Wolfe Publishing Group

    Classic Upland Guns

    E. Remington & Sons: Remington-Whitmore Lifter-Action

    In the late 19th century, E. Remington & Sons joined the great parade of American firearms companies carrying a breech loading side-by-side shotgun product line. Shotgun technology was changing quickly as the industry moved from flintlock guns, to the invention of percussion ignition, to self-contained cartridges ignited by a firing pin that struck the primer. Alongside these changes were updated action designs that supported the evolution of breech loading shotguns. One such action design was the A.E. Whitmore lifter-action on which the opening lever, positioned between the hammers, would be pushed to unlatch the locking system that allowed the barrels to pivot on the hinge pin and expose the barrel breech.

    Throughout its production life, which began in 1873, the Remington Whitmore lifter-action side-by-side went through a number of design improvements, with new models indicated by the year in which they were produced. In total, five different models of E. Remington & Sons Whitmore lifter-action guns were produced in five different grades. Production ended in 1889 with the introduction of the Scott Spindle (top lever) and the abandonment of the lifter opener.

    The original A.E. Whitmore lifter-action design incorporated sliding plates between the bolsters, which, when lifted, drew back the hammers to a safe position. Some other early breech loading shotguns did not have such a feature. After firing, the hammer could stay down on the firing pins. If the shooter forgot to draw the hammers to half cock before reloading the gun, it could result in the protruding firing pins discharging the shells when the action was closed. The system in the Whitmore lifter-action design became unnecessary after 1875 when L.L. Hepburn designed the rebounding lock (in which hammers automatically rebounded to a safe position), a design used in later E. Remington models.

    This beautiful E. Remington & Sons with “New York & London” engraved on the barrel rib appears to be the best grade produced in the model’s 1873-1879 series. It displays a very low serial number 13 (which could also be an assembly number) and incorporates several of the design changes from the 1873 model, most significantly the doll’s head fastener, an extension of the top rib fitting into a cut out on the standing breech and the Deeley and Edge forend fastener. The guns were offered in 10- and 12- gauge with 26-, 28- and 30-inch decarbonized steel barrels, twist steel barrels and Damascus barrels. The E. Remington lifter-action design and the metallurgical materials used in the manufacturing allowed for combination guns and large-caliber double rifles; how many were made is not known. Embellishments ranged from plain to an upgrade figured with checkered walnut stocks and extra-fine engraving.

    The addition of the city “London” to the inscription E. Remington & Sons New York on the barrel rib, the extra-fine figured Damascus steel barrels with Birmingham proof marks required under the Gun Proof Act of 1868 for all shotguns sold in England and the fine line English-type scroll engraving suggest that Remington also planned to offer this model in the English marketplace to compete with British Isle gun-makers. E. Remington & Sons did maintain a presence in London, England, in the years 1876-1879.

    The distinguished bold lifter bar is finely engraved, as well as the high hammer spurs, whose nose has a relief cut. When lowered, it encircles the firing pin nipples, causing the firing pin to strike the shell primer when the trigger releases the cocked hammer. There is some loss of case color on the bottom of the frame from use, while the rest of the metal parts still display all of their original color. The straight hand stock is nicely figured, displays drop points and supports the original steel butt plate. The forend is attached by a Deeley and Edge fastener, and the tip has a nicely shaped, engraved metal insert.

    A beautiful 12-bore, 140-year-old hammer gun with 30-inch Damascus barrels would make its owner proud in any setting, whether in a driven shoot, sporting clays or in the field.

    Part of the history of the American gun trade and the rarity of this very interesting Whitmore lifter-action break-open design, the first Remington breech loading side-by-side shotgun, suggest that this gun belongs in a Remington collector’s gun room and should be valued at $6,000 to $10,000 — maybe more at auction if it caught the interest of two or more collectors.

    Wolfe Publishing Group