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September 30, 2021

Classic Shotguns for Fall Hunting

By Joe Engesser

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To some, autumn is a time for football and apple orchards and an avalanche of pumpkin spice. For others, the season also evokes images of tall grass and golden fields, of crisp evenings with a faithful dog at your side and a classic shotgun in hand.

The perfect fall means sunrises, jerky, a sturdy 4x4, and a classic shotgun cradled in your arms.

Classic shotguns aren't just another gun genre. To the hunter, nothing stirs the imagination quite like a legacy side-by-side, the dream of owning a Parker Brothers or a classic Holland & Holland and wondering where they’ve been and what they’ve seen over the decades. A few dings in the wood hint at past excursions, and a bit of wear in the bluing speaks to being fielded through briars, rain, and far-flung snows.

The Auto-5 (top) and a Browning Superposed (bottom) are two of the most prolific Browning shotguns.

Rock Island Auction Company offers a selection of elegant yet attainably priced classic shotguns for the working man. Gunmakers like Purdey, Westley Richards, and W.W. Greener are just a few of the storied names gracing October’s event, where hundreds of classic hunting arms are waiting to be appreciated by a new owner. Let’s take a closer look at some of the most notable treasures.

Parker Brothers DHE Grade Double Barrel Shotgun

As the oldest human tradition, hunting is meant to be passed down from one generation to the next, and few things embody that heritage more than a Parker Brothers shotgun. A gorgeous classic shotgun from America’s most famous pre-WWII shotgun manufacturer, this Parker Brothers DHE grade double gun is the definition of affordable luxury.

Factory engraved Parker Brothers DHE grade double-barrel shotgun.

“The Old Reliable,” as the company dubbed their guns, this 12-gauge Parker from the Remington era more than lives up to the billing. With all original parts, retaining over 80% of its original finish, and hand-assembled with Parker Brothers' reputable eye for quality, this classic scattergun is a prime example of a firearm that’s both functional in the field and eye candy in the safe.

When it comes to classic shotguns, few can compare with Parker.

Holland & Holland No. 3 Dominion Double Barrel Shotgun

If you dream of walnut, blued steel, and fine vintage double guns, this Holland & Holland is calling your name. A luxury gunmaker from across the pond, Holland & Holland is a brand typically associated with “Royal” shotguns, crafting museum-worthy pieces for kings and maharajas and the wealthiest of the elite. But this sleek and beautiful classic shotgun from 1909 is priced well within reach of the determined collector.

Holland & Holland No. 3 Dominion double barrel shotgun. Provenance: The Buckstix Collection

The gentleman’s pursuit of fine arms collecting demands an eye for detail and a taste for the authentic, and anyone who has taken down a waterfowl or upland bird could appreciate the elegant craftsmanship and superior feel of a vintage Holland & Holland from the golden age of classic shotguns. Like the art of hunting and the joy of the outdoors, a quality side-by-side is a timeless piece of American tradition.

Another legend on the list of classic shotgun makers, Holland & Holland stands for quality.

L. C. Smith/Hunter Arms Monogram Grade Double Barrel Shotgun

To the seasoned hunter, classic shotguns can feel at home both adorning the mantle or being fielded on a crisp autumn morning. This engraved L.C. Smith/Hunter Arms Company sidelock double gun would look great in either setting, another hidden gem with tons of original condition preserved.

L. C. Smith/Hunter Arms Monogram Grade double barrel shotgun.

L.C. Smith is one of the most iconic names in American-made classic shotguns, advertised as “The gun that speaks for itself," but dubbed more casually as the “Sweet Elsie." Their side-by-sides became a favorite with bird hunters, who were drawn to the model’s light weight, durability, and ease of balance. The Elsie’s reputation as a reliable field gun is reflected in the gorgeous bird scene engravings adorning some of the examples offered at Rock island Auction Company.

L.C. Smith, a classic shotgun brand from the Golden Age of American sporting arms.

Westley Richards Double Barrel Boxlock Shotgun

The allure of a classic shotgun is almost intangible. For most hunters, there’s a romance in legacy arms, the appreciation of tradition and heritage, the exhilaration of holding a firearm with a story to tell and a legacy to share. Westley Richards is another elite British manufacturer that’s seldom attainable to the average wallet, but frequent examples offered by Rock Island Auction Company keep the dream of owning a high-end vintage shotgun very much alive.

Engraved Westley Richards double barrel boxlock shotgun. Provenance: The Malcolm King Collection.

From lightweight bird guns to heavyweights for waterfowling, all Westley Richards classic shotguns display a consistent standard of excellence. Engraved and checkered, with a brass cornered leather case that carries an air of classic luxury, this Westley Richards double barrel boxlock is yet another quality gun from the legendary Malcom King Collection.

Westley Richards manufactured some of the finest double guns around

A. H. Fox 20 Gauge AE Grade Double Barrel Shotgun with Letter

Times change, but the essence of hunting is eternal. The dogs, the birds, the unspoken fellowship between mentor and student. There’s also the desire to own and bequeath a legacy firearm from days gone by, an heirloom cared for by generations prior. And when it comes to timeless double guns, A.H. Fox is a name that evokes quality.

A. H. Fox 20 Gauge AE grade double barrel shotgun with letter.

Advertised as “The World’s Finest Shotgun,” Fox side-by-sides were crafted using high grade materials and first-class workmanship. This exquisite example of golden-age gunmaking was certainly built to last, a light, quick-to-the-shoulder hunter’s gun that would make a fine companion in the field today.

Classic shotguns from Fox are the envy of many a hunting party.

Winchester 16 Gauge Model 21 Shotgun

A well-crafted sporting arm is so much more than the sum of its parts. It’s about finding a piece that shoulders well and swings like a dream, the way it fits in your hands and points. The perfect classic shotguns combine condition, functionality, and genuine character, and this fine-condition Winchester Model 21 checks all the right marks.

Winchester Model 21 Includes a second barrel set with the same engraving and choked modified/full. With leather-bound case and two nickel snap caps.

Winchester is known for delivering the highest standard of excellence, and this engraved and gold inlaid Winchester Model 21 is a true celebration of artistry and craftsmanship, a firearm that appeals to hunters, collectors, shotgunners, and sportsmen of all stripes. Like many of the guns offered at Rock Island Auction, the price point is within reach of the everyman searching for a centerpiece arm, as well as a sturdy, dependable companion on the hunt.

The Winchester Model 21 continues to impress at auction as collectors and shooters compete for a comparatively scarce supply.

Browning Auto-5 Shotgun

John Browning got it right with his classic gun designs, and he reportedly said the A5 shotgun was his best achievement. “Five shots under your finger,” adverts touted when Browning’s recoil-operated semi-automatic shotgun hit the market in 1903. Nearly twelve decades later, and Browning’s flagship scattergun still enjoys popularity with shooters and hunters alike.

With its distinctive high rear end, the Humpback has one of the most recognizable profiles of any sporting arm.

Known as the "Humpback" due to its trademark squared receiver, the A5 is a versatile workhorse gun for all types of bird hunting, from targeting doves in September to grouse in the February snows. While perhaps not as outwardly glamorous as some of the other classic shotguns featured here, the Auto-5 is a classic for a reason. When it comes to durability, utility, and function, a shotgun that shoots and shoulders well and tolerates the elements, the A5 is one of the most flexible sporting arms ever conceived.

The king of Browning shotguns, a factory engraved Belgian Browning Auto-5 “Twenty.”

Remington Model 3200

No list of classic shotguns would be complete without a solid over/under, and the Remington Model 3200 is one of the toughest guns around. Manufactured between 1973 and 1983, the Remington Model 3200 is an example of a modern classic in the making, a firearm that took inspiration from the past and built upon that legacy.

Remington Model 3200 competition O/U shotgun four barrel set with case.

Offered in many grades and weights, the now discontinued Model 3200 was designed to appeal to a wide audience of shotgunners, a firearm that could excel at trap and skeet as much as taking down waterfowl. With three extra barrel sets, one in 28 gauge, 20 gauge, and 12 gauge, the high condition Remington Model 3200 offered in October’s auction is a versatile shotgun that can be fielded for decades to come.

A Shotgun for Everyone

To the hunter, autumn is the season for roaming the woods with a classic shotgun in hand and a pocketful of shells, a time of clanging dog bells and frosty sunsets and the smell of wood smoke after a long day’s hunt. Rock Island Auction offers numerous classic shotguns to choose from, a selection that runs the gamut from side-by-sides and over/unders to pumps and semi-autos, and most fall into a price point that’s within reach of a collector looking to own a piece of tradition.

A factory engraved and gold inlaid Browning Citori XT Trap Unsingle shotgun two barrel set with case and boxes, one of the numerous models inspired by John Browning shotgun designs. Available this August.

The classic shotguns highlighted here only begin to scratch the surface. True antiques from historic gunmakers like John Wilkes and Boss & Co. appear in abundance. Affordable offerings are available from premier German manufacturers such as Charles Daly and Merkel and J.P. Sauer & Sohn. British giants like W.W. Greener and Webley & Scott are prominently featured, and classic mainstays like the Browning Superimposed, John Browning’s last firearm design, round out the spectacular lineup.

Documented Winchester Model 21 made for John M. Olin sold for $9,200 in Rock Island Auction Company's May 2021 record setting gun auction.

October’s Greatest Guns

Rock Island Auction Company offers every type of classic shotgun imaginable. Hunting rifles, U.S. military arms, antique and modern revolvers. It’s all available in abundance, including frequent lots with 3, 4, and even 5+ quality guns offered as a single package.

Whether your tastes lie in fine antiques or modern classics, you’ll discover sporting arms that cater to every collecting aspiration.

Rock Island Auction Company has a reputation for presenting the finest publicly available arms and militaria in the world. From benchmark pieces to your next field gun, from pristine to gracefully restored, there’s a classic shotgun to be found that’s perfect for your collection.

For more gun blogs and gun videos on both historic and modern sporting arms, subscribe to the weekly Rock Island Auction newsletter, where we cover classic names like Parker Brothers, Browning Superposed, Ambercrombie and Fitch guns from the early 20th century, as well as historic curiosities like the Paradox gun and the punt gun mega fowler.

Before his death in late 1926, John Moses Browning gifted the world one last shotgun design with the Browning Superposed.

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