October 13, 2011
100th Anniversary L.L. Bean Merkel Shotguns Coming in January
By Phil Bourjaily
"You cannot expect success hunting deer or moose if your feet are not properly dressed. The Maine Hunting Shoe is designed by a hunter who has tramped the Maine woods for the last 18 years. We guarantee them to give perfect satisfaction in every way." That hunter was Leon Leonwood Bean, who invented the Maine Hunting Shoe (aka “Bean Boot”) in 1912 and sold them through the mail with an unconditional guarantee.
While I would question whether leather upper/rubber bottomed Maine Hunting shoes are the perfect moose and deer boot, they are great for fast-moving upland hunters, sort of like Converse Chuck Taylors for the outdoors. I have gone on to other boots, but for years I wore nothing else, and I still wear mine around town on rainy fall and spring days.
Of course, L.L. Bean became a mail order and retail giant, and this year the company celebrates its 100th anniversary. To mark the occasion the Maine retailer is selling a number of commemorative items, including a limited run of high grade Merkel doubles, both individual 20 gauge guns ($15,000) and four-gun small gauge sets ($75,000) featuring a 16, 20, 28 gauge and .410.
The guns are far beyond the price range of almost everyone who reads this blog, including myself. Even so, I appreciate Bean’s gesture of celebrating their 100th anniversary with products that reflect their bloodsporting roots, especially given the way brands such as Eddie Bauer and Abercrombie & Fitch no longer stand for what they once represented.*
We have covered Merkel shotguns in this space in the past, and the Bean guns are beautiful examples, with well-figured Turkish walnut stocks and skip-line checkering. The grayed sideplates are appropriately engraved with game scenes of grouse and woodcock. The guns even have a gold inlaid Maine Hunting Shoe on the bottom of the receiver.
The guns are a very limited, numbered run of twenty 20 gauges in five, four-gun sets. They go on sale at midnight, January 1, 2012. Perhaps Bean is hoping people will camp out in line to get them, although at $15,000 apiece it seems unlikely.
*That said, my favorite LL Bean product has nothing to do with hunting: the Wrinkle Resistant Classic Oxford Cloth Shirt. These shirts come out of the dryer looking freshly pressed, and I am convinced, would stay crisp in a hurricane. I have nine or ten in various solid colors, stripes and tattersalls.