Famous Shotguns & Their Owners
As participants of the shotgunning sports and traditions, we’ve all heard stories of famous people and the shotguns they owned, people who owned famous shotguns, and even famous people who owned famous shotguns. Let’s take a look at five guns that fall into these categories. Of course, there’s far more than five that merit coverage here, but we simply don’t have the room to fit all of that history into this small space. So, the five chosen ones are, in no particular order:
Teddy Roosevelt’s Fox “F” Grade 12-Gauge Shotgun
A. H. Fox has made some of the best double guns on the market, so it should come as no surprise that Teddy Roosevelt – one of the most revered gun-owners of all-time – had good taste and owned a Fox.
The breech ends of the barrels have 1/8″ band of scroll engraving with a gold line through the rib. The frame is engraved on each side marked “ANSLEY H. FOX” with full coverage patterns of foliate arabesque scrolls and oak leaves with a gold setter on both sides.
The hinge pin is inlaid with four gold diamonds on each end. The bottom of the frame is engraved with a large scene of three partridge feeding in a woodland. The top tang has “SAFE” inlaid in gold and the trigger bow has a floral scroll with an oval vignette of a duck in flight.
To top it off, the shotgun is mounted with dark, mineral streaked, French walnut with very fine, about 30 lines per inch, full checkered splinter forearm that has fleur-de-lis and ribbon carving.
Just on those merits, this shotgun can stand on its own, but the presidential provenance puts it over the top. On the top of the right barrel, over the chamber area, it says, “MADE EXPRESSLY FOR HON. THEODORE ROOSEVELT” and the left barrel “BY A.H. FOX GUN COMPANY PHILADELPHIA U.S.A.”
To top it all off, the gun is cased with a few pieces of fabric, believed to be pieces of Roosevelt’s pajamas that he tore up and used as patches.
Dwight Eisenhower’s Winchester 21 20-Gauge Shotgun
The sides of the frame on this 20-gauge Model 21 are engraved with a pheasant on one and a grouse on the other, both inlaid with gold. The bottom of the frame sports five engraved and five gold inlaid stars and the trigger guard is engraved with the gold inlaid initials DDE – Dwight David Eisenhower. The arrangement of the five stars signified his rank as General of the Army.
There’s also a gold oval on the stock that is engraved, “TO A STRAIGHT SHOOTER FROM A FRIEND.” The straight shooter was, of course, Eisenhower, but who was the friend? It was Robert W. Woodruff, president of Coca-Cola from 1923 until 1954. Woodruff was an avid shooter and golfer, as was Eisenhower. It was over these hobbies that the two truly bonded, but their relationship dates back to World War II.
In 1943, Eisenhower requested that Coca-Cola send 3,000,000 bottles to North Africa for the troops, along with the necessary equipment to produce 6,000,000 bottles every month. The bottling plants grew from the 10 initially requested by Eisenhower to 64 plants located all over the world and were operated by 148 Coke employees who held the Army rank of Technical Observer, commonly known as “Coca-Cola Colonels” by soldiers.
The Winchester Model 21 was said to be Eisenhower’s favorite shotgun, and it held a place of prominence among his gun collection in his retirement farm in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.
Grover Cleveland’s Colt Model 1883 8-Gauge Shotgun
Standing 5’ 11” and weighing in at 260 pounds, Grover Cleveland had an imposing presence. A man of his stature could make a standard 12-gauge shotgun look like a child’s toy. Even a 10-gauge might not have looked quite right when thrown to his shoulder.
Cleveland’s main legacy is that he is the only man to have ever served as President of the United States for two terms, but did not serve them consecutively. Keeping with the theme of “the only,” it’s only fitting that the only Colt Model 1883 shotgun to ever be chambered in 8-gauge belonged to President Cleveland.
Made for 12 years between 1883 and 1895, this model was generally a custom order gun with no standard grades being designated. Like all of the 1883s, Cleveland’s was a beautifully made and finely finished gun, but with one major difference: the trigger guard was engraved and inlaid with gold with “GROVER CLEVELAND,” leaving no doubt what larger-than-life man owned this larger-than-life shotgun.
Annie Oakley’s F. Hambrusch 12-Gauge Shotgun
Born Phoebe Ann Mosey and better known by her stage name of Annie Oakley, this female sharp shooter is one of the best known shooters of all time. She travelled the world, pulling off incredible shots that you wouldn’t believe had it not been for seeing it with your own eyes for commoners and royals alike. To do this, she owned a wide variety of guns in her lifetime, including this F. Hambrusch double gun.
It’s far from the fanciest shotgun she ever owned, but it’s special because of how she got the gun. There’s a silver plate on the butt stock that reads, “Annie Oakley ‘Little Missy’ From Col. Wm. F. Cody London 1890.” Of course, Cody was the proprietor of the world-famous “Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show,” of which Annie was a part when the show went to Europe for the 1889-1890 show season.
There’s a story about this gun that claims Cody gave it to her as a replacement for one that blew up when she fired some of his hand-loaded shells that were a bit too hot, to say the least. It may not may not be true, but regardless of the story’s credibility, the shotgun remains an incredible piece of history and craftsmanship.
Charles Askins, Jr.’s & Elmer Keith’s Ithaca NID 5E 16-Gauge Shotgun
Askins and Keith existed in what many consider to have been the “Golden Age of Gun Writers.” Indeed, their contemporaries included Bill Jordan, Skeeter Skelton, and Jack O’Connor, just to name a few.
Askins is often seen as a controversial figure in the outdoors industry today, but in his heyday, he had few rivals. He wrote a dozen books and more than 1,000 outdoors-related articles during his career.
Far less controversial – but equally as formidable – was Elmer Keith. Perhaps best known for his contributions toward the creation of the .357, .41, and .44 Magnum cartridges, Keith was also an avid writer. His 1950 work, Shotguns, is the pertinent book here. In it, he writes about an Ithaca 5E 16-gauge shotgun. It’s one of the guns he got from Askins, who had it made on special order from Ithaca.
The action is engraved with typical shaded scrolled acanthus as a counterpoint to unusual silver inlaid (normally gold) oval game scenes, with a pheasant on left, and woodcock or snipe on right side. The bottom of the action is engraved with a heraldic eagle over “U.S.A.” and “ITHACA GUN CO ITHACA N.Y.” is in an arched riband on the front portion of the trigger plate.
With only 155 grade “5” NID’s made, it’s a scarce gun on it’s own, but when paired with the Askins and Keith provenance, the gun becomes a true gem.
For more information on famous shotguns, visit: nramuseum.org
GetZone.com Contributor: T. Logan Metesh