optical Emission Spectroscopy (OES) of a c. 1925 Crescent Fire Arms “Genuine Armory Steel” barrel with the ‘LLH’ mark showed it to be Rephosphorized AISI 1040 Carbon Steel with a Tensile Strength of 104,000 psi.
The H. & D. Folsom Arms Co. Catalogue No. 35 (1930-31) listing for the New “Empire” (Crescent No. 9) states the barrels are “Fine Decarbonized ‘High Pressure’ Steel – Proof Testing with loads considerably heavier than standard loaded shells”; not “(Decarbonized) Armory Steel” as had been listed since introduction of the Model 0 Hammer Double in 1897.
Possibly Royal Steel replacement barrels on a c. 1898 F grade hammergun
1910 20g 00 Armor Steel, ‘LLH’ & ‘ACL’ (Acier Cockerill Liege)
Royal Steel over ‘LLH’ & ‘ACL’ - Acier Cockerill Liege
1912 F grade hammer gun
1910 5E Nitro Steel with ‘LLH’ and ‘ACL’
London Steel over ‘LLH’ Skeet Special
1914 Trap Grade Crown Steel, ‘LLH’ & ’ACL’
Nitro Steel with ‘LLH’ - 1922 Eagle grade LRWF
Around 1930, Crucible purchased tubes from Delcour-Dupont of Nessonvaux, which appeared on Field and Trap grade guns.
Jean-Baptiste Delcour was the father of Lucien & Oscar Delcour and had been a manager for Pieper & Cie before opening his own shop specializing in Damascus barrels. Canons Delcour was registered in 1921, and remained in business until about 1968 when they were acquired by Fabrique National de Herstal.
The mark is also found on Fox, Ithaca NID (“Best Fluid Steel”) and Ithaca Lefever Nitro Special A-grades.
Acier Cockerill Manufacture Liegoise
1902 No. 00 with possibly ‘ACM’ in a circle on the left barrel
“Fluid Steel-Krupp Essen” with Armor Steel overstamp. Krupp barrels were cataloged as an available option 1900-1905, likely manufactured by license to Laurent Lochet-Habran & Acier Cockerill Liege
Importers and Distributors
It appears that barrel makers in Belgium sold “rough forged tubes” primarily through import-export agents. From the Monthly Consular and Trade Reports, Vol. 74, 1904 “Manufacture of Firearms and Gun Barrels in Liege” by James C. McNally, Consul, Liege, Belgium October 14, 1903
“Manufacturers report that many American houses buying from Liege factories do so through agents, and say that it would be more advantageous to importers to deal directly.”
Most Smith guns were sold by Hunter Arms through local and regional sporting goods and hardware firms, rather than by special order directly from the factory, and some distributors apparently requested that identifying marks be placed on the barrels of the guns they ordered.
‘C’ and 'BH', possibly Belknap Hardware, a major distributor in Louisville, KY. 1909 12g 00 with Armor steel barrels. The 4 over 5 stamp represents the pre-fit and finish barrel weight. The barrels weigh 4lbs 1oz.
‘WR’ William Read & Sons, Boston 1912 No. 2 Chain Damascus
‘O’ and ‘WR’ - William Read and Sons, Boston. Another partial stamp, possibly the tube maker or importer? 1900 F grade hammer
‘O.’ and ‘C.&J.’ Twist barrels on 1898 F grade hammergun
‘RIS & Co’ - 1902 10g No. 2 chain damascus, also with ‘H’, ‘C’, and possibly ‘W & R’
‘C’ and ‘W & R’
SUMMARY OF BARREL MARKS
‘C’ is found on both Damascus and fluid steel barrels and is presumed to represent Crucible Steel Co. of America established in 1901
‘S. B. & Co’ - Sanderson Brothers & Co.
C – Sanderson‘s Cumberland (Maryland) Works? or Carpenter Steel Company, establish in 1889 in Reading, PA which used a ‘C’ to mark their bar steel?
G – Gautier?
T – Tacony?
P – Sanderson‘s Pittsburgh Works?
Damascus Tube Makers –
EH - ? Ernest Heuse-Lemoine
H.R.F. - Heuse-Riga Fils
BD - ? Bauduin Doyen of Nessonvaux
Fluid Steel Makers –
Delcour-Dupont of Nessonvaux/ Canons Delcour S.A.
Acier Cockerill Manufacture Liegoise
Krupp Essen (possibly by license by Belgium makers)
W & R
RIS & Co.
O. and C.& J.
B.J.W.&Co. (possibly Mercer, PA) has been identified on Belgian sourced but English finished and marketed non-Hunter Arms tradename guns
Unfortunately, ledger pages with the serial numbers of early 1900s mostly No. 0 hammerless and F grade hammer guns with the following marks do not include the shipping destinations.
WR - ? William Read
BH - ? Belknap Hardware
SD&G - Schoverling Daly & Gales
Special thanks for the research assistance provided by Raimey Ellenburg, Walt Snyder, David Williamson, Chris Helms, Roger Domer, and Pete Mikalajunas.
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