Teddy Roosevelt’s Fox Shortly before Theodore Roosevelt left on his famous nine-month African safari, the A.H. Fox Company presented him with an FE-grade 12-gauge. Roosevelt wrote to Ansley Fox: “It is the most beautiful gun I have ever seen. …I am almost ashamed to take it to Africa and expose it to the rough usage it will receive. But now that I have it, I could not possibly make up my mind to leave it behind.” Later, in his account of the trip in African Game Trails, Roosevelt wrote: “I have a Fox number 12 shotgun; no better gun was ever made.” Fox used the quote in ads for years thereafter. The 12-gauge also accompanied Roosevelt on his trip down the River of Doubt, in the Amazon Basin, on which he nearly died of fever. James D. Julia Auctioneers
Ernest Hemingway’s Winchester Model 21s and W&C Scott Pigeon Gun Ernest Hemingway bought these 20-gauge Model 21s in 1940. He gave one as a birthday present for his third wife, Martha, whose initials M.G.H. are engraved in a medallion on the grip. After Hemingway divorced Martha, his fourth wife, Mary, shot both guns, which she eventually willed to Bruce Tebbe, one of her hunting companions. Hemingway himself usually shot his favorite gun, the W&C Scott sidelock pigeon gun, with which he also ended his life. Hemingway competed in high-dollar pigeon shoots in Cuba and in Europe, and held magpie shoots at his Idaho home, with rules similar to those of live pigeon shoots. He is seen in several photographs hunting with the W&C Scott. Since Hemingway owned several shotguns, for years no one was certain which he had killed himself with, until 2010, when the authors of a book called Hemingway’s Guns traveled to Ketchum, Idaho, where the Pulitzer-Prize-winning writer had lived at the time of his death. There, the men found and positively identified fragments of the W&C Scott in a welder’s shop, where it had been destroyed after Hemingway’s suicide. You can see photos of the fragments here. James D. Julia Auctioneers
Grover Cleveland’s 8-Bore Colt The only president to serve two non-consecutive terms, Grover Cleveland was a committed outdoorsman and took weekends off to hunt and fish. His critics believed that he used his trips as an excuse to debauch, an assumption Cleveland rebutted in magazine articles, extolling the healthy benefits of the field sports. Cleveland, our second-heaviest president, in the ballpark of 275 pounds (nieces and nephews called him Uncle Jumbo), owned a shotgun that suited him perfectly: a massive Colt 8-gauge boxlock double, the only known Colt shotgun made in that bore. Cleveland’s name is inlaid in gold on the trigger guard. The 8-bore, although never popular, was legal until the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, signed a decade after Cleveland’s death, limited shotguns to 10 gauge or smaller. NRA National Firearms Museum
Dwight Eisenhower’s Winchester Model 21 Dwight Eisenhower was a leader of quiet strength, so his favoring the Winchester Model 21 is entirely appropriate. Designed by Winchester’s John Olin to be the strongest double gun in existence, the Model 21 famously survived Olin’s torture test, in which he gathered fine doubles from around the world and fired so-called blue-pill proof loads through them until they failed. Only the Model 21, unharmed after firing 2,000 loads, endured. Eisenhower loved to hunt quail, and this straight-gripped 20-gauge Model 21 was his favorite hunting gun. Robert Woodruff, the then-president of Coca-Cola, presented Eisenhower with the shotgun, which bears the president’s initials on the trigger guard and five gold stars on the bottom of the receiver, representing Eisenhower’s rank as a five-star general. “To a straight shooter from a friend” is engraved on the stock medallion. Mamie Eisenhower gave the Model 21 to the NRA in 1969. NRA National Firearms Museum
Benjamin Harrison’s Optimus-Grade Lefever A group of businessmen presented Benjamin Harrison this Lefever shotgun during his 1889–1893 presidential term in gratitude for his protectionist trade policies and tariffs on foreign goods. The gun is an Optimus, the highest-grade model the Syracuse, N.Y., maker offered. The trigger guard bears a gold eagle clutching a banner, which reads “Protection to American Industry,” and the sideplates are engraved with pointers and setters. In 1894, Harrison wrote in a letter to Lefever: “My dear sirs, I have your kind letter of the 11th. The gun made for me by the Lefever Arms Co. several years ago is still in perfect condition. I have shot it a good deal and with most satisfactory results. I am obliged to you for the offer to do anything that might be necessary to put it in repair, but it does not require any, so far as I can see.” Lefever used the testimonial for years afterward. James D. Julia Auctioneers
Napoleon’s Flintlock Fowler Napoleon Bonaparte’s ornately decorated flintlock fowler, made in the late 1700s, was once part of a matched set. The other gun, a double rifle, was stolen from a Geneva museum, and its whereabouts remain unknown. The surviving fowler bears the French royal coat of arms, so it clearly wasn’t originally made for Napoleon, who rose to political prominence during the French Revolution. Later, Napoleon presented the gun to Marquis Faulte de Vanteaux of Limoges, a general in his army. The double-barreled flintlock’s stock and barrel feature gold inlays, along with silver and platinum inlays in the stock. It even has the 18th-century version of a recoil-reducing Sorbothane comb—a velvet-covered, goose-down-padded cheekpiece. NRA National Firearms Museum
Joe DiMaggio’s Winchester Model 21 This Winchester Model 21 was presented to Joe DiMaggio in recognition of his hitting safely in 42 consecutive games during the 1941 season. DiMaggio broke the previous record of 41 games during his famous 56-game streak. The floorplate reads: “To ‘THE YANKEE CLIPPER’ Joe DiMaggio From Capt. Jos. Cocozza Essex County Prosecutors Office Newark, NJ June 30, 1941.” The gun was made for duck hunting, and has 30-inch barrels, with a tight (.029) choke in one barrel and a tighter (.032) choke in the other. The gun saw use, too, as evident by its stock, which was damaged when a blind caught fire. In 2007, the gun’s then-owner replaced the old stock. James D. Julia Auctioneers
Annie Oakley’s Parker BHE Frank Butler, Annie Oakley’s partner, manager, and husband, ordered this Parker BHE for his wife in 1903, just as the couple was leaving Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show to strike out on their own. Oakley often shot Parker guns during her time with Buffalo Bill, and she continued to do so afterward as well. In one trick, she would lie on the ground with three double guns next to her. Butler would then throw six glass balls into the air, and Oakley would use the guns to break all six balls before they hit the ground. This gun is the only shotgun Annie Oakley owned that was decorated with images of herself. Both sides of the receiver show her hunting over a setter. James D. Julia Auctioneers
Czar Nicholas II’s Parker A-1 Special For years, Czar Nicholas II’s missing Parker was the most famous shotgun no one had ever seen. A group of officers ordered the Parker for the Czar, but the Russian Revolution broke out, in 1917, and Nicholas II was killed before it was delivered. It turns out that the gun was eventually sold to a man in the United States, and, in 2007, his heirs put it up for auction. An A-1 Special, the gun is deeply engraved with scrolls and roses. It’s a 12-gauge, with 32-inch full-and-full barrels. In the 1930s, the owner had Abercrombie & Fitch replace the original stock with a longer, straight-gripped version. Originally, an A-1 Special cost about $375, plus $18.75 for ejectors; in 2007, Czar’s A-1 brought $287,500 at auction. James D. Julia Auctioneers
Henry Ford’s Winchester Model 1887 Best known to modern audiences as the Terminator’s shotgun, as seen in Judgement Day, the Model 1887 was the first successful repeating shotgun. Inventor John Browning wanted to design a pump model, but Winchester insisted on a lever gun, for which they were known, so that’s what Browning drew up. The much more popular 1893 and 1897 Browning-designed Winchester pumps proved that the noted designer was right all along. This 12-gauge is serial number one, and Winchester had it engraved to be an exhibition piece. Sometime around 1920, Henry Ford bought the gun as a gift for his friend, and tiremaker, Harvey Firestone. The two men, along with Thomas Edison, were known as the Millionaire’s Club and often worked and vacationed together. Buffalo Bill Center of the West, Cody, WY, USA
Tom Knapp’s Benelli Nova Exhibition shooter Tom Knapp delighted crowds for nearly 20 years, until his untimely death at the age of 62, in 2013. Knapp is perhaps best known for his signature trick of throwing a stack of clays into the air and shooting each before they hit the ground. Using the Benelli Nova, he could hit eight clays in this fashion, besting the previous record of seven, held by Winchester showman shooter Herb Parsons. Introduced in 1999, the Nova, with its one-piece polymer stock and receiver, has become a popular hunting gun due to its reasonable price and durability. The Nova’s a rotary bolt makes it one of the smoothest-shucking pump shotguns, which no doubt contributed to the speed with which Knapp could break targets. Buffalo Bill Center of the West, Cody, WY, USA
There are great shotguns, then there are famous shotguns—specific firearms that have attracted notoriety, and collector interest, given their historical significance, iconic owners, and technical achievements. We asked F&S shotguns editor Phil Bourjaily to compile a list of the most significant of these guns and to offer a quick rundown of their histories.
All photos courtesy.