Daniel M. “Uncle Dan” Lefever is credited with making the first successful hammerless side-by-side shotgun made in America, and an early brochure boasted “no hammers to obstruct the sight or catch on twigs or brushes.” This early EE Grade with ejectors on both Damascus barrels originally sold for more than $150 with the case during 1893—the same year American Bell Telephone Co. made its first long-distance phone call. Lefever founded the Lefever Arms Co. in June of 1884 in Syracuse, N.Y., at the beginning of the golden age of American double-barrel shotguns, and was also the first to offer a single trigger during 1898.
In today’s collectible shotgun marketplace, early guns like this one with Damascus or laminated steel barrels in top-notch, original condition can approach the value of a similar make/model with fluid steel barrels. Superior condition and originality are everything when determining the correct value of major trademark American shotguns. While appearing to be a sidelock gun, Lefevers actually incorporated a boxlock mechanism with unique cocking indicators in the upper middle of the sideplates. Note how the case colors remain vivid in the protected areas around the shoulders and cocking indicators, but are faded around the edges—indicating natural wear.
During 1901, Dan Lefever, dissatisfied with his partners’ control of the company, cashed out his assets and withdrew as superintendent of Lefever Arms Co. He started D.M. Lefever & Sons with three of his sons and quickly introduced a new crossbolt boxlock action. In 1903, this new company moved from Syracuse, N.Y., to Defiance, Ohio, and three years later, Uncle Dan died from a stomach ulcer.
During 1916, with Europe already embroiled in World War I, the Durston family (who now owned the original Lefever Arms Co.), sold its assets and parts to the Ithaca Gun Co. Five years later, Ithaca used the Lefever name for its new utility model, the Nitro Special, which remained in the line through 1947. Collectors of better quality American side-by-side shotguns will quickly tell you that the guns of D.M. Lefever are equal to or better in quality than anything else coming out of America at that time, and may even appear as bargains today compared to the current skyrocketing prices of Parkers, L.C. Smiths and Winchesters.
Gun: Cased Lefever EE Grade, two-barrel set with ejectors