Most of the older, major-trademark American shotgun manufacturers, including Parker Brothers, A.H. Fox, Ithaca and L.C. Smith, offered a lineup of single-shot trap models in addition to their more popular side-by-sides. Trap shooting was far and away the most popular competitive shotgun sport during the last few decades of the 19th century and first half of the 20th century. Evolving from live pigeon shooting circa 1830, the sport progressed to shooting glass balls in 1866 and clay pigeons thrown from a trap in 1880. Thousands of trap ranges threw millions of clay pigeons annually, as shooters of all ages competed in this fast-moving and exciting outdoor sport. Such notables as Annie Oakley, writer Nash Buckingham and President Theodore Roosevelt were all avid trap shooters. Famous band leader John Philip Sousa was such an avid trapshooter that Ithaca named its highest-grade trap gun after him, the Sousa Grade.
This 1931 Ithaca Model 5E 12 gauge-with vivid case colors and extensive engraving with gold inlays-is in near-perfect condition. The action is still very tight, which is very important on competition guns. Experienced shotgun traders and savvy collectors will tell you to be careful when buying used trap shotguns, since they are designed and built to shoot a lot of shotshells within a relatively short period of competition. As a result, action wear can develop long before finish wear is visible on the outside of the gun. You should always focus on the tightness or looseness of the action. Another good indicator is if the top opening lever is still on the right side of center on the upper tang.
This nice Ithaca 5E has an uncut stock with a recent replacement recoil pad typically found on many older trap guns where dimensions are critical and customized to each individual’s shooting requirements. If a trap gun’s stock has been cut to a shorter dimension, the price can drop drastically, but this replacement recoil pad will have a minimal effect on value.
This Depression-era single-barrel trap gun retailed at $175, the same amount as the Grade 5E side-by-side. Ithaca’s single-barrel trap gun was the first shotgun specifically designed to be only a target-shooting gun. Another shotgun innovation introduced in this model is the beavertail fore-end. Even though most single-barrel trap models are considerably more rare than their side-by-side counterparts, there is more collector interest (and value) in the side-by-side models. Because older trap guns are always equipped with a full or extra full choke, usually have 30" to 34" barrels with a high ventilated rib, and are heavy, their utility in the field is almost non-existent. Additionally, most side-by-side collectors (there are very few single-barrel trap collectors) don’t feel that they need the single-barrel trap models to complete their collections.
Even though the Grade 5E single-barrel trap and side-by-side models have the same level of engraving and gold inlays, an original 5E side-by-side in similar condition is valued in the $3,500 to $3,750 range, according to the most recent 27th EditionBlue Book of Gun Values-almost 50 percent more than this single-barrel trap model.
-S.P. Fjestad, Author & Publisher, Blue Book of Gun Values
Originally published January 2007.
According to the 34th Edition Blue Book of Gun Values, firearms of this model and condition have appreciated in value to around $3,500. -The Eds.