Syracuse Arms New Twist Double Barrel- Early 1900's??

Discussion in 'The Ask the Pros & What's It Worth? Forum' started by Visser, Sep 16, 2011.

  1. Visser

    Visser New Member

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    Gentlemen,

    I'm looking for an approximate date of an early 1900's double barrel Damascus barrel shotgun, and any interesting manufacture details, (moreso than the value of the gun). It belonged to my Great Grandfather originally, and I intend to keep it as a family keepsake and would like to know some more detail about how old it is, etc., thinking he may have purchased it in the early 1900's.

    I know the dates the Syracuse Arms company existed from other posts in this great forum, so I would appreciate any further specific detail that anyone can lend in addition to my details below.

    Mr. Archer, I would also appreciate any detail you might have, as I understand you have an extensive knowledge of the Syracus Twist Double Barrel SG's.

    It is a hammerless, double barrel, pistol grip SG, I believe 12 gauge, Damascus barrels. It has "Syracuse Arms Company, Syracuse, New York" stamped on the top of the left barrel, and "New Twist" stamped on top of the right barrel. It has a, (looks to be plastic), butt plate with "Winchester Repeating Arms" logo on it. (This puzzles me- what did Winchester have to do with the manufacture of this gun? Maybe it was a replacement?) The only other markings I can find are it's Serial number, 13,xxx, and a "2" stamped on the underside of the barrels. Interestingly, I also have with it a shorter barrel- a 26" barrel.

    My Great Grandfather was the first in my family to come to America from Italy in 1903, and resided in St. Louis, MO in the 1900's. I think I know that the Syracuse Arms Company was bought out by Simmons Hardware Company, St. Louis, MO, around 1905-1908. I believe that he may have purchased this gun from the Simmons Hardware Company that was headquartered a couple blocks from where he lived in downtown St. Louis in the 1900's, which is the only evidence I have of how old the gun might really be.

    Would appreciate any knowledge of the gun's age, and any thoughts that might help me identify where he may have aquired it.

    Thanks,

    Visser
  2. Visser

    Visser New Member

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    Would also appreciate any thoughts on the Winchester butt plate, and the 26" barrel. Not being a hunter myself, I speculate that a 26" barrel might be for hunting fowl, or something of the sort?

    Thanks,

    Visser
  3. hrf

    hrf Well-Known Member

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    Welcome to the forum Visser. If this bio of the company is correct, serial number 13XXX would be early production:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Syracuse_Arms_Company

    The Winchester butt plate would have just been used as a replacement when the original one was broken, probably after Syracuse production had ended.

    This advertisement in the 1900 Sears catalog listed only 30" barrels:

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    Last edited: Sep 16, 2011
  4. Tom Archer

    Tom Archer Member

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    Viser
    I'll do by best to provide any information I can provide. Production by the SAC commenced in 1893 at serial number 1; and their gun was named "The Hollenbeck" after Frank a Hollenbeck, it's inventor. Hollenbeck resigned from the company in July, 1895; and the name of his gun was changed to "The Syracuse" in 1896 according to company catalogs; and it appears this name change occurred prior to serial number 5000. No production records are known to exist; so my best guesstimate is that the gun you have would have been produced around 1898. Gun production was slow in these early years; then around 1900, the company was relocated to a larger facility and annual production increased sharply from that point until gunworks closed, no evidence yet found that gun production continued past May, 1905; and to date, I've found no serial numbers above 39,999.
    "New Twist" barrels (which were plain twist) were used only on the grade 0, 1, and a few of the hammer gun models introduced in 1904; but the Grade 1 gun. identical to the Grade O gun with the exception it was engraved, was dropped in 1896; so your gun would be a Grade 0 gun. The Grade 0 gun was the lowest priced model produced until 1901 when the Grade 00 gun featuring "Triplet Steel" barrel tubes was introduced. SAC's Triplet Steel barrels were made of "fluid" steel, which material was cheaper to produce than genuine twist and Damascus steel tubes); but was also not as pretty as the striking patterns seen in twist and Damascus barrels, so fluid steel was never as popular on vintage double gun until the advent of WWI made importing these figured steel barrels impractical. You need to post some pics; but your gun should have the following features: plain English walnut stock and forend, nicely checkered; and the forend will feature an ebony forend tip inlay. The stock will most likely feature the standard round-knob grip (no grip cap); and the butt plate would have been the hard-rubber type with its surface fully "checkered", and no maker's name or logo (the Win plate is an after market replacement). The 16-bore was not introduced until 1901, so your gun would be a 10 or 12-bore (mostly likely a 12-bore as 10's are not common); and cataloged barrel lengths for 12-bore SAC guns were 28, 30, and 32 inches. Any barrel length shorter is almost surely a cut barrel. Your gun will have an engraved "sunburst" flourish around pin holes on either side of the frame; and the serial number will be engraved on the trigger guard strap. The Grade 0 gun was SAC's most popular model, it is a plain well-made gun; and unless in near new condition, it's a $200-250 gun. I've seen one Grade O gun that has survived with 95% or more of its original stock and barrel finishes, and bright vivid case colors; and the appearance of that gun is stunning! Little wonder this model sold so well! The Grade stamp "O" should be on the water table of the frame; and the "2" stamp on the bottom of the barrel tubes just ahead of the barrel flats is a frame size indicator I believe, but have never been able to verify that theory. Did I understand you to say that this gun has a second barrel set? If so, do the serial numbers match? Sounds like an interesting gun with an interesting history; please post some detailed pics.
  5. Visser

    Visser New Member

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    Thanks to you both for the quick reply and great information, I really appreciate it!

    Tom, thank you so much for the great amount of detail and enthusiasm that you provided, this is exactly the type of info I was looking for. As you can tell, I'm very interested in knowing the history of this gun, since it is such a valued family prize. I always suspected it was early production with the low serial numbers and having a bit of knowledge through reading that the SAC numbered no higher than 40,000. It was passed on to my grandfather, who passed it on to me, and he always thought it was an early 1900's gun at the oldest. It's in pretty fabulous shape, so I wouldn't think it could possibly be as old as it is becoming evident. (I remember my grandfather firing it when I was really young!). You are dead on with the description! (I don't recall it having an engraved sunburst flourish, I may find that it had worn away, and I overlooked this detail, but I will look closely at it tonight, and report back.). I will gladly post some pictures, I'm anxious for you to see this double barrel, and it is in remarkable condition for its age. All the actions function perfectly, (better than many newer guns I have aged a bit).

    Yes, it does indeed have another, shorter barrel set with matching serial number, and it has not been cut. (Has the factory sight on the end of the short barrels, identical to the 30" barrels.). It too is marked with "Syracuse Arms Company", and "New Twist" in the same locations as the long barrel set. I will measure the length of the short barrel set and report back, it's probably the 28" production barrel. I thought I remembered it being at 26", but it's got to be the 28" length. I'll verify.

    Thanks again for the great information, and appreciate your help!

    Visser
  6. Tom Archer

    Tom Archer Member

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    Visser
    You may wish to contact the Double Gun Journal folks in East Jordan, MI (they also have a website) and request back issues of the magazine containing a series of Syracuse Arms articles published therein. These articles contain all sorts of information on the various SAC gun models produced; and also includes information from researcher Jack Madel on the history of the company, its founders, and company officials. Having this information will increase the appreciation you have for your family heirloom; and also, you may wish to subscribe to the magazine (a quarterly publication), as I am still writing Syracuse Arms articles that will feature two fabulous high-grade examples in coming issues.
  7. Visser

    Visser New Member

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    Tom, thanks for the suggestion to check out Double Gun Journal for back issues on the Syracuse, I most certainly will do so!

    Posting some pics of the gun. Discovered some interesting things-
    The long barrel set that is currently on the gun is indeed 30". The short barrel set is exactly 26". I have a close up of the end of the barrels set showing the sight bead and it doesn't look cut down. The serial number 13XXX on the short barrel set matches the receiver on the gun, but interestingly enough, the serial number on the long barrel set does not! It is 3XXX! So I assume the 26" barrel set came originally with the gun, but I am curious to know what the serial number 3XXX tells us about the long, 30 barrel. Obviously it must have been aquired separately out of the desire for a longer barrel and an older barrel was bought used maybe?? The 26" barrel set has the number "2" on the underside of the barrel, (as Tom Archer mentioned, a frame size perhaps.). But the 30" barrel set does not have a number at all in this same area. There is a marking that looks like modern parenthesis opposite the serial number. Looks like this- () I wonder if this is intended to be a zero to indicate the grade. I have attached labeled pictures to see these details. Another interesting item- the forestock has a number 123477 on the underside. Any thoughts on what this number means??

    Once again, appreciate any feedback!

    Thanks,

    Visser

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  8. Visser

    Visser New Member

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    Last edited: Sep 17, 2011
  9. Visser

    Visser New Member

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  10. Visser

    Visser New Member

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    Fore stock Pic detail- underside

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  11. Tom Archer

    Tom Archer Member

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    Visser:
    The "O" stamps on the barrel flats are indicators of gun grade, and also barrel steel type; as "New Twist" was the name SAC applied to the brand of twist steel barrels reserved for the Grade O gun (and the very early Grade 1 produced prior to 1897, some hammer guns produced in late 1904). The "2" stamp is, as I theorize, a frame size indicator and was carded off, or worn off to the point of illegibility on the other barrel set; but with 12-bore guns we also see "1" stamps on light weight guns, and "3" stamps on heavy 12-bores. The 26" barrels have been chopped, and the way to determine this fact is to examine the muzzle end of the barrels; the ends of the barrel tubes no longer touch, and the voids between the top and bottom ribs and barrels tubes have been crudely filled (some of which has fallen out). The front bead on this set of barrels is also not original. Double check the 3XXX serial number, as this number is too low to be from the time frame where barrels used the "J" spring forend hanger fitted to that set of barrels. Guns built prior to about serial number 7500 had their for ends secured with Hollenbeck's "V" spring fastener which utilized an entirely different fore iron hanger lug. But the oddest feature you have photographed is the fore end itself. It appears that someone has shortened the original iron, filling away the area where the serial number was located in the process; so that it could be adapted to fit a fore end wood off another brand of gun. In this instance I think that wood is from a Cresent double gun, but regardless its origin, it is not a SAC splinter; as it is too short, has the wrong checkering pattern, and has no ebony fore end tip. I'm not smart enough to post pics here; but if you'll email me directly (thomas.archer@charter.net), I'll forward some pics to give you an idea as to the correct SAC gun "look". As your gun presently exists, it is a most interesting piece of family history; but as a collector item, it is a wreck and would be regarded as a "parts" gun with little value. But value is not the issue here, as this gun has become a priceless family heirloom; and wouldn't it be great if this old gun could talk and give you all the details of its 113-115 year history? If the gun were mine, I'd have it correctly restored (will be expensive and cost far more than the monetary value of the gun itself); and it you do, with the proper care it'll still be going strong another hundred years from now.
    Tom
  12. Visser

    Visser New Member

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    Tom,

    Thank you for taking the time to comment with all the details you have provided me. It truly is fascinating to hear what the situation is from someone so knowledgeable about these types of guns, and I'm fascinated with the story behind how this gun ended up the way it is in its present state!

    Its very interesting that I considered the same observations that you pointed out about the 26" barrels being chopped, but I honestly thought there was no way they could have been. Under close examination I couldn't detect any evidence of the edge of the barrels looking like the had been tampered with in any way, thinking I would see evidence of sanding, smoothing, or filing. Looked like a factory cut edge to me. Also the upper filled void looks much more "factory made" in person, than the picture shows- it is really, really smooth, and looks almost identical to the 30" untampered barrel set. (Other than the lower void not having anything in it and the 30" barrel set does). It's actually quite interesting- the picture actually indicates the void being crudely filled much more clearly than the naked eye! So how glad I am to have someone with your knowledgeability provide the obvious information about the barrels not coming together, and the void being filled, that provides evidence of the barrels being chopped! Also the sight on the chopped barrels looked remarkably close to the one on the 30" barrel set, so I didn't scrutinize the possibility that they could have been cut. Most interesting! Also the fact that you have identified the fore end wood properly is intriguing. I would not have known that it wasn't original SAC, and the numbers on the wood implied that that something was amiss. I will certainly send you an email if you wouldn't mind sending me pictures that show the proper fore end. I would really like to see what the old gun should have on it- I do intend to restore it properly and hang it on a wall as a family heirloom! I do appreciate the information you have provided that will help me in the endevour!

    One last interesting thing- I double checked the 3XXX serial number on the flats of the 30" barrel- I honestly wouldn't have thought this wrong when I first posted the pics because the numbers are stamped quite boldly, and still appear very well- there doesn't seem to be any wear that could attribute to my not reading the numbers correctly, nor does there appear to be a digit worn off or filed away on either end of the 3XXX number. I completely trust you are correct that this is too low of a serial number for the barrel type, but I have looked very closely and it appears to indeed be 3XXX, and I am completely baffled by this! I will email you a close up pic of the serial number, without blurring the numbers if you think its okay to do so. (Frankly I do that for appropriate reasons, but honestly in this situation its probably ok to show the serial number. And since I'm emailing it to you directly and not posting on a public site its probably ok, to do so.). The number appears to indeed be 3XXX, and if you could see it in person I'm sure you may find something that I have overlooked, but others agree with me that this numbers appears to be correct. I'll email you a pic to get your thoughts on the 3XXX serial number on the 30" barrels. (The 26" chopped barrel set has the serial numbers that match the gun, so it was obviously the original barrel set.)

    Thanks again, Tom!

    Visser
  13. Tom Archer

    Tom Archer Member

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    Who can say about the serial number discrepancy; but it is entirely possible that the "1" stamp before the "3" was inadvertently omitted, as I've seen several low-grade SAC serial numbers that included over-stamps and mis-stamps. As to how to accurately determine a set of cut barrels, the most precise method is to measure the bores about 3" from the muzzles to determine the presence, or absence of choke forcing cones. In a typical shotgun choke, the forcing cones are about 2" in length. No forcing cones is a sure sign that barrels have been cut, as SAC guns always shipped full/full unless special ordered otherwise. But in this case it is very easy to determine that the short barrel set has been chopped. Look closely at your photo of the muzzles and you will see a rectangular shaped steel wedge between the two barrel tubes; what you are seeing is a remnant of the steel wedge the barrel maker placed between the tubes when he was aligning barrel bores to center patterns for point of impact. Wedges are strategically placed along the length of the barrel set and left in place as the top and bottom ribs are permanently attached. When barrel muzzles are "finished off", the ends of the tubes will touch; and the triangular gaps under the top rib and above the bottom rib are filled with tiny bits of steel called "anvils". In the case of your chopped barrels, the anvils are missing, and someone attempted to fill the voids will melted solder. Novice collectors of double guns do not understand this fact, but that set of barrels fitted to a vintage double gun was the most expensive component of the entire gun. Many man hours of hand work was lavished on each completed set of double barrels in boring, fitting barrel lugs and rib extensions, chambering, fitting extractors/and or ejectors, carding and polishing, aligning bores for proper pattern impact, attaching ribs, matting the top rib, adjusting and polishing chokes; and finally, browning and/or bluing. On a low-grade gun like yours, an extra barrel set would most likely cost 1/2 to 2/3 the cost of an entire gun of the same model; and this is why, whenever a set of vintage barrels are cut, the collector value of the gun is so severely impacted. But I always enjoy talking vintage guns, so feel free to email me anytime at the address noted above.
  14. REHJ

    REHJ New Member

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    Hi, I read the thread while checking for information about my own shotgun and will add that I own ser. no. 6508 Syracuse Monarch 28" double barrel. The gun is decent shape completely and ornately decorated frame and barrels.
  15. Tom Archer

    Tom Archer Member

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    REHJ:
    I have no idea what your reference to "Monarch" might mean; is that word on the gun? Can you post photos of your gun? You note that your gun is engraved; I have recorded several Grade A and Grade B Syracuse guns in your serial number range, to include #6512 (an A Grade) and #6443 (a B Grade) that I owned. There is evidence that the B Grade was the highest grade gun Syracuse offered during this time frame (1896/97).
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