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American Firearms and Their Makers: A Research Guide

Savage, Sharps, L.C. Smith

Stop! [Advertisement for the Savage automatic pistol...]
Stop! [Advertisement for the Savage automatic pistol...]. 1913. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

Savage Arms Company was founded in 1894 by Arthur Savage in New York. After years of tinkering with lever-action rifle designs, Savage had invented an affordable hammerless lever-action rifle with the entire mechanism enclosed in a steel receiver. The Savage Model also featured a rotary magazine with a counter that displayed the number of bullets remaining in its receiver. During World War I, Savage made Lewis aircraft machine guns and small arms, and during World War II, Savage made Thompson submachine guns for the U.S. military, Lee-Enfield bolt action rifles for the British, and Browning aircraft machine guns. In 1988 Savage successfully reorganized and improved its products. Savage now makes a variety of rimfire and centerfire rifles, and Stevens single-shot rifles and shotguns.

The Sharps rifle, patented by Christian Sharps in 1848, is a large-bore single-shot rifle renowned for long-range accuracy. The first contract for 5,000 Sharps rifles had been assigned to R&L in Windsor, Vermont, but the second contract for 15,000 rifles exceeded the R&L capacity. Hence, Sharps Rifle Manufacturing Company was founded in 1851 to build a factory in Hartford, Connecticut, to manufacture the 1851 Model rifles for the second contract. Although Christian Sharps left the company in 1855, Sharps Rifle Manufacturing continued to develop and improve various Sharps models. During the Civil War, it supplied more than 100,000 military rifles and carbines to the Union Army. The last rifle made by the company before its closing in 1881 was the hammerless Sharps-Borchardt Model 1878. The current Sharps Rifle Company was established in Wyoming in 2009.

Lyman Cornelius Smith, eponym of the L.C. Smith shotgun, entered the lucrative business of producing firearms in 1877 when he and his older brother, Leroy, joined firearms designer, William H. Baker, to form W.H. Baker & Co. to produce Baker-designed shotguns. In 1880 Leroy and Baker left the company, and founded Ithaca Gun Company. Replacing them with Smith’s younger brother, Wilbert, and the designer, Alexander T. Brown, the company renamed itself, the L.C. Smith Shotgun Company of Syracuse, and went on to produce several popular breech-loading shotguns. In 1886, L.C Smith produced its most successful design, the first hammerless shotgun. Smith sold the manufacturing rights for the entire line of L.C. Smith shotguns to Hunter Arms Company in 1889. Hunter produced the line until 1945, when it sold the line to Marlin Firearms Company. Marlin halted production of L.C. Smith shotguns in 1950, briefly revived the brand in 1967, and finally retired it in 1972.

The following materials link to fuller bibliographic information in the Library of Congress Online Catalog. Links to online resources are included when available.



L. C. Smith